Creating PPC Campaigns: the ‘Live or Die’ Settings

Many thanks to the old and new friends who sent me words of encouragement — and link love — after the first installment of this column last week. One amusing comment criticized the column for being too basic. I resisted responding with “DUH!” I’m planning on covering PPC advertising best practices from the ground up.

Even if you’re already a PPC legend in your own mind, you should skim even the most fundamental bits of these columns. In this line of work, even reputable consultants and agencies create PPC campaigns that miss one or two details that can have a big impact on the success or failure of the whole effort.

Which brings us to today’s topic: campaign setup. PPC newbies will learn how to adjust the settings that will position the campaign for optimal success. And to you not-so-newbies: if your settings don’t match the ones described below, you may be able to improve your campaign performance anywhere from respectably to significantly.

Optimizing campaign settings isn’t just a matter of picking the right options presented by the engines’ campaign setup wizards. Unfortunately, several of the most critical settings can only be set after the initial setup process by editing the settings.

So let’s look at the optimal baseline settings for new campaigns with Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter campaigns.

Google AdWords

The campaign setup wizard guides you through a straightforward process of choosing campaign and ad group names, setting initial budgets and bids, and specifying your first ad(s) and keyword list.

Your job is far from over once you’ve completed setup via the wizard. Immediately after completing initial setup, you should edit the new campaign setups. There are a few ways to get to the campaign edit screen, but the easiest is reached via the Campaign Management screen:

Google Campaign Management

Check the box next to the new campaign’s name, and click on “Edit Settings.” Subsequently, you’ll see a screen that looks like this:

Google Edit Campaign Settings

If Google has already opted your account into the upcoming feature that lets you combine keywords and placements in the same campaign, you’ll see a screen that looks slightly different:

Google Edit Campaign Settings Company Name

The most important setting to change is the one marked with the symbol below. If you’re creating a search campaign, turn off the content network by unchecking the box.

Why? Hybrid search and content campaigns should almost never be combined — and the poor performance that results is one of the most significant factors in the failure of PPC advertising campaigns. For a complete explanation, read the first few installments of my Content Advertising column.

Google Turn Off Content Network

We’re almost finished — the next setting you’ll want to change is the “Ad serving” setting circled below. Testing ads is crucial to getting the best results from PPC campaigns. When you run multiple ads in an ad group, the default setting, “Optimize,” tells Google to run the ad with the best response — as measured by a higher CTR — more frequently than the ad or ads that elicit a poorer response. This makes it more difficult to compare ad performance. The “Rotate” setting tells Google to display each ad an equal number of times.

Google Ad Serving

You’re done! Save your changes and get to work on keyword list creation and ad copywriting.

Yahoo Search Marketing

Yahoo’s campaign setup procedure is similar. In the second step of the process, you’ll want to uncheck this box:

Yahoo Create Ad Group

Setting ads to rotate evenly takes a little more work. You’ll need to change a setting for each ad group — there’s no way to set it for all ad groups in a campaign. In the ad group view, check the box next to the name of the ad group you want to change (green arrow), and click on the “Optimize Ads” button (red arrow):

Yahoo Optimize Ads

You’ll see a pop-up box that looks like the one below. Choose “No” from the dropdown menu and click on the Submit button.

Yahoo Optimize Ad Display

Microsoft adCenter

Microsoft’s campaign setup is especially important because once a campaign is set up, there’s no way to opt out of the content network by changing the campaign settings. Opting out of the content network requires changing the settings of each ad group separately — a time-consuming chore if you want to opt out globally and you have many ad groups.

The controls for doing so aren’t easy to find. The ad group setup and “change settings” screen looks like this:

Microsoft Change Settings

The red arrow points at an Ajax control that, when clicked, reveals the crucial setting:

Microsoft AJAX

Uncheck the “Content Network” box, and your ad group will be 100 percent search targeted.

Next week, I’ll describe best practices for structuring your campaigns and ad groups within a new account. Until then, e-mail me your comments and questions about PPC.

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