Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns: The Good, Bad & Uncool

adwords-enhanced-campaign

As SEW reported earlier today, Google launched a new style of campaign in AdWords, called Enhanced Campaigns. These bring together the converging world of device types to help advertisers target users based on keywords and context together.

What are Enhanced Campaigns?

The new campaigns are designed to cover all devices in a more graceful manner than before. With the introduction of Windows 8 and touchscreen-friendly laptops, the tablet and laptop segments are losing their distinction. Similarly, smartphones with large high resolution screens are becoming more popular, as are smaller more mobile tablets.

It's sometimes hard to look at a device and say "That's a tablet," or "That's a smartphone." Google is recognizing this trend and has launched campaign types to handle this sort of situation.

What has Changed?

Essentially the biggest and most relevant change is that Google are growing more contextually aware. If a user is on a mobile device they will see ads that you have marked as "mobile preferred". A mobile device will be defined as one on which a user is out and about, rather than browsing at work or home.

You will be able to create a campaign level "mobile bid multiplier" based on the value of these users to you.

There are several other new features that Google have been beta testing with select advertisers for a while that are now becoming public, default features.

The Good

Contextual Ads

Marking an ad as "mobile preferred" gives Google some flexibility to judge which ads are more appropriate based on the user's situation. A device like a laptop or tablet could be a home/work computer, or might be used in a coffee shop or on the train.

If the user is mobile, then they should see mobile ads regardless of a strict device type. Similarly a user browsing on their mobile at home should be treated more like a static user than a mobile one, especially if their device provides a good browsing experience.

Think about your audience and how their intent might be different if they've searched for your keywords while static versus while out. For example, if you're a retailer and somebody searches for your brand, the implication is that if they're static they're looking to browse your website and if they're mobile they're looking to find a store. These aren't fixed definitions, but you can now sculpt your landing page choices to reflect the more likely scenario.

Google will also auto-detect which ads are appropriate for which kind of device based on the features of your ad or landing page. If you're selling an iOS app and sending people to the app store, Android devices won't see your ad, and vice versa.

Location Based Bidding

Either by choosing locations manually or by specifying them by linking to your Google+ Local account you will be able to bid more or less for users in particular areas. This will apply differently to static versus mobile users.

The common use case is to bid more for mobile users if they're near your location. But you wouldn't want to do the same for somebody static, just because their office is next door to your store.

If you host party venues in London but take bookings nationally you might find some cities/regions that convert well for you. People might be more likely to travel from Birmingham than from Newcastle, for instance. You will be able to reflect that in your campaign and specify a bid multiplier for certain areas of the country based on their historical conversion rates for you.

Sitelink Level Reporting

We've been hoping for this for a while now. When you construct sitelinks you create a block of up to 10 links, and you get performance statistics for that block. That's it. You have no idea if link A is helpful or a hindrance to people's likelihood to click on your ads.

Now you'll know. Each sitelink will show the performance of that individual sitelink, and the performance of the ad when that sitelink was shown.

Awesome.

Ad Group Level Ad Extensions

Tired of splitting your campaigns out purely because they need different ad extensions (e.g., different phone numbers or different sitelinks)?

Of course you are!

It's a pointless reason to split a campaign. Google know this, so now they're giving you the option to set up ad extensions at an ad group level to better handle this situation. This is closely related to...

Ad Extension Scheduling

Ad extensions can now be scheduled. You can turn off your call extensions when your phone lines close. You can change your sitelinks if your sale ends at X time. I'll leave the other use cases to your imagination.

Cross-Device Attribution

See how people search and move from device to device until they convert. This should help to assign true value to your mobile campaigns.

This won't be available from launch and Google haven't yet finalized how they're going to solve this problem. The most likely solution will be to track users cross devices who are logged into Google.

This number increases all the time, as anybody monitoring their (not set) keywords can attest. This will never be an accurate solution, but might give you some good guidance.

The Bad

This is where things get less pretty.

Tablet Bidding Gone

Google is right. Over time the distinction between devices is lessening and will continue to do so. But not yet.

Tablets and desktops/laptops are being bundled together and you will no longer be able to have separate bids for tablets.

Nearly 20 percent of traffic is coming from tablets at the moment. Google has decided you can't optimize this traffic separately any more. Conversion rates on tablets for retail/e-commerce campaigns is nearly 20 percent better than on desktops. So your bids should be up to 20 percent higher to maximize profitable sales.

