Q3: Google Ads & Algorithm Changes You Should Note

Hey Google: What Did You Change This Time? 

Google rolled out lots of SEO and SEM updates this year, while we always expect two major algorithm updates annually, I’ve seen some minor things here that have affected the performance of content, web traffic and ad campaigns (we’ll write more about this later). If you haven’t reviewed the updates from Google Live! 2019, or downloaded the new playbook on advertising, they are worth a half-day review on your part. 

New Google Ads Features All B2B Businesses Should Note

For you marketers using Google Ads in your paid marketing efforts, Google has rolled out a feature that enables you to better distinguish what types of conversions your campaigns are targeting. By implementing the new campaign-level conversion settings, you can create specific conversion actions. The campaign conversion setting lets you override the account-level “Include in “Conversions’” setting and specify conversion actions for a particular campaign (or group of campaigns). 

For B2B companies, that means you can now distinguish the difference between “lead generation” or a direct action like a “ticket purchase” or “event registration”. This then allows you to move certain audiences that fall into a conversion type into other campaigns that bring them further down the funnel, but it also allows you to test different bidding strategies. If you want to use this, remember to implement it at the beginning of each new campaign and/or change your campaigns that this would benefit because all campaigns automatically default to the account-level “Include in” ‘Conversion’” setting, which includes all conversion actions in the account.

When managing paid campaigns for B2B clients, historically my team and I have found that the best campaign performance has come from keeping our clients’  ad campaigns running continuously, with year-round changes based on where they are in their marketing plan for that year. This has always maintained the algorithm “knowing” what our conversion goals are, and helped us achieve them at the most optimal costs over time. But not all clients have the budget to do this and/or don’t think it’s relevant. 

Historically, as we have used the “start/stop” campaign method, for seasonal and/or event-related marketing projects, my team and I have found that the Google algorithm needs at least a 21-day learning window to “re-learn” what type of conversion they’re looking for (both in targeting and remarketing).  As Google has stated:

 “Machine learning-based bidding models take time to adapt to any changes you make to your conversion configuration.” 

This is why start/stop campaigns are not the most optimal, and always result in higher CPAs, lower overall conversions and inefficient use of the overall spend. In May, Google announced seasonality bid controls as part of the next evolution of Smart Bidding. For B2C and B2B companies, this enables you to better optimize your budgets for a one-time event or and event/promotions run during a specific period of time. For examples:

  • If a B2C company runs promotions for holiday events and always knows that sales increase in a given period of time, you can make bid adjustments during the promotional time frame that help make the most efficient use of your budget. 
  • If a B2B company is selling tickets to an event, this feature can help overcome some other budget inefficiencies found with this sort of strategy; allowing you to aim for the maximum amount of ticket sales by capping the CPA within the time period the campaign is running where the most conversions happen. 

Google Changed Its Customer Match Policy: Have You Checked Your Remarketing Campaigns?

Another big shakeup that happened this year centered around Google’s ad policies when it comes to customer match. As of April 1, 2019, in order to use customer match for search, display, YouTube and GMAIL campaigns, your company’s Google Ad account has to have historically followed policy compliance and have spent a total lifetime budget of at least $50,000 USD. 

This is detrimental to any company that hasn’t spent the minimum required amount as it completely removes the ability to use your customer data in remarketing campaigns. You can still run remarketing campaigns based on Google generated, default remarketing lists such as “All visitors” and “All converters.” However, these are typically not very effective and tend to have a high cost. My team and I find that these lists generate pretty irrelevant traffic, but it does open the stream for remarketing, when customer lists aren’t an option.

For those of you that can use lists as your company has met the customer match policy requirements, check your list cost and performance closely. If you find unusual shifts in performance it’s advised that you call Google and speak to a rep who specifically knows about audience lists. Earlier this year, my team and I started to see that our list targeting costs were going up and list performance was going down. 

With some deep investigation and several calls, we discovered that Google had slipped in a setting that expanded the targeting reach to potentially irrelevant users. Once we’d figured out how this was affecting campaigns, we went into all the client accounts and re-worked all Display and Gmail campaigns to make sure that they were targeted properly. 

If you’re confused about what this means, it basically means that any time a company uses remarketing, it has to create separate Ad Groups for each remarketing list it’s using and then turn off targeting expansion at the Ad Group Level. You then have to do the same thing for Gmail campaigns targeting customer lists. Each list has to be in its own Ad Group for the safety of not expanding its potential reach to irrelevant users ( meaning users, not on a company list or lists). 

More Google Ad Policy Ninja Notes: 

It’s more important than ever to note that your company can still only use customer data that the company collected first handIt’s also important to note that your company cannot run ads for people you sponsor or partner with and you cannot run ads for other companies, products or services that you offer; each of these still requires its own ad account. @Macala

How To Hire A Google Ads Professional That Actually Knows What They’re Doing

If you’re a large company hiring someone to work on data, there are many ways to go about the interview process. Depending on the skills and technical set needed, finding the right person has numerous factors. Check this handy list that Coriers put out. Feel free to also reach out to my team and I, as we’d love to help you with Google Ads, Analytics and Tag Manager challenges. Don’t worry, you don’t have to put us on retainer, we work with every client on a case-by-case, basis.