With lots of unknowns, SEM experts weigh in on the biggest AdWords announcements of last week

google ads and analytics announcements 2016

Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP of ads & commerce, presenting at Google Performance Summit

Last week, Google made a flurry of announcements at its annual Performance Summit, held this year in San Francisco. (You can find all of our coverage here and here.) Unlike in years past, the coming changes this year will affect every AdWords advertiser, whether big or small — the most obvious being bidding levers for all devices and expanded text ads. But there were also announcements — such as dynamic native display ads on mobile, similar audiences for search and GDN targeting expanding to other ad exchanges — that will likely also have a big impact on advertisers.

Search Engine Land checked in with several paid search marketers to find out what they think of the big news and some of the hidden gems Google touched on last week.

Biggest applause: device bidding for all devices

This was the easy gift to advertisers, and I don’t believe I’ve heard one negative comment (other than “About time”) on this change. It received big applause during the keynote.

“Advertisers have been waiting for more device flexibility since Enhanced Campaigns were released,” said Caitlin Halpert of 3Q Digital. “I’m really excited about the increased flexibility we’ll have for our clients, since almost all have unique performance for all three device types. Enhanced Campaigns seemed designed to force advertisers into bidding on mobile and tablets wherever possible. Giving back the control will be a game changer.”

“After years of complaining about enhanced campaigns and the merger of desktop and tablet bids, we finally have our control back,” said Justin Freid, who specializes in SEM and social for the pharma industry, who noted the predominance of mobile in international markets.

What remains to be seen is what advertisers will do differently now that base bids by device type are feasible — revert to device-specific campaigns?

“The new way to anchor bids to other devices could be used to once again build device-specific campaigns, like mobile-only,” says Martin Rottgerding, head of SEM at Bloofusion Germany. “I can also see advertisers using this for device-specific ad groups. Both could be used to decouple device bids entirely: Instead of using bid adjustments, you could again bid directly for different device types. With mobile-preferred ads going away, I can also see advertisers using them for device-specific messaging (‘Shop now from your phone!’). I doubt there’s much to be gained by this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people invested a lot of time in this.”

While most of the attention on device bidding has focused on the ability for advertisers to have more control over mobile spend, as well as the ability to bid down tablets, Halpert says, The new control for tablet will have a big impact. We have a small set of clients where tablets are our best performers. Being able to push spend on that device specifically will help those clients grow their business.”

Sophie Newton of BrainLabs, who attended the event in San Francisco, agrees. “We’re really excited to have the flexibility of tablet bidding — hello again, 2013!”

In a guest appearance on Marketing Land Live on blab.im on Friday after Google Performance Summit, Brad Geddes, of Adalysis and Certified Knowledge, discussed the GPS announcements, including device bidding and Expanded Text Ads.

“The reason why bidding … is the most important change,” said Geddes, “is because advertisers don’t have to do something … it does not put a burden of change on advertisers, so it’s the most positive change for savvy advertisers, but in many ways, the biggest news is the expanded text ads, because Google will retire the current ad format this year, and it puts the burden then on advertisers.”

Expanded Text Ads: a lot of work ahead & a lot of unknowns

“Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are hands down the biggest news,” agrees Rottgerding. “Other things are nice as well, but this one will keep us occupied over summer. My impression is that Google is trying to get this out as fast as possible, maybe a bit faster than they should.”

This is the big change we first reported in April that will apply to all text ads. It was officially announced last week that Google will do away with the 25-35-35-character ad format of the past 15 years and switch to a 30-30-80-character format, with the first two lines displaying as a double headline.

With all that testing history coming to an end, Geddes says, “People are worried. We run an ad testing company, and after the announcement, our email just blew up … [Advertisers] know they’ll have to do somethingm but they don’t know what yet.”

Google has yet to discuss how the new changes are going to roll out, including if there will be dynamic or auto-migrations for advertisers that don’t upload longer ads on their own.

