To Optimize, or Rotate?

By Nathan Pabich

In Google AdWords there are many options and settings which you can tweak for different effects and for different purposes. One such feature is found in Edit Campaign Settings under Scheduling and Serving: Ad Serving. This allows the user to choose from 1 of 2 options – Optimize (which Google recommends), and Rotate. When ads are optimized by Google, ads with a higher CTR (click through rate) will appear more frequently, while if this option is set to rotate, then ads will display more evenly. In many cases, optimize can be a good way increase quality score and increase clicks to the site. The problem is that many PPC campaigns will not benefit solely from a high CTR. It is almost always better to create and runs ads which create a high conversion rate. So – how do you know which option to choose? That depends on how long your account has been running. Initially, while launching a PPC account, it may be best to keep the ad serving on it’s default setting: Optimize. Once data is accumulated, then it may be advised to rotate new ads against those that have come before. The best example I have come across happened with a lead generation campaign I was running in the insurance industry. Once I got the account humming nicely, I found that 2 ad approaches worked really well, but for different reasons. The first ad type that did well was more general, while the other ad was very specific. The first ad had a much higher CTR, and resulted in many more clicks, but the second ad had a conversion rate of more than double that of the first ad. The problem was, because the first ad was so general, it got less qualified traffic. Now because the second ad was so specific it weeded out many potential clicks. Because the client had a minimum number of leads they required, I ran both types of ads – the first to produce a high volume, and the second to help lower the overall cost per lead. No matter what tests were done, the first ad still dwarfed the second in terms of total leads – it just had to generate many, many more clicks to get there. In this case rotating the ads was the best compromise for both amount of traffic and cost per action. I had tried various hybrid ads combining both tactics, but none came close to either of the two I was running – and it’s simple why – these ads spoke to different people in different ways. I would never have been able to produce the cost per conversion I did by just allowing the ad with a higher CTR to dominate. And so the lesson learned: Sometimes it’s indeed better to optimize by your own standards rather than Google’s. That’s why there are options in AdWords – so make sure to take advantage.