Google Ads is shifting toward automation, but is it right for your campaign?

Google Ads is shifting toward automation, alleging that it improves campaign performance. But does it?

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A little while ago, I wrote about how Google Ads is removing features such as broad match modified keywords, and pushing advertisers toward using other match types, including broad match in conjunction with a Smart Bidding bid strategy, alleging that it improves campaign performance. But does it?

The answer to that is really going to depend on a number of factors. If you have a complex Google Ads account with a ton of campaigns, a decent budget, lots of conversions, and trust Google to serve Dynamic Search Ads instead of writing your own headlines, this could be a great approach to save time fiddling about with bids, budgets, and ad copy. But I decided to test it out on a lead gen site with a relatively small monthly budget to see if turning on the tap and letting Google Ads optimise the campaigns for conversions could work for B2B, too.

The experiment

I wanted to test two campaigns, with the Smart Bidding strategy ‘Maximise conversions’ with one campaign using broad match keywords with Expanded and Responsive Search Ads, and the other using Dynamic Search Ads (DSA). This ran for 6 weeks in order to give Google Ads ample time to learn.

A sample of the broad match keywords in the non-DSA campaign were ‘digital marketing agency’, ‘online marketing agency’, and ‘inbound marketing agency’. The geo-targeting was set to London and to be shown to only people in that location.

Here are the results.

There were 2 conversions, both from the non-DSA campaign with a 2.5% conversion rate. The CPA for both campaigns was £227.77 and the total spend was £455.54.

When it came to CPC, the non-DSA campaign was £3.98. The DSA was significantly higher at £12.06 (yikes).

Engagement was not great. Across both campaigns, the average time on site was 30 seconds, the bounce rate was 72%, and the number of pages visited was 1.81.

Perhaps the most alarming factor was how much time and effort needed to be spent on adding negative keywords. 87% of search terms were added as negative keywords (1,489 of 1,711 search terms provided by Google Ads) during the duration of the experiment.

Of the keywords that did convert, one was ‘grow digital marketing’. The other, I don’t know, as it was lumped into the ‘Other’ search terms category, which is not very helpful! This also doesn’t make much sense to me, as the actual search term report shows hundreds of searches with only one impression – so why hide this one?

But that’s not all

Outside of this experiment, Google Ads had been bugging me for weeks to switch to a Maximise Conversions Smart Bidding strategy with a set CPA (recommended to be set at £40) for a client across a couple of campaigns. They had a fairly OK number of conversions over a number of weeks, so I thought it was worth relenting and giving it a go.

Boy howdy, was that a bad decision.


Their daily spend jumped from an average of £50/day to £130 at its highest, and was at least double for the duration this bid strategy was implemented. What’s worse, the CPA increased by nearly £25 as it didn’t result in an increase in conversions (yay)!

In conclusion, would I recommend this approach to a lead gen, B2B business?

Shocker, but no.

For the broad match/DSA experiment, handing over control to Google Ads meant that I had less control over bids, budgets, and the terms that were serving ads. Almost all of my time was spent on adding negative keywords. No new keywords were discovered that wouldn’t have been picked up using phrase match, exact match, or the (now retired) broad modified match with far less hassle.

For the client, relinquishing control of CPC to Google Ads resulted in a significantly higher spend and fewer conversions.

That’s not to say I don’t think this would be a good approach for some businesses. But if I was going to recommend letting Google Ads take the reins, you’d need to:

  • Be a fairly large B2C e-commerce site with lots of products
  • Have a decent budget
  • Make a decent ROI on the products you sell
  • Have at least a couple of conversions per day over a 30 day period for the campaign you want to test
  • Be able to run this as an experiment alongside a well optimised, high performing existing campaign, changing the bid strategy and nothing else
  • Have the time and resources to be able to analyse campaign performance against the control

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