Ultimate Guide to Google Ads Recommendations

Guide to Google Ads

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Last updated Sept. 2020. 

In your Google Ads account, you may have noticed a new Optimization Score, as well as recommendations on how to improve that score. Your initial thought may be “Wow, this is really insightful. Thank you Google for making it easy for me to increase my optimization score!” But beware. While some of these recommendations are very easy to implement, and seem to improve performance, they don’t always align with your business goals or capabilities. Some recommendations can also end up hurting your account, depending how your account manager has set it up.

So how can you tell the difference between the good and the not so good recommendations?

Google Ads Keyword Recommendations

Use our guide as a translator for what Google’s comments really mean, and how we recommend you handle them. We’ll continue to update this as we see more changes and notes come through.

Bidding and Budgets

Raise your budgets/move unused budgets

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Your ads stopped running on your busiest days. Fixing your limited budget can help.” This recommendation is very dependent on your budget goal. Make sure you review the performance of your campaigns to ensure a raised budget will provide for efficient, incremental orders/leads. To prevent accidental overspending, you should always keep an eye on your overall marketing budget when raising individual campaign budgets.

Bid more efficiently with Target CPA

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
Get more conversions at a lower or similar CPA with a fully automated bid strategy” This can be a really powerful tool if used correctly. Target CPA bidding automatically sets bids to help you get as many conversions as possible at the target cost-per-action (CPA) you set. We recommend your conversion goals be from a Google Ads tag rather than Google Analytics tag, as this provides more real time data for the bidding strategy to use. We also recommend that a campaign using this bidding strategy have at least 30 conversions in a 30 day period to be effective. If that is not the case, you can still make this bidding strategy work through a portfolio bidding strategy.

Adjust your CPA targets

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Get more conversions by adjusting your CPA targets” Review the performance of your campaign before making any adjustments. When using target CPA bidding, we typically see actual CPA lower or higher than the goal. If the actual CPA is lower than your goal, increase it to see if you get more conversions at the higher CPA.

Bid more efficiently with Target Impression Share

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Optimize for your ads’ visibility with a fully automated bid strategy” It’s worth testing this bidding strategy if the primary goal for your campaign is to reach a certain impression share daily. Target Impression Share automatically optimizes your bids to help you achieve your impression share goal. This strategy has been most successful for brands that have high competition on their branded keywords and need to maintain top impression share. You’ll likely see higher variations in your actual CPCs.

Bid more efficiently with Enhanced CPC

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Automatically optimize your bids at auction time for searches more likely to lead to conversions” Enhanced CPC is worth testing, but make sure you monitor performance closely to ensure it’s truly providing incremental conversions, and not just leading to higher CPCs. ECPC works like baby steps to a fully automated bidding strategy, automatically adjusting your manual bids for clicks that seem more or less likely to lead to a sale or conversion on your website. While ECPC tends to bring higher CPAs/lower ROAS for branded campaigns, it can work well on non-branded searches.

Bid more efficiently with Maximize Conversions

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Get more conversions at a similar cost” If profitability is important to your business, you may want to sit this recommendation out. Maximize Conversions uses signals to automatically optimize your bids for visitors who are more likely to convert. This bidding strategy does not take profitability into consideration, meaning Google will spend your entire budget to try and capture conversions, regardless of ROAS or CPA.

Keywords and Targeting

Expand your reach with Google search partners

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
Reach additional customers on partner sites Absolutely testing Search Partners. Showing your ads on Google Search Partners websites can help increase your ads’ reach and traffic. We typically find that Search Partners provide a small amount of incremental spend and conversions, but tend to be just as efficient (or even more efficient!) than the Search Network.

Add audiences

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Get more insightful reporting at no extra cost ” Go for it! Enabling audiences in observation mode (very important!) never hurts. In most cases, adding audiences provides additional data points that the smart bidding algorithm can use to further optimize your bids.

Use targeting expansion (Display Network Only)

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Reach additional customers at a similar cost per conversion” Whether you want to enable targeting expansion depends on the goal of your display campaign. If you’re using custom intent to target customers who are in-market for a certain product or service this feature might help your campaign. However, if you’re remarketing or targeting more specific audiences, targeting expansion can muck up your data.

