Keyword targeting in Google ads: Beware of auto-apply

Paid Media
google ads

Via auto-applied ‘recommendations’ in Google ads accounts, there are currently 25 recommendations types, split in to 10 recommendations types for ‘Maintain your ads’ and 15 recommendations types for ‘Grow your business’. For any decent PPC specialist, it is difficult to be anything other than cynical about this growing region of Google ads functionality.

When inheriting a Google ads account watch out for these 3 in particular:

Add new keywords

This recommendation type when auto-applied could sap budget uncontrollably. The automatic addition of general keywords for some verticals might bring in decent upper funnel traffic, particularly if the advertiser isn’t that sensitive to budget control/cap. However, for many ROAS focused Google ads accounts, a machine adding new keywords could be a total nightmare.

Add responsive search ads

Whilst machines writing copy is something happening right in front of our eyes in the digital marketing world, losing control of your brand’s promises is dangerous and ‘add responsive search ads’ could put an Google ads account into some serious hot water.

It is worth mentioning that ‘Create Dynamic Search Ads’ could create the same problem of losing ad copy control.

Redundant keywords

Google automatically removes ‘redundant keywords’ at an ad group level. This is designed to drive more accounts that allow ‘auto-apply’ management towards broad match keyword targeting. Dangerous stuff!

The example Google ads give is:

Phrase match KW: “women’s hats”

Broad match KW: ladies hats

In this example, the phrase match keyword “women’s hats” is automatically deleted if this ‘Auto-apply’ recommendation is ticked.

It is worth mentioning that ‘Upgrade your existing keywords to broad match’ is another example of losing (existing) keyword control.


It is important to embrace automation – but in the wrong hands, some of the Google ads auto-apply recommendations are quite risky. With increased amounts of automation in Google ads seen in recent years, we expect Google to sunset keyword match types and product innovation in the area of proving ROI on upper funnel traffic.


Duncan Colman

Director & Founder of Spike. I have over 10 years client side marketing experience, which gave me the inspiration to set our agency up to be a driving force in class leading, strategic marketing. I have a real passion for organic search, a constantly changing discipline within digital that when harnessed creates huge commercial gains.