Google is constantly working to update their algorithms to provide Google Ads users with a better experience. In recent years, they have incorporated automation tools, taken advantage of machine learning and used the power of big data to continue to make improvements. With all these advancements, it seems like a safe assumption that users’ campaigns should be performing better than ever. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. In fact, many Google Ads users are struggling to get value and a reasonable ROI from their account.
In this comprehensive article by Google Ads consultant Lior Krolewicz , we will take a closer look at how recent changes are affecting your Google Ads performance and what steps you can take to address these new challenges and improve your search engine rankings and online visibility.
A Brief History of Google Ads
Let’s begin by taking a quick look at how Google Ads has evolved over the years. In October of 2000, Google AdWords (now Google Ads) was launched. Keep in mind that the internet had only become publicly available in 1991, so these were still the early days of a whole new frontier. Today, practically anyone can build a website and businesses can’t survive without an online presence. However, this wasn’t the case in 2000.
At that time, if you wanted to build a website, you either had to learn code or spend a hefty sum of money to hire a website designer. For those who chose to invest in creating a website, there wasn’t much competition to contend with and businesses could quickly and easily secure a top spot in search engine rankings. A sparse market also meant a less complicated market. Businesses owners could easily handle Google Adwords accounts on their own and enjoy success.
It didn’t take long for technology to advance enough to make it easier and more affordable to build websites. As this became the new standard, businesses also recognized the importance of SEO and began entering the Google Ads marketplace. As you can imagine, as competition increased and the platform became more sophisticated, it also became more challenging to manage accounts and earn top rankings. Even those who continued to stay in compliance as Google rolled out updates found themselves falling behind.
This has become especially true in recent years and part of the problem is that new features and optimization and automation tools actually make it easier to lose money. On the surface, these tools appear to be an effort to streamline the program and reduce the workload on account managers, but they actually turn over control to Google. The more control you relinquish, the faster you will run through your marketing budget without meeting performance goals.
How Google is Taking Control of Your Accounts
Here are just a few of the ways Google is taking control of your accounts and costing you more than you might have anticipated:
1. Spending up to 2Xs the Daily Budget
If you have set a daily spending limit, Google has the power to exceed that cap by twice the amount. For example, if you have set a daily limit of $25, Google can actually spend up to $50. There really are no hard hard limits.According to Google, this feature is designed to maximize your ROI by spending more on high traffic days. Essentially, the program will take funds from lower traffic days, such as the weekend, and redistribute these funds so that they can be more intelligently spent.
Keep in mind that you while you may end up paying more on certain days, you will still have the same monthly budget. Google takes your daily budget, multiplies it by the number of days in the month and then spends the money as they see fit. Over time, you will end up paying the same amount, but you may notice large expenditures on certain days.
Even more importantly, you have lost control of your account and Google is making spending decisions for you. These spending patterns may not be the right choice for your company, but if you aren’t manually controlling your account and constantly monitoring spending and performance, there won’t be any way to know if these changes are benefiting you.
2. Eliminating the Exact Match Feature
In the early days of Google Ads, the program provided users with several options for different ways to utilizing keywords. The “Exact Match” feature meant that an advertiser’s ad would only appear if the user searched for those exact keywords. This gave the account manager an optimal level of control.
Advertisers could avoid appearing in misspelled searches that didn’t convert. They could also focus in on singular and plural uses of keywords and only serve ads to users looking for keywords in a certain order. This allows advertisers to specify different bid amounts for a range of variants and really control how their budget was being spent.
All of this changed in 2014, when Google decided to include plurals and misspellings in exact match results. In 2017, they took things a step further by expanding exact match to include different word orders, similar variations and abbreviations. The latest update occurred in 2018 and introduced the “close variant” feature, which allows for even more variations beyond the original exact match.
This forces advertisers to match for many more queries and spend marketing dollars on search engine results that they may not be interested in. Advertisers no longer have the same power to optimize and target specific keywords according to their own keyword strategies. For example, the original iteration of Exact Match would allow you to optimize the keyword “cat food.” Your ad would only appear with a user typed in the exact phrase “cat food” making it easy to connect directly with your ideal audience.
Now, the same ad will appear in much broader searches. According to Google: “We’ll show your ad when someone searches for your keyword or close variants of your keyword. Close variants may include:
- Singular or plural forms
- Stemmings (for example, floor and flooring)
- Reordered words with the same meaning… “
By expanding the parameters of Exact Match, Google is essentially making optimization decisions for the advertiser. Google makes the argument that this approach is designed to help advertisers, but ultimately, it only increases competition in an already crowded marketplace while also raising the cost-per-click. It should come as no surprise that Google is the one earning more money through this approach. Less control for advertisers directly translates into more profits for Google.
3. Introducing Automatic Bidding
Automatic bidding is yet another way that Google Ads is taking control away from the user. While automation can certainly be a time saver, it also means that there is limited oversight and monitoring of your account. When your account is operating on autopilot, you won’t be identifying and capitalizing on opportunities.
Automatic bidding is meant to help you establish campaign goals and create bid strategies. Using machine learning, Google analyzes performance data of certain keywords and phrases and makes bids that they think will help you meet your goals. However, these tools won’t take into account current events and other factors that can influence user behavior. In addition, if you are working with a limited marketing budget, automatic bidding can leave you with some major charges as it increases bids to meet goals.
Markets can change quickly and you need to remain agile and respond appropriately. With automatic bidding, it is all too easy to setup your account and forget about it. Before long, it can get away from you and you will end up spending a lot of money on strategies that may have worked at one time, but have become obsolete. While manual bidding may be more time consuming, it puts the power back in your hands and provides a better ROI.
Be Skeptical of Free Google Help
Remember that Google Ads is a business that is looking to make money. Often times, they will have a specialist call you and offer advice. However, these specialists are usually just sales people who are making cold calls. As a result, their advice is always going to fall along the lines of “target a broader audience” and “increase your budget.” These sales people are in no way accountable for how your account performs. They are simply trying to push a product, so retain a healthy amount of skepticism when they contact you.
If you want to take back control of your Google Ads account, but you don’t have the time to invest in managing the details and handling manual bidding, it is time to hire a real Google Ads experts. A truly talented expert who is interested in improving performance will be willing to offer a free account audit where they identify problem areas that may be costing you money and provide actionable solutions. By showing you how much money you can save, they are able to justify the cost of their services and make a convincing argument for hiring an expert.
Google Ads can be a powerful marketing tool, but it is only going to get more complicated as more businesses enter the market and Google continues to ad and adjust features. This can make an existing account ineffective, especially if there isn’t someone at the helm constantly making improvements. If you aren’t making informed decisions or you let Google gain control over your account, you could be gambling with your marketing budget and losing money while the competition continues to earn top search results.
If you want to know if you are getting the most out of your paid search advertising, contact a Google Ads expert for a free audit and get perspective on how where you can improve and how to get the most out of your advertising.
Lior is the founder of Yael Consulting and is an expert in online marketing, strategy, operations, and technology. As an ex-special forces commander, and his experience working with small and fortune-500 companies, he gets a thrill out of helping SMBs win online.