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Author of Advanced Google AdWords.
Co-Founder, Adalysis.
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The Best Hidden Features of the AdWords Editor

Along with a browser and Excel, the AdWords Editor is probably among the most used software for any serious PPC specialist.

In December 2014 Google released the biggest update to the Editor since its release back in 2006. They redesigned the Editor from the ground up and included many new features – some prominent and others more hidden.

In this post, I will show you some of the most useful but lesser known features of the AdWords Editor.

1. Shortcodes for smarter bulk edits

One of the best hidden gems in the AdWords Editor is the shortcodes. The AdWords Editor supports a list of shortcodes, which can speed up your work when combined with the Editor’s build in replace function. Google actually don’t call them shortcodes but “formula words“.

Available shortcodes in the AdWords Editor include:

  • [account] – Account name
  • [campaign] – Campaign name
  • [adgroup] – Ad group name
  • [keyword] – Keyword text
  • [headline] – Ad headline
  • [description1] – Ad description line 1
  • [description2] – Ad description line 2
  • [displayUrl] – Display URL text
  • [finalURL] – Final URL text
  • [field] – The original text of the field you’re changing

So how exactly is this useful you may ask.

One use for it could be to automatically insert the campaign or ad group name into your ad text. Suppose you have 10, 50, or even hundreds of campaigns each named after the different geographic locations they cater to. In each of these campaigns you have an ad group for “cheap hotel” searches. And because you were in a hurry you just pasted the same general ad in each of these ad groups. Not exactly the best ad text for local searches.

Luckily, with the shortcode [campaign] you can now use the replace function to make every ad more specific. If the headline of all ads are “Cheap hotel” you can use the replace function (Ctrl+H will bring it up quickly) to find the text “Cheap hotel” and replace it with “Cheap hotel in [campaign]”.

Notice how you can choose to only perform this action in the ad headline. This way your ads will now have been changed to reflect the name of the campaign.

As you can imagine, there are many ways to use these shortcodes. To get you started you can find more examples on the official help page.

2. Hiding empty types from the navigation

One of the things I hear most people complain about in the “new” Editor is the completely changed navigation. In her post Why The New Adwords Editor Sucks, Mellissa Mackey wrote the following about the new navigation:

Not only has it moved to a totally different location on the page, but it’s now in text only, rather than a picture-like graphic layout. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for in a graphic square, like the old Editor, rather than in a long list of text, like the new one.

And I agree – it is harder to quickly find what you are looking for. But fortunately, Google included a nice little feature called “Hide empty types” which helps keeping the type list tidy.

To access this feature you will need to click the drop-down menu button to the right of the “Manage” header. Then you can click “Hide empty types” in the drop-down menu, which will hide all types that don’t currently match any of your ads.

Just remember to deactivate it when you need access to types that are currently empty.

If you find it to be too much of a hassle to turn this setting on and off all the time, you can actually choose the specific types you want to see under “Custom”. This way, you can hide types you only use rarely.

While this feature won’t bring back the old navigation it will make the new navigation a bit more tolerable.

3. ‘Flexible reach’ for setting the targeting options for RLSA

One of the AdWords mistakes keeping me up at night is choosing ‘Target and Bid’ by mistake when setting up RLSA. Doing this will drastically reduce the traffic as the audience is narrowed to only returning visitors, buyers, or whatever audience chosen.

In the AdWords Editor you can copy the audiences from one group and paste it to all your groups. But even though you copy the audiences you don’t copy the targeting setting, and sometimes you’ll find some of your ad groups set to “Target and bid” while the rest are set to “Bid only”.

Therefore, I always recommend you check the “Audiences” area in the editor to make sure everything is set to the correct targeting option.

Changing the targeting option from “Target and bid” to “Bid only” (or the other way) is rather hidden in the Editor. To find it you need to go to “Ad groups” and choose the “Flexible reach” tab as shown below. Here, you can select every ad group and then make sure either “Bid only” or “Target and Bid” is selected under “Interests and remarketing”.

4. Duplicate ads or keywords within their respective ad groups

Let’s say you have a number of different ad groups each containing a single tailored ad and now you want to create a second ad inside every ad group in order to start split testing different messages.

So how would you duplicate the ad inside every ad group? Keep in mind the ads in all the ad groups are not identical, and therefore it’s not an option to just copy one ad and paste it inside every group.

Sure, one option is to manually go through every ad group and copy/paste the current ad, but this is neither fun or good use of your time.

The smart way is to select every ad across all your ad groups and bring up the replace window (Ctrl+H). Here, you can make your change and then you must tick the “Make changes in duplicate items” field in the lower left corner.

By doing this you will make a modified duplicated ad inside every ad group.

5. Exporting account to HTML

Many were disappointed to see that the HTML export feature was removed from version 11 of the AdWords Editor. This feature was extremely useful in communicating account setup to clients as this would give them a preview of the structure including ads and keywords.

But in November 2015, Google released an update to the new editor bringing back the HTML export feature.

To export an HTML summary, you need to select “Account” in the menu, then “Export”, and then choose whether you want to export the whole account or just the selected campaigns and ad groups.

Name the file and make sure to choose “HTML files” as your filetype. This will give you a nice looking browsable HTML document as the one shown below.

The different elements are even clickable and will expand to reveal more information like targeting or ad groups.

You can now share this file with anyone you want, regardless of whether or not they have access to the AdWords Editor.

This is a guest post by Frederik Hyldig, Head of PPC at s360 – one of the leading search agencies in Denmark. Frederik has been featured on PPC Hero, Wordstream, Moz and other international online marketing blogs. Follow him on Twitter or his personal blog.


  1. Robert O'Kruk
    March 10, 2016 at 10:22 am · Reply

    Hey Frederik,

    Especially loved #1 and #2. Thanks for this excellent article!

  2. frederikhyldig
    March 10, 2016 at 11:31 am · Reply

    Hi Robert,
    I’m glad you like it! #1 is also my favorite along with #4 🙂

  3. Yatin Mulay
    March 10, 2016 at 11:12 pm · Reply

    The #1, 2, 4 = pure awesomeness ! I didn’t know these. Thank you Frederik. I’ve shared on Twitter / linkedin.

  4. Irbe Zolneroviča
    March 22, 2016 at 9:18 am · Reply

    Hi, Frederik!

    Many thanks, this is really awesome. I already feel how this is going to help me to save time.

    Keep doing good work!

  5. Brent Baltzer
    April 5, 2016 at 6:17 pm · Reply

    Dude, yes!

  6. Liam
    April 15, 2016 at 11:15 am · Reply

    Nice ! Genuinely going to use this one!

  7. Dev Patel
    April 17, 2016 at 10:07 pm · Reply

    Hi FRrederik,

    I feel so dumb of not knowing some of the features. Especially #2, #3, #4 are new to me. Probably, I need to learn more about adwords

  8. Thomas
    May 12, 2016 at 4:09 am · Reply

    Hi Frederik.
    Very good and insightful article – there was definitely some “take-away” to bring home 🙂 Look forward to read more from you.
    Best regards, Thomas.

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