How Much Automation Is Too Much In AdWords?

I think this is a fascinating topic. As PPC pros, we have a very distinct view of ecosystems like AdWords and definitely preferences on how much control we want over our accounts (spoiler alert – we want TOTAL control of every aspect!).

I was part of a Twitter exchange late yesterday started by Mark Kennedy asking if anyone else had received an email from AdWords letting them know that they were going to be part of a pilot program wherein AdWords would start creating and running ads in their accounts:

Needless to say, people were both surprised and not very happy about this happening as currently described:

Mark actually put out a piece on the topic, which you can find here.

What Will This Program Actually Do?

It seems like, from the email that Mark shared (I did not get this email for any of the accounts that I manage), that starting February 9th, AdWords will start adding ad variations to your account under the following conditions:

  1. If you have at least one campaign that is optimizing for clicks or conversions
  2. If you have ad groups with fewer than the recommended “best practice” number of ads running

It is unclear if both of these criteria must be met, but it seems like the first is required? Hoping AdWords can clarify more on this as the word gets out to advertisers.

How will these ads be generated?

These ads will be created based on information you’ve provided in your existing ads, such as your headlines, description, ad extensions, or information found on your ads’ landing page. New ads will only be added to each ad group once.

There are a number of scary items in there for professional PPC managers. I am particularly disturbed by the thought of AdWords pulling information from landing pages. The automation of ad extension information seems to flow along with the recent “we are going to start using your local numbers in ads” announcement.

Why Is This Happening?

The short answer is most likely tied to the end of “standard text ads” (STA) and the likely large number of accounts who probably don’t even have a single ETA (expanded text ad) created or running in them yet. Unlike Enhanced Campaigns a few years back, auto-converting from STA to ETA isn’t quite as easy for the system to just do. They do have a migration tool that helps advertisers create ETA versions of their current STA. But, I’m guessing that a whole lot of businesses probably don’t even know this is happening. By starting to create ads for them, AdWords can move them into their now preferred format.

AdWords also strongly encourages advertisers to optimize for clicks or conversions, just look at what the screen for ad rotation settings looks like:

Ad Rotation Optimization Options AdWords

Notice the first two choices, the ones with the language that makes them seem like desirable choices, are the settings that would put an advertiser into eligibility for “auto added ads” program. Optimize for clicks is the default setting – see AdWords own documentation here.

So Is This An Overreach?

Most PPC pros would probably feel as I do, that this is definitely an overreach. I suggested that it might be better if the ads were created, but you had to add them to your account for them to start running.

As it stands now, these ads will be created and running and it will be up to advertisers to pause them. There was not an indication in the initial email about how frequently new ads might be created and added to accounts either:

You can edit, pause, or remove them at any point, however we recommend waiting until they have enough impressions to give you confidence in the results. Because you’ve chosen to optimize your ads for clicks or conversions, AdWords will automatically optimize these ads to meet your business goals (emphasis mine)

I’m honestly not sure how businesses who manage their own AdWords, without professional or in-house help, will feel about this. I suspect that many of them will welcome it and assume that “Google knows their products better than anyone, so if they are adding ads to my account, I should use them”. Either that or they will be unaware that this is even happening. I often wonder just what the breakdown is of AdWords advertisers between the mega brands, professionally managed accounts of varying sizes, DIY managed accounts and accounts that essentially let AdWords run them by working with an AdWords rep to manage the account.

I suspect that the bread and butter of advertisers fall into the last two categories. I know it is hard for those of us who manage PPC professionally to think a lot outside of our sphere, but I have to believe that this is the case. The moves that AdWords has been making over the past few years, I think are squarely aimed at making more aspects of AdWords automatically “included” or accessible to these types of advertisers.

I am not opposed to AdWords doing things that make advertising more accessible to more types and sizes of businesses. I think in theory, that is a positive thing. Where it gets squishier for me is that AdWords’ and advertisers’ interests are not 100% aligned, so automations can seem more beneficial to advertisers at first glance than they actually are in practice. The very organizations these kinds of automations are aimed at don’t have the knowledge or context to either fully understand them or critically evaluate their appropriateness or effectiveness for their specific organization.

The rub will always be, I suppose, that organizations without a full understanding of AdWords as a business itself and an advertising platform will always be at a disadvantage when dealing with AdWords. I’m not sure that there really is a practical way around that.

In the meantime, pros will have to keep an eye out for more of these automations and make sure we take proactive measures to keep our accounts under our control.

What do you think? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).



  1. There is definitely good automation and bad automation. Some things, like creative should be manual since it boils down to knowing the business, the audience, and testing. Other tasks can/should be automated to save time and make processes more efficient. But with money on the line, not everything should be automated.

    • Neptune Moon says:

      Totally agree. I think the key is choosing what you want to automate and what you do not want to automate and not having it just start happening. So many factors can’t be accounted for with this as it is outlined right now.

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