UPDATE: Google's New Ad Rotation Settings are NO LONGER the Devil
July 3, 2012
Back in May, Google released a new change to their ad rotation settings that set off somewhat of an uproar in the PPC world. That change has been walked back big time, and it’s a victory for advertisers.
Apologies for the lateness in updating this post. We were too busy celebrating these changes over the past 30 days instead of posting about them. Here are the details of the change (which make Google look more like some sort of middle management dweeb who makes a concerted effort to listen to his or her subordinates despite intense pressure from bosses higher up on the chain than the devil):
-Ads will now be rotated for 90 days instead of 30. It’s a lot longer window to deal with.
-You can opt out of this change in one of two ways. Either contact your rep, or submit the form that’s linked a mere sentence previous.
-If enough people opt out, then they’ll make it a permanent choice in the interface, so opt out. Opt out with vigor!
On the opt-out page, Google sites “helpful advertiser feedback” as a reason that they made the change. It’s nice to know that even Google can take a few barbs at their expense.
Lest you think that we won this fight 100%, Google still manages to get in a couple of parting blows. They encourage us to remember that “tests have shown that advertisers on average gain more clicks and conversions from 30- and 90-day rotation periods than they do under indefinite rotation.” Also, “opting out of it may decrease your clicks and conversions by serving your best ads less frequently” and that “optimized creative rotation results in an increase in click-through rate and an increase in total conversion volume for advertisers.” That sort of phrasing strikes your humble news reporter as someone knocked out of a game of dodge ball who mutters “I didn’t want to play with you guys anyway” as he slumps off into the distance.
Yesterday Google announced that they are changing the settings for ad rotation. They currently have three options: optimize for clicks, optimize for conversions and rotate evenly. This change will only affect the third option: rotate. Also, this change is the devil.
Okay, so the basics. Beginning next week, any campaigns opted into “rotate” will only rotate for a period of 30 days. After that time, ad rotation stops and your ad groups will automatically be opted into optimize for clicks. When this change is rolled out to your accounts, any ad groups with creatives that haven’t been added or changed in the past 30 days will now be optimized for clicks.
While this change is hailed as a move against “inhibit(ing) advertiser performance and deliver(ing) less relevant ads to our users,” we all know that ceding unlimited control to Google isn’t an automatically great thing. Optimizing for clicks gives a great experience for Google, seeing as they’re paid for clicks and all that jazz, but for advertisers it’s a different story. Ads with the best CTR aren’t always the best converters. In theory, Google will say that if that was the case we should be able to figure that type of thing out in the first 30 days. In practice (once again), it will be the devil.
Thirty days seems like a reasonable amount of time, but in a lot of cases we don’t measure results in time. We measure them in clicks. This type of time-based ad rotation setting completely disregards statistical validity. What about low-traffic but high value keywords/ad groups that don’t have enough impressions in 30 days to decide appropriately? What about small monthly budgets that won’t be able to accommodate the amount of clicks it will take to make an informed decision? If you make changes to them within 30 days your ad groups won’t change their rotation settings. But also, if you make changes to them within 30 days, you will invalidate your own test.
Facebook automatically opts its advertisers into optimization for clicks, and to be frank, it’s terrible. You really can’t get a good grip on your ads without additional shenanigans on the back-end. It was something that I was pining for Facebook to get away from and now Google is headed in that same direction. Uh, what? Google, don’t you know that this it terrible?
The Senior Product Manager at Google who posted this update concludes her post by saying that “this change will enable us to provide users with the most relevant ad experience and should help advertisers improve the performance of their AdWords accounts.” I disagree with that statement (cause it’s super bogus). This change seems to have the objective of increasing CTR for all Google accounts. While there may be some ad purists who focus on CTR exclusively, most of us are optimizing for what happens after the click.
We will no longer be able to do that. Prepare yourselves to be optimized. (Just so we’re on the same page, imagine that last sentence said like a crooked sheriff in a western. So now Google is both the devil and a crooked sheriff.)
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