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 the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Paid Search Column


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • George Michie

    Great piece, Mona! Those of us who are old timers can talk about the pre-Panama Yahoo/Overture defaults: there was an option to pay exactly what you bid, or another option to pay no more than your bid, but only a penny more than the advertiser below you. Why would anyone pick the first option? Dunno, but that was the default! Also interesting that we now call them “Display ads” instead of “Banner ads”. Too many people heard the mantra of the early 2000s: “Banner ads suck!” I suspect :-)

  • SeniorLivingSEM

    Thanks, Mona. Has anyone figured out how to unearth details on “other search terms” in a search terms report, and “all other regions” in a geographic report? If CTR impacts Q-score, which in turn impacts CPC, and the “all others” are dragging down CTR, then it seems that Google should allow us to know which irrelevant searches are triggering ads.

  • Michael Dadona

    Awesome article, thank you for providing this note.

    What thing that made me proud of it (lately) as a user is the geographical location option added. Last time, I entered AdSense forum “shouting” out loud about the issue.

    No point displaying my ad to the whole world if my selling product only targeting audiences for one country (only). The logic reason is I am the one who knows where it must be displayed, I mean which country. I can check visitors’ profiles (clickers) by using Google Analytics.

  • Adrian Bold

    Excellent article Mona. I think Google have always been inclined to ‘bury’ some options and make it far too easy for novice users to create ineffective AdWords campaigns. The new interface certainly has some cool features, e.g. filtering, but other areas make little sense. Reporting is one area that seems to have taken a backward step.

    They need to be careful not to complicate AdWords to the point where they start turning people off. Not all business owners are going to find a professional to manage their AdWords campaigns.

  • Greg Bogdan

    Excellent Mona. Defaulting advertisers into the content network and broad match, hiding the keywords that you are actually matching on, and making it difficult to find the negative keywords option all must make Google more money, but are deceptive. Also, not showing the real keyword match in Google Analytics (showing the keyword bid on instead) is also deceptive. There is a filter for exposing the actual searched keyword in Google Analytics but even fewer people know about it. In addition to making Google and content owners more money this also makes for some easy pickings for consultants (very easy to walk into an office with a relatively new in-house person running PPC and show them what is really going on).

    Broad match by default can also be result in a waste of money. Few of the new advertisers even recognize what they are broad matching on or would have the time to monitor, tweak match type or keywords and build a good negative keyword list.

    I can imagine a bunch of AdWords folks sitting around with someone suggesting that the content network become an option and not a default or that the default match type should be phrase match. Next month they would have to explain to Eric why revenue dropped 10%. Site owners would also complain as their revenue would drop.

    I still here people say “I never click on ads”, and though I have data to show that our customers do click on ads, part of the problem is that Google makes it too easy (by these defaults) to display non-relevant ads. You could argue that this hurts Google in the long run. More non-relevant ads train people not to trust ads, which is already the case for many.

  • Kristian van Bockel

    Nice post Mona. I agree with Adrian; hiding valuable options that increase the relevantness of ads doesn’t make it easier for business owners to manage their campaigns. Although the standard settings make it easier/quicker to set-up a campaign, the quality of these campaigns is rather low if kept standard.

  • Andy Kuiper – SEO Analyst Vancouver

    Nice points Mona :-)
    As well… ‘having ads that ‘perform best’ as a default rather than ‘rotate ads’ —> “perform best” means higher CTR – it doesn’t mean ‘convert better’. While CTR is very important, one shouldn’t have to search and dig to choose to have ads rotate; allowing for better conversion tracking.

    Andy :-)

  • Mona Elesseily

    Thanks for all the great feedback! There are obviously many many more ways Google “hides the banana”. I look forward to exploring the topic in more depth in future columns. In the meantime, keep your comments coming – great stuff!

  • Alex Avery – SEO, PPC, Analytics Consultant Melbourne, Australia

    Would love to see a follow up article highlighting the numerous features that have been removed from Adwords over time. IThe #1 for me is the current absence of reports. Impression Share? Estimated Keyword CPC being replaced by “First page bid estimate”? So many ways the product we have today in Adwords is less than it once was.

  • lorenzomarto

    Nice article, however I wouldn’t recommend to add broad match terms as negatives. When you add negative keywords through the Adwords interface, it suggests to add the keyword as exact match. This isn’t really bad at all. It can be useful when you split generic keywords and long-tail keywords in seperate ad-groups. Adding the negative long-tail keyword as exact match in the generic ad-group allows you to maximize the optimization of your bids on both ad-groups.

    Good luck!


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide