Watch Out for Google Ad Suggestions!

In April 2018, Google started implementing ad suggestions. Basically, these are ads that Google generates and “suggests” that you use.

The ads are developed using machine learning. They pull from prior campaigns for content, including ad headlines, descriptions, extensions and landing pages

Advertisers can review, edit and/or dismiss the ad suggestions. But if they don’t act within 14 days, the ads will be applied to their accounts automatically.

So if you’re not paying attention, you may find that ads you’ve never seen before are now live in your account!

Google ad suggestions

Why the Change?

AdWords claims that ad suggestions are designed to boost performance. As noted in the AdWords help file:

Research has shown that ad groups with 3 or more high-quality ads can get up to 5% to 15% more clicks or conversions than ad groups with only 1 ad, provided ad rotation has been optimized. The more ads you provide, the more options you’ll have to show the ideal message for each user search.

The idea is that with more ads in play, the more likely you are to hit on the right ad with maximum appeal for your target market.

A Wake Up Call

If you’re actively managing your AdWords account, you’ll quickly catch these new ads.

But if you aren’t, be aware!

Some of these ads might be perfectly acceptable. But others will not. Here are some of the issues we foresee:

  • Misrepresenting your brand. Call me old fashioned, but I wouldn’t trust machine learning to keep branding intact. Even subtle changes can communicate things you never intended.
  • Pulling from obsolete info. What if you’re in the midst of a major rebrand? The AI won’t know that. So the ad suggestions may pull information that’s dated and/or inaccurate.
  • Emphasis on clicks, rather than conversions. What is Google optimizing these “suggested ads” for? I’m guessing it’s clicks—which is great for Google’s revenue. But that may not be the kind of optimization you want. Most likely, you’re much more interested in conversions.
  • Loss of important qualifiers. Maybe you have an important qualifier that needs to be include in all your ads—a qualifier that auto-generated ads might miss. For example, we have a client with a service that’s directed only at corporate groups. For them, this is a hugely important differentiator. Without it, they’ll attract clicks from people who’re looking for the service—but for different types of groups.
  • Inability to get approvals in time. This is a big one. Getting clients to approve suggested ads within 14 days simply isn’t realistic for many of us.

Our Experience With Google Ad Suggestions

At Group Twenty Seven, we were part of the beta test for Google ad suggestions. As with any new feature or change in AdWords, we gave them a fair shake.

But here’s what we found:

  • Ad copy was choppy. The ads simply didn’t read well. They were clearly written without the intervention of a skilled (human) writer.
  • Incorrect or incomplete information. The information contained in the ads was close… but not quite correct.
  • Poor appearance. The ads looked bad. We would have been embarrassed to present them to our clients for approval. And we definitely wouldn’t want them live on the internet.

As mentioned before, a major sticking point for us is the 14 day limit. Even if the issue of ad quality was overcome, the 14 day limit puts a kibosh on any serious attempt to use them.

Our clients are extremely busy. That’s one of the reasons why they hire us! We have regular monthly meetings with most of them to work through things like ad approvals.

But getting time outside of these meetings to approve ads on an ad hoc basis simply isn’t realistic.

All of this makes me wonder what’s really going on here. Is Google really so out of touch with the reality of managing client accounts? Or maybe they see suggesting and auto-applying ads that are optimized for clicks as too lucrative a strategy to ignore.

What Are Your Options?

If all of this has you feeling nervous, don’t despair! You still have options. Here’s what I recommend:

1. See if these ads will apply to you

If you’re running ads in certain markets, you won’t have to worry. Ad suggestions won’t apply to accounts with limited approvals, such as pharma and legal.

Even if you do qualify, you may not see a lot of these ads. According to Google, ad suggestions are limited to no more than 50 per week for each account (which does sound like a lot!). But they promise that since they’re only targeting ad groups where there’s a potential for performance improvement, “ad suggestions will only be provided for a small portion of ad groups.”

So you may only see a few ad suggestions per account.

2. Make sure your email notifications are set up

When new ad suggestions are created, you’ll be notified via email if you’ve set up notifications. Log into your account and adjust your notification preferences:

How do I enable email alerts for ad suggestions?

At the account, set your notification preferences to receive “all” or “only critical” campaign maintenance alerts. Manager accounts much select “full hierarchy” notifications to enable campaign maintenance alerts for each customer ID. Keep in mind that manager account setting swill override account-level settings.

Also, it’s always a good idea to log into your account regularly! You’ll see notifications there too. Look for the notification icon and check the recommendations page for more details about what ads will auto-apply and when.

3. Monitor and test

Don’t take my experience with ad suggestions as the last word on the topic. Your experience may be different.

Take a look at the ads. If any of them look reasonable, do some testing and see how they perform.

4. Opt out of ad suggestions

After monitoring and testing these ads for awhile, you may conclude that they’re not working for you. Or you may realize you simply don’t have the resources to stay on top of them.

If so, you can opt out of ad suggestions.

By opting out, you may still receive ad suggestions, but they’ll no longer automatically apply after 14 days.

What’s Your Experience With Ad Suggestions?

How are you making out with Google ad suggestions? Let us know by commenting below or sending a tweet.