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Paid Search Account Restructuring: A Checklist

21 Nov 2014 Steven Carder

in Paid Search

Paid Search Account Restructuring: A Checklist
How to Make Your Next PPC Account Restructure a Success


Whether you’re working with Google AdWords or Bing, restructuring a Paid Search Account can be a daunting task.  Especially when you consider how much time and energy is needed to evaluate the many moving pieces of a Search Account.  However, if you do it right, you can avoid a lot of the stress involved and make improvements that will affect account performance.

Some common reasons for restructuring an account are to:

  • Improve performance
  • Update an outdated account
  • Improve management/organization of the account

This article will touch base on the areas you need to investigate and optimize in your next restructure.  Along the way I will share some tips and tricks I have found to be helpful.

Restructuring Checklist

  1. Create an Action Plan

Before doing any deep analysis on the account, create an action plan for the entire restructure.  This can help alleviate the initial stress involved.

  • Start by prioritizing the campaigns that are most important, so you can work on those campaigns first
  • Break the restructure into segments (for example 1-3 campaigns at time)
  • Assign deadlines to the different segments of the restructure
  • Keep a master project list/log of all work and deadlines
  • Communicate the plan and progress made to team members, managers, and clients
  1. Search Query Analysis

When restructuring a Campaign, start by looking at the campaigns SQM Analysis (Search Query Mining). SQM Analysis essentially lets you see the actual user searches/queries that triggered your Keywords to appear in paid search results.  This is a great way to understand what is going on behind the scenes of the account.  If you are not familiar with SQM Analysis I recommend checking out some articles on the subject.

When performing SQM Analysis, try to understand the search queries (user searches) that are generating the most;

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Cost
  • Conversions
  • Revenue

The goal is to get an understanding of which queries are generating the most desirable and undesirable actions for the account.  Once you know the terms and queries that drive performance, you should incorporate these top performing terms into your restructured account and eliminate any consistently poor performing terms.  Here are some general rules to be mindful of;

Strong Performing Keywords/Queries

  • Generate a large number of Conversions
  • Generate a large volume of Revenue
  • Have good CTR and a significant amount of traffic
  • Often have lower CPC’s than Keywords that don’t drive Conversions/Goals
  • Any Search Queries that perform well and are not part of your Campaign should be added as new Exact Match Keywords to your restructured Campaign

Poor Performing Keywords/Queries

  • Large search volume, with low Click and Conversion volume
  • Spend a lot, but don’t convert or drive goals for your business
  • Any Queries that are unrelated to your business should be added as Negative Exact or Phrase Match Keywords to the restructured Campaign
  1. Building Your Keywords

Once you have identified the top performing Search Queries, cross reference those terms with your current top performing Keywords.  When building your restructured Keyword set, sometimes you can simply use those top performing Queries from your SQM analysis as your new Keyword list.  Other times you might want to combine the top performing Queries with your current top performing Keywords.

  1. Campaign & Ad Groups Structure

Now that you have your new set of Keywords, identify the Keyword themes that are relevant.  These themes will become your new Campaigns and Ad Groups.  The following example illustrates a very basic Account Structure, in case you are not that familiar with the Hierarchy of Campaigns, Ad Groups and Keywords.

Let’s say you sell men’s shirts online.  You would likely want to create separate Campaigns for the different categories of shirts you sell.  So in this example you would create a campaign for Dress Shirts, Casual Shirts, Sport Shirts and any other shirt category you carry.  Within those Campaigns you could create Ad Groups to break those categories down further, possibly by color, or maybe material, sleeve length etc.  Creating a good account structure will allow you to:

  • Quickly look at performance for the entire account
  • Quickly Allocate budget to different areas of your account
  • Create tailored ad copy messaging for different Categories

A well rounded Paid Search Campaign will likely have Keywords in the following categories.  Whether you need to implement a strategy for each of these categories also depends on your account and the types of product you carry.

Common Keyword Categories:

  • Brand – Keywords for the Name of your account/business
  • Product Brand – If you carry different brands, these will be the Keywords related to those brands
  • Product Category – Keywords for the different categories of products you sell.  For example if you sell clothes in general, you would have categories for Shirts, Pants, Socks etc
  • Competitor – Keywords for your competitors names

Lastly, before finalizing your account structure, please also consider “Step 5” below, which discusses Keyword Match Type Strategy and how Match Types will also factor into your account structure.

