We Asked AdWords Experts: What are the Most Underrated AdWords Features?

We Asked AdWords Experts: What are the Most Underrated AdWords Features?

Last updated on by Brandon Weaver in AdWords Advertising


If you’ve ever spoken with an AdWords specialist from Google, you’ve likely heard them say “increase your bids” and “optimize for mobile” to increase your ad rank. The AdWords platform itself is constantly being updated, but with all this new functionality, that doesn’t mean you should be short-sighted and focused on the latest feature announcement.

As an AdWords specialist yourself, you already know that:

No doubt those are all best practices. What about some other features and tactics that leading Adwords experts use on a daily basis to get the most out of their campaigns?

With that in mind, we asked some of the best AdWords experts in the world the following question:

In your opinion, what is the most underrated AdWords feature that marketers don’t use?

What do AdWords experts say?

Joe MartinezMKEsearch

Business data feeds because they allow PPC marketers to create hyper-targeted ads to specific groups of people and the ability to add a dynamic element to ads that can update at any time. Less keyword-stuffed ads and more focus on speaking to the user and creating ads that actually stand out.

Martin RoettgerdingBloofusion

Feed-based ads are a prime example of an AdWords feature marketers don’t use enough. They’re easy to use, yet look pretty scary if you’ve never used them.

Business and data feeds seem to rise in value with increasing business complexity or with increasing diversity of products. Not only will they provide relevance, but they can also remove a lot of complexity from ad management too. We like Joe and Martin’s answer and highly recommend you take their advice.

Tara Dee WestEtch UK

IF Functions are really underrated. They allow you to customize your ad text depending on which of your RLSA audience the person searching is a part of. With IF Functions, you can customize the ad text for your RLSA audiences directly within your normal keyword campaigns, with no need to create duplicate ad groups or campaigns. They’re a bit like dynamic keyword insertion, but the text is only inserted if the person searching is on your RLSA list.

Tara did a great job detailing this feature! In addition to Remarketing Lists for Search Ads, you can use IF functions for device-specific modifiers as well. This might be useful to add more urgency to a text ad targeting mobile users for local searches.

Matt UmbroHanapin Marketing & PPC Chat

Ad customizers!

Ad customizers are not as applicable to all business types but can really come in handy when you sell a lot of products, are affected by seasonality or a lot of different promotions, have different localities, or franchises. That said, it is still useful to know about them.

Zack BedingfieldCallRail

IF/Then statements are a bit overkill though if you’re already segmenting for RLSA/target and target/bid campaigns.

It really comes down to industry and audience. At Instapage, for example, we do not really make significant use of the IF statements since we have one foundational B2B product. We indeed target different audiences, but as Zack implied, we can serve static assets to each of those.

Brad GeddesAdAlysis

Dynamic Search Ads are well known about but highly underused. While they should rarely be your primary source of impressions, their ability to backfill or combine with audiences can ensure you have great query coverage for your top products and services.

Two reasons advertisers might not use Dynamic Search Ads are pride and quality control. Pride is simple; advertisers may not want to admit that AI does an important aspect of their job better than they can. On the other hand, advertisers might be right that the AI actually can’t do the job better, so they avoid DSAs to maintain quality and stick to brand guidelines. It is worth at least testing CTR improvements using DSAs.

Jacob BaadsgaardDisruptive Advertising

The ability to measure impression share. Too often I see marketers running their budget across too many keywords only to see the dreaded “Limited By Budget” icon next to each campaign.

Identify your top producing keywords and apply a label that makes them easy to filter out. Start turning off lower performing keywords or move your top performers into their campaign until you get close to 100% impression share. Once you’ve capped out impression share on your top performing keywords, expand your budget and start finding some new top performers.

Jacob provided good, clear advice. Remember that Impression share = impressions / total eligible impressions, so your impression share is not the share of all searches for this keyword, it is your share of the ones you were eligible for. Also, remember to track your revenue event as well. If you have something like a free signup, your metrics might differ greatly between that and the actual revenue-producing event.

Anna ShirleyMerkle Periscopix

Data driven attribution! I think some marketers shy away from the complexities around it, but it’s worth a test.

Data-Driven Attribution is one of the out-of-the-box attribution models that AdWords provides to assign credit for conversions. The concept is really cool, but you need a decent amount of click and conversion volume to select it. Our in-house AdWords expert liked it when he used it, but the attribution numbers shown in the modeling tool within AdWords did not differ that much from last-click for our account. It may for different types of products or services. That said, we agree that it is worth a test.

Kirk WilliamsZato Marketing

Income Level Targeting… Lots of insights there!

Kirk is right; there are lots of valuable insights with Income Level Targeting. Plus, if you use Facebook Advertising, you can use audience insights from that platform to roughly determine the income levels you should be targeting in AdWords as well.

Stephen KenwrightBranded3

I don’t think marketers use demographic targeting as well as they should because they don’t take the time to learn their audiences.

Demographic targeting is great! You can potentially reduce your spend significantly without lowering your meaningful conversion volume. You can use Audience Insights to find the demographics, in-market, and affinity audiences that completed your tagged revenue event. You can then adjust bids on certain demographics or exclude them completely.

Samantha NobleBiddable Moments

Countdown ads because they can really enhance the ad experience people see within the search results. This ad format essentially counts down to a given time and date, and the ad dynamically changes to match the timer. These ads are often used to promote an upcoming sale or event to drive urgency and encourage the search user to click.

Samantha makes a great point because creating a sense of urgency is one of the foundational skills in sales and advertising of which the AdWords Countdown Ads feature does that well.