Rottgerding expects there to be a short transition phase before Google removes the ability to create regular text ads. “I don’t see them removing regular text ads completely, as they cannot automatically migrate everything, and they don’t want to lose those advertisers who are just happy spending $100 per month without ever logging in. In any case, advertisers who make the transition early will benefit in terms of Quality Score — not because Google wants to reward or punish anyone, but because Quality Score is about CTR, and CTR will be higher with the new format.”

Röttgerding pointed out that despite Google’s emphasis on mobile throughout GPS, many of the updates reflect a away from having to customize ads and bidding for devices. And while Google again hasn’t provided any details on this, Karooya.com noted that the AdWords API note appears to indicate that the mobile-preferred check box for ads will disappear with Expanded Text Ads.

Halpert thinks having more room to describe features and benefits, particularly for certain industries, will be very helpful. “The short character limits in current text ads really limit creativity, especially for emerging brands or categories where we need more space to explain the benefit of the product.”

I look forward to seeing what advertisers do with the extra characters. Though I remain skeptical about how long the CTR benefits will last once everyone is up and running with these, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

The biggest underdog announcement: similar audiences for search

Google has offered very little public detail on its announcement that it is finally going to let advertisers tap its trove of user data for search targeting. Demographic and similar audience targeting for search was not included in Google’s official blog post on the updates and only mentioned briefly during the presentation. But it potentially has big ramifications – “huge” was the common theme here.

“Depending on how the audiences are calculated, this could be huge, yet it was just mentioned in passing,” said Larry Kim of WordStream, who was also in attendance. “I’m also hopeful that the demographic targeting for search ads goes well and is expanded to many more targetable demographics and behaviors.”

“Similar audiences for search will have a huge impact on clients,” said Newton. “We’ve already come up with some really innovative strategies, and similar audiences will help to grow accounts efficiently — the holy PPC grail!”

“I think it’s going to be huge,” agrees Geddes, who speculated on how it will work. “Google has had such wonderful insights into user demographics and user interests that’s not first-party given. They’ve been very good at saying, ‘These are the sites you’ve been on, this is who you are’. . . but they’ve not used it for years and years and years, and it’s always been a thing holding them back. That they’re really switching to audience + search is amazing. Facebook is only audience. We’re only search. How do we do better and combine the two together?

“We can now take these search intent terms and target users differently — different keywords, different ads — based on direct information or indirect information.”

Other hidden gems

Asked what other news may not have gotten as much attention but will likely benefit advertisers in ways that might not yet be apparent, Larry Kim said, “If you’re a local business, the combination of new Google Maps Local Search ads and in-store conversions is absolutely a killer combination!”

Rotterding was surprised attribution wasn’t discussed in the keynote, particularly since Google just recently announced the coming release of attribution models beyond last click for AdWords conversions. “Personally I believe attribution is a very big deal, and this is probably the biggest news right after ETAs, but apparently, Google isn’t going to make a big deal out of it.”

Newton says she’s excited to see Customer Match Uploader. “Although we built a tool a while back to automatically upload first-party data to AdWords, Facebook and Twitter every day, so CMU will be a bigger benefit to advertisers who aren’t our clients.”

“If used correctly, Native Ad Units on the GDN will be a great tactic for advertisers,” predicts Freid. “While they may not drive the same type of traffic or conversions that [a] traditional SEM campaign [does], if you have a goal of promoting quality content or using advertorial types of advertising, these ad formats plus the targeting capabilities of the GDN network can provide advertisers a great way to get their brand and content in front of a highly targeted audience.”

Newton added, “I still think there needs to be more work done to improve app campaigns and focus more on LTV, rather than just Cost per Install,” said Newton. “I think we’re starting to head in that direction.”

Lastly, I’ll note that Google also released a free version of Google Data Studio for reporting on AdWords, Analytics, YouTube and other marketing source data. It’s not a core feature, of course, but could prove to be a useful resource for advertisers and agencies. And, unlike most of the other announcements made at GPS, which Google gave launch timelines of “in the coming months,” if any at all, Data Studio is already available.


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