Mastering Ad Groups in Marketing

Sydney Go

May 27, 202410 min read
Contributors: Michelle Lowery and Bartłomiej Barcik
Ad Groups / What are Ad Groups


What Are Ad Groups and How Do They Work?

An ad group is a collection of ads targeting similar keywords within a PPC campaign. This structure allows you to manage your bids on a group level, often set as a cost-per-click (CPC) bid) in Google Ads. You can also specify bids for individual keywords within the group.

For example, if you're running a campaign for a bookstore, you might create separate ad groups for "fiction books," "non-fiction books," and "children's books." Each ad group would contain ads tailored to those categories and include related keywords and content.

Ad groups centralize your ads around a common theme or goal to increase your ads’ relevance to your target audience. In other words, your ads appear for the most relevant searches in Google.

This streamlines your PPC campaign management and optimizes your ad spend. It also reduces advertising costs since more relevant ads tend to earn higher click-through and conversion rates.

google ads campaign structure starts with your adwords account branching out to campaigns then ad groups then individual ads and keywords

How Do Ad Groups Affect PPC Campaign Performance?

Ad groups can influence quality score, ad relevance, cost efficiency, and conversion rates. These factors are crucial for maximizing return on investment (ROI.

  • Quality score (QS): Measures the relevance and quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Well-structured ad groups improve QS by ensuring that ads and landing pages match their target keywords.
  • Ad relevance: Alignment with a user’s search query. Ad groups that focus on specific themes or products increase ad relevance.
  • Cost-efficiency: Effectiveness of your ad spend in achieving desired outcomes. Ad groups can lead to higher QS and ad relevance, potentially reducing CPC and maximizing ROI.
  • Conversion rates: Percentage of users who take a desired action after clicking your ads. Ad groups that match search intent tend to have higher conversion rates because users experience a seamless transition from search to action.

Integrating keywords, ad copy, and landing pages within an ad group ensures that every element connects to a relevant theme. This alignment leads to consistency across your messages and user interactions. Ad text that closely matches search queries and landing pages that deliver on an ad's promise can enhance the user experience (UX) and may increase conversions.

How to Find Keywords for an Ad Group

Using relevant ad group keywords is essential for maximizing conversions and ensuring your ads appear to the right audience at the right time. 

Start with a broad approach. Your business’s core offerings can become relevant keywords. List keywords that closely describe your products or services, including your brand or brands you represent.

For example, if you're selling water safety equipment, your base keywords might be "life jackets," "waterproof flashlights," and your brand name. 

Build Your Keyword List with Keyword Magic Tool

Use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to identify search possibilities for your broad term. And build a keyword list for your ad group.

Type your broad search term in the box, select your location, and click the “Search” button.

Keyword Magic Tool interface with the keyword "life jackets" entered and a search button with a curved arrow pointing to it.

You’ll see a comprehensive keyword analysis of your term. Like this:

Keyword Magic Tool interface showing search results for "life jackets", with keyword stats displayed in an organized layout.

Prioritize High-Relevance Keywords by Search Intent

Identify and prioritize high-relevance keywords to drive more traffic and conversions.

Search intent refers to why users type specific queries into a search engine. It falls under four categories:

  • Informational: Users seeking general information (e.g., Do you have to wear life jackets in a kayak?) Targeting informational keywords builds brand authority and trust.
  • Commercial: Searches where a user wants to find out more about brands, goods, or services (e.g., best life jackets for kayaking). Focusing on commercial intent keywords allows you to attract users in the consideration phase.
  • Navigational: Users looking for a specific website or page (e.g., “Brand name” kayaking lifejackets). Optimizing for navigational keywords helps users easily find your brand.
  • Transactional: Keywords indicating a readiness to purchase (e.g., Buy kayaking life jackets online). Choose transactional keywords if you aim to sell products directly from your website.

Note each keyword’s search intent in the “Intent” column.

Keyword Magic Tool interface with keyword stats displayed in an organized layout and the "Intent" column in a purple box.

To filter the results by search intent, click the “Intent” drop-down menu. Check the box next to your chosen keyword intent. Then, click the “Apply” button.

Keyword Magic Tool interface displaying intent filter options, with "Transactional" intent selected for search refinement.

Click “Transactional” to see keywords that contain transactional search intent.

Keyword Magic Tool interface displaying the "Intent: Transactional" filter and the "Intent" column in a purple box.

