Google Ads Quarterly Digest – Q1 2021

Q1 was a relatively quiet month for Google in terms of major product updates, but there were still a few noteworthy changes. 

Keyword Matching Updates

In typical Google fashion, they shook up the SEM world in early February by announcing a significant update to the keyword match types/matching behavior within paid search campaigns. For an in-depth guide of what’s changing, how it will affect your search campaigns, and how to adjust your strategy to account for these updates, check out our previous blog post here

In short, Google is removing the Broad Match Modified keyword type and moving that functionality into Phrase Match keywords. We have yet to experience the full effects of the change, but more and more advertisers will start to see this change reflected in their accounts over the next few months. Google states that most advertisers around the world should see this reflected in their accounts by July of 2021. 

New Default Search Ads – Responsive Search Ads

As of late February, Google changed the default ad type from “Expanded Text Ad” to “Responsive Search Ad” when creating a new Search Ad. It should be noted that you will still be able to create Expanded Text Ads, you will just need to click through from the Responsive Search Ad creation view (see screenshots below).


For those of you who aren’t familiar with Responsive Search Ads, they are text ads that rotate various Headlines (you can submit up to 10) and Descriptions (you can submit up to 4) to determine the best performing combinations. Google leverages their machine learning to tailor the ad copy to each individual person the ad is being served to. While this is great for quick creative testing, we believe it is a general best practice to run a few variations of Expanded Text Ads along with one Responsive Search Ad per ad group which allows for more controlled ad copy tests (if needed). 

That said, we generally see very strong performance from Responsive Search Ads and absolutely recommend adding them to your ad groups if you’re not already running them. Google has also seen this success and states the following in their announcement:

Using machine learning, responsive search ads automatically identify the best combination of headlines and descriptions to deliver the right ad to the right person. In fact, we’ve seen advertisers that add responsive search ads in their ad groups achieve up to 10% more clicks and conversions.

Smart Bidding Updates

As more and more advertisers move towards leveraging Google’s automated bidding strategies, it is becoming increasingly more important to understand how each of them performs when optimizing for various KPIs (conversion value, ROAS, conversion volume, etc..). Google recently announced that they will be sunsetting their Target CPA (tCPA) and Target ROAS (tROAS) smart bidding strategies – this change went into effect in early April. While this change will likely not cause any drastic changes in performance, it’s important to understand where the functionality of those bid strategies will now live.

Once this is fully rolled out, advertisers will see a new option to add a target CPA when leveraging the “Maximize Conversions” strategy and a new option to add a target ROAS when leveraging the “Maximize Conversion Value” strategy. See the table below for a visualization of the changes and their new equivalents:

Pre-April 2021 Bid Strategy Update Post-April 2021 Bid Strategy Update Equivalent
tCPA (Target CPA) Maximize Conversions (with tCPA setting)
tROAS (Target ROAS) Maximize Conversion Value (with tROAS setting)
Maximize Conversions Maximize Conversions (no tCPA setting applied)
Maximize Conversion Value Maximize Conversion Value (no tROAS setting applied)


As previously stated, there is very little that will change in Google’s behind-the-scenes management of these automated strategies. But, it’s important to know how to set up future campaigns to drive similar performance under the new structure. Google has yet to roll out a formal announcement on their Helps Pages, but they highlighted the changes in this Developer Blog article.

Digital marketing is ever-changing and navigating all of the updates Google makes to their products can be extremely challenging. That’s where we come in. Tune in to the Parallel Path Blog each quarter for a full recap of the most important updates to Google’s suite of advertising products.  

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