Dream Agility Blog

Beware Changes to Google PPC Ad types and Interface


Just before lockdown, Dream Agility attended the National Retail Association’s Conference in New York, many large retailers were complaining that they could no longer afford to acquire customers via Google. However, with ‘Lockdown’ it became clear that many retailers simply had no choice but to continue.  Google went from its set your watch by it 20% year on year growth in revenues, to suddenly peaking at a 44% YoY increase, with accompanying record sales revenues. 

Both Matt Janaway of Marketing Labs and Neil Andrew at Lunio have both highlighted that in recent months, Google has made some pretty big changes to the way Google Ads works. Some of these changes are positive and helpful, but for the most part, Google have made everything much more complicated and confusing for advertisers. In this post, I’ll explain what’s going on with these changes and why they matter to you as an advertiser. I’ll also share my thoughts on what’s hot and what’s not…

Google is Hiding search terms for clicks that we've already paid money for

As of September, Google is hiding search terms that advertisers have already paid for. In other words, if you’re an advertiser with a PPC campaign and you’ve already paid money for clicks on your ads, there’s no longer any way to see what people are searching for when they click on your ad in any Performance Max campaigns, and they’re also drastically reducing the visibility in other campaign types too (e.g., search, shopping, etc). For example, if you have an ad set up to take someone to your website, a few months ago you’d have been able to see the search term (and keyword) which led them to your site, whereas now you’re blind to how they are getting there. It’s making life even harder for advertisers to understand what is or isn’t performing.

Broad match keywords are now so loose that they're useless

Broad match keywords are now so loose that they’re useless. They will match search terms to a phrase, which can be as simple as the first word of the keyword, or something which is incredibly loosely related. For example, if you have a broad match keyword “handbags” and someone searches for “wallets”, they will get matched, and your completely unrelated ad will show up.

Automatically trying to push "recommendations" and incentivising agencies with points, exchangeable for gifts for actioning.

Google changes buckets and associated targets to support their business strategy, these are their internal measures and goals for Googles performance such as increase spend, having ads in their preferred format, etc. As a Google Premier Partner for many years, we’ve never seen a target focused on an advertiser’s performance i.e.  reducing the advertiser’s wasted costs, improving the advertiser’s sales or Return on Ad Spend. The Google representatives seem to give you advice that hits their targets but not the advertiser’s goals and objectives.

Most of these automated recommendations should be viewed with caution because they are not only often ineffective, but they also can be very expensive. The reason why in our opinion that automated recommendations don’t work well, is that Google’s algorithms aren’t able to properly identify what works best for each advertiser’s unique offerings or objectives. In fact, many SME businesses have found out that using automatic recommendations actually hurts their PPC campaigns rather than helping them!

How to opt-out of Googles auto-recommendations which is hidden deep in the interface.

The opt-out is hidden deep in the interface, which means many advertisers won’t know about it. This is another subversive attempt by Google to force you into their new program. Here is how to access the setting:

Navigate to your Google Ads account. Select Tools & Analysis > Campaign Settings > Targeting tab, then click Edit next to “Targeting” on this page. Click Save Changes once done making changes.

*Note: This will not affect your automatic targeting settings or those set by standard ad groups.*

Constant pressure to convert keywords to broad match (we all know why...)

This is one of the biggest changes in years, as it’ll affect how you choose your keywords. If you’ve ever been confused/irritated by Google asking you to convert to broad match keywords from phrase and exact matches, this is one of the reasons why: broad match burns through budget and keeps your spend high, hitting one of the buckets that Google has for its performance objectives. It’s far less efficient than the other ad types but is a big cash generator by comparison for Google.

Broad Match gives Google total freedom to decide which keyword variations your ads should appear for. In other words, if someone searches “red shoes” they could see your ad even if you’re targeting only “black shoes” in your ad group! You can also see very few of the search terms with Broad match keywords, meaning they could be serving your ads against completely irrelevant searches, and you’d never know. With broad match enabled for every keyword term in an ad group, advertisers are likely to be spending more than necessary on searches where users weren’t even looking for what they were advertising.

Google Support is deteriorating with every passing month

In our experience Google support is getting worse and worse with every passing month. The wait times for queries to be answered are longer than ever, and the quality of service has declined significantly recently. We’ve even heard horror stories from other Agencies of Google routinely soliciting their clients directly and telling them to get rid of their agencies and to just follow their recommendations.

How to add negative keywords to Google Performance Max campaigns without a Google account manager doing it?

The short answer to this is you can’t. The functionality is clearly there but we’re not allowed access to it. Negative keywords are extremely important for performance as they help to exclude unwanted traffic, hence, they’re a core part of PPC advertising. Negative keywords should be used in Google’s Performance Max campaigns – but, if you aren’t an account manager and want to add negative keywords to your campaign, you can’t!

Auto-populating Google Performance Max campaigns with bad auto-generated creative then serving them in terrible places

Google has started auto-populating Google Performance Max campaigns with awful auto-generated creative then serving them in terrible places. YouTube ads are often ineffective at the best of times but now that Google are auto-generating generic looking videos using your feed pictures, the results are becoming the nightmares of brand managers. Not only that, but you can’t even see how much is being spent on YouTube ads in your Performance Max campaigns.


All of these changes are part of a clear strategy to push advertisers into running their campaigns in Google’s new Performance Max and Google Ads Video campaigns. This is likely due to the fact that Google can charge more for these products than traditional Google Ads PPC campaigns, and with limited visibility, it is much harder to optimise for the best results. Thanks to increased competition and high demand from advertisers, costs are soaring, and we are seeing more advertisers fleeing Facebook Ads at an alarming rate. In short: what we’re seeing here is nothing less than full-scale war being waged against advertisers by Google itself! Using tech solutions which are client performance based are one of the few tactics you can use against the decreased visibility and increased cost from Google. We have a range of proprietary tools that can help and offer a free audit if you’d like to see how you can increase your sales and ROAS.