New AdWords ad rotation settings

Like it or not, Google AdWords ad rotation settings are changing on September 25th. The good news is that the simplified settings will improve campaign management and prevent a mismatch between bidding and ad rotation strategies. The bad news is, yep, this may cause some performance issues with your campaigns if you don’t implement the new system correctly.

Today I’ll explain what’s changing and guide you through what changes you need to make to address the compulsory update.

What are the new AdWords ad rotation settings?

We currently have 4 different ad rotation settings and in the future, we will just have 2, optimize or rotate indefinitely. What type of optimization occurs (for conversions or clicks) will depend on your bidding settings. Furthermore, ad rotation optimization will be turned on automatically if you use any kind of smart bidding. To simplify how it all works I’ve made this quick reference table:

Bidding StrategyOptimizeRotate Indefinitely
Manual biddingOptimize for clicksRotate indefinitely
Maximize clicksOptimize for clicksRotate indefinitely
Target outranking shareOptimize for clicksRotate indefinitely
Target search page locationOptimize for clicksRotate indefinitely
Target CPAOptimize for conversionsOptimize for conversions*
Target ROASOptimize for conversionsOptimize for conversions*
Maximize conversionsOptimize for conversionsOptimize for conversions*
ECPCOptimize for conversionsOptimize for conversions*

*Google’s blog post indicates conversion optimization rotation is mandatory when using smart bidding

What else is new with ad rotation settings?

You will be able to set ad rotation at the campaign or ad group level. This feature will be very useful for advertisers that only want to run (manual) ad split tests in specific ad groups.

Also, using optimize for clicks ad rotation will now consider additional factors besides expected CTR, ad relevance, and LP experience in choosing the ad to display. The additional factors include search term, device, location, and more.

What’s should you do on or before September 25th?

Here’s a breakdown of various existing scenarios and what I recommend you do in each case:

Using smart bidding and optimize ad rotation for conversions

You don’t need to do anything and the upcoming change will not affect performance.

Not using smart bidding and using optimize for clicks ad rotation

You don’t need to do anything and the upcoming change may improve performance. If you want, you can turn off optimized ad rotation on select ad groups where you’d like to perform “fast turnaround” manual ads split testing.

Not using smart bidding and have ad rotation set to indefinitely or evenly

First, you will no longer be able to run “evenly” (run evenly for 90-days and then optimize). This is probably a good thing, because who the heck knows which ads are 30-days, 90-days, or 3-years old? Yes, there are scripts that can automatically label when ads first ran (we use that script in our agency) but most advertisers don’t have a clue what’s going on with that setting. On September 25th you can forget about that option.

Moving on, you can continue to run all your campaigns with non-smart bidding in conjunction with indefinite ad rotation or optimize (for clicks). It’s not clear how Google will transition settings for campaigns that are currently set to “evenly” so I suggest you either put a reminder in your calendar for first thing September 25th, or go ahead and change your rotation settings beforehand. And remember, you will be able to use different ad rotation settings at the ad group level.

Using smart bidding and any other form of ad rotation

You have two options. If you do nothing, ad rotation will start to be optimized for conversions on September 25th. The other option is to switch your bidding strategy to a non-smart system. My assumption is that you are probably benefitting from smart bidding (you have the prerequisite 15+ conversions per month). That being the case I recommend you simply let optimized ad rotation kick-in and monitor ad performance.

Not using smart bidding and using optimize for conversions ad rotation

This scenario probably shouldn’t exist and is likely one of the reasons Google is taking away the option to optimize ad rotation for conversions while not using smart bidding. If this is what you’re running I recommend switching to smart bidding and leaving ad rotation optimization turned on. You’ll probably see a nice boost in performance after September 25th, or even now if you fix this.


Whenever Google makes a change like this people get up in arms about how we’re losing control over our advertising. Clearly, these changes to ad rotation settings will make things more understandable. The update will also eliminate conflicts between bidding and ad rotation strategies. Furthermore, the ability to set rotation at the ad group level (like Bing Ads) will give us “power users” greater control over ads split testing. The only complaint I have is that Google should have provided some more transition details. It would be helpful to know what’s going to happen for advertisers that currently use the “evenly” rotation setting.

Otherwise, good job, Google!

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