Google AdWords

Step-by-step guide to creating an AdWords Campaign

This is a step-by-step guide to the creation of an AdWords campaign in a Grants Account. It’s from the perspective of creating your first campaign, but it all holds true whether you’re creating your first campaign during the Grants account creation process or whether it’s your fiftieth! It’s hopefully just a useful resource to walk you through the setup.

This post has been updated to reflect the new Grant scheme requirements that Google introduced in December 2017.

Choosing the Campaign Settings

Let’s begin with a Brand Campaign for the fictional charity ‘Porcupine Trust’. This video shows you the process of setting up a campaign:

Some of the important things to notice here are:

  • Type – You must choose ‘Search Network Only’ – this is the only campaign type you can have in a Grants account.
  • Location – This is set to UK as a default. If you work in a specific location then you can enter a region, county, town or postcode. You can choose multiple locations and even exclude locations; for example if you wanted to target all of London except for a certain postcode area.
  • Default bid – The bid amount tells Google how much you’re willing to pay per click. Within a Grants account the limit is always $2, so this is always a good starting point. You can easily change the bid within AdWords at any time. You can set ad group and keyword bids separately, but bids will revert to this value if you skip those steps.
  • Budget – When first setting campaign budgets, it’s simplest to set a high amount and then edit it later. You can spend a maximum of $329 a day. Your combined daily budgets can exceed $329, but Google won’t allow you to spend more than this. Once the $329 has been spent your ads will no longer be shown that day.

Creating an Ad group

Within Campaigns there are ad groups; these are a way for you to organise your ads and keyword into closely related sets. For every Campaign that you create you need to include at least 2 ad groups.

For instance, our fictional charity (Porcupine Trust) might have ‘Porcupine Services’ as a Campaign. Within that they might have ‘Porcupine Grooming’ and ‘Porcupine Walking’ ad groups. They are both Services, but they are separate ad groups to allow them to target those groups with different ads. With the Brand campaign for Porcupine Trust, we’re just going to create one Ad group together:

To begin with you have to add at least 1 ad and 1 keyword but you can return to the ad group later and expand upon this. It’s easy to make changes to existing campaigns and ad groups within AdWords.

Tips for creating ads:

  • We’d recommend having 2-3 ads live per ad group as this allows you to test a few variations and see what works best. You need to have at least 2 ads per ad group to meet Google’s requirements. These can be very close variations with something as simple as ‘Please give today’ vs. ‘Please donate now’ being the only difference.
    • Once you start to see results coming in you’ll be able to determine which ads perform better, from which you can pause the lowest performer and test further variations of the best performing.
  • You’re very limited in the number of characters that you can use, so you’ll need to think about the key elements of your charity/product so that you’re able to get your key message across. Don’t try to cram everything into one ad!
  • It’s generally thought best practice to use Title case in your Headlines (each word capitalised).
  • Within a Brand campaign I’d always recommend including your brand name in one of the Headings. It’s often worth including it in a Heading in a non-branded campaign. Definitely something that you can test!
  • Including a CTA (Call To Action) in your ad is also recommended, for example ‘donate now’, ‘sign up today’. You’re more likely to get engagement with your ad if you include a CTA.
  • Make sure that your ads are directing users to relevant landing pages. This helps improve user experience as the user ultimately arrives on a page that matches their expectations. It can also be helpful to mirror the language of the ad and landing page, to make these as closely related as possible.

Google’s Ad Extensions are great to include (particularly sitelink and callout extensions which are quick and easy to set up) and across your whole account you need to have at least 2 ad extensions active. You can either create them at this stage, or return later to add them in.

Keywords and their match types:

You can see that I used 3 types of punctuation when adding in keywords. These are keyword ‘match types’ which tell Google whether to show your ads depending on the terms searched by a user.

  • Broad Match – this has no punctuation and when keywords are entered like this you are telling Google that if a search query includes any of those words, in any order that you’d be willing to pay. So a query of porcupine shoes might result in searches for ‘porcupine slippers’, ‘porcupine quill shoes’, or even ‘hedgehog shoes’.
    • I’d recommend being wary of Broad match as you don’t have much control over when Google could show your ads.
  • Broad Match Modifiers – Shown with  a +plus +symbol immediately in front of a word, this tells Google that these words have to be included in the search query but can do so in any order. So +porcupine +shoes might appear for ‘porcupine pink shoes’ or ‘shoes made from porcupines’, but definitely not ‘hedgehog shoes’
  • Phrase – Shown with  “speech marks” ads will show whenever that phrase is used, in that order, in a search query e.g. “porcupine shoes” would match for ‘cheap porcupine shoes’ but not ‘porcupine pink shoes’
  • Exact – Shown with [square brackets] ads will only be shown for the exact term or very close variations e.g. [Porcupine shoes] will only show for the search term Porcupine shoes or maybe Porcupine shoe

Negative keywords – These are a very different kind of match type; negative keywords are those which you don’t want your ads to appear for. For example, Porcupine Trust might want to make sure that they don’t appear for anything including the word ‘Hedgehog’ in this case they would enter -hedgehog which would prevent this happening.

When selecting keywords bear in mind that you can’t use 1 word keywords unless it is your brand name, or it’s on Google’s list of exceptions to this rule.


Congratulations you now know how to set up a campaign in AdWords! You can use this process to create campaigns for all your user journeys e.g. volunteer, charity services, donations, resources. If you’re just setting up your account then read our advice about creating a perfect account structure.

If you want a review of the account that you’ve set up then get in touch – we would be more than happy to take a look at your initial set-up.