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A Guide to Google AdWords Targeting Settings

by | Jun 1, 2017 | PPC

Google AdWords Targeting SettingsToday, I want to take it back to basics and talk about targeting settings on Google AdWords. I know it might not sound like the most exciting topic we as PPC marketers could be discussing today. Specifically, what I’m going to talk about is the difference between Target and Bid and Bid Only. I promise you, if you don’t understand the difference between these two targeting settings on AdWords, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. Don’t be that guy!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked in accounts and saw the wrong option selected. Why is this bad? If you meant to set up a target and bid campaign and instead set up a bid-only campaign, you’ll see much more traffic and much higher costs. Likewise, if you did the opposite, you will have drastically reduced your traffic. Again, don’t be that guy!

After reading this quick and easy guide, you’ll know exactly what the differences between the two settings are and when you should use each option to ensure your campaign is doing exactly what you want it to do.

What is Target and Bid?

Targeting Settings: Bid only vs Target and BidVery clearly, Target and Bid lets you restrict your ads to show only for the specific targeting method(s) you choose (i.e. Placements, Interests and Remarketing, Topics, Gender, Age and Parental Status). The more targeting methods you set to Target and Bid, the narrower your reach becomes.

What is Bid Only?

Bid Only doesn’t restrict your ads. I like to think of the Bid Only option as preferential targeting. For example, I might prefer that my ads be shown to males over the age of 55, but I don’t want to necessarily restrict other demographics from seeing them too. By choosing Bid Only, I can increase my bid for Males over 55 and decrease my bid for females

When To Use Target and Bid

Let’s take an example. I’m currently running lead generation (2-Step) campaigns for a financial affiliate. I can see from one of my Display campaigns that my top placement over the last 7 days is xe.com.

When to use Target and Bid

I think to myself, why not create a new ad group and target this placement exclusively?

Why would I do this? There are several reasons, but let me give you the most important one. Because we code every ad group individually, I will now be able to track the actual value of xe.com as a placement. I will be able to see how much revenue we earned from the names we brought on from that site. If we earned a lot of revenue from it, I might think about reaching out to xe.com directly and cut out Google altogether!

Setting this up is super easy! I simply create a new ad group, select the targeting option, Placements and enter the website address, xe.com. I then ensure that Target and Bid is selected.

GDN Targeting

Now let’s say that as well as specifically targeting xe.com, I only want my ads to show to visitors of xe.com who are male and over the age of 55. To do this, I add Demographic and Age targeting. Notice on the right-hand side that the available impressions have now decreased from two million to 100k-500k impressions. As I said before, the more targeting methods you set to Target and Bid, the narrower your reach becomes.

GDN Targeting: Target and bid in AdWords settings

Remember: When using Target and Bid, the AND function applies. Google requires that all the parameters that you’ve chosen are met when using this option.

When to use Bid Only

Now let’s say that, like above, you want to target xe.com as a placement, but targeting males over the age of 55 is only a preference. In this case, you would set Placements to Target and Bid and set Demographics and Age to Bid Only. You can do this in AdWords Editor (see below).

when to use Bid Only - AdWords settings

You can then set custom bids for Males over the age of 55 under the Demographics tab on the Display Network.

Remember: Bid Only is preferential targeting. This option doesn’t restrict your ads to showing only for the targeting methods you’ve chosen.

And that’s it folks! A super quick and easy guide to Target and Bid versus Bid Only on AdWords. If you’re still not sure about these two settings, or you just want to chat, feel free to reach out to me any time. You can get me at bswift@readyfireaim.eu.

All the best,
Brian Swift Signature
Brian Swift,
Account Manager, AIM

P.S. If you found this article useful, check out Natalie’s guide to Smart Display Ads.



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