Anyone who works with a marketing agency or team that oversees advertising on Google knows that getting results is not as easy as it used to be even one or two years ago.
Your agency or team probably wants to explain the situation diplomatically and diligently. As the team behind a software product highly suited to this new way of advertising online, we’re here to dish out the truth in plain terms.
These are the five most important Google Ads realities you should be aware of as you continue to partner and support your PPC specialists.
1. They’re working with limited control
PPC managers and strategists used to be able to pull every lever in Google, from bids and budgets to keywords and ads, plus everything in between.
But over the last two or three years, Google has steadily been chipping away at the amount of direct control advertisers and managers have over their accounts. Take a look at just a few of the recent milestones in that journey:
- March 2021: Responsive search ads become the default ad type
- June 2021: Broad Match Modified deprecated
- July 2021: Target CPA/ROAS absorbed into Max Conversions/Conversion Value
- September 2021: Broad Match becomes Google’s preferred keyword match type
- January 2022: Introduction of Performance Max with limited controls
- July 2022: Expanded Text Ads no longer able to be created or edited
- Q3-Q4 2022: Smart Shopping absorbed into Performance Max
While many developments in PPC automation have proven to be net positives, there are still uphill battles.
Even seasoned pros can break a sweat filtering search queries on Broad Match, getting a responsive search ad to show the way they want, or trying to make Performance Max campaigns target the right keywords.
2. Google is hiding a ton of data
As if limited control weren’t enough, Google also decided around the same time to hide large parts of the data PPC specialists count on to optimize their accounts.
The biggest change — one that still doesn’t sit well with many PPC marketers — was the choice to limit what’s visible in the search terms report. Advertisers went from being able to see the queries that drove every single click to only a portion of them.
Other challenges include being unable to see which combinations of a responsive search ad served for a click, and which Performance Max assets drove the best or worst performance in the campaign.
When asked to justify this reduced data visibility, Google typically comes up with something related to user privacy. But no one really knows why they’ve decided some types of anonymized data are okay to show while others aren’t, especially when they impact ad quality and the search experience.
3. Optimizations take more time and need better data
As a direct result of limited control and reduced data visibility, optimizations now take longer to show their impact. Because so much is being optimized by Google’s machine learning algorithms, making frequent changes risks confusing the system.
For example, campaigns running on Smart Bidding with a target ROAS can take up to two weeks to optimize an adjustment to conversion value rules.
The other big challenge is related to data. Again, since machine learning is pulling most of the levers, it can only make generic decisions if it only has access to generic data. When you make unique business data available to your agency or PPC team, they’re able to show Google how to make decisions that are beneficial to your account and business.
Examples of this include sharing offline conversions with Google to optimize Smart Bidding, using data exclusions to account for periods with bad or limited conversion data, or using seasonality adjustments to let Google know about periods where behavior deviates from your norm.
Work with your PPC team to keep account structure lean (where possible), limit and be patient with changes (especially when something is working or new), and maintain data hygiene.
4. You have to fight automation with automation
In their “Dividends of Digital Marketing Maturity” report, Boston Consulting Group determined that digital marketing is ripe for human-supervised automation:
“Because advanced technologies are quicker than people to identify and correct the reasons for underperformance, these technologies provide an average performance boost of 20%. But it takes humans and a test-and-learn approach to apply strategic considerations and adjust for compatibility factors that algorithms have difficulty seeing. On average, human adjustments can add another 15%, on top of the 20% technology-driven improvement, to campaign performance.”
Google’s automation is designed to make decisions that are ultimately beneficial to them. That’s why advertisers and agencies are increasingly turning to third-party automation that can sit on top of Google Ads for extra insurance.
Tools like Optmyzr offer transparent solutions with complete user control such as:
- Alerts so that you can find out as soon as performance starts to deviate
- Scripts to help you run periodic optimizations on a schedule
- Rules to take automatic action whenever specified conditions are met
- Insights to show you data and stories that you might otherwise miss
5. Agencies and search specialists are more important than ever
Machine learning may pull many of the levers on the back end of the advertising ecosystem, but advertisers and brands still struggle to get above-average results without expert support.
Agencies and specialists aren’t becoming obsolete; they’re going through an evolution. Rather than push buttons, they’re starting to fill the roles of pilot (monitoring), doctor (testing and diagnosis), and teacher (optimization).
They exert greater control over what we at Optmyzr call “the periphery”, or big-picture decisions involving:
- Ad assets
- Product feeds
- ROAS and CPA targets
- Conversion data
- Account structure
The power of PPC specialists in this new reality
PPC specialists who have “been there, done that” are worth their weight in gold. You can’t understate the value of advertising experts who know how the system works, especially those with years of experience.
These exceptional teams (like the folks at WebMechanix) are able to account for the relationship between PPC campaigns and organic search, landing pages, site experience, social media, brand, inventory, logistics, business operations, and overall profitability.
They operate in a world where digital marketing disciplines are becoming more integrated, and they’ve adapted to every change from Google while finding new ways to run profitable campaigns.
There is no reason to believe this time will be any different.