Google Ads (and other PPC) updates – August, September & October 2018

It’s cold and dark – but don’t be sad – because it’s also time for another bi-monthly (ish) PPC update. Grab yourself a nice cuppa and brace yourself for some exciting news from the world of paid search.

You are reading: Google Ads (and other PPC) updates – August, September & October 2018

Ah, October, the most spoopy month of the year; the clocks are going back this week, plunging us into darkness for the next six months; the leaves are turning brown, awaiting their inevitable fall to earth, where they turn to mulch; all the good birds have migrated to warmer climes; the bees and butterflies are long gone and before we know it we will all be in a state of semi-hibernation waiting for the sun to return.

But don’t despair – here I am with the (sort of) bi-monthly roundup of PPC updates. Grab yourself a cuppa and brace yourself for some exciting news from the world of paid search.

If you’re a fan of these roundups (and why wouldn’t you be?), you shall be rewarded with dog pictures at the end. No peeking.

1. Is bigger always better?

A while back, I wrote about how Google Ads was rolling out some mega big ads. You now have more characters to play with on even bigger Expanded Text Ads, and the shiny new AI-driven Responsive Search Ads.

But is it actually worth going to the effort to introduce these ad formats to your account?

Well, yes and no.

For one thing, compared to the standard Expanded Text Ads, these ad formats are MASSIVE, especially when ad extensions are shown at the same time. This is obviously a good thing as it pushes other advertisers further down the page. The reporting for Responsive Search Ads also provides a breakdown of Assets, making it easier to see what messaging works best.

Testing which ads work best is a good thing, too, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of what is already working. Unfortunately, this has been the case for a couple of campaigns that I’ve introduced Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads to. In most cases, it seems to be heavily weighted toward serving Responsive Search Ads, meaning that the other ads are barely getting any impressions.

responsive search ads mega impressions
Sick CTR though


The best solution I can come up with to test this is to create a campaign experiment which A/B tests each ad format against each other, which would (hopefully) even out the impressions and determine which performs best – but who knows!

Google touted these new ad formats as being able to increase click-through rates, but a study by Merkle revealed that often, this isn’t the case.

It’s probably going to be a while before we see what the impact of these new ad formats is, but until then, if you’ve had any massive wins or massive fails since introducing them, we’d be interested to know.

2. Close enough?

For yonks, Google has been trying to wean advertisers off of adding loads of exact match keywords to their accounts, instead, asking you to put your trust in them to decide when a keyword matches a user search query well enough to serve an ad.

Exact match close variants have been rolled out across all Google Ad accounts. Here’s an example from Google of what this means:


As Ginny Marvin from Search Engine Land points out:

“It begs the question how much longer Google will hold onto the exact match moniker when it’s becoming looser than phrase match (the words must be present in the same order as the query) and broad match modified (the words must be present but can be rearranged).”

People are mad. And here’s why: Presuming what is implied rather than treating exact match as EXACT MATCH can cause issues. For example:

[hair transplant] has been showing ads for [hair replacement] – this is a non-surgical alternative to what my client actually offers.

[hair transplant] – a keyword which has its own ad group – now shows for the keyword [hair transplant surgery] – which also has its own ad group.

[hair transplantation] – a keyword that was paused due to poor performance is now showing as an exact match close variant for the keyword [hair transplant].

See how much fun this is?

3. You get new ads! And you get new ads!

Remember when Google announced it was going to be even more ‘helpful’ by plonking ad variations that it’s created automatically into accounts? I do, because it’s one more thing I need to keep an eye on.

But you know what? I’ve tested Google’s ad suggestions on one ad group in a high traffic campaign… and two out of three auto-applied ad suggestions have converted better than the original ads. So maybe it’s not all bad.

Ad suggestions are pretty sweet if you’re stretched for time and wanted to test the impact of tweaking ad copy without having to write the ads yourself, but not so good if you need client approval before pushing ads live, or have very specific messaging that needs to be included in the ad copy. Also Not Good If You Don’t Like Ads Written With The First Letter Of Every Word Capitalised.

Keep an eye on the ‘Recommendations’ tab frequently, or follow these steps to opt out if you don’t want this to happen!

4. Even MOAR AI

Responsive Display Ads are now available. In a similar vein to Responsive Search Ads, advertisers can provide up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions and five logos that Google will then use to test different combinations until it finds which ads work best.

The Asset report does actually look pretty good, with a performance rating for each component that makes up an ad, so you can easily swap out anything that isn’t working.

responsive display ad asset report

5. Better late than never, I guess

For months, I have been updating columns in every account, and every view in the Google Ads interface, because they didn’t migrate the layout from AdWords.

Only now does Google decide that being able to import your column layout *might* have been a useful feature. But beware – copying your old columns replaces all of your existing Google Ads columns – and once it’s been updated it can’t be undone for some reason.

If you haven’t faffed about with all your columns already, here’s how to do it.

6. Take action on local conversion… actions

You might have noticed some new conversions sliding into your Google Ads conversions tab recently. They aren’t automatically counted as conversions, but they are handy for understanding how users engage with your businesses if it has a physical location.

A breakdown of what these conversions mean can be found here.

Because there *are* other paid search options…

7. Tell me a story, advertiser

Everybody loves Stories. Even Facebook Stories. So now, predictably, Facebook has rolled out ‘Stories Ads’. Yay.

8. Instant Experiences blast ads in your seeing holes faster than ever before

Facebook has changed its Canvas mobile ad solution to ‘Instant Experiences’ because the ads load really fast. Almost instantly, in fact. They also added some new templates. Here’s some stuff you can do with them:

  • Instant Storefront helps businesses sell products in a grid format.
  • Instant Lookbook enables businesses to display products in the context of a lifestyle image.
  • Instant Customer Acquisition helps businesses drive customer action by displaying offerings and including a clear call to action.
  • Instant Storytelling uses images and video to give people a better feel for your brand.
  • Instant Form lets people easily share their contact information to learn more about your offerings.

9. Lose weight in 4 minutes with this one simple trick! You won’t believe how easy it is!

Facebook is also cracking down on ads with clickbait headlines. Low-quality ads might not be removed completely (cos let’s be honest, clickbait works and Facebook can’t be losing ad revenue), but will have their reach throttled.

More on that here.

10. LinkedIn gets personal

LinkedIn Dynamic Ads are customised to users, adding information like name and job title to ads. I personally wouldn’t be that wowed by seeing an ad that had something I probably don’t care about next to a picture of my face, but according to LinkedIn, click-through rates have doubled compared to standard display ads.

And finally…

Please put your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care to show your appreciation for…

Browser Media’s best doggos – Spoopy spooktacular special

The next round-up will feature festive doggos, so if you want your dog to be made into an internet superstar, send pics my way.

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