Why advertisers should reassess Google Ads recommendations

Crguk-Marketing

I have a new recommendation for Google Ads advertisers in 2023:

Turn off and pause the use of all Google Ads recommendations.

Why?

On Jan. 4, Google Ads fundamentally changed the definition of a recommendation that users previously implemented. And Google is only giving advertisers two weeks before the change hits.

Before we begin here, the moral of this article is neither that the content in recommendations is bad, nor that you should blindly dismiss all recommendations. The goal here is to make less work for you while increasing account performance. 

Google Ads recommendations: what changed?

Nicole Farley covered an astounding change to what was a fairly tame Google Ads recommendation: “Remove Redundant Keywords.”

Advertisers had opted into the recommendation, allowing Google to remove keywords with the same match type that show for the same queries in an ad group in an effort to combat redundancy. There are reasons for and against this recommendation, but some advertisers would implement it due to the overall benefit of having one keyword in a match type show for the majority of terms. 

The new change being rolled out to advertisers that have applied this will change the recommendation definition to cross match types – removing phrase/exact match types in favor of a broad match keyword in an ad group.

If you applied the previous recommendation, these new rules will be pushed through to your account by Jan. 19 unless you opt-out.

Google said this recommendation change “doesn’t negatively impact your performance” but provided no facts or data to back up that statement.

Think about this for a moment.

Google Ads made this recommendation to help advertiser clean up redundant terms across a single match type, only to fundamentally change the recommendation and the rules completely.

If users had to go back and opt-in, as Shawn Elley mentions, this wouldn’t be a problem. If this cross match type cleanup was a new recommendation completely, no issue.

This, unfortunately, is not the case. 

Why is this a problem?

If Google Ads can change match type rules for this recommendation type, what’s next?

How can advertisers trust a single recommendation from Google if what you agree to today can be something completely different tomorrow? 

This is dangerous territory for advertisers and, frankly, the entire Google Ads platform.  

No recommendation can now be taken at face value.

That said, some recommendations can be helpful.

I will now be advising everyone to take any meaningful advice from recommendations and implement on your own volition – just not applying via a Google Ads recommendation.

The definition of Google Ads recommendations may now be fluid, but your work, attention to detail and commitment isn’t.

Don’t let Google take your efforts and dollars into its own hands.

Wait, aren’t Google Ads Recommendations helpful?

As an agency owner, I like to operate as if I were a fiduciary operating on behalf of my clients. The best interest of the client is always #1, #1a and #1b. Frankly, the recommendations system and Optimization Score has a notorious history and operates differently in my opinion.

When Google launched recommendations, some advertisers were flabbergasted that you could see the full list of possible recommendations where “raise your budgets” was an option, but “lower your budgets” wasn’t.

Similar expansion-esque recommendations like “Expand your reach with Google search partners” or “Use optimized targeting” also exist without a ying to said yang. It’s hard to welcome these spend-first, inflationary recommendations under a fiduciary lens.

While the majority of the recommendation intentions are obvious, most advertisers saw the system as more aggravating than helpful. 

Then it got worse. 

Google tried to force the hand of partners to adhere to a strict Optimization Score percentage if they wanted partners to keep their badge. The annoyance of recommendation dismissal turned into a threat against agency ethics and client outcomes. 

Thankfully, this ill-advised idea was put to bed and we’ve been back to dismissing most recommendations and only applying those that are bulletproof. 

Until now.

I no longer trust applying recommendations – and this isn’t a one-off occurrence, there is history behind it.

So what should you do with recommendations?

It’s a new year and should be a “new you” on the approach to Google Ads Recommendations.

Take a few minutes to check your settings and opt-out of any questionable recommendations.

You can see all by going to the Manage tab in the web interface.

Also, you need to be diligent in your efforts to make sure any existing recommendations are doing exactly what you thought they would do.

An important note is that you still need to implement any work that was executed by recommendations! Turning them off may save you headaches down the road.

You may want to reassess any auto-applied recommendations as well (make sure to manually do the work if you were relying on said recommendation though.)

Bottom line: If recommendations that have previously been applied can now be changed, advertisers should take extreme caution in applying any recommendation from Google Ads as it may change in the future.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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About the author

Greg Finn

Greg Finn is the Director of Marketing for Cypress North, a company that provides digital marketing and web development. He is a co-host of Marketing O’Clock and has been in the digital marketing industry for nearly 20 years. You can also find Greg on Twitter (@gregfinn) or LinkedIn.