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Typical AdWords Mistakes: Campaign Settings

White Shark Media

10 years ago



One of the top things novice AdWords managers get wrong is the settings in AdWords. They all sound kind of the same and there isn’t a clear-cut way to gauge the effect that the individual setting has on your campaign.

Your AdWords campaign settings can make a big impact on your campaign performance, so making sure that your settings are aligned with your goals is essential for achieving maximum success with AdWords.

1. Disregarding the Search Partner Network without Having Data to Prove Poor Performance

Too often I audit new AdWords campaigns where the Search Partner Network has been excluded. When I ask about the decision about not targeting Search Partners, I’m almost always met with a vague answer.

Somebody had heard somewhere that it was the best way to do it or they had the preconceived notion that nothing but Google search was profitable.

I’m here to tell you that the Search Partner network can be a good extra chunk of money for any advertiser.

For one of our clients the Search Partner Network has contributed with 5% extra conversions at a 28% lower CPA (Conversion Rate is the same):

And this specific client isn’t even doing a lot of volumes. If you run an ecommerce campaign you can sometimes find up to 10% added volume by simply turning on the Search Partner Network.

Sometimes the Search Partner Network Doesn’t Perform As Well

There are situations where the Search Partner Network doesn’t perform as well as the Google Search Network. In these cases, all you can do is turn it off if it isn’t making sense for you.

Unfortunately, you cannot make any changes to the ads or bids that are running in the Search Partner Network. You’re therefore forced to only turn it on or off.

However, you should never turn it off “just because”. Review the metrics and make an informed decision about whether or not it makes sense for you.

2. Opting for Search with Display Select If You Actually Know What You Are Doing

Even though several people have reported back good results with the new campaign type Search with Display Select, then it’s a little like the existing AdWords Express Campaigns (which I don’t recommend). If you are not already doing Display and just want to increase your AdWords reach with very little effort, then it might be a good option.

However, if you are serious about your AdWords campaigns and want to get the most out of your advertising, you must create real Display Network campaigns.

Search with Display Select doesn’t allow you enough options to optimize; so you can’t really tell whether or not the Display Network will perform well for you on the basis of running a Search with Display Select campaign.

My recommendation is therefore that if you’re interested in advertising using the Google AdWords Display Network, you should read up on the subject and go 100% into it.

A good article on the Display Network is from Alistair Dent at Search Engine Watch who breaks it down well.

3. Only Using English in Your Language Targeting

A lot of advertisers misunderstand how the language targeting works. When you choose a language to target you’re not changing the keywords or specifically targeting speakers of another language (or residents of another country).

When choosing a language to target you’re targeting users with that language in their browser settings. Hispanics for instance might have their browser or operating system in Spanish, but using the same English search terms as someone who has a browser set to English.

By not targeting the most common languages in your area, you’re simply missing out on potential customers.

For US advertisers I recommend to at least include Spanish, and depending on your geographical targeting you should consider targeting even more languages.

For Canadian advertisers, it’s a must to also include the French language.

4. Not Targeting Specific Areas within the Radius You Want to Target

When you’re choosing the geographical area to target it’s convenient to just choose a radius or the entire state if you wish to target state-wide. It only takes a few minutes and you’re ready to activate your campaign.

However, if you do so you’re missing out on an obvious optimization method later when you want to optimize your campaign.

If you just select the entire US you will get an overview of your targeting like this:

However, if you split it out, so you can see each individual state that you’re targeting, you will be able to set proper bid adjustments according to how the users in each state convert:

In this case, we see a much better response in Georgia because that’s where our client is located and has a better brand presence.

If we had just set the entire US we wouldn’t have been able to know this information and our overall CPA would have been hard to improve. With this information we have several optimization routes to go:

  •          Set up separate campaigns targeting Georgia
  •          Implement appropriate bid adjustments to even out the CPA
  •          Remove certain targeted locations like Virginia

When you are able to see the correct metrics, you’re more likely to optimize your AdWords campaigns for the best performance.

5. Thinking That CPA Bidding Is Any Different Than CPC Bidding

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. Just because you set a CPA bid, it doesn’t mean that you’re paying per conversion. You’re still paying per click. The only difference with CPA bidding is that Google looks at your historic conversion rate and multiplies it to determine your CPC bid.

If your website doesn’t convert moving forward, you will still be paying per click and you’re not guaranteed any conversions.

The only advantage of CPA bidding is that you don’t have to change your bids on a daily/weekly/monthly level. Google will be doing this as your conversion rates change.

However, the good thing about CPA bidding also makes it dangerous. The biggest challenge about CPA bidding is that Google doesn’t differentiate between a $200 and a $20 transaction.

Don’t mistake CPA bidding for a set-and-forget type of bid management. You need to review and revise it at all times.

