Best practices for managing paid search campaigns are full of commonly held assumptions, many of which are more myth than fact—especially when it comes to SEM ad copy. This Myth Busters series tackles these misconceptions one blog post at a time. In this installment, we dispel myths about ad rotation settings.


The myth

Ad rotation settings are straightforward and self-explanatory. It’s fine to just use the default, “Optimize for Clicks” option.


The reality

There are little-known facts and nuances about ad rotation settings that dramatically impact performance, especially the “Optimize for Clicks” and “Optimize for Conversions” options. Here are a few concepts to consider as you rethink your approach:

  • “Optimize” chooses the ad that used to perform best. Boost ran an experiment, changing ad groups that had been set to “Optimize” for several months to “Even Rotation” for a few minutes, and then flipped the setting back to “Optimize,” essentially hitting the reset button. What we found is in about half the cases, the system suddenly started to favor a different ad than it had previously favored, even though nothing about the ads or keywords had changed. The implication is that ‘optimize’ favors the ad that performed best when the ad group was first set up, and doesn’t update as user behavior changes.
  • “Optimize” factors ad rank into ad rotation.Optimize for Conversions” does not choose the ad with the highest conversion rate or even the strongest conversion volume per impression (CPI, which can also be calculated as CTR*CVR), as stated in an article by Google SpokesmanMatt Lawson. It goes one step further, taking ad rank into account and optimizing for conversions per entrance into the auction, which we confirmed with Google in subsequent communication with Lawson’s team.
  • “Optimize for conversions” doesn’t work in many use-cases. If you are using AdWords conversion tracking as your primary tracking method, you only have one conversion type. That conversion is in and of itself your primary goal, and you have a high volume of conversions. “Optimize for Conversions” is probably a good option for you. For the rest of us, more careful consideration should be given before choosing this setting.


The opportunity

Serving the right ad to the right user at the right time, and with the right search query is no easy task. But, with proper attention and testing of ad rotation settings, you can be one step closer to maximizing conversion volume and revenue from paid search.


Where to go from here

In some cases, it’s obvious which setting to use. For example, use “Even Rotation” or “Rotate Indefinitely” when conducting testing. For important core brand ad groups, use ‘optimize to clicks’ to maximize impression share and avoid losing ground to competitors. Unfortunately, the rest of the time, there is no one-sized-fits-all approach to ad rotation settings. Depending on your settings, different ads will be paired with different search queries and you will see tradeoffs between volume and efficiency. Gain an understanding of the nuances of different ad rotation settings by testing and evaluating the outcome in your SEM campaigns.



About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale.

The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.