The 10 Commandments of setting up Google AdWords

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You know that Google dominates search (nearly two-thirds share of all searches) and you know that Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising through Google AdWords is a way to immediately get your website to show up for desirable search terms. Therefore, you have decided to set up an AdWords account.

Many have walked this path before and many have failed. To guide you on your journey, behold, I give you…

The 10 Commandments of PPC


  1. Thou shalt not trust Google blindly.
    Don’t forget that Google makes billions (with a “B”) of dollars from AdWords. Google makes money by taking yours. Set budgets wisely and monitor performance closely or you’ll pad Google’s pockets without getting anything in return.
  2. Thou shalt not send traffic to the home page.
    It’s not that your home page is bad, but you should have a better page for AdWords traffic. Based on the search term someone used, you have some idea of what their problem is. Send them to a page that answers that question directly, whether it’s a product page, the pricing page or a custom landing page. The only exception might be searches on your brand name, but again, can you send them to a better page?
  3. Thou shalt not run Display and Search network in the same campaign.
    By default a new campaign will show ads on the search AND display networks. These are two very different animals and should be handled separately. Search is based on what the user actually typed and indicates a user that is actively involved in looking for something. Display is placing ads next to content on various sites around the Internet. These people are not actively looking and you need to pull them away from what they’re reading. This means different ad copy and different targeting.
  4. Thou shalt not let the intern manage AdWords.
    AdWords is easy to set up but difficult to manage. You want someone who writes awesome ad copy in under 90 characters, knows your customers’ motivations through and through and loves analyzing data. If your intern is this talented, hire him/her. Now!
  5. Thou shalt not use single-word broad match keywords.
    Sure, you would like to rank for the keyword “laptop,” but how many people searching for “laptop” are ready to buy? Use more specific two- to three-word terms in conjunction with phrase, exact or modified broad matching.
  6. Thou shalt use negative keywords.
    So you sell accounting software. You decided that software is a type of computer program, so you bid on the term “accounting program” and get tons of clicks without any sales. What happened? Well, an accounting program can also be a course of study at college and the lack of sales would seem to indicate that most people searching for an “accounting program” are looking for a college, not software. Add it as a negative term and save yourself some money.
  7. Thou shalt write at least two ads/ad group.
    Your product/service evolves, your competition changes its tactics, the economy fluctuates. Nothing is as certain as change. Testing at least two ads allows you to see what ad copy performs best and keep improving.
  8. Thou shalt record changes.
    AdWords has a feature that tracks what changes were made, when they were made and who made them. It’s helpful, but not complete. Keep a record of your changes with notes about why you made them. For example, you wrote two ads for that new Ad Group. One focused on pricing, the other focused on benefits. When you come back in a month to analyze performance you could just pause the lower performing ad, but if you reference your notes you’ll see that the ad test reveals something about your customers—either they respond better to pricing or they respond better to benefits. This knowledge can help you improve your whole account, not just one Ad Group.
  9. Thou shalt install Conversion Tracking.
    The main benefit of PPC is its inherent measurability. Conversion tracking allows you to know what produces results in your account down to the exact search query and ad.
  10. Thou shalt test continually.
    Establish a pattern of testing from the moment you set up your AdWords account. Test ad copy to find out what message resonates with potential customers. Test different keywords to see if there is a difference between the words you use to describe your product/service and what words your customers use to describe your product/service. Test different landing pages to see which ones convert best. Always be testing.

Disobey these commandments and you will be punished with smaller bank accounts and unhappy executives. Follow these commandments and you will be blessed in the land of AdWords.

Robert-Brady-PPCRobert Brady is the owner and head PPC wizard at Righteous Marketing, a Google AdWord Certified Partner and Microsoft adExcellence Member. He manages PPC accounts for both small and large businesses and offers a PPC training program for the DIYer.

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  • Ryan Key

    Great list of commandments, im sure most people have broken at least 3 or 4 of these.

    • RavenCourtney

      Thanks, Ryan! Yes, we think Robert did a great job with this piece – and you’re right; I definitely know some commandment breakers out there!

  • Lisa

    This blog got me on page 1 top ranked by just removing the added networks! LOVE THIS!!!! Thank you!