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Did You Choose the Wrong Ad Rotation Setting?


John Thuet

November 8, 2013

Don’t worry, success is just around the corner. (image source)

Experts have issues. Even the best PPC know-it-alls will argue on which setting will help your ads perform better. If you want a topic that us ad nerds can’t seem to agree upon, bring up the subject of  which Ad Rotation setting is better.

Let’s have a little fun and jump right into that issue. We all know it’s a best practice to create at least two ads for a little A/B testing to see which ad performs better within any given ad group.

Some of us more OCD types will go a little crazy and create 3-4 ads for a single ad group since we want to make sure we get the best ad for each ad group as possible. But now comes the hard part…which ad rotation setting should you use?

Option 1: Optimize for Clicks

If you’re not careful, or you simply don’t know what you’re doing, then you will leave it on the ‘default’ setting and end up learning absolutely nothing from all but one of your ads…if you’re like me, you’ve spent way too much time painstakingly choosing the best character combination that you even had your grandma look over and approve before you took them live.

Yes, I’m talking about the good ol’ Optimize for Clicks setting. For the noobs to PPC, let me explain what this option entails: Google takes a quick look at your multiple ads and says, “Hey, ad B is getting clicked on the most…I’m only going to show that one 99% of the time and almost never show your other ads!”

This method is for people who think they can set up their AdWords campaigns and click ‘go’ and expect Google to take care of the rest.


You could get lucky and the ad that Google chose to show the most is actually the best ad for converting (what actually matters in the end), and then you could make a great ROI on your campaign.


What will MOST likely happen is you will have an ad that gets the initial clicks over the other ads and you’ll think that is awesome…but an experienced AdWords junky will tell you that clicks aren’t the best way to tell if an ad or a campaign is successful or not.

Instead, they will be looking for filled out forms, sales, leads, calls, etc. We call these things conversions. Get used to that term, it’s what makes or breaks a PPC campaign.  To achieve this, these types of advertisers will take the proverbial bull by the horns and actually manage their PPC accounts. This brings us to Option #2

Option #2: Optimize for Conversions

Like the previous option, Optimize for Conversions takes both the CTR and conversion rate of the ads and shows the one that is more likely to convert. This seems like a really good option. And to be honest, it is a little better than the first, but not by much.


If you have an ad that is performing really well with a good CTR and is converting, then it will be shown more often and you once again lucked out with an increased ROI.

Personally, if I don’t have a lot of time to manage my own PPC account, then I would choose this option. My chances of success are higher than the default option and it will hopefully work perfectly and show the best ad I have available, thus bringing me a better ROI.


Your campaigns running with this setting are likely to receive fewer clicks and if the conversion data isn’t enough, then it jumps to ad rotation based on CTR again (reverting to the previously mentioned ad rotation setting).

You also run the risk of your little now hidden golden-nugget of an ad not being shown that often, and worst of all, you don’t get the best data to optimize and create reliable ad text analysis. To choose this option over option #3 (to be explained in a second), you need to decide if you value reliable text analysis or not. Your choice, so make it.

Option #3 & 4: Rotate Evenly & Rotate Indefinitely

I’ve combined these next (and last), two options because they are fairly similar in their pros and cons.

Option #3, Rotate Evenly, is to have your ads rotate evenly for 90 days and then if your campaign is untouched, it will shift to option #2 or #1 and start using the ad that has converted the best at that point. Option #4 is called Rotate Indefinitely, and is pretty self explanatory. Your ads will rotate evenly for an indefinite amount of time.


Both of these latter two ad rotation settings are what real ad junkies are all about. We like data and we like testing data. These options allow us to do just that.

For me personally, I prefer option #3 so I can have the freedom to work, create, recreate, and optimize my ads to make sure I have the best one performing that is possible. Then, after 90 days, Google will take my Numero Uno ad and make sure that is shown the most often, therefore bringing me the most clicks, most conversions, and most money that my PPC account can possibly bring in.


If you don’t have the time to manage your own account, Google won’t optimize (for at least 90 days if on option #3), and therefore you could be running ads that aren’t that great.  But, as stated previously, if you don’t have time or don’t care to manage your account, then DON’T CHOOSE THESE OPTIONS. It isn’t for you. Plain and simple. Choose one of the optimize options and hope for the best. To you I say, good luck!

What Next?

You’re going to probably argue with me that your ad rotation setting is better than mine, but just like how I don’t care if you think your brand-new, fully-loaded Volkswagen GTI comes with a 5 year warranty so you don’t have to do any maintenance on it is the better choice for the price…I’ll still tell you to buck up and buy a used car where you can customize and fix it yourself, just like I’ll tell you to choose whatever ad rotation setting you want.

In the long run, I’m going to save money, and my truck will end up exactly like I want it, while you are still sitting in your little car complaining that you’re up to your eyeballs in monthly payments and you can’t afford the upgrade you want, while I have the car of my dreams, running exactly like I want it to…and I’ve saved money in the long run.

In the end, I don’t care that you’re going to choose the wrong ad rotation setting. Don’t listen to me and go ahead and make mistakes with your money. But if you have the time and can actually manage your AdWords account, then do it!

Set your ad rotation setting to one that will actually give you data on which of your ads are performing the best. What will that do for you? Allow you to change the worthless ads that aren’t converting, and make you use that mostly forgotten left side of your brain to think up new ads.

Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s a never ending process – nobody is perfect so therefore no ad is perfect. You’ll be at this forever, but you’ll make progress, your ads will start to convert better and better, your quality score will go up, and guess what? You’ll make more money!

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