How to Build a Google Ads Account: Campaign & Network Settings

Ryan MootHart, PPC Architect
How to build an AdWords Account - Account and Campaign Settings - Part 1

If you’re new to paid search (or it’s been a while), how to build a Google Ads account from scratch can seem daunting. How do you know you’re doing this “the right way”? What are you missing? Could your campaigns be better? The amount of doubt that can seep into your head when you’re at this stage can be overwhelming, even for a strategist with some experience.

Fear not, this guide to building a Google Ads account will help point you in the right direction. This blog post is the first of a multi-part series which will run over the next few months. In this series, we’re going to take a deep dive through just about every facet of a successful Google Ads account top to bottom.

Whether you’re building a new account from scratch or auditing an existing account to find improvements, we hope you’ll use these posts as a guide to help make sure your Google Ads account is in pristine condition and driving your best possible ROI.

What’s in this post: Google Ads Account & Campaign Settings

This initial installment will give an in-depth walkthrough and guide to top-level campaign settings. These settings affect everything in each of your campaigns, so it’s crucial you ensure these are set correctly. Let’s go through each major campaign setting, one by one.

If you feel like you need a little more basic primer on paid search and how it works, start with the article: What is PPC? Pay-per-click marketing explained. This guide will still be here when you get back.

Now, on with the show!

Network Settings

There are two primary networks in PPC advertising: search and display.

The search network hosts text ads which appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) after a user submits a search query. The display network hosts ads (primary image or video) on other non-search websites it’s affiliated with.

Google Ads specifies network settings into more granular categories (e.g. shopping, video). However, these other network options all fit within either search or display.

Important: Search and display networks should never be mixed in any single campaign

The big reason for keeping your search and display network campaigns completely separate is because budgets are set at the campaign level. When you opt a single campaign into both the search and display networks, the advertising platform is likely to give more leeway to display advertising which typically has more inventory. The display network is also more apt to acquire high-funnel users which are less qualified and less ready to convert. The result is usually lots of wasted spend on clicks from unqualified users.

Search Partner Network: yes or no?

Within the search network, you may see an option to opt into the search partner network. This hosts other search-based websites which can show text ads on their SERPs as well. These are typically low-volume. The decision to opt in or out of this network should be based on data (on-site behavior, conversion, etc.).

Location Targeting & Method

Location targets determine where (geographically) your ads are allowed to be shown. You should limit location targeting to where your company is eligible to do business. For example, if you’re advertising for a US company which does its business domestically, you can target just the United States.

Limit location targets to areas you can serve today

Pre-defined targets range from countries to states/regions, to cities and metropolitan areas (e.g. Nielsen DMAs), to small towns or even zip codes. You can also set your own custom radius targets centered on an address or a pin-point on a map. You can use up to 1,000 location targets in each campaign. Leaving location targeting void of any criteria will allow your ads in that given campaign to be shown worldwide, potentially wasting precious budget on markets you simply can’t serve.

Set your negative location targets

Negative location targets exclude a location from eligibility to show your ads. As a simple example, if you target the United States, but set a negative target for Texas, your ads will be eligible to show in the United States except for the state of Texas. Another example, a larger business with local branches might want to target a full DMA for its various locations, yet exclude certain neighborhoods that are simply too far from any branch to convert well from search ads.

By default, your targeting method is set to show ads to users who are physically in or searching for your locations. This allows you to show ads to users in your location or demonstrating interest in your location if they happen to be coming from somewhere else. Obviously helpful for any sort of tourism, destination, or other business that people are willing to travel to use.

And of course, you can tighten these settings to show ads only to users in your location(s). The same goes for location exclusions.

Device Bid Modifiers

Bid modifiers allow you to apply a percent value, ranging from -100% (excluding traffic) to +900%, which will apply to your maximum cost per click (CPC) bids. For example, if you have a modifier of +100% and it applies to a maximum bid of $1.00, then the actual maximum CPC bid will be $2.00 (100% more than your original bid).

You can apply these modifiers to device types: mobile phones, tablets, and computers (desktops/laptops). These modifiers allow an advertiser to bid up or down by device type without the need to have separate sets of campaigns to accomplish the same goal.

Use historical data to set Device Bid Modifiers

In general, bid modifiers should be set based on historical conversion and performance data, so that your most profitable device-types get the lion’s share of your budget.

Example of using past performance to set Device Bid Modifiers

A sample campaign has spent $1,000 total with the following breakdown by device:

  • TOTAL: $1,000 spent & 37 conversions acquired = $27 average cost per acquisition (avg. CPA)
  • Computers: $200 spent & 10 conversions acquired = $20 avg. CPA
  • Tablets: $100 spent & 2 conversions acquired = $50 avg. CPA
  • Mobile Phones: $700 spent & 25 conversions = $28 avg. CPA

At face value in this scenario, you might want to apply a positive bid modifier for computer traffic and apply a negative bid modifier for tablet traffic. This should help improve your campaign’s overall avg. CPA over time.

