I want to share with you some best practices – hacks, if you will – to setting up your account for optimal performance.


You reading this suggests you’re an SMB owner, not big enough for your own marketing department, and not in a position to afford using an agency for this. These hacks will put you onto the right track and will ensure you spend more time optimising your ads, rather than the fiddling with your account.


  1. AdWords vs AdWords Express


The first thing you want to do when opening a new Google AdWords account is to make sure you select the classic UI, rather than AdWords Express. While AdWords Express promises to take care of most of the campaign management for you – which is admittedly quite appealing to small businesses with limited resources – the trade-off is that you end up with very limited control over your campaigns. If you want to be able to control keyword matching options, access advanced ad formats, or make use of conversion tracking, AdWords Express is not suitable at all. If, however, you are a one-man operation, with no business website – and you’re only looking for a small boost to your business – you could consider AdWords Express. But only after investigating the key differences between the two accounts more thoroughly. I cannot recall an instance where AdWords Express was optimal.


  1. Skim Keywords from Your Competitors


Researching keywords for your AdWords campaigns is not quite the same as SEO keyword research. One key area is when looking at what your competitors are doing, you’re less focused on what keywords they rank well for, but what keywords they use in their ads. Expanding on that, you’re interested in which keywords generate the most clicks. Google provides some great tools for doing AdWords keyword research, but when it comes to snooping on your competitors, you can also turn to tools such as SpyFu and SEMrush. These tools don’t only show you what keywords your competitors are using, but also the ad copy – which can also give you some insight into the kind of copy that works best.


Use this hack not only to start bidding on the same keywords, but also to look for opportunities in keywords they haven’t used.


  1. Optimise Your Ads Beforehand


Google has an ad preview tool, but it only allows you to view ads that are already active. When you’re new to AdWords you will want to see what each ad will look like before adding it to an active campaign. This not only helps you become comfortable and familiar with the layout of text ads, but also allow you to optimise each new ad beforehand. Use this AdWords preview tool to test out ads before activating them.  You can get familiar with your Ad campaigns and what they look like before you start spending money. It ensures you think about the Ads whilst building your website or launching your ecommerce platform. Leaving Ad creation to the last minute often leads to a poor result at the most exciting a time of your business – the launch.


  1. Use a Naming Convention for Ad Campaigns & Groups


The benefit of using a detailed and consistent naming convention for both your ad campaigns and ad groups is that it not only makes it easier to analyse performance, but it also makes finding specific groups simpler. Now whenever you spot an underperforming ad in your analytics, you don’t need to spend hours looking for it in AdWords. And there will always be ads that could perform better with a bit of tweaking, so you’ll be doing this more often than you think.


It is up to you to decide what naming convention works best, but you are looking at something that combines the following:


  • Campaign type – is this a search or display campaign?
  • Goal – what are you hoping to achieve with the campaign or group: is it sales, brand awareness, registrations, remarketing?
  • Branded or Non-Branded – you should consider distinguishing between ads that included branded keywords and non-branded keywords.
  • Location – only if you are running campaigns targeting different locations.
  • Device – only if you have separate campaigns for desktop and mobile devices.


  1. Use Ad Extensions


Ever noticed how some ads include additional elements such as business address, a call button, or just different sitelinks? This is because the advertiser is using ad extensions. Google AdWords includes automated and manual extensions, with automated extensions enabled by default. However, even with automated extensions enabled, whether the extra information is shown in each impression is still determined by other factors such as the ad’s rank and position.


Different extensions benefit different goals, so if you have specific goals for different campaigns, you may want to switch to manual extensions so you can enable extensions linked to your goal(s).


  1. Adjust Your Locations Settings


Unless you have branches in multiple locations, or an online store that ships internationally, there is no reason for your ads to be shown to users across the globe, and even across your country. Not only will this cost you money – with no return – but it will also lead to lower click-through rates. And this could end up lowering your Quality Score, leading to lower ad rankings, and higher costs.


Now even if changing your location settings seemed obvious to you, it is easy to overlook the advanced location settings, which are hidden by default. After selecting the location(s) you want to target, expand “Location options (advanced)”, and change “Target” to “People in my targeted location”. Doing so ensures that your ads are only ever shown to people with a higher likelihood of converting.


  1. Select & Optimise Your Landing Pages


A well-designed ad will not only grab the attention of anyone seeing it, but it will also clearly signal that you have whatever the person was searching for. Which means it is extremely important that when a user clicks on your ad they are taken to a page on your website that is relevant to the ad and their original search query. If they saw your ad after searching for lady’s summer dresses, clicking your ad should take them to a page of ladies summer dresses; not the main page of your ecommerce store, and certainly not the home page of your website. So, once you start creating the copy for each ad, you need to ensure that each ad links to the page most relevant to the copy, and that the page itself has been optimised for whatever the ad’s goal is.