Ever since Google first rolled out its Optimization Score tool in 2018, we have seen more and more emphasis placed on maintaining a high Optimization Score within accounts, and we expect this trend to continue in the future. 

Some of these insights are almost always helpful – even the best-managed accounts will have errors occur occasionally.  Checking the Recommendations tab regularly to surface issues like broken ad destinations (web developers may accidentally kill a landing page used in search campaigns) or ad groups with no ads running (who hasn’t accidentally made a filtering error when applying labels and automated rules to turn ads on/off?) can help you identify these errors sooner rather than later and fix them as quickly as possible. 

However, we’ve also seen many recurring instances of recommendations that would likely have strong negative impacts on account performance. Today, we’ll walk you through some of the most suggested recommendations that we have come across and why they should be looked at with a discerning eye before applying.

Adding New Keywords

Adding in new keywords is a vital aspect of scaling any paid search account, however, we’ve found that Google’s recommendations aren’t quite yet up to par. Although we have seen the recommendations improve drastically over time (I remember seeing suggestions along the lines of ‘t-shirts Walmart ‘t-shirts under $5’ and ‘wholesale t-shirts’ within a luxury fashion branded campaign a few years ago), we still have a way to go before these recommendations are truly in line with the specific intent of a campaign or ad group.

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In the above example, we see keyword suggestions for a client of ours in the body shop services industry – however, this client provides software solutions for body shops and does not provide the repairs themselves. Despite all of our keywords in this ad group having software/services intent, Google is not able to fully understand the semantic differences between these B2B and B2C keyword sets.

Instead, we recommend regularly reviewing search terms, utilizing Keyword Planner, and doing some good old-fashioned competitor research to surface new potential keywords for your campaigns.

Price Extensions

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Implementing price extensions can be a very strategic move if your client is offering a product or service that is competitively priced in their field – showcasing that your product is a lower price than others in the SERP, can help draw attention to your ad and bring users to your site. However, the opposite is also true – utilizing price extensions when your client’s product is priced higher than others in their field can often be a detriment to users before they are even brought to your site to learn more.

With search auctions becoming increasingly competitive, searchers are constantly inundated with pricing, discount messaging shown in-text ads, and direct prices listed in Shopping ads. In a recent test for a client in the mid-range apparel space, we saw a 67% decrease in clickthrough rate for their ads shown with a price extension compared to a baseline clickthrough rate for the campaign.

Call Extensions

If a client is in the lead-generation space or running a local campaign, we absolutely recommend utilizing call extensions whenever possible (just make sure they are able to be properly integrated into your CRM so you don’t lose tracking data on any potential leads sent via your channel!). E-commerce, on the other hand, can be a very tricky space for call extensions. 

A majority of our e-commerce clients do not have backend call infrastructure set up to process orders via phone systems, and of those who do, fewer have configurations in place to properly attribute orders to paid search at a keyword level. Because Google charges each call as a click, setting up these call extensions in instances where users cannot convert via phone call or have their order attributed back to a campaign is essentially throwing money down the drain. 

Raise Your Budgets

This is admittedly a tricky one – we’re never fans of campaigns being limited by budget, and we try to avoid situations where campaigns are limited by budget as much as possible. But sometimes, no matter how much we try to mitigate budget limitations, clients are on a fixed budget and running ads in a space where potential search volume is pared-down on a set of core keywords that greatly exceeds what we can feasibly spend in a day. 

Instead of dismissing the recommendation completely or telling clients that more budget is needed to successfully capture all available interest, we use this recommendation to prompt a deeper dive into current campaigns to identify potential opportunities for improved efficiency. In some cases, this may be moving to a manual bid strategy so that we can test lower bids and increase the click volume on the same budget. In other cases, we may look at removing targeting from low-performing geos or demographics to conserve the budget for higher-performing areas. 

Use Display Expansion

The increase in conversions at a similar CPA (cost per acquisition) purported by the GDN (Google Display Network) expansion sounds great at face value, however, introducing display expansion can cause more of a reporting headache than it’s worth. For clients who track upper-funnel metrics, the fluctuation in impressions caused by additional display network impressions reported in search campaigns adds an unnecessary layer of reporting segmentation on a weekly or monthly basis to get a clear view of data. This is especially noteworthy in branded search campaigns where branded search impressions can be used as a core metric to gauge overall shifts in branded interest/demand. 

If you’re still interested in earning these additional conversions via Display Ads, we recommend setting up a standalone GDN campaign with a custom intent audience focusing on your core keywords in your corresponding search campaigns. This should allow you to target the same overlapping pool of searchers while providing much cleaner reporting metrics.

In conclusion,

With all that being said, no two paid search accounts are the same, and some of these recommendations may very well be a strategic asset in the right situations. However, we always encourage account strategists to take these recommendations as just that – recommendations – and work with their internal data and client goals to ultimately decide on the best course of action in each account.