BIA/Kelsey's Leading in Local Conference in Boston this week spotlighted Google's Enhanced Campaigns among many themes. Its impact on mobile and local search was the focal point – following my last column, and leading up to SES New York where it will surely come up.
Against a backdrop of mixed reactions to the new program, Kesh Patel, Strategic Partnership lead for Google's local channel sales division, characterized it as continued evolution into the multiscreen world that's a far cry from the one AdWords was first born into.
"This is basically the largest [AdWords] overhaul since its inception," he said. "It's been re-imagined for many screens, making ads simpler in the contextual world we live in today, yet providing the right reporting and platform to work with."
He went on to describe the three main tent poles of enhanced campaigns.
- Ad Placement: This includes focusing ad dollars on the context that matters, including time of day, proximity, and type of device. "A user half a mile from business might be more important than one who isn't," Patel said. "We want to allow users to move levers around so that context is important and accessible.
- Ad Copy: What the ad says is almost as important as where it shows up. A mobile search for pizza in the middle of the day should compel a different ad than a late p.m. search from home. The context is different, even if the search term is the same. One should see messaging to get pizza nearby (think maps and/or promo), while the other might be more receptive to delivery (think click-to-call). "Enhanced ampaigns will allow bidding structure and messaging for these contextual situations to be more consistent and automated," Patel said.
- Reporting: Joining the advancements in where an ad shows up and what it says are the corresponding tools to measure their impact. "Measuring app downloads, offers, and click-to-call, will be unified in the product," Patel said. "We have 27 million click-to-calls per month. When you tie that in with local extensions, it's causing a 6 to 8 percent lift in CTR."
Third Party Affirmation
This was not surprisingly framed by Patel as a positive move for SMBs. But detractors argue that mobile CPCs will be overvalued and forced on the unwilling.
John Busby, VP of Marchex Institute, an analytics-focused division of Marchex, took a glass half-full approach to the CPC question. They'll indeed go up as more SMBs will cause more competition across fragmented locales. That bid pressure will in turn boost CPCs (if unified pricing doesn't do it first).
But this isn't such a bad thing. Mobile CPCs have so far been undervalued if you consider their higher performance (CTRs and secondary actions), when compared to desktop equivalents. It's been an imbalance between mobile search volume and advertiser demand that's kept ad rates low.
Building on comments from last month's column, Busby told me during an on-stage interview that unified campaigns' forced platform inclusion could be the right shot in the arm that the marketplace needs.
In other words, SMBs will be better for it by learning to run campaigns that align with mobile user intent (read: lower funnel). That includes to click-to-call, maps, app downloads, and the other SMB-oriented analytics baked into enhanced campaigns.
Though a more SMB-rich marketplace serves Google, it doesn't necessarily preclude the program's merits, argued Shuki Levahi, CEO of mobile site development and optimization firm Gumiyo. He argues that Sitelink Ad Extensions is an SMB-friendly inclusion.
Specifically, they enable mobile search links that bypass a landing page and go directly to different functional areas like click to call, offers, or app downloads, Similar to Busby's point, these are SMB-geared actions, to which they can create a more direct path.
Of course these are the positives; enhanced campaigns' detractors also deserve mention. Higher CPCs and forced platform inclusion don't sit well with lots of advertisers – especially in light of the (not-unreasonable) view that this is all very self-serving to Google.
We'll have to wait until the full rollout to see. There will be lots of ways it plays out, accurate to the chorus of search experts that followed its February announcement. But at least some of it will be a moving target whose true dynamics will only be revealed in time.
The opportunity's size was meanwhile underscored by Busby's claim that about 90 percent of SMBs don't currently participate in mobile AdWords. That leaves lots of headroom for oft-speculated but erstwhile anemic SMB mobile adoption. We could finally get there.
The question is whether they'll eat up the mobile targeting and analytics tools provided by enhanced campaigns, or get confused and ignore them. There's only so much force feeding possible to SMBs – even for Google.