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Google AdWords

How to Master Ad Rotation in Google AdWords

*In Drew Carey’s voice*

Come on down! Yes you, digital marketer! You’ve won a chance to spin the big wheel on national television!

Congratulations on making it this far. You’ve crafted a library of pixel-perfect image ads within your ad group that are ready for the world to see. The issue is, you can only show one at a time. How can you possibly choose?

Many advertisers just go with whatever one they or the designer likes best. But is that really the best way to decide which ad is going to perform best for your business?

Lucky for you, choosing the best ad can be a hands-free scientific experiment in your AdWords account. It’s like spinning 100. Every. Single. Time.

Ready to go for a spin?

What is Ad Rotation?

Ad rotation is a customizable campaign setting in AdWords that will automatically rotate ads within your ad group on the Search and Display Networks. AdWords can either do the heavy lifting and choose the best performing ads for you or rotate them evenly, leaving you with the final decision on which ad to emphasize.

In this tutorial, we’re going to dig into the different types of ad rotation settings and show you which one will be the most effective for your campaign strategy.

September 2017 Update

Google announced that they are cutting the initial four ad rotation settings down to two: Optimize and Rotate Indefinitely.

Source: Google

“Optimize for Clicks” and “Optimize for Conversions” will now be replaced by a simpler setting called “Optimize.” The “Rotate Evenly” option will also be removed and will begin to use “Optimize” instead. Also, rotations can now be created at the ad group level and the campaign level.

A little confused? Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for ya. Let’s get started.


This ad rotation setting will automatically rotate and optimize your ads to drive the most amount of clicks possible, using Google’s often touted machine learning and advanced AI technology. AdWords will select and show the best ads in every auction using contextual signals including:

  • Device
  • Physical Location & Location Intent
  • Time of Day
  • Remarketing Lists
  • Ad Characteristics
  • Language
  • Browser & Operating System
  • Demographics
  • Keywords & Search Query
  • Search Network Partner
  • Web Placement
  • Site behavior
  • Product Attributes

Optimize for Clicks (Discontinued)

The September 2017 update will replace “Optimize for Clicks” and “Optimize for Conversions” for the new “Optimize” setting. Advertisers currently using Optimize for Clicks will automatically switch over to the Optimize setting.

Optimize for Clicks used to be the default AdWords setting, which displayed the ads it thought would drive the most clicks. For video campaigns, this setting directed AdWords to optimize your ads for the highest view rates instead of clicks.

Optimize for Clicks setting utilized only historical data to favor ads that drove the highest click-through-rates (CTRs) in the past. This means new campaigns with no historical data were ignored, while the new Optimize setting uses more data points to predict high-quality ads.

Optimize for Conversions (Discontinued)

The September 2017 update will replace “Optimize for Clicks” and “Optimize for Conversions” for the new “Optimize” setting. Advertisers currently using Optimize for Conversions will be switched over to the Optimize setting.

This option used to let AdWords choose the ad that was most likely to drive the customer to complete your desired action (i.e. making a purchase or submitting a signup form.) Like Optimizing for Clicks, this setting used historical data, so it only showed ads that drove the highest conversions in the past. It optimized your ads for total conversions, not the highest conversion rate or total conversion value.

Since this option was removed from AdWords, advertisers should use the automated bid strategy “Maximize Conversions” instead.

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Rotate Indefinitely

This setting will rotate your ads evenly for an indefinite amount of time. It also enters each of your ads into an equal number of auctions, which provides the opportunity to conduct a thorough A/B test of which ads are performing best.

This means that you’ll have full control over what you want to optimize for. If you tend to be analytical and want to spend the time optimizing for specific goals, this is the strategy for you. Depending on your ad spend, you may achieve a statistically significant amount of data to make a decision around which ad is performing best and adjust bids and ad placements accordingly.

It’s also important to watch out for a common misconception that ‘rotating evenly’ means every ad will have the same performance. Like any other AdWords ad, performance is contingent on auction bids and quality score.

Rotate Evenly (Discontinued)

The September 2017 update will discontinue the Rotate Evenly option, meaning advertisers using this setting will be switched to the new “Optimize” setting.

This setting was almost identical to the “Rotate Indefinitely” setting, the only difference being that Adwords used to automatically optimize your ads after a 90-day period.

Any campaign using Enhanced CPC, Target ROAS, or Target CPA bidding used to be optimized for conversions, while all other campaigns were optimized for clicks. Advertisers should now just use the smart bidding strategies to continue your optimization efforts instead of using Ad Rotation.

Here’s How to Set Up Ad Rotation in AdWords

Step 1: Open AdWords
Step 2: Click on a campaign
Step 3: Click the ‘settings’ tab
Step 4: Scroll down to ‘Additional Settings’ and click on Ad Delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping 
Step 5: Click Edit
Step 6: Select your rotation type
Step 7: Click save
*Recommended* Step 8: Treat yourself and go grab that doughnut you’ve been craving. You deserve it.

Too Long; Didn’t Read?

Here’s a quick roundup of what we went over:

  • Ad rotation will display your best performing ads within an ad group depending on your goal
  • There are two rotation options:
    • Optimize
      • Uses Google’s AI and machine learning to predict the best performing ad
    • Rotate indefinitely
      • Rotates evenly until turned off
      • No auto optimization


We also put together a step-by-step video tutorial below to help you out!

Have anything to add?

If you have any questions or anything to add, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop a comment or tweet at us @AdHawk. Chat soon!

7 responses to “How to Master Ad Rotation in Google AdWords

  1. Hello. I’m very new to AdWords and am having trouble finding the ad rotate option. I’ve read your article and followed the instructions, but the only options I have listed under Advanced Settings are Ad Scheduling: days and hours and Ad Delivery (frequency capping and content exclusions). My current Campaign has 3 videos and it seems to be bouncing between 3 of them with emphasis on one. I’ve searched in the new look and old look in AdWords with no luck…Any ideas?

    1. Hi Ray,
      Thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with your ads! To my knowledge, Video campaigns will automatically be optimized for views and ad rotation is not an option anymore.

  2. Thanks for sharing for the information about ad rotations in adwords as I was looking for this and learning adwords in deep these days. This is the really good blog.

  3. I really miss having ads actually rotate remotely evenly. Choosing the Rotate Indefinitely option does not mean ads are rotated. Most of the time when I add an ad, Google shows one about 96% of the time and the other only 4%. How can you even learn from this? I want to make the decision on which ad works best for me based on multiple factors. How can I get Google to truly rotate?

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About the Author

Journeyman of the wild wild west of Digital Advertising. Also doubling as an unofficial Taco Bell ambassador. Tweet at me @JonJmPark