Within the last hour Google has announced what is being described by many commentators as one of the most fundamental changes to Adwords in years. 

The focus of the change is to enable advertisers to target people at the right time, in the right place, with the right advert and call-to-action. Effectively, the structuring of Adwords campaigns is becoming device independent, removing the ability to have specific mobile, tablet or desktop targeted campaigns.

This is a hugely important update - and mindset change - for any advertiser who is investing in PPC.

What Enhanced Campaigns means for advertisers

Here are a few important points to consider/ changes that will affect your campaigns. For instance, it will no longer be possible to have separate Adwords campaigns for mobile. Marketers will have to use one campaign to span all devices.

To allow advertisers to optimise mobile activity separately to desktop activity, there will be a multiple bid adjustments available at keyword level. Regular bids will be used for determining desktop Ad Rank while bid adjustments will be applied to that regular bid to determine mobile Ad Rank. 

The bid adjustments will range from -100% (which will turn mobile advertising off) to +300% which will bid four times the amount of the desktop targeting.

So, in situations where an advertiser wants to secure a high position on desktop but the advert is not to appear on mobile, a relatively high bid should be placed, but with a bid adjustment of -100%.

Conversely if mobile is the focus over desktop, a relatively low bid should be set with a high multiplier. A £0.25 bid with a +300% bid adjustment effectively says that the most you’re prepared to pay to appear on desktop search is 25p per click, while on mobile you’re prepared to spend is £1 per click.

In addition to this, other bid adjustments can be implemented based on time of day (as we currently have via ‘day parting’) and proximity. That is, the ability to adjust bids upwards or downwards based on the searcher’s physical location.

All of these multipliers can be ‘stacked’. For example, if a business wanted to target customers who are searching within a certain distance of one of their stores, within business hours, on a mobile phone, bids could be adjusted upwards for mobile, proximity and time ensuring that they have the maximum possibility of getting their advert in front of that potential customer.

Targeting can be enhanced further still through different advert formats. Adverts can still be created and optimised differently for mobile and desktop searches by specifying which adverts you want to use for mobile and which for desktops.

Different adverts can have different features based on the context and circumstance of the searcher. Worth noting is the fact that if only ‘mobile preferred’ adverts exist they will show for desktop searches as well as for mobile searches and vice-versa.

Google’s Adwords blog demonstrates this with a couple of examples:

  • “A breakfast cafe wants to reach people nearby searching for "coffee" or "breakfast" on a smartphone. Using bid adjustments, with three simple entries, they can bid 25% higher for people searching a half-mile away, 20% lower for searches after 11am, and 50% higher for searches on smartphones. These bid adjustments can apply to all ads and all keywords in one single campaign”
  • “A national retailer with both physical locations and a website can show ads with click-to-call and location extensions for people searching on their smartphones, while showing an ad for their e-commerce website to people searching on a PC — all within a single campaign.”

There are also some reporting updates in line with the new features of Enhanced campaigns. Now, specific interactions can be classed as conversions such as phone calls that are generated from a click-to-call ad, that last more than 60 seconds.

Situation based data combined with device and keyword level data will help provide a much clearer picture of the customer journey. These are insights that marketers have long wished for.

Prepare for the shift

The option to migrate to these ‘enhanced’ campaign settings will be available almost immediately. However, it’s likely that only select accounts will see it initially, with it being added to more over the coming weeks and months. Once the advertiser is happy to make the transition, assuming the option exists in the account, they should seek to enable the enhanced set up.

There are a few important points of caution here though. Once advertisers have enabled the new set up, they won’t be able to return to the previous version. It is important that as much advanced preparation is done as possible to minimise any negative impact.

PPC advertisers only have a few months to get used to this new way of working. As things stand currently, accounts that aren’t migrated by the end of June 2013 will be automatically migrated by Google.

Enhanced campaigns are not applicable to the GDN. Such campaigns will continue to operate as they are currently. One final consideration is the impact this has on 3rd party tool providers, particularly analytics packages.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google’s Double Click is ready and able to manage, and take these updates into account. However, we would advise that advertisers carefully review the impact this change has on any other tools that interface with, or track data from Adwords.

Why is Google making these changes?

As with all Google updates their message here is all about improving the experience for their end users.It could be seen as Google giving a helping hand (or hard shove, depending on your point of view) to advertisers to increase their investment in and commitment to mobile advertising.

For advertisers this means context and situation based targeting is to become an integral part of Adwords. To date features such as mobile specific targeting have been relatively siloed and easy to opt out of. With focus of targeting to be more about the user and their circumstance and less about the specific keyword they searched for, this is no longer the case.

