Google Ads auto-apply can optimize pay-per-click ad campaigns automatically for better visibility and clicks. Learn how they work, when to use them, and expert recommendations.

Here, you’ll find:

From improving ads to adding keywords, Google Ads auto-apply can optimize active pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on your behalf. This feature can be a game-changer for improving campaign performance and saving time.

But it’s critical to add manual oversight to this automated process. In this article, we’ll cover how and when to enable auto-applied recommendations and explore best practices to keep your optimization score as high as possible.

What is Google Ads auto-apply?

Google Ads auto-apply is a feature that allows the platform to implement recommended changes automatically. These updates optimize various aspects of your Google Ads campaigns, such as:

  • Adjusting bidding strategies
  • Improving ads and assets
  • Refining keyword lists
  • Adding audience targeting
  • Upgrading conversion tracking

The advertising platform already suggests these optimizations automatically. You can find them on the “Recommendations” tab in your Google Ads account.

Normally, you must review each recommendation and then approve or dismiss it manually. With auto-apply, Google Ads accepts eligible recommendations for you when relevant to your account.

However, enabling auto-apply doesn’t give Google Ads complete control over your advertising account. You can always review or adjust individual recommendations.

Should you use auto-applied recommendations?

Our advice is: do not blindly auto-apply. It’s best to strike a balance as to when you should and shouldn’t. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Potential advantages of using auto-apply

Enabling these automated recommendations has several potential upsides.

They may be able to:

  • Save you time: If you’re running multiple Google Ads campaigns at once, you likely spend a lot of time checking and tweaking them daily. Using auto-apply can eliminate these manual tasks, freeing up more time for strategy.
  • Find and resolve errors: Even experienced advertisers can make small mistakes that lead to Google Ads performance issues. The auto-apply feature can find problems like conflicting negative keywords, and boosting performance.
  • Improve clicks and conversions: Google Ads campaigns generally need frequent updates to continue achieving better results. With auto-apply, you enable improvements automatically, giving your ads the best chance at success.
  • Increase your optimization score: Keeping your optimization score at or near 100% ensures you follow Google Ads’ best practices. When you enable auto apply recommendations, Google Ads keeps this score high automatically.


Possible downsides of using auto-apply

Auto-apply isn’t right for every situation. Before you enable this feature, make sure you know the possible drawbacks:

  • Giving up manual control can be a difficult decision. Are you accustomed to having complete control over your Google Ads accounts? Opening the door to Google Ads automation can create serious doubts, at least initially.
  • Keyword changes may overcomplicate your account. Are you targeting a highly curated keyword list? Automated additions can increase the size of your keyword list quickly, which could lead to budget issues.
  • Bidding changes may not align with your goals. Do you have specific cost per action (CPA) or return on ad spend (ROAS) targets to hit? The platform’s automated changes can compromise your key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Google Ads’ best practices may not fit your needs. Google Ads’ automated recommendations fit the platform’s best practices. Sometimes, these best practices won’t always work for you.

Why it’s best to strike a balance

For most advertisers, taking a completely automated approach to Google Ads management isn’t ideal. Sure, automating this process could save you time and help you resolve errors. But when you factor in all the changes you’d have to review (and potentially undo), you may ultimately waste time.

Instead, it’s typically best to balance automating optimization and managing Google Ads manually. In other words, enable the recommendation types most likely to save you time and effort. But handle more complex suggestions manually to retain an appropriate level of control.

“Like all Google Ads tools and features, auto-apply has benefits and drawbacks,” explains Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM. “We believe in active management, so we’ll never take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach. It’s important to know which features you can leave on auto-apply and which need active management to ensure you aren’t wasting marketing dollars.”

Below, we’ll discuss best practices to strike the best balance for your brand. We’ll also cover how to ensure your optimization process for Google Ads aligns with your organization’s marketing strategy.

22 types of Google Ads auto-apply recommendations

Google Ads offers 22 auto-apply settings. You can enable any of these settings individually, or activate an entire group of settings with one click. Google Ads has two preset groups of auto-apply recommendations:

  • Maintain your ads: These suggestions focus on fixing errors and improving active campaigns.
  • Grow your business: These suggestions focus on expanding keyword targeting and improving bidding strategies.

Ads and assets recommendations

  • Use optimized ad rotation: Want to ensure your top-performing ads always take priority over others in the same ad group? With optimized ad rotation, Google Ads automatically prioritizes ads that are more likely to perform better (e.g., get more clicks and conversions).
  • Add responsive search ads: Could your search ad groups use a boost? Google Ads can create more responsive search ads (RSAs) using the headlines and descriptions you’ve already added to your account. Note that search ad groups can contain three RSAs maximum.
  • Improve responsive search ads: Do your Ad Strength scores need work? Google Ads can enhance existing RSAs using the ad copy you’ve already added to your account. This change can drive more clicks and potentially increase conversion rates.

