The confirmed existence of a new Google AdWords “feature” called “Enhanced Campaigns” hit the wire just over an hour ago and people are already starting to get weird. I’m fresh from my official Google call on the subject and I could already see the “this is going to suck,” conversations cropping up on various social media outlets.
I’m usually of the mind to give Google the benefit of the doubt on large-scale changes such as this, so let me say, this is absolutely not the end of the world, but there will definitely be a bit of a learning curve for this AdWords update and lots of work ahead, especially if you’re a fan of the “silo” or “mirror” campaign type strategies that we use here at Amplitude Digital.
Unlike what you may have read, Google didn’t just eliminate the difference between desktop and mobile or that this is only good for Google and not advertisers. Those are just for sites that are into the yellow side of journalism. Instead, take a minute and check these out, it may make you feel better (but not entirely).
Quickly sorting through my notes, here’s the 10 biggest changes I can see happening to the world of paid search advertising via Google AdWords:
1. The silo/mirror campaign strategy is not dead, but will be limited for certain settings.
If you’re a more advanced PPC user, you’ve probably used the silo/mirror campaign strategy before; even if you’re not advanced, you probably did and didn’t realize that this was “a thing.” Basically, it’s when you break up your AdWords into individual campaigns that are dedicated to specific settings, such a network (search vs. display), device (mobile, desktop, tablet), geography (states, cities, DMA), and so forth.
In the new world of Enhanced Campaigns, you’ll still be able to do this for network (search vs. display) and geography, but mobile and tablet are now going to be forced into the same campaigns as your desktop campaigns. Let that sink in a bit.
Now, this sounds like it could be a real cluster eff if you really do need to do things like turn off mobile advertising because you don’t have a mobile friendly site or just want to do mobile because you have a mobile app; however, AdWords will have some settings built into enhanced campaigns to allow some control over this, but it’s not as comprehensive as breaking them into silos.
For instance, there will be settings whereby you can apply a “multiplier” to specific devices so that you can bid up for desktop or bid down for mobile. So, for instance, if tablets really rock for you, conversion wise, you can multiple up tablets by up to 300%. In fact, if you want to create a desktop only campaign, you still can, by reducing the multiplier for mobile and tablet down to nothing so that your bids for those devices are basically zero. Unfortunately, it appears that you won’t be able to do a mobile or tablet only campaign by doing this as it won’t let you multiply desktop out of existence. I’m going to talk about this a little more in another part of this post, so stay tuned.
Another piece of this puzzle is that this means you can no longer set specific budgets for specific devices like you could before, which is kind of wonky. Basically, it’s like Google is forcing you to use the Shared Budget feature across all devices now, which isn’t always bad (we use it for a few clients that are on specific monthly budgets), but could suck if you just wanted to dip your toe in the water on mobile, etc., but then again, maybe that’s the point… Google is tired of you dipping your toe in mobile and wants you to just dive in, even if it’s bone cold outside.
2. Conversion Optimizer is going to be the savior of many campaigns, if you use it.
If you ever want to start a great fight at a search engine marketing conference, get the two sides of the Conversion Optimizer audience together; It’s like getting Star Wars and Star Trek fans in the same room. We here at Amplitude Digital come down right in the middle on the subject because we have plenty of clients where Conversion Optimizer works like a charm and plenty of others where the conversions are so complex that we’ve made things work better without it in place.
That said, Conversion Optimizer has evolved into a really smart algorithm over the years and takes into account a variety of factors like time, day of week, browser type, and so on and then looks at those factors on an individual basis and adjusts its bids on that various factors automatically so you don’t have to manually. With that in mind, you might be able to see how this could really help you on the whole not being able to break out mobile and tablet from desktop like you used to. Basically, if you have a campaign with all three devices running at the same time and conversion optimizer is in place, after awhile, Google will just optimizer the dud devices out of the equation.
Obviously, this is only a good thing in instances where Google’s algorithms can jive with your complex selling cycle, but I think that’s true for a lot more advertisers than not.
