Google can get you found by people actively looking for what you offer. Something that Facebook and Instagram can’t claim. And it has a market share that dwarfs Bing Ads.

You need to be aware that not all Google's suggestions actually help a business.
You need to understand Google's default settings and recommendations

In the past, it was relatively easy to do Google AdWords. Put some keywords in, target a location, create some ads, add a credit card and you were good to go.

Today the rebranded Google Ads isn’t so easy. There is much to learn and much to do, even after your campaign is set up and running.

During the setup process, Google will provide recommendations or have settings already in place for you. With the way they often phrase them, it often seems as if they’re looking out for you.

The problem is that many of these settings aren’t in your best interest.

It’s not that Google is trying so scam marketers. Quite the contrary. They want you to succeed. Their settings are often designed to get you the most amount of traffic from your ads. Unfortunately, not all this traffic is good traffic.

A successful Google Ads campaign is about quality over quantity.

In this article, I want to go over some of the settings in a Google Ads campaign that are you might want to evaluate before merely accepting them. I’ll then explain why I don’t agree with them and what I’d recommend instead.

Campaign Setup

When you set up a campaign, Google will walk you through the process. They’ll ask you about goals and what you’re looking for (phone calls, website visits, etc.). It all seems as if they’re doing things in your favor, but from the beginning, there are problems with what they suggest.

I’m going to focus on a search campaign as this is the most common type of campaign. Yet, many of these issues pertain to any type of campaign.

Networks (Display)

The first step in setting up a campaign is to choose a goal. There are several options, and when you click on an option, most often four types appear below. You’re interested in search, so you chose this option.

Google display and Google search require different approaches
Don't do Google Search & Display together

The next page you’re taken to shows both search and display already checked off. Reading the fine print, you find out that you’ll Expand your reach by showing ads to relevant customers as they browse sites, videos, and apps across the Internet.

This is true. More people will see your ad.

Why It’s Not a Good Idea

Search and Display are two very different mediums.

With Search, you’re targeting people that are actively looking for what you offer.

With Display, you are attempting to target people who might be a potential prospect, but who are visiting sites for other reasons. This requires a different type of campaign. Instead of answering their need you have to attract their attention.

Even if you’re successful in reaching relevant prospects, you still don’t know what stage of the buying process they’re at. So taking them to the same page as your using for search (where you know their intent) seldom works

What to Choose Instead

If you’re looking to target prospects as they’re actively looking for what you offer, then do only search. You could do a display campaign but do it separately. Bid much lower and most often create very different types of ads then you would on search.

Networks (Search Partners)

Also checked off on this panel is Search Partners. These are sites that use the Google search engine on their websites. Some are well known such as Ask.com or Google Maps, while others are sites that have a search bar on their site and use the Google platform such as Yelp.

Why It’s Not A Good Idea

The search partner can have some benefits, mainly if you’re not getting many impressions for your search terms. And it may even be something you might try later.

The problem is that you don’t know what partners your ads appear on. As mentioned, some are well known, but many are more obscure, including many blogs. Like display, you don’t understand why they’re on a particular site.

What To Choose Instead

Stick with Google in the beginning. People are going there for a reason and its to search for what you offer.

As mentioned, you can always try out the search partners later. For now, put all your budget toward Google.

When you deselect the search partners, as well as the display campaign you’ll see a note from Google that most advertisers use this. Most Google Ads campaigns are poorly run so this isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

Location Options

This would seem to be an easy choice as you simply type in what location you want your ads to be shown in. It could be a major metropolitan location, a one-mile radius around your business or an entire country.

The default setting could show ads outside your targeted market
Choose People in Your Targeted Location

There’s nothing wrong with the location you’ve chosen or how you entered it. It’s how you’re targeting them.

This problem is hidden away and only visible if you click on location options. There you’ll see the options available including showing your ads in your market and people interested in your location. By default, this is what is already clicked.

Why It’s not a Good Idea

Let’s assume you're doing a 50-mile radius around your business for your ads. Someone that lives a hundred miles away is planning a weekend getaway and researching your city. They’ve expressed interest in your location so they could see your ad even though they’re not in your target market.

I’ve audited campaigns where people from other countries were seeing a company’s ad, even though they were targeting the United States only.

