This is the latest installment in a series on Google AdWords campaign settings . In the first post in the series, we talked about how to name and organize your Google AdWords campaigns , in the second post we focused on locations and languages settings within the AdWords settings tab , and in the third post in the series we offered best practices around Google AdWords bidding and budget settings . In this post we’ll walk through the networks and devices settings within the AdWords campaign settings options.
Google AdWords Network Targeting
The first set of options for AdWords advertisers lies within the AdWords network targeting menu. Your first option is to target “All available sites” or “Let me choose”:
As you can see Google is “recommending” targeting all available sites for new advertisers, but in fact in most cases this is suboptimal. When “Let me choose…” is selected, the network settings are an opportunity to split out search ads and display ads. Search ads and display ads typically have very different:
- Levels of intent on the part of the visitor – A searcher is looking for something specific, and you can target that intent, while a visitor to a site is looking to consume the site’s content, typically.
- Threshold for interruption on the part of the visitor – While a searcher is actively looking for an answer to their question or problem, a typical site visitor is generally less likely to be interested in your offering (even if it’s highly relevant).
- Competitiveness – For these reasons it’s often the case that search traffic is more expensive on a cost-per-click basis, and you’ll want to manage your bids differently for that traffic versus content network traffic.
- Targeting options – While for searchers keyword targeting can be highly specific and is far and away the most important lever in terms of how you bid for traffic and analyze results, on the display network keywords are less precise (you aren’t bidding based on a specific search, but rather a site or content on a page) and the actual sites you’re targeting (or placements) are at least equally important in both targeting your campaigns and managing your bids.
For these reasons it’s important in nearly every AdWords account to ignore Google’s “recommendation” here and split out display network and search network campaigns.
Google Search and Search Partners
Once you’ve elected to do this you have a few more options. On the search network, specifically, you can decide whether to drill down to exclude search partners or not. Search partners tend to be fairly hit or miss, so often it’s best to launch your search campaign with both options and then drill down to analyze the campaign performance on partner sites to see if you should turn that piece of the campaign off or not (unfortunately you can’t actually create a campaign that targets only the search partners, so your options are to target Google search only – on Google.com – or Google.com and the search partners). The search partners are third-party sites where searches are occurring, Google properties such as Google.com forums, maps, etc., and the intent of searchers on these properties can vary wildly from the intent of Google.com traffic depending on your niche and target keywords, so again it’s best to keep a close eye on the performance of this channel.
Display Network: Broad Reach Versus Specific Reach
If you’re creating a display network campaign your options are “broad reach versus specific reach” which basically refers to the type of campaign you’re looking to create. In creating a display network campaign you can essentially create a campaign that targets keywords and uses automatic placements to start then refines the placement targeting over time, or you can target very specific sites and keywords from the beginning. If you’re planning to limit your reach to a select group of sites from the beginning, the more restrictive specific match is for you. If you’re planning to leverage the automatic matching options out of the gate, you’ll want to opt for the broad matching options.
In most cases I find the automatic matching options with close monitoring and aggressive use of placement exclusion and moving high converting sites to managed placements as the best option, particularly if you are a new advertiser and are attempting to find your audience on the AdWords display network. Conversely, once you’ve been advertising for a while and have a long list of sites that convert it can be more profitable and easier to manage if you restrict your campaign to only managed sites that you know will convert well. By rolling out automatic placement and refining with site exclusion and bidding higher on sites that perform well you’re basically implementing the content network’s version of search query mining .
Google AdWords Device Targeting
Device targeting on AdWords has become increasingly robust and (not coincidentally) increasingly important for advertisers with the surge in smart phone and tablet usage. Look at all the options available to advertisers now:
One of the most powerful tips for more mature accounts that are looking for quick wins that can have a big impact is to look at your campaign’s performance on mobile devices. Often times there is a great optimization opportunity there in that your mobile campaigns may be performing very poorly (this may be due to a bad mobile landing page experience or just the fact that that traffic doesn’t convert as well) and it may suit your campaigns very well to split that traffic out into its own campaign and target it separately (with lower bids that will allow you to convert the traffic profitably, for instance) or simply stop targeting mobile users altogether.
In some instances you may also want to focus on specific operating systems – for instance if you’re promoting an iPhone app you likely won’t want to show that ad to desktop users or Android users.
So Who Should Use Network and Device Targeting?
I think this is an important setting for virtually every advertiser. Splitting out search and content campaigns is almost always a great way to build a better campaign for an advertiser, and understanding and leveraging the device targeting options is important in many AdWords campaigns.
About the Author
Tom Demers  is co-founder and managing partner at Measured SEM , a boutique search marketing agency offering search consulting services  including pay-per-click account management, SEO Website audits , content marketing strategy and services , and a variety of link building services  and packages such as guest posts  and blogging strategy .