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The Bumpy Ride that is Rotate Evenly

Posted by Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron
Steve Cameron is the Director Owner of Advent Communication. With more than 25 years experience he has a deep...
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on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 in Google

Last week I launched a small new campaign for a client.

Following best practices I added two ads to the campaign and set them to "Rotate Indefinitely: Show lower performing ads more evenly with higher performing ads and do not optimise".

There is a caveat below this option which states : "Not recommended for most advertisers" - but I like living on the edge.

I also like to give my target audience the benefit of the doubt that they might know better than I what they will respond to. This is the essence of rotating your ads. run a number of ads against one another, see which ones people respond to best - not just in terms of CTR, but also with respect to other measures of engagement and, of course, conversions.

In my experience I have often been surprised how ads which I had thought were terrible and should never have been allowed to see the light of day, perform wonderfully and without shame once launched on an unsuspecting target group.

I checked back a couple of days later to see that these ads, set to rotate evenly were doing anything but.

I posted a quick, admittedly slightly tongue in cheek, image to twitter:








Twitter, in its wonderful way, responded :





and any number of possible explanations started to appear :







The settings weren't changed, but @bloomarty 's comment would clearly have explained the behaviour. But what @philip_a had experienced and what @MaltzPPC suggested were on the right track.

Another of the #ppcchat members, @Realicity suggested segmenting the keywords by ad position.. and this shed some further light on the topic :







The segmentation showed that, whilst for some of the keywords the positions were the same or similar,for most, one of the ads was in a significantly worse position on average :








and then @AdWords responded :








Quality Score is a big factor.

All along my assumptions (and I now realise that they were assumptions) about "rotate evenly" meant were misguided.

I had, mistakenly (apparently) assumed that "rotate evenly" meant that me ads would be, well, rotated evenly. But this is not the case.

Further discussion with Eamon at @AdWords - for which I am very grateful - cleared things up further :






The bids are normally set at the ad group level, extensions at the campaign level, but the ad copy is a factor in Quality Score - so the keywords are quite likely to have different QS depending upon which ad is considered for the impression.

But here's the thing - for me - this is not rotate evenly. Surely the whole point of rotating your ads is to see how well they perform compared to the other ads in the ad group. We know that one ad will give a keyword a higher QS - what we don't know is which ad will resonate most effectively with our target audience and lead to more conversions, sales or engagement. It may be the one which has the poorest Ad Rank.

I see no way around this.

What I do see, however, is that I perhaps need to rethink what exactly I am testing when I run an "evenly rotated" set of ads.

Finally, there is another lesson to be learned in the reply from AdWords - if you run your ads to rotate indefinitely, and do not change then for 90 days, then Google will revert your setting to optimise for clicks or conversions. Indefinitely = 90 days. not such a biggie - if you don't change your ads in 90 days then you deserve to have someone come in and clean up your mess, but still....


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Melissa Mackey Tuesday, 24 February 2015

I think Eamon is wrong about rotate evenly reverting to optimize in 90 days. There is a setting in Adwords called "Rotate evenly: show ads more evenly for 90 days, then optimize." But you didn't select that - you selected "Rotate indefinitely." I think he's wrong. I hope he's wrong.

Steve Cameron Tuesday, 24 February 2015

I also hope he is wrong - but the conversations were pretty clear. That said, as I mentioned in the piece, if you are writing your ads and then doing nothing with them for 90 days you should probably use the auto-optimising settings :p

Steve Cameron Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Not necessarily. For very low volume campaigns, 90 days may not be enough for statistical significance. And I'd rather make that decision, not let Google do it. :)

Steve Cameron Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Good point - in fact for just about anything I'd rather make the decision than letting Google do it....

Toni Voutilainen Thursday, 26 February 2015

Thanks Steve. I'm very disturbed about the possibility of "indefinitely" being 90 days. There are a couple of instances I've seen which could be explained by this...

Steve Cameron Thursday, 26 February 2015

I think I'm more concerned at the idea that "other" factors are impacting on my rotation. I studied psychology, but within a science department - and we had the scientific method drilled into us. I need to understand which variables I am controlling otherwise my results are, frankly, meaningless...

I think I'd be less worried about the 90 days issue, because as I explained earlier, I think we should be more on top of our accounts than that in most cases. For all but a very few cases data would either be significant or insignificant before 90 days is up; although Melissa makes a solid point about low volume campaigns.

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