The wrong setting in Google Ads can result in people outside your marketi seeing an ad.
A campaign that targeted only the US was shown in over 60 other countries

What to Do Instead

Click on the first option, show only to people in your location. This ensures that only people that have been identified as being in your market area will see your ads.

Bidding (What to focus on)

Scrolling down from locations you’ll see a number of options to choose for your campaign, from language to daily spend. These are relatively straightforward.

Don't choose automated bidding options in the beginning until you have data
Automated settings only work with real conversion data

The option related to bidding, however, needs to be looked at in a little more in-depth. It’s not how much you’ll be bidding on your keywords, but your bid strategy.

By default, you’ll see conversions is chosen, which seems like a good idea. After all you want prospects to take some sort of action. From making a purchase or making a call or filling out a form.

Why It’s A Bad Idea

The assumption is that Google will bid more for phrases that have the potential to convert for you. For this to work, however, Google has to have data. Since this is a new campaign you have no data.

With no data to work with, their system is really guessing at this point, although admittedly educated guesses based on data from other advertisers. If you’re landing page is perfect, and your keyword choices spot on, then you might succeed.

More often than not, however, you end up bidding higher for phrases before you even had a chance to see how people respond to your website.

What To Do Instead

The best choice is to choose manual bids in the beginning.

This can be hard to find.

You first have to click select a bid strategy directly. After clicking this you’ll still see maximize conversion, but this time with a drop-down arrow next to it. After clicking on this you’ll see a long list of options. I won’t go into these other options in this article, but at the very bottom, you’ll see manual CPC.

Choose manual clicks in the beginning of your Google Ads campaign
Choose manual clicks in the beginning

With manual CPC you can set the bids. This way you can start low and increase your bids as you see which position you show up in.

If you’ve properly set up conversion tracking and start getting a lot of conversions, then switch bidding options. But only after you have enough relevant data for Google to work with.

Bidding (Ad Rotation)

This isn’t the only default setting that is a problem with bids.

The other is hidden away and only becomes visible when you click on Show More Settings. There you’ll see Ad Rotation.

In the past, you had a few options and for some odd reason, Google even lists a couple that can no longer be chosen. The one chosen is Optimize: Prefer best performing ads. This certainly seems like a good idea as you would want your best ads to be shown.

Choose do not optimize in order to get all your ads a chance to succeed.
Google will favor one ad right away without any data to back it up.

Why It’s a Bad Idea

Similar to conversions, Google can only determine what your best ad is with data.

Let’s say you begin with three or four ads in an ad group (which I’d recommend).

Unfortunately, Google often chooses an ad early so all your ads don’t get enough impressions. It could be that one of these other ads would convert better provided they get more exposure.

What To Do Instead

Choose Do not optimize: Rotate ads indefinitely. This will ensure all your ads get some exposure and you can start to see which ads perform better.

If you want Google to choose the best ad, at least get some data on your ads. Then revert to the optimized setting. But only after you have a lot more impressions for each ad.

Adding Keywords

Google makes it easy to add keywords when you click on the plus button.

You type in the words you want to begin with or choose from the list they often provide along the right-hand side. You can scroll down the list and add them individually or click add them all if they all seem appropriate.

Broad match results in a lot of irrelevant clicks.
When adding keywords this results in them being added as broad match

The problem is that these words are now added as broad match keywords.

Why It’s Not a Good Idea

Although broad match has improved immensely over the years, it can still result in a lot of misguided phrases. As the name implies a broad range of search phrases can show up in your search term report. Some are appropriate, but I’ve seen some that are completely out of left field.

What to Do Instead

At the beginning of a campaign go with phrase match, exact match, or even modified broad match. This way you have more control over what terms your ads appear for. Once you’ve added words to your list, edit them immediately to one of these other options.

If you’re finding your not getting enough impressions or want to find new words to target, then try broad match. But monitor it closely.

Other Settings & Recommendations To Be Aware of After A Campaign is Live

Even after your campaign is set up and running, you’ll find Google’s default settings, and many of their recommendations, are not in your best interest.

