The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your First Google AdWords Campaign

Categories Business

With the recent rise in popularity of Facebook ads, voice search and Instagram influencers, many seem to have forgotten about the power of a well-optimised Google AdWords campaign.

Google AdWords or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is Google’s primary paid advertising platform. As an advertiser, you are essentially paying to appear at the top of Google’s search results for your targeted keyword.

Given that there are over 3.5billion Google searches every day worldwide, it’s easy to see how this can be such a powerful marketing strategy.

The problem is, without proper planning and optimisation, you can quickly spend a lot of money with very little to show for it. This is why you should take time to do your research prior to creating your first campaign.

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through each step and show you how to successfully launch your first AdWords campaign.

If you haven’t already done so, head over to and create an account using your Google login.

This guide has been created using the newer, streamlined version of AdWords, if your platform looks different to the screenshots included, it simply means you’re logged in to the older version of the platform.  To switch, simply click on the cog icon in the top right of your screen and hit “Get more done Try the faster AdWords.

New AdWords Interface

We are no ready to start creating the campaign – let’s get into it!

Keyword Research

The first step in creating a PPC campaign is keyword research. This process involves dissecting the product/service you are looking to advertise for to better understand what customers are searching to find it. For keyword research, I almost exclusively use Google’s Keyword Planner.

To access the Keyword Planner, simply login to AdWords and choose Keyword Planner from the Tools dropdown:

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

This tool gives you the opportunity to enter either your product/service, your landing page or your product category. It will then generate some keyword ideas based on the data you’ve entered.

Generally, I’ll use the product/service field as I find this produces the most relevant keyword ideas. Also, at this stage you may not have a landing page ready to go.

Depending on the product or service you’re researching, you may want to add multiple terms. For this example, I’m just going to start with one.

Let’s say we want to create a new campaign advertising the Rolex Submariner – we’ll go ahead and type that into the product/service field and press Get Ideas.

Get Keyword Ideas

The first thing you’ll notice (besides the Search Volume Graphs) is that your chosen search term is separated from a long list below it.

The data in the top row is a great indicator of the search volume surrounding that term – if the average monthly searches is high, the chances are there’s a big market for this product. In this case, there are 40,500 monthly searches on average (in the UK) for the term Rolex Submariner – that’s reasonably high.

Below this, you’ll see a long list of terms, that are terms that AdWords deems to be relevant to your chosen product/service. In this example, there are 654 terms in this list.

Now it’s time to consider how many of these 654 are relevant to the landing page that you’ll be sending traffic to. For our example, the landing page is likely to be either a product page for the Rolex Submariner or a list/overview page containing several different models of the Submariner.

To find only the most relevant terms, we need to filter this list. To do this, simply click “Keywords to include” on the left sidebar. Here we can stipulate terms that must feature somewhere in the keyword.

For our example, I think it would be best to add the term “Submariner” in this box. We could add “Rolex”, but this will mean that other Rolex models will be include in the report – which we don’t want.

AdWords Keyword Data

Upon clicking Save, you should see the number of keywords in the report reduce significantly. We are now left with 259 keywords, all including the term “Submariner”.

At this stage, I suggest exporting the report in CSV format so that you can dissect it further in Excel. To do this, just click Download on the right side of the screen, just under the Search Volume graph.

By filtering the report and sorting the keywords A-Z, we can start to see patterns in the terms. This will allow us to create our ad groups.

Creating ad groups

An ad group is the next step down from the campaign. A single campaign can (and should) have multiple ad groups. An ad group then holds multiple keywords, ads and landing pages:

AdWords Campaign Structure

When designing your ad groups, it’s important to consider the content on your ads as this will impact on your quality score – more on this later.

Let’s start putting this into practice on our example.

The first ad group that I like to create when designing a campaign is a “Main” ad group. This will usually contain the highest-volume search terms that have no long-tail additions.

Using our example, I would place the following keywords in the Main ad group:

  • rolex submariner
  • rolex submariner for sale
  • men’s rolex submariner
  • rolex watch submariner
  • rolex submariner watch

Hopefully you can see my thinking here – I’m basically trying to remove any of the generic keywords from the list.

