SMB PPC: A Good Account Setup Is Essential – Part 2

google adwords account setup

In the world of PPC, limited budget accounts are like McDonalds hamburgers.

Nobody ever publicly admits to interacting with them, but millions of dollars are consumed in both instances.

As I noted in my first post, SMB PPC: A Definition of Terms, I will be writing a series on SMB PPC that I adapted from a talk I presented around the US as well as in Dublin and London last year. This is the second post in the series, and an essential one. In this post, we’ll discuss a crucial part of managing SMB PPC accounts… setting them up well!

First, a caveat… this series is about SMB Paid Search PPC. If you’re looking for Facebook Ads advice, you’ll have to find it somewhere else!  While social gets all the love lately, I’m a staunch believer in Paid Search, and that limited budget accounts can still make it work if done well… thus the series. This doesn’t mean there will be times when it makes more sense (because of industry competition and CPCs) to begin your marketing program on Facebook Ads and then eventually build it to include Paid Search, as my friend Matt so eloquently argues for: Why SMBs Should Not Run AdWords Accounts.

However, overall I think we can do Paid Search well, even for small accounts, and I think a key to that is setting up the account well from the beginning. So keep reading!

You’re Only As Good As Your Setup

If you were a 1920’s mobster, you would already be familiar with this crucial life lesson: The Slower the Getaway Car, The More Important a Good Head-Start.

google adwords account setup

When we think of limited budget PPC accounts, we need to remember that we are looking at small accounts in which less money means less traffic, and less data. Since data is the life-blood of optimization, that means it takes us longer to reach statistical significance and make all around important decisions in the account. This is why I maintain that setting things up well in the beginning is crucial. In fact, when we at ZATO take over an account, we actually charge a setup/overhaul fee in every instance because there will always be additional, significant work we need to do in the beginning to get the account up to our standards. The reason we do this isn’t because we’re greedy punks. It’s because we understand that if it is going to take us 3-6 months to really get this account to profitability, that we can’t spend 4 of those months slowly fixing what was wrong in the account before.

When you take over, or start what will be a limited budget account, here are the 3 key things I believe you need to do immediately in terms of setup:

Segment Search Campaigns by Match Type

Since we’re talking primarily of Paid Search, the key to a good setup is the Search campaigns structure. Now, admittedly, there is a lot of discussion, nay, hoopla, out there on the perfect Search Campaign structure. I even wrote this recap of one of the debates that took place at SMX West a couple of years ago: The Great Account Structure Debate at SMX West 2016.

google adwords account structure

Without getting mired down into a quagmire of opinions, I’ll just note that my proposal here is specifically with limited budgets in mind. I don’t deny there are many legitimate ways of doing campaign management, however overall, I have found that Search Campaign segmentation by match type is the ideal way. This is because it keeps the account organized primarily around efficient management of that all important SMB PPC entity: budget!

When you segment campaigns by match type, you are taking a group of keywords and targeting Exact match terms in one campaign, and Broad Match Modified (or Phrase if word order is essential) in a separate campaign for the same keywords.  So for instance:

Search – Plumbers – Exact – Bozeman

Search – Plumbers – BMM – Bozeman

Then, in these campaigns you would exclude the exact match terms from the BMM campaign so you ensured that no query bleed-over happened if bids were not perfectly tiered. So practically:

Search – Plumbers – Exact – Bozeman

  • [best plumbers]
  • [plumbers in bozeman]
  • [emergency plumbers]

Search – Plumbers – BMM – Bozeman

  • +best +plumbers
  • +plumbers in +bozeman
  • +emergency +plumbers

with negatives in the BMM campaign:

  • -[best plumbers]
  • -[plumbers in bozeman]
  • -[emergency plumbers]


Why is this such a big deal, Kirk? You ask. Simple, because budget control. Your exact match terms are generally (not always, but generally and often) your highest quality intent terms. Someone who searches for [best plumbers] has given you a pretty darn good reason why you would want to bid on that term, their intent to find you is high, and you’re willing to invest more budget in that term. What about +best +plumbers? Well, now you are getting intent all muddled up because you are picking up any possible term that includes both of those keywords. You may still find some fantastic terms in there, but overall your [exact] terms are more valuable. Therefore when you keep them segmented out into individual campaigns you can control budget specifically in multiple ways.

