Google has unveiled changes to AdWords designed to make it easier to buy and track display advertising on its network. The new AdWords interface, which will roll out gradually over the next few weeks, will include a new Display Network Tab that lets advertisers bid, target and optimize display campaigns.
"AdWords was initially built for search advertising, and display capabilities were built on top of that platform. Display evolved with a whole range of formats available, including rich media, video and mobile, and also a number of ways of choosing where your ads will show. But the interface hadn't changed," says Brad Bender, director of product management for display at Google. "For a while, we've been talking about making display buying much easier. We've revamped AdWords to make that possible."
Google enhanced the contextual engine that matches ads to pages based on keywords, as well.
"Part of the opportunity is finding people who are deeply engaged with content that's relevant, and figuring out what pages to run on," Bender says. "The contextual engine enables you to do that." The Google network contains more than 1 billion users categorized with more than 1,000 interests, he added. Advertisers can overlay that targeting within the Display Network Tab.
The so-called Next-Gen Keyword Contextual Targeting lets marketers see the performance of display campaigns at the individual keyword level, instead of having to use themed ad groups, as previously.
This feature makes it easier and more efficient to extend search campaigns to display, the company said. It can also increase the ROI, because advertisers can target higher-performing keywords.
"It's enabling advertisers who previously had to set up campaigns for search and display differently to take all the keywords they've learned perform well on the search side - and have spent hours optimizing - to lift up that set of keywords and use that to start your display campaign as well," Bender says.
Bender noted that 99 percent of Google's top 1,000 search advertisers are also buying display through Google. He said the changes could benefit search marketers and search agencies. "It's going to make it easier for advertisers that are new to display to leverage all the work they've put in optimizing and maximizing search campaigns and easily start off on the display network. We are hearing that search engine marketing agencies are realizing this enables them to leverage the expertise they have put on the search side to work in display with a very data-driven approach."
Zach Morrison, vice president of Elite SEM, says he manages display on the Google Display Network for approximately 80 percent of his clientele. Now, he says, "We will have more clarity into reporting and better data. It will be easier to clarify to CMOs and business owners what it is and what you're doing."
Before, Morrison said, he could tell his clients how Google display ads were performing at the ad group level. "But that's not the way people look at search engine marketing," he says. "Now, you can walk into the CMO's office and say, 'These are the keywords triggering our ads on these sites and giving us good results.'"
He's still waiting for further enhancements to the product, including reports that combine keyword performance and site placements, as well as search query reports so advertisers can see the queries against which they were contextually matched.
Google has introduced a visualization tool that lets marketers see how reach would be impacted by overlaying one or more targeting types, such as keywords, placements, topics, interests or remarketing.
Bender said a number of clients worked with Google during the beta period for the AdWords changes.
Morrison, who participated in the beta testing with undisclosed clients, thinks that display advertising is making a comeback, after being overshadowed by search. He thinks Google's upgrade of the AdWords buying system is a shot across the bows of DSPs. "This is Google saying, 'We know display is going toward DSPs, but GDN is here to stay - and this is why it's better than those other guys.'"
Traditional display advertisers have shied away from GDN because it's a lot more work than using a DSP, Morrison says. With this latest upgrade, "It's still definitely more work but that's relative to the fact that you're getting a lot more out of your campaign: scale, ROI and transparency."