Google Ads: Account Structure Best Practices

Table of Contents

Campaign structure is vital to a successful PPC strategy. When designing your campaigns, prioritize simplicity and relevance.

Google recommends the golden triangle to boost conversions and simplify your account structure. This structure works because the products work better together, not separately. They are designed to simplify optimizing your campaigns.

A review of the basics:

  • A master account can house multiple accounts. 
  • Within those accounts are multiple campaigns, which house multiple ad groups. 
  • Ad groups contain keywords, ads, and landing pages.
  • Manager accounts are ideal for anyone working with multiple accounts, whether they be within the same business or for multiple businesses (in the case of an agency). 
  • Manager accounts can also be linked to other manager accounts.

Responsive Search Ads are now the only search ad type that can be created or edited in standard search campaigns. This update was designed to simplify the way you create search ads and make it easier to utilize automated tools for peak performance.

Do not pause or delete ETAs unless they’re out of date, as doing so in a short period of time could cause volume issues and hinder account performance. Instead, pause ETAs before they lose value in the auction. 

Use Smart Bidding, Broad match, and Responsive Search Ads together. This will help you reach new, high-performing queries. On average, Google Ads data shows that advertisers that follow this recommendation see 20% more conversions at a similar cost per action.

  • Smart bidding: Uses billions of combinations of signals to set the right bid for each query and auction, based on your ROI goals. Helps you stay on top of market trends and rapidly shifting demand by optimizing bids in real-time.
  • Broad Match: Finds new, high-performing queries and emerging trends to reach more customers and drive better performance. Continuously improves broad match by considering new signals (like user location or recent search activity), improving relevance for keyword variations, and matching holistically with all keywords in your ad group.
  • Responsive Search Ads: Automatically assembles the most relevant creative for every auction, helping you show for new queries. Supply up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions as your creative assets. The system will use these assets to automatically generate new ads tailored to each query based on auction-time signals. 

Google recommends using ad-level reporting, asset-level reporting, and combination reporting to use RSAs effectively when they already have good or effective ad strength. 

  • Ad-level reporting: compare clicks and conversions
  • Asset-level reporting: assess the performance of different assets within your ads. Review the report every two weeks. If you notice assets that are underperforming, replace them rather than delete them. For example, replace an asset that has not been getting any impressions for more than two weeks with a new one. You can use the ad variations tool to test ideas for new assets. 
  • Combination reporting: shows which combinations of assets are served. It should not be used to make static versions of the asset combinations. 

Many MarinOne users, for example, opt to use reporting centralization features to streamline reports. With shareable dashboards and user-friendly widgets, anyone on your team can access real-time holistic reports anytime, either online or by email. Plus, you can analyze data over extended periods of time due to unlimited data retention for year-over-year comparison.

Advanced Usage of Optiscore and AAR

Optiscore: Optiscore is an Optimization Score that automatically predicts an estimation for how well your Google Ads account will perform. The score ranges from 0% to 100% and is calculated via real-time account data. Recommendations are made to boost this score. 

AAR (Auto Applied Recommendations): AAR is a campaign tool that automatically applies a subsegment of Optiscore recommendations.

Advertisers who increase their Optiscore by 10 points see a 14% increase in conversions.

Recommendations made by Optiscore and AAR fall into three groups. Each group has recommendations that can be automated, as well as those that must be manually fulfilled.

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Spend Time Wisely

These recommendations are designed for customers that want to ensure their account is set up for success by leveraging best practices. They prioritize sustainable success and are applicable across almost all accounts.

The following recommendations from this category can be auto-applied: 

  • Audience reporting
  • Remove no traffic keywords
  • Conflicting negative keywords
  • Keyword deduping 
  • Optimize ad rotation
  • Data-driven attribution

These recommendations must be manually implemented:

  • Set up conversion tracking
  • OGT, EC, CM
  • Core extensions (sitelinks, snippets, callouts)
  • Lead form extensions 

Once you've set these settings and feel good about your overall account health, gain additional efficiency from automation. One significant time-saving feature MarinOne provides is bulk upload campaign building. This makes major account changes or new campaign initiatives simple and fast, letting your paid media managers get on with their day to more complex tasks.

