Creating and managing a successful Google Ad can be difficult and overwhelming. We’re worried to touch buttons and pull levers in fear of the whole ad campaign imploding and making us forced to start again. However, we don't think that running a Google ad campaign should get businesses feeling nervous or worried. Today, we’re going to let you in on a little secret.
There are settings that Google includes in its service to help businesses and advertisers, but they don’t always help. Without even realizing it, one of the default settings in a campaign can actually cause more harm than the optional settings. Experienced advertisers might know that we’re talking about: automatic targeting.
Whenever we create a Google display campaign, it’s fair to say that we have an audience in mind. The audience may include people who have been on our website for a retargeting campaign. Thanks to the automated targeting option, which is active by default, Google expands the search and includes all those who are considered likely to convert.
The problem? It can make a marketing strategy more expensive and it can also impact the quality of conversions that come as a result of the campaign.
Why does this feature exist? According to Google, it’s designed to expand the boundaries of targeting beyond what is set up by the user. It claims to find people your targeting settings don’t include while not impacting the cost or receiving input from the user.
With increased reach, Google uses our targeting as a platform to extend and find others who should also convert. You’ll see that in this setting we can adjust the slider depending on whether we want a more aggressive or cautious approach. Turn it all the way up, and Google will promise hundreds of thousands of additional impressions.
If you’re running a remarketing campaign, Google says that those interested in ‘similar’ products will see your ad too. The more aggressive the setting, the broader the topics Google will target.
We aren’t against Google or other advertising platforms offering assistance to marketers. However, for a feature to be included in a marketing campaign automatically, it needs to work. There are a lot of examples online claiming that this feature wastes the budget of marketing teams (teams who are already under pressure most of the time!).
To review the performance of this feature on your own campaigns, choose an ad group, and select the Audiences tab. Look towards the bottom and you should see a row in the table called ‘Total: Display Automatic Targeting’. In the past, we’ve seen plenty of reports showing hundreds of dollars in ad spend with a 0% conversion.
Please, don’t feel the need to turn this setting off if the report suggests good performance. If conversion rates are strong, the automatic targeting feature is working and actually improving your ad groups. The problem is that it is rare for the feature to contribute positively to a campaign, as Google suggests it should.
How do you disable the automated targeting setting for new campaigns? The same process is used whether you’re creating a remarketing campaign or a normal Display campaign. Just create the campaign as normal, and then pause as you reach the ad group setting section, scroll down the page and there’s an ‘Automated Targeting’ option. You will most likely not have seen this option before because it’s hidden. This setting then needs to be expanded in order to view more options.
When creating a new campaign, Google sets the automated targeting to ‘Conservative automation’ rather than the more aggressive option. There’s also the option to turn the feature off completely. Once this setting is off, the campaign will follow your instructions alone when it comes to targeting. From here, choose your bidding, create an ad, and you’re ready to go.
In the case of an existing campaign, you need to adjust the setting in each ad group. Click on the ad group settings, click ‘edit ad group targeting’, and move the slider all the way towards ‘Off’. The setting might be buried, but you now know exactly how to turn it off for both new and existing ad groups (be sure to spread the word!).
As long as you save, the setting is disabled which means you can finally stop wasting money in this area. It might take time to change the setting across all ad groups, but it’s well worth the investment.
After discovering this problem, we were annoyed that Google would include a feature by default when there’s very little evidence that it actually works. Eventually, we started to realize other settings that misinformed marketers which businesses had been using despite their lack of contribution to ad campaigns. In fact, some are taking from the marketing budget without giving anything back (as we’ve just seen). Here are some other potential changes you might want to make this year:
As marketers, we’ve all been told that mobile is the more prominent platform for search engines. Many believe that no campaign is worthwhile if it doesn’t have mobile included. In reality, this isn’t the case at all.
When not managed, your Google Display Network (GND) campaigns will lean towards mobile devices when there are still positive results to obtain from desktop advertising. Sometimes, advertisers have a lot of mobile placements without conversions. Don’t be afraid to add ‘adsenseformobile.com' into the shared negative list. Once applied to the appropriate campaigns, you won’t waste your budget any longer.
Another common problem for businesses is generating a lot of clicks from the wrong audience. It might seem positive that you’re getting all the clicks, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they’re clicking from search terms that don’t apply to the business. With one trillion Google searches expected this year, it’s not uncommon to pay for unwanted search terms.
To overcome the issue, it’s time to add a list of negative keywords to your ad groups. As well as the general negative keywords lists, make sure you include terms and phrases that are close to your niche but not quite applicable.
To get started, use the Shared Library and choose Campaign Negative Keywords. For those with lots of different campaigns, you can actually keep various lists and apply them to whole campaigns as you need.
The idea of improving an ad campaign automatically is fantastic until it all goes wrong. With automatic placements, we have a method of using contextual keyword-based targeting to find websites pertinent to your niche. However, poor monitoring can lead to irrelevant traffic to your website. Once again, this means people with no interest in your products and services are landing on your pages.
In order to avoid irrelevant URLs, head into the Display Network tab. There you can actually generate a report by clicking on Placements and then See Details. After setting it to All, review the performance of all websites and URLs. If there’s an unrelated URL that isn't generating conversions or leads, it can be removed from the list.
At the same time, remember that some URLs from this list can contribute just as much as your managed list. If this is the case, promote those URLs into your managed placements.
Finally, campaigns without proper keyword management can be unsuccessful. Just because a campaign is performing now, doesn’t mean you can leave it untouched and expect it to perform for one year. The keywords might relate to your business, but you need the Search Query Report to learn about the terms that do and don’t work.
Over time, you’ll lose the terms that you are wasting money on. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the terms with high conversion rates. Now, with the shared negative lists, you’re controlling both sides of the process - the terms for which you DO and DON’T want to appear. It’s now easier to manage the budget and you aren’t wasting money on Google Ads.
Review the efficacy of the automated targeting setting today and check the other four while you’re doing it. You might just find a way to save money.
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