  1. Match Type Strategy & Campaign Organization

The match type strategy you choose will depend heavily on the account you are working with.  If possible separate your match types at the campaign level.  This means for each campaign you will really need three campaigns (one for each match type – Exact, Phrase, Broad).  Going this route gives you the most control over the account and performance.  In some cases it is simply not possible to separate the campaigns this granularly given the size/structure of the account.

Here are a couple of the options you have for segmenting Match Types:

  • Campaign level
  • Campaign level for the top performing Campaigns
  • Ad Group level
  • No separation, all Match Types within the same Campaign and Ad Groups
  1. Keyword Bids

Setting your Keyword bids appropriately is a great way to start on the right foot with your newly restructured Campaigns.  I find it is best to start with bid amounts based on your previous bids.  This way you can benefit from your account history.  Some things to consider:

  • Make sure your bids are high enough to get traction.  You will have to make ongoing bid adjustments post launch, so it makes sense to be a little on the aggressive side initially.
  • Consider your account structure and Match Type Strategy to set Keyword bids appropriately among the different Match Types.  Typically Exact Match Terms will perform best followed by Phrase and Broad.  This means you should bid the highest for Exact, followed by Phrase and Broad.  Exact terms don’t always perform better than the other match types (depending on your keyword strategy), but this is a good rule of thumb to start with.
  1. Negative Keywords

It is important to implement a really good set of Negative Keywords when you restructure any account.  If you don’t, you will not reap the benefits of all your hard work.  Your account should contain the following types of Negative Keywords.

  • Account Level – Terms that are not relevant to any areas of the account
  • Campaign Level – Irrelevant terms to each specific Campaign within the account.  These negative terms will actually be the Keywords from the other Campaigns in your account.  For example, let’s say you sell shirts online and you have your account broken into three Campaigns.
      • Casual Shirts
      • Dress Shirts
      • Sport Shirts
    • In this example, for Casual Shirts, you would add all the Dress and Sport Shirt Keywords as Negative Keywords in Casual Shirts Campaign.
    • This will insure that no Dress or Sport Shirt Keywords are triggered in the Casual Shirts campaign and that you optimize and allocate budget with the correct performance data.  This also ensures the correct Ad Copy is displayed for your Keywords.
  • Mirror Negatives – if you chose to separate your Keyword Match Types at the Campaign or Ad Group level you can implement something called Mirror Negatives.  This will ensure your Keyword Match Types don’t compete against each other and will give you more freedom when setting keyword bids.
  • To implement this strategy, simply add your Exact Match Keywords as Negative Exact Match Keywords to your Phrase Match Campaigns.  Also add your Phrase Match Keywords as Negative Phrase Match to your Broad Match Campaigns.
  1. Ad Copy

As with most Ad Copy optimizations you can typically keep the top performing Ad from your previous account and create a new test version to run along with it.  If you were running just one Ad prior, go ahead and create a new test variation so you can see which performs best.  If you are not sure of the best practices for testing Ad copy, you should check out some articles prior to launching your new campaigns.

When it comes to Ad Copy it is standard best practice to always customize your Ad Copy for each Category or Campaign/Ad Group.  The more you can tailor your messaging the better your Quality Score will be, which in turn will lower your Cost Per Click and improve Click Through Rate.

  1. Bid Management

Before you launch your new Campaign structure, decide how you will evaluate Keyword Bids and performance post launch.  There are numerous ways to go about optimizing Bids, but make sure you have a plan so you can continue to improve account performance after launch.

10. Settings & Targeting

Be sure to transfer over all settings from your previous Campaign.  If you are planning to make any changes to your settings or targeting etc, make sure you make those changes before launching your new Campaigns.

11. Ad Extensions

Be sure to implement sitelinks and any other extensions you are currently using or want to test with the restructured campaigns.


In conclusion, I recommend that you start your next Paid Search restructure by evaluating these 11 steps in relation to the account you are working with.

Once you have made some decisions in each area, create a plan, breakdown the work into manageable chunks and assign deadlines for each section.  Now instead of having a huge project, you have a series of practical small projects with clearly defined steps and goals.

Thank you for reading my article, I hope you were able to take something from the information provided!

Below you will find the list of the topics covered:

  1. Create Action Plan
  2. Search Query Mine the Current Campaigns
  3. Build New Keyword Set
  4. Decide Account Structure
  5. Match Type Strategy & Account Structure
  6. Set Keyword Bids
  7. Add Negative Keywords
  8. Create Ad Copy
  9. Decide on Bid/Optimization Strategy Post Launch
  10. Enable the Appropriate Account Settings & Targeting
  11. Implement Ad Extensions
Paid Search