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Google Ads New Features: Four Must-Know Changes

Google Ads changes fast. That’s always been the case, but the platform now has so many networks and products and features that keeping up with all of them can seem daunting.

So we’ve gathered up the highlights for you. These are the most impactful Google Ads new features launched in the last few months – the features most likely to generate real improvements in your campaigns and to affect your daily work.

1. New Audience Targeting Capabilities for Search Campaigns.

Designing campaigns around keywords has always been a central idea of PPC, but in recent years many marketers have shifted over to designing campaigns focused on audiences. This new feature amplifies marketers’ ability to do that.

On July 17th, Google announced the ability to use “in-market audiences” and “detailed demographics” for Search campaigns. In-market audiences allow you to find potential customers who are “in the market” – i.e., actively looking for – specific product and services. Google’s product page for in-market audiences includes a downloadable CSV file with 768 different categories for advertisers to target and which Google Ads products are available for targeting.

Here’s what a section of that CSV file looks like:

Google Ads In-Market Audiences

The categories run the gamut from Apparel & Accessories categories through to Business and Technology, all the way to Travel. If you sell anything online, your category is probably included.

The other new targeting capability, “detailed Demographics” targeting, lets you show ads to people with very specific profiles, like parents of infants age 0-1 or people who work for a small employer. Google has another downloadable CSV file that lets you see all 35 profiles.

Here’s the full screenshot of that file:

Google Ads New Features: Detailed Demographics

Being able to target like this could be a powerful way to screen out people who are not likely to buy your products, especially now that Google’s keyword matching is getting looser and looser. It could also be an interesting way to test which ads and messaging appeal to different audiences. Usually the more personalized ads’ messaging is, the better results those ads will generate.

2. Parallel Tracking Became Mandatory for Display Ads.

Parallel tracking improves the loading time for landing pages by eliminating the redirects used by some ad tracking services. Now, instead of tracking conversions via redirect, tracking now happens “in the background” after landing pages have loaded.

Parallel Tracking for Google Ads

This is an improvement to the user experience because people hate slow-loading pages. It’s also an improvement for advertisers because pages that load faster convert better.

how page speed affects conversion rates

Unfortunately, it might have been a bit of a headache if you had been using a third-party tracking tool, aka a “click measurement solutions provider” that did its tracking via redirects.

Google’s parallel tracking product page has some help resources for the third-party tools this change could have affected. If you’re a PPC marketer, and you noticed a big dip in conversions in early August, check to make sure that it wasn’t due to tracking issues created by parallel tracking.

3. Keyword Planner Has Many New Changes.

Keyword management should be a priority for any PPC marketer, and the Google Ads Keyword Planner is most marketers’ go-to tool. So whenever Google revamps this tool, it matters.

There have been many changes to the Google Ads Keyword Planner recently, but these four new features will probably make the biggest difference to your keyword research:

  • You can now see and filter out keywords that are already in your account (including negative keywords).
  • You can now get keyword suggestions based on a website URL. This could be very handy both to get ideas for your own site or to snitch ideas from competitors’ sites.

Google Ads keyword planner research via url

  • You can modify columns and filter out keywords that don’t fit your PPC strategy in the keyword planner. This helps with keyword overload, a condition every PPC marketer has dealt with at one time or another.

modify columns in the Google Ads Keyword Planner

For example, if you include the “Competition” column in your reports (and you should) you can set the keyword planner’s view to not show any keywords that are intensely competitive. If you want to maximize your PPC budget, avoiding super-competitive keywords can be a smart move.

  • You can filter and find keyword trends by region, state, country, and even municipality. If you manage local campaigns, this information could be really valuable.

Google Ads keyword planner locations

One piece of advice before we move on to the next topic: Always double-check what the Keyword Planner tells you, at least as best you can. There are plenty of other good keyword tools available. The Keyword Planner is great, but be careful about launching a business plan (or even a small campaign) without getting confirmation about your keyword data from another source.

4. New Smart Bidding Strategy: Maximize Conversion Value.

This is another small milestone along the road toward AI and machine learning taking over much of PPC management. Maximize Conversion Value bidding is a new flavor of Google’s automated bidding options. It “automatically sets bids to help you get the most conversion value for your campaign while spending your budget.” For it to work, you’ll need to have conversion tracking set up and you’ll need specific values tied to the conversions you track.

Before switching to maximize conversion value bidding, Google recommends you:

  • Check the daily budget amounts of the campaigns you want to test with Maximize Conversion Value.

If you’re already spending close to your full budget every day, you’re good. But if your campaign is spending much less than its daily budget, get ready for that to change. Maximize Conversion Value is going to try to spend all of your daily budget, and it’s probably going to be successful. So be ready for that campaign’s daily spend to max out.

  • Consider adding a target return on investment ad spend (ROAS) for your campaign.

This functionality is available, and it might help you tie your PPC account management more directly into your business’s or your clients’ financial goals. You can also, of course, set a target CPA goal for your campaign. Try out both approaches and see which one works best for your particular situation.

Closing thoughts on Google Ads New Features

Know what all these Google Ads changes really mean?

  1. PPC marketers live in a state of continuing education.
  2. Feature testing should be a regular part of PPC management.

Change is a constant in PPC marketing. One of the best ways to stay informed is to be in close contact with your Google Ads representative. Another good way to stay current is to read sites like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and of course the Google Ads’ blog.

how PPC marketers keep up with paid search

That’s all a very good start. But also consider setting aside some time to test all these Google Ads new features. Some will work for you and some won’t. But one thing is clear: If you’re doing PPC advertising the same way you were last year, you’re probably missing a lot of efficiencies, both with your budget and with your time.

So as you lay out your 2020 calendar and plan out all your projects, build in more time for testing the new features Google constantly rolls out. Aim to test at least one new feature every month. And don’t worry if you don’t know which feature you’ll test for every month of 2020. We guarantee Google will continue to evolve. Any empty space you have in your testing calendar will fill up fast.



  1. Unsplash, Yang Miao.

2-3, 6-8. Screenshots taken by the author, September, 2019.

  1. Google Ads Help.
  2. Cloudflare.


Pam Neely

Pam Neely

Pam Neely has been in digital marketing for 20 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blogging. She has a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.

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