Level the Playing Field: Playbook for AdWords and AdCenter

This week we are mourning the end of an important season in the US.  Football season.  In its final days, everyone talks about the two biggest teams in football battling head to head at the Superbowl.  Football fans spent the last month analyzing what they thought each team would bring to the table; what the Packers have and the Steelers lack, their secret weapons, how they perform under pressure, the injured players, rushing yard statistics and the list goes on.

But Superbowl XLV is behind us now so let’s discuss the two big teams in the SEM arena: AdWords and AdCenter.  As advertisers in both platforms, we’re rooting for both teams; it’s not about determining a winner…it’s about how well they work together.

AdCenter and AdWords are designed to achieve the same goals but little, though crucial, differences can make it difficult to upload from one to the other.  When creating accounts in both AdCenter and AdWords, there some notes and tricks to keep in your playbook:


  • Use a CSV: If you’re planning the big move from AdWords to AdCenter, the best play you can make is using a CSV file.  While in AdWords Editor, export the campaign(s) to a CSV file.  In AdCenter, under the “Tools” tab, select “Import Campaigns.”  Be patient because the process is long with a lot of clicking and reviewing.
  • Bid levels: For the most part, keywords in AdCenter tend to be less expensive than they are in AdWords.  I recommend adjusting bids while they are in the CSV file before you upload them because adjusting them after the fact can be quite time consuming.  Also, I’ll discuss later why changing bids after the fact can complicate the process even more.
  • Combining Ad Copy Description Lines: Don’t waste your time combining description lines in your CSV.  When uploading with a CSV, AdCenter detects both description lines.  You should, however, double check the formatting and length limits to make sure the description line doesn’t exceed 70 characters.


  • Language: Be ready for this sneaky play!  Setting the language in AdCenter happens in the set up phase and that is the only chance you get.  You can adjust the location targeting but there is no turning back on the language you set for each campaign.
  • Ad Scheduling: If you’re taking advantage of the ability to segment the timing of your ads down to the hour in AdWords, be prepared with another game plan for AdCenter which allows for six 4-hour segmenting options.
  • Network Settings: This setting lives on the campaign level in AdWords while in AdCenter, opting in to the content network is adjusted at the ad group level.  So make sure you double check each ad group’s settings.
  • Ad Rotation: Among other additional features in AdWords, ad rotation is one important setting used for A/B testing of ad copy.  Unfortunately, this feature is not available in AdCenter so don’t bother creating ad copy to test; leave the testing for AdWords.  Like AdWords, ads in AdCenter are defaulted to optimize based on CTR.


  • Match types: Luckily keyword match types (Broad, Phrase and Exact) are treated the same in both AdWords and AdCenter.  AdWords also allows Modified Broad Match keywords using a “+” to modify the keywords.  AdCenter does not recognize this modified keyword so be careful not to dump these keywords into AdCenter and expect them to work the same way. Also, it is important to note that AdCenter Desktop Tool treats the same keyword with different match types as one keyword.  For example: if you make a change to the phrase match keyword bid to $1.00, AdCenter will change the exact match keyword to $1.00 without being prompted to do so.  A mentioned before, I recommend making the changes in the CSV before you upload it or changing the bids directly in the AdCenter interface instead of the desktop tool.  This also applies to changing the status of the same keyword.  Pausing the exact match keyword in the AdCenter desktop tool will also pause the phrase match of the same keyword.
  • Negatives: Like keywords, AdCenter and AdWords treat negatives (sometimes called exclusions) a little differently.  Broad match negatives in AdCenter are interpreted differently than in AdWords.  Watch out because broad match negative “job” in AdCenter can prevent ads to show when a user types in a synonym like “career” in their search query.  Also, AdCenter does not have exact negatives, so by default they will be treated as phrase.  Make sure you adjust your negatives before posting. AdCenter will also ignore what they call “noise” words such as “what” and “is” in negative keywords.  For example, a negative “what is education” would actually prevent your ad from showing for any query containing “education.”
  • Trademarked terms: Both advertising platforms prohibit unauthorized use of trademarked terms in ad copy. AdWords will allow you to bid on these terms so long as they are not visible in the ad copy.  Don’t be surprised if these keywords are rejected when you copy them over to AdCenter as AdCenter does not allow bidding on trademarked keywords.

Keep these tricks and notes in your playbook to help keep AdWords and AdCenter working together as a team.  What special plays do you use to keep these teams working together?


Effective March 3rd 2011, AdCenter is altering the way that it treats trademarked terms.  Like AdWords, AdCenter will no longer enforce trademarks at the keyword level.  AdCenter will investigate when the brand owner files a complaint related to the use of their trademarked term in the ad copy.

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  • Emily Downing

    This is really helpful and in a clever format (Go Green Bay!!).

    Thanks for the info.

    February 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

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