So that’s your first ad group. At this point I’d recommend cutting those keywords (along with their relevant monthly searches and suggested bids) from the keyword list and pasting them onto a new sheet (named Ad Groups) with the heading “Ad Group: Main”

Choosing your match type

Now that we’ve started to create our first ad group, we need to decide which match type we’re going to be using to advertise each keyword. There are 4 main match types:

Broad match

This is the default match type and the one that reaches the widest audience. When using broad match, our ad is eligible to appear whenever a user’s search query includes any word in your key phrase in any order.

So, if we were to advertise the term “luxury watches” on broad match, our ad would be eligible for terms like “luxury cars”, “sell my watches” or perhaps even “watch live football online”!

For its unpredictability and lack of control over search terms, I tend to stay away from broad match.

Modified broad match

Modified broad match is a middle ground between broad match and the more restrictive phrase and exact match that we’ll discuss further down. It allows you to reach a wide audience, but it allows for better control by locking individual words in your key phrase using the “+” sign. By adding the + parameter in front of a word in your key phrase, you are telling Google that search queries must include that term to trigger your ad.

Again, if we are looking to advertise for “luxury watches” on modified broad match, we have 2 options:

  • +luxury watches – This would tell Google to only show our ad when search queries include the word “luxury”. This means we could match on terms like luxury cars, luxury apartments or luxury weddings.
  • luxury +watches – This would tell Google to trigger our ad on search queries that include the word “watches”. Our ad could therefore appear for queries like Rolex watches, cheap watches or sell watches online.

Whilst modified broad match does offer a little more control that broad match, I tend to use it sparingly when creating campaigns – especially those advertising very specific products or services.

Phrase match

Phrase match offers an additional level of control over broad and modified broad match. Ads using phrase match keywords will only appear for search queries that include your key phrase in the exact order you’ve stipulated. However, there can be words before or after your stipulated phrase.

For example, if our keyword phrase is “luxury watches”, on phrase match, our ad would only appear for terms that include “luxury watches”. This means the ad will appear for “luxury watches for sale”, “sell my luxury watches” or “rolex luxury watches”.

This level of targeting will often result in higher click-through and conversion rates because your ad is likely to be more relevant to the search query being used. It will also help to reduce unwanted clicks and subsequent wasted spend. T

he only down-side to phrase match is that you won’t reach as wider audience as broad or modified broad match, it is however much more budget-friendly.

Exact match

Exact match is the most restrictive match type. As the title suggests, the searcher will only see your ad when they type the exact keyword phrase by itself, or plurals, typos and abbreviations.

So, if you’ve chosen to advertise for “luxury watches” on exact match, your ad will only appear when someone searches luxury watches and nothing else.

Whilst this is the most restrictive match type, it does give the highest level of control. It usually leads to the highest CTR and conversion rates. Due to it’s restrictiveness, I’ll generally only use exact match on phrases with high search volume. Using it on low volume search terms will often lead to a lack of impressions and clicks.

It should be noted that in March 2017, Google announced it would update the definition of exact match. They explained that exact match keywords will include variations in word order. For example, if you’re advertising for “web designers in Bristol” on exact match, someone searching “Bristol web designers” would trigger your advert.

Choosing each match type in AdWords

In AdWords, you can stipulate which match type you’d like to choose using a variety of keyword parameter, here’s how they work:

  • Exact match – to apply exact match to a keyword, wrap the keyword in square brackets. For example: [rolex submariner]
  • Phrase match – to apply phrase match to a keyword, wrap the keyword in speech marks. For example: “rolex submariner”
  • Modified broad match – To apply modified broad match to a keyword, add a plus sign to the front of whichever word you want to be included in the key phrase. For example: +rolex submariner, rolex +submariner or +rolex +submariner.
  • Broad match: To apply broad match to a keyword, simply leave the keyword as is, with no additional parameters stated. For example: rolex submariner.

The obvious danger of forgetting to add parameter to your keywords is that they default to broad match without any warning!

This is why it’s always worth double checking a campaign before launching it.

Apply this to ad groups

Now it’s time to put this understanding into practice and apply some match types to our first ad groups.

