The checklist to set up AdWords campaigns

The power of Google AdWords is beyond all doubt. It is a platform where demand encounters supply and therefore, it is all about relevance, it is all about selling to the right person at the right time. However, the amount of choices available to advertisers can be overwhelming and sometimes they find it hard to set up campaigns in the best way according to their interests. In this post I want to walk you through the critical steps needed to set up a search campaign in Google AdWords.


First things first, before dive into AdWords interface you should put pen and paper and set your goals and how those goals are translated into actions, the so-called conversions (both macro and micro), in your website or mobile app. In order to set targets for your goals, you can do a rough estimate taking into account data from your past performance. That is to say, taking your conversion rate and the volume of sessions in a given period, you can guess what is the volume of sessions needed to increase revenue with your current conversion rate. Don’t forget to consider the limits of your ad spending according to your product or service profitability margin. In other words, don’t forget to calculate your CPA (Cost Per Acquisition).


There are plenty of options regarding targeting in AdWords. Once you have mapped your customer’s journey you should have a clear understanding of the type of campaign you want to create. When creating search campaigns, make sure to opt out the default option (search with display). Next in your list should be location and language targeting. First, you want to advertise to users who are able to buy from you; there is no point in advertise in Hawai if you don’t ship your products to that location. Thus, make sure you include and exclude all applicable geographic areas. Second, you want users to see ads and landing pages written in their languages so verify you checked the right boxes in the language options menu.


AdWords has two ad delivery options, standard and accelerated. Standard delivery spreads your ads throughout the day ‘to avoid exhausting your budget early on‘. Consequently, if you have a small budget or want to impact your potential customers evenly throughout the day, this is your delivery method. Conversely, accelerated delivery spends the budget more quickly, specially at the start of the day and thus it is not recommended for most advertisers.

Keywords and Account Structure

Keyword research is a critical task in order to get the most out of search engine marketing. In paid search there is no room for errors. Mistakes targeting the wrong user cost money and keywords are the primary element to detect transactional user intent. In order to maximize the performance of your account

  • Avoid compete against yourself detecting and removing duplicate keywords in different ad groups.
  • Review match types. Create a structure that allows you to capture qualified traffic and discover new keywords using a combination of match types. My personal preference is the use of modified broad, phrase and exact match types.
  • Do an extensive list of negative keywords to prevent your ads from appearing for irrelevant queries to acquire more qualified traffic for keywords in broad, modified broad and phrase match types.
  • Do not forget to set a CPC bidding for every keyword. Use the estimates provided by the keyword planner tool.

In parallel, you will need to create a solid account structure in order to improve your quality score. Your keywords and ads must be tightly themed to increase relevance and therefore click through rates. Another consequence of a well thought account structure is that of organization, and let’s be clear in this point, a good organization will help you to detect problems in your campaigns, resulting in a better performance and an easier and more flexible account management.


Ads are your main point of contact with your potential customer. Of course you don’t want to make elementary mistakes such as launching ads without conduct a spell check, placing keywords in ad copy to increase relevance for user intent, or not using ad extensions.

However, the most important step is in fact a process in which most of us struggle, a quest for the perfect ad in which testing and iteration hold a central role. As Glenn Livingston said “most people think they’ve tested 20 ads, but they’ve really just tested 2 ads 10 different times.”. Developing ad copy from different angles and perspectives is hard, requires a clear understanding of user intent and brand personality traits to blend the best approaches but stay tuned, we will cover this subject soon.

Landing Page

Landing pages and CRO are worth another post but for the sake of this article, I would like to highlight two critical elements. First, you need to be able to track the performance of the campaign so once your conversions are established, conversion tracking must be set up, either employing Google AdWords conversion tracking code or creating the goals and importing them from Google Analytics into AdWords. Second, it is mandatory to check every single URL to verify that your ads are driving traffic to the right landing and that they work properly.

Final thoughts

Google AdWords is a beast. Regardless of the image Google is trying to sell, the amount of choices available in the platform and the level of competition in every vertical nowadays require a deep understanding of the tool and a wide experience managing accounts to maximize performance and make a difference in terms of business bottom line. Hopefully, this post will help you to better grasp the possibilities and common pitfalls when managing AdWords campaigns. Don’t forget to spread the word if you liked it.

Antonio Gonzalez

Digital Marketing expert with more than 8 years of experience.