Welcome to the first of a 3-part Clicks Rule special.

Here’s the theory

No more than 10% of total broad and phrase clicks in your Google AdWords account should come from a single ad group. If more than 10% of your total broad and phrase clicks comes from a single ad group, the keywords in that ad group are being over broad-matched or over phrase-matched. Too many searches are going to that ad group’s broad and phrase-match keywords, so the ad group could benefit from keyword expansion and search query analysis.


Suppose you found an ad group which accounted for 18% of your total broad and phrase clicks. This ad group is a prime candidate for improvement for two reasons:

1. Ad group expansion

High-volume ad groups are perfect for ad group expansion.

Spitting out the ad group’s keywords into separate ad groups allows you to write more tailored ads for each keyword. Tailored ads are likely to have a beneficial effect on click-through rate (CTR), Quality Score, costs per click (CPC), ad ranking and conversion rate.

Since it is impractical for every keyword to have it’s own ad group (imagine how tedious and time-consuming 10,000 keywords and 10,000 ad groups would be!), the 10% rule highlights the ad groups and keywords that are likely to benefit most from being split out and having their own tailored ads.

2. Search query analysis

High-volume ad groups are also perfect for search query analysis.

Search queries are what people actually type into Google before they click on one of your ads. Running a search query report for the whole AdWords account allows to to assess whether each of your search queries are relevant to your business, and adding them as negative keywords if not.

Running a search query report at an ad group level, is even better. Not only can you decide if each search query is relevant to your business, but you can also decide if each search query sufficiently matches the ads in that ad group. If the ads in the ad group are very different to the search query, the search query could benefit from having its own ad group with its own personalised ads.

So for each broad and phrase search query you found that matches to the 18% ad group:

  • If the search query is irrelevant to your business – add the search query as a negative keyword
  • If the search query is very close to the ad group’s keywords and ads – add the search query as a keyword in the same ad group
  • If the search query is different to the ad group’s keywords and ads and you think it could benefit by having it’s own personalised ads – add the search query as a keyword in a new ad group

Since it is impractical to look at the every ad group’s search queries, the 10% rule highlights only those ad groups which are likely to have the biggest effect for the amount of time you spend making changes.

Broad and phrase only

You may ask why look at only broad and phrase clicks? What about exact match?

Exact-match keywords give you complete control over the user’s search query. Since you can be 100% sure what the user will need to type into Google for your exact-match keyword to be triggered, you are able to write highly-targeted and personalised ads without having to worry about hundreds of different search queries triggering your exact-match keyword. It is relatively simple to look at an exact-match keyword and decide whether its ad could be made more relevant.

However, with broad and phrase match, things aren’t so simple. You could spend all day trying to write perfect ads which closely match your broad and phrase keywords, but ultimately it is up to Google what kinds of searches get matched to these ads.

For example, you could write a highly compelling ‘Cheap Sony TVs’ ad for your ‘cheap Sony TVs’ keyword. However, if the user searches for ‘Bravia 42 inch deals’ and they gets broad-matched to your ‘cheap Sony TVs’ keyword, your ‘cheap Sony TVs’ ad will appear. It will look irrelevant to the user.

A better ad would mention ‘Bravia 42 inch deals’, although this is only possible by creating a dedicated ‘Bravia 42 inch deals’ ad group. You know you can’t create a dedicated ad group for every search query, so where do you start? Where do you draw the line?

This lack of control and uncertainty with broad and phrase match can be a real problem for PPC advertisers trying to create highly relevant campaigns. The whole point of the 10% Clicks Rule is to help regain some control, by providing a technique to help you quickly and easily get to the heart of your broad and phrase matching and make changes that are likely to have a powerful effect. It’s not meant to be a strict ‘rule’ as such, more a ‘guideline’ or ‘rule of thumb’ which I have found to work in my experience.

That’s all for part 1. Comments and suggestions welcome.

In Part 2: Process, I’ll take you through a step-by-step guide to running rule for yourself – finding those ad groups in your own Google AdWords account that could benefit from a little TLC. If you’re more interested in exactly how the 10% Clicks Rule actually works or how it can help to improve your AdWords results, skip to Part 3: Does it Work?

Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell

14 Years Experience. 10,000 Hours Research & Innovation. Exclusive Self-Built Technology. World-Leading PPC Marketing by Alan Mitchell

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