Tough.

Mobile bid multiplier is campaign level

Mobiles are still handled separately(ish). You will have a mobile bid multiplier that you can set per campaign. Google will use this percentage of your desktop bid when running your keywords on mobiles.

Unfortunately your keywords won't all behave the same on mobiles as a proportion of desktop traffic.

Imagine the following scenario:

  • Keyword A converts at 10 percent on desktops, 5 percent on mobiles.
  • Keyword B converts at 5 percent on desktops, 4 percent on mobiles.
  • Keyword C converts at 5 percent on desktops, 2.5 percent on mobiles.
  • Keyword D converts at 8 percent on desktops, 2 percent on mobiles.

The optimal bid multipliers will be 0.5, 0.8, 0.5 and 0.25 respectively. One campaign level bid multiplier won't handle those.

The bid multiplier will go down to 0, allowing you to turn a campaign off for mobiles. But it will only go up to 300 percent. Which means...

You Can't Have a Mobile-Only Campaign

Google have been pushing for years that keyword types are very different on mobiles vs desktops. Short generic keywords that aren't profitable on a desktop are much more feasible on a mobile, because the longer potential searches end up bundled in together with the shorter terms.

But you can't do that any more. Any keyword you want to run on a mobile must also run on desktops.

No Device Level Control

At the moment you can target a campaign to a specific device or operating system on mobiles (e.g., HTC One X vs iPhone 4, or iOS vs Android).

This is being removed and replaced with Google's "contextual" ads. If you are sending somebody to the play store on mobiles, then iOS devices won't be able to see your ad.

But if you aren't sending somebody to the play store or the app store then Google doesn't know the context. So you're going to show to all devices even if you don't want to. If you can't monetize traffic from iOS, that's tough. You're going to pay for it anyway.

The Cynical

Google's earnings reports have maintained for some time that their average CPCs aren't rising. The metric that really concerns a search engine is Revenue Per Search (RPS). They can't control how many people search (apart from the high level strategy of being better than everybody else, and occasional big bets like Android) but they can control how they monetize search. The likelihood of clicks on ads and the revenue per click are the two things they need to maximize.

Average CPCs on Google rise every year according to their earnings reports, but CPCs on mobiles are lower. As mobiles make up an increasingly large proportion of their traffic they find that even if CPCs on each device type rise, their average stays static.

Unless all campaigns are opted into mobile by default, without a keyword-level mobile bid.

A cynic might suggest that this move will change the pattern of mobile bidding. By removing advertiser control at a keyword level we might see mobile CPCs rise, pushing up Google's revenues by pretty serious amounts.

How to Cope?

You have 6 months to transition campaigns to the new format. Google said they will release tools to help merge any campaigns that are currently split by device, but don't hold your breath.

You're going to need to do several major things:

  • Make sure your bid management has been updated to the new systems before you change your campaign over. Whatever tool you use don't do your transition until they tell you they're ready.
  • Identify your best and worst mobile keywords, compared to their desktop counterparts. Find your average conversion rate on mobiles and compare it to your desktop conversion rate. That sets your mobile multiplier. Then look for the keywords with high conversion rates compared to the average multiplier, and keywords with low conversion rates compared to the average multiplier. Create a campaign for each, and set high and low multipliers on those accordingly.
  • Look for all keywords you've paused or blocked on mobiles. Some keywords will have failed to work on mobiles in the past. Move these keywords to a new campaign with a mobile multiplier of 0.
  • Take your time. Don't rush to make the changes as soon as possible. The technology is not mature yet and will be refined a lot before you have to make the move. Tools will be released to help you do the above steps and additional sophistications will be added. Take advantage of them.

Summary

There is good in this announcement and the motivations are good. Devices are converging and we do need better ways to handle that.

Unfortunately the removal of control from the advertiser at keyword level makes this a bitter pill to swallow. Keywords behave differently from each other, and removing that level of control is a retrograde step. It might be done in the name of simplicity, but enforced simplicity hurts campaign performance.

It would have been easy for Google to provide a mobile bid or multiplier at keyword level, but they didn't. Now you're going to have to split campaigns based on how the mobile versions of the keywords perform, rather than by any sensible split.

Don't be tricked by the name "Enhanced campaigns"

Uncool Google, uncool.