Historically, Google Adwords has been known for offering a myriad of campaign settings: levers that PPC managers can pull to tailor their campaigns to meet their needs. For the most part, this is a good thing, recent changes notwithstanding.
Years ago, there were relatively few campaign settings. Nowadays, though, there are a seemingly endless number of options, and not all of them are readily apparent in the AdWords interface. Here are two hidden settings that might trip you up.
Advanced Location Options
You’re probably aware that you can target your AdWords campaigns by location: at the country, state, city, metro, or ZIP code level. Recently, though, Google made a slight tweak to location targeting that can affect results both positively and negatively. It’s called Advanced Location Options and it’s important.
Instead of geo-targeting strictly by the searcher’s location, the default setting in AdWords is now “People in, searching for, or viewing pages about your targeted location.”
On the surface, this makes a lot of sense. Let’s say you’re advertising entry-level homes for sale in Albany. You might run a campaign geo-targeted to Albany, with the hopes of reaching first-time home buyers who already live in the area. But wouldn’t it be great to also reach those who don’t live in Albany, but might want to relocate there? The default setting permits this, by serving ads outside of your geo-targeted location of Albany, to people searching for things like “homes for sale in Albany, NY.”
But this setting can also work against you, especially if you’re trying to get granular with your campaigns. In AdWords, not only can you target geographically, you can also exclude locations.
The default for excluded locations is “People in, searching for, or viewing pages about your excluded location.” It’s basically the same as location targeting, and on the surface, it sounds good. If you want to reach buyers in the continental U.S., but not Alaska and Hawaii (perhaps because you don’t ship there), then you’ll want to target the entire U.S. and exclude those states.
Sounds good, right? It does, but it fails in execution.
I recently set up two campaigns for a local advertiser: one targeted to Cincinnati, Ohio; and one targeted to the entire U.S. but excluding Cincinnati. I wanted to have a different message for local searches than I did for searches outside the local area that were still relevant. I left the default location settings turned on.
What ended up happening was that both campaigns were getting 99 percent of their traffic from Cincinnati – defeating the purpose of having two campaigns! I was able to stop this by targeting my U.S.-minus-Cincinnati campaign to “people in my targeted location” only, and by setting exclusions to “people in my excluded location” only.
If you’re running location-targeted campaigns, it’s a good idea to run a geographic report, either from your web analytics or from AdWords, to make sure ads are serving in the locations you intended. You’ll find the geographic report in the Dimensions tab in AdWords.
Schedule: Start Date, End Date, Ad Scheduling
In the traditional marketing world, ad scheduling is a given. Ads are “flighted” in broadcast media, meaning they run for a stated and limited date range. Ads also usually run during specified times of day: for example, an advertiser may request prime time on TV, or drive time in radio.
There’s a reason for this: Advertisers want to reach their target market when they are using the media. In PPC, though, most advertisers use the “always-on” philosophy. This makes sense, because search ads don’t show until someone types in a keyword. It’s demand-based advertising, which nearly eliminates the need for flighting.
But that doesn’t mean ads should never be scheduled. AdWords makes it easy, by offering advertisers the option of setting start and end dates for campaigns, as well as scheduling ads to appear during specific times of day or days of the week.
While these settings don’t apply to every single campaign, they come in very handy at times. An obvious situation is a limited time special. Sure, you could just change the ad copy in your ongoing campaigns to reflect the special, and then change it again when it’s over. But who wants to spend that kind of time?
Using start and end dates, you can set up the specials at your convenience, and they’ll shut off automatically. What could be easier?
Ad scheduling is another often-overlooked feature. In ecommerce, it’s not unusual to see conversion rates decrease during overnight hours. If you find you’re getting low-quality leads or conversions overnight, with ad scheduling you can set your campaign to turn off ads from midnight to 4 a.m.
Problem is, midnight in New York isn’t the same as midnight in Los Angeles. Do you really want your ads shutting off at 9 p.m. PST? Or if you’re targeting multiple countries, say the U.S. and the UK, do you want your ads to still be turned off at 9 a.m. GMT? In both of these instances, you’d probably be better off creating distinct campaigns for each time zone, so that ads off from midnight to 4 a.m. local time.
Keep these settings in mind as you’re creating your next new AdWords campaign. It could mean the difference between mediocre results and amazing results!