Google Ads School: Selecting and Optimising Keywords for Better Campaigns

By Lili Marocsik

What do you think wastes the most budget in Google Ads campaigns? I won’t hesitate with sharing the answer: keywords! Keywords in Google Ads Campaigns are yet another aspect you, as a marketer, have to keep an eye on, in addition to your marketing automation, social media, event planning – that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

It’s easy for your attention to be taken away from your Google Ads campaigns, and realise it’s a leaking bucket when it’s too late. If you would rather your customers be the ‘big spenders’ than your marketing department, there are simple basics to follow. As a consultant for Google, I have had the chance to optimize more than 300 accounts in collaboration with clients, in turn, helping them finding their best clients and shaping my view on what a good Ads account should look like.

So, in this article, I will share some principles on keywords, so that you can master the basics – from starting a new campaign, to optimising for your long-term strategy.

Keywords Glossary

Let’s start with the tools we will use today:

  • Broad match modified keywords – (open match type for keywords to find new ideas)
  • Negative Keywords – (keywords we never want the add to fire for)
  • Attribution model non-last click – (the way conversions get attributed to the keywords on  clients´ path)
  • Search Term Report – (search terms= what client typed in the Google search Keyword= words we chose for ad to fire)

New Campaign Keywords

Let´s start from scratch: imagine we are building a new search campaign for eco baby toys, our goal is direct sales, and we have no idea which keywords will hit the jackpot – yet.

We start a new campaign with relatively open keywords. Single words will normally be too open, so we will set off with using short phrases like ‘eco baby toys’ and add product keywords in combinations with shop, order, buy online etc. – just like this:

  • +eco +baby +toys
  • +eco +baby +toy +shop
  • +order +eco +baby +toys
  • buy eco baby toys
  • buy eco baby toys online

We´ll set the match type of our keywords to broad match modified and broad match for now, to leave Google room for combinations and similar search terms and to see how our target audience is searching for our product.  If the keyword planner doesn´t give us a good idea about how much a click on our keywords cost yet, we can start out with the bidding strategy max. clicks, and a daily budget we are comfortable spending. Leave the max. CPC bid free for now.

If we do know, we can also start with manual CPC and cap the maximum CPC bid with enough room for the system to work its magic.

Top Tip: exclude keywords from the start, such as ‘free’, ‘plastic’, ‘DIY’ – or anything you know will not apply to your business. This is so we don´t waste budget on irrelevant clicks.

Once your campaign is running, check the search term report frequently to get familiar with the search language of your target audience (and collect keyword ideas!). The best overview you´ll have especially in the beginning, is on an Adgroup level; navigate to Adgroup → keywords → search terms. Beware that Google automatically puts the exclusions in exact match, which you have to change manually before saving.

Even though it should be common knowledge that we never raise a finger without conversion tracking in place, most accounts I see as a consultant for small businesses do not have a code implemented. In our example here, there should be e-commerce tracking in place, so we can see the revenue we can tie directly to our ads. Either way, make sure the attribution model is non-last click.

Long Term Keyword Adjustments

Imagine that our campaign has been running for a couple of months now. We should have enough data to identify the best keywords based on metrics such as conversion value/cost, clicks, and conversion rate. These metrics are found on the keyword level.

Also, check the Search lost IS columns:

  • Search lost IS (budget): see if you are competitive with your budget and if it is high enough to take part in all searches in your market. This metric you´ll only find on the account level.
  • Search lost IS (rank): will give you an idea of how many auctions you have lost and therefore didn´t even appear on searches.

Once you’ve found the keyword-cash-cows, separate those keywords in their own campaign so that they have their own budget allocated, and are therefore protected.  Then, start all over with more open keywords; with 15% of searches being completely new variations of keywords every day (source: Google), it is lucrative to keep on throwing the bait out to see what you will catch.


Especially in the beginning our campaigns and their keywords need time and attention. Automation and smart bidding can save us a lot of work, but over time if we are “sculpting” our campaigns, only a dedicated person who constantly checks on their keywords can create a “David” like Michelangelo´s.

The Author

Lili Marocsik

Lili was a Google Ads Consultant for a Google Partner, having optimized 300+ client accounts, mostly mid-sized companies. Her life motto is: "if there’s no opportunity, let´s build a door!"

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