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TPE #45: the ultimate guide to Automatically Applied Recommendations

Jun 05, 2023

Read time: 5 minutes

Hey guys, Miles here with The PPC Edge.

Let’s talk about Automatically Applied Recommendations (AARs)...

If you're a Google Ads Specialist, chances are they give you anxiety.

Today I’m sharing my take on AARs, categorized as:

  • Always use.
  • Sometimes use.
  • Never use.

 

I'll also explain why for every single recommendation, because as always in PPC: it depends ;-).

Let’s dive right in!

 

Overview of all 23 AARs

Here’s Google’s official definition of ‘recommendations’:

Each recommendation provides customized suggestions to help increase your campaigns' performance. Recommendations can introduce you to new, relevant features, help you get more out of your budget by improving your bidding, keywords, and ads, and can work to increase the overall performance and efficiency of your campaigns.”

 

… They can help you get more out of your budget … Uhu …

You could argue whether or not recommendations are helpful to your account. Especially since they get pushed so heavily by reps.

If you use too many AARs, you will quickly lose control over your account. That’s why I wouldn’t use most of them.

But they’re not all trash either.

There are 23 recommendations, across 2 major and 5 subcategories:

  1. Maintain your ads

    1. Ads & assets
    2. Keywords & targeting
    3. Measurement
  2. Grow your business

    1. Keywords & targeting
    2. Bidding

 

Here’s my take on AARs (don’t worry if it’s too small to read — there’s a complete deep-dive below):

Next, I’ll break it down by:

  1. Listing the recommendation
  2. Giving Google’s definition
  3. Adding our take

Let’s roast some AARs!

 

1A: Maintain your ads - ‘ads & assets’

 

1: Use optimization ad rotation - low impact - always use

Google: “Automatically show your best ads at auction time.”

Miles’ take: this one is harmless. In most cases you’d want to use optimized ad rotation anyway, so might as well turn on this AAR.

 

2: Add responsive search ads - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a similar or better ROI by showing more relevant ads to potential customers. Headline and description line assets will come from your existing content including your ad’s final url or assets in the same ad group.”

Miles’ take: in Search campaigns, you can only use RSAs (and DSAs), but I want full control over them. I don’t want Google to create or delete my ads, so, therefore, this AAR is a no-go for me.

 

3: Improve your responsive search ads - high impact - sometimes use

Google: “Get more clicks on your responsive search ads by improving your headlines and descriptions. Headline and description line assets will come from your existing content including your ad’s final url or assets in the same ad group.”

Miles’ take: again, I want full control over my ads and don’t want Google to change any headlines or descriptions. One note on why I’ve labeled it as ‘sometimes use’: I foresee that the quality of auto-generated ads will improve in the future as AI develops further.

 

1B: Maintain your ads - ‘keywords & targeting’

 

4: Expand your reach with Google search partners - medium impact - sometimes use

Google: “Reach additional customers on partner sites.”

Miles’ take: performance on Search Partners varies per account. It can be good, but it can also be total trash. If you get good results consistently, you could turn this one on. But if you see a lot of low-value clicks/conversions, don’t (especially for Lead Gen accounts).

 

Side note: here’s how to see see Search Partners performance:

 

5: Remove redundant keywords - high impact - never use

Google: “Make your account easier to manage by removing redundant keywords.”

Miles’ take: in theory, this is a nice AAR. But I never use it because I don’t want Google messing around with my keywords. If I have redundant keywords, I’ll pause them myself. I’ve seen cases where Google removed important phrase match keywords, and I don’t want to take that risk. Never use.

 

6: Remove non-serving keywords - high impact - never use

Google: “Make your account easier to manage by removing non-serving keywords.”

Miles’ take: same applies as with number 5: I don’t want Google messing around with my keywords.

 

7: Remove conflicting negative keywords - high impact - never use

Google: “People didn't see your ads because of conflicting negative keywords. Remove them so your ads can show.”

Miles’ take: now this is an interesting one. Sometimes it happens: you accidentally exclude your most valuable keyword. Ouch! This AAR removes the conflicting negative keywords.