Additional considerations for Device Bid Modifiers

You should take into account how your overall traffic and conversion volume may shift as a result of these bid modifiers as well.

Additionally, if you know your total profit per new customer acquired and have more budget to spend, you might apply a positive modifier for any device type that was under a certain CPA.

To illustrate, where would you apply a positive modifier in the example above, if your profit per new customer was actually $40?

Ad Scheduling

Ad scheduling allows you to determine when your ads are eligible to show, by day of the week and/or by hour of the day. Further, ad scheduling allows you to apply other bid modifiers to certain days of the week and/or hours of the day.
For example, if your website’s conversions tend to decline significantly between 12am – 6am, you can choose to stop ads or bid down during those hours with ad scheduling.
Pro Tip: The hours of your ad schedule will match the time zone your account is set to.

How to set Ad Schedules

Ad schedules should be set based on historical conversion trends and on-site behavioral trends.

When you’re starting a new account, it’s appropriate to leave ad schedules blank; this ensures your ads are eligible to show 24/7, if someone searches for a keyword or phrase you’re targeting.

Caveat: if you have a limited budget, it may be best to start by setting a schedule that serves ads only during reasonable business hours. Just be careful to balance intuition with data, and move as quickly as possible to letting the numbers guide you.

Bid Strategies

A campaign’s bid strategy determines the metric or KPI (key performance indicator) we most want to optimize or use to measure our results.

By default, the standard bid strategy is Manual CPC; this allows you to manually set each bid as you see fit.

Another option at this stage: you can enable “Enhanced CPC” which gives Google the flexibility or leeway to increase/decrease bids slightly, based on whether or not they predict that a user is likely to convert.

Automated bid strategies

There are several automated bid strategies to choose from as well:

  • Target search page location
  • Target CPA (cost per acquisition)
  • Target ROAS (return on ad spend)
  • Target outranking share
  • Maximize clicks
  • Maximize conversions

If you do choose an automated bid strategy, make sure you select the one which is geared toward your goals for a specific campaign.

Flexible Reach

As a rule, Google is always happy to help you expand the group that you’re targeting (aka spend more money). With the Flexible Reach campaign setting, they’re effectively giving you the option of saying “I want to show ads exclusively to members of a particular audience” OR “I want to expand a bit.”

Flexible Reach determines whether or not to limit ad impressions solely to your pre-defined targeting criteria like an uploaded audience, gender, age group, etc.

Importantly, this does not apply to keywords. The goal of Flexible Reach is that if someone searches for a thing that your business offers, and you know your best prospects are generally in group X, you get to decide whether to exclude or deprioritize anyone outside that group, even if they searched for the exact same thing.

To that end, there are 2 Flexible Reach options:

  • Targeting: this option limits ad impressions to only the targeting criteria you set.
  • Observations: this option still includes your targeting criteria, but does not limit ad impressions to just that group.

Examples of Flexible Reach targeting

Example 1: You want to use a remarketing list for search ads in one of your search campaigns, but you don’t want to limit search ad impressions entirely to users in that audience. You’d like to expand to new prospective customers.

In this case, you’d ensure your Flexible Reach is set to “Observations” for audiences in this campaign. Meaning all the folks on your remarketing list would see your ad as usual, but anyone else who searches for the keywords in that campaign could see an ad as well.

Example 2: You have a display campaign and want to show very specific ads only to users who fit your demographic targets (e.g. females ages 35 & up).
In this case, you’d ensure your Flexible Reach is set to “Targeting” for demographics in this campaign. We don’t need the gentlemen seeing this one.

Language Targeting

From Google: Your ads can appear for customers who use Google products and third-party websites in the languages that your campaign targets. This helps ensure that your ads will appear on sites that are written in the language of the customers you’d like to reach.

Set your Language Target to match the language of your keywords and content

Your language targeting should match the language your keywords, ads, and landing pages are in. Consistency is key in everything from ad messaging to color scheme, and language is no exception.

You’re also allowed to target more than one language and a language target doesn’t have to match the primary/official language(s) of the country or countries you’re targeting. For example, if you want to reach Spanish speakers in the United States, you simply set the United States as your location target and Spanish as your language target.

Content Exclusions

Content & Site Category Exclusions apply to display network campaigns only and are meant to prevent your display ads from appearing on websites with content you find unsuitable or inappropriate. For example, if you want to make sure your ads do not appear on sites or webpages which talk about sensitive topics (e.g. death/tragedy), you can exclude that category.

