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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.

Here are the four different options you have to choose from.

Optimize for Clicks (default ad rotation setting)

Optimizing for clicks is the default AdWords setting, which displays the ads it thinks will drive the most clicks. However, for video campaigns, this setting will tell AdWords to optimize your ads for the highest view rates instead of clicks.

Optimize for Clicks setting utilizes historical data so it will favor ads that drove the highest click-through-rates (CTRs) in the past. This means new campaigns with no historical data will be ignored. If you’re testing new campaigns, Optimize for Clicks IS NOT the best setting for you.

In this case, we recommend you use the “rotate indefinitely” option. More on that soon.

Optimize for Conversions

This option lets AdWords choose the ad that is 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 uses historical data, so it will only show ads that drove the highest conversions in the past. If there is not enough historical data available, ads will automatically optimize for clicks instead.

It’s important to note that this optimizes your ads for total conversions, not the highest conversion rate or total conversion value.

Rotate Evenly

There’s 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.

This option enters each of your ads into an equal number of auctions, which provides YOU the opportunity to conduct a thorough A/B test of which ads are performing best.

After a 90 day period, your ads will be automatically optimized for:

  • Conversions if using Enhanced CPC, Target ROAS, or Target CPA bidding
  • Clicks for everything else

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.

Rotate Indefinitely

This setting is the same as Rotate Evenly, but no automatic optimization will occur after the 90-day period. 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.

If you’re still unsure of how to approach this strategy, here’s an #AdHawkProTip from our Senior Account Manager, Mark Feigen.adwords pro tip mark ad creatives

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 goals
  • There are four rotation options:
    • Optimize for clicks (based on ad’s past performance)
    • Optimize for conversions (based on ad’s past performance)
    • Rotate evenly
      • Gives ads an equal chance to gather enough data to show best performing ads
      • Adwords optimizes for conversions or clicks after 90-day period
    • 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!

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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