Does Google really know what’s best for your ad account? It is undeniable that efficiency is crucial for success in the ever-evolving world of digital marketing. Now, imagine a Google AI feature called ‘Auto-Apply Recommendations‘ that claims to assist in improving your campaign’s success by automatically handling some of your optimization tasks. It might be helpful to a certain extent, our experience suggests that it is not always the best approach. In this article, we’ll explore the potential downsides of relying on Auto Apply Recommendations. This will help advertisers understand the challenges and limitations it can bring to their advertising strategy.
Google has consistently encouraged its users to utilize Auto-Apply Recommendations while managing their ads. If you’re a Google Ads user, you’re likely already familiar with this feature. For those who aren’t, Auto-Apply Recommendations is a feature that provides various optimization suggestions based on your campaign performance and goals by Google Ads.
Once applied, Google Ads automatically implements specific recommendations or changes to your campaigns without requiring manual approval. On the good side, this feature saves advertisers’ time and allows them to efficiently apply Google’s suggested optimizations with a simple click. These recommendations can involve adjusting bidding strategies, adding new keywords, modifying ad copy and more.
But of course, advertisers still have the option and a grace period to review and approve these changes before they go live. Alternatively, advertisers can also undo any changes made automatically or have the flexibility to opt out of Auto-Apply Recommendations if they prefer to manually review and apply the recommendations themselves.
Purpose of Auto-Apply Recommendations
Although its usefulness is undeniable and varies across different accounts such as bringing a higher click-through rate or getting more leads, the truth is there are also many disadvantages of this feature, be it our own experiences or other advertisers’. All these whiles, Google has been aggressively persuading or advising their advertisers to utilize this feature that is considered the “best practice”. In fact, applying these recommendations would indirectly increase your costs and they want to ensure their own KPIs are achieved. However, based on our previous experiences, we would only recommend applying certain recommendations.
Disadvantages of Auto-Apply Recommendations
We have experienced numerous cases where clients mistakenly ticked the settings and let Google put thousands of dollars to waste. Although budget limits are being set on every campaign, we can’t be 100% sure what will happen after applying auto-apply recommendations when most of the advertisers do not have time to check the campaigns every day. Once you have given permission to Google Ads to automatically optimize the data through the feature, you would have to expect it could potentially increase your costs while gathering more data.
Here are some of the cons that we have observed from past experiences:
1. Add responsive search ads / Improve your responsive search ads
It was said that it can help to get more conversions through showing more relevant ads to potential customers. However, this means that we are not able to control the headline and description line assets coming from our ad’s final URL or assets in the same ad group.
Our observations: The headlines and descriptions added by Google Ads sometimes do not make sense or are irrelevant. For example, if your ad is about an Adidas shoe model, but Google Ads might detect and derive irrelevant content from your campaign and final URL and come out with headline such as “Adidas Ultraboost Yellow Colour”. This headline may not be something that I would like to focus on or promote for this ad group, so it may look irrelevant to me even though the sentence is in the correct form.
2. Add broad match keywords
Google recommends adding broad match keywords as it was said that it can target more extensive matching options to your existing keywords. This would be more recommended to advertisers who are only using only single keyword match type (Eg: exact or phrase match) that resulting in lower search volume of the keywords. However, from our past experience, not only the restriction of broad match keywords is not so tight that it led to high cost and low CTR/conversions for the keywords, for advertisers who group their keywords according to keyword match types like us, the whole structure would be messy when applying this recommendation. Based on the screenshot below, Google has auto applied this recommendation to our exact match keyword focused ad group. While these broad match keywords were being added in other phrase match ad groups as well, causing duplicating keywords in the same campaign and difficult for optimizations.
3. Use Display Expansion
Google recommends advertisers to apply Google Display Network Expansion feature on all the search campaigns with the reasoning to get more conversions using unspent budget. However, including display network feature is undeniably helpful in gaining more traffic, but resulting in a lower overall CTR and conversion rate with high cost. Besides, this type of ad seems to portray a low quality and unattractive feeling. Here’s an example of an account after using the display expansion feature where HK$1,900 was spent on the campaigns but without any conversions.
There are various bidding recommendations by Google Ads where we do not suggest to apply all without understanding how they will affect your campaign. It may often result in a significant performance drop if without close monitoring. For instance, a client has applied the “Bid more efficiently with Maximize conversions” auto-apply recommendation. After a week of observation, it was noticed that both campaigns have received a big increase in impressions and clicks. However, looking at the overall performance, the increase in traffic did not bring any conversion to the campaign. Instead, the search impression share has dropped (-70%) and the cost is almost 3 times higher than previous period at a higher CPC (+6%).
As a result, there’s too much volatility with auto-applying Google Ads recommendations for budgets and bidding. Unlike Google’s suggestions, most Google Ads specialists would advise the best approach based on your account’s performance.
Our Recommendations & Practice
So, should you apply Auto-Apply Recommendations?
From an agency’s point of view, we still do agree to apply some of the auto-apply recommendations for a better hands-off management approach and to improve optimization scores.
These are some of the auto-apply recommendations that should be automated to save time. They would not have a big impact on our campaigns but would improve our campaigns at the same time.
To summarize, the idea of auto-apply recommendations has certainly brought a more hands off and time-saving experience for advertisers who do not have time to monitor their ads very often. However, some recommendations are not always the “Best practices” as they may clash with your strategy and are more generalized which may not necessarily work on your accounts. Hence, selectively applying the recommendations depending on your goals and styles would be a better approach alongside regular human monitoring of the changes.