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It has happened at least once to all of us: that “Oh, crap,” moment when you realize that something broke with your campaigns or that something was uploaded incorrectly. Perhaps there was a typo in your URL, or a tracking parameter was missing. They can sometimes be simple, completely human goofs that escalate into thousands of lost dollars.

Keeping a close watch on new (and old) campaigns is a must, but it’s much better to catch these kinds of mistakes well before they even make it to the live search results.

AdWords Custom Rules is a newer feature, just released in the last few months. If you haven’t already downloaded the latest version of AdWords Editor, I highly suggest the upgrade (which may require you to manually download and reinstall altogether).

Custom rules allow you to set warnings or prevent uploads based on certain criteria. The criteria you can set is incredibly broad and detailed, and it can be easy to get lost in all the options and combinations. However, effectively set up rules will prevent errors and help automate your QA process.

Here are some tactics to better prepare your campaigns and automate your QA processes so that we have less of those nightmare-inducing scenarios.

Start by cleaning house

First, I highly recommend that you go through the existing rules and disable some of the “Built in” rules, as many of them might not apply to your campaigns and will create unnecessary noise.

Basic foundation of most rules

To create a new set of rules, simply click on the Add Custom Rule button and fill in the various fields to get started. Next, click on the “Applies to edit link,” and select which level of the campaign you want the rule to be checking. In most cases we’ll look at campaign or ads level, but you can select nearly anything from ads, to audiences, demographics, etc.

Next, and this applies to most rules you’ll set up, make sure that you only look at enabled ads. To be safe, I ensure that the ad group status, campaign status, and status is all set to enabled.

Do your tracking template URL checks

Let’s say you have a tracking template and want to make sure it’s correct throughout all of your campaigns. After the above steps, select “campaign” and include a unique identifier, or the full name of campaigns you want to look at. Next select “tracking template”, specify “does not contain” (as opposed to contains), and include the template that should be found. In the example below, the rule will check for all ads that are actively serving, that have “brand” in the name, and have the tracking template “{lpurl}param1=1234&param2=4567” tracking template.

Check for correct tracking parameters

By using a very similar setup as above, you can also check to ensure that you have the proper tracking parameters added to your URL.

Just as above, make sure you have all of the status filters, and the campaigns that you’re looking to check, in place. Next, add in “final URL”, and select “does not contain”, and the parameter that you’re looking to check. For example, the campaign name could be “brand” and a tracking parameter could be utm_campaign=brand. The below example would check all active ads in brand campaigns to ensure that the parameter is correct and does not have any typos:

Check for misspellings and typos

Another use for these rules is to ensure that there aren’t any typos. Again starting with the status filters, next include “final URL” and then apply whatever spelling you want to ensure is correct.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to ensure that your domain name is always spelled correctly and uses the correct domain format. Add in a “final URL” filter, select “does not contain”, and include the correct domain spelling to look for. The example below will ensure that the URL always has “http://www.domain.com” and will throw an error if there is anything that doesn’t include this.

Ensure custom parameters exist

Again using the same filters to ensure we’re only looking at active ads, include “customer parameters,” and instead of using “does not contain”, select “is not empty”. This will make sure that you don’t have a customer parameter that’s been left empty, but should contain a unique id (likely needed to maintain conversion tracking). As an extra precaution, you could also look for placeholder IDs, such as [uniq_id].

Other ideas and tips

There are numerous ways that someone could set up these rules, too many for any one person to list, and many of them could be very specific to one account or campaign. Here are just a few additional ideas, though, to consider as you’re setting up your own rules.

  • Campaigns using correct bidding strategy
  • Sitelink extensions for every campaign
  • Special ad extensions included (click to call, etc.)
  • Ad group has no ads
  • Ad group has no keywords
  • Ad Rotation set to Optimize

Additionally, there are a few tricks (and things to remember) that can help you in the process of creating these rules:

  • Each filter of the rule utilizes an “and” operator (so if all conditions are met, no error will be found)
  • Multiple phrases or lines can be in a single filter, but keep in mind that these are also using an “and” operator
  • Copy and paste works for rules, so if you want to set up multiple, very similar rules, this will come in handy

One last warning

Even with all these nifty tricks and rules, keep in mind that there is never going to be a full replacement for good old-fashioned manual QA. Applying these rules will certainly help prevent errors and make the QA process more efficient, but errors can always continue to sneak through, or a rule may become outdated as new campaigns are added. So, not only do you need to continue to monitor your campaigns, you also need to make sure you QA these rules on occasion to make sure they are still relevant.

If you have any cool rules that you’ve set up on your own accounts, let us know!