Danger, Will Robinson! 3 Default AdWords Settings to Avoid

March 2, 2016
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Creating a new AdWords account can be tricky. There are tons of important decisions that you must make, many of which will have a lasting impact on your account performance.

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Lucky for you, I’ve encountered my fair share of AdWords mishaps and am here to prevent you from repeating my mistakes! So, here are three default AdWords settings that you should avoid, at all costs.

Dangerous Default #1: Enrolling In AdWords Express

Recently, we’ve discovered that, during the process of signing up for AdWords, many new users have been prompted to run AdWords Express campaigns. This unique campaign type was designed specifically for small businesses whose teams have limited capacity for managing advertising efforts. With AdWords Express, Google fully automates the management of your paid search account.

To get started, all you need to do is provide some basic information about your business, target audience, and budget and boom—Google creates a localized search campaign just for you! Sounds too good to be true? I think it is.

We believe strongly that advertisers get the best performance in AdWords if they customize it to their specific business. Because AdWords Express accounts are generated automatically, they tend to be fairly cookie-cutter. The keywords can be generic, as Google uses a similar list for all participants in the same industry, and they are all set to broad match. As a result, your ads are likely to show for many irrelevant searches. On the flip side, in situations where you do want your ads to show, the AdWords Express ads are not tailored to the search terms, so they rarely yield high click-through rates.

It doesn't help that Google affords you little control over this account type. You can only make minimal alterations to the campaign structure, and Google manages all of the bid adjustments.

While this service is great in theory, you’re better off taking the time to create your own AdWords account with super-specific keywords and ads and adjustable bids. Here’s how you can avoid stumbling into the AdWords Express trap:

When you join AdWords, you’re prompted to enter your email address and website.

adwords express sign up 

Upon submitting this information, Google automatically reviews your site to see how much traffic it is currently receiving. If your site traffic is low, indicating that you are a small business or a brand new company, it will immediately redirect you to the AdWords Express interface.

adwords express recommendation 

Should you receive this message, be sure to select the option to “Switch to AdWords” at the top—it’s easy to miss. Sure, AdWords’ message of “spend more time with customers and less time managing your ads” is tempting, but I’d advise that it’s not worth relinquishing control of your account. It’s especially important that you take this step early on in the setup process. While you can technically transition from AdWords Express to AdWords at any time, it’s a complex (and often frustrating) process. You’re better off avoiding it from the get-go!

Dangerous Default #2: Opting for Automatic Bidding

 auto bidding setting

As you walk through AdWords’ initial setup guide, you’ll encounter the option to establish a bidding strategy. By default, AdWords will enroll you in automated bidding but, for most advertisers, this is not the wisest route to go!

lebron james crying 

There are two major downsides to using automated bidding. Firstly, if you neglect to set a maximum CPC bid limit, it can produce exorbitant bids, cannibalizing your budget. Even if you do set a bid limit, problems may arise. If it’s high, you run the risk of letting Google overbid on your terms. If it’s too low, you may limit your ads from appearing in important situations. Secondly, with this option, you’re relinquishing significant control over your account to Google, which makes it tough to make tactical decisions for the account. For keywords that you wish to prioritize, you can’t boost bids to increase position and impression share and you can’t optimize for lower CPAs.

Managing your bids can certainly be a headache, but the payoff is worth your hard work!

Dangerous Default #3: Setting All New Keywords to Broad Match

This is an all-too-common mishap for new AdWords users which can lead to super-low click-through-rates (which destroy your Quality Scores) and wasted spend. Many new advertisers are unfamiliar with match types, so they suspect that their ads will only show when someone types in a query that mirrors one of their keywords. Instead, Google uses match type settings to determine whether a query is “close enough” to the keyword for the ad to show.

Match types are a godsend to advertisers, as they allow us to dictate how close the query should be to the keyword in order for our ads to show, thus controlling the floodgates for our accounts. Here’s how Google defines each of the match types:

  • Exact Match allows your ad to show only for searches that use that exact phrase, or close variations of that exact phrase, and no other words.
  • Phrase Match allows you rad to show only for searches that include the exact phrase, or close variations of that exact phrase, with additional words before or after.
  • Broad Match Modifier (or Modified Broad) Match allows your ad to show for searches that include your broad match keyword or close variations of your broad match keyword.
  • Broad Match allows your ad to show for searches on similar phrases and relevant variations, including synonyms, singular and plural forms, possible misspellings, stemmings, related searches and other relevant variations.

When you add a keyword to your new account, it automatically defaults to broad match. The problem is, Google’s definition of broad is EXTREMELY broad, so your ad may be triggered by terms that are very loosely related to your keywords. Much of this traffic may be outside of your target market. For example, if you’re bidding on the term snake skin heels on broad match, your ad could show to someone looking for where to buy snake food, simply because the word snake appears in both the keyword and the query. As you can imagine, this can result in tons of unwanted impressions, which yield very few clicks, destroying your CTRs. This wreaks havoc on your Quality Scores, as they are largely based on CTR, ultimately driving up your costs.

broad match escalates quickly 

I’m all about experimenting with various match types but, personally, when kicking off a brand new account, I like starting with modified broad match. It’s certainly safer than broad match, but way less restrictive than phrase or exact. With this option, all of the terms in your keyword must appear in the search query, but they can be in any order, with other words before, after and in between them. This helps you to match with people who are looking for something that is related to your keywords and does not exclude searches who don’t use the exact same phrasing as your keywords. For example, if you bid on +snake +skin +heels on modified broad match, your ad would not show for someone looking for where to buy snake food (as skin and heels do not appear in the query) but it would show for someone who searched snake skin high heels (because snake, high and heels all appear in the query).

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

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Comments

Alex
Mar 05, 2016

I typically add all new keywords as broad, but with very low bids. Find out what works, use the opportunity to seek out more new keywords, then promote to phrase and exact and bid higher when you find out what works.

Erin Sagin
Mar 08, 2016

Totally makes sense - I'm a big fan of using broad as a keyword research/testing tool. Just have to be really on top of it :) Thanks for commenting!

Henry Killingbeck
Mar 10, 2016

I am a newbie to Google Adwords and just created the account a couple of days ago. Using Adwords Express of course. Can I switch it to regular Adwords as it looks more the way to go?

Erin Sagin
Mar 10, 2016

You can! The only problem is, doing it manually is a nightmare (as you have to pause the AdWords Express stuff and then rebuild everything out in AdWords) so, it looks like the easiest route to go is to contact AdWords support. They can switch you over automatically on the back end :)

Maria Maia
Mar 11, 2016

This month I've learnt how dangerous the AdWords Express is! When signing up I had to put my credit card details, created a sample campaign for a website that only has a template. A month later I got the bill!

Extremely disappointed with Google that although they can see that the website is only a template, your account is not entitled for a refund.

Erin Sagin
Mar 19, 2016

I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to you! Even if Google's intentions with the AdWords Express program are good, I definitely think that they need to provide more information/flexibility for SMBs!

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