HomeBlog8 Recent (Important!) Google Ads Updates You Might Have Missed

8 Recent (Important!) Google Ads Updates You Might Have Missed

Author: Susie Marino
Last Updated: December 9, 2021 | Industry News & Insights

Let’s face it, no one likes the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out). Whether it’s a group project you were excluded from or a concert that sold out tickets before you could snag one, FOMO is sadly found in every corner of life.

google ads updates—FOMO meme

Don’t let FOMO creep into your PPC, too! We can help keep you in the loop on everything going on in Google Ads so no update slips through the cracks.

That being said, here are the latest and greatest Google Ads updates from the past month or two that you might have missed:

  1. Changes in keyword matching behavior
  2. More automation for Display campaigns
  3. Data added to the search terms report
  4. The sunsetting of expanded text ads
  5. The new “about this ad” page
  6. A new travel ad type
  7. New Google Shopping ad attributes
  8. More attribution models for Display and YouTube campaigns

1. Changes in keyword matching behavior

Announced on: September 23, 2021.
Short version: Google shares that broad match has improved and what its new rules are for prioritizing keywords.
Overall sentiment: Mixed (from neutral to cautious to seriously?).

In its September 23 announcement, Google shared that BERT, which helps Google to understand the context and intent of search queries, is now being applied to keyword matching in Google Ads. This, Google says, has enabled it to change keyword matching rules for broad and phrase match.

We cover it all in this post, but here’s the gist of it:

  • Broad match and phrase match keywords identical to a query will now be preferred in the absence of an exact match keyword.
  • If you have multiple match types for a keyword that are relevant to a query but not identical, Google will not decide solely based on Ad Rank, but on relevancy too (thanks to BERT).

Here’s the chart it provides:

google ads updates 2021 september match types

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Google said that this will allow you to get more qualified traffic with fewer keywords, and that when using broad match with Smart Bidding in particular, there is “no added benefit” to using multiple match types.

But many advertisers disagree. Check out our coverage on this change to find out why!

2. More automation for Display campaigns

Announced on: September 15, 2021.
Short version: Google combined the previously separate standard Display and Smart Display campaign setups into one flow.
Overall sentiment: Mix of neutral and confused.

Google announced on September 15 that standard Display and Smart Display campaigns have been merged into one campaign type. This does not mean that we can’t run standard Display campaigns or Smart Display campaigns as we know them.

What it means is, when choosing a campaign type, you will now only see one Display option, and then once you select it, you can then choose whether it will be a standard Display or Smart Display campaign.

google ads updates 2021 september: display campaign setup in google ads manager

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Google also announced that Display campaigns are now automatically put into optimized targeting, which can allow you to pull in clicks from folks outside of your selected audiences based on your goals (I explain optimized targeting here!)

However, as noted in the screenshot below, you can opt out of this targeting option if you don’t wish to use it.

google ads updates september 2021: optimized targeting default for display campaigns

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For now, existing standard Display and Smart Display campaigns will continue to run as usual.​

With this change, advertisers will have added flexibility in their selected levels of automation for creative, targeting, and bidding.

In her Search Engine Journal coverage on the announcement, Amy Bishop states that this makes sense, since we now have so many automation features in standard Display campaigns that setup is not much different from Smart.

Many advertisers are confused by this update and also have mixed feelings on optimized targeting. Learn more in the PPC chat discussion on this announcement.

3. Data added to the search terms report

Announced on: September 9, 2021.
Short version: Google added some new data back to the search terms report, but will also be removing some in February 2022.
Overall sentiment: Exciting for some, not a big improvement for others.

Google announced on September 9 that it listened to advertisers’ call for more information in the search terms report, which became restricted in September 2020.

This report, which shows advertisers which queries their ads showed for, began to only display terms of a high enough volume to maintain searcher anonymity, with at least one click. Now, advertisers will be able to also see search terms (that meet the threshold volume) they gained impressions on—regardless of whether they pulled in a click or not.

In the same announcement, Google shared that in February of 2022, it will be removing historical (pre-September 2020) search terms that don’t meet the privacy threshold volume. With this, Google is able to accommodate advertisers while also maintaining privacy among searchers.

We tell you everything you need to know here.

4. The sunsetting of expanded text ads

Announced on: August 31, 2021.
Short version: As of June 2022, you will not be able to create new ETAs.
Overall sentiment: Not surprised, but still, not ideal.