Capture Existing Demand

These recommendations are designed to capture more customers by improving the effectiveness of ad targeting and relevancy. This ensures creatives are optimized according to business practices.

Can be auto-applied:

  • Add RSAs 
  • Improve RSA ad strength 
  • AFS opt-in
  • Display targeting expansion
  • Add keywords
  • Broad Match version of your keywords

Must be manually implemented:

  • Budget raising and reallocation
  • Customer match opt-in and refresh
  • Launch new campaign (PMax, Discovery, Display)

Don’t Miss Out on Optimization Opportunities

These recommendations are designed for customers trying to improve their overall ROAS/Max Conversion Value with Google, which helps you capture new opportunities and reach more customers. Only use them when you are already leveraging smart bidding so that you already have an analysis of the incremental value smart bidding provides.

Can be auto-applied:

Must be manually implemented via the recommendations page:

  • Budget raising and forecasting
  • Forecasting Set CPA target

Prioritize the spend time wisely recommendations as well as the AARs on the capture existing demand section. Google Ads considers these your “basic hygiene” recommendations. Once you’ve tested smart bidding in some of your campaigns, expand to all AARs and the growth recommendations in the don’t miss the opportunity section. This is where you shift from ensuring basic hygiene to prioritizing growth and better ROI.

Smart Bidding via AAR (Auto Applied Recommendations)

By prioritizing auctions based on the conversion probability of each query, accounts that adopt Smart Bidding get the added benefit of opting into auto-apply recommendations. This feature ensures your account will only invest in what is highly likely to convert, while your campaigns remain efficient and deliver growth.

Many advertisers open to Smart Bidding ask when changes will be made to their accounts. Smart bidding has a hierarchy of implementation that aligns with your goals. It continuously monitors conversion data, identifies opportunities for optimization, then implements them. 

“Set a target ROAS” will appear if the campaign is using maximized strategies, is not budget constrained, and there are enough conversions for a recommended target to be computed and the campaign has been stable with no significant changes for the last month. 

The “Adjust your ROAS targets” option will appear if the campaign is using the target strategy and Google simulations indicate it could receive better results with a target adjustment. 

AAR lets you react to auction changes in real-time. Rather than manually making each recommended adjustment, the changes are set to autopilot and promote long-term sustainability. You define your goals and Google’s AI leads you there, under your guidance. You still need to monitor the direction, strategy, and results and tackle expansion opportunities not available through AAR. ​​This is where MarinOne Bidding, reporting, and keyword expansion can help you close the gap and make certain you’re covering all your bases.

AAR will not implement any bid strategy that is not aligned with your campaign goals. So if you want to apply recommendations to your entire marketing program beyond Google, Marin's Budget optimizer can better inform your team on where to spend your next dollar.

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Expanding Coverage

You can expand coverage via AAR through DSA (Dynamic Search Ads), new keywords, and broad match recommendations.

Opt-in to recommendations via AAR when you are already utilizing Smart Bidding. Smart bidding safeguards expansion to new queries by analyzing whether the added keyword brings conversion value/volume based on your goals. If it does, Smart Bidding will push it further. If it doesn't, then Smart Bidding will stop serving it.

This brings us to why the golden triangle is so vital to your success with Google Ads. The recipe for success is Smart Bidding plus coverage plus RSAs. Smart Bidding does not work with limited coverage or poor ads. Coverage is not safeguarded without Smart Bidding.

Recommendations have eligibility criteria. Keyword recommendations are surfaced based on policy criteria, your past keywords, and if they have a positive impact on the account.

