You’ve done your keyword research, you’ve given thought to your ad copy and you’ve even scoped out your competitor’s ads and position: now you’re ready to set up your own PPC account and let the sparks fly. Admittedly, setting up my first PPC account was a formidable experience. As such, I’m taking it upon myself to spill the beans on the best practices for setting up accounts in Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and MSN adCenter. Today, I’ll begin with the top 6 settings to check in AdWords.

  1. Budget Options: Budget is listed here as number one for a reason. Setting an appropriate daily budget for your campaign will be the difference between life and death on Google. Set it too high, you stand a chance of blowing through your budget before the end of the month. Set it too low, your ads will be shut off before the day is finished.

    A rule-of-thumb here would be to determine your overall monthly budget (for all PPC advertising), determine how much you can allot to Google, and divide this total out over the span of a month. This will give you a starting point to make daily budget decisions for all of your AdWords campaigns. If this doesn’t work for you, let Google do it for you.

  2. Delivery Method: While delivery method is actually a working function of Budget Options, I feel that it is important enough to gain its own spot on this list. This is the setting that dictates how frequently your ads will be displayed. Choose standard delivery, and your ads will be spaced out throughout the course of the day according to your daily budget (yet another reason to choose your budget carefully!). Choose accelerated delivery, and your ads will be displayed as many times as possible (depending on impressions, search fluctuations, etc.) until your budget is depleted.

    When I have a campaign that is under performing, this is the setting that I check first. Keeping my ad delivery set to accelerated gives me the opportunity to always be in “the right place at the right time.” It also means that I have to work a little harder at managing my bids to remain competitive. However, if you feel that you aren’t comfortable with the effort accelerated delivery requires, choose standard delivery and let Google do the work for you (that’s twice I’ve said that now)!

  3. Search Network: The fun really begins when you choose where your ads will be displayed. You must choose between Google search (displayed only on and the search network (with partners like AOL and Netscape) and, the content network. I’ve managed campaigns where I needed a manageable flow of click traffic that I could keep close tabs on so I chose to display ads only on Other times I’ve had clients where I needed my entire search arsenal, so I chose, the search network and the content network.

    I must stress the importance of carefully choosing content settings. The content network, if managed properly, can be a great source of traffic. If you’re offering the “right” product or service, it can even bring in great supplemental conversions too. But if you choose to use the content network and fail to select the option to manage bids separately, you’re choosing to play with fire. Search and content networks are very different beasts and require very different management tactics. Choose wisely.

  4. Target Audience: Choosing a language is a given. I’ll just skip right over that, thank you. What I won’t skip over is location (regional? geo?) targeting. Depending on your advertising needs, you may create campaigns ranging from those targeting a single state (or even a single city) to those that literally are open to the entire world. Google has a very large playground where many, many potential customers like to play. Choosing the right jungle gym to dangle from is of the utmost importance.

    AdWord’s options range from the basic (choosing countries/territories) to the advanced (states, cities, custom drawn locations). No matter which route you take, just make sure it’s the right one!

  5. Advanced Options: The first advanced option is keyword bidding. This is where Google will let you choose how to set and manage bids. The default is of course Maximum CPC. But you can select preferred cost bidding or evenlet Google manage your bids with the Budget Optimizer. Additionally, there is ad scheduling which gives you the opportunity to specify days of the week and/or hours of the day for your ads to display. And then there is position preference. This is the tool that will allow you to choose a range of positions (say between 1 and 3 in the SERP’s) and Google will automatically adjust your bids accordingly.

    Each one of these functions could have a paragraph, or heck, even their own blog posts (which some of them do!). The fact that I’ve lumped them all together is not to say that they aren’t important. It is just that they all fall under the same category: icing on the cake. These are all truly “advanced” and can be bypassed for an easier campaign management experience. If you are new to any or all of these tactics, I highly recommend testing each one out individually to see which one works best for you.

  6. Ad Serving: While ad serving is really another arm of the advanced options, I must intervene and give it credit where credit is due. Ad serving is a major piece of the advertising puzzle! Above I mentioned that when I have a campaign that is under-performing I check my delivery method first. What do I check second? Ad serving! This is where you can choose to let Google optimize your ads, or rotate them evenly.

    This setting assumes that you are split-testing your ads (as all good search marketers should). By choosing to optimize, Google will detect which of your ads has the highest CTR and will automatically display this ad more frequently to increase clicks. This is a great tool for those who may need a time-saving management technique. However, it isn’t a true split-testing method for your ads. Choosing to rotate your ads evenly will give you the opportunity to pit ad A against ad B for as long as you deem fit. This will give you a much better feel for the performance of your ads taking into effect changes in the marketplace, conversion rates (not included in the optimization method) and the length of your test.

While this list isn’t all inclusive of the countless nuances found when setting up an AdWords campaign, it should point you in the right direction. Revisiting these settings serve me well not only when starting up a fresh campaign, but also when revisiting a troubled account or even taking over an account that’s already established. In parts 2 and 3 of this series, I plan to take a look at account settings for both Yahoo! and MSN. So, please keep checking in!

Does anyone else have a particular setting or function in AdWords that you feel is crucial when starting a campaign (or checking in on one)? Let me know what you think, or if I missed anything!