Traditionally, there are four levels of a Google Ads account. In today’s age of automation and expanded functionality, though, there are variations to this norm. But the traditional structure still applies in most cases. The four levels of a Google Ads Account are:

  • Account level
  • Campaign level
  • Ad Group level
  • Ad + Targeting level

This is a nested hierarchy where accounts can have multiple campaigns, campaigns can have multiple ad groups, and ad groups can have multiple ads and targeting selections. To have a functioning Google Ads account, you must have at least one campaign, one ad group, one keyword (or other targeting selection), and one ad. Here is a detailed explanation of the purpose of each level

Note: If needed, there is another level above account level. The Manager Account level is for an account that manages several accounts from one interface.

Account Level

Most of the settings in Google Ads reside at lower levels, but a few settings are made at the account level, such as:

  • Account name
  • Time zone
  • Language
  • Billing and payments
  • Access and security
  • Account linking (e.g., linking to Google Analytics)
  • Conversions
  • Notification preferences

Campaign Level

The next step after setting up the account is creating a campaign. Campaign settings define some over-arching options that affect every ad group, ad, targeting selections, and all other aspects of the campaign. It’s possible to override some campaign settings at lower levels (which there is sometimes a good reason to do), but campaign settings are meant to apply to the entire campaign.

When creating a new campaign, your first task is to choose an objective for that campaign OR choose to create a campaign without selecting an objective (note the last option in the list of choices). The choices for objectives are:

  • Sales
  • Leads
  • Website traffic
  • Product and brand consideration
  • Brand awareness and reach
  • App promotion
  • Local store visits and promotions
  • Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance
A view of the campaign objective options in Google Ads.

A view of the campaign objective options in Google Ads.

Your next set of options depends on which objective you chose. If you chose an objective that’s action or conversion-oriented (like sales or leads), you’ll then need to decide what pre-defined conversion will be the focus of this campaign. Most objectives also lead you to choose a campaign “type,” including the “create a campaign without a goal’s guidance” objective option. The campaign type options you’ll see relate to the various channels and ad networks Google offers for advertising. The choices you see will depend on which objective you selected, but the overall options include:

  • Search
  • Performance Max
  • Display
  • Shopping
  • Video
  • Discovery

Note: The process of choosing an objective and campaign type(s) can feel confusing if you are new to Google Ads. Formerly, this was simpler with the choice of campaign type/ advertising channels only. But it appears that Google was influenced by Facebook in the approach of objective-based (and objective optimized) campaigns, so it added that as a new layer.

Beyond objective and campaign type, other important settings are established in the campaign setup process, including:

  • Daily budget (or lifetime budget and time frame)
  • Bidding settings (including bid strategy and optimization choices)
  • Ad rotation
  • Geographic locations targeted (and excluded)
  • Languages
  • Ad scheduling

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Ad Group Level

The purpose of ad groups is to keep a tight theme between who’s being targeted to see the ad and the ad creative that will be displayed. For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “wedding photographer,” you would want that search to trigger an ad that promotes wedding photography. If you also targeted the keyword “pet photographer,” you would want that search to trigger an ad focused on pet photography services. In this scenario, it would be highly advisable to have separate ad groups for both wedding photography and pet photography.

You might be thinking, “Why not just create separate campaigns for different themes instead of ad groups?” If there isn’t a reason to create a campaign, it’s better to create an ad group. It makes for a more easily managed structure. Only create a separate campaign if there’s a reason it’s necessary. The reasons could include: needing a separate daily budget, targeting a different location area, targeting a different language, or focusing on a different campaign type or objective.

While a campaign is a container for ad groups, ad groups are containers for the elements and settings related to a theme, such as the ad creative elements and the targeting settings.

Ad + Targeting Level

As mentioned above, the purpose of ad groups is to contain elements and settings related to a theme. Primarily, this means the ad creative and the targeting settings.

Ad creatives – For most campaign types, you can create several ads within any ad group. They might include headline text, description text, URLs, pictures, logos, and videos (again, depending on the campaign type).

Targeting – Depending on the campaign type, you might be able to set ad targeting based on keywords, demographics, topics, pre-defined audience lists, interests, or placements (e.g., on a specific page of a specific website or before a specific YouTube video).