What Marketing Teams Need to Remember About Google Ads

Every Google Ads manager, at some point, will forget to take Google Ads recommendations with a healthy dose of skepticism. 

Can you blame them? Log into the Google Ads platform and everything seems straightforward. The platform itself helpfully guides you and tells you what you need to do for your program to succeed. 

And if you happen to miss those in-platform recommendations, your Google Ads account rep will happily help out, advising you to take the same or similar advice.   

If only things were so straightforward.  

In reality, if you go below the surface of these recommendations, you start to understand that not all is as it seems. 

As a B2B digital marketing agency that’s been in the business for over 15 years, we’ve learned to take Google Ads recommendations with a giant grain of salt. 

Here are three of the lessons we’ve learned—lessons that can save you from inadvertently undermining your own team’s marketing and business goals. 

Lesson #1: Question all Google account rep recommendations

My team and I have been assigned a lot of Google account reps over the years. Some have been really great. For us, the best reps:

  • Teach us something new. They bring new options to our attention and get us access to betas. 
  • Help us when we need it. Some reps go above and beyond to help with technical glitches, correct issues related to ridiculous ad policies, etc.
  • Act like real partners. These reps earn our trust and consistently respond in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, really good Google account reps are increasingly rare.  I suspect that this is because Google has changed how they assess and compensate their reps. I have no inside knowledge, but I’m guessing that Google account reps are measured against their sales goals. So, the more reps can get their accounts to spend, the more successful they are. Improving ROI for clients or getting clients closer to their goals has nothing to do with it. 

That’s why I always remind my team that our Google rep works for Google, not for us—and not for our B2B clients. 

We’ve had some great reps; we’ve also had some atrocious ones. Some do little beyond downloading our “scorecard” from the platform and chastising us for only implementing a small percentage of Google’s recommendations. Never mind that those recommendations are not aligned with our clients’ business goals!

Some reps can get quite aggressive and annoying. They send us meeting invites and then don’t show up. Or they send us (and sometimes our clients!) semi-threatening emails about all the bad things that will happen if we don’t follow their advice.

Others are upfront about their lack of experience and admit they’ve only had the job for a couple of months. While that too is frustrating, I appreciate their honesty. When it happens, you have to decide whether to take on the task of “training” that account rep or whether to wait it out and hope that the next rep is more seasoned. (Account reps are rotated to new accounts every few months, so sometimes “wait it out” is the better strategy.)

Still, you can’t really blame these people. They’re just trying to do their jobs like everyone else. And usually, when they make recommendations, they’re coming from a good place. 

Sometimes, reps will wear us down with their persistence and we’ll implement their recommendation. If account performance drops (which it usually does), we reach out to them for further guidance on how to turn things around. Typically, they either ghost us or admit that they have no idea what to do next. And so, we end up reverting everything they recommended as quickly as we can. 

In short, we’ve learned to test, not trust, when it comes to Google account reps. 

Lesson #2: Question all in-platform recommendations

When you’re logged into your Google Ads account, you’ll see a lot of “auto-apply” recommendations that you can invoke with the click of a button. If you’re not careful, these auto-apply options can throw a wrench into your marketing and business goals.

Here are just a few to be particularly cautious of:

Optimization score

Google describes its optimization score as an estimate of how well your Google Ads account is set to perform.

You can score anywhere between 0 to 100%, with 100 meaning that your account can perform at its full potential.

But what is this assessment based on? Is it tied to your business goals? Your marketing goals?

Neither. It’s based on factors that may be entirely irrelevant to what you’re actually trying to accomplish with your Google advertising, which is why an optimization score of 100% is probably NOT a good thing.

Along with your score, Google presents you with recommendations to help improve that score, as you can see below:

These recommendations may sound great, in theory. But they’re based on the premise that increasing your optimization score is always a worthy goal. And sometimes it’s not.

Auto-apply recommendations

Google “auto-apply” recommendations also sound great. We saw some of these on the “optimization score” page, but they live in other places too.

Goals such as: “Make improvements,” “Grow your business,” and “Maintain your ads” all sound like excellent ideas. And all you have to do is click through to apply them:

But unfortunately, Google doesn’t always deliver on the promise to “improve,” “grow,” “maintain,” or any other goals they suggest.

In fact, accepting these auto-apply recommendations can be catastrophic to client accounts. My team and I have experienced the Monday-morning blues many a time when clients log into their accounts over the weekend and accidentally apply one or more of these auto recommendations. We spend most of our morning undoing the changes they’ve made. 

Remove redundant keyword recommendation

The latest (and definitely NOT greatest) auto-apply recommendation is “remove redundant keyword” (circled in red, below): 

This recommendation basically removes phrase-match and exact-match keywords to focus on broad-match. 

We’re testing broad-match and loving it so far, but we’re moving slowly and methodically. We don’t want to make any assumptions as we update our keyword strategy in favor of broad-match.

Ad strength ratings

Google also provides advertisers with ad strength ratings, which can also be deceiving.

Responsive search ads (RSAs), for example, can be rated excellent, good, average, or poor. But does a rating of “excellent” actually mean the ad is performing exceptionally well?

In our experience, no. When we look at the data, “excellent” ads are often performing just okay. 

So, once again, you can’t trust Google’s ratings and recommendations. 

Lesson #3: Check Google Ads default settings

We’ve also learned over the years to check and adjust many of Google’s default settings. Often, these defaults aren’t a good fit for our clients and their goals. 

The biggest offenders are:

  • URL expansion in Performance Max campaigns. This option can be a good choice for some businesses, but we’ve found that most of our B2B clients should have this off.  
  • Display Network targeting. We’ve found it’s best to turn this targeting off on search campaigns
  • Location settings. It’s important to understand the settings and adjust to what works best for you, not Google. 
  • Goal setting. Change from campaign to account level.
  • Targeting expansion. Disable at the ad group level.

Question everything

Remember, Google Ads recommendations are based on its algorithms, not on a complete assessment of your needs.

Your Google account rep doesn’t know your B2B business like you do.

So be careful with Google’s advice and recommendations. They don’t know your business, and your goals aren’t always aligned.

It’s on you and your marketing team to question everything.