Google Ad Rotation Change – The Workaround

Many of you in the professional SEM world probably spend as much time as I do optimizing paid search campaigns, testing keywords and ads, and generally rolling around in all the data we have at our fingertips. As a firm believer in the mantra “test, measure, repeat” I was a bit peeved when I noticed that Google had changed the options for ad delivery in AdWords. My beloved “Rotate evenly” was replaced with “Rotate evenly: Show ads more evenly for 30 days, then optimize for clicks”. This small change has effectively removed our ability to do any longer term creative or other A/B testing.

The Real Issue
Some campaigns/adgroups don’t necessarily have enough traffic to do a legitimate test in 30 days. And even if there is enough traffic and conversion data to draw some meaningful conclusions, I never want my ads optimized for clicks. Google gets paid for the click, I don’t. What’s more is there is no obvious way to reset it for another 30 days. Selecting another option, saving, then re-selecting 30 days does no good.

After searching for an option on the Internet, I finally ended up calling Google directly. It seemed that the representative had no understanding of why this seemingly innocuous change was a very big issue for the advertiser. After a round of questions and answers with the rep, the issue was escalated. There was some lack of clarity on what the rotation rules applied to and didn’t. Here is the information I received back from Google:

  1. The ad rotation 30-day clock applies to the Ad Group level, not the Campaign, even though it is a Campaign-level setting.
  2. Modifying ads, adding them to the Ad Group, or even pausing and un-pausing will restart the 30-day clock.

An Annoying Dance
So, anyway you slice it, if you want to continue rotating your ads, you have some extra hoops to jump through. Keep in mind that any change to an ad does reset the metrics for that ad, so that one can be counter-productive. So that leaves us with the pause-unpause dance.

The Suggested Workaround

  • Set up an extra ad in each of your ad groups to use as a ‘switch’ you can flick to reset the clock at any time.
  • Use an identical headline or other element so you can easily sort it out using AdWords Editor.
  • Then you just unpause, post, pause post. This will reset your 30-day clock on all Ad Groups and leave all the metrics on your “real” ads intact.

I know it sucks, but it is what we have until Google gives us our tool back. I would love it if someone came up with a better alternative, so if you have, please share it with the rest of us.

———————————– UPDATE ————————————————-

As of June 1, 2012 the power of the people has influenced Google to reconsider this change. A word from Google:

“Also, in response to your feedback, we’re planning to make two changes to the setting. First, we’ll expand the even rotation period from 30 days to 90 days to give you a longer window for testing new ads. Second, if you still wish to have your ads rotate evenly indefinitely, we’re going to offer an opt-out of this change. You can opt-out by filling in your information on this form or by contacting your account representative. Both of these changes will go into effect on June 11, 2012.

If we see a large amount of demand for the opt-out over the next few weeks, we’ll also offer the opt-out in the AdWords interface directly.”

Read the reasons as to why they made this update in the first place on Google’s Adwords blog.

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