Google Search Ads – Top 5 Critical Settings to Check

Google Search Ads

Table of Contents

Google Search Ads is a very powerful platform and millions of advertisers make a ton of money through it. However, on the flip side, there are a lot of advertisers who spend a ton with little to nothing to show.
To make sure you fall into the first bucket, I want to share my top 5 critical settings to check within Google Search ads. I’m not kidding around when I say that these components can make or break your campaigns.  Think of these settings as mini landmines you can step on. You barely notice them, but if you trigger the wrong button, boom, your performance will take a nose dive, just like that.

With that, let’s get into the recommendations.

1) Google Search Ads Search Networks within Campaign Settings

This one is crucial. Seriously, if an advertiser picks the wrong box, performance will tank, severely.

In this case, if you’re setting up a Google Search Campaign, make sure you just check Google Search Partners (which includes various other small search engines. Google don’t disclose the list, but it’s sites like Comcast,, etc.).  You can keep this enabled as this will give you even more scale for your campaign and performance should be very similar to  traffic. However, you should avoid checking the Display Network for your search campaign. This is a big no no. Seriously, if you check this box your text ads won’t just serve on, rather other websites across the web that are not search engines. Your ad will appear as a banner ad and you won’t reach users as they’re searching for your product. Instead, Google will attempt to serve your ads on websites to users they think are in market for your products or services. It sounds good, but it doesn’t work well. Reason is, search works well as you serve an ad at the exact moment of intent, when they are looking for your products/services,, display banner ads do not have that level of intent. You may get clicks, but they don’t translate to customers. So, watch out for this.

I’ll get to this later, but there is a place for display ads, but definitely not within a search campaign.

AdWords Campaign Settings

2) Google Search Ads Conversion Tracking

I can’t believe how many times I run into advertisers that are spending good money, but are not tracking conversions from their website. If you do this you might as well burn money.  If you’re not tracking conversion events on your site (orders, leads, etc.), how do you expect to know which campaigns are working, how much money to invest based on ROI calculations, etc.

For all of those reading this, please, please, set up conversion tracking. My suggestion is to track EVERYTHING that’s valuable on your site. This includes calls, leads, orders, even potentially time on site (users that spend X amount of minutes on your site). Once you set this up, this will feed directly into Google Search Ads and you’ll be able to see the performance down to every campaign and keyword you’re advertising on.

AdWords Conversion Tracking

3) Google Search Ads Limited by Budget

Ah yes, a small notification that packs a huge punch. Use this key notification to drive even more business. Let me explain.

AdWords Limited by Budget

In short, you should never ever, ever, ever (I contemplated listing this once more to show how passionate I am about this), see this message. What this means is that your budget was hit, and the clicks * cost per click that you pay, exceeded the daily budget.

If you run into this and are trying to stay within the budget, you should lower your bids, immediately. Start with 10% – 20%, per day, until this error goes away.

Back to the equation I listed, if you lower the cost per click, you’ll drive even more clicks throughout the day.


Limited by budget: $100 budget, 10 clicks at a $10 CPC.

Not limited by budget: $90 investment, 18 clicks at a $5 CPC.

Now, my advice is to continue to lower your CPC until you reach the point that you’re spending just below your budget. In this instance you’re maximizing the volume of visitors for a given budget. I run into this all the team and highly recommend this strategy.

This applies to all Google advertising, including YouTube, Display Remarketing and Google Search.

4) Google Search Ads Audiences

Audience insights and targeting is huge. This breakthrough hit Google around 5 years ago and hasn’t slowed down. Targeting by keywords is awesome, we all know that, but what makes it even more powerful is adding audience context into the equation. We can add remarketing lists to our search campaigns AND audience targeting that Google has of users, called in-market audiences.  I wrote in depth on in-market audiences within this blog post.

Every campaign should have remarketing lists and relevant in-market audiences appended to the campaign as an observation. What this means is you’ll get data to how each audience list performs. Once you have data, you can bid accordingly. For example, you may see that users who have previously visited your site and are searching for keywords you’re targeting perform really well (highly likely), in this case, you’ll want to increase your bids for this audience. Same story goes for in-market audiences Google created of users.

You may even realize that search doesn’t work well unless you add in audiences, in this case, change the audience targeting to “targeting”, which means you will only serve to users who are searching for your keywords and are within the audiences selected.

Bottom line – audiences, don’t get lazy and cut corners, please add them to every campaign.

AdWords Audiences

5) Google Search Ads Performance by Device

People consume content across a variety of devices: smart phones, tablets, computers, etc. We all know this, but what’s interesting is each device performs very differently. Mobile is often a research tool and is great to bring your brand into the consideration set, but isn’t the platform of choice to make purchases, that’s reserved for our friend, the computer. Most folks still feel way more comfortable making transactions on a computer, vs. on a small screen. However, mobile is great at driving calls and app downloads, for obvious reasons.

These are just some examples on why performance by device will behave very differently.

AdWords Bidding by Device

So where do we go from here.  You should review performance by device to understand how each is performing against the conversions you’re tracking (see first bullet).  You will notice a difference across devices, I can almost guarantee this. With that, look at the performance for each device and update your bid accordingly. You may see that mobile just doesn’t work for your business, based on your current marketing goals and mobile site. If that’s the case, lower the bid adjustment, which mean you’ll bid less for each click.

Additionally, you’ll see devices that knock it out of the park. In those instances you may want to increase your bids.

To wrap this up, if you make these 5 adjustments, you’re in great shape. However, if you negate even one of these components, you may compromise your marketing. These settings are often over looked but are crucial for your campaigns success. Digital marketing isn’t rocket science, but it does take a skilled practitioner to know what to look for. To recap:

  1. Never select the display network for search campaigns.
  2. Make sure all campaigns have conversion tracking.
  3. Never have a campaign limited by budget.
  4. Add audiences to every campaign.
  5. Review marketing performance by device.

Helpful Google Ads Resources

For more helpful resources, check out the blog posts and articles below.

Google Ads Support

Google Ads Management

Google Ads How to Guides

Google Ads Optimization Tips

Google Ad Formats

Ben Lund

Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on

Ben Lund

Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on

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While I am sharing a good amount of free information through DIY Digital Strategy, if you need more help, feel free to drop me a line on my contact page, as my agency Rise Marketing Group helps clients of all sizes.
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