I think I want to talk a little bit about all the crazy settings you have in adwords diaplay campaigns right now, since I have been messing around with them quite a bit.

You can think of them like a faucet hose that you keep folding over to kink up so you only get the trickle of water you want, or unfolding it and letting the water flood in. Theres a zillion different ways to put them togather, and even if you have campaign settings for the whole campaign you can tweak these settings at adgroup level and try some different experiments.

The big thing I had trouble with in the beginning was the big question, to “target and bid” or to “bid only”. Thats the big setting that you will have to decide, along with which type of targeting you want to use for the campaign itself. Keywords are probably the most popular among Paid Search professionals and they are great but there are a lot of other ways to reach your target audience and tweak things to get much better results.

I wish I could say “here is the best setting, just do this” but what works for a small company just doesn’t work for a big company, and there are simply too many ways to slice and dice this, so instead I will give you a few general principles that you can test out.

The basic choices we have on adgroup level are Bid Strategy, Display Network Custom Bid Type, and Targeting Optimization. Then from there we go into Flexable reach, and we can choose target and bid vs bid only for topics, interests and remarketing, age, gender, placements, and parental status. In the Display Network custom bid type, we can choose nothing, keywords, topics, interests and remarketing, gender, age, parental status, and placements as the basic thing we want to bid on. The targeting optimization is where the Display optimizer comes in. If you disable it, you have all the other settings. If you set it to conservative or aggressive, this effectively turns on the Display Campaign Optimizer for that ad group. This is not a good thing if you only want to target certain placements, because now the DCO is going to try to find new placements for you. Not a good thing if you already have the placements you want. So- Primary way you want to bid, next, do you really want the DCO on to find new placements, and then after that, do you want to use the flexable reach to restrict the traffic to only what you want, or do you want to just bid up or down based on the other criteria you have.

Hey I know thats a lot, but you can think of it like a flow in the firehose and whether you are restricting or filtering it on the way.

Principle #1 – Target and Bid really restricts the traffic a LOT, compared to bid only.

The reason for this is, that if you have more than one setting at target and bid, you are telling you only want to bid on the traffic if it meets all of your criteria. Lets say you want only placements picked by your keywords AND to target people who are on your remarketing lists. This is great, because people who have visited your site before, you are now targeting them again when they are in the frame of mind of browsing for stuff related to what you sell. Very targeted, but very small amount of traffic. But if you want more volume, consider changing to bid only.

Principle #2 – If you have an adgroup set to target and bid, but you don’t have any other criteria or targets set in the ad group, you won’t get any traffic.

Lets say you want to show the ads only on certain placements, and only to women, so you have target and bid on placements, and target and bid on gender. If you don’t put the gender target in the adgroup, you are targeting NOTHING. So you are telling Google target only people that are on these sites and who also match, NOTHING. Means nothing is targeted. I see this all the time in accounts. If you aren’t really sure which target is really going to be what you want, you can always just add ALL the targets and try some small bid adjustments for each target, then you will be able to go to the display reporting in adwords and start seeing how the different demographics, genders, placements, etc are doing.

Principle #3 – If you are using the DCO (Display Campaign Optimizer) most of these decisions are taken out of your hands. DCO has had its ups and downs, in my opinion it is currently on an up, as Google has added a lot of machine learning capability into it, but its important to know that all these great tweaks you think you are doing into a DCO campaign actually mean exactly nothing in most cases.

Princople #4 – Decide on the primary targeting for the whole adgroup ( or campaign )

In general, if you are going for ROI, and are just beginning, you probably will want to use keywords, and start looking at which keywords and placements seem to convert, and build up your remarketing lists. Once you have some stuff that works however, consider keeping your campaign, but adding an experimental adgroup that has NO KEYWORDS at all, but targets only placements. Sometimes Google is a bit restrictive, and a lot of content sites a ton of traffic is mostly on the home page, instead of all the eggheaded little internal pages matching the keywords you have picked. Sure conversion rates and CTR can drop because you are scaling, but you can always adjust bids accordingly, or use a couple other target and bid settings to restrict some of the unprofitable traffic. Its a slightly different mentality. If you choose placements as the primary target of the adgroup, in general you will get more traffic, but it won’t convert as well but hey thats what we want. Interests and remarketing as a primary targeting criteria for the adgroup greatly restricts the traffic too, but you can do that with no keywords, and try to grab those users a little more wherever they are on the web.

Lots of ways to combine these things, but the key thing to remember is its primary targeting method + restrict to exactly what I want vs get everything but adjust the bids up or down on the other things.

Hope this helps.