Auto Apply Recommendations for Google Ads

If you received an email from Google in the past few weeks that left you confused and concerned, you aren’t alone. On January 4th, Google sent an email alerting advertisers of a change to the remove redundant keywords recommendation and announced that starting January 19, these changes would be auto applied. This update caused a stir in the Paid Search/SEM community as it expands the reach of this recommendation and makes it auto-apply as default.

Google has been adding many of these Auto Apply Recommendations (AAR) Ads accounts in recent months. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the various AARs, provide our point of view on them, and explain how to opt-out if they aren’t a good fit for your account.

Want to learn how to opt out of Google’s Auto Apply Recommendations? Skip to here for instructions.

First, let’s look at the new AARs.

The remove redundant keywords feature removes keyword overlaps from different campaigns and ad groups, so you aren’t bidding on keywords of the same match type. However, with the new change, Google is expanding the overlap to include match types. This means if you have a broad match keyword that overlaps with any phrase or exact match keyword in your account, the more focused keywords will be removed, so only the broad match keyword would run.

This change allows Google to serve your ads much more broadly and while the email stated the change “doesn’t negatively impact your performance,” for many advertisers, this was a step too far.

We recommend keeping a healthy skepticism when it comes to platform automation and our point of view on this (and many other AARs) is to not allow Google to auto apply recommendations.

Why? Because if you’ve worked in Google Ads, you’ve probably seen the recommendations tab or at the very least seen your optimization score. The optimization score is based on your application or dismissal of these recommendations from Google, which are their “best practices” for their accounts. They think of keeping a high score as “good hygiene” for your Ads account.

Google breaks down the recommendations into two sections: Maintain Your Ads and Grow Your Business.

Maintain Your Ads

There are 10 different recommendations for maintaining your ads that fall under the grouping of Ads & Assets, Keywords & Targeting, or Measurement.

Ads and Assets

Auto Apply Recommendations - Ads & Assets

Use Optimized Ad Rotation

This feature allows Google to show the ad that they find most effective. You’ve probably noticed that if you have multiple ads in an ad group, Google doesn’t give the same number of impressions to each of the ads.

In our experience, Google does tend to decide quickly which ad they prefer and sends the most impressions to that one. So, if you really want to give all your ads a fair shot, keep this recommendation unchecked.

Add Responsive Search Ads and Improve Your Responsive Search Ads

These give Google the opportunity to add headline and description assets to responsive search ads or create them from scratch. This sounds good in theory, especially if as Google says it uses existing content from your ad’s final url or assets in the same ad group.

This all sounds good in theory, however, have you seen the recommendations Google gives when you create responsive ads? Not always the best. We recommend leaving this unchecked and keeping on top of what ad text is performing and what isn’t, and continually testing new creative.

Keywords & Targeting

Google Ads Recommendations - Keywords & Targeting

Expand to Search Partners

Search partners can be a tactic worth testing, but it’s rarely something I would want in every campaign all of the time, which is what will likely happen if you allow Google to auto apply.

Remove Redundant Keywords

We’ve already discussed our point of view on this. We recommend making Google give you the recommendation to decide for yourself. It could make sense in certain instances, but likely not every time.

Remove Non-Serving Keywords

This can be a good timesaver. Google will remove any keyword that hasn’t gotten an impression for the past year.

Remove Conflicting Negative Keywords

On the surface, this seems like a good idea – if you have a negative keyword that conflicts with one of the keywords you are currently bidding, wouldn’t you want to remove the negative? In theory, the negative keyword was added for a reason. The recommendation tab can be a check and balance. Don’t opt-in.

Use Optimized Targeting

Optimized targeting is another way to say broad match and smart bidding. This is where Google is pushing all advertisers and while there are definitely instances where it can make sense, it’s not something you would want to have automatically happened. It’s best to run an experiment to see if it works for your business.

Add Audience Segments For Reporting

This is definitely an area to opt into. Google can provide insights into your audiences and report on it for you, making it a no-brainer to opt into this feature.


Google Ads - Data Driven Attribution

Upgrade your conversion tracking

This allows Google to use data-driven attribution if there is enough data. Note, this won’t be available in every account, but if it is, I do think this is a positive thing to move to because it gives more clarity to all of the touchpoints and distributes credit for conversions accordingly.

Grow Your Business

Google AAR - Keywords & Targeting

Keywords & Targeting

Add New Keywords

This is pretty straightforward and if you’ve seen any suggestions that Google currently gives in the recommendations tab in this category, you are going to want to uncheck this as soon as possible. In our experience, the suggestions are broad and often loosely associated with the product and service our client offers.

 Create Dynamic Search Ads

This allows Google to analyze your landing page and display your ads in searches deemed relevant to your business. This is very close to adding new keywords and may create ads that aren’t closely tailored to your business.

 Upgrade Your Existing Keywords to Broad Match

Google has been pushing this and honestly, in some of our tests where we have solid conversions in place, this has resulted in positive results. That said, it isn’t something that I would automatically want to have Google apply. Instead, run a test and see if it works for your business.

 Use Display Expansion

Don’t spend all your search budget? This allows Google to reach your target audience on the display network using your search budget. Maybe this can be a time saver for you and work, but regardless, I would suggest a test. Uncheck this option and let it be served up in recommendations.


All of the suggestions under bidding except for one deal with allowing Google to apply some level of automation to your bidding. While these can definitely make sense, they are best applied on a case-by-case basis and allow them to be added or dismissed from the recommendations tab if you have time to stay on top of your account.

How to Opt-Out? 

Opting out of the AARs is easy. Log into your Google Ads account and click Recommendations on the left-hand side.

Google Ads Left Hand Column- Recommendations

You will see a screen with your optimization score and all the recommendations Google has for your account. Near the top of that section, you will see an icon and the words “Auto Apply”.

Google Ads Recommendations Tab

Click here and you will see a list of all these different AARs that can be selected as you see fit.

If you have some options that were checked that you were unaware of, you can also see a tab with the history of all the recommendations which have been applied in the past.

Wrapping Up

Google’s recent Auto Apply Recommendations (AARs) have caused confusion and concern among advertisers. While these changes are meant to improve performance and streamline the advertising process, they may not always be the best fit for every account. It’s important to keep a healthy skepticism when it comes to platform automation and carefully review and consider each AAR before allowing them to be auto-applied.

Some AARs, such as removing redundant keywords, may expand the reach of your ads and negatively impact performance. Other AARs, like removing non-serving keywords, can be useful timesavers. We recommend reviewing each AAR individually and deciding whether or not they align with your advertising goals. By taking a critical and informed approach to these changes, you can make sure your account stays in top shape and continues to drive the results you want.