The first keyword in our “Main” ad group is Rolex Submariner. This gets 40,500 average monthly searches and has a suggested bid of £0.76. I would put this on exact match for two main reasons:

  1. It gets huge amounts of searches each month so there’ll be no shortage of traffic even on exact match.
  2. Most of our other keywords include “Rolex Submariner” in them. This means if we were to put it on phrase match, it would monopolise all other search terms. This could potentially reduce search relevance which would negatively impact click-through and conversion rates.

More often than not, the main search keyword within your campaign will need to be exact match to ensure it doesn’t monopolise traffic.

Next, let’s look at the other keywords within this ad group and their relevant search volume:

Main Ad Group

As you can see, the remaining keywords in this ad group don’t have a huge amount of search volume – I would therefore be inclined to start with them on phrase match and change to exact match if I notice they’re drawing in too many irrelevant search queries.

Conflicting keywords with Phrase Match

It’s important to remember that there are implications involved with using phrase match. Not least, the fact that there may be conflicting keywords that are triggered by the same search query, in different ad groups.

For example, what happens if we bid for “rolex submariner watch” on phrase match in the main ad group, but we then have another ad group targeted “used rolex submariner watch”?

Essentially, they would be competing against each other. But Google will only ever present one of your ads in the listings, so it will have to choose between the two. It will do this by assessing the quality score, relevancy and historical data for each.

As a result, we want to remove any chance of conflicts wherever possible.

Removing conflicting keywords

Let’s rewind to the creation of our first ad group. We’ve now got a list of keywords that we’ll be targeting and the match type that we’ll be using to target them.

To remove conflicting keywords, we need to switch back to our original keyword list.

In the keyword column, search for all keywords containing the phrase matched terms in your main ad group. The first one we’ll do is: “rolex submariner for sale”.

AdWords Keyword Conflicts

In this example, there are 7 keywords that include the term “rolex submariner for sale”. To remove the chance of these conflicting, we need to delete them from our keyword list.

Next, rinse and repeat for the remaining phrase matched terms in your main ad group.

Using this process of grouping keywords by theme and assigning match types, you can create several more ad groups. These are the groups that I created from the keyword list:

  • Main
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Black
  • Gold
  • New
  • Used/Pre-Owned
  • Perpetual
  • No Date
  • Date

One thing worth noting is that I removed any keywords with less than 20 average monthly searches as these don’t really get enough search volume to worry about and they were clogging up my keyword list with hugely long-tail phrases.

Of course, if you didn’t have a landing page or product that was relevant to a certain ad group, you wouldn’t create that ad group.

For example, if you only stock brand new products, you wouldn’t want to create an ad group targeting used or pre-owned keywords. You may also want to add “used” and “pre-owned” to your negative keyword list.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords form an important part of any successful AdWords campaign.

They are essentially a type of keyword that prevents your ad being triggered in search.

For example, you might add the term “free” as a negative keyword so that your ad doesn’t appear when someone searches for a term with “free” in the phrase.

As I mentioned above, if there is a specific product or model that you do not stock or are unable to offer, then it’s probably worth adding this to your negative keyword list.

Negative keywords are an excellent optimisation tool for your campaigns that can help to improve click-through and conversion rates.

Adding negative keywords

Upon creating each of your ad groups, there may be several left-over keywords in your list that don’t fit into any of your ad groups. They may be too specific or have too little search volume to constitute a separate ad group. They may also include terms that are irrelevant or do not align with your product range – in this instance, you’d add them to your negative keyword library.

For now, though, simply create a list of negative keywords on a separate excel sheet – we’ll apply these to the campaign when we’re building it.


At this stage, we’ve done our keyword research, we’ve built our ad groups, applied keywords to our ad groups, applied match types to our keywords and we’ve even created a negative keyword library.

We’re now in a good position to create our adverts.

Creating Adverts

Earlier on the piece, you may have wondered why we were creating ad groups by theme, this is where it will all become evident.

Each ad groups can have multiple keywords and multiple ads. By creating tightly themed ad groups, you can create highly-targeted ads that are highly relevant to the keyword being searched. This will result in high CTRs and (depending on the quality of your landing page) good conversion rates.