6. Using Standard Delivery Method without a Strategy Behind It

First, let me explain the difference between standard delivery and accelerated delivery:

Standard delivery: If your budget runs out before the end of the day, your ads will start showing with every 2nd/3rd/4th/5th, etc. time that someone searches for your keywords and thereby protecting your budget from running out.

Accelerated delivery: Your ads are shown every single time someone searches for your keywords. If your budget runs out before the end of the day, your ads aren’t shown anymore.

Let me start by saying that there is no real truth here. I have a personal preference for how I want to control my ad impressions, but I have also seen the opposite work.

Personally, I prefer to have my ads show every single time that a search happens. If we run out of the budget I have three choices:

  1. Assign more budget to the campaign (not always possible)
  2. Reduce CPCs
  3. Pause non-converting parts of my account

If we have a positive ROI, I go for option #1.

If we have a negative ROI or all keywords have the same CPAs, I go for option #2.

If we have a mix-match of ROI, I go for option #3.

I never ever leave my campaign limited by budget. Let me explain why. If you reduce your CPC from $2 to $1 and still reach your budget every day you will have doubled the number of clicks you receive every day. You might be converting differently, but it won’t be much and you will, without a doubt, get more out of getting double the clicks unless the clicks are now coming from other keywords (which they shouldn’t).

Granted you spend the same amount of money, a 1% CTR of 60,000 impressions is better than a 4% CTR of 10,000 impressions (the expected CTR per ad position is relative so you shouldn’t have QS problems).

Don’t ignore this challenge. I have turned huge campaigns around by simply applying best practices when it comes to budget, bidding, and the accelerated delivery method.

7. Not Using Ad Scheduling

Setting the appropriate ad scheduling can take your campaign to the next level. Within the campaign settings tab, there are certain things you can do to make a campaign-wide impact on your ROI, and ad scheduling is one of these things.

My colleague Ana Morales wrote an excellent article on the subject of ad scheduling; so will not go too much into detail.

I will just reiterate what she wrote:

  • Schedule your ads to show when you’re present in the business
  • Lower or disable your AdWords campaigns during low-response periods
  • Increase bids for high-converting time frames
  • Schedule your ads to show higher on the weekdays with the greatest Conversion Rate

I recommend that you read the post with the rest of the tips: 5 Ways Ad Scheduling Can Improve Your AdWords Performance

8. Using Anything Other Than Rotate indefinitely

When you’re optimizing your AdWords ads, the last thing you want is for Google to start showing one of your ads more frequently than the other. Whenever Google does this, they actively skew the data you see and you miss the opportunity of learning from the split-test.

Furthermore, one of the biggest drawbacks of using Google’s Ad Optimizer (Optimize for Clicks or Conversions) is that the software makes decisions very fast. I have seen cases where all it took for Google to start favoring one ad was 5 clicks.

Unless you don’t devote much time to optimizing your AdWords campaigns, I would never recommend that you use anything other than Rotate indefinitely.

Even if you choose to Optimize after 90 days, you risk having two ads running that are doing equally well, but targeting two different audiences; and one will gradually stop from showing due to a slight CTR differentiation.

9. Keyword Matching Options: Not Using “Include plurals, misspellings, and other close variants”

Unless your account is in an area with very high search volume or if you’ve previously identified big differences in conversion rates based on whether your keyword is in singular, plural or if it has certain misspellings; I recommend that you choose to include plurals, misspellings, and other close variants:

Just be careful when you do this. You need to be ready to revert the settings if you’re seeing that your cost per conversion increases or detect irregularities in your See Search Terms report.

As with anything in AdWords, don’t take anything as the final truth. It might be different from your account or industry. You might even need to set different settings for your various campaigns.

10. Not Excluding Your Own IPs

A good old trick that not too many advertisers use is to exclude your own IP from seeing your AdWords ads. You can be sure that if you have employees, then they will click your AdWords ads from time to time.

Especially if you’re in industries like financial services, law, or locksmiths, you will want to avoid paying $30 to $100 per click just because your employee was reckless.

The last setting in your AdWords campaign settings allows you to exclude certain IPs from seeing your ads:

Have a Happy and Productive Holiday!

I will shamelessly steal this advice from Google’s ZMOT, (recommended read), if you do not have someone that is in charge of your Holiday Marketing Strategy, namely Google Shopping Campaigns, then you have to step up your game or bring someone to help you get through the Holidays.

The Small Things Count Towards the Big Goal

Even though many of the mistakes mentioned in this blog post might seem like taking the focus away from the big picture and micro-managing your AdWords campaign, they’re what make the foundation for your entire Google Ads structure.

Applying the right settings for your particular situation can prove to save several dollars off your CPA or improve your ad reach by several percents.