How Ad Rotation Settings (Almost) Ruined My Year

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

Lots of crazy stuff has happened in PPC during 2012.  Even though that’s been true pretty much every year since its launch, we at PPC Hero felt that it was a big enough year to justify its very own series.  That’s why for this month’s series we’re taking on the Biggest Thing in My PPC Year.  Whether it’s tools, product releases or changes to our way of thinking, we’ll be covering the biggest thing that’s changed our work lives/brains this year.

I’m sure no one has forgotten the AdWords update from back in April. Ya know, the one where basically we learned as account managers that Google was going to start making our ad testing decisions for us? At least to a certain degree, they were. A quick review for those who may have somehow missed it:

  • In April, the ad rotation options were altered so that if you chose the ‘Rotate’ option, that rotation would only last 30 days. At that time, AdWords would automatically flip that campaign to ‘Optimize for Clicks’ and allow the highest click volume ad to take the lead.
  • The PPC world made their voice heard and in June, AdWords announced that they were listening and extended the 30-day ‘Rotate Evenly’ window to 90 days before flipping the setting. Additionally, they gave us the option to opt-out of that feature altogether.
  • After a few more months, Google determined they would incorporate a fourth ad rotation option for ‘Rotate Indefinitely,’ which would allow the automatic switch to ‘Optimize for Clicks’ to be avoided completely.

This was quite a process to get through from an account management standpoint, with petitions going around and quite a bit of hubbub in the industry to correct the ad testing injustice. After all, this setting change went against everything we ever learned about ad copy and optimization. Even if an ad had a historically better CTR or click volume, we need to always have a different ad message serving against it to make sure we’re not missing out on potentially higher interest from customers.

So the obvious paint point here is clear: this initial change in setting options made me furious. Who is Google to make that decision for me? I want to be in charge of my ad rotation destiny! Of course after the two rounds of changes, this frustration did go away somewhat. However, having to revisit my settings multiple times to reset ad rotation settings in according to those follow-up changes were a bit more of a hassle than I would have liked. But hey…we don’t get in to paid search for the lack of hassle right? It’s all about the outcome, so whatever hassle is necessary. And truly, having an additional setting option is not a bad thing, as long as you use it accurately and there are situations and accounts where the auto-optimize for clicks could be helpful.

Alright that covers how the ad rotation settings made my life more difficult, but then how is it possible they only almost ruined my year? Easy question: I got to help other people more!

Part of my role as Paid Search Consultant at Hanapin/PPC Hero is to diagnose prospective accounts we’re onboarding or to help with paid account audits. We quite frequently take on accounts that have been managed through in-house individuals or small teams, which now require a larger team or greater long-term strategy from a team such as ours. More often than not, a factor of the outsourcing decision is due to the accounts not getting the amount of time or love they deserve. Even more often than that, there are very ‘small’ (read: ‘easily handled’) issues in the accounts that have gone unnoticed. One such issue is ad rotation settings.

This change in settings got most of our attention, but it seems as if a lot of in-housers missed it, because the educational opportunities that presented themselves to me from that setting alone were tremendous. True story time! Since June, I’ve completed over 25 account audits or diagnostic reports. Of those, a little over half (14, to be exact) have had ad rotation issues rooted in the setting being automatically optimized and never being manually changed back.

So while the initial change in ad rotation settings was an uber pain, it did give me a great number of chances to talk with fellow account managers about the overall effect the change had on accounts in general, and theirs specifically. Hearing the “a-ha” moments on the other end of the phone certainly emphasized the importance to always be checking even the things in your account that you think are set and can be left alone. Whether this is in the way of ad rotation settings or something else, this little bump in the road taught me to manually check all settings and similar account features at least once a month, to be sure I wasn’t short-changing my accounts by getting comfortable.

Tell us about your experiences! Did you have trouble with the ad rotation changes specifically? How did you handle it? Also feel free to share with us what over the last 12 months has changed how you manage PPC accounts! Drop your thoughts, questions and ideas in the comments section below…and as always, thank you for reading! Stay tuned for the rest of this week’s series on the PPC year in review!