If keyword recommendations did not work for you in the past, consider giving them another go. The last few quarters brought several product updates that improved the quality of the keyword recommendations. 

Use Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs)

Dynamic Search Ads help you find customers searching for exactly what you offer. This ad type is ideal for advertisers with a well-developed site or large inventory. DSAs use website content to target ads and help fill the gaps of your keyword-based campaigns. DSA headlines and landing pages are also generated using your website content, which ensures ads are always relevant. 

Google recommends using DSAs, unless:

  • Your website changes daily
  • You don’t have well-written HTML page titles and clearly-written content
  • Your pages aren’t well-optimized
  • Your site contains mostly content or images that require users to sign in before accessing the majority of the content

Separate Search Campaigns 

Budgets are decided per campaign. This means that any advertising project with its own budget needs to be a separate campaign. 

Additionally, search terms that require continuous funding should have their own campaign for easier management. 

It’s typically considered best practice to fully fund your brand’s terms, as they target the most qualified, top-of-funnel users who are already familiar with your brand. 

On-brand campaigns behave differently than non-brand campaigns. Separating the two allows you to create the right budgets for each, manage them appropriately, and create separate reports. 

To ensure all brand traffic goes to your brand campaigns, add your brand keywords as negative keywords in your non-brand campaigns. This really compartmentalizes your traffic. 

Retargeting campaigns and campaigns that are of strategic importance can also benefit from having their own priority campaigns. 

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Target One Network per Campaign

Refrain from targeting more than one network per standard search campaign. While Smart, Local, Discovery, etc. campaigns automatically send ads to multiple networks, standard Search campaigns allow you to uncheck the box that serves ads to the Display Network. 

Network Settings

When selecting features, choose Search Campaign and All Features. The more account features you can adjust, the more control you have over your account variables.

Start your campaigns by including search partners. This includes non-Google websites in your placements. Monitor performance over time– if the search partners underperform, exclude them by heading to the “Segment” tab, then clicking “Network (with search partners)”. 

Create a Goal-Oriented Campaign Structure

Create a campaign structure that aligns with your organization’s objectives. You want your campaign structure to directly support your business goals. For non-branded campaigns, this might look like organizing campaigns around factors like sales funnel stages, conversion action type, product or service type, geographic targets, etc. 

Choose Campaign Names Wisely

Name campaigns with detail to set your account up for long-term organization and easy filtering. Get specific by including segmentation aspects in the name. For example, you might name your campaign with its brand, campaign type, location, device, etc.

Map out your naming conventions in a spreadsheet that is accessible to everyone on the team, including future members. This makes life easier as you scale and report.

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Maintain a Sustainable Budget

Whatever budget you may choose must support a consistent campaign strategy. The last situation you want to put yourself in is shutting down all your campaigns when goals are within reach, just because you failed to set a sustainable budget. 

So, how do you go about setting a sustainable budget at the whim of an auction that changes with every query? You use general budget parameters. They keep you on course to reaching campaign goals without overextending your budget, all while allowing the flexibility necessary to follow the conversions.

Set your budget parameters by analyzing the average CPC and traffic volume for your keywords. 

While budgets are set at the campaign level, there is a Shared Budgets option available that disperses your daily budget across a set of campaigns. The key is ensuring you have enough budget available so that all your ads can run throughout the dates and times you set for them. 

Location Targeting

Location targeting starts by selecting the geo-locations most relevant to your product or service and target audience, but there are a few ways to go about this. 

You can start broad and then narrow your targeting as you optimize the campaign, or you can start by targeting individual locations by city, state, country, zip code, or general radius. 

Another option is to use demographic targeting to reach a certain income level within a zip code.

Advanced location targeting options allow you to decide whether to target “People in, searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location (recommended)”, “People in my targeted location”, or “People searching for, or who show interest in my targeted location”. 

In some cases, it’s best to go with the “People in my target location” option. For example, if you only ship to specific locations, you might not want clicks from those who are interested in your location but cannot receive your products. 

