Go to Blog

AdWords: Show The Ads You Want With Desired Keywords

Adam Lundquist

AdWords isn’t easy.

First you attempt to find just the right keywords, then you match these keywords with clickable ads and finally you create high quality landing pages that are likely to convert. But as you receive the data, you find there is a weak link in the chain - users are not clicking your ads.

Quality score is low and as time goes on, your ads begin to show less. So you add new longer tailed keywords and match them with relevant ads in the hope that these new additions can turn your account around.

However, these new keywords don’t drive the traffic that you imagined. In fact it seems like they are hardly showing at all.

These keywords have higher bids and their ads are highly relevant- so why is Google preventing them from showing in the results?

This is a common problem I see in AdWords accounts, and has to do with account structure and the way Google sees your AdWords account.

You See Your AdWords Account Differently Than Google

You may see your account as one cohesive unit, where your keywords and ads work together like the original Dream Team - each one contributing when the exact time is right. However, Google doesn’t see it that way - Google see your keywords like the Dream Team 2 where the team essentially competed with itself and the wrong player was in the wrong place at the wrong time. (For the record, how did Joe Dumars make this team?)

This self competition in AdWords causes problems when you add new keywords and ads to your account. While you may think that adding a longer tailed keyword means that Google shows your new ad because it matches exactly what the user typed in - but that is not the case.

For example, let’s say you are a defense lawyer and have an account that targets those charged with DUIs in the Atlantic City area of New Jersey.

You may begin your campaign with more general keywords such as +DUI +Defense. However, as the data comes in you find that you are getting crushed in your click through rate (CTR) and quality score. You scramble and decide to create an ad group that specifically targets your location and includes location based keywords such as +Atlantic +City +DUI +Defense and create ads that specifically target the Atlantic City area.

However, when you look at your search query report you find that even when a user types in the exact query Atlantic City DUI Defense it still triggers the keyword +DUI +Defense and the more general ad which accompanies it.

Google has decided that for whatever reason they will continue to use the more general keyword - it is frustrating, but there is a solution.

The way to get those newer and more specific keywords and accompanying ads to show is to stop competing against yourself by getting negative and sculpting your account.

Stop Competing Against Yourself By Sculpting Your Account

To get your new longer tailed keywords and accompanying ads to appear when you want them to you need to eliminate yourself from your own competition by sculpting your account. Sculpting an AdWords account means strategically adding negative keywords to Ad Groups which forces Google to only show the ads for the keywords you intended.

These negative keywords prevent your keywords from competing with each other. When an AdWords account is sculpted correctly there is an increase in relevance and quality score and a decrease in the average cost per click.

How to Sculpt Your AdWords Account To Ensure The Correct Ad Shows Appears for the Correct Keyword

We will continue to use the example from earlier - you are a lawyer in New Jersey (Snooki, Attorney at Law?) and want to have separate ads and appropriate landing pages show for the keyword phrases DUI Lawyer and Atlantic City DUI Lawyer (for more great info on legal industry PPC specifically, check out this post from Matt Umbro).

Here is how to accomplish this:

  1. Create separate ad groups.

Create two separate ad groups within the same campaign- one includes keywords, ads and landing pages for the more general DUI defense terms and one includes keywords, ads and landing pages for Atlantic City DUI Defense terms.

To accomplish this:

  1. Select +Ad Group.

Select Ad Group

  1. Name your Ad Group something descriptive.


  1. Enter in a default bid and select Save ad group.

Save Ad Group

Now repeat these steps for the Atlantic City DUI Defense Ad Group. When you are done you have your two ad groups structures ready for specific keywords, ads and landing pages. Your screen should look like this:

Select -should look like this

  1. Add the keywords and the ads.

Next, add the keywords to tell Google what search query the user should have to type in to trigger the ads in the respective Ad Groups. For the example we are going to run a very lean keyword selection.

The General DUI Defense Ad Group only has the keyword +DUI +Defense and the Atlantic City DUI Ad Group only has the keyword +Atlantic +City +DUI +Defense.