So, for each of our ad groups, I would recommend creating at least 2 text ads. I would also recommend that these are fairly similar to each other, with only one or two elements changed. This is because once we’ve launched the campaign and started collecting data, we are going to want to optimise our campaigns.

Part of the optimisation process will be pausing lower converting ads and creating new ads to improve CTR. If you’ve got two ads that are completely different, how can you pinpoint which element it is that’s causing the increase/decrease in performance?

By only ever changing one or two elements, we can make more educated decisions on what to change or keep the same when we create more ads further down the line.

The composition of a good ad

There are several elements that make up a text ad on AdWords – illustrated below:

AdWords Ad Composition

  • Headline 1: Typically, I recommend that the text in headline 1 is simply the main keyword that you’re advertising for. As you can see on the example, Rolex have done this by using Rolex Submariner as their Headline 1.
  • Headline 2: This is your first, and main opportunity to showcase your USPs. I would therefore recommend that you use this to display your #1 USP. If you’ve got a 25% sale on, then put that in headline 2, if you offer a price match guarantee, use that.
  • Display URL: This is simply the URL that you want to display on your ad. It doesn’t have to be the same as your landing page, and often it won’t be the same. I personally use the display URL as another chance to get my targeted keyword into my ad. I believe this helps to improve the relevancy of my ad in Google’s eyes.
  • Description: Your description can be up-to 80 characters long and I’d recommend utilising as much of this as possible. This is another chance to show what sets you apart from competitors, so get a couple more USPs in there. I’d also recommend finishing your ads with a call-to-action. This could be “shop online now”, “get a free quote today” or sign up here”, anything which empowers your audience to take action.

The final part of the ad, that’s not visible on the ad it’s self is the “Final URL”. This is the AdWords term for landing page URL and should simply be the page that you want customers to land on having clicked your ad.

As I outlined above, create at least 2 ads for each ad group.

Once this is done, you should have an excel sheet with a pretty complete campaign breakdown. All that’s left to do is upload it to AdWords and take care of the finer details.

Uploading the campaign to AdWords

Now that we have the campaign spec-ed out in Excel, we can now start to upload it to AdWords. To create a new campaign on AdWords, simply log in to your dashboard, choose campaigns “campaigns” from the left sidebar and click the large blue + button.

Create new AdWords campaign

Here, you’ll be given the option to create a variety of different campaign types. For this campaign, we want to reach customers with text ads meaning we’ll need to create a “Search” campaign.

Next, you’ll be given a range of goals:

Choosing one of these will simply edit the settings and features of the campaign to fit that goal. For our example, we’re going to “create a campaign without a goal”.

Next, you’ll need to create some set-up details. Firstly, you’ll need to stipulate what results you want to get out of the campaign. Tick “get website visits” and press continue.

Now we can start to select the campaign settings.

Firstly, give the campaign a suitable name. I’m going to name our campaign “Rolex Submariner – Search”.

Next, we’re given the option to expand our search campaign to the display network to. This will allow us to show display ads (such as banners, skyscrapers etc.) on relevant websites, videos and apps across the web. For our example, I’m going to keep this as a search campaign only.

We’re now given the option to target specific locations with this campaign. If you we’re running a location specific campaign, you could target individual cities, postal codes or areas using these targeting options.

You can also choose radius targeting by clicking “advanced search” and choosing the radius option – this will allow you to target customers in a certain radius of your targeted location.

Next, you can select the languages that your customers speak. Often, it may be applicable to select “all languages” however if your process requires phone conversations and you run an English-speaking call centre, you’ll probably want to select English.

Next, we’ll select our bidding options. This is strictly personal preference, but I typically like to focus on getting clicks over conversions. This allows me to Manually set bids and ensure I get the best possible average position on each keyword that I’m bidding. I’d suggest you experiment with different bidding strategies to find out which one works best for you.

Now you can set the budget for the campaign. This will be largely dictated by the size of your marketing budget but be aware that you can change this at any time.

If you’re running a promotion that is set to start and end on a specific date, you may want to stipulate a start and end date for your campaign.

