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Is Google "Hiding" Crucial AdWord Options?

In the AdWords interface, hidden information and default opt-in settings work against the advertiser and make it hard for them to exert full control over paid search advertising campaigns. In fact, the interface sometimes feels like it’s designed in a way that it can appear to a casual observer that nothing is missing. Does that mean Google is intentionally being evil? Well, “hiding the banana” certainly benefits the company and can increase revenues if advertisers are forced to use less precision. In this article, I’ll provide some useful reminders of what to look harder for in the AdWords interface.

Negative Keyword Options

Google definitely plays hide the banana with negative keyword options. First, advertisers have to scroll long and hard to find the option in the interface. The plusbox where negative keywords are located is at the bottom of the keyword tab (at the ad group or campaign level) and, if you have numerous keywords in your account, it’s quite a scroll to get there. Once there, it takes four clicks to add and/or change negative match types in an account. Google will likely say the current set up allows for negative match type granularity, and I agree—granularity is good. But I think it would make sense to be able to add negative terms at an account level especially generic negative terms like free, coupon code, etc. If you have ten campaigns, why should you have to repeat the exercise ten times?

In terms of keywords, there’s more hide the banana. In the keyword tab of the interface, if you click on “see search terms” to see exact queries being served by match type and you decide you want to “add as a negative keyword”, the negative query or phrase by default is added as an exact match and at the ad group level (see image below). If using the “add as a negative keyword” option, you’ll want to remove the brackets around the negative match type option to make the negative match type broader in scope (broad match) and to add the match type at the campaign level (not only the ad group level).

Google Negative Keyword Suggestion

These seem like small, picky nuances when taken individually, but taken together, they add up to a constant battle to win back full control of Google AdWords and advertising campaign settings.

Default Mobile Advertising Option

Google is also playing hide the banana in account settings by automatically opting advertisers into advertising on “iPhones and other mobile devices with full Internet browsers.” Below, I’ve chosen “let me choose” under devices to display specific options but the default option is “all available devices.” Note: the option is also recommended “for new advertisers.”


As we all know, mobile PPC advertising is very different than standard PPC advertising and different types of offerings lend themselves to mobile advertising while others don’t so it doesn’t make sense to have mobile and traditional PPC advertising lumped together. For more specific information on mobile advertising, take a look at my articles Getting Started with Mobile Paid Search Advertising and Mobile Paid Search Strategies.

Default Display Network Option

In the AdWords settings tab, advertisers are opted into the display network or, as Google interface says: “opted in to relevant pages across the entire network.” Many best practices guides, and no doubt anecdotal advice given by Googlers, refers in good-boy-scout manner to the advantages of creating completely separate campaigns for the display network. But you would never know this from the defaults in the interface!

It’s true, to be effective on the content network, advertisers need to incorporate different strategies and select different keywords, craft different ad copy, select different landing pages, etc. If not, what ends up happening is the equivalent of a traditional advertiser using the same ad for a magazine ad and a highway billboard—it obviously just doesn’t work. For more specific information on advertising on the content network, take a look at my article on Five Quick Tips for Success on Google’s Content Network.

It’s worth noting, though, that Google has made huge progress in how power users can work with the display network. Remember when search and content were difficult if not impossible to bid on separately? And when there was no option to bid higher or lower on individual publisher sources? Despite this, they obviously still have a way to go.

Finally, it’s worth debating whether the new term “display” is a euphemism. Did the old “content network” have negative connotations? Does the rebranding work to connect more with wording mainstream agencies understand? It’s anyone’s guess. As usual, it’s either common sense or Google is up to something. Or possibly a little bit of both.

In the image below, I’ve again selected “let me choose” to display specific options but the default option is “all available sites.” Again, the option is recommended for “new advertisers.”

Content Network

At many levels, Google regularly changes AdWords account settings so it’s in all advertisers’ best interest to keep up-to-date on Google’s “hide the banana” games.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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