Google Display Ads | Keywords Optimization

Google Display Ads | Keywords Optimization

Trapica Content Team

Industry News
4 min read
April 29, 2021

Targeting is often the secret that allows some marketers to succeed and causes others headaches that last throughout the week. Those who get targeting right sleep comfortably knowing that their ads are reaching the right people. When the targeting is wrong, we’re essentially throwing money away because these people will never purchase our products. Why was our time advertising to people with no interest in what we have to offer?

Facebook and Google have both introduced features to help businesses master the art of targeting. While Facebook has deeper targeting options than most, Google offers Skillshop which includes a lot of different free courses. Google has also introduced a new feature for targeting called ‘automatic targeting’. How does it work? Will it help your campaigns? Let’s find out. 

What’s Automatic Targeting?

Previously known as the Targeting Optimization setting, this feature has gone through a makeover and now works automatically. After we set our targeting parameters, Google will essentially look outside of these parameters to search for more traffic with the potential to convert. This feature expands targeting, which Google says improves control and forecasting for all advertisers. 

Importantly, this feature is active by default. If you don’t change this setting, any display campaign you create will look for conversion opportunities outside of your targeting parameters. Without changes, it’s set to expand reach conservatively. However, you can either turn the setting off for campaigns or increase it so that it looks for conversion opportunities more aggressively (i.e. in broader markets). 

According to Google, this feature should be seen as a supplement to your targeting controls. Rather than a core targeting setting, it simply expands the reach of ad campaigns for opportunities you could be missing. 

How Does Automatic Targeting Work?

This new feature allows you to make adjustments in the ad group stage of ad creation. Applicable for both regular Display campaigns and retargeting campaigns, scroll down the page and you’ll see the Automatic Targeting setting. As you adjust the slider, the number of potential customers should also change. The more aggressive your approach, the more prospective customers you’ll reach. 

If you’re currently targeting Placements or Demographics, this feature isn’t active, and it doesn’t look as though this will change any time soon. Google says that targeting expansion isn’t yet possible for these two targeting types. However, If you’re focused on remarketing or contextual targeting, it should work just fine. 


Automatic targeting doesn’t just reach out to an extended audience randomly, it uses advanced algorithms and models. It does this by considering your targeting strategy before then finding a similar audience for prospective customers. For example, it might be somebody who has visited a website regarding begonias when your original settings target were people who have visited a gardening website. 

If your campaign is interested in people who have purchased from your website, automatic targeting obviously can’t make past buyers magically appear. Yet, it will look for highly relevant audiences that match the profile of previous buyers. With an aggressive approach, targeting goes further and potential targets have less in common with your existing customers. 

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting is all about expanding keywords. After setting your chosen keywords, Google will expand the targeting to keywords with similar relevance to the topic at hand. As you adjust the slider, Google will take more risks and move further away from the original keywords to find potential leads. 

People will often wonder about the effectiveness of this feature. In theory, Google will follow the data, which means they find the customers who should have an interest in what you have to offer. As long as the data suggests a potential conversion, Google will show your ad to this individual. The idea isn’t just to reach out to people who might convert on a lucky day. 

Google’s Ideal Users for Automatic Targeting

In the next section, we’ll discuss early results for the automated targeting feature and what the market has found so far. Who does Google believe to be the perfect fit for automatic targeting? The answer is businesses that want to: 

  • Improve targeting and perhaps even identify new markets for prospective customers
  • Boost reach without impacting cost per customer or bidding 
  • Find additional customers 

When automatic targeting is active, it can lead to new placements. As Google says, this is ideal for brands who aren’t overly cautious about where their ads are served. 

Should You Use Automatic Targeting?

Automatic targeting is a great idea because it uses modern technology to improve the performance of ad campaigns. Hower, should you be using this feature? It’s natural for businesses and marketers to worry about the people they could miss by choosing certain targeting options. 

Automatic targeting is finally the way to scoop up the people just outside our target market, right? Well, the response hasn’t been positive so far. In fact, you could summarize how the industry feels by the fact that we’re going to tell you how to disable the feature on new and existing campaigns. Look all over the internet and you’ll see examples of how automatic targeting has contributed very little while happily consuming the budget of businesses. 

Since the introduction of the feature, we’ve seen businesses notice a decline in the performance of their ad groups. They check the reports and see that, despite spending hundreds (or even thousands), conversion rates are low. In many cases, the conversion rate sits at 0% despite the high spending. 

How Can I Check My Automatic Targeting Results?

As a marketer, you’re accountable for every dollar spent on advertising. The last thing you want is for a Google feature to drain your ad dollars when you didn’t even choose to activate the setting in the first place. To check performance, click on the Audiences tab at the ad group level. In the report that follows, you’ll see various statistics regarding Display Automatic Targeting. 

The graph should show the performance of automatic targeting in terms of: 

  • Clicks 
  • Impressions 
  • Click-Through Rate 
  • Average CPC 
  • Cost 
  • Conversions 
  • Cost per Conversion 
  • Conversion Rate 

You can then compare the numbers to your own targeting and settings. If the conversion rate is higher, this is great news because it means that automatic targeting is working. If conversion rates are low, or 0%, it’s time to turn off the setting and stop it from draining your marketing budget. 

How Do I Disable Automatic Targeting for Existing Campaigns?

Since this is a setting applied at the ad group level, you’ll need to change the setting for each ad group. We know this might be a pain, but it’ll save your campaign if the feature isn’t performing. After finding the right ad group, choose ‘edit ad group targeting’ and this should open options (one of which regards automatic targeting). 

You can try turning the slider down, but we know that some people will just want the setting off completely. To achieve this, just slide the setting all the way to the left. Once you save the settings, your campaigns will only now use the targeting settings YOU choose. 

How Do I Disable Automatic Targeting for New Campaigns?

For all new campaigns, the option to turn off automatic targeting is a little hidden.  Whether in a regular Display campaign or a remarketing campaign, you’ll need to do everything as normal until you get to the ad group settings. Move down the page and there’s a thin horizontal bar for ‘Automated Targeting’; this setting is easy to miss until you click the arrow and expand the box. 

As you can see, the setting starts on ‘Conservative automation’. If you’re willing to give the option a go, feel free to leave it like this. If not, switch to ‘No automated targeting’ and the campaign will only use your targeting settings when sending ads to people. Again, make sure you save and then progress through the ad creation process as normal. 


There we have it, everything you need to know about the new automatic targeting tool for Google Display campaigns. Why not look at the report for your existing campaigns to see whether the feature is helping or hindering?

While Google may have had good intentions, it seems the automatic targeting feature needs some work before it’s ready for wider application. This is also a gentle reminder to carefully check all settings on your campaigns to prevent wastage!

Learn how Trapica can help you automate and optimize your Google ad campaigns

Industry News
4 min read
April 29, 2021