It has been an action-packed year for paid search advertisers. Seems like every month some new feature was released within AdWords or Bing Ads – some small, and some mega-important.
In fact, you may have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with awesomeness for the past 11 months. Don’t worry. Now is a time to take stock of the updates/tools released in 2012 and make sure that you're utilizing all of these features to their fullest extent.
There were so many new developments in paid search; I had to narrow my scope. Otherwise this article would be close the size of a novella.
We'll focus on Google AdWords and Bing Ads. There are dozens of smaller changes (like new metrics for Impression Share reporting in AdWords and Bing Ads) but it’s difficult to cover them all. To make this list manageable we'll focus on impactful updates throughout the year.
We categorized our list in four sections: AdWords interface updates, AdWords campaign management, Google SERP evolution, and Bing Ad updates.
AdWords Interface Updates
- Bulk edit directly within the AdWords interface: You can complete bulk campaign edits within AdWords Editor but now you can also make hundreds of changes at once directly within the AdWords interface. This feature is still rolling out so you may not have access yet, but keep a close eye on your account as you may see bulk editing soon.
- Receive automated alerts: Unfortunately Google retired their automated notification feature. However, from those ashes comes another way to receive performance-triggered alerts within your campaigns. You will need to create a rule that is an email-only notification. Definitely set up automated notifications as they can be a lifesaver if your AdWords performance ever fluctuates greatly.
- Capture more impressions with phrase and exact match keywords, but sacrifice search query control: With phrase and exact match keywords you can now include close variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations. Loosening your match types can boost volume but you should proceed with caution as this can relinquish a bit of control.
- Manage Google Display Network (GDN) campaigns at the ad group level with Flexible reach: Flexible reach allows you to select multiple targeting selections at the ad group level, plus the control to combine different methods for targeting and bidding at the ad group level. It also provides transparency into how your targeting selections are affecting the reach and impression volume of your campaigns.
AdWords Campaign Management
- Share a budget across multiple campaigns: With the new shared budget feature in AdWords your campaigns don’t need to have standalone budgets. You can assign one budget for multiple campaigns.
- Automate your campaigns with new AdWords Scripts: Now you can create scripts within AdWords to manipulate keywords, ads, bidding and many other elements of your account. This is an advanced feature for AdWords power users, but it can revolutionize how you approach campaigns.
- 16 percent of search queries on Google have never been seen before and Dynamic Search Ads can help improve your ad relevancy: This feature was actually introduced in October 2011 but it wasn’t rolled out to the entire AdWords community until October 2012. With this feature you're handing the ad-writing keywords to Google. For relevant search queries, Google dynamically generates an ad with a headline based on the query, and the text based on your most relevant landing page.
- Make sure to send all of your sitelinks to unique URLs: AdWords launched a new policy that all sitelinks within a campaign need to send users to a unique URL. If you haven’t reviewed your sitelinks recently to make sure you're following this new policy, now is a great time!
- Remarketing implementation just got easier with a smart pixel: Now, within AdWords you can create URL-based audiences. To do this you need to place only one snippet of remarketing code on your website. Before this change you had to create a code for each new remarketing audience. Yay! This new method for remarketing is so much better.
- Get in front of users again with Remarketing Lists for Search Advertisers: This new feature is still in beta. With RLSA you can target users who have visited your website previously and they are conducting another relevant search for your business/service. If you want to take advantage of this new feature you’ll need to contact your AdWords rep.
- Miss someone the first time on a search query, you can find them on the GDN: With the new Search Companion feature you can drive traffic via the GDN when someone runs a relevant search query. If you want to take advantage of this new feature you’ll need to contact your AdWords rep.
- Expand your reach on the GDN with Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO): The DCO was launched a while ago but in 2012 it was rolled out of beta for everyone to use. With DCO you relinquish control (no keywords or placements) of your ad distribution. All you do is provide an ad and a landing page and Google will find placements that are most likely to convert.
One of the biggest changes within the Google ecosphere is the expansion of Google Shopping. Earlier in 2012 Google announced that SERPs will start to lean heavily toward ecommerce content. They weren’t bluffing.
We’ve seen a huge amount of our SERP real estate dedicated to Google Shopping and over time this will become more apparent. If you run an ecommerce campaign, you absolutely need to make sure you take full advantage of Google Shopping product extensions and auto targets.
Want more space on the SERP? Enhanced sitelinks are a great way to snag more real estate on the SERPs. Google displays enhanced sitelinks by combining multiple sitelinks and closely related search ads into a larger nested format.
Bing Ads Updates
Bing has been making great strides in 2012 as well. The Bing Ads team has released some really cool features.
- Ever wonder how performance would be impacted if you improved your quality score? With the new Quality Score Impact report you now can see how performance would improve if you optimize your quality score.
- One major element missing from Bing Ads was sitelinks. Well that is not the case anymore. Advertisers can now take full advantage of sitelinks on Bing.
- Finally! Even ad rotation comes to Bing! That’s all we need to say.
- The Bing team also significantly upgraded the Desktop tool in 2012. The tool works much better now. It’s faster, smoother, and easy to use.
Whew! This is a long list of paid search updates in 2012 – and there are dozens of other features, tools, and upgrades that we didn’t mention here.
Hopefully you can use this article as a checklist to review your campaigns; make sure you are using all of these new features; and improve your PPC performance for 2013.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!