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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Google Recommendations?

Steve Costanza

Google continues to add greater automation to its advertising platform. A recent update is Google ad recommendations. These recommendations make optimization changes to ad campaigns, sometimes without your explicit consent. Google is trying to make management of Google Shopping and paid search campaigns easier with one-click management. While this can save you time, it can also undermine sophisticated marketing strategies. Depending on your unique business and goals, a quick fix may not make a positive impact.

Sidecar has closely monitored incoming recommendations across our customers’ accounts, compared Google’s advice to our customers’ goals, and determined whether or not the recommendation can aid or hamper a campaign. Each recommendation requires careful consideration and blindly implementing them could increase costs.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Google, we’ll explore what these new recommendations are and how to handle them.

Release Date:

In 2018 Google started featuring recommendations in beta alongside its newly launched optimization score. The more optimized a retailer’s account, the fewer recommendations they receive. Today recommendations and the optimization score are available for all Google Ads users.

What Is It:

Recommendations are changes Google suggests to marketers within their Google Ads account. When clicked, the recommended change is made automatically. The changes include bid adjustments, keyword suggestions, ad creative improvements, budget changes, and smart bidding applications. The promise of all these changes are expanded reach, greater efficiency, or better ad performance.

For example, a recommendation will say “Bid more efficiently with Target CPA.” It will show that the marketer will receive 1.3 more conversions if she spends $30 more a week. By clicking “Apply All,” the marketer empowers Google to alter her campaign and increase spend.

Some recommendations are marked “Auto Apply.” If a retailer does not reject these recommendations, Google will apply them within 14 days.

The more recommendations the marketer applies, the higher her optimization score. According to Google, the optimization score estimates how well an account is set to perform. The optimization score is only shown for active search and shopping campaigns.

Which Channels:

Recommendations are available for paid search and shopping campaigns on Google.

What It Means for Your Business:

While some recommendations are helpful, many can disrupt retail marketers’ campaigns and hamper performance. For example, Google might recommend applying a smart bidding campaign like Maximize Conversions to increase campaign performance. While you may want to gain more conversions, you may not want to increase spend as drastically as Google recommends, particularly if it has a set ROAS target.

Some recommendations are vague and don’t fully explain what the effects of implementing a change will be. The recommendation might simply say, “Increase bid efficiency with Enhanced CPC,” without any indication of how that will affect costs, reach, or conversion rate. While Enhanced CPC could be beneficial, it requires a controlled experiment to determine whether or not it actually achieves greater efficiency for your business.

Some recommendations are helpful. They might point out ads that would benefit from sitelink extensions or point out irrelevant search terms that your ads are appearing for. Recommendations can be a helpful guide and prompt you to audit keywords or ad creative. But you should not blindly apply recommendations. They need to be carefully considered and weighed against your goals. 

Problems can arise when you allow Google recommendations to drive strategy. Successfully managing Google Ads requires a strategic approach that incorporates a retailer’s unique goals, historical performance, and shifting market trends. Recommendations do not necessarily weigh all of these factors, and could actually interfere with a retailer’s strategy.

In particular, Google is intent on pushing its own solutions through its recommendations, like Target ROAS and Target CPA. We’ve covered extensively why these automated bidding tools can hamper retailers’ growth by limiting transparency into performance and driving up costs.

It’s critical that you regularly review Google recommendations and make sure no automated recommendations are applied without your knowledge. These changes could mean significant revenue or conversion loss. In a highly competitive channel, those losses could have a lasting impact on your performance.

Sidecar has been tracking Google recommendations closely over the past couple months, logging when these updates appear and whether or not they offer sound advice. We’ll update this article with a link to our findings soon.