The default option is ideal for those who have room in their budget and want to increase reach. Option two is good for those who have a limited budget and are limited to a certain geographical area. Use option three for targeting tourists rather than residents.

Set Your Initial Bidding Strategy

AI needs data to provide recommendations. With that said, choosing manual CPC bidding criteria is typically the wiser option for first-timers. AdWords selects “Enable Enhanced CPC” automatically, so you have to uncheck that box to bid manually. 


Leave the “end date” spot empty for evergreen campaigns, as you’ll want to run those continuously. Choose specific dates and times for promotions. 

If you are starting your account and don’t have a super tight budget or your conversions will be heavily time-dependent, choose to run your ads at all times.

Once you have a bit of data to inform your scheduling decisions, consider putting campaigns on a schedule that will lower or raise bids according to fluctuations in conversion rates throughout the day. 

Ad Rotation

Only one ad from each ad group can show at a time. Ad rotation allows the user to specify how often each ad in the ad group is served relative to one another. 

You get two options here– “Optimize” or “Do not optimize”. 

The “Optimize” setting is recommended by Google experts. If you’re using Smart Bidding to prioritize conversions, the “Optimize” setting will automatically be selected. The feature uses signals like keywords, search terms, devices, locations, etc. to predict which ads will perform the best at a given moment. As data accumulates, ad serving will become weighted heavily in favor of the ads most likely to achieve positive results. Your ad rotation could remain relatively even if the ads within your group perform similarly. 

The alternative, “Do not optimize” is not recommended for most advertisers. While deselecting this feature might even out the percentage of impressions served for ads served, the percentage of impressions might not be even due to the ad quality. 

Some advertisers choose not to optimize so they can run manual A/B ad tests. Google recommends that advertisers run at least three ads in a group, measuring success based on ad group-level metrics rather than individual ad performance. 

If you choose “Do not optimize”, keep in mind you cannot use Smart Bidding to optimize for conversions either.

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Device Settings 

You can make targeted bid adjustments for tablets, mobile phones, and desktop computers. This sets ads to target certain device types. There are also advanced targeting options for Display and Video Campaigns. This allows you to target certain device types, operating systems, device models, ad inventory, carriers, and wireless networks. 

Device targeting isn’t as necessary now that Bid Modifiers are available. If you do not use automated bidding solutions, using Device Bid Modifiers and Ad Customizers can account for device-level targeting without the negative impact on traffic and KPIs that splitting campaigns per device often brings. 

Ad Groups

Ad groups (aka groups of ads targeted to a set of related keywords) allow you to group keywords and ads around a united theme. While each keyword adheres to a common theme, the ads have distinct copy (often several versions) and carry users to keyword-specific landing pages. Ad groups must align with the goal of the overall campaign. 

To ensure high Quality Scores, keywords must be themed and the ad copy must align with keywords in the ad group and the search query intent. Make your themes as specific as possible to avoid overlap. 

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Search Term Reports

Monitor search term reports regularly to assess what search terms resulted in your ads being shown. The list may differ from your keyword list and can inform your future keyword and match type choices. Google recommends analyzing these reports every six months. 

Headlines and Descriptions

Headlines and descriptions are required assets. When crafting headlines and descriptions, adhere to these three pillars: compelling, benefit-focused, and unique. 

When using responsive search ads (RSAs), text that needs to be shown in every ad must take Headline position 1, Headline position 2, or Description position 1. 

The more headlines and descriptions you enter, the more opportunities the algorithm has to serve ads that closely align with your customers’ search queries. You can enter up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions per responsive search ad. Google will then shuffle the text into various combinations according to what best matches each user’s search query. There will be a maximum of 3 headlines and 2 descriptions per ad served. 

While audience-dependent, headlines tend to be more influential than descriptions. Craft headlines around the most relevant benefits your product or service can offer. Keep them short and punchy. Including the keyword in the headline can improve performance (possibly because the keyword will be highlighted in the SERP).

