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Tutorial: Default Google AdWords Settings that Could Backfire

We’re trained to take default settings as a safe bet. However, when you are starting an AdWords account that’s not always the case. Blindly accepting default Google AdWords settings could cost you money. Before you launch an AdWords campaign, you might want to turn some of those off (or edit).

1. Don’t take the combo deal.

Google suggests that you start with a package deal — search and display advertising.

The display setting will eat through your budget before you’ve had a chance to find your groove. Start with search only and, following testing and some discoveries about your messaging, then expand into display.

Start with search network first.

We suggest treating them as separate stages, so make Google AdWords your first stage. Display can be stage two (if you want to add it at all).

The nature of the search network and its text ads make it easy for you to test and develop stronger ad copy.  You can create multiple ad variations to test against each other and update the winning text very easily.

You can also use this window to polish your keyword strategy. As you start to get clicks on your ads, you will see which keyword and ad combinations are working best. That gives you a foundation for adding more long-tail keywords and dropping the ones that aren’t converting well. If you fine-tune your approach here, you can carry your biggest lessons into what you do in the display network.

search and display comparison in Google AdWords settings


2. Choose your own features

Once you select the search network, it turns on the Google AdWords Campaign Default Settings. Usually when you are just starting, added features can cloud the process. We suggest that, here, you turn on “All features.”

This will give you a few more choices that make sense at this stage.

Expand Your Extension Options

The hidden extensions are a bit more advanced and probably used more once you’ve got a campaign underway. I can see Google’s reason for cutting potential distractions, but they might be a good fit for you. Decide for yourself. These are the options you would otherwise miss:

  • App – This shows up on mobile and tablet searches, letting you connect your ad to your app.
  • Reviews – Your ads can include customer feedback from 3rd party review sites.
  • Callouts – This is additional information to highlight a unique service like “free shipping” or “price matching.”
  • Structured Snippets – Pull details about a product or an offer from your landing page into your ad.
  • Site links extensions – Offer extra real estate for your ads and help your ads stand out a bit more. Also, they provide links to possibly more relevant content.

Advanced Settings

Even more options come available when you turn on “all features.”

  • The schedule setting is a budget stretcher. It helps you reach people at the right time. It also starts and ends your campaign if you need to run your ads across specific dates.
  • Ad delivery/ad rotation – You can run multiple ads for the same search. It lets you try new messaging or spread out what you want to say. (See more details below.)
  • Dynamic search ads – This is a unique setting for businesses with many products or services. AdWords will serve up content from your landing pages (that Google has indexed) to match the search.
  • Campaign URL options – Give you flexibility to add tracking codes to your URLs.

A word about ad delivery/ad rotation

There is some tricky language in the ad rotation options that could give you a false sense of confidence.

Unless you have a short amount of time to manage this campaign, avoid the auto-optimize options. They’re tempting, but you need objective data to really know what is working well. Remember, testing is crucial to your business success.

Rotate your ads evenly until you have enough feedback about click through rates, conversions, and costs to choose a winning message.

3. Watch your Money!

There is one setting that opens you to spending more than what you had expected.

AdWords isn’t for the money-squeamish. You should prepare to spend a set amount before you get a more focused picture of the best way to spend your ad dollars. However, there the enhanced Cost per Click setting (eCPC) lifts some controls that used to be in place.

The idea of eCPC is that Google can learn more quickly which ads are likely to convert better for you. When they spot those ads, they crank up your spending to increase your chances of drawing clicks from an audience that’s likely to buy. When Google first introduced this feature, they included a safety cap: they could go over your set bid, but not by more than 30%.  Now that cap is gone, so your CPC can reach costs outside of your budget.


That doesn’t mean that everyone should stay away, though. This is a good setting for ad managers with a flexible long-term budget who prefer a more automated, hands-off approach.

Some encourage ad managers to look at the bigger picture of cost per acquisition (CPA). Using eCPC can raise your overall spending but might also raise your number of conversions.

What if I already started a campaign?

  1. Go to the Settings tab.
  2. Look at the “Bid Strategy” column for a your campaigns. That will show you if the campaign is using the enhanced bid setup.

4. Target a location

The default setting captures a broad group. If you have location-based products or services, a targeted location is a good way to save money from clicks that aren’t likely to convert.

If you don’t want to show ads to anyone outside of your geographic coverage area, be sure to choose “people in my targeted location.”

Don’t scroll past this one. It’s shown as “Location Settings (Advanced).”

5. Understand Who Search Partners Are

Google turns on “Search Partners” by default. It’s important that you learn more about where your ad might appear outside of a Google search result page.

Other than YouTube, Google doesn’t clearly state the full list of their search partners, but it mentions that there are hundreds of qualifying sites. That includes sites that use the Google search tool on their page as well as other search engines like AOL and Ask.com.

PRO: That expands the potential reach of your ads, and click through rates on those sites do not affect your overall Quality Score. If Google serves your ad on a partner site but it goes unclicked, that won’t harm you.

CON: However, Google leaves room for adjustment when it states that your ad might appear on “other pages related to the person’s search.” One of the most repeated Google AdWords best practices is that your ad should match the searcher’s intention as closely as possible.

Relevance is key, and having vague descriptions like “other pages related to the person’s search” isn’t worth erasing the work you put into creating the most effective ad copy for your ad group.


Google continues to update and grow its ad platform, so–even if you are creating your third, tenth, or 20th campaign–review the default Google AdWords settings with a bit of scrutiny. They aren’t always in your campaign’s best interests.


Recommended Reading

Video Internet Marketing basics 

Creating a  new PPC Campaign with Kombat