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Greetings Happy Readers! Host Amalia Fowler sought experts’ views regarding the changes in the Google Ads platform, what is their go-to RSA strategy, what they think about Performance Max? and more.

Q1: It’s well known there are a *lot* of changes that happen to the Google Ads platform and therefore, how we work. What changes have stymied you or frustrated you the most recently?

Overall slowness in the UI. Hidden search terms. These are probably the two biggest frustrations for me. @beyondthepaid

And here’s me stuck with only 280 ctrs! The match type change and the terrible inevitability of PMax. Other changes have been problematic, but these two have affected my programs the most. @JuliaVyse

I can’t crack RSAs (responsive search ads). My ETAs (extended text ads) almost always had CTRs in the 4%+ range. Not my RSAs. @AmaliaEFowler

You know what? HIDDEN SEARCH TERMS. UUUUUgh! @JuliaVyse

The general uncertainty and lack of information around Performance Max has been my main irk. It can also feel at times that products are being rushed out before being fully completed (PMAX again) that being said @MenachemAni has been a great resource for this. @PPC_Fraser

Hiding data. Whether that’s through search term hiding on search campaigns, pmax or smart shopping. A close second would be the match types, but these combined is truly frustrating. @selley2134

Performance Max and similar Smart features like RSAs that remove optimization abilities in place of machine learning optimization. Think of it like an 20 year accountant getting a new bookkeeping software one day when they come into work and expecting no pushback. @timmhalloran

Removing search terms data, removing avg. pos. It’s a lot harder to test ad copy with the new RSA ads. Lack of insight into automation and Performance Max. @jord_stark

My big four are hidden search terms, lack of performance data for RSAs, the emphasis on optimization score, and the snail pace of the UI. @alexnicoll93

Less insight in the Search Terms Report – Exact match not actually being exact anymore & the expansion of close variant matching in general has changed how we structure campaigns – Google Ads reps seem to be more aggressive recently than in previous years. @adclarke10

The crappy interface, I suppose. I wouldn’t say I’m “frustrated” by the recent changes because google’s been heading in this direction for 10+ years and we’re all in the same boat. Monopolies are going to act like monopolies. @stevegibsonppc

The biggest ones have been the match types, system slowness (really bad some days) and removal of smart shopping for performance max shopping. @lchasse

Right now it’s Performance Max, the lack of data available to us and the ambiguous insights and unclear date-range pickers are making it a different to report or optimize. Luckily there are some clever cloggs in #PPCChat with some great tips and tricks for PMax reporting. @C_J_Ridley

Lack of data for RSAs is also frustrating. I get being forced into the new ad format but please give us more data than just impressions. @beyondthepaid

The combination of pushing toward Broad/Automation while simultaneously moving to a privacy-centric world creates difficulties in properly optimizing campaigns. @MenachemAni

Forcing everyone to switch over to RSAs & claiming that it’s great for testing new headlines/descriptions, but you can’t actually see headline- or description-level metrics to determine what performs best (clicks, CTR, conversions, etc.) @adclarke10

Regarding Hidden Search Terms – Anyone remember looking at the raw log files? I know this can be kinda heavy – but there must be a good solution out there to grab this… so we don’t have to rely on Google to tell us what queries actually hit our own servers. @Galliguez

Q2: Let’s start with match type shifts and lack of SQR data. How has this affected your account, and what strategies have you found to mitigate it? Don’t forget to indicate if you have specific industry strategies for Ecomm, Lead Gen or B2B

B2B – we are routinely seeing 75% of our SQRs hidden. Many of these are converting terms that we would probably add to our account. Match type shifts haven’t affected us as much lately – close variants have been around for a long time. @beyondthepaid

Complete Rebuild and Restructure of Campaigns and Ad Groups that had YEARS of solid History. Agency, All Industries. @Realicity

Lead Gen: I find that the terms doing the worst are always hidden. I build almost entirely in exact match (local service based clients with small budgets) and do a lot of pre-build negative keyword research. @AmaliaEFowler

That said, close variants continue to be a huge problem for B2B. @beyondthepaid

Agency side here – Controversially I think k we had a bit of time on match types so we were able to transition over quite smoothly. That being said, the complete lack of search queries makes it so much more difficult to add validity to our recommendations. @PPC_Fraser

Lead Gen -> I also avoid having the word ‘company’ in keywords (i.e. “hvac company near me”) because I have figured out that Google translates this to any competition it can think of near my business. @AmaliaEFowler

