Google Ads over the past few years has changed greatly, with Google pushing more and more towards automation; whether this be with the improvements to automated bidding, or the responsive search ads that are now the default way to create new ads.
Recently, these changes are getting more significant, with Google last week removing broad match modifier keywords and merging them into phrase match, Changing how the majority of people accounts will perform.
These changes can be scary to the people who work in paid, and clients who invest huge amounts of money into paid advertising. Giving more control to Google hasn’t always given the best results in the past, and it often felt like Google changes were designed to make you spend more money without seeing an increase in performance.
The following tactics will help you guide Google towards the correct path by giving it the most valuable data you can, whilst also knowing the little tricks to stop it from spending more.
1. Review the search terms you are appearing for
Keywords are the key part of any paid search campaign. However, in recent years, Google has changed even how those work: first with the close match variant change where search terms that Google thought closely matched your keywords could trigger, and secondly with the most recent change to not showing search terms in the report that it thought were not relevant.
Being more precise with your keyword structure is now harder than ever, and it requires a granular view of which keywords are triggering for which search terms. A quick trick is to select a keyword and select search terms. This will show you the search terms that that keyword appeared for, giving you more visibility on your search terms.
2. Choose the right bid strategy
Choosing the right bidding strategy for your campaign can be hard, with Google covering multiple different ones with varying different objectives. Automated bidding is very powerful and should be used whenever possible. However, it’s still only as good as the data you give it.
We recommend running with strategies that are as far down the funnel as your data will take you. For example, target cost per acquisition for lead gen, or target ROAS for ecommerce, using the ‘target’ bidding strategies gives you more control than using strategies such as maximise conversions.
To take it to the next level, recently we have been working with clients to allocate a value to each of their four conversion actions, and adding a target ROAS strategy onto the campaign to prioritise their actions without removing focus on any.
3. Use bid modifiers to help steer bidding
Bid adjustments are one of my favourite parts of Google Ads. They allow you to get granular with how you increase or decrease your bids depending on the device, audience, time of day, location, and gender. This gives you greater control of Google automated bidding by giving you the tools to steer it in the best possible direction.
Increasing bids for higher converting audiences or reducing spend on devices that don’t convert can allow you to focus your budget on the greater performing areas.
4. Speed of data visibility
Google Ads and Google Analytics have a huge amount of data available but the data is only as good as the format it’s in. That’s where the Data Studio dashboard come in. Data Studio allows you to see huge amounts of data in one page, and then drill that data down into the granular levels needed to make informed decisions on what to change in the account.
5. Prepare for seasonal trend changes
Google has recently made it possible to exclude data irregularities from your account. For example, if the conversion tracking was broken on the website and no conversion came through into Google Ads; this can now be excluded so the automated bidding can work to the most accurate data.
Additionally, you can now make seasonal bid adjustments so that when peak periods such as Black Friday hit; your automated bidding will have the most accurate data on what changes to expect for that period.
6. Finally… review if you have target expansion selected for display campaigns
Google will always look for ways to expand your targeting so it can show your ads more often, and therefore spend more. A way it does this in display campaigns is with target expansion. Target expansion is a hidden feature in ad-group settings, and is by default active on new campaigns. It allows Google to increase your reach by including users it thinks matches your targeting. However, this can have a very negative effect on your display campaigns.
For example, if you have gone for a very targeted re-marketing strategy to your highest value customers to show them the latest sale messaging but Google then expands this targeting to users it thinks are similar, then that can corrupt the whole campaign, as these people might not have visited your website and will be less likely to convert.
To disable this feature, look in the ad group targeting setting and set the slider to “off”.
Google will continue to move towards more automation and will remove levers. The challenge will be to take advantage of the machine-led power, whilst maintaining control and steering the optimisation towards your business objectives.
We will continue to revise and adapt as new features are released, but for now, these tactics will help you to control Google and improve your performance.