So you’ve got your Google Ads campaigns up and running. The sales are coming through, your ecommerce numbers looks great! Kind of.
You’ve set your budgets. Your targetting is great. Your ad copy, frankly, might win the Pulitzer prize. You feel like you’re on top of things, you’ve even sought advice from a switched-on PPC guy that you know. But it’s costing you a little more than you thought, and the MD is already questioning performance.
Well sometimes, it’s not you, it’s Google.
Google quietly rolls out updates to the Google Ads platform dozens of times a year, and while some of these are new and exciting features that push your ads to even more online punters, some of them are a little more nefarious.
Here’s five simple settings that, despite what Google says, are probably best off turned off or reviewed in your account to ensure your campaigns – and your budgets – are as laser-focussed as possible.
Automatically apply ad suggestions after 14 days
You know that Google always has some handy ‘recommendations’ on your account, don’t you? How useful!
You know, like the one that recommends raising your budgets for certain campaigns threefold or more at the click of a button. They’ll even greet you with these when you first log in to your account – to make sure you’re following their ‘best advice’.
At the extreme end of the scale, we’ve seen this suggest raising budgets from £5 day (reasonable for a client who is only just dipping their toes into Google Ads for the first time) to an incredible £500 – or a x100 multiplier in budgets.
Making recommendations like this is one thing – Google would prefer that you spend more money on their ad inventory, after all. But there’s now a more sinister setting, which completely relinquishes your control, or at least when it comes to ad creation…
If you have the above ‘Automatically apply ad suggestions after 14 days’ option checked, Google will do whatever it thinks is best with your adverts (after advising you, 14 days prior).
How to fix it: All campaigns > Settings > Account Settings > Ad suggestions > CHANGE TO: Don’t automatically apply ad suggestions (Google even helpfully labels this as ‘Not recommended’ – we beg to differ…)
If you were biding on every word man has ever created, I’m sure Google would suggest some new ones for you.
Google’s keyword suggestions are, at first glance, low risk. “I sell t-shirts, and Google says I should bid on the word t-shirt”. Click, click.
When you see all of your budget eaten up like a proverbial kid in a sweet shop, and notice search terms like ‘t-shirt suntan lyrics’, ‘funny t-shirts for grandpa’, and ‘live laugh love tshirt’, you won’t be so grateful to Google. For search ads, ONLY TARGET SPECIFIC KEYPHRASES YOU WISH YOUR AD TO SHOW FOR. If you’re unsure about this, check out our beginner’s guide to key phrase match types.
Oh, you wanted to show for the word ‘cloud’, but used phrase match? 🤔
How to fix it: Recommendations > Never click the ‘Apply All button on this screen!
Negative keyword expansion
OK, we covered this one in a little more detail on our blog ‘when 623 nagtive keywords just wasn’t enough’. But as time goes on, it seems Google wants to open the floodgates on keyword targetting, whether you’ve specifically excluded them or not.
What started off as clear cut as ‘show this ad for this keyphrase only’ is now a bit of a wild west situation. Your negative keyphrase might be obeyed, it might be ignored ‘because Google says so’.
It’s better to try to stay on top of these rather than find out the hard way. Read our in-depth blog on this one for more info.
Automatic placement on Display Networks
Ah, it’s another one of those pre-selected checkboxes. If this was GDPR, Google would be getting the naughty stick (again).
When you’re setting up a campaign, you’ll see the following option for ‘Networks’.
You’ll also see that they’re automatically ticked for you, and upon unchecking them, Google again helpfully lets us know that
ℹ️ Most advertisers include their ads on Google search partner sites, and,
ℹ️ Don’t miss the opportunity to reach more people across 3 million sites and apps
What this does is show your search (primarily, text-based) ads on really useful places like Amazon search pages, mobile apps, Google Maps, and millions of other places where your customers are (probably) not thinking about purchasing your product.
Be careful with this one, particularly the Display Network option, which will create the most un-dynamic creatives for you, and place them all over the internet. For us, it’s Google’s lack of transparency here which is the problem.
How to fix it: Campaigns > Settings > Targetting > Networks. Review these options and check whether you’re really happy with your selections.
Questionable location options
You think you’ve got your location targeting bang on – your product is selling like hotcakes in your target region.. But there’s also a load of clicks coming from New Zealand, Paris, and Wolverhampton. You didn’t ask for that, did you…?
Google knows that your customer has ‘shown an interest in’ your key location. Now whether this is because they fancy a holiday there, or often visit a friend at that location, Google doesn’t quite disclose.
Make sure your ads are only showing to customers actually in your target locations (though Google still unhelpfully lumps this in with ‘regularly in your targeted locations’) by changing this simple setting.
How to fix it: Campaigns > Settings > Targetting > Locations > CHANGE TO: People in or regularly in your targetted locations
While Google continues its march towards automation, expect to see more settings like this quietly rolled out without really much thought towards Google’s less savvy advertisers. “But we’re making it easier for you!” They say.
If you’re not in the Google Ads platform every day, keeping track of changes and updates, you might get caught out.
So if you’re a busy marketing manager who just doesn’t have time or resource to stay abreast of all of Google’s changes to its platform, or you’d rather your paid time spent more time on creative, budgets, ads, and targetting, get some advice from our friendly ecommerce experts.