Public Sector, Retail, Restaurant lack of search terms has REALLY effed up my public sector campaigns. There is a high risk of overlap and that visibility helped me immensely. for match types, ever told a govt they’re paying for irrelevant clicks because Google? @JuliaVyse

B2C Lead gen I’ve found Max Convs (tCPA) and broad match keywords are actually working better than phrase or exact match keywords. B2B Lead Gen I’m still sticking with Exact/Phrase match, as the lack of SQR data makes using broad match pure guesswork and luck. @C_J_Ridley

(lead gen): BMM was our go-to matchtype, so we’ve pivoted to phrase across the board. Since close variants cause a lot of overlap, instead of hypersegmenting campaigns with tactics like SKAGs, we’re segmenting campaigns/ad groups by theme & have more KWs per ad group. @adclarke10

Lead Gen & SMBs: For me it’s led to simpler campaign structures. Combined with automated bidding, it’s kinda a godsend. No need to duplicate match types, no trawling through single-data points to try and make up data stories. @ferkungamaboobo

Exact match was my go to match type but now I find myself relying on it more, especially with close variants. I know it can work but the lack of SQR data along with the push towards broad can be frustrating. Especially when working with a small budget. @alexnicoll93

Leadgen & ecom, 50/50 split (first time I can say that). For ecom, I’ve adopted a conservative approach to what Google recommends, adding in targeting layers, bid modifiers, and placement/KW excl. as necessary. For B2B, I’ve changed a lot. More than 280 char worth. @timmhalloran

Lead gen b2b. We have a fairly big ticket so it gets expensive with no sculpting. I’d love to run a broad match campaign & use the STR to optimize both PPC & organic content strategy. Instead, I find myself investing more in other platforms & non-PPC earned media. @TheCopyTrail

B2C eCom – I’m finding broad match type is working well with Max Conv. Value (tROAS) due to fewer queries being attributed to “Total: Other search terms”. I do lean heavily on Smart bidding though. @C_J_Ridley

Ecom – gets harder to make the old tiered system of shopping where you funnel high-value queries to higher bids (surprisingly tho it does still seem to work with the queries we can see) @selley2134

For B2B, it’s about digging deeper into long tail based on what’s working, more so than I used to. So I’ll start broader on multiple KW categories and see what’s sticky. Then once I find it, I’ll take what’s working and expand, test, expand, test. More on this too. @timmhalloran

It’s also put a much higher focus on making sure campaigns are separate. Negative the terms from other ad groups, keep everything clean and separate. Also also, much more up-front negative keyword research – to be cliched, proactive, not reactive. @ferkungamaboobo

I am across the board with B2B and Ecom. I work with some hospitals, retailers, etc… We have simplified campaigns, because the data is not there. You have to be ahead of negatives also with the match types. We used to let it run and work on them. @lchasse

Restaurant in particular I’m leaning more towards phrase and broad with audience layers on top. Those are working quite well in terms of getting people into locations. It helps that it’s fast food, so not quite as niche as some retail. @JuliaVyse

I’ve always taken a “direct mail” approach to match types – and seen them as “lists” of users. So nothing has fundamentally changed. Either I want to advertise to the list, or I don’t. @stevegibsonppc

I will add that with b2b and a higher average conversion value, there is the advantage that one or two conversions can offset weeks of wasteful spend but: 1. It’s rarer than people think 2. On principle, I don’t think we should be paying so far above the odds. @TheCopyTrail

Q3: Moving on to RSAs. With the sunset (death) of ETAs, what is your go-to RSA strategy? Do you have one, or like me, are you just figuring it out as you go? (If you’re a client reading this don’t worry I have a strategy called test it and see)

Leadgen / SMB: I’ve really leaned into pinning headlines lately, and am going to see how that goes. I’ve also built my adgroups differently, so that I have fewer keywords along a theme and it’s easier to get my RSAs to a great or excellent quality. @AmaliaEFowler

Public Sector, Restaurant, Retail I don’t have a go-to, but I do encourage using more assets rather than making ETAs. In public sector where we look for IS quite a bit, it’s all about having several ads and lots of iteration. @JuliaVyse

B2B – we are replicating our best ETAs with pinning, as well as testing RSAs with no pinning. @beyondthepaid

Testing Creating ETAs with pins vs adding many headlines/descriptions. To do this you have to make sure you have ad rotation set to rotate indefinitely & you can’t use enhanced cpc (apparently this overwrites ad rotation settings) @selley2134

The brand strategist in me always wants to pin the brand name in some way to the 1 or 2 spot. Then I use the other H’s to test a mix of value/feature/and question based ideas. But I’m open to new tactics as well. @timmhalloran

