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A got a good tip from Terry at CPCSearch a few days ago. He was running ads in one of his accounts on “rotate ad text” when he got a friendly message in his AdWords UI:

Increase traffic by showing your best ad more often
Ad groups using the “Rotate Ad Serving” option shows ad roughly evenly. However, an ad group’s best ad typically performs about 15%-50% better than the ad group overall (based on CTR in Google). To maximize traffic, we recommend using the “Optimizing Ad Serving” option . . .

On first glance, a pretty innocuous message, right? Well, take a look at the definition of the “best ad” – it’s “based on CTR in Google.” In other words, the ad that makes Google the most money!

The optimization setting is not by definition a bad option. Indeed, if you have three ads that have relatively the same conversion rate or RPC, optimizing is the right choice, because optimizing increases the overall clicks you receive and reduces your CPC. But prior to the optimization setting, you should be testing ads against each other on a “rotate” basis. You should multiple CTR times Conversion Rate to determine which ads are driving the most ROI for your business. Once you’ve paused the ones that don’t work, go ahead and turn on the optimization settings.

The problem here, however, is that Google is making a blanket statement that optimization is better by definition because it will find you the “best” ads. In this case, what’s good for the Google, is not good for the gander. What’s even more troubling is that Google has a lot of training material on their site that is actually helpful to newbie advertisers. Once they’ve gained the trust of the novice, they can then add in some occasionally misleading advice without notice. Nice find Terry!