Refine this list by grouping the keywords by match types.

Segment Keywords by Match Types

Keyword match types are relevant in Google Ads as they affect which search queries that make your ads appear in Google.

The three keyword match filters include:

  • Broad match: Targets keyword variations, including synonyms and related searches. For example, "life jackets" will show related keywords like "dog life jacket" and "baby life jacket."
  • Phrase match: Includes your broad search term's exact phrase or close variations. From our “life jackets” example, you’ll see keywords like “life jackets for adults” and “fishing flotation jacket.”
  • Exact match: Keywords that exactly match the term’s meaning. Like "flotation jackets."
A gradient of peach to orange rectangles showing three types of Keyword Match Types on Google Ads.

Filter the keyword results on the Keyword Magic Tool by match types. Select the match type from the top bar.

Keyword Magic Tool showing analysis for "life jackets," with tabs for different types of keyword matches in a purple box.

The “Related” filter displays keywords that show similar search results to your broad search term.

Choosing the right keyword match type depends on your advertising goals, budget, and desired traffic.

To attract a wider audience, choose broad match. Phrase match helps you target users with a specific intent that matches your offering. However, it's not as restrictive as an exact match.

With an exact match, aim for precise searches that are most relevant to your products or services. This match type is best for campaigns where every click counts, such as limited-time offers or highly competitive product categories.

Group Keywords by Themes or Topics

When you're creating ads, group keywords by theme or topic. This approach helps you create ads that are relevant to the user’s search intent—which can improve quality score and lower CPC.

On the left side of the keyword results, you will see keyword groups. Filter these groups by number (the quantity of keywords in a group) and volume (the total average number of monthly searches for the keywords in the group).

Keyword Magic Tool showing search analysis for "life jackets," with a focus on the tabs for keyword groups on the left side.

Let’s say your ads target adult users who want to buy life jackets.

Click “By volume” to see the keywords users searched the most. Then click the “Adult” group.

Keyword Magic Tool focusing on the keyword groups sorted by volume, and the group "adult."

Click the arrow beside the group to see subgroups.

Keyword Magic Tool showing on the right the selected keyword group "adult" with the list of associated subgroups.

Add Your Keywords to a List

Tick the checkbox next to a keyword to select it. Then click the “+ Add to keyword list” to add it.

Keyword Magic Tool with a focus on three selected keywords and the "+ Add to keyword list" button.

Click “Create new empty list.”

Keyword Magic Tool interface with the "+ Add to list" dropdown menu open, showing options for creating a new empty list.

Enter your list’s name, and click the checkmark to save it.

Keyword Magic Tool interface with the "+ Add to list" dropdown menu open, showing the option to name a new list.

You just created a keyword list for your ad targeting. Repeat the last two steps to add more relevant keywords to the list.

Keyword Magic Tool with an "+ Add to list" dialog on the right, showing a newly created keyword list in a purple box.

Analyze Your Competitors’ Keywords

Use Semrush’s Advertising Research tool to identify the keywords your competitors are bidding on.

Type your competitor’s URL in the text box, select your location, and hit the “Search” button.

Advertising Research tool interface with a search bar, country selection dropdown, and a highlighted "Search" button.

Scroll down to the “Paid Search Positions” section to see the domain's keywords and positions in Google’s paid search results.

Advertising Research tool interface showing a list of competitor keywords along with stats on ad position, volume, etc.

Review the keywords and identify those that are most relevant to your ad campaign. Select the keywords. Then choose "All"(all the keywords) or "Selected"(only the keywords you selected). And click "Export" at the top right corner.

Advertising Research interface with a selected keyword and options for exporting data in various formats.

Repeat these steps for other industry competitors to add more relevant keywords to your list.

Then use Keyword Strategy Builder to add these relevant keywords to your initial list.

Keyword Strategy Builder with a heading, description for driving traffic using keywords, an input field for keywords, etc.

Scroll down to “Keyword lists” and click the list where you want to add keywords.

Keyword Strategy Builder tool interface showing various lists, with a purple arrow pointing at "adult life jackets."

Click the “Add keywords” button.

Keyword Strategy Builder interface showing data related to "adult life jackets," with a focus on the "Add keywords" button.

Input your competitor keywords and click “Add keywords.“

Tool screen with options to add keywords manually, and an input field with a keyword highlighted.

