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The Best and Worst of Google Ads Automation Options in 2022.

Automation is an unavoidable word in modern Google Ads management. From something as small as site links to entire campaigns, Google is now giving us more ways than ever before to let them handle parts of our digital marketing.

But anyone that has any experience in Google Ads will tell you that automation can often be a minefield, and blindly using it won’t guarantee the best results. Sometimes it feels like Google’s interest in automation is largely centered around taking control of campaigns, rather than necessarily what is going to work best for advertisers.

Here are some of our favourite and least favoured automated features currently available in the Google Ads suite.

We’ve also included some easy-to-implement tips to get the most out of them.

 

An Honourable Mention – Responsive Search Ads.

 

Our data shows responsive search ads are now working just as well as expanded text ads across our accounts

 

Why are Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) an ‘honourable’ mention? For the very reason that this blog is about automation you can intentionally choose not to use. Since Google has recently switched RSA’s to being the only ad format you are able to create, this ad type isn’t applicable.

I will say, however, that had this blog been written two months ago RSAs would have sat firmly in the favourites for us.

At worst they performed equally well as the older expanded text ads, and they saved you valuable time over writing 5 – 10 different ad variations. The only downside is that their initial setup can take longer, and that ad readability can be an issue if you don’t make proper use of the pinning feature.

We have a blog outlining how to successfully use RSAs if you’d like more information on this topic.

 

The Favourites.

 

Automated Bidding Strategies.

 

 

We find maximise conversions particularly useful, often taking advantage of the target CPA (cost per acquisition) feature to further target the bidding.

Automated bidding strategies were one of the first big steps toward automatic management Google made and therefore have had the longest time to be refined and improved. Although having a shaky start at the beginning (including a rather embarrassing introduction to the Google Ad Grant scheme) they have since become a mainstay of almost all our strategies.

For those unaware, an automated bidding strategy takes control of the keyword level bidding, (usually accomplished by setting a maximum you are willing to spend per click) and optimises towards a particular goal you set. There are many different bidding strategies, which differ depending on what the strategy is optimising towards.

These bidding strategies, particularly the conversion-focused ones, such as ‘maximising conversions’ and ‘target ROAS’ (Return on Ad Spend), have shown results at least equal to, if not better than manually editing the bids, (so long as there is sufficient data for Google to utilise). For a start these strategies get to use data that we as users simply cannot see to inform bidding, but they also can make adjustments at a user-to-user level, something that we simply would never have the time to do.

 

Dynamic Search Campaigns.

 

A useful trick is adding all pages currently advertised to their own ad group. That way, you can easily see when a search term not covered by the keywords in that ad group gets picked up by Dynamic Search Ads.

 

A Dynamic Search Campaign (DSC), also known as Dynamic Search Ads, is Google’s fully automated approach to search advertising. You simply give the campaign a list of pages on your site, and Google will do the rest, matching pages to searches, generating ad copy, and posting the ad. This can save a lot of time, and potentially highlight unexpected sources of traffic.

To be clear, a DSC is only favourable when used in the right way, and mostly for Google Ad Grant accounts. This should not be the entirety of your ad activity, and an account purely running off DSCs is never going to do as well as an account with more tightly targeted ads.

However, there are several very useful ways to use a DSC.

The first is that it can be a fantastic keyword research tool. Google will only match your ads to searches it thinks are relevant to a page, and so running through the search terms of a DSC can give you new areas of searches to target with keywords. Just remember to add them as negative keywords in the DSC after you do.

The second use is as an extended SEO resource. DSCs operate in a very similar fashion to organic search, with Google matching your site pages to searches based on the content within each page. This can both highlight pages where the content is not well optimised to the keywords it’s supposed to target, and can also highlight pages that are well optimised. Which may be worth adding as new ad groups themselves.

We’ve recently written a blog about the best ways to utilise these ads in Google Ad Grants, you can read it here.

 

The Recommendations Page (Part 1).

 

The recommendations around improving RSA’s can be very useful, with the recommended assets often being able to be added with only minor alterations.

 

I’ve split the recommendations page into two parts here, for reasons that will become apparent soon. The recommendations page is where Google will suggest improvements to your Google Ads account.

