Implications of The Google Ads Account Takeover

At the end of January, Google Ads sent an email out to some advertisers with the headline, “We’ll focus on your campaigns, so you can focus on your business.”

Unless the chosen advertisers selected to opt out, they were automatically added to the program, at which point a variety of things could be adjusted or automated by Google, including (but not limited to): bid adjustments, ad text changes, keyword modification, ad group restructuring, as well as opting into new features. While they won’t touch the budgets, they also request that you do not change them either.

This email spread like wildfire in the marketing community and drew quite the controversy from marketers who have historically been reluctant to let Google’s account reps make changes to their account or guide the strategy given Google’s lack of context and insight into the nuance of advertisers’ businesses.

My guess is the opt in rate was quite low amongst sophisticated marketers but with the pace of automation and control relinquishment accelerating, it’s not difficult to see a world where Google is in fact making all of these decisions.

I wanted to offer some perspective on the implications that the Google Ads “account takeover” could have for all advertisers, even those who do not opt in.

Opting Out Doesn’t Mean You Can Avoid Google Taking Control

Even if you opt out of letting Google take over your account, you’re not dodging the ad platform’s inherent and increasing areas of control.  Anyone paying attention has noticed that automation has been slowly taking decision-making away from marketers in pretty much every area of account management.  A colleague of mine recently wrote a great piece  that describes the evolution and increasing dominance of automation within Google Ads.

Generally speaking, automation means less time needing to be spent doing things manually, which should be warmly received by marketers looking to achieve maximum performance. But there are some areas that have not been well received and have caused marketers to raise questions because they don’t have as much control over specific levers of the account, and in some cases have experienced worse performance.

The offer to take over all facets of account management seems to be jumping the gun in light of these questions and concerns. But make no mistake about it, Google Ads is moving in this direction and while it might sting in the short-term, this should be better for marketers once all of the kinks are ironed out.

Implications of the Takeover Program

First thing’s first: if you don’t want Google controlling the majority of your account decisions, checking to see if you received this email and opting out of this management feature is step one. Otherwise you will be automatically opted in – but don’t worry, you can opt out at any time so there’s nothing to panic about.

For advertisers who don’t opt out, it remains to be seen what gets changed and what the impacts are but if your competitors got it and didn’t opt out some of the common changes that will most likely be made (based on personal experience working with Google) include:

    • Higher bids across the board to get more delivery and reach
    • New keywords and audiences being added to get more delivery and reach, especially at the top of the funnel
    • Adoption of Smart Bidding and other new and automation-focused Google features

I should clarify that the above changes are assumptions and I have no data points from advertisers who have opted in to support this. Nonetheless, if these changes are indicative of the “takeover” program, there could be meaningful implications for your business and the greater Google Ads competitive landscape as a whole.

Higher bids and new keywords/audiences seeking greater reach often carry with them significant CPA increases which should be monitored for closely. This not only affects the advertiser that is opted in but also all of the other competitors who are competing in the same ad auctions. If you’re not already keeping a close eye on competitive metrics and auction insights you might want to start doing so if you have opted in to the program.

I recommend paying close attention to any news that emerges around adoption and the results of advertisers who have opted in to the program. This will help you plan for potential impacts to your business.

Final Thoughts

While too much Google control tends to spook seasoned marketers currently, it is inevitably the future and as marketers it’s important to adapt to the changing landscape in pursuit of optimal performance.

That being said, this is a whole new world and it’s worth wading in slowly until you fully understand how to achieve peak performance through weening off control. Opting into Google’s full account control experiment today is the equivalent of jumping in the deep end of the swimming pool while learning to swim.