Over the last six months, Google has made some bold moves. Two of these movements are: fully monetizing Google Shopping with product listing ads (PLAs), and the roll out of Adwords Enhanced Campaigns. The former has fundamentally shifted the way advertisers are allocating their SEM campaign budgets within the search platform. The latter is also changing the way budgets are allocated, however at the device, geo, and timing level. Learn more about these changes as well as some best practices and our early findings by reading this article.
What are AdWords Enhanced Campaigns?
This is the way Google succinctly describes AdWords Enhanced Campaigns:
“AdWords Enhanced Campaigns allow you to create custom bidding combinations of device, time, and location bids that work best.”
On its face this is true, however, there’s definitely a positive PR spin at work. Some of AdWords’ enhancements have created some controversy.
AdWords Enhanced Campaigns: Mobile Enhancements
At its core, the new campaign upgrade allows advertisers to bid separately on mobile devices within the same campaign. This could have been achieved before, however, only by separating mobile and tablet-only campaigns out. These campaigns had to be created, managed, and optimized and would often just be duplicates of large desktop-only campaigns.
This took a toll on Google’s servers, support-level, and pocketbook. In essence, Google is now forcing advertisers into making a decision about their SEM mobile strategy. With this update, they are not allowing an opt-out of desktop. Out of the approximate 1.2 million Google AdWords users, large percentages are small business. These smaller and medium-sized business users usually fall into three categories.
1) Those aware of mobile syndication, of which he/she had opted out
2) Those unaware of mobile syndication, of which he/she left it on by default
3) Those only using mobile and tablet ads for bargain low cost clicks
The two it will affect the most are 1 and 3. For those that fall in category 2, as well as new unaware advertisers, this may cause an unexpected price increase per click. They will be charged full price per click by default without choosing to bid more or less on mobile. Pre-update, and since the beginning of mobile, Google has applied a governor called automatic bid adjustment. That’s going away for mobile.
Some are complaining that this is the end of an era of bargain clicks. As Google puts it, this is their attempt at “closing the monetization gap” on mobile. Fortunately, advertisers are able to cherry pick and essentially opt-out of mobile on a campaign by campaign basis, but only by percentage of the default bid of regular campaigns. He/she cannot say yes or no to mobile, but can place mobile bids at a -100% to +300% of the desktop bid on a campaign by campaign basis. A decrease by -100% of the desktop bid means campaign ads will not show on mobile.
With the upgrade, advertisers can customize and create separate optimized ads for mobile devices. These “mobile optimized” ads will show more often on mobile than on desktops. The non “mobile optimized” or default ads will show more often on desktops and tablets.
AdWords Enhanced Campaigns: Tablets are Now Just Computers
The most controversial “enhancement” of this update is that tablets are now being lumped in with desktops. This means advertisers cannot bid separately. Your desktop/laptop bid will become your tablet bid. This control factor being taking away has some advertisers up in arms.
AdWords Enhanced Campaigns: Benefits
In order to keep an objective view, here are some examples of how this upgrade will really help. You can’t opt out of tablets or desktops, but you can bid more on mobile than desktop by %. For example, say the mobile portion of a campaign is performing better than the desktop portion. You can now, say, bid $.20 on Desktop/Tablet, and 300% on mobile, so $.60 on mobile making your mobile ad more prominent. This gives you more control over mobile channel and allows you to nullify mobile campaigns not making money, while pushing harder those that are pulling in revenue.
AdWords Enhanced Campaigns: Non-Mobile Enhancements
There are a few non-mobile specific enhancements. These include controlling ad extensions by ad group (more refinement), and ad scheduling for sitelinks. Lastly, but definitely not least, you can now use geo-specific bids without creating duplicate campaigns.
Now the volume can be turned up and down at different times of the day and in different metro areas all within the same campaign. An example would be setting it up to automatically bid 50% more on your high-end products while serving the ad to New Yorkers at a peek conversion time of 10am – 3pm. I predict Bing Ads (paid platform for Bing and Yahoo!) is likely to follow with a similar program.
Google Shopping and the New Product Listing Ads
Google Shopping has been around a long time, even if it has changed names: Froogle, Google Product Search. Google Shopping is a comparison shopping engine (CSE) in-which retailers can distribute product feeds merchandising their products in search. Other CSEs you might have heard of include: pricegrabber.com, BizRate, or NexTag. Theoretically, you can find the exact item you want from several retailers and then choose the one with the lowest price.
The Largest Comparison Shopping Engine Goes Paid
After more than five years of being a free comparison shopping engine (CSE), Google Shopping went fully paid in Fall 2012. From a marketer’s standpoint this switch makes optimizing for Google Shopping from SEO into an SEM initiative. What used to be called product images are now called product listing ads (PLAs), and you pay every time a user clicks on that image in Google Search proper or in Google Shopping.
Google made it easy to turn on the paid functionality of PLAs by requiring a simple linking of Google Merchant Center to AdWords. This quick switch basically made advertisers “all in” with their products. However, by doing this without taking some extra steps you’ll only have one campaign by default. SEMs are used to tightly controlling their campaigns and adgroups and get a little uncomfortable about throwing it all in one basket. However, based on own clients and the SEM commentary space, Google has tapped into a pretty ingenious way of triggering PLAs.
For those online retailers that did not link their Google Merchant and AdWords accounts, their feeds were still there, but lied dormant with little to no organic traffic. Instead of keywords, product images were triggered in search and in Google Shopping by product names (titles) and descriptions in the feed. This was a hit for retailers with some spending upwards of 20% of their SEM budget in the first few months of its release.
The only hold up from the SEM management side is, in order to further refine bids, new fields had to added to the product feed. These fields could either be campaign labels corresponding with the labels in Google AdWords, product UPCs, or other information.
In conclusion, if you are an online retailer you should definitely be aware of these two game-changing movements by Google and approach these strategically in order to take advantage of the updates. Enhanced campaigns will be rolled out in full by June as a mandatory change, however you can convert your campaigns earlier. Using your analytics platform run a mobile analysis of your SEM channel in order to get a state of the union to learn which campaigns are and are not performing well on mobile. This will help you set your mobile bids. As for product listing ads, I recommend setting up auto targets and campaign labels in order to manage groups of products and their bids on your Google Merchant Center feed.