From improving ad copy, and increasing budgets, to changing bid strategies, a whole host of options will pop up on this page.

There are some hidden gems on this page that can make managing an account both quicker and easier. In particular, the ad copy improvement notifications are great. A list of the lowest performance ads in the account, which you can click on to immediately begin editing the ad in question. Running through this once every few weeks is a time-worthy investment and can make Click Through Rate (CTR) improvements across the whole account.

Similarly, the recommendations pane can highlight where important, but not vital, elements of campaigns haven’t been implemented, like ad extension types. Sometimes there is a reason (call extensions are only useful if you wish to receive calls, for example). But often these will have been overlooked simply because they are not a necessary part of campaign or ad group creation. It would be very difficult to spot this without the recommendations tab highlighting it.

Unfortunately, the recommendations tab does also have it’s problems…

 

The Least Favourites.

The Recommendations Page (Part 2).

For every useful thing the recommendations page does, there is another that is either pointless, or sometimes actively harmful to the account. It’s almost like these issues arise from the fact that Google wants you to spend more money on their platform.

 

 

Implementing this recommendation would require a 33% increase in the budget of this account and reduce the cost per conversion by around 15%. Not exactly a brilliant recommendation

From increasing your budgets and switching your keywords to broad match to utilising different bidding strategies, Google has shown a willingness to make risky recommendations if it is going to up your monthly spend.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself “Will this change result in me spending more on the platform?” when looking at recommendations. If the answer is yes, be a lot more sceptical about whether the recommendation is actually going to help you.

Often these changes come with a big increase in the “optimisation score” of the account. Do not be alarmed, the score is entirely arbitrary, and has no impact on the performance of your campaign. If you don’t think a change is needed, don’t make it. It’s as simple as that.

 

Keyword Recommendations.

For an advertising platform that has run for over 20 years using keyword-based targeting, at times it feels like Google has no concept of what makes a good keyword. In the last few years, the keyword planner has at least started to become credible as a research tool with some new data added and a better connection between the keywords you give it and the recommended keywords.

the recommendations tab (which pops up next to the manual input of keywords) is still pretty questionable.

Only ever recommending broad match searches (which are broader than they ever have been), and often recommending keywords that are vaguely related to the company, let alone the specific page you are attempting to advertise. Worst of all, the recommendations do not consider your other ad groups or campaigns and can often lead to heavy overlap between your different ad groups. This option can too often turn into a trap for the unaware rather than being a useful time saver.

We would recommend actively avoiding this feature. Despite all the great tech advances in the last few decades, you still know what type of traffic you want to visit your pages, and you’ll do a better job of defining them than Google does here.

 

Performance Max Campaigns.

A performance max campaign (PMC) is what you get when you take a dynamic search campaign and turn the complexity up to 11. Where a DSC only operates as search ads, a performance max campaign will run across everything (Search, YouTube, Discover, Display, Maps and Gmail to be precise).

These are a relatively new form of automation, covering a huge swathe of advertising in a single campaign, with only minor levers for you to pull to control and impact the performance.

Our issue with the campaign type is not the concept or even the results often associated with this campaign type, but rather the concerning trend of it absorbing other, more targeted solutions.

It was announced recently that smart shopping campaigns (the equivalent of a DSC for shopping ads) would be canned, and all smart shopping campaigns would become Performance Max Campaigns.

We almost always object to the removal of options within Google Ads, and this is another example of that. We hope it will end here, but the idea that all automated campaign options will one day become a flavour of performance max, which requires more setup and contains less feedback data, is concerning.

Final thoughts.

So there you have it, the best and worst of what Google Ads automation has to offer in our opinion.

One final note is that no automated system, no matter how good, will succeed without three things, time, volume of data, and effective goal tracking. If you do not have all three of these elements, do not be surprised if your automated systems act out, or sometimes do not work at all.

Automation is not going away any time soon. In fact, it is becoming more and more integral to the way Google Ads work. We are increasingly seeing automated options becoming more available, and some options (like RSA’s) are becoming mandatory. Therefore, it is all the more important that you get to grips with these elements yourself, and decide which ones to lean on, and which to avoid.

If you’d like any help with setting up your ad campaigns, feel free to contact us or drop us an email.

 

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