Ad Extensions

Next, you’re given the opportunity to expand your ad with a variety of ad extensions. These are (as you’d expect) extensions to the regular text ad that allow you to increase the amount of information you’re displaying on your ad.

I always recommend including as many ad extensions as is suitable for your campaign. Not least because they increase the size of your ad and subsequently make it stand out against competitors which can improve CTR.

Google will generally only present 2 or 3 ad extensions at any one time, depending on what it thinks will improve campaign performance the most.

For local campaigns, I’d recommend using the location extension to display your business address.

Sitelinks give customers a variety of links to different pages on your site.  This can be helpful, but it can also take attention off your landing page, so be aware of the pages you’re using as sitelinks.

Callouts are my personal favourite. They simply allow you to provide detailed information about your business, products and services. This is essentially just another opportunity to display USPs.

Structured snippet extensions are also a good option for those offering a variety of styles, brands, models or types of products. An example of structured snippets can be seen in this Rolex Submariner ad from Rolex:

AdWords Ad Extensions

As you can see, Rolex are displaying a variety of other watch models using the types extension.

Ad Rotation and Schedule

AdWords gives you a variety of ad rotation options. Generally, I choose “Optimise: prefer best performing ads” which simply lets AdWords analyse the data and optimise the rotation of the ads, favouring the one(s) that are performing best. I sometimes find that AdWords can be a bit quick to make decisions on which ad is performing best, so I’ll occasionally choose the “rotate indefinitely” option and optimise the rotation of ads myself.

Ad scheduling also allows you to stipulate specific days/times that your ads are running. If you’re running an Ecommerce store, it makes sense to run ads 24/7. If you’re planning to get customers into a physical location, then you may want to schedule your ads to run in office opening hours only.

These are your initial campaign settings complete. Next, you’ll start setting up your ad groups, which we’ve already created in Excel.

Setting up your ad groups

Having entered your campaign settings, you can now begin to create your ad groups.

Creating New Ad Groups

As we’ve already created our ad groups in Excel, this stage should be very quick and simple to complete. You’ll simply need to enter your ad group name and paste each of the keywords in that ad group into the relevant field.

The default bid field is the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) for each keyword in that ad group. This default max CPC will only be used if you don’t stipulate a max CPC at keyword level, which I’d recommend doing as soon as you start to collect data on the campaign post-launch. At this stage, I’d recommend using the suggested bid data from your Excel sheet to choose a suitable default bid.

Go through and migrate each of the ad groups from your excel sheet into the AdWords. Once you’ve done that, click Save and Continue.

Creating your ads

New AdWords Ad

Again, this step should be pretty straightforward as all of your ads will be created in Excel.

Simply copy and paste each of your ads into their relevant ad groups and click done. The AdWords interface will give you a handy preview of what your ad will look like on both mobiles and desktops.

One thing worth noting at this stage is that AdWords is quite strict on what you can and can’t include in your ads. Generally, your ad will be disapproved if you include exclamation marks, overuse capital letters or use emoji’s or other special characters.

Review your campaign for launch

Finally, you’ll be given the chance to review your campaign settings, ad groups and ads prior to launching.

This is an opportunity to spot any mistakes with the campaign. It’s also a good time to double check all of the location targeting, bidding options and general campaign settings to ensure that your ads will run exactly how and when you want them to.

Providing you are happy with how everything looks, click save and continue to launch your campaign. At this point, your campaign will be submitted to Google for approval. This process can take a few hours, so keep an eye on your dashboard.

If any of your ads do not meet Google’s guidelines, you will receive an email to explain why. At this point, you need to go back into your dashboard and rectify these by editing the disapproved ads.

If everything gets approved, you should start to see some data in your dashboard. Even after a few hours, you can start to take stock on the campaign, paying attention to your average CPC, average position and CTR specifically.

Optimising your campaign

Launching your campaign is one thing, but optimising it is another.

A well-optimised campaign is integral to success. Whilst we can create the campaign as well as possible with the data from Keyword Planner, it is the actual campaign data which will allow us to get the most possible out of our PPC campaign.

I will go into the various ways to optimise a PPC campaign in a separate guide.

I hope this guide has helped you. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop them in the comments section below.

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