There are several content exclusion categories you can opt for:

Digital Content Labels

  • Suitable for families
  • “G” rated material
  • “PG” rated material
  • “T” rated material
  • “MA” rated material (mature audiences)
  • Content not yet labeled

Sensitive Content

  • Tragedy & conflict
  • Sensitive social issues
  • Profanity & rough language
  • Sexually suggestive
  • Sensational & shocking
  • Crime, police, and emergency
  • Military & international conflict

Content Type

  • Games
  • Live streaming video
  • Embedded videos
  • Below-the-fold
  • Mobile app non-interstitial
  • Parked domains
  • In-video
  • Forums
  • Photo-sharing pages
  • Social networks
  • Video-sharing pages

And as much fun as it would be to give examples for each category that your business might want to avoid, we’ll let you use your imagination.

Ad Rotation

Ad rotation determines how ads in any given ad group are shown, and ultimately whether Google will step in to help you optimize them. There are 2 possible settings to choose from:

  • Rotate Indefinitely: ads will rotate evenly in ad groups regardless of click or conversion data over time.
  • Optimize: ads in an ad group which have more favorable click and/or conversion metrics will be shown more often as data is accrued.

If you’re actively testing ad copy, it’s best to set ad rotation to Rotate Indefinitely.

Campaigns that have Ad Rotation set for Optimize are likely to see one ad in each ad group get far more impressions and clicks than all other ads in relatively short time. In a lot of cases that’s great, since Google is pretty good at predicting what will result in a click, and if you’re less sophisticated in Google Ads you may want to opt for this sooner than later.

Measure your customer LTV by campaign to make sure you’re optimizing for the right things

You know your business and have access to more insight than anyone on which customers or leads are your most profitable. Google knows how to drive clicks, and even conversions or revenue, but only when they’ve got the data. If you’re optimizing for “easy” or cost-efficient clicks, but no one goes on to purchase, it may be time to take this setting out of auto-pilot, or look for ways to feed more purchase data into Google Analytics & Google Ads.

Frequency Capping

This setting is designed to limit the number of time any given user is allowed to see your ads in the course of a day.

You can cap impressions by campaign or by ad group. Without getting into huge discussion of media buying strategies and predictive modeling for advertising, here are some of the basics.

  1. A low cap will greatly limit your ability to saturate any user or market your targeting whereas a high cap or no cap will allow you show your ad far more often.
  2. As a rule, you should use caps and lower them when display campaigns start showing diminished conversion and/or click-through rates.

Frequency caps should only be used in display network campaigns.

Because search marketing allows you to trigger an ad every time someone searches for a phrase that indicates they’re likely ready to buy or learn more, there’s a strong argument to be made for never capping search impressions. If you find that you’re showing ads repeatedly for a phrase or keyword yet no one is clicking, it’s often an issue of overly broad targeting, or targeting the wrong thing(s). In that case it’s about rethinking your keyword strategy, more than slowing down your pursuit of a poor performer.

URL Options

If you have tracking you’re required to use outside of automatic tagging (a setting in Google Ads that natively integrates Ads with Google Analytics), you can use the URL tracking templates provided in the campaign and/or ad group level to append data to any other platform.

If that sounds like gibberish, consider this example:

  • You have a CRM
  • Your business is keeping track of which campaigns result in the most profitable leads
  • Your company is breaking down the leads in your CRM by campaign, or even by ad group
  • SO – you’ll need to append some additional data to any leads you generate

The good news: URL templates allow you to do this, without having to manually tag every keyword or every ad. Phew!

In addition to a tracking URL, you’re allowed a total of three dynamic parameters to use in that URL.

An example of using Dynamic Variables in Google Ads setup

To illustrate what URL tracking can be used for, here’s an example. Let’s say you need to use manual UTM tags to send campaign data to a CRM. You could use the following URL and parameters at the campaign level:

URL = {lpurl}?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign={_campaign}

In this case, {_campaign} is a dynamic variable, which you’ll define later for each campaign.

Same thing for {lpurl} or “landing page URL”, but in this case Google can take the next step and auto-populate the value for us.

Again, the benefit is that by specifying this at the campaign level, you won’t have to go through and manually append each keyword and ad with these tags. Depending on the size of your Google Ads account, this can save you a huge amount of time. It also keeps your data much cleaner, which is incredibly helpful when you get to reporting and analysis.


Take a look through your account(s). Are each of these settings optimized and doing what you originally intended? Do you have room to improve the specifics of your targeting to spend that budget more effectively?

The first four parts are the most crucial to get right so if you’re short on time, focus here:

  • Network Settings
  • Location Targeting
  • Device Bid Modifiers
  • Ad Scheduling

If you’re a beginner with Google Ads, as long as you have those four properly set and squared away you should have a decent foundation to start from. The other settings are still important, but likely won’t have as significant as an impact in the early going.

For those of you who have some more experience in Google Ads, what settings do you always make sure you have covered right away? Did I mention them in this post or is there something else you don’t find here? Let us know in the comments below.

In part 2, we’ll cover the importance of campaign and ad group structure. Stay tuned!

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