This will of course also likely increase Google’s revenues - specifically those generated through mobile searches. Google has worked with advertisers to try and promote mobile advertising for years, but it often provides less return in comparison to the effort involved when compared to desktop advertising.

More relevant adverts by their very nature will get clicked more and as such increase spend - and much of this growth is likely to be from mobile as a result of this change.

Google’s own stats help provide a little more context as to why situation based targeting (more specifically mobile) is such a focus:

  • In 2013 more people will be using mobile phones than PCs to get online.
  • Mobile searches have grown 400% since 2010.
  • There will be 1 mobile device for every person on earth by 2015.
  • 95% of smartphone users have searched for local information.
  • 61% of users call a business after searching and 59% visit the location.
  • 70% of mobile users have compared product prices on their phones.
  • 50% of mobile searches led to a purchase.

‘The year of mobile’ has been a rallying cry that we’ve heard almost every year that search marketing has existed, and perhaps this is the update that will finally make it a reality. With the use of smartphones growing significantly (for example smartphone penetration is at 58% in the UK according to Ofcom) it is an obvious market for Google to target aggressively.

However, the search giant will have to demonstrate the real, rather than hypothetical benefits of this change. It relies on the end user having a positive experience and finding a use for the adverts that they are being served. Exposure to irrelevant, obtrusive adverts via mobile risks driving people away from Google.

That means that advertisers need to be willing to invest the extra time and effort into campaign management to ensure their ads are optimised for relevancy. And, ultimately, that could prove to be Google’s biggest challenge.


Published 6 February, 2013 by Andy Heaps

Andy Heaps is Operations Director at Epiphany Solutions and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (7)

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Depesh Mandalia, CEO & Founder at SM Commerce

It's a great step forward for multi/omni-channel businesses and really starts to take multi-device more seriously too with some of the advance targeting you can do across devices.

There will be a learning curve for agencies and clients alike but if it 'does what it says on the tin' the extra setup may just be worth it...

over 5 years ago



It will be a learning curve for agencies and if they do it wrong it could be a disaster. On the up side like you say, get it right and you’re on to a winner.

over 5 years ago

Justin Hayward

Justin Hayward, CEO at Make It Rain

Nice post Andy. Can't say i'm happy about Google's thinking here from an agency perspective taking away some of the control across devices. Kind of like going backwards.

Obviously the point here with most things is to make Google a lot more money, most of it unfortunately may come from smaller businesses espcially during the 'changeover'.

over 5 years ago


Andy Heaps, Operations Director at Epiphany

Cheers Justin, I know what you mean. With mobile spend having been on the agenda of Google for many years it's almost as if Google doesn't want to rely on advertisers deciding to invest in it themselves but rather force their hand so that it's difficult not to.

In theory it's a good move all round. Google has done a great job again of selling this based on the 'experience' of the end user and of course the industry loves anything that theoretically means we can target people more effectively.

In the context of Google's overall adwords revenue, have people's search habits changed so much that a significant amount of that revenue will now come from this more situational based targeting? I don't think so. Sure, it'll likely increase as people's habits change, smartphone penetration increases further and 4g is rolled out more extensively - but to what extent we'll have to wait and see.

over 5 years ago

Justin Hayward

Justin Hayward, CEO at Make It Rain

I don't think the increase in ad revenue will be because of changed behavior, this is just another avenue to eek out increased profits, and is more likely due to the blanket approach of treating desktop/tablet/mobile as the same audience with similar response rates.

We're just not seeing that similarity across our clients, targeting tablets for luxury goods clients for instance yields better intent along with parts of fashion retail whereas other verticals are not responsive at all.

In theory, the device market should level out i'd estimate within 18 months with comparable CTR and conversion from all devices but we are only just at beginning of 4G rollout on a large scale even here in the US. Until we really get to that point, this melting pot approach just ensures spend wastage to any company that doesn't manage this very closely.

Its definitely not a step forward for the market in its current state however it's packaged.

over 5 years ago


Kayden Kelly, CEO at Blast Advanced Media

I believe that this is likely the right approach long-term but I don't think it should be forced by June 2013.

This means a lot of work to modify large/complex Adwords accounts, even with bid management tools.

I agree with Justin's perspective as well. This is a short window of time to make the transition and most of the organizations that will get bitten by this will be small businesses. There will be a high cost for many of them.

over 5 years ago


web development

Responsive web design is the buzz word in 2013, these websites open equally well in all size screens may it be I pads, tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops.

over 5 years ago

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