Fine-Tune Your Keyword List

Analyze and group the keywords in the PPC Keyword Tool to streamline your keyword list.

From your Keyword Strategy Builder's interface, click “Send keywords.” Then select “All keywords” to send all the keywords, and then “PPC Keyword Tool.” Click “Apply.”

Keyword Strategy Builder interface with options to send selected keywords to various SEO and PPC tools.

If you haven’t configured your PPC Keyword tool, you'll see the following prompt. Click “Set up PPC Keyword Tool.”

Popup window with an actionable button for setting up PPC Keyword Tool, highlighted by a purple arrow.

Type your website’s URL in the input box, and click “Set up.”

Interface showing a three-step process for a PPC Keyword Tool alongside a domain input field, and a "Set up" button.

Click “Manually."

PPC Keyword Tool showing the "Add keywords" section with a focus on the option to import keywords manually.

Type any of your keywords into the text box. Click “Add.”

Tool with a text input field with the keyword "adult life jacket" and an "Add" button with a purple arrow pointing to it.

Click “Location.”

PPC Keyword Tool interface with a navigation bar on the left and the "Location" tab selected and highlighted.

Select your country using the “Country” drop-down menu. If you want your ads to target a specific region or city, select them from the corresponding menus.

PPC Keyword Tool interface for adding keywords with fields for targeting country, region, and city.

Click “Start PPC Keyword Tool.”

PPC Keyword Tool interface for adding keywords, with a location form and buttons for starting the tool.

Go back to your keyword list in Keyword Strategy Builder. Click “Send keywords” > “All keywords” > “PPC Keyword Tool” > “Apply.”

Keyword Strategy Builder displaying various keywords with a sidebar for sending selected keywords to other tools.

You’ll see this box.

Popup for "Send To PPC Keyword Tool" with dropdown menus for "Project," "Campaign," and "Group."

Select the project you just created under the “Project” drop-down menu. Then, choose “Default campaign” and “Default group” under the “Campaign” and “Group” drop-down menus. Click “Send keywords.”

"Send To PPC Keyword Tool" screen with a focus on fields for "Project," "Campaign," "Group," and "Send keywords" button.

Click “Go to PPC Keyword Tool.”

Popup message indicating a successful action with options to go to the PPC Keyword Tool or return to the list.

Click on your project.

PPC Keyword tool interface with a table listing three project domains, with a purple arrow pointing to the first domain.

You’ll see your list of keywords.

PPC Keyword Tool interface with a list of life jacket-related keywords, showing details such as search volume, CPC, etc.

Organize Your Keywords in Groups

Keyword groups can make it easier to evaluate and manage your ad spend.

In the PPC Keyword Tool, click “+ Group.”

PPC Keyword Tool interface for "," highlighting the "+ Group" button on the left panel.

Enter your group name, and click the check mark.

PPC Keyword Tool interface showing on the left side a new group: "life jackets for adults," highlighted in purple.

Click the checkboxes next to each keyword you want to add to your new group.

PPC Keyword Tool showing selected keywords related to adult life jackets within a marketing campaign on ""

Click “Actions” > “Move to group.”

PPC Keyword Tool showing an "Actions" submenu, with a focus on the "Move the group" option.

Click the dropdown under “Group.” Then, select your group and click “Move to group.”

Popup for assigning keywords to groups in PPC Keyword Tool, with options to select a group and move keywords to the group.

Use Keyword Matching and Negative Keywords

Choose the right keyword match type and use negative keywords to save ad spend. 

Selecting a match type controls how closely a user's search needs to match your keywords. Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing in Google searches that aren't relevant to your business.

Use the PPC Keyword Tool to change your keyword’s match type.

Under the “Match type” column, select the drop-down menu on the row of your preferred keyword. Then, choose your desired match type.

PPC Keyword Tool interface showing a dropdown menu with options for match types highlighted.

Here’s how to specify negative keywords you don’t want to trigger your ads.

Click the “Negatives” tab. Then click “+ Negatives” > “Manually.”

PPC Keyword Tool with options for adding negative keywords at group levels, and an option to import keywords manually.

Type your negative keywords in the text box. Click “Add” and then “Add keywords.”

PPC Keyword Tool interface for adding negative keywords manually, showing a field for manual entry and "Add keywords" button.

Use the PPC Keyword Tool’s cross-group negatives feature to generate negative keyword suggestions.

