Yesterday evening Google published a blog post that unveiled Enhanced Campaigns - one of the biggest changes to AdWords in years.
It means that advertisers will be able to target people based on the time of day, their location and the device they are using.
The idea is to simplify AdWords by allowing users to manage their campaigns in one place, but it also means that advertisers no longer have the ability to run mobile-only campaigns.
To find out more about the new Enhanced Campaigns, I asked several search experts for their views...
1. Though the new feature makes it easier to manage campaigns across devices, do you think enough businesses fully understand the difference between how their customers search on different devices?
Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director at LBi
No, I don’t think they do. How could they? Would a business know I have the Swype keyboard on my Android smartphone so I don’t spell out keyword searches in the traditional sense and, instead, drop completed words into the search box or that I only ever use my Nokia for business trips in London?
Would a business know I’m prepared only to walk a third as far in search of lunch when it is raining and even if they know my location would they even know it was raining there?
Perhaps the biggest challenge Enhanced Campaigns will face in the long term is that they put greater emphasis on intent and signals. Use these signals to make a bid adjustment decision.
That’s the pitch. I think businesses will respond by asking for more signals to make better decisions.
Paul Mead, founder and managing director of VCCP Media
Businesses don't understand the difference and their lack of understanding is costing Google revenue.
The majority of AdWords advertisers are either SMBs or larger advertisers who manage their paid search poorly. The guys who do paid search well and hence used 'mobile only' campaigns to properly target devices are in the minority.
Google tried to educate the industry about mobile best practice but it fell on deaf ears for the most part. This move means everyone will be in mobile by June 2013 by default and if you don't like you have to do something about it.
As the saying goes 'if the mountain won't come to Mohammed...'
Ryan Jones, assistant PPC manager at The Search Laboratory
Certainly not – trying to convince clients of the value of mobile is a constant struggle, with some seeing no value in mobile at all.
This is due to the perennial problem of how to track users across devices. It is likely that for many businesses, people are performing their initial searches on mobile but returning later on desktops (or tablets) to buy – but this is often a very difficult case to prove.
Tristan Bath, SEM Account Executive at The Search Agency
Unlike time-of-day and geographical location, contextually targeting a user in terms of which device they’re using is still a relatively new phenomenon, and therefore most (but not all) businesses have very little knowledge as to whether mobiles, tablets or desktops are their most fruitful platform.
So, in answer to the question – no, not enough, not yet any way.
However, this new feature will definitely ease the integration of effectively managing and analysing multi-platform campaigns, and should very quickly see businesses and advertisers alike discovering which device works best for them.
Luke Judge, sales and marketing director at Net Media Planet
Most businesses will have visibility on top line variations of key metrics by device (e.g. traffic and conversion rates) but there is lack of understanding of cross device attribution (e.g. what percentage of users research on mobile and convert on desktop brand).
Also, the majority of advertisers still don’t understand or adapt their strategy to account for specific user intents on different devices. They still treat tablet traffic as either desktop, or as mobile, and send it to their desktop or mobile site.
Therefore I don’t think many businesses are prepared for lumping desktop and tablet as one. This update may help them change that mindset, or could cause a lot of confusion.
Andreas Pouros, COO of Greenlight Digital
This change disregards differences between how customers search across devices.
In fairness to Google, it does recognise differences in smartphone behaviour, allowing advertisers to display mobile-only ad copy and sitelinks, and allows advertisers to bid up or down on mobile devices.
However, this targets desktop and tablet together. We’ve been seeing higher traffic in the evening on tablets vs. higher traffic on desktop in the afternoon for the past couple of years, and have implemented bidding strategies to complement this, however with the new campaign settings, it appears we cannot implement bidding strategies per device.
Kevin Gibbons, managing director UK at BlueGlass Interactive
No, I'm not sure they do. Advertisers are perhaps not fully aware of the different platforms and ways that users interact with them and convert at different rates.
In some ways this means that Google's update doesn't affect their approach too much - if they haven't split out different campaigns they're probably not taking advantage of the cheaper CPCs/conversions that are often available via tablet/mobile devices.
