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10 Dangerous Defaults in PPC

You remember that episode where Homer Simpson goes into space as a NASA astronaut? He only got to go because Barney Gumble has an alcoholic relapse and Homer was the second runner up.

Scientist: Well, Homer, I guess you’re the winner by default.

Homer: Default? Woo hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language: de-fault! De-fault! De-fault!

Welcome to my big post of de-faults in AdWords and adCenter that will trip you up, cost you money, cause confusion and eventually make you second runner up to an inanimate carbon rod. (And if you have not seen Deep Space Homer episode in the recent past or ever, you need to go do that. After you read this, of course. 5th Season.)

Microsoft adCenter

1. adCenter for small and medium businesses just changed their name to Bing. I should get that out there first. Don’t let the name fool you. You are still using adCenter and you are on Bing and Yahoo. Not just Bing. And it’s still going to be called adCenter for years (You haven’t forgotten what KFC stands for, have you?). It’s just now the “paid search platform formerly known as adCenter.”

2. Locations. Whenever you create a new campaign you’ll be presented with location targeting options. By default, it’s all locations worldwide. Do yourself a favor, hit that dropdown and try and narrow your selections by country at least. Unless of course your customers in Afghanistan shop the same was as the ones in Burkina Faso.

3. Ad Group Settings TRUMP Campaigns settings. This does make sense. If you’re bothering to drill in that far and set up special settings at the ad group level, you’d want those to override the campaign level ones. However, if you don’t know about it, you might end up sad. Right now, adCenter has a great default in place to help you NOT do that.

4. Networks. This is the one that makes me cry inside. By default, new campaigns (no longer at the ad group setting thanks to the above default) are enabled into all 3 networks that adCenter offers: Search (Bing & Yahoo.com), Search Partner and Content networks. Content network works the same way Google’s Display does: it shows your ads alongside content on “relevant” sites that have signed up to show adCenter ads on their sites. Syndicated Search Partner Network shows adCenter ads alongside search results on sites that have signed up to use the Bing search engine on their own site’s search engine.

You want to start with the Search network ONLY, just Bing and Yahoo.com. You can’t see what is Bing.com vs. Yahoo.com, but the behavior is the same: it’s someone who went to a search engine and typed in a query. Don’t be a victim of network settings.


Google AdWords

Yeah, I made you read through the adCenter stuff first.

5. Locations. By default, new campaigns are opted into the USA and Canada together. I haven’t seen this cost the bucketloads of money that some of the other settings have, but if you don’t ship to the Great White North and don’t want to anger any Canuckle-heads with your anti-Canadian shipping policies, best not to advertise to them in the first place.

6. Devices. Again, not bucketloads of cash on this one, but it’s coming. As mobile usage rises and your site still looks like Snooki the morning after, you’re going to want to either start segmenting the traffic by device or exclude devices that aren’t useful for marketing the business on. Want to dump Snooki? Check out GoMo from Google. It’s free.

7. Keyword Matching Options. As of this year, the definition of “exact” match isn’t exactly exact anymore. Be default, new campaigns are enabled into showing plurals, misspellings and other “close” variants. So if there’s a big difference on how much you make between the keywords [wedding invitation] vs. [wedding invitations], and have those keywords separated out, you’re going to want to visit this setting.

8. Networks. Yeah, this one again. This is the default setting I see trip up the most new advertisers and cause the most wasted money. By default, the Display network is enabled on any new campaign. It’s also set to inherit whatever bid you set for the ad group if you don’t specify one for just the Display network.

Go into your Network settings and disable that check box next to the Display Network. Ignore the warning that pops up alerting to you to that fact that you won’t be (gasp!) showing on the Display Network, and move on with your life. If you want to advertise on the Display Network, great. But do it in a new, separate campaign. Visitors/users of Search and Display are just too different to be lumped into one campaign network setting.



9. Display Network’s Automatic Placements. If you do decide to do separate Display network campaigns (first thank you for separating search and content, you deserve a parade), watch out for those automatic placements that will buy you a few thousand impressions, a handful of clicks, and a lot of nonsense. I’m talking about: gmail.com, adsenseformobileapps.com and anonymous.google.com. (OK, so you can’t block that last one yet, but I still hate it.) You might find success with those first two, but do a separate campaign for managed placements and try it there.

10. Optimize for Clicks on Ads. Whoever thought this up as a “recommended” option and as the default for new campaigns sucks. While I’m sure their corner office is very nice, there should be less evil in the world, not more. And now that AdWords is mandating that after 30 days that this setting will automatically kick in as the default (even if you opted out) makes it even more evil.

By default in new campaigns, the ad delivery option is set to optimize for more clicks, not conversions. If you would like to test out different ads based on conversions or clicks in an A/B test, change this setting to “rotate.” Then you’ll have your test. For up to 30 days. If you edit an ad, that resets the 30 days count. If you don’t like this setting, check out this SEW post for suggestions on how to handle the changes.

Thanks for checking out my long ranting list of dangerous defaults: the silent killers of new PPC advertisers and the trolls that live under the bridge for the experienced strategists.


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  1. PPC has played a great roll in the field of search engine advertising. It has provided a handy instrument to brand holders to advertise their brands. You have given an insight to the world of PPC. This script has proved to be very informative to me. I would highly recommend this to the aspiring SEO’s.

  2. Defaults make us lazy thinkers. When you pick a default setting you assume someone has thought for you, therefore you do not have to. They have decided what’s best.
    I agree with you, Elizabeth, that when picking a default, do not skip thinking. Be certain that it *is* the best option, in *your* opinion.

  3. Thanks for sharing the valuable information, I will check both my ad center and Adword account … DO share more tips regarding the SEO and PPC.

  4. Thanks for the great article and for introducing me to the term “Canuckle-Heads”. As an American temporarily living in Canada, I’ll be sure to use that term at the next Curling event I go to. Cheers

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