What is an Ad Group?

An ad group is the set of your ads that display when certain keywords or websites are triggered within paid search marketing, such as Google Adwords.

For example, if your business sells art supplies, you might have an ad group of  advertisements that show when users search on paintbrushes, or that only display on websites about sculpting. The ad group may be tied to keywords, placements – that is, web landing pages – or both. An ad group can include one ad or dozens, and may be tied to a single website or to many keywords.It’s related to but distinct from a “campaign,” which is all of your ads about a specific subject.

Establishing ad groups is a key part of paid search marketing. When you’re making ad groups, you also set the price you’re willing to pay each time your ad is clicked on – your cost per click, or CPC.

So don’t make Boo (a.k.a. adorable teddy bear dog pictured above) sad…

…Make a great ad group! Here’s how:

  • Use highly specific ad groups. To go back to our art supplies example, don’t just separate your ads into painting, sculpting and crafting groups: You might improve your access to qualified users even further by including targeted ads linked to, for example, specific brands of paints.
  • Don’t use duplicate keywords between ad groups. It’s tempting to include general terms, such as “art supplies,” on every keyword list. However, Google will only display one ad per advertiser per keyword. With duplicate keywords, you just increase the time you spend competing against yourself.
  • Research your keywords. There are businesses called “spy sites” that collect data about search terms bringing users to specific websites. Looking at these lists can give you an idea of what the most common and effective search terms for your line of business are. Once you have a list of 50 or 100 potential keywords, you can start breaking them down into effective, specific ad groups.
  • Create enticing keywords to distinguish yourself from the competition. Ideally, a keyword will highlight your particular business niche. Your CPC will be much higher for a general keyword, such as “paints,” than for a more specific one, such as “Reeves oil paints,” meaning you’ll pay more for each customer.
  • Manage your placement lists carefully. For example, a hair salon in Dallas will get almost no results when its ads appear on websites aimed at users in Boston.  Each ad group can and should be targeted to particular locations and languages within your paid search marketing.
  • Understand match type. This is set in your ad group controls, and establishes how closely users need to match your keywords for your ads to display. The categories are broad match, phrase match, exact match, and negative match. An example is below.
  • Broad match: sculpting supplies. Your ads may appear if the user’s query includes the words sculpting and supplies, or something similar.
  • Phrase match: “sculpting supplies.” Your ads appear when the user enters “sculpting supplies” in quotation marks in the search bar.
  • Exact match: [sculpting supplies.]  Your ads show only when the exact keyword is searched on. This is different from phrase match because phrase match will also  trigger ads on searches such as “clay sculpting supplies,” while exact match will not.
  • Negative match: -sculpting supplies. Your ads will not appear when the user searches on sculpting supplies. This is useful for avoiding unqualified users if, for example, your art supply business doesn’t sell or ship sculpting tools.

Ad groups may seem basic, but they’re the mainstay of all your paid search marketing. Master them, and you’re that much closer to ensuring your website sees a steady stream of qualified users.


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