Google Announces Major Changes to Ad Rotation Settings


If there’s one thing all paid search advertisers can agree on, it’s that ad testing is important. It’s long been a best practice to include multiple ads in each ad group so that you can see which ads perform better and create better ads within your account.

That may be where the agreement ends, though, as advertisers have lots of opinions on how you should test your different ads in each ad group – should you rotate them blindly, wait 90 days to make any changes, or optimize them to drive more clicks or more conversions?

adwords announces major changes to ad rotation settings

Well, Google is looking to finally end the argument over ad rotation by simplifying the options advertisers have when testing multiple ads within an ad group. Today on the AdWords blog, Google announced three important changes to ad rotation, all of which will go into effect starting on September 25.

Here are the three changes you need to know about:

1. Going forward AdWords will only support two ad rotation settings – “Optimize” and “Rotate Indefinitely.”

  • “Optimize: Prefer best performing ads” will use Google's machine learning technology to deliver ads that are expected to perform better than other ads in your ad group.
  • “Do not optimize: Rotate ads indefinitely” will rotate your ads without favoring better performing ads to a user’s search.

The current settings “Optimize for conversions” and “Rotate evenly” will be retired. Campaigns currently using “Optimize for clicks,” “Optimize for conversions,” and “rotate evenly” will automatically be switched to the “Optimize” setting.

2. Campaigns using smart bidding strategies, such as Enhanced CPC, target CPA, or target ROAS bidding strategies, will always be set to “Optimize” their ad rotation, regardless of how they set their ad rotation settings.

3. Advertisers can also manage their new ad rotation settings at both the campaign and ad group level.

Who’s Affected By This Change?

This is a rolling change, which you’ll notice in your account sometime after September 25, if your campaigns:

  • Use either the “Rotate evenly” or “Optimize for conversions” ad rotation setting.
  • OR use smart bidding strategies, such as Enhanced CPC, target CPA, or target ROAS bidding strategies.

These are common ad rotation and bidding strategies, so many advertisers will be affected! To review your campaigns’ ad rotation & bidding strategies, look under the settings tab:

google updates adwords ad rotation settings 

What Should You Expect to See Change?

Although some advertisers have been skeptical about trusting Google to optimize their ad rotation, advertisers generally see positive performance from making the change. As recently as last quarter, we transitioned 419 accounts from the “rotate evenly” to an “optimize” rotation setting and saw, on average, an 8% increase in CTR and 11% increase in CVR!

 adwords ad rotation has a huge impact on ctr and cvr

What Should I Do?

This transition will occur automatically starting in late September; you won’t need to do anything in advance. As noted above, most affected advertisers will notice improved performance in their accounts, but it’s always best to keep a close eye on your accounts following a change like this!

Advertisers currently using the “Rotate Evenly” setting may want to conclude any current ad tests and consider migrating to an optimize setting in advance to get the most out of their future ad tests.

Advertisers currently using the “Optimize for conversions” setting may want to consider adopting a Smart Bidding strategy to help optimize their bids in real-time auctions. Google recently made changes to enhanced CPC to better accommodate these auction dynamics and help advertisers improve their ads’ conversion rates.

If you still prefer having complete control over your ad tests within each ad group, consider taking advantage of the new ad group level settings to manage your ad rotation in ad groups where you’re closely monitoring your ad tests.

If you’re not happy with the changes Google is looking to make in your account, you can always switch to the “Do Not Optimize” ad rotation. This will allow you to rotate your ads evenly into every search auction. However, with great power comes great responsibility – multi-variate ad testing can be particularly laborious for many advertisers, and if you don’t regularly review and refresh your ads, don’t expect performance to get better on its own!

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.

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Aug 30, 2017

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the clear update. I have a question on the setting Rotate Evenly.

Will Google show the ads 50/50 at random or will they use machine learning to determine what ad to show to which user+query.



Mark Irvine
Aug 30, 2017

Hi Jaap,

If you choose to not optimize your ad rotation, your ads will enter the auction evenly without using any signals to optimize for the user, the query, device, etc

Sep 29, 2017

I appreciate the article, however I have not seen where accounts currently on the 'Rotate Evenly' setting have been automatically opted into 'Optimize', at least not yet -- and it's 9/29. Any idea if this is happening on a later date?

Steve Roth
Dec 07, 2017


I use Target (CPA), so can't even use "Rotate ads indefinitely."

Makes creative testing a huge pain.

Often AW's optimization throws your whole budget at one ad in an ad set, without testing any of the others with even a single impression.

Now maybe AW's performance-prediction algoirthm is brilliantly right. But I'm from Missouri: show me. I'm happy to spend ten, forty, or a hundred bucks to run the AB creative testing.

So we're stuck manually turning off the ads that are getting all the budget/impressions, so the other ads get some budget love and we can test them.

BTW, does anyone know what "indefinitely" means? I assume it doesn't mean "forever."

Probably means: "until the ad has gotten enough impressions so there's some goshdarned statistical significance, and AdWords actually has empirical knowledge about which ad will perform best."

That seem right?

Not that it matters for those of use using Smart Bidding. This option's unavailable to us.

Am I understanding this right?

Ben Page
Jan 15, 2018

Hey Steve,

I know that this change can seem frustrating, and I spent a ton of time digging into alternatives to keep testing. I've actually just released a blog post that talks about your options when forced into "Optimize" ad rotation - namely, with Drafts & Experiments and/or "Ad Variations" testing.

Check it out and please let me know what you decide to do.

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