How to Keep Automated Extensions From Hurting Your Google Ads Account
The overarching problem with any Google automation
Empirical360 takes a granular approach to PPC, because we know from experience that you need to take more than just a surface look at the data in order to win.
When’s the last time you took a deep dive inside your Google Ads account? If the answer is never, or not within the last few weeks, then you could potentially be missing out on revenue. The tricky thing is that it can be tempting to just sit back and let Google run your account for you. Google has many automatic features and settings, or suggested features and settings, that will seem, on the surface, to be the best options. After all, Google automated them/suggested them! However, it’s always important to remember two things.
- Google is trying to spend your money. It is in Google’s best interest for you to spend as much as possible, because they make money off of your ads; the more you spend, the more they make. So it is not an unbiased expert. While many of its suggestions might also be in your best interest, it is not looking out for you. You want to be smart with your budget and get the highest ROI possible – you don’t want to waste your money. In order to make sure that you are making the best decisions for your spend, you need to test Google’s suggestions and automations and determine what the best settings are.
- You are a unique business with unique goals. There’s a decent chance that what Google suggests for all businesses isn’t going to work effectively for you. (Another reason that you should test everything. A good rule of PPC is to never make assumptions!)
The specific problem with automated extensions
Ad extensions are an ad format that serves as a complement to ad copy. They give the user additional information (that “extends” from your text ads, hence the name) about your product, service, or business. They help improve your ad’s visibility, and there is data to show that they improve click through rates overall – anything that helps you entice users to visit your page, or interact with your ad, is a good thing. You should definitely be using ad extensions.
But should you be automating them? Our argument is no, at least not in most cases.
For most ad extensions (see a description of types below), Google will pull information from your website. It will then create and display them based on what its algorithm predicts is most likely to improve your performance. There’s no extra cost for the automated extension to be shown, but you can be charged if people interact with the extension. You may not even realize that they are there – they are an automated setting and don’t appear in the drop-down menu of the ad extensions tab – which means unless you go looking to locate or change them, they’re running.
When you give Google control, you lose control. This is the case with automated extensions; you don’t get to choose what Google is showing to your users, which in general, is a bad thing. If your website content/structure is at all misaligned with your business goals, you have no control over what Google thinks your goals are. Sure, automated extensions have increased conversions for many marketers, but you can’t manipulate the extensions and improve your performance this way. You can’t optimize with automated extensions. And if you can’t optimize, we argue that you can’t really grow your business long-term.
Knowledge is always power. Knowing which extensions are available to you, which types Google will automate, and how to turn the automations off will help you decide what you can leave on autopilot and what extensions you need to manually create.
Types of automated ad extensions
- Call extensions – If you feature a phone number on your website or your website otherwise suggests that phone calls are important to your business strategy, then Google will include a phone number in your ad. Mobile users can click the extension to call (you will be charged for that click).
If you only have one location and one phone number, letting Google automate call extensions might not be an issue, but if you have multiple phone numbers, locations, departments, or objectives, you definitely want to manually add this extension.
- Message extensions – If something on your website suggests that one of your business goals is engaging with potential customers via messaging (specifically text and email), then Google will create a message extension on your behalf. Users click on it (you will be charged) to send you a message.
This is definitely something you do not want automated. If you don’t know it’s running, you will likely get people funneled to you who aren’t high intent customers or who aren’t even ideal customers at all, and you need to set where the messages are going to so you can be sure you are seeing them (something you won’t be able to do with an automated message extension).
- Dynamic sitelink extensions – These types of extensions show specific pages on your website below the ad copy. They’re designed to help guide the user to the right places on your website based on the user’s search query; Google selects what it thinks are the most relevant links that are the most likely to boost ad performance. (You are charged if someone clicks on a sitelink extension.)
Don’t let this run on autopilot, either. Sitelink extensions are an ideal place to drive conversions, because you can direct the user to specific pages you have intentionally designed to convert them into customers. If you let Google choose the pages, there’s no way of knowing which pages they’ll pick to show, and you can’t test or optimize.
- Dynamic structured snippet extensions – These extensions are short pieces of descriptive text (25 characters), that follow your ad copy, and describe your products and services. They can highlight terms that are not high-volume enough to be keywords, or highlight aspects of your business that are not producing enough revenue to merit being a separate campaign. Note that these are not clickable, so you will not be charged.
Although you have to be careful to follow correct guidelines when creating structured snippets to avoid disapproval, and it can be time consuming, this is something we do not recommend automating. This is a chance for you to use specific copy to highlight offerings that you know will benefit your business, and letting Google automate dynamic structured snippet extensions robs you of your opportunity to promote and test what you deem best.
- Automated location extensions – These extensions show your address and phone number, give a map with your location, or show the distance to your location. (You are charged when someone clicks for directions or calls). Google pulls the data from your Google My Business page.
This is generally okay to automate in general; it provides additional context for users, especially if you are a physical store/practice. However, your extension won’t always serve if it is automated – again, you have no control over what extensions Google thinks the search queries should trigger – and if you have multiple locations in Google My Business, it may not always pull the correct data.
- Seller ratings extensions – These extensions come in automated form only. Unlike the extensions above, you can only either let them run or turn them off. This makes sense – seller rating extensions show information and reviews within your ad (a rating of 1-5 stars is visually shown). You don’t have control over where Google pulls these from – they claim “reputable sources”, so you can be reasonably sure they are real reviews from real customers – but if you don’t have the best reviews, this automation is not for you. However, shoppers today really rely on reviews to give them a good idea of your brand’s quality, so if you do not have good reviews, getting good reviews/improving your product or service needs to be a top priority.
- Dynamic callout extensions – These extensions are, like structured snippets, not clickable, so you will not be charged. In fact, dynamic callout extensions are extraordinarily similar to structured snippets at first glance; but rather than provide basic information about the products or services, callouts provide supporting details about the products or services that add value (“Free shipping”, “50 years of experience”, etc.).
We don’t recommend automating these for the same reason we do not recommend automating structured snippets – you forego an opportunity to customize your copy, test, and optimize with details that you choose, details you want your customers to know, not just details Google pulls from your site.
How to turn automated extensions off
To disable an automated extension:
- Sign in to your Google ads account.
- Click Ads & extensions link in the page menu on the left
- Click “Automated Extensions” at the top of the page
- Click the three dot menu on the right, then click “Advanced Options”
- Select “Turn off specific automated extensions” and choose which extensions you want to turn off – choose a reason for turning off the extension and add additional comments if desired
- Click “Turn off”
Not all automated extensions are bad, and if you are just starting out, many sites may recommend using them to save time. However, we believe in taking a data-driven approach to PPC from the beginning, and even though it’s more work to manually create your own extensions, we believe that the results you’ll see from testing and optimizing will be worth it.
Have questions about automated or manual ad extensions? Want to learn more about how Google account management works? Let us know in the comments or contact us to hear how we can grow your business using paid search marketing! Empirical360 has produced millions of dollars in revenue for our clients. We’re Google Partners and know exactly how to make a Google Ads account profitable!
Shea Duncan - Author
Director of Content Marketing
Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!