When choosing how many characters to include, remember to prioritize quality over quantity. You can always provide further information about your business by adding assets. 

Campaign URL Options

Add third-party tracking for ads if you have any. If only tracking through analytics, then add auto-tagging to your account so that your data will automatically import to Google Analytics.

Google allows one display URL domain per ad group. The display URL shows your website address. It’s made of the domain from your final URL and the text in the optional “Path” fields. “Path” fields show ad viewers where they’ll be taken when they click your ad. The path text does not have to match the exact language of the display URL

Ad Copy Testing

When testing ad copy, focus your efforts where they will have the greatest impact. Typically, this means testing various headlines. Stay organized and document when your testing period begins and ends. Establish a testing threshold and keep to it. Wait until you’ve served enough impressions to confidently assess the results.

Last testing tip– be a good scientist. Limit the number of elements you test within your ads (or the number of variables in your experiment). Ad variations should be similar enough so that whatever results their differences achieve can be replicated. 

Because responsive search ads help you qualify for more actions, ad-level performance and common metrics like clickthrough rate and conversion rate aren’t enough to fully evaluate your performance. Instead, focus on incremental impressions, clicks, and conversions that are garnered for entire ad groups and campaigns. 

Using campaign experiments is an effective way to realize the impact of adding responsive search ads to existing campaigns. This lets you see overall changes in clicks, cost per click, and conversions when adding responsive search ads to campaigns. 

If the algorithm shows one ad more often than another, it’s most likely because that ad is better at winning impressions in the actual auction. 

With a third-party tool like MarinOne, you can see all your a/b tests in one place across all campaigns and channels, beyond what Google Ads can do alone. In addition to the built-in a/b testing tool, MarinOne also provides dimensions for ad copy testing (i.e. tagging ad copy variations and using dimension rollups to see the results). This allows you to test various headlines and CTAs on multiple platforms at once and see the overarching comparison of all content, regardless of channel.

Assets (previously called Ad Extensions)

Thanks to recent updates, you can create and preview assets (previously called Ad Extensions( alongside headlines and descriptions. Google is now recommending assets based on your campaign objective. 

Campaign Objective


Customers to purchase from business location

  • Location assets: location, call button, link to business details page with hours, business photos, and directions

Customers contact you 

  • Call assets: phone number or call button

Website conversions

  • Sitelink assets: links to specific website pages
  • Callout assets: additional text like “free delivery” or “24/7 customer support”
  • Structured snippet assets: Information potential customers will find most valuable via a predefined header (like product or service category) and listing items 
  • Price assets: Display services or product categories with pricing information

App downloads

  • App assets: encourage users to download app

Customer contact information

  • Lead form assets: Prompt signups from your ad

You can schedule assets to show during specific time frames. For example, you may only show call assets during business hours. 

Assets can be approved or disapproved just like ads and keywords. Assets that are approved will only show if they are predicted to boost your performance or if your ad’s position and Ad Rank are high enough.

Match Types

Match types give advertisers more control over their budget and traffic quality by letting them choose how closely the keyword must match the user’s search query. Broad match serves the ad to a variety of user searches, while exact match limits your ad to highly specific user searches.

  • Broad match: Ads show on searches that relate to your keyword. This can include searches that don’t contain any keyword terms. Broad match is the default match type. It allows you to capture interest without heavy time spent hunting effective keywords by considering the user’s recent search activities, the content of the landing page, and other keywords in the ad group to form a clearer picture of keyword intent.
  • Phrase match: Ads show on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. Input keywords in “quotation marks”. The meaning can be implied, and user searches can also represent a more specific form of the meaning. You reach more searches than with exact match and fewer than with broad match.
  • Exact match: Ads show on searches that are the same meaning as the keyword. Input keywords using [brackets]. This is the tightest match type. It gives users the most control over who views the ad but reaches the least number of searches. This makes exact the ideal match type for those on a budget.