But the more switched-on advertisers who are maximising this are those that are likely to lose out.
This is a shame - because what they are doing is currently benefiting their users and customers - but by removing this clear separation it will make things harder, mainly in the form of higher CPCs.
2. Google has done away with the ability to run mobile-only campaigns. What’s the logic behind this? Tablets are hugely important for ecommerce sites, so surely it will have a negative impact on advertisers?
Short-term pain for long-term gain. Google certainly gains; mobile clicks were cheaper and although you can still discount mobile in the Enhanced Campaign world it is far harder to ignore desktop and strongly favour mobile.
There’s also the headache of restructuring campaigns and wondering whether your non-DoubleClick bid management system will meet the switchover date.
I do think there will be long-term gain for advertisers. The Enhanced Campaign solution solves the problem of fragmentation.
It would be a nightmarish world which featured separate campaigns for desktop, smartphones, phablets, tablets, connected TVs, gaming consoles, smart cameras and Android powered fridges.
Advertisers do need a solution that lets them reach their entire potential audience and make a decision, based on the signals at hand, how much a keyword bid should be. The Enhanced Campaign approach is another step along the biddable media road.
The logic comes down to monetising mobile. Year-on-year CPCs are down at Google due to the increasing percentage of mobile clicks which are less well monetised.
Investors don't like it and monetising mobile is one of the big battle grounds in investors minds between Facebook and Google. This move deals with that overnight, so expect to see mobile CPCs rapidly increasing and coming back in line with desktop.
Many advertisers do see a distinct difference between tablet and desktop performance but Google now treat them as the same thing. It's hard to argue that this is not a loss of functionality.
Google says it wants advertisers to focus on the audience and the message and leave its clever technology to manage the complexities of multiple devices. That works for the majority. But good PPC marketers and tech companies want more granularity and more control not less.
We want to be able to make the decisions that Google is making for us. My first reaction to enhanced campaigns was that this is a dumbing down of AdWords for the advanced paid search marketer.
The official logic is that having combined campaigns will be easier to manage. Rather than having campaigns triplicated (with separate desktop, mobile and tablet versions), everything can be managed in the same place.
The cynical view would be that this is being done less for ease of management, and more to push advertisers to increase their mobile spend.
If the campaigns are going to be combined anyway, perhaps advertisers are less likely to opt out, and so will spend more.
Regarding tablets: sometimes we see significant differences in conversion rates and average order values on tablets versus desktops, so the ability to bid differently is often useful.
Given that Google has historically always encouraged us to split out tablets into separate campaigns for this very reason - i.e. different search intent – this is somewhat unexpected to say the least.
It will have a very negative impact on campaigns! You can hypothetically opt out of targeting mobile by moving the bid multiplier to 100%, however you have to target desktop and tablet at all times.
This is great for Google as it will increase advertiser spends, but begs the question, how can we optimise effectively when our targets are based on budget and return?
As we’ve seen an increase in mobile/tablet traffic, this will just serve to force advertisers to appear on mobile/tablet.
I think Richard Zwicky summed it up perfectly yesterday when he highlighted this key point from Google's Q4 earnings call: "Their mobile CPC numbers are key because mobile search will pass desktop search at some point"
That means this is important for Google for two reasons:
1. User experience. Trying to look at this from Google's perspective, this gives advertisers a big push towards rolling out mobile-friendly versions of their site where it may have been overlooked previously.
The amount of times I've clicked on an ad or an email link from my mobile and it's been a slow-loading web version of a page that isn't readable for mobile is very high.
So by boosting advertisers awareness of this (in theory at least) will help to improve the experience cross-platform and as a result gets a better return from their advertising spend.
2. Boosting future revenues. Google's advertising revenues will see a boost from mobile/iPad devices - firstly, because everyone will be pushed more heavily to advertise across desktop, tablets and mobile.
And secondly, because it makes bidding a level-playing field across all platforms - meaning that bid-levels for mobile/tablet devices will likely increase to a point where they will match desktop.
