Advertising platforms — Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc — are businesses. They’re trying to make money. And their interests don’t always coincide with yours. They want to get you to spend as much as you’re willing to reach your audience. You want to spend as little as possible to reach your audience.
It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that advertising platforms offer you default settings that are not in your best interest. In this post, we’re going to look at 10 of the default Adwords settings that you will blow your budget and how you can change them to maximize the efficiency of your spend.
#1: Combining Search & Display
The first default setting you should avoid is right there in step 1 of creating an Adwords campaign.
Adwords will encourage you to create a campaign with Search Network & Display Select. This means your ads will show up in both the text Adwords and Display (like banner ads).
It goes without saying that you won’t get the best results doing this. Search and Display are very different animals. You should be using — at least — different creative for Search and Display, but you’ll probably also want to adjust targeting options, budgets, etc.
So the first thing you’ll want to change: pick either Search Network Only or Display Network Only.
#2: Hiding Advanced Features
On the next screen, Adwords will ask you what type of sub-features you want to enable. By default it will select Standard, and you’d think given the name this would be the optimal choice. But no — you absolutely should change this to All Features.
If you don’t select All Features, you’ll be unable to change advanced location options, advanced keyword matching, extensions, and ad rotation options. You’ll eventually need all of these to maximize the impact of your campaign.
#3: Including Search Partners
Adwords will automatically include their ‘Search Partners’ in your ad placements. What this means in reality is your ads will show up on a whole bunch of non-Google websites. You cannot select which of these sites you want your ads to show up on.
If you uncheck Search Partners, you ads will only show up on Google websites (like the Google search results page). This gives you more control over where your ad shows up and better reporting.
Now, there is a good reason to include Search Partners: when you have exhausted your audience on Google’s domains then you need to look elsewhere. You’ll know this is happening because your costs will start to rise.
Until you reach that point, however, just stick to Google’s domains. You’ll get a more consistent — and likely, lower — CPM and CPC.
#4: Hiding Advanced Location Options
By default Adwords hides the Advanced Location targeting options. And if you don’t select All Features (see #2 above) then you won’t see them at all.
Why is this important? By default, Adwords will show your ad to people who are “in, searching for or who show interest in [your] targeted location.”
This means that people who may not live in your targeted location, but who Google thinks “show interest in” your location, will be served your ad. How Google decides someone is “showing interest in” your location is a bit of a mystery. If I use a VPN to reroute my IP address (which I do), does Google think I’m interested in Estonian restaurants based on my IP? Who knows!
In any case, this can be a big problem for some businesses. If you’re advertising a physical retail store, for example, there’s little reason to target people who don’t live nearby. Many smaller e-commerce businesses only ship to limited locations — you don’t want to reach people outside those locations.
If this is the case for your business, I recommend switching your location targeting to People in my targeted location so you only get people who are actually in the places you want to target.
#5: No Ad Extensions
By default, Adwords has no ad extensions turned on. They are only accessible if you select All Features as we noted in #2 above.
Extensions are critical because they give you more screen real estate and the opportunity to include more information for your audience. This can include location information, a phone number, reviews, callouts (added descriptive text), and more.
Extensions will drive up your click through rate, which in turns improves your Quality Score. A higher Quality Score gets you a higher location on the page and generally improves ad performance.
You should use as many Ad Extensions as you can, and at the very least use Callouts and Reviews.
#6: Ad Delivery Set To Clicks
By default, Adwords will set your ad rotation to optimize for clicks. I can’t really think of any situation where it would make sense to run Adwords without having a conversion goal.
Now is the time to create a conversion goal, setup the tracking, and change the default setting to rotate your ads to optimize for conversions rather than clicks.
Once you change this, you’ll be ready to move on to creating actual ads with your settings adjusted to maximize performance and minimize spend.
#7: Keywords Set To Broad Match
Now that you’re creating ads, there is less to worry about in terms of default settings. But there is one big pitfall to watch out for. By default, Google sets the keywords you bid on to something called Broad Match. This means that they include lots of different variations of the keywords you enter, including misspellings. It’s well known that this causes your ads to pop up when people search for all sorts of irrelevant nonsense. Google claims that broad match will help you reach the most relevant audience, but this is just untrue. In fact, you should probably never use broad match — you’ll be wasting your money on people who you don’t care about reaching.
Fortunately, there are other options available — you can use Modified Broad Match, Phrase, and Exact keyword targeting. There are good reasons to use all 3 depending on the type of ads you’re running.
In the example below, I’m targeting the online advertising school for an exact match (by putting the brackets around it) and using phrase targeting for learn online advertising (by wrapping it in quotation marks).
To simplify things, use exact match when you have a good sense of what the exact search query will be, use phrase when you want the exact keyword to be included in the search query, and broad match modifier when the order of the keywords doesn’t matter as much and you need to reach a bigger audience. If you can get your audience large enough without using broad match modifier, I recommend doing so and sticking to exact and phrase matched keywords.