AdWords Product Targets – Pro Tip

Now that I’ve gotten most of my Product Listing Ads tied in with AdWords, despite the hot mess that is Google Merchant Center, I’ve moved on to adding product extensions to all my regular AdWords campaigns, and setting up the targeting.

But I ran across something that was a little confusing (to me, at least) and I was unable to find any reference to it in the Google documentation.

When I first set up product targeting, I only put single target in for each ad group; we’ve been working on refining the feed and now that I have more targets to choose from, I wanted to expand our options for some of our ad groups.

After you’ve added a product extension to your campaign, and you are ready to add specific product targets to your ad group (the tab marked Auto targets), once you click on the green Add Product Target button, you are presented with a box like this:

AdWords Product Targeting Figure 1

Now, if you only have one target for that ad group, or just wish to target all products, everything’s easy peasy – you just validate, save and go.

But you’re allowed to select from up to THREE product targets, and it apparently makes a difference how you do it.

You see above I’ve added Blue Widgets.  Now, when I started this project, I didn’t even really pay attention to the + Add another link – I took the time to validate and save each target separately. That left me with my targeting looking like this:

AdWords Product Targeting Figure 2

After I’d done a few of these (and was looking at doing a lot more), I finally noticed that + Add another link, and thought maybe that would save me some time to add a second and then third target. So that’s what I did – I added Green Widgets, then Red Widgets, and saved (note: it won’t let you validate if you add targets this way – it just gives you a very unintuitive error message and doesn’t explain anything.)

However, once I saved it, my targets for the ad group looked like this (very different):

AdWords Product Targeting Figure 3This gave me pause. For one thing, it wasn’t organized like the targets I’d added previously (one at a time). And the way that “and” was there – I was thinking maybe this wouldn’t serve the way the other ad group did. Like maybe there was an and/or thing going on here.

But I couldn’t find anything written up about in any Google documentation, or the AdWords Help forums, or even searching in Google for it. I needed to know how this worked before I did too many more, so I fired off an email to AdWords Support, and got a quick response from my buddy Karthik (we’re old friends now, Karthik and I) which confirmed my suspicion – they are NOT the same!

If you add all three product targets at the same time (using the + Add another link) that means the ad group will ONLY use products that belong to ALL THREE GROUPS. Red AND Blue AND Green. (I’m trying to think of a reason why someone would want that, or set it up that way intentionally, and I can’t think of anything. Which begs the question of why Google offers it, or doesn’t explain it, but…)

Whereas, if you add your targets one at a time, that functions as an OR statement – and it will choose your targets from Blue Widgets OR  Green Widgets OR Red Widgets.

Maybe this is obvious to everyone else, but it wasn’t to me, and I couldn’t find any documentation on it anywhere (although Karthik says he’s going to send it up to be added to the Help Files) and with Google it never ever pays to assume.

So if you’re just starting with this, pay attention to how you add your targets. If you want to choose products from any of up to three product groups, use the first option – each target as its own line item.

(Of course, I haven’t yet tried this in the AWE; I’m about to give that a try as well. I am more speaking to the lack of written documentation, and the weird targeting option here.)