Google Ads has a rather powerful algorithm, has a huge amount of statistics about Internet usage, and it’s becoming more and more intelligent, thanks to AI (is there a place where its influence is not being felt yet?!). And if you’re running campaigns on this platform, you’re likely familiar with the Google Ads Recommendations feature.
Google Ads Recommendations are suggestions provided by Google’s algorithm to help improve your campaigns’ performance.
These recommendations can cover a wide range of topics, from ad copy to targeting settings, and are designed to make it easier for advertisers to optimise their campaigns. So, when you visit the “Recommendations” section in your Google Ads account and see that Google has prepared some advice made specifically for you, your first instinct is to apply everything as quickly as possible.
Is it always a good idea though? Let’s have a closer look at this feature, see the pros and cons, and then you will be able to decide for yourself how to answer this question.
First let’s get acquainted with the two types of Google Ads Recommendations – Auto-Apply and Manual – and learn to make an informed choice between the two.
Auto-Apply vs. Manual Recommendations
Auto-Apply Recommendations are suggestions that Google applies automatically to your campaigns without your approval. These recommendations are divided into several general topics, for example, “keywords & targeting”, “bidding”, “ads & assets”, etc. In order to use the feature, you need to enable the Auto-Apply Recommendations either in general or just within the chosen topic, or even just for some points within the topic. Once you’ve enabled and saved your selection, Google will go on auto-pilot and make changes to your campaign without your approval.
Manual Apply Recommendations require your input and approval before they can be implemented. They do not require a big effort from your side as all the processes of managing the Manual Recommendations can be summed in three steps – see the recommendation, decide whether it makes sense to your account and business, and click “apply” or “dismiss” accordingly.
At first glance, Auto-Apply Recommendations may seem like a convenient option. After all, who wouldn’t want Google to handle the optimisation of their campaigns automatically? However, there are some potential issues with this approach that advertisers should be aware of.
One of the biggest concerns with Auto-Apply Recommendations is the lack of transparency. When Google applies recommendations automatically, it can be difficult to understand exactly what changes have been made to your campaigns. This lack of visibility can make it harder to troubleshoot issues and optimise your campaigns in the long run.
Another significant issue with Auto-Apply Recommendations is the potential for unexpected changes. Unfortunately, Google has a history of changing the rules mid- game. For example, just in January of 2023, Google changed its “Remove Redundant Keywords” recommendation. Before the change, this feature would automatically remove from your account the keywords within the same ad group that are very similar and share destination, bidding, etc. This would make your account easier to manage by having less keywords. From January 2023, Google suddenly started to apply this recommendation also to keywords across different match types. So, in simpler terms, this means that should you have in your ad group exact or phrase match keywords (more specific) and you also have a broad match keyword as well, Google would delete your more specific keywords and leave the broad options.
Now, is it necessarily a bad thing? Well, it depends on the exact account, exact campaign, and exact case. But this would lead to your keywords matching to less relevant search terms as the match type is broader. But that is not the question here. The question is that people who have opted into this Auto-Apply Recommendation before the change, agreed to different rules, but from January 2023 they all automatically passed onto the new rules, and if they were not paying attention and did not want this recommendation to be auto-applied (as it’s a huge change if you ask us), they needed to MANUALLY opt out of it.
In other words, if you decide to enable Auto-Apply Recommendations, you need to be sure to check Google’s press releases regularly to understand if your account is still being managed by the rules that you agreed upon initially.
So, our general advice is to avoid Auto-Apply Recommendations or to use them with caution. But what about Manual Recommendations? Should you just agree to everything Google suggests? Let’s see.
Manual Recommendations – apply or dismiss?
As an alternative to Auto-Apply Recommendations, Google also provides Manual Recommendations, where you get to see each change separately, sometimes offer your input, and decide whether to apply the recommendation or to dismiss it. And while there are lots of recommendations that are really helpful and can improve the overall performance of your account, let’s not forget that Google Ads is a ‘machine’ that sometimes just can’t understand small details. Furthermore, Google Ads doesn’t have a deep understanding of your business model and objectives, so it’s always best to be careful and, before implementing a new recommendation, analyse if your business will really benefit from it.
There are some other criticisms of the Recommendations feature.