Broader match types serve ads to all the same narrow match types, plus related searches. The broad match type gives you the same benefits of using multiple match types but eliminates the need to repeat keywords.

Keep in mind that broad match must be used with smart bidding. Every search query is unique, and bids for each query must reflect unique contextual signals present at auction time. Smart bidding does this, ensuring you compete in the right auctions at the right bid for the right user.

Add negative keywords to keep your ads from showing on searches including that term. 

Performance Max complements existing Search campaigns and respects keyword targeting. 

Exact Match types typically do not need negative keywords, but they can be used as negative terms in Phrase and Broad match groups to avoid group cannibalization.

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Audience-Tailored Messaging

As of May 2023, similar audiences (aka segments) will be phased out as a targeting feature. 

Rather than accommodating audience variation by creating a new ad group, best practice is now to use ad customizers. Ad customizers allow you to advertise limit-time offers for specific products at different locations. They enable tailored messaging, which creates ads hyper-specialized to each search or web page being viewed. 

Ad customizers are extremely scalable in that they allow a single text ad to be shown in hundreds of variations. Each potential customer will see the ad variation most attuned to their interests and behavior. 

Note: automatic text customization updates that occur when ads are triggered don't reset the ad’s performance data. 

Landing Pages

Landing pages should closely align with the ad and keywords, as well as the call-to-action in the ad text. The stronger the connection between the ad and the landing page, the more likely the customer will convert. 

Stick to one landing page per ad group unless you are doing a landing page test to evaluate site conversion. If you feel like you need multiple landing pages, your keyword groups likely need adjusting so that each ad group has just one theme. 

Keep the structure as simple as possible, even if that means creating new ad groups or new accounts for larger advertising projects.

Ways to Segment Campaigns 

Match Type

Each group of keywords is separated into two campaigns. One houses the Exact match keywords, while the other is for Broad Match Modified keywords. Phrase Match helps account for word order when necessary. This segmentation strategy is ideal for limited budgets. It can get messy when applied to large accounts. 

Client Parameters

This strategy creates campaign groups based on client categories, products, brands, themes, etc. It directs the optimization budget directly to categories the client prioritizes. The way products are categorized doesn’t always align with how they should be optimized. As a result, this strategy can group poor-performing terms with exact terms and complicate high-level optimization strategies.

Revealed data

Decisions are made based on revealed data. SKAGs are created for the product brand, then Match Type segmentation is used for that brand. It’s considered a catch-all strategy, but does require historical data to get started.

SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups)

SKAGs give each top keyword an ad group, allowing advertisers to target bid changes, ad tests, and query filtering on the top-performing keywords. General or Dynamic Search Ad campaigns are used to find additional keywords to support the SKAGs. This strategy is effective, but not ideal for brand-new accounts that haven’t identified top-performing keywords yet.

New accounts should research the top keywords and then use Match Type segmentation to break them down. After some data is collected, advertisers can break top terms into SKAGs within the existing campaigns. 

With Marin Insights, SKAG analysis can become a more automated process. The Insights SKAG tool makes it so that you can set distinct bids for each keyword and make sure the most relevant ones appear in the search results. Crafting separate ad groups for keywords that are performing well can become a simple button click, giving you yet another tactic to maximize your ad campaigns' performance. 

And, that’s a wrap 

Use this post as your comprehensive guide on how to structure Google Ads for the best possible results. If you manage search beyond Google (along with other PPC channels) you may want to consider using a bid management platform such as Marin to get all your search, social, and display campaigns managed in one place.  Marin supports all the above settings and features, and includes additional automation, bid intelligence, and optimization recommendations beyond Google’s primary toolsuite.  Stay tuned for the next installment in our Google Ads expert series, all about privacy and enhanced conversions.

See why brands have relied on Marin to manage over $48 billion in spend