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Auto-Applying Search Recommendations: When To & When Not To

Learn when to auto-apply search recommendations in your Google Ads and Microsoft Ads campaigns. Discover the benefits and pitfalls of automation.

Published on

May 04, 2024

Written by

Sophie Fell


Google Ads


With optimization recommendations refreshing thick and fast, it can be tempting to auto-apply these to keep your account optimization scores on point. But, doing so can bring in a plethora of other issues. So, before you start leaving your campaigns in the hands of the Google gods, let’s look at which recommendations it’s sensible to apply, and which ones you should keep within your very capable hands.

Table of Contents

  1. What are search recommendations?
  2. What kind of recommendations do Google Ads and Microsoft ads make?
  3. How to auto-apply search recommendations
  4. When should I auto-apply search recommendations?
  5. When should I not auto-apply search recommendations?


What are search recommendations?

Both Google Search and Microsoft Ads have a key metric to help you in managing your campaigns: optimization score. Microsoft Ads say that their optimization score is “an estimate of how well you're set up to get the most from your account or campaign”, and Google, similarly, says “an estimate of how well your Google Ads account is set to perform”. In other words, how closely to each system’s best practices do your campaigns and account setup adhere to? 

With scores ranging from 0% (being poorly optimized) to 100% (indicating an account that can run at its full potential), the higher the score, the better. Optimization scores of 80%+ are recommended, and scores of 70%+ are strongly encouraged for both brands and agencies. 


What kind of recommendations do Google Ads and Microsoft ads make?

Overall, all recommendations fit into 6 key categories plus an  ‘Other’ category.

Ads and assets

These recommendations are suggested to optimize your ads and the individual assets within your ads, i.e. headlines, descriptions, and ad extensions. The main goal of these optimization recommendations is to improve the CTR of your ads.

Automated campaigns

These types of campaign suggestions are twofold: they will encourage campaign automation and will give suggestions for improving your current automated campaigns. This includes campaign types such as Performance Max and Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs).

Bidding and budgets

Bidding and budget recommendations are there to help improve your campaign's individual keyword bids and the wider bidding strategy(ies) in use on your account. For example, if your current campaigns are using ‘Maximise Clicks’, but you’re generating significant conversion volumes, Google may suggest altering your bidding strategy to ‘Maximize Conversions’ or ‘Target ROAS’ to drive more conversions. 

Keywords and targeting

This form of recommendation is designed to help you manage your keywords. Suggestions may include adding additional keywords based on campaign data, expanding reach by using Search Partners or the Microsoft Audience Network, or adding broad-match keywords to widen your reach. Targeting recommendations may include refreshing your data lists, importing audience data sources, and switching on options such as ‘optimized targeting’, which uses AI to show your ads more regularly to similar audiences who may convert.


Repairs are (arguably) the most important recommendation type to pay attention to. Repair optimizations usually include missing ads or keywords within your ad groups, shopping feed errors, fixing disapproved assets, and updating landing pages that are no longer working. While optimizations concentrate on improving your account performance, repairs highlight issues that stop your campaign running entirely.


Measurement recommendations are self-explanatory! They’re all related to measurement and tracking-related tasks such as setting up conversion tracking, adding values to your conversions, setting up ‘Enhanced Conversions’, or updating your campaign settings to optimize for new customers.


And finally, the other category usually encourages you to use tools such as Google Ads Editor or the Google Ads Mobile App to ‘manage account performance on the go’.

While the list regularly evolves to match the latest in best practices, a few of the more common and specific examples of account and campaign optimizations include:

  • Removing redundant and non-serving keywords
  • Updating bids and bidding strategies
  • Adding additional keywords based on search trends and demand
  • Adding additional budget to campaigns, or re-allocating budgets between campaigns
  • Adding or updating your keywords to  broad match 
  • Utilizing dynamically created assets and images from your website to enhance your listing on the SERP.


How to auto-apply search recommendations 

To save time on manual management, you can create rules to apply the suggestions to your campaigns automatically. You can also opt-in to emails each time this happens for you to double-check, and a history of ‘auto-applied recommendations’ is also available on your accounts.

To do so on Google Ads, you’ll need to follow these instructions:

  1. In your Google Ads account, click the Campaigns icon Campaigns Icon.
  2. Click Recommendations.
  3. At the upper right-hand corner, click Auto-apply, and select which recommendations to auto-apply.

On Microsoft Ads, follow these instructions:

  1. From the left-side menu, select Recommendations.
  2. Select the Auto-apply recommendation setting (lightning bolt icon).
  3. Select the checkbox next to the recommendation type you’d like to set to auto-apply for your account.
  4. Select Save.


When should I auto-apply search recommendations?

While there’s no hard and fast rule, there are a few more minor recommendations that can save you valuable time. 

Quick fixes due to performance issues:

  1. Removing redundant keywords (keywords that have a very close match within the same ad group that performs better)
  2. Removing non-serving keywords (keywords with no impressions over a set period)
  3. Updating keywords bids to meet ‘top of page’ bids etc. (You can still set an upper limit on this)
  4. Use optimized ad rotation (to show the best-performing ads more often instead of all ads within the same ad group equally, despite performance).

Interestingly, as of June 2024, Google will now automatically pause low-activity keywords. They say, “Positive keywords in search ads campaigns are considered low-activity if they were created over 13 months ago and have zero impressions over the past 13 months.”

You can unpause these if you think they are crucial to your account, but they will get automatically re-paused if they continue to not generate impressions for 3 months.


When should I not auto-apply search recommendations?

Ultimately, search engines have one ultimate goal. It’s no coincidence that Google’s annual revenue is 77.8% made up of advertising on Google’s properties. And, with that in mind, there are undeniably revenue-based goals that they’re trying to achieve. And this is where we need to be careful as marketers.

Some suggestions may include increasing campaign budgets, using automated bidding strategies, adjusting CPA and ROAS limits,  and adding new keywords that may not be entirely relevant to your campaign. With that in mind, we would suggest reviewing all of the following optimization suggestions before auto-applying or implementing:

  1. Adjusting your CPA or ROAS targets - especially if increasing them
  2. Adding store visits as a default account goal (this is not relevant for all businesses)
  3. Adding dynamic imagery and/or assets from the website (this may have legal ramifications and some suggestions may not be relevant to all ad groups)
  4. Adding new keywords or adding new broad match keywords (you should manually  review these beforehand) 

This is a non-exhaustive list, but it’s important to bear in mind what the potential worst-case scenario of each of these auto-applied optimizations could be. For example, a significant hike in unmanageable spending, wasted spending, or reductions in CTR or conversion rates due to irrelevant traffic.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, you’ll know your accounts and the nuances of the campaigns better than search engines do. So, while there is time to be saved by auto-applying your optimization recommendations, do so with caution! The perfect mix is your specialist client and campaign knowledge combined with insights and data from the search engines themselves. 


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