Keywords and targeting recommendations

  • Remove redundant keywords: Are your ad groups using multiple match types to target the same keywords? This setting consolidates your keyword list to optimize bidding and simplify account management.
  • Remove non-serving keywords: Have some of your keywords never received traffic or generated conversions? This setting removes them from the ad group to simplify your keyword list and improve account management.
  • Remove conflicting negative keywords: Are some of your negative keywords preventing your ads from showing? This setting removes them to improve campaign performance and give your ads a chance to enter relevant auctions.
  • Use optimized targeting: Do you want your campaigns to reach wider audiences? With optimized targeting, the Google Ads algorithm can automatically find people who are most likely to convert, even if they aren’t in the segments you’re targeting.
  • Add new keywords: Could your search campaigns benefit from a larger keyword list? This setting allows Google Ads to add new keywords by identifying search terms driving impressions and traffic.
  • Add broad match keywords: Are your campaigns using phrase or exact match keywords? With this setting, Google Ads can create broad match versions of the keywords you’ve already added so your ads have the potential to display in more searches.
  • Use Display Expansion: Do your search campaigns have an unspent budget? When you enable Display Expansion, Google Ads can apply that budget to placements on the Display Network. As a result, you can get more conversions at a cost similar to what you’d spend on Google search partners.

Bidding recommendations

  • Set a target CPA: Choose a CPA that aligns with your campaign KPIs.
  • Set a target ROAS: Choose a ROAS that aligns with your campaign KPIs.
  • Adjust CPA targets: Change CPA targets when it’s likely to drive more conversions.
  • Adjust ROAS targets: Change ROAS targets when it’s likely to improve conversion value.
  • Target impression share: Improve ad visibility while automating your bid strategy.
  • Bid with Maximize clicks: Get more clicks while maintaining a similar cost.
  • Maximize conversions: Increase conversions and conversion rates while maintaining a similar cost.
  • Maximize conversion value: Get conversions at a higher value while maintaining a similar cost.
  • Use a target CPA to maximize conversions: Increase conversions at a target CPA that fits your goals.
  • Maximize conversion value using a target ROAS: Get conversions at a higher value at an ROAS that fits your goals.
  • Add store visits as an account default goal: Use Smart Bidding with store visits to increase conversions and value.

Campaign measurement recommendations

  • Upgrade conversion tracking: Enable Google’s data-driven attribution settings. This approach considers interactions across ads and goes beyond first- or last-click models to provide more accurate conversion attribution.

How to enable and disable auto-apply settings

To switch on auto apply, open the “Campaigns” menu and select “Recommendations.” Then select individual recommendations or enable Google Ads’ preset maintenance or growth auto-apply settings.

auto-apply settings

After selecting, click the blue “Save” button in the upper right corner. Then return to the “Recommendations” tab periodically to review the changes Google Ads applied automatically.

Remember, enabling Google Ads’ automated changes doesn’t have to be permanent. You can switch off these settings at any time.

To turn off auto apply, return to the “Recommendations” tab. This time, uncheck any settings you want to disable. Click “Save” and confirm your choice.

You can also switch off auto-apply from the “History” tab. Click the green dot to the left of any recommendation you want to turn off and select “Disable.”


When you disable auto apply, Google Ads will continue to suggest improvements for your campaigns. However, you’ll need to review and accept them manually.

Best practices for using Google’s recommendations

Not sure which of these automated recommendations you should enable? Use these best practices as a guide.

Start with strategic goals

Before you begin enabling automated ad suggestions, consider the bigger picture and create a strategy to support it. What’s the main goal you want to achieve with auto-apply?

For example, say you want to help your team avoid expensive errors. In that case, you’ll likely want to enable settings related to redundant and conflicting keywords.

“In terms of best practices, I generally accept auto-apply recommendations that expand reach or optimize for conversion-centric goals like return on investment (ROI) or revenue,” shares digital marketing expert Carl Broadbent. “I’m a bit more hesitant about recommendations primarily impacting costs without a clear lift to conversions. And, of course, I’ll only allow auto-apply for small to moderate changes. Anything major, and I want human oversight.”

Remember, auto-apply settings work at the account level only. Any goals must apply across your account rather than to specific campaigns.

Create an auto-apply review workflow

Google Ads automatically applies any recommendations you’ve enabled. Technically, you never have to review them manually. However, taking a “set it and forget it” approach is never a good idea for advertisers.

Instead, plan to review auto-applied recommendations periodically to address any issues promptly. For example, make time in your schedule to check auto-applied recommendations every Monday morning.

To save time on manual reviews, you can change your account settings and opt-in to receive Google Ads’ summary of all auto-applied recommendations. You’ll receive summaries on a weekly basis.