One is that these Recommendations seem very personal, after all, they appear directly in your account and even change from month to month, but in reality, they are not really personalised and any agency working on several Google Ads accounts can confirm this – the recommendations tend to be completely identical across the accounts, industries and budgets.
Another common criticism of Google Ads Recommendations is that the majority of the suggestions are focused on increasing your budget, rather than finding ways to spend less (go figure!). For example, you may receive recommendations to increase your bids, expand your targeting or directly increase your budget. While these recommendations may be effective in improving performance, they can also lead to a higher ad spend and lower return on investment. In our personal experience of working with this feature within numerous Google Ads accounts, never has a recommendation feature suggested something to lower the overall monthly budget, even when there is a way to do it.
Here are some examples of Google Ads recommendations that it’s best to evaluate before implementing or dismissing altogether:
1. Google offers to expand the audience to Google Search Partners or Display Network.
If you already managed to get a decent impression share in Google Search and you still have some budget to invest, this is definitely an option to consider. But if your budget is limited and you don’t have the possibility of increasing it, it is much better to focus your efforts on Google Search only (which, at the end of the day, is what brings you most of your conversions) and not spend it on partner websites or Display banners.
2. Google recommends removing non-serving keywords.
Sometimes this really helps to declutter your account. But what if the non-serving keywords are your trademarks or brand keywords, for example? Keeping them will not drive the cost up, as they might be appearing rarely, and usually these keywords end up having a high CTR and higher conversion rates. If someone searches for these keywords and you’ve stopped them that opens an opportunity window for your competitors. So, analyse if implementing this recommendation will do more harm or good.
3. Google gives keyword recommendations to add to the account.
Here we have a strong opinion on this – never just click apply all, without looking into the details. There is a high chance that those keywords will not be relevant to your business objective. For instance, for a company bidding on “cars for sale in Lisbon”, Google might recommend adding “cars for rent in Lisbon” or even “cars Lisbon”, which will be money spent badly if the company has no other service than a direct car sale. Always evaluate the keywords one by one before implementing them.
4. Google recommends applying an automated bidding strategy.
This can be either good (bringing more results at a reduced price) or bad for your account. For example, you have various conversion actions on the website, some are sales, and others are not (like signing up for a newsletter). Implementing a “Target CPA” strategy without making some tweaks first, will mean Google will optimise your campaign for conversions, but in theory, he might concentrate more on the wrong conversion type and lower your ROAS. Analyse in detail every recommendation regarding the bidding.
5. Google recommends Maximise conversions strategy.
Don’t get us wrong, we love this bidding strategy! But, as with everything in Google Ads, only when it is beneficial. The moment you add some conversion actions to your account, Google will recommend you pass to a Maximise conversion strategy. However, you need to make sure you have good and sufficient conversion data before you make the change. If your conversions are not being tracked correctly by your site and, for example, every conversion is recorded twice, Google will base your strategy on the wrong data and make the wrong bidding choices as a result. Also, you need to have enough conversions happening per month for the algorithm to be able to learn from them and make the changes for the better. Google itself recommends having at least 30 conversions per month before considering a conversion-based bidding strategy. But guess what will happen if in your campaign you have only 1-3 conversions per month (because you are not tracking all of them, or because in your niche this is a normal volume)? Yes, you’ve guessed it – as soon as you have one conversion under your belt Google will happily recommend you pass to a Maximise conversions strategy. Is it a good idea? Well, let’s just say in many cases it is not, but leave this question for another time.
To sum it up, the answer to the initial question on whether to apply or dismiss Google Ads’ recommendations is: it depends. You need to analyse each one of them in detail and only then take an informed decision. And don’t feel bad if you are dismissing some or all of them. This is the nature of the beast – Google suggests but you are in control of your account and business. After all, you are a paying client.
The last recommendation from our side (and, please, do not dismiss our recommendation as at CLARITY, contrary to Google, we always have your best interest in mind) is: no matter if you apply or dismiss recommendations, make them your weekly or, at least monthly routine. Google calculates the account optimisation score based on Recommendations (both applied and dismissed) and if you ignore this feature for long, your accounts score will drop and this might influence negatively your ad ranks.
So, what will be your answer to the “Google Ads Recommendations: apply, dismiss, or put on autopilot” question? If you feel you are not ready to make informed decisions about it, feel free to contact us and delegate your Google Ads account management to professionals.