Outdated Tactics That Are Tanking Your Google Ads Campaigns

I audit Google Ads accounts regularly. Businesses (or other marketers) want to know why their Google Ads campaigns are tanking.  More often than not, I will login to a foreign account only to discover campaigns that are well-structured, use proven methods and practices that —-worked ten years ago!  Like most tech giants, the almighty Google strives to stay ahead of an evolving internet ecosystem.  Effective common practices that worked years ago in the age of manual bidding simply do not work in the smart bidding era.  

If you’re scratching your head wondering why your campaigns are failing, then maybe ask yourself what year it is.  Are you still using tactics from a decade ago?  Some outdated practices that could be preventing your Google Ads campaigns from thriving are:


Single Keyword Ad Groups were a simple way to infuse relevance into your ads and keep your Quality Scores high, thus earning high ad rank that resulted in premium ad placement at a competitive CPC.  The biggest hindrance w/ SKAGS was how time consuming they were but if you were looking to drive results, few SEMs could deny the efficiency of SKAGS.  Hate to break it to you but SKAGS are dead.  RIP SKAGS, it was fun while it lasted!

Smart bidding algorithms made SKAGS futile.  Smart bid strategies are smart enough to drive efficiency without keyword isolation and in order for the algorithm to thrive, it needs data.  Not much data to be had in SKAGS.  Google even suggests moving to larger volume ad groups and campaigns to help fuel the algorithm. 

Instead of SKAGS, try grouping your ad groups based on theme and intent.  It’s still best practice to try to include keywords you’re bidding on  in your ads for relevancy.  Don’t go overboard with the number of keywords in your ad group.  Keep them relevant.


Back in the day, it was best practice to segment to your heart’s content. Segment by device, segment by match type, segment by geo, segment by audience.  Today segmenting is not necessary because Smarty, the smart bidding algorithm is so brilliant that it can magically detect, through a variety of signals, which user / device / geo is likely to convert and adjust bids in real time to reach that user.  In fact, Google strongly encourages consolidation over segmentation.  While automation is almighty, the algorithm does need data to learn and by segmenting, you are actually preventing the algorithm from doing what it does naturally.  


It’s amazing how many advertisers still use bid adjustments in campaigns with a smart bidding strategy.  Bid modifiers were a way of informing Google to increase/decrease your bid when a user was on mobile, or a user was in a certain city, state or audience.  Smarty the algorithm does this automatically and can determine through a wide variety of signals whether or not a user is likely to convert.  These signals are identifiable attributes about a person and include device, location, intent, browser and more. Google will automatically adjust bids in real time based on these attributes so adding these adjustments aren’t necessary.

You can still add bid adjustments but Google will ignore them on campaigns using a smart bidding strategy. Bid modifiers are mostly defunct with the exception of user device. Device bid adjustments for tCPA are possible so if you want to set a higher tCPA for mobile or tablet, you can do that. You can also add bid adjustments to exclude a device by negating 100%. It’s all or nothing, though, and that’s the extent of what bid adjustments are available on non-manual campaigns.


In the days of manual bidding, it was common to set an ad schedule to preserve budget during down periods and/or to set rules to either raise or reduce budget on certain days depending on circumstances.  Now, Google does this for you.  Google requires that you set your daily budget based on your monthly budget and divide that number by 30.4.  So if your monthly budget is $152k for the month, you’d set your daily budget to $5k.  That doesn’t mean that you’re going to spend $5k a day.  The ad spend will fluctuate based on a range of signals.  Some days you’ll underspend and some days you will go over budget.  Google may even double your daily budget on certain days when conversions are ripe for the picking but they guarantee that at the end of the month, you will not exceed your $75k budget. 

Rules are still useful, especially when pausing and activating creative but dayparting isn’t necessary when leaning on any of the smart bidding strategies.

Google is continuing to go in the direction of automation with smart bidding and everyone’s new favorite, Performance Max. Don’t get stuck using defunct Search Engine Marketing tactics that are no longer relevant. It’s time to embrace the now.