To turn on this option, open the “Admin” menu in your Google Ads account. Select “Notifications” and enable “Campaign maintenance” notifications to receive a weekly email.


Monitor the impact of auto-applied recommendations

When you first enable auto-apply, it’s particularly important to check the auto-applied recommendations closely and evaluate the results carefully. To save time, decide on criteria for reviewing these suggestions in advance.

For example, say you enabled Google Ads’ option to add new keywords automatically. In the beginning (e.g., for the first month), you’ll likely want to review keyword performance daily or weekly.

If the recommended keywords haven’t reached the performance levels you’ve set within the timeframe you’ve chosen or if they’re taking budget away from top-performing keywords, you may opt to disable them.

Over time, you’ll likely put more trust into Google Ads’ machine learning and find that these auto-applied settings need less frequent checks. As a result, you may opt to dial back your oversight as an account manager.

However, you should still set a schedule to check campaign performance and ensure your auto-apply settings are still helping you reach key goals. Over time, biweekly or even monthly checks may be more realistic.

You can easily check the number of times Google Ads has applied any automated suggestions by reviewing your auto-apply history. Here, you can see the number of auto-applies from the last seven days and the total number over time.

“In general, I only auto-apply minor bidding or targeting tweaks and avoid structural campaign changes recommended by AI alone,” explains Connor Gillivan, Founder and CEO of Trio SEO. “I also closely monitor campaign performance after enabling auto-apply to catch any issues. With new clients, I may only use it for 50% of ad groups initially before expanding trust.”

“The goal is to give the algorithm room to ‘think’ while humans retain final decision-making. I find the sweet spot is auto-applying 60-80% of recommendations — enough to reap AI’s benefits but leaving space for our expertise too. We’re also testing automated performance reports to further reduce manual tasks.

Don’t hesitate to undo auto-applied changes

If you spot an auto-applied change that goes against your goals, you can undo it at any time. In your Google Ads account, open the “Campaigns” tab and select “Change history.” Click “Undo” under any change you want to remove.

Change history

If you notice several similar changes that need undoing, consider removing the auto-apply rule altogether. You can make this change from the “Recommendations” tab.

“I don’t take every auto-apply suggestion at face value,” explains Josh Neuman, Founder of Chummy Tees. “I routinely check the ‘History’ tab to monitor changes. If I notice something fishy, I can quickly make tweaks.”

Recently, he realized some auto-applied changes led to a spike in irrelevant clicks. Neuman reined things back in to keep costs under control.

“At the end of the day, nothing can replace my expertise in strategizing for my business,” he says. “But auto-apply recommendations make optimizing my Google Ads game plan more efficient. Combining smart automation with human insight is how I get the best results.”

Review manual recommendations regularly

Google Ads offers dozens of performance recommendations. However, the platform only supports the auto-apply feature for 22 of them.

As a result, you’ll probably continue to receive manual recommendations after enabling auto-apply settings. Since these recommendations can be crucial to campaign optimization, make a point to check them regularly (e.g., weekly).

Note that many recommendations that aren’t eligible for auto-apply require manual setup or budget increases. While they can improve performance, they may require much more time and effort to implement.

Perform manual optimizations routinely

Remember, Google Ads’ automated recommendations follow the platform’s best practices. That means you’ll still want to do your own manual optimization to improve the landing page experience and ensure campaigns meet key impression share, click, and conversion goals.

At HawkSEM, we use our own proprietary tool, ConversionIQ (CIQ), to make tracking, attribution, and optimization easier. With CIQ, we can track each step of the buyer’s journey. That way, we can pinpoint which ads, ad groups, or campaigns are working — and which aren’t working.

With this PPC tracking data, we can optimize campaigns to reach a higher ROAS monthly and yearly. Since CIQ gives us insight into target audiences, we can get more value by applying what we’ve learned across PPC, paid social media, and search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns.

How do our PPC management services work in practice? HawkSEM helped AppDynamics double their targeted traffic and increase conversions by 20%.

Incorporate automation on your own terms

When you want more control over automating PPC campaigns, use Google Ads automation rules. With these settings, you can create rules for optimizing campaigns automatically.

For example, you can scale campaigns that reach certain performance thresholds, change ad statuses based on specific triggers, or adjust keyword bids to give your ads a better chance of entering and winning auctions.

By combining automated rules, auto-apply settings, and manual optimization, you can keep campaign performance on the right track.

The takeaway

Using Google Ads auto-apply recommendations can improve PPC performance and scale campaigns. Yet, it isn’t a magic solution for advertisers, as complete automation can lead to negative outcomes. That’s why we always advise balancing automated suggestions with manual account management.

Curious about how our experienced team can help with PPC management and digital marketing strategy? Contact HawkSEM for a free consultation to optimize your Google Ads campaigns effectively.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation