Google Ads

11-Item Checklist for AdWords Campaign Launches

We’ve all done it—you’ve done the heavy lifting of the keyword research, sorting out logical ad groups, written your ads (making sure to do A/B testing)…you’re anxious to light that firecracker and see what happens! So you flip the switch to “Enabled” and anxiously wait for the data to start rolling in. When you check back in a few hours you find the numbers aren’t what you were expecting. What’s up with the impressions? You start poking around only to find that your ads are running only on the display network at night in Italy to browsers set to Chinese and the ads are pointed at nonexistent landing pages.

It's Complicated
AdWords Has Lots of Moving Parts…It’s Easy to Make a Small Mistake

Hopefully you’ve never set anything up quite that bad, but if you’re using a variety of tools to create campaigns (AdWords Editor, spread sheets, databases, etc.) the chance of errors goes up. So, we’ve developed a checklist of the areas that we want to make absolutely sure are taken care of before we turn on any AdWords campaign.

1. Network Settings

Many of our clients want their ads to only appear on the Google search results page. That is not the default setting. Google of course wants your ads everywhere, so the default setting is for the ads to run on the display network as well as Google’s Search Partners. Make sure to hit the campaign settings and double check that your campaign is showing ads where you want them shown.

2. Locations

While you’re in your campaign settings, make sure to open up the Locations and Language area and triple check on what parts of the world the ads will be displayed. If you’re in the US, the default will be the US and Canada.

3. Languages

We aren’t done with campaign settings yet. You’re already in the Locations and Languages area, so give a little extra thought to your language setting. This setting may not be what you think it is—Google checks to see what the default language setting in the searcher’s Google account. If it matches what you have checked in the language settings, your ad can be displayed to that person. Your initial reaction may be that since your keywords are English, you should only select English in the settings.

However, think about it this way—if  your keyword is in English, it really doesn’t matter what language the person’s Google account is set to. So, I (and others) suggest you be inclusive; in Chicago where there are hundreds of languages spoken, we have little reason to not also select Spanish, Polish, and all other languages. There is a high likelihood that the parents of the family set everything to Spanish, but the kids are surfing in English.

4. Daily Budget

It’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got this number right! If you’re launching more than one campaign, make sure that your budget is properly distributed among those campaigns.

5. Devices

The default is to display ads on desktops, phones, and tablets. Is there any reason to change this…like you have a special mobile campaign running?

6. Bids

We do manual bidding on all campaigns and nearly always we control the bidding at the keyword level. Before we launch, we take one last look in AdWords editor at our bids versus the first page bid estimate and the top of the page estimates. We want to make sure our bids are still in line with our strategy for the campaign.

7. Goals in AdWords and Analytics set up?

Do one last check and make sure that you have your AdWords goals in place on the website and that AdWords and Analytics are connected. (It’s also a good idea to track phone calls if you can.) It would not be good if you have to tell your client or boss that the first few days the campaign ran, you don’t know if you got any conversions.

8. Ad extensions set up to the maximum extent possible?

Dig into the ad extensions tab and set up as many of them as you can. This is the easiest and most effective way of differentiating your ads from your competitors. Google hides this tab, which means casual competitors aren’t going to even know about it.

9. Ad Rotation

I assume—since you’re an AdWords pro—that you’ve written more than one ad per ad group. You have? Good. Now, go into the campaign settings and find the Advanced Settings > Ad Delivery section. I make sure the ‘Rotate: Show ads more evenly’ option is checked. The ‘Optimize for Clicks’ and ‘Optimize for Conversions’ options are tempting…but I’ve seen Google’s system make bad decisions over and over with which ads it promotes and which it virtually halts. Rather than leave this incredibly important decision to a Google algorithm, have the ads delivered evenly and you go in and make the decision as to which ad is doing better; I know you’ll make a better decision.

10. Add Your Default Negative Keyword Lists

Negative keywords are one of the main tools in improving your campaigns. We have created an open source general negative keyword list. (WARNING! Some of these words are not politically correct or polite to say the least.) Before we launch any campaign we go through these lists and decide which are applicable.


If you’re like me and use a lot of different tools to create an account, accidents can happen. And the one place you do not want these accidents to happen is in the destination URLs. Nothing is worse for conversions than a 404 page. Generally I spend a little time scrolling through the ads and their destination URLs inside of AdWord Editor before launching the campaign. Hopefully you’re pointing your ads at different landing pages; make 100% sure each ad is pointed at the right page.

Creating AdWords campaigns is detailed work; take just a little time before launching to make sure you aren’t making any basic mistakes.

I’d love to hear what other items are on your checklists.

Thank you to TipToe for graciously sharing the photo of the ticket-taking-machine repair guy in Tokyo.
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