But… I never use. And here’s why: in one of my accounts, Google removed branded exclusions from my non-branded campaigns. All of a sudden, we saw a huge increase of ROAS, but it was because we were catching branded traffic without knowing it.

Same thing applies: I don’t want Google messing around with my keywords — and that includes my negatives. I’d much rather use a script that alerts me when I have conflicting negative keywords. That way I can still manually remove them and keep control.

 

8: Use optimized targeting - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a similar cost per conversion.”

Miles’ take: with optimized targeting, Google goes beyond your audience targeting to find new customers. It’s a great expansion tactic for your upper funnel prospecting campaigns. However, I never use this because I don’t ALWAYS want to use optimized targeting.

Moreover, it will also enable optimized targeting on retargeting campaigns, effectively making them prospecting campaigns. Doesn’t make any sense.

 

1C: Maintain your ads - ‘measurement’

 

9: Upgrade your conversion tracking - medium impact - always use

Google: “Give credit for conversions across multiple ad interactions with data-driven attribution.”

Miles’ take: this one is fine — in most cases I want to use data-driven attribution anyway. So yeah, harmless and might as well run it.

 

2A: Grow your business - ‘keywords & targeting’

 

10: Add new keywords - high impact - never use

Google: “Show your ads more often to people searching for what your business offers.”

Miles’ take: I’ll be short: I don’t want Google to decide what keywords I target. So this is a “never use”.

 

11: Add broad match keywords - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a similar or better ROI by adding broad match versions of your existing keywords.”

Miles’ take: I’m not against broad match, it’s actually quite good in many cases. But the last thing I’ll do, is let Google add them. Never use!

 

12: Use Display Expansion - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a similar CPA using unspent budget with the revamped Google Display Network Expansion feature.”

Miles’ take: this one is a “HELL NO”. If I have a Search campaign, I don’t want it to focus on Display traffic. If your CPA targets are reached, it will spend any leftover budget on GDN. Spoiler alert: what you’ll get is often trash.

 

2B: Grow your business - ‘bidding’

 

Ok… This part is going to be fun. These AARs allow Google to change your bid strategies and targets.

Here’s my un-nuanced take:

I don’t want Google to change my bids, targets or bid strategy. Ever.

Let’s dive in.

 

13: Bid more efficiently with Target impression share - high impact - never use

Google: “Optimize for your ads' visibility with a fully automated bid strategy.”

 

14: Bid more efficiently with Maximize clicks - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more clicks at a similar cost with a fully automated bid strategy.”

 

15: Bid more efficiently with Maximize conversions - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a similar cost with a fully automated bid strategy.”

 

16: Bid more efficiently with Maximize conversion value - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversion value at a similar cost with a value-based bidding strategy.”

 

17: Bid more efficiently with Maximize conversions using a target CPA - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a lower or similar CPA with a fully automated bid strategy.”

 

18: Bid more efficiently with Maximize conversion value using a target ROAS - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversion value at a similar ROAS with a value-based bidding strategy.”

 

19: Set a target CPA - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions at a similar CPA by setting a target.”

 

20: Set a target ROAS - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversion value at a similar ROAS by setting a target.”

 

21: Adjust your CPA targets - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversions by adjusting your CPA targets.”

 

22: Adjust your ROAS targets - high impact - never use

Google: “Get more conversion value by adjusting your ROAS targets.”

Miles’ take:

 

23: Add store visits as an account default goal - low impact - sometimes use

Google: “Grow total conversions and value with Smart Bidding and store visits.”

Miles’ take: pfwoeehhh… That was intense haha. Anyway, this AAR is fine if store visits are important to you. But if they’re not, don't use.

 

Final word on AARs: stay away

The battle against the AARs rages on.

Hopefully this guide gives you some directions on which recommendations to use or not.

Don’t be fooled by aggressive reps that say you need to enable them all.

Stay safe out there and I’ll see you all in next week’s issue of The PPC Edge.

Cheers,

Miles (and Bob)

​



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