For many brands today, search advertising is a cornerstone for building awareness and supporting sales. It provides a means of attracting in-market customers who are actively searching for their products or services, and gives them the freedom to match their offering to each individual using granular messaging, location targeting, audience insights, tailored budgets and bids across their various products, and more.

However, this flexibility also introduces complexity – especially when an organisation has multiple business units (BUs), each with their own objectives, budgets, target locations and keyword sets.

The most complex account structures we encounter are when companies have overlapping territories, for example franchises with multiple brick-and-mortar stores in the same suburb.

Even the simplest-looking search account will start to bend and break if it can’t be scaled as the business expands. But if you ask the right questions, a reimagined search strategy can be successfully rolled out in no time. In this article, we’ll look into how you can create and execute a winning search strategy for complex company structures.

Start with a solid brief

Before mapping out any structure, here’s a laundry list of the additional information your briefing document may need to uncover. A deeper understanding of each of these considerations will allow you to anticipate any roadblocks when it comes to formulating your search strategy.

Budgets by Business Unit (BU)

  • Does each BU have its own budget?
    • Do any BUs pool their budgets together? Does this arrangement ever change?
    • Is there a corporate budget to be shared amongst BUs?

Target locations

  • What locations does each BU need to reach?
    • Do BUs need sales from specific locations?
    • Which BUs overlap?

Keywords and audiences

  • Is there any overlap in BU desired keywords?
    • Is there any difference in audiences (remarketing and otherwise) between BUs?
    • Do competitors differ by region or BU?

Landing pages

  • Does each BU have its own page, or do they rely on non-BU specific pages?
    • Are non-BU specific pages available?

Creative and messaging requirements

  • Is there any difference in pricing or messaging between BUs?
    • How agile does messaging need to be?

Reporting requirements

  • Does each BU require reporting on its own metrics?
    • Does each BU want their individual spend to correlate directly with their clicks?

Who’s in control

  • Are individual BUs currently running their own search activity? Will some continue to do so once the new strategy is live?

Define your goals

Once you understand what you’re working with, it’s time to define the ideal outcomes of your reimagined search strategy. Here are a few examples of objectives to get you started.

  1. Achieve sales/enquiry KPIs for each business unit
  2. Minimise keyword overlap between business units
  3. Report on business unit results individually
  4. Structure account for control over individual business unit budgets
  5. Increase efficiencies to improve ROAS 20% above to the previous account structure

Structure your search strategy

Finding a scalable structure that works for your organisation relies not only on the ability to translate your key objectives into a strategy, but also an understanding of the benefits and trade-offs for each. Here are a couple of simplified search structures that may apply to your business.

Structure A

Account structure – One account, multiple campaigns.

  • Brand | 1 campaign targeting all business locations
  • Generic | 1 campaign per BU targeting BU’s designated location
  • Generic + Location | 1 campaign per BU targeting all business locations

Use this if the company has…

  • Small budgets per BU
  • Minimal overlap between BU target regions, and minimal expected future overlap between locations

Strengths

  • Individual budgets, landing pages and creatives per BU
  • Bespoke optimisation and reporting per BU
  • The ability to assign unique target locations for each BU
  • One invoice from Google Ads platform for all media spend

Trade-offs

  • Brand campaigns will use a portion of each BU’s budget but will not direct to their landing page without built-in website features or advanced search tactics; for example, adjusting ad copy and landing pages depending on the user’s postcode.
  • Bids and budgets will be difficult to control across BUs targeting the same keywords and locations; for example, if two franchise campaigns both target people in Brisbane CBD searching “kebab store brisbane”.
  • Combined invoice from Google Ads for all BUs

Structure B

Account structure – 1 My Client Centre (MCC), multiple accounts, multiple campaigns.

  • MCC | 1 MCC for the business
  • Account | 1 per BU or per country
  • Brand
  • Competitor
  • Generic
  • Generic + Location
  • Service/Product 1, 2, 3…
  • Service/ Product 1, 2, 3… + Location

OR

  • MCC | 1 MCC for the business
  • Account | 1 per BU or per country
  • Brand | terms containing the brand
  • Competitor | terms containing competitor brand terms
  • High Intent | terms customers search when ready to buy
  • Moderate Intent terms | terms customers search while considering options
  • Low Intent terms | terms customers search while researching

Use this if the company has…

  • Large budgets
  • Unique domains per BU
  • Advertising in multiple countries

Strengths

  • Individual budgets, domains, landing pages and creatives per BU
  • Bespoke optimisation and reporting per BU
  • The ability to assign unique target locations for each BU
  • Individual budgets for Brand terms for each BU
  • Easier control over BUs targeting the same keywords and locations, using position bid strategies and other solutions
  • Separate invoices for each BU from Google Ads platform

Trade-offs

  • Heavier workload required to manage, as reporting and analysis is needed for multiple accounts through Google Ads and linked platforms (e.g. Search Ads 360, Campaign Manager)
  • Multiple invoices from Google Ads platform

While search advertising is a cornerstone for building awareness of a brand and driving leads and supporting sales, it is not a channel whereby you can set and forget – it needs to be scaled as a business expands.

Creating a winning search structure can depend on a range of factors including budget size, overlapping territories, objectives, and keyword sets. Understanding these factors, as well as both the benefits of trade-offs of different search strategy structure will allow you to create a reimagined search strategy that is able to grow with the brand, regardless of how complex the account may become.

Happy building!

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Dani Downs

Dani is Group Business Director and Head of Paid Media at iProspect Brisbane, where she oversees search, social, display and programmatic performance marketing, client relationship management, digital strategy development and team management. Dani holds a Bachelor of Corporate Systems Management with a Major in Marketing from QUT, and is also finalising a second Bachelor's Degree in Games & Interactive Environments.