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September Brings Big Changes in Google Ads

It’s been a year full of updated and changes from Google. We’ve had new interfaces, platform rebrands, algorithm changes, and more.  Over the past several weeks we’ve seen a number of changes come through on the Google Ads side of things, both expected and unexpected. Here’s a quick run down of the big changes we’ve seen this month and some initial reactions to them.

1. Not-so-exact match

Over time, Google has become more lenient with how it defines exact match keywords. In the beginning, exact meant the same, no variation whatsoever. As time went on, misspellings, singular, and plural versions of words were allowed. The next major change came in allowing variations in function words and word order. Now, exact match encompasses close variants with the “same intent”.

Needless to say, I am less than thrilled. Don’t get me wrong, I can see where Google is coming from. If someone searches for kids red tshirt or red kids t shirt they are looking for the same thing. However, intent isn’t always so easy to determine. Even actual humans struggle with it from time to time (ever misinterpret a text message?). Leaving it up to a computer to determine… well I guess we’ll just see how that goes. My greatest annoyance here is that exact match was reliable. You entered a term and you knew that’s how you’d be targeting people. Now it’s a lot less certain. It might be time for Google to rename this match type.

2. Expanding expanded text ads

It wasn’t all that long ago that PPC specialists around the world were reacting to the news of expanded text ads (2016 to be exact). Now that we’ve all made the switch, get ready to expand your ads once again. To line up with the new responsive search ads, Google now allows for three 30-character headlines and two 90-character descriptions! This is a huge increase from the previous two headlines and single 80-character description. What’s even more interesting is that this seems to be the new standard for search ads.  The additional headline and description fields remain “optional”, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

I’m pretty excited about this, but opinions around the office vary. On one hand, the more information you can put in an ad the more relevant it becomes. On the other hand, writing 270 characters (nearly double the previous limit) can be tricky to do without creating spammy, rambling text. It’s a delicate balance between being informative and using additional characters simply because you can. Ultimately I think we’ll have to wait for the data to come in for us to see if the new ad format is any better.

3. Ads roulette

A few months back, Google announced the introduction of responsive search ads. At the time of this announcement, the ads were still in beta and we were yet to see them. While they’re still in beta, we’ve started to see the option for responsive search ads creeping into some of our accounts. Here’s how it works. You provide up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google will rotate different combinations of descriptions and headlines in order to determine which perform best together. Essentially, Google takes care of some of the A/B testing for you.

Truth be known I’m still not sure how I feel about this one yet. Trying to create 15 unique headlines is no easy task. There is only so much information you can write before you end up repeating yourself. My question is how is Google rotating these ads? Sure, you can find a winning combination that you may never have thought of, but my guess is there are gong to be a lot more losing ad combinations. There are ways you can attempt to minimize the odds, such as pinning headlines in certain positions to limit randomization. If I’m going to do that, I might as well just create my own ads to test. It’s another case of wait and see for this one.

With all of these recent updates and changes one thing is clear: Google’s interests lie in automation, machine learning, and AI. These were the big buzzwords during their keynote this summer, and these updates show that Google means business. Love it or hate it, I’m excited to see what machine learning brings to digital marketing as a whole.