Add new keywords

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Show your ads more often to people searching for what your business offers” Proceed with caution. While this recommendation sounds great (More relevant keywords? Yes please!) we find that the recommended keywords are usually not relevant to your products/services, and could lead to increased spend with no return. That being said, it’s worth doing a quick review in case there are relevant keywords.

Remove redundant keywords

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Make your account easier to manage by removing redundant keywords” Go ahead and pause variations with smaller search volume and let the larger volume keyword pick up those impressions. In a time before close variant matching, it was necessary to build out variations of a keyword (e.g. plurals, misspellings). But today, those variations are not necessary, as Google is now able to identify them and serve your ad on just one single keyword.

Remove non-serving keywords

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Makes your account easier to manage by removing non-serving keywords” You can remove keywords that have never received traffic or conversions. While this won’t have any impact on your performance, it will make keyword management easier. But, if any keywords have received traffic or conversions in the past, you should pause rather than remove them. We don’t recommend fully removing these keywords because you will want the historical data when looking at previous year data. And the default view in Google Ads is “all but removed”.

Remove conflicting negative keywords

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Conflicting negative keywords are preventing some of your keywords from showing ads You should always review the conflicting negative keywords. However, some of those negatives may be intentional. If your account includes a match type strategy, those negatives may be in place to ensure the search query hits the right campaigns/ad groups.

Ads and Extensions

Add structured snippets to your ads

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Structured snippets can improve your CTR” Structured snippets should be created for every single campaign in your account. While there are no performance metrics tied to structured snippets, it provides you with the opportunity to highlight variations of your products/services outside of the main ad messaging. Then you can focus on other benefits, unique value propositions and promotions within your main ad.

Add callouts to your ads

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Callouts can improve your CTR” Callouts should be created for every single campaign in your account. While there are no performance metrics tied to callouts, it provides you with the opportunity to highlight additional benefits or unique value propositions outside of the main ad messaging.

Add call extensions to your ads

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Call extensions can get your business more calls” Call extensions let people call your business from their mobile devices by clicking a button on your ads. This extension only makes sense for your business if your business has the ability to take calls and can track orders/leads and you want to allow phone calls.

Add responsive search ads

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Show more relevant ads to potential customer by creating responsive search ads” You should be testing this ad format, along with two expanded text ads in one ad group, to see how they perform. We’ve seen mixed results with search ads (RSAs). Some clients see success in using this ad format (higher CTR and Conversion Rate), where others do not (high CTR, higher CPC, higher CPA/lower ROAS).
Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Sitelinks can improve your CTR” Sitelinks should be created for every single campaign in your account. They do help increase CTR and Quality Score, and occasionally convert. Make sure your sitelinks include descriptions, and that messaging and landing pages are unique compared to your ad or other sitelinks. The goal is to provide a searcher with more information and content about your products/services to entice an ad click. If you’re using PPC-specific landing pages for your campaigns, you may want to consider using PPC-specific landing pages for your site links as well.

Add price extensions to your ads

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
“Price extensions can improve your CTR” If this recommendation applies to your business, go ahead and test price extensions. A general rule of thumb is that adding all applicable extensions increases the CTR of your ad and improves your quality score.

Create dynamic search ads

Google’s Note Greenlane’s Recommendation
Show your ads on searches relevant to your business that you may be missing with your keyword-based ad groups This is beneficial as a research tool if you’re not sure what potential customers might be searching for in order to find you. Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) use content from your website to automatically create a relevant headline and select a relevant landing page based on the search terms of potential customers.
Enabling DSAs will find those searches for you, giving you insight into your customers and allowing you to build out those search keywords in your account. So, if you have the budget, and need to find incrementality, DSAs are a great option.
Caveats: if you need full control over ad messaging, this option is not for you. While you provide the description lines, Google will automatically create headlines, which may or may not follow your brand guidelines/regulations. And keep a close eye on your search queries. You may find high-traffic searches that are not as relevant to your product/service as you expected.

Please reach out to us on Twitter @greenlane_team if you have any questions about the recommendations listed above, or ones that we may not have discussed yet.

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Christian Wenzel

Director of Paid Search

A native of Scranton, Christian has worked in digital marketing for over 10 years. He specializes in pay-per-click advertising, and led a team of PPC marketers at an SEM agency before finding Greenlane. Christian loves, as he puts it, working with “the best minds and the best clients.”

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