To accomplish this:

  1. Select the ad group General DUI Defense:

Select Ad Group

  1. Select +Keywords.

Select Keywords

  1. Add the keyword +DUI +Defense and select Save.

Keyword Selection

  1. Repeat these steps with the Atlantic City DUI Defense ad group.
  1. Create Ads specific to the keyword.

To accomplish this:

  1. Select the tab Ads.

Select ads tab

  1. Select +Ad.

Select + Ad

  1. Create an ad specific to the keyword. Here is an example for the General DUI Defense ad group:

Here is an example of the one specific to the Atlantic City DUI Defense ad group.

General DUI Defense Ad

I updated the headline, the description, and the display URL. Due to space issues I chose to use AC as a substitute for Atlantic City:

Atlantic City Specific Ad

You can see how the ads are more relevant to the specific keywords within their Ad Groups.

  1. Add the negative keywords

This is where the sculpting comes in. Even though you now have targeted keywords and ads in separate ad groups - Google still shows the ad from the General DUI Defense ad group. Even when a user specifically searches on the phrase Atlantic City DUI Defense the ad from the General DUI ad group appears. (This is not just an example - I run many campaigns and have had this happen).

To sculpt the campaign we add negative keywords to force Google to show the ad we want when the keyword we intended is searched.

First, I am going to tell Google that I do not want the Atlantic City DUI Defense ads to show when someone types in the search query DUI Defense. This is too general a term and since we are targeting all of New Jersey in our campaign we could lower our click through rate if someone searched on a term such as Egg Harbor DUI Defense.

To accomplish this I am add the word Atlantic as a phrase match negative to the General DUI Defense ad group. This prevents any search with the word Atlantic anywhere in it from triggering the ad from my General DUI Defense ad group.

To accomplish this:

  1. Select the General DUI Defense ad group.

Select the general defense ad group

  1. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and select +Negative Keywords.

Select negative keywords

  1. A new drop down will appear, select Add and make sure that it is at the ad group level.

Ad group level

  1. Add Atlantic as a negative phrase match by typing in Atlantic in quotes and selecting save.

Type "Atlantic" in quotes

Now when a user types in Atlantic City DUI Defense the general ad does not show. Only the highly targeted Atlantic City ad is now the only eligible.

  • However, because I am careful I also add the phrase DUI Defense as an exact match negative in my Atlantic City DUI Defense Ad Group. This prevents ads from the Atlantic City DUI Defense Ad Group from appearing when someone types in the exact phrase DUI Defense. To do this repeat the same steps, except make sure it is in the Atlantic City DUI Defense and use brackets when typing in Dui Defense, it should look like this: [DUI Defense] .

DUI defense

You have now sculpted your campaign so that Google has no choice by to have the intended ad triggered by the appropriate keyword.

What techniques have you found to make your account more relevant to the user and force Google to show your ad appropriately? Please let us know in the comments.

Like this post? Follow us on RSS and read more interesting posts:

Adam Lundquist (@adamlundquist) is the CEO of Nerds Do It Better, an Internet advertising agency for businesses. He has been featured in The Harvard Gazette, Search Engine Journal, KISSmetrics, WordStream, Duct Tape Marketing, MarketingProfs, PPC Hero, MOZ, Certified Knowledge, The Daily seoTip, MTV, VH1 and Sports Illustrated. Prior to his Internet jobs he was the number one rated morning show host on a rock station in Santa Barbara. He is the author of the free eBook: Make Internet Advertising Work For Your Small Business. 5 Steps To Find, Cultivate and Market To New Customers.
Share this post


2000 symbols remain
Thanks for the article, it gave me a good understanding of how sculpting functions. However I have a question regarding sculpting that I did not find an answer to. Maybe you can help me out with my query.

If each adgroup is linked to a specific advert and each adgroup has its distinct keywords, then shouldn't all keywords from one adgroup always be used as negative keywords for another to assure to 100% that one ad cannot be triggered by the keywords of another?

If so, how come there are no adgroup level negative keyword options - as in, there is campaign level keywords that apply to all adgroups within, but there are no options on each adgroup to select something such as "adgroup 1" in your "adgroup 2" negative keywords tab.

I hope that wording made sense. Thank you for any guidance!