Click the “Cross-group negatives” button.

PPC Keyword Tool interface displaying a list of keywords, with a focus on the action button "Cross-group negatives."

Click “Add to negatives.”

Interface showing cross-group negatives, with 2 keywords found and an "Add to negatives" call-to-action button highlighted.

Continue this process to discover more negative keywords. Add these to your negative keyword list to keep your ads from appearing for irrelevant search queries.

Export Your Keyword List

The PPC Keyword Tool allows you to export your keyword lists. Export the lists to your preferred ad platform, like Google Ads.

Click the “Export data” button at the top right corner. Choose “All.” Select your campaign from the “Campaign” drop-down menu. Choose "Keywords + Negatives" from the drop-down menu labeled "Report." Click the "Export to CSV" button to download the file.

Tool interface with the export menu open on the right, and focus on "All," "Keywords + Negatives," and "Export to CSV."

This will save the file to your device’s local drive. Then, you can upload it to Google Ads.

Let’s say you want to add your keywords manually while creating your ad group on Google Ads.

On your Google Ads account, click the “Create” plus icon at the top of the leftmost navigation pane.

Google Ads user interface showing the navigation menu on the left with a purple arrow pointing to the "Create" button.

Select “Ad group.”

Google Ads user interface, with the "Create" menu open, highlighting the "Ad group" option.

Choose the campaign to which you want to add the group.

Google Ads screen for selecting a campaign, with 2 listed campaigns, the "Sales-Search-1" one with an arrow pointing to it.

Select your ad group type.

Google Ads showing the step to 'Set up an ad group' with options for selecting 'Standard' or 'Dynamic' ad group types.

Ad group types include:

  • Standard Search Ads: Text ads triggered by your chosen keywords
  • Dynamic Search Ads: Text ads that pull content from your website to target relevant searches and automatically create headlines

Scroll down to select your ad group name and input your keywords. Click “Save and continue.”

Ad creation interface with a keyword section containing phrases related to adult life jackets and a "Save" button.

You’ll need to create a responsive search ad (RSA) for your ad group. Because you can’t have an ad group without an ad.

RSAs can improve your ad performance because they adapt to users' search queries to increase relevance and engagement. They offer flexibility and enable Google to test various ad combinations (headlines and descriptions) automatically for better results.

Further reading: Responsive Search Ads: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Input your “Final URL” and “Display path”. You'll see your ad’s preview on the right.

Ad creation interface with form fields for the URL and display path, and a preview of a sponsored ad for adult life jackets.

Scroll down to add your headlines. You can add a minimum of three and maximum of 15.

Ad creation interface showing 3 filled headline input fields higlighted with purple lines, and the heading "Headlines 3/15."

Then add your ad’s descriptions. You have have at least two, and up to four descriptions.

Google Ads ad creation interface with two completed description fields underlined in purple.

Consider adding more information like your business’s name and logo, sitelinks, and asset types.

Google Ads ad creation interface showing prompts to add business names and logos, sitelinks, and more asset types.

Follow the recommendations at the top right to increase your ad strength(how relevant your ads are). Google recommends that your RSA’s strength should be at least “Good.”

Ad creation interface on Google Ads, showing tips to improve ad strength, marked as poor, in a violet box.

After creating your RSA. Click “Done” > “Save and continue.”

Ad setup interface with two sets of buttons at the bottom, with arrows pointing at them: "Done" and "Save and continue."

Consider these best practices to achieve better performance metrics and meet your advertising goals.

  • Remove underperforming keywords and test new ones to refine your targeting
  • Test automated bidding strategies to optimize for conversions or clicks
  • Monitor your bids and adjust them based on keyword performance
  • Regularly review your ad groups to make sure they are relevant

Upgrade Your Ad Group Strategy with Semrush

As you create your ad groups and monitor their performance, upgrade your PPC strategy with Semrush.

Semrush gives you access to a suite of tools that enable you to understand your audience, find the right keywords and get insights to maximize your advertising ROI and surpass your competition. 

Sign up for a free trial with Semrush today to go beyond generic approaches and use tailored solutions to improve your ads’ performance.

Author Photo
Sydney has been creating content for over 10 years. She has been a writer, content manager and coordinator, editor, and strategist. At Semrush, she’s a blog editor who makes sure each article is as accurate, optimized, and helpful as possible.
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