Expanded text ads (ETAs) have been a long-time go-to for search advertisers.  We shared back in March that Google replaced ETAs with responsive search ads (RSAs) as the default ad type for standard Search campaigns. And then on August 31, Google told us it will be sunsetting ETAs in June of 2022. We cover the announcement in more depth here.

What this means is RSAs will be the only available Search ad type (aside from call or dynamic ads) at the ready to create. Existing ETAs will still be able to run indefinitely. However, advertisers will not be able to edit them, but only pause or remove them.


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Learn seven things to do with your ETAs and RSAs before then, like:

  • Create and test your ETAs like crazy.
  • Create evergreen ETAs.
  • Get familiar with RSAs.
  • Don’t forget about call ads.

5. New “about this ad” pages

Announced on: September 22, 2021.
Short version: Google released the page version of those little boxes you see when you click “Why am I seeing this ad?”
Overall sentiment: Seems neutral (but let us know if you think otherwise!).

Google is continuing to take privacy and quality assurance measures for consumers. According to its September 22 announcement, users can now see an “about this ad page in Display, Video, and Shopping ad placements. On that page, they can click to see other ads that brand has posted within the last 30 days.

google ads updates: example of google "about this ad" advertiser pages released september 2021

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This is to help advertisers to show that they’re credible and consumers to know that the content they’re viewing is credible. To adapt to this change, be sure to always be running high-quality and consistent ads.

6. New “things to do” travel ads

Announced on: September 22, 2021.
Short version: Travel brands will have more ways to list their booking options along with a new “things to do” ad type that has room for more details.
Overall sentiment: Positive.

As businesses slowly bounce back from the pandemic, Google has been providing tools to travel-based advertisers that allow chances for a revenue boost.

According to its September 22 announcement, when people search tourist attractions on Google, instead of seeing just general information on that attraction, there will be booking links for tickets and reservations, and eventually the same for other experiences in that area.

Plus, travel advertisers now get to play around with a “things to do” ad where they have wiggle room to add in information on pricing, images, reviews, and more. Google encourages trying this ad out since its purpose is to promote discovery and drive bookings.

google ads updates september 2021: things to do travel ad examples

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7. Google Shopping holiday updates

Announced on: August 31, 2021.
Short version: New shipping, return, veteran-owned, and women-owned attributes for Shopping ads.
Overall sentiment: Positive.

In preparation for the 2021 holiday season,, Google released some updates to accommodate increased ecommerce demands. There will be new shipping annotations available for Shopping campaigns, like  “Get it by Dec 24” as well as return policy annotations like “free 90-day returns.” See below:

google ads updates september 2021: new shipping attributes in shopping ads

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Plus, in addition to their opt-in labels for black-owned businesses, there’s now an option for veteran-owned and businesses to self-identify as such!

google ads updates september 2021: veteran-owned attribute in google shopping ad

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For more helpful tips, learn how to improve your Google Shopping ROI with the priority bidding structure.

8. Improved attribution modeling for YouTube and Display

Announced on: August 9, 2021.
Short version: Last-click attribution is no longer the only model available for YouTube and Display campaigns.
Overall sentiment: Helpful.

As we covered in our Google Marketing Live 2021 recap, YouTube and Display campaigns have been developing more sophisticated strategies. This year, value-based bidding became available on these two campaign types. And in Google’s August 9 announcement, advanced attribution modeling options for these campaigns have also just become available.

Previously, Display and YouTube Video campaigns were defaulted to last click attribution. Now, attribution model types that we’re already familiar with from Search campaigns, can be applied to these campaign types—including time-decay, linear, or even data-driven models, which can impact how you credit each conversion you get.

To check how this might impact your visual campaigns, try using the model comparison report feature under the Measurement and Attribution sections of the platform. This will show you in real-time how changing your attribution model could positively or negatively impact your performance metrics.

google ads attribution model comparison

We’ll be including the announcement covering the changes to data-driven attribution modeling in next month’s roundup. But you can get the full scoop in our coverage here!

Google Ads updates roundup [September 2021]

  1. Updates to broad and phrase match
  2. More automation for Display
  3. Search terms report improvements
  4. Sunsetting of ETAs
  5. The updated “about this ad” page
  6. A new travel ad type
  7. Google Shopping ad attributes
  8. Improved attribution modeling for Display and YouTube campaigns

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Meet The Author

Susie Marino

Susie is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist at WordStream, where she uses her experience as a PPC consultant to share tips, tactics, and best practices in the ever-evolving marketing and advertising space. Outside of work, Susie loves to get outside for some snowboarding or (once the cold weather melts away) hiking!

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