Paid Search – consolidate, don’t lose control

In the old days of Paid Search, granular account structures were king. Until Smart Bidding changed everything.

After that, Google’s best practices changed. Smart Bidding algorithms thrive on having large amounts of data in each campaign to learn from and optimise more effectively as a result, so a smaller number of consolidated campaigns became the recommendation.

Theoretically, that makes PPC accounts simpler to manage, but if executed incorrectly, it can also result in a loss of control and deterioration in performance.

At Journey Further, we’ve audited a significant number of PPC accounts recently that have seen a drop in performance after implementing consolidated account structures and automation.



The reason is that consolidation and automation are often implemented too aggressively, and the necessary extra steps that come with it have been neglected. This results in overpaying for clicks due to poor quality scores, which harms account efficiency and performance.


So how do you fix it?

It’s worth stating that consolidation is a crucial part of getting the most out of smart bidding and other automation, but it’s not necessarily easier than implementing old structures, the effort just goes into different areas.

It’s still important to have a well-thought-out structure of exact and phrase keywords to control the ad copy that shows against each search query, boosting quality score and pulling down your CPCs, but crucially demonstrating to potential customers that you understand their query and can solve their problem. Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) allow you to create relevant, compelling ads and have the flexibility to appeal to a range of queries if used effectively.


An example of how this can look can be seen here:





It’s also crucial not to be over-reliant on Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) within Paid Search. Too often, we see DSAs being used as the only type of Ad Group in a structure. These are good for catching new queries but should never be the sole ad group in a campaign.

It’s also important to test Broad Match keywords but in a controlled manner. Unmodified Broad Match has had a Lazarus-like comeback in recent years, but its effectiveness varies wildly by account, and it can harm performance if applied incorrectly.


The key to effective implementation is a thorough set of negative keywords.

  • Separate Broad Match keywords into different ad groups from the corresponding exact and phrase match and apply your exact match keywords as negative exact in your broad ad groups so that it picks up incremental traffic.
  • Ensure that negative phrase keywords are used to channel queries into the right ad groups. Without this queries will frequently be picked up by multiple ad groups, which prevents smart bidding from doing its job properly as well as preventing ad copy from being as relevant as it can be.
  • Add existing keywords as negative keywords to ensure DSA generates incremental traffic.



Keep Paid Search campaigns as consolidated as possible –  break out only when your objective, bid strategy or budget changes.

Likewise, keep ad groups as consolidated as possible – break them out when the ad copy or the landing page needs to change. When your volume is low, group keywords a little more broadly to avoid getting too granular.

Consolidation is a crucial part of an effective PPC strategy, but it fails if implemented poorly. Following the steps above allows you to maximise the benefits of automation whilst maintaining control and steering it in the right direction.