Adding Negative Keywords

In reading the search term report you’ll come across phrases that don’t apply to your business. To keep this from happening you simply block the offending phrases. They even make it easy to block phrases. Simply click on a box next to the phrase and you have the option to block this from triggering your ad in the future.

Why It’s A Bad Idea

Just to be clear. Adding negative keywords isn’t a bad idea. It not only helps avoid wasted spend, but it can help lower your impressions, which in turn can improve your click-through rate.

The problem is how you’re adding negatives with Google preferred method.

With Google’s method, you’re only blocking the offending phrase it exactly appears. In the example below the phrase being blocked is free download IOS 8. That means only that exact phrase is being blocked. If someone types in find free download IOS 8, they'll still see the ad.

Negative keywords are automatically added as exact match.
Adding this phrase as exact match blocks only this phrase.

What To Do Instead

If you see a phrase that doesn’t apply, and it contains a single word that is the issue then add that word only. As broad match. Going to our previous example, if this company doesn't offer free downloads, then simply add the word free. And any phrase containing that term will be blocked no matter what they type in.

Recommendations

It seems like Google has always had some sort of recommendations that they’d provide to advertisers, but with the change in interface, it’s become even more pronounced. When you click on the recommendations button, the page you’ll go to will have a score.

Most times you’ll think you need to reach 100 for your score and in a number of cases, I’ve reached that total with clients.

I’ve also had some that score in the 60s and I was often fine with that. That’s because some of the recommendations they provided weren’t in my client’s best interest.

The recommendations constantly change, even after you’ve seemingly reached 100.

Most often the first thing you’ll see is a recommendation that you raise your budget. Or another to raise your bids. If you’re fine with what you currently spend or the number of clicks you receive you might want to stay where you are.

Many recommendations are very good, from suggestions to create more ads, to dividing keywords into more ad groups.

Google Ads recommendations can have value, but can also cause wasted spend
Recommendations are Google's suggestions for your campaign.

Some recommendations, however, I’d advise against.

Some of these I’ve already discussed such as adding Google Search Partners, optimizing ad rotation, and using broad match keywords.

One of my clients is a junk removal company. They were advised to add a number of broad match keywords, but the words were junk cars, junk dealers, and buyers of steels. Any one of these phrases would have been wasted spend for my client.

There are a couple of other recommendations that I want to specifically examine.

Use Target Impression Share

There is actually a bidding option that you can choose to bid on a search page position. This option is similar but ensures your ad is at the top spot on Google.

Why It’s a Bad Idea

It might seem like a good idea to be in the top position and the click-through rate is higher for that spot.

If, however, your competitors are getting the same recommendations and they apply it, then all of a sudden, you’re each bidding up the word until it’s no longer profitable.

What to Do Instead

Stick with your current bidding option, whether its manual or one of the smart bidding

options. I have clients that constantly want to be above their competitors, but I try to explain to them the bigger picture. That we’re trying to get the most out of our marketing budget.

Add Ad Suggestions

Since many marketers struggle with creating ads or have only one or two in an ad group, Google has taken it upon itself to create new ads for you.

It's important to have multiple ads in an ad group as you never know which your prospects will respond to.

In fact, I recommend having three expanded text ads in an ad group and one responsive ad.

You're trying to see which ads perform the best. Eventually, you’ll pause the lesser performing ads and try out new ones.

Why It’s a Bad Idea

The problem with the ads that Google creates is that they’re often terrible. Most often the first headline is simply the company name. And they only have a single description. They also don’t utilize display paths.

What to Do Instead

There might be elements of the ads they suggest that might work. Tweak the ads they provide and fill them in more so that you have more information about your business or your products/services.

Takeaway From Recommendations

With any of the recommendations review them carefully and decide if they really are in your best interest. As I’ve said, many are worth utilizing. But not all

Don’t be fixated on getting to 100. Even if you do, Google will come back with more recommendations anyway.

Google Ads is one of the best, if not the best, ways to grow your business. Just remember, however, that your goals are not the same as Googles. Take the time to set your campaign up correctly so that you get the most out of your marketing dollars.

With all of the changes to Google Ads over the years and with how competitive its become, handling a campaign can be difficult. If you want to have someone manage your campaign or provide guidance, then hire a Google Ads Consultant.