3. Are the third-party bid management tech platforms geared up for this?
Google briefed ahead of time for this but the schedule is tight.
There are certainly third-party bid management systems that will cope with this. They’ll be the suppliers with agile development teams who guessed correctly on the evolution of biddable media.
Further details on exactly how the multipliers are going to stack up in practice may be required first, as well as further information on the levels (e.g. campaign, adgroup or keyword) that multipliers can be implemented.
However, there’s certainly a potential benefit in having combined campaigns, as the conversion data will be less diluted, so statistically valid bidding decisions can be made easier and faster.
No, and this is probably the biggest concern. As an agency, we separate our campaigns by device and have the keyword URLs tracked differently so we can assess the value of each device as a best practice.
With the settings, to differentiate between a ‘mobile specific’ ad and desktop/tablet, we would need to track at ad level, losing valuable insight to our keyword performance.
With third-party tracking at keyword level, we would have no visibility as to device performance. Though you will still be able to pull device reports, or segment by device in Google reports, so you can see device differences here.
This begs the question, is Google upping its game against third-party tracking solutions and trying to create a system whereby any solution outside of Google is rendered less useful?
4. Though the idea is to simplify paid search, how much work will be involved in the short term for companies to get to grips with the new system?
If you're an advanced PPC marketer with a big campaign properly targeting mobile this could involve a lot of work.
Marketers need to plan and manage the migration without impacting quality score. Quality score is device sensitive so where advertisers move legacy 'mobile only' campaigns to enhanced campaigns, quality score will be reset whenever the keyword, ad, landing page, device chain changes.
There are other issues to work through especially for those using different domains for their mobile landing pages. Bid adjusters need to be worked out based on what we know about the relative performance of mobile and desktop.
The key here is not to rush into making radical changes. Although this is a fundamental change for Google AdWords, it incorporates some limitations; tablet bidding is gone and bids are set only on the campaign level.
This is a pre-mature advancement but it gives companies time to mature.
In the meantime businesses should focus on identifying good and bad mobile keywords and create different campaigns with different bidding strategies for each.
5. Which new feature do you think is most exciting for advertisers, and why?
I think Google’s solution of bid adjustments based on signals is exciting. In the long term I think it makes sense and it allows advertisers to think about their ‘bought media’ in a much more sophisticated way.
I look forward to the incoming wave of case studies in which advertisers make some clever insights based on the combo of location, time of day and device and built a strategy around that.
Multi-device tracking and attribution. By a long way. Its not just Enhanced Campaigns but the recent developments in Google Analytics.
Google is perhaps the only company with a comprehensive enough view of the user journey and a meaningful enough amount of data to deliver this.
Easier and streamlined campaign management will definitely help. There is a danger that the mobile or tablet version of a campaign can be neglected; having them all combined will ensure that all activity is kept up to date.
The ad optimisation – smarter decision-making tools will provide greater control over what creative to show in headlines, extensions and descriptions. This can be altered by device, time of day to show ads as well as across which devices.
Additionally, Google will provide expanded performance metrics and visibility for sitelinks.
Once teething problems are sorted and advertisers can get to grips with all of the different variables and options available to them, it will make targeted search advertising so much more advanced, or ‘Enhanced’ shall we say!
Cross-device attribution is very interesting - although this will probably be based only on users who are logged in, the number of users doing so is increasing all the time so this will give us valuable insight on how mobile contributes to the path to sale
Ad extensions scheduling is a great idea, as is location-based bidding, which will reduce the number of campaigns needed.
The bid multiplier by location is a great opportunity for advertisers, especially retailers.
If a user searches on a mobile device for a product you stock, and are within a certain distance of your store, you can bid up, which is a great opportunity to capture new customers at a point of purchase.
Ease of use for advertisers. Rather than splitting out into multiple campaigns - advertisers will now be able to allocate a percentage of their budget.
The downside is that this is a significant setback for PPC advertisers who are already taking advantage of more closely targeted campaigns as they will now be forced to re-structure campaigns and revisit settings individually.