SEO – Ad copy hack for your AdWords pathways

SEO - Ad copy hack for your AdWords pathways

The testing and implementation of ad copy in AdWords has become increasingly important — and increasingly difficult. This is a result of the paradigm shifts in AdWords account structures. The ad copy advice that follows can help improve ad copy relevance easily, at scale.

Shift in AdWords account structures

Throughout 2016, we have seen a major debate regarding the concept of AdWords account structures. Regardless of your stance, one major shift that we’ve seen over the past two years is search engine marketers reducing the number of keywords per ad group within their Google and Bing accounts.

Whether that’s moving to Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs) or to flexible account structures, there is no debate that account structures have been shifting toward an increase in the number of ad groups within each account. Reading summaries on these account structure shifts is definitely a valuable way to spend time if you’re not familiar with some of these changes. (Now is definitely a good time to re-evaluate your AdWords account structure.)

Increasing the number of ad groups creates new challenges

As implied in the name, using Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGs) will increase the number of ad groups within your AdWords account. As a result, extremely relevant ad copy becomes both achievable and necessary; however, the implementation and maintenance work involved can make this transition overwhelming.

Here is an ad copy hack to help you ensure that the Pathway 1 and Pathway 2 combinations in your ads are not only specific to your search term, but are readable, relevant and help improve your Quality Scores.

Why the pathway?

If you’re a practitioner of SKAGs, you probably know that a best practice for managing SKAGs is having your search term somewhere in your display URL pathway.

Pathways are arguably the most underrated portion of your ad copy in AdWords. The impact of a good URL + pathway combination is twofold:

  1. It increases the relevancy of your ad to the user’s perception.
  2. It improves Google’s perception of your ad and the experience someone may be looking for.

If your keyword for a particular ad group is “Buy Awesome Stuff,” then your ad with optimized pathway copy might look like this:


Okay, so what is the hack?

So, we know that we are going to have really specific ads for each ad group. Now what? We want SEMs to utilize the Keywords report for a campaign and create very specific combinations of Pathway 1 and Pathway 2 for each ad based on these unique keywords.

Doing this at scale can be incredibly challenging, but I will show you how to do it easily. Through this method, the information downloaded from your Keywords report is transformed into a feed that can be dynamically inserted into your ad copy using a few preferred technologies.

Let’s look at how we do this:

1. Download your Keywords report and match the keywords to Ad Group ID # automatically.

  • Go to your Keywords tab in AdWords.
  • Click the “Edit” drop-down.
  • Select the “Download Spreadsheet…” option.


2. Open your spreadsheet in Excel.

What you have now is a Keywords report with a ton of data in it. There are two key columns here, “Keyword” and “Ad group ID,” and these are matched up by row. So instead of using a Pivot table, you now just need to remove the stuff you don’t need.


3. Reduce the report into a spreadsheet that contains only our two necessary columns: Keyword and Ad Group ID.


4. Use “Find and replace” to eliminate the keyword modifiers.

“Find” the modifier and “replace with” nothing.


5. Optional: Convert your Keywords into proper text (first letter of all words being capital).

Do this if it makes the most sense for your Pathways. This step isn’t always necessary; it depends on your preference.


6. Remove spaces.

As we all know, we can’t have spaces in our display URLs. Use a “find and replace” to replace all of the spaces between your words with either nothing, “-” or “_” depending on what you prefer.

7. Transform your keywords into Pathways.

The next step is using your scrubbed keyword list to manually create Pathway 1s and Pathway 2s, which you will put in two separate columns. Remember, the character length is 15 for both Pathway 1 and Pathway 2, so you may be limited depending on the length of the keyword.

Scrubbing a list of keywords and manually transforming them into Pathway 1s and Pathway 2s is not as time-consuming as it may sound. Make decisions based on readability and which components within the search term are the most relevant to the searcher.

8. Separate your Pathway 1 and Pathway 2 lists into separate Excel files to create separate feeds.

Create two new individual Excel files, one for Pathway 1 and the other for Pathway 2. Each file should contain two columns: one for the Pathway (column A) and one for Ad Group ID (column B). These files will be used as feeds, which you can upload into AdWords.

A finished set of feeds will look like this…


Feed for Pathway 1

feed for pathway 2

Feed for Pathway 2

9. After you’ve completed your feeds, insert them into your ad copy.

Once your two feeds have been completed (individual feeds for both P1 and P2), you will need to upload them into AdWords. The idea here is to insert the pathways into your ads based on certain criteria — in this case, Ad Group ID #.

You can use AdWords ad customizers as one technology for this feed. Ad customizers are found under your “Shared Library” within AdWords, which will allow you to dynamically insert the pathways uniquely for each Ad Group ID.


For more detailed instructions on implementing ad customizers in AdWords, check out Google’s dcumentation here.

Measuring Quality Score over time

Implementing keyword-based pathways is a great way to boost Quality Scores relatively quickly. Take note of benchmark metrics prior to implementation, the ad groups/keywords that are included, and the overall Quality Score for this set of keywords. Once the ads have been implemented, allow one week to collect data, and then implement to another set of ad groups.

The goal here is to improve the Quality Scores of your account, one ad group set at a time, and allow Google’s perception of your ad relevance to improve as well.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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