3. Mobile or tablet only campaigns are a thing of the past… almost.
As I mentioned above, you can no longer create a mobile or tablet only campaign because you’re always going to have desktop as part of the picture. This stinks if you’re doing something like advertising a mobile app or at the very least, trying to appeal to a mobile specific audience for a variety of reasons.
That said, as I mentioned in item two on this list, conversion optimizer might be able to automatically create a mobile or tablet only silo, if your desktop conversions suck so bad that Google bids them out of existence via its algorithm. You’ll need to put a lot of faith in Google here, obviously, but then again, this might not be such a bad thing as it may reveal that you were ignoring a lot of desktop traffic that could be converting well without you knowing about it all this time.
4. It sounds like ad creative is going to get really complicated (maybe).
One of the great things about siloing campaigns is that you have a ton of control with your ad creative. You can speak directly to specific device users and use a lot of features that are available on all devices, but only on one device because you know that’s going to make a difference. For instance, for local ads, you may like to include your phone number in your mobile ads, but not in your desktop or tablet ads because that’s just not the goal of those campaigns.
From my call with Google, it appears that AdWords will have some specific settings to deal with this sort of thing; however, since you’re going to have them all in the same campaigns now, it just feels like it may be a bit of a mess thinking it through all in one place. I may be proven wrong on this one once I can get under the hood, but I’ve got a bad feeling about it for now.
5. Targeting specific mobile devices is dead (for now).
One feature of advertising on mobile devices was the ability to get really specific and just advertise to iPhone users, or Android users, or specific types of carriers, etc. We never used it a ton, but it did come in handy when we did need to move a lot of iPhone apps for one of our clients. Unfortunately, it looks like this is a goner, at least for search and at least for now.
If I had to put money on it, I would say that this is one of the changes that will be reverted early on during this process, but who knows.
For some reason, it sounds like you’ll still be able to do this on the display side of the fence, which I guess could come in handy if you’re doing in-app advertising, etc. Speaking of display…
6. Display advertising is unaffected by these changes.
From what we understand, Google Display network won’t have these changes applied to it… at least not right away. I’d also put money that they’ll eventually make these changes across the board, but for now, and if you haven’t already, silo your networks into separate campaigns for search and display. Even if Display changes over eventually, this is just a good idea anyway.
7. You can still silo by geography, but only if you really want or need to silo by geography.
Word has it that you’ll be able to use that same type of “multiplier” for individual states, cities, DMAs, zip codes, etc. within a national campaign. This could come in handy when you want to crank up Los Angeles and New York and dial back the mid-west for any number of reasons.
However, unlike the whole mobile thing, you can still silo out geography settings if you like, which could come in handy if you were really creative and doing geography specific ads because of different phone numbers, language, etc.
8. You’re not going to have to deal with this right away.
While Google will start making Enhanced Campaigns available to you later this week, you won’t be forced to use them until June of 2013. In fact, until that date in June, you’ll actually have the option of using the new Enhanced or going old school for awhile longer… just know that eventually, they’ll force you to use the Enhanced setting, so you might as well start getting used to it now.
9. All of these new “features” aren’t set in stone.
Remember when Google started messing around with the ad rotation settings last year and then eventually put back some of the original controls as options? This is kind of like that, but I doubt they’ll go all the way back to the way it was before. Most likely, you’ll see a lot of changes in settings and other features as we get closer (and past) the June switchover, so make sure you’re really vocal with your Vertical and Agency level Google reps to let them know if something really does suck (but not if you’re just change averse, Mr. Whiney Pants).
10. Everything’s going to be fine; this isn’t a conspiracy, there’s nothing uncool about this… it’s just change.
I’ve already read a couple of other posts where they did a “good, bad, and ugly” kind of thing or even called this “uncool,” but whatever… it’s change, and change happens all the time in this business. I’ve been in internet marketing for about as long as anyone can claim to be these days and I’ve seen a lot of change and trust me, I wouldn’t back up a step at this point from anything the way it used to be back when they were first introduced.
There’s going to be a few months of what we call “a disturbance in The Force,” but as long as you’re up front with all involved (clients, bosses, etc.) that this is happening, it shouldn’t be a real shock, just more of a bumpy ride.
Good luck and feel free to send me any questions you have on this or any other subject.