I use the past ETA data to drive what we put in the ads. In accounts who have very strict brand rules, we pin everything. I am seeing Google show the RSAs quite a bit more than ETAs though. @lchasse

I do a lot of pinning. It’s not ideal because Google is still going to try to “optimise” the text, and do it incompetently. Basically, if you’re not using some sort of ROAS or CPA – which is, in itself, hit or miss – any ad “optimisation” doesn’t work any more.  @stevegibsonppc

I set up new ad groups with just one RSA with as many high quality headlines and descriptions as I can come up with. If it’s an existing campaign I have been keeping the best performing ETA(s). I am about to make some ETAish RSAs, though due to performance issues. @alexnicoll93

(lead gen): – Running at least 1 RSA per ad group, if testing 2 I make sure they speak to different themes. Ex: RSA1 more heavily focused on pain points & RSA2 more focused on conversions, like “Free Trial” – Testing pinning across HLs/Desc’s – Creating fake ETAs @adclarke10

Talked to a very opinionated Google rep a few months back. His suggestion was one RSA, ideally no pinning, and treat headlines as your keyword variations, with your descriptions being your copy variations. Not about single copy variation, but giving ML options. @ferkungamaboobo

Two identical RSAs, pin one and let the other one run wild. Observe differences in total imps + conversions/imp. I’ll plug our resources based on Optmyzr data that talk more about benchmarks & how/why you can’t test RSAs like you did ETAs. Links in next tweet. @TheCopyTrail

RSA study:… Testing recommendations: @TheCopyTrail

Sorry, I’m late. I got distracted by Q2 and all the replies. I have no real tactic at the moment except for add as many as possible and review often. I am trialling pinning headlines and psuedo-ETAs but no solid findings yet. @C_J_Ridley

Q4: On to Performance Max. Just a quick one to start. Have you tried Pmax? Yes/No and why?

B2B – no way. Pmax is not brand compliant for many of our clients and is way too much of a black box. @beyondthepaid

(Lead Gen) I have not tried PMax. My clients are small businesses with small budgets, and I haven’t been able to justify the test nor have I heard of success in lead gen from fellow experts. I’m getting closer to running one though, it has an inevitable feeling to it. @AmaliaEFowler

B2B Lead gen (no conv. value) – No success. Too much spam. B2B eCom – no experience yet B2C Lead Gen (no conv. value) – met tCPA but not amazing B2C eCom – Great results with better ROAS than other campaign types. @C_J_Ridley

We have tried. I feel like it’s our job to test everything even if we don’t necessarily agree with it. That being said many clients have asked us not to use Pmax. @selley2134

No, not yet. I know that PMax will replace my Locals pretty soon, but it’s just not brand safe for most of my programs. Negatives at the account level and ONLY through a rep? recipe for disaster. @JuliaVyse

But I did have a convo with a client AND the creative team about how if you don’t have a video PMax will just make one out of your existing assets. I saw the creative director’s blood run cold. @JuliaVyse

Yes w/a lot of the accounts. Some accounts you cannot, because of the lack of control where your ads show up or for what they show up for. Google wants this to work, so where it is viable, we are trying to make it work. I have seen some good successes. @lchasse

Agency – The wise @Digital_Liam once told me to ‘swallow the frog’ and as an agency, we’ve definitely tried to embrace it. Whilst it can be a pain, we have at times seen good results and personally, I’m pretty much resigned to it being the new norm. @PPC_Fraser

(lead gen): Yes, we started testing for a real estate client & have seen good initial results. While the main conversion is form submissions, it’s more of a B2C audience & I haven’t tested it for any B2B clients yet. @adclarke10

No. I’m unconvinced that it makes sense to combine messaging (ads and landing pages) for prospects who are at totally different stages of awareness. @stevegibsonppc

Q5: For those of you who have tried Performance Max – what tips and tricks or things to avoid can you give those of us on the fence (or way, way over in a faraway field)? If you haven’t tried it, what in particular could someone help you with?

Use GA page insights and add campaign as a secondary dimension to gain page insights. @PPC_Fraser

(lead gen): My main focus is on what the client wants to achieve & then I lay out their options based on what’s available. I also make sure to note the nuances of those approaches (ex: learning periods) & frame everything as a test so that expectations are aligned. @adclarke10

I did a talk at @SheffieldDM on this exact topic. I’m doing more stuff on Pmax too! Including a webinar for @evolutednm a “Get Started with PMax” talk for UnLevel & @Optmyzr a 20-minute long talk at @ppcliveuk on PMax in Sept Watch this space! @C_J_Ridley

Q6: We’re often stuck between the needs of stakeholders (bosses, clients) and Google’s changes. What advice do you have on approaching those stakeholders and balancing those interests?

I am open, transparent and honest with my clients as much as possible. When necessary, I back up my thoughts with some expertly written blogs or Google help docs. I will tell clients “I don’t know if this is going to work” and let them assign budget. @AmaliaEFowler

Build trust early and continuously. It’s our job to help our clients and partners navigate all this change and our expertise is valuable for them. Getting them reliant on one ‘favourite’ product reduces your relationship IMO. @JuliaVyse

I find it’s always best to sit down (preferably in-person) and talk through what the client’s needs are and how the change may impact how we approach/report on our contribution to this need. @C_J_Ridley

I try to learn as much as I can about changes and what impacts they may have. Then lay everything out to the client as well as my recommendation. Usually, this ends in a test, but it’s much harder to test pmax without impacting the rest of the account @selley2134

Recap EVERYTHING. PPC gets so much more scrutiny than other tactics because money is on the line outside of agency or consultancy fees. So if we agree to test, and we agree whatever happens is going to happen, you best believe that’s in a time-stamped email. @AmaliaEFowler

As agencies we are responsible for client performance, so their needs always come first. That said, it is our job to explain changes to the client and recommend things that make sense for them. @beyondthepaid

Educating the client on Google (good and bad) is our role, so I think the most important thing is not being too precious over accounts. If change needs to happen, then roll with it! @PPC_Fraser

My clients know I am platform agnostic, so if at some point Google is not working for them, we can shift budget to other platforms. We should be testing other platforms anyway. All the eggs in one basket = potential issues My clients come first always. @lchasse

I tell them google is out to screw them… and that, if they want to counterbalance the negatives of that, then we should work on improving the performance of their whole PPC funnel. @stevegibsonppc

Want to start off by recognizing that you can do everything right and still catch blame. That said: 1. Be proactive and accurate in educating clients/bosses. 2. Provide recommendations, not just warnings. More to say on this but so little room. A video, soon. @TheCopyTrail

My mindset around this is entirely centered on transparency, honesty, and always putting my best foot forward. If the change is required, I’ll usually work ahead and get some of the kinks worked out before it’s mandatory. @alexnicoll93

Otherwise, if I think it’ll work well for the client I’ll recommend we try it out and monitor. @alexnicoll93

The big thing to be is to de-jargon it. Put the impact into business words, not analyst words. Being someone who (still!) likes hyper-analysis and data, it can be super hard! @ferkungamaboobo

Q7: Last one #PPCChat! It’s a two parter (or choose your own adventure). 7a: What do you wish Google would do differently when releasing new features? 7b: What’s something you learned from someone today you didn’t know before?

There was a great thread this morning (I think started by @C_J_Ridley) where @PPCKirk talked about how Google still behaves like a startup and iterates as they go. I reallllllly wish they’d release more finished products with more data for us to use. @AmaliaEFowler

I wish Google would hire someone to work alongside Ginny (not tagging as she’s on AL) to be the Voice of Customers (as @TheCopyTrail suggested). Between Ginny and this VoC, Google Ads can get a lot of valuable feedback and suggestions that will make everyone happy. @C_J_Ridley

Give us some time to effing breathe! Talk to us more, let us try the products and make a rollout plan that doesn’t shift the ground beneath us all year long. @JuliaVyse

Genuinely have support for new products and consult the industry before making changes. A7 2: Some of those RSA tests are going onto my to-do list. @PPC_Fraser

I wish Google would share more information (both data in the account & a legitimate reason for the change). In my mind there are too many changes that don’t benefit the account (biz) or the advertiser & only benefit G – so if I am wrong I wish G would explain better. @selley2134

Things I appreciated today #PPCChat @adclarke10 – sharing his article @beyondthepaid – I really appreciate learning B2B tactics. It isn’t my normal space @ferkungamaboobo – always making me think outside the box @C_J_Ridley with the broad match & tCPA advocating. @AmaliaEFowler

Give us some B2B love (please) and maybe slow down the craziness. Brands are having a difficult time (and Google is also i.e. the slowness and bugs lately) getting everything in place between ads changes, pixel changes, and analytics. Too much, too fast. @lchasse

@Galliguez had a great suggestion for finding hidden search terms in raw log files. It’s not a fix for everyone, but I genuinely hadn’t thought of this. @JuliaVyse

Would love it if the reps could provide actual support for changes that are happening, rather than just giving a sales pitch. We have legitimate concerns & the “just test it, we promise it works” response isn’t helpful. @adclarke10

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