Hailey FriedmanGrowth Marketing Pro & BAMF

The AdWords Editor! It’s a free, downloadable application for managing your campaigns. It’s a huge time saver for anyone trying to make bulk adjustments to multiple campaigns across a large number of keywords. Also, the ability to bid up or down by device can be a huge unlock, especially as mobile usage continues to rise.

Hailey is spot on with this one! Search and filtering abilities, bulk editing, organization, and batch uploading make everything faster and easier. That is only a small piece of what you can do more quickly with the AdWords Editor. Go here to learn more.

Wijnand MeijerTrueClicks

Campaign groups and performance targets are quite a useful visualization feature to quickly see if a group of campaigns is reaching (and will reach) certain targets (within a given time frame), such as CPA or budget target.

The system will visualize your current performance compared to your target and tell you whether or not you’re on track. So if someone regularly asks ‘are we on track?’ and you don’t have a third-party tool telling you this, this free feature is definitely worth checking out.

This type of thing is great for agencies that have a lot of clients and need at-a-glance analysis and updates. It is also great for a company that has an array of product or service themes that might have very different metrics. As Wijnand said, you can share quick, simple performance reports with your management.

Justin VanDongen – Axis41

Shopping campaign segmentation because I’ve seen many ecommerce clients have items segmented in various ways, yet they fail to drill down to the actual product level. Seeing individual product results, regardless of how any other grouping is done, is vital to finding easy wins and big gains.

Relevance is a foundational aspect of search marketing. Justin is right that the ability to showcase individual products should be utilized. Other experts have mentioned feeds or IF statements as underutilized features. You can use either feature to showcase products or just build out ad groups that promote individual products and send clicks directly to a distinct landing page themed for each product.

Amanda Evans – Closed Loop

In the audits we’ve run, most B2B marketers fail to leverage the power of audiences in their AdWords campaigns. We recommend creating at least three audience segments for all past converters, top 1% of customers, and all visitors. Next, layer those audiences on your existing campaigns and modify bids to ensure visibility to your most valuable audience segments. It’s an easy change that yields great results.

The new AdWords experience changed the name of your options from “Target and Bid vs. Bid Only” to “Targeting vs. Observation” to make settings a lot more clear. Audiences are helpful for either one.

For observation, you can use an audience of people who had visited your site before or watched your YouTube video to determine what portion of your search traffic engaged with your brand previously. You could then use that same audience to increase bids on video viewers if you know they tend to convert at a higher rate. In addition to bidding directly on your top 1%, you can bid on similar audiences that are based on a high-value seed audience created from your site tagging.

Sayf SharifSEER Interactive

The ability to leverage Google Analytics to build targetable audiences for AdWords campaigns. Even when marketers do use them, they tend to be pretty simplistic (User hit X page, or X and Y page, etc.).

The reality is with a little elbow grease, and Google Tag Manager makes it even easier, you can build super complex audiences and behavior driven personas across multiple sessions/visits/months.

Audiences from AdWords and Analytics are both great. Google Tag Manager is incredible for the amount of interactions, events, metadata, etc. you can track and collect if you want to spend the time with it. Much of this can be transferred fairly easily through either an Analytics tag in GTM or by setting up Custom Dimensions and Metrics in Google Analytics.

In AdWords, you can target or exclude users based on some different interactions with video advertisements regardless of whether they have been to your website. In-Market and Affinity audiences provide a ton of utility whether you choose to positively or negatively target them. You can create different types of ad content and serve them to people that have interacted with specifically relevant parts of your site.

Shanik PatelGrammarly

Smart Display Campaigns — they’ve been our most effective display campaigns since we started running them. They bring machine learning to display: bids, targeting, and creatives are all optimized to produce the best results. The creatives, in particular, are more effective than what we use in other display campaigns; AdWords will select from a set of headlines, descriptions, and images to create and serve ads that are best suited to convert a particular audience.

We have mixed feelings about Smart Display because when we looked at our front-end metrics, we received a very high volume of signups at a low cost very quickly. More than half the spend went toward mobile, which historically doesn’t perform well for us regarding revenue. Click-through rates were suspiciously high on many mobile placements, too. We checked our backend analytics and found that these users landed on our site, completed the signup flow quickly and then never interacted with any other part of the site or application again.

We suspect that this one of the functions of this campaign type is to encourage advertisers to spend a lot more on mobile. We certainly don’t advise against using Smart Display; it just may work very well for consumer products or other services with a shorter funnel. You should definitely try it out, just keep a close watch on it.

What about our own AdWords expert?

Pat Holmes – Instapage

Target CPA bidding works wonderfully for search campaigns. You can also get it working really well for display. However, it works really well by lowering volume quite a bit. With display, you may want to examine your goals for the campaign. Target CPA bidding only counts the conversions that were preceded by a click. Folks do not click on banner ads frequently, and I have seen a lot of scholarly research that concludes that impressions from banner ads increase an audience’s purchase intention.

If you restrict your audience with demographic and income exclusions as many have suggested, Target CPA bidding is not likely to provide you the volume you may want. Viewable cost-per-thousand impressions (vCPM) will provide a lot more impression volume under those restrictions since Google can take your money without needing people to click the ads. This may sound counter-intuitive, but view-through revenue in preliminary tests seems to be promising. This strategy is one you want to undertake only if you have a strongly differentiable brand.

Additionally, if you have third-party pixel tracking capabilities of the kind that DoubleClick Campaign Manager provides, then you can use this form (and documentation) to get those tracking pixels set up on all your banner ads and YouTube video ads so you can combine impression-level data into your attribution models.

What will you try?

With the variety of great AdWords tips provided above, we hope they inspire you to try new tactics and get the most out of your campaigns. Granted, not all tips may apply to your brand, however, it’s important not to get complacent when optimizing your AdWords campaigns.

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