  • You can more easily keep daily budget caps higher on Exact keywords only when they are in campaigns (since AdWords ties daily caps to campaigns).
  • You can more easily shut off all non-exact match terms if you need your budget to stretch across *only* the terms that are most important (your [exact match terms]) when they are grouped at a campaign level.
  • You can more easily keep track of how exact terms overall are converting (this makes reporting so much easier, trust me!)

So, while this might not be the ideal structure for a $4million / month campaign, I’ve found it’s the best way for limited budget accounts because you can so easily control your budget by devoting most of it to the most important terms… your exact match terms!


Begin Remarketing Immediately

The next aspect of the setup that we suggest beginning immediately is, remarketing (or retargeting for everyone but Google who likes to rename everything). When you take over an account, one of the very first things you should do after contract signing, is to create remarketing lists in Google Analytics to begin filling those lists so when you are ready to market to them, you have lists ready to go!

remarketing taken meme

We like to begin both Search (RLSA) and GDN remarketing immediately. While remarketing has some lovers and some haters, we feel strongly that it’s an important part of the funnel for limited budget accounts.

First, practically, we find that many limited budget accounts don’t have great visitor follow-up strategies in place. Remarketing has (rightly so) been condemned for robbing channels like email of conversions that would have come back anyways. But with small clients, they don’t often have an advanced marketing funnel program set up (they’re just trying to survive, okay?!), and remarketing really is the best way to bring back customers and stay in front of them.

Second, we find that remarketing is a great way to immediately get you into the good graces of the client since remarketing often has lower traffic, but better KPIs. This can be a *great* way in the beginning of a small account, to demonstrate success (hey, we’re not a bunch of idiots), while you’re trying to build the funnel through the traditional Search/GDN campaigns.


We like to begin with RLSA campaigns, and the trick there is to use Editor to grab what you are running in your BMM campaigns, create a new campaign in editor, toss in the ad groups from your BMM campaigns, add in a few remarketing audiences as campaign level (MAKE SURE TO SET TO TARGET & BID –targeting in the new UI–), up the bids by 25-50% and you’re done! Easy Peasy.


For GDN remarketing, we at ZATO, like to set one audience per ad group and for smaller clients will sometimes even segment ad groups by ad size. We build out to these 5 ad sizes as some of the top impression sizes on the GDN:

  • 320×50 (mobile)
  • 160×600
  • 300×250
  • 728×90
  • 300×600

Here are the exact specifications if you need them: GDN Image Ad Sizes & Specifications

google remarketing list membership duration

If you need creative ways to get more users in your lists (since SMB PPC can be low traffic, and you have to hit those minimum list sizes), then try lengthening your Membership Duration. You can always just stick with “All Users” at different duration lengths if you need to!

If you need ideas for lists, try taking your website navigation and creating lists according to that.


  • Emergency Plumbing Visits
  • Commercial Plumbing Visits
  • Residential Plumbing Visits
  • etc

You can also build lists around user behavior, and micro-conversions they complete on the site. For instance, all people who reach out to you on chat!


Whatever you do, remarketing can be a powerful tool for the SMB business, so we suggest you implement it right from the beginning!



Begin Bing Ads Immediately

Finally, the 3rd key aspect of account setup or overhaul that we like to do immediately in an SMB PPC setup, is to start on Bing right away. This may sound somewhat odd since Bing is often seen as the quieter, younger sibling of Google. However, we have found that Bing Ads often (like, basically always) converts better than Google. So for a small budget account, it could be that your traffic from Bing is minimal, but that it trickles in higher profit for you monthly with minimal additional management impact.

google adwords import to bing ads

The other reason we think it makes sense to try Bing right away, is because it’s so insanely easy to import from Google. Get the client to help get the UET code placed, and then import your awesome Match Type Segmented Search campaign setup from Google and you’re in business. Definitely worth trying if you haven’t already!



Well, that’s about it for this time. If I were talking about more than Paid Search, I would have said something about Facebook Ads, but that is for another time and blogpost. Stay tuned as we continue our SMB PPC series next time!