We all know that Google has a bit of a phobia about standing still – our search engine lord and saviour is pretty much always on the move, making the updates it deems necessary to its operations. With such a huge chunk of the world’s search traffic, anybody with even a passing interest in online marketing is going to want to keep what Google is up to firmly on their radar.
At Matter Solutions we have a fair bit more than just a ‘passing interest’ in online marketing, so in turn we have more than a passing interest in what changes Google makes. On Tuesday at the Google Performance Summit, Google made an announcement about some of the changes they’re making to AdWords which have the potential to seriously change the way the platform is utilised. Our job is to wrangle out the details – so here in plain terms is what these changes will be and how you should react to them.
1: A Ground Up Redesign
Whoah! Say what? That’s right, AdWords is being updated for the 2010s… six years late. That’s a bit harsh, but it is true that the last significant touch up Google’s advertising tool had was way back in 2008. That’s getting on for a decade ago now, and the online world is so different from back then it’s not even funny. But what does a ‘ground up’ redesign even mean for the average user? Well unless you’ve been with AdWords for a very long time then there’s a good chance you’re still trying to wrap your head around exactly how it works and all it contains. Therein lies the problem. While perhaps once it was streamlined, with the gradual introduction of more and more features the basic tool has become bloated, convoluted and bogged down. Newcomers can be daunted by the hundreds of functions and where to find them all. Any redesign will be mainly focused on re focusing the tool and getting it back to a more user friendly form. There’s not a huge amount of info on this yet, but we’re excited to see the fruition of this promise.
2: Maps and Ads
The updates announced on Tuesday are mainly mobile focused, which given Google’s history isn’t anything of a surprise. However, their changes to the Maps app are going to affect desktop and mobile users alike.
Advertising on Maps has always been a tricky prospect; when the map is taking up most of the screen, how do you get an ad in there without unduly frustrating the user? Well, Google has worked out a way, but whether or not we as users find it streamlined and unobtrusive enough to not be annoying remains to be seen.
Google is calling the new feature ‘promoted pins’ because hey, marketing jargon amiright? Don’t be fooled by the alliteration though, these pins are definitely ads. When a search term is made, companies that are using the advertising platform will have their locations indicated by branded pins, and to boot they’ll be able to indicate promotions and offers below the local store info. For advertisers, this is going to be a pretty useful feature, with huge potential to generate more foot traffic if used correctly. For users, the feature should be relatively unobtrusive and functional. Promoted Pins will only appear when a related search is made in the first place, and they do have the potential to provide the user with more information that might be helpful to them. The feature isn’t too insidious either – easily identifiable with the branded logo, purple pin and purple ‘ad’ indicator. You should never be in any doubt about what is an ad and what is an organic result.
So, while we will undoubtedly start to see a lot more ads in Google Maps in times to come, we’re reasonably confident that the change won’t be detrimental to users, and could be very helpful to advertisers.
3: Expanded Text Ads
You might remember our article back in February, when we reported on Google getting rid of the right hand side ad rail. What this did was free up a huge amount of space on the screen – space which was, until now, an empty canvas just waiting for a job.
Well, it turns out Google had plans for that space, and Expanded Text Ads are those plans. This update will allow advertisers to have longer headlines and – wait for it – not have to sacrifice body copy to boot. They’ll be able to say more with the space they’re paying for, and hopefully get more customers along with it. Obviously this is going to depend a lot on the advertisers themselves and whether they’ll be able to make full use of the extra words. In any case, it gives the copywriter of an ad more ability to use their creative flair.
So what will the new limits be? In the past, limits were imposed on a segment basis – 25 characters for the headline, and two 35 character segments for description. This old format is going the way of the dodo, with a Google adopting a coverall 140 character limit (Twitter would be proud) for the entire ad. This means you can make the focus of the ad whatever you like.
4: Better Data Collection for Advertisers
More businesses able to collect more information about how their ads are performing? Priceless.
Being able to analyse how your ads are doing in the marketplace and how valuable they really are to your business is absolutely critical for future performance. Now Google is making this data even broader and more wide ranging than before by providing information about how many users clicked on your ad and then proceeded to walk into your store.
Location services make this data collection possible – Google analyses who clicks on an ad, and whether their device then finds its way into the business. This provides valuable insight beyond simple click through rates and the like, by bridging the gap between the digital ad and the physical, real world action that follows it. Seriously useful stuff for businesses, though it of course raises the question of privacy for users
5: Responsive Display Ads
Another three word slogan doomed to be relegated to an acronym within hours, Responsive Display Ads, or RDAs (now I can say I was the first) are actually a lot cooler than their generic name might imply. The should help to solve one of the big problems that up until now has plagued cross platform ads. Responsive Display Ads adapt to the website they’re being displayed on, meaning you don’t have to create a different version for all the possibilities. Just give Google a URL, headline, description and image and it auto generates the ad depending on where it is. This seems like such a small change but in practice it will take a lot of the tedium out of creating ads.
6: Device Dependent Bidding
More flexibility and options are a wonderful thing, as long as they’re functional. One of the complaints about Google AdWords’ bidding process in recent years has been that mobile bids were dependent on desktop bids in a process known as bid adjustments. This was frustrating for advertisers who wanted to separate their mobile and desktop campaigns, and anyone who wanted to prioritise tablet campaigns for some reason was fresh out of luck – tablets were lumped right in with desktops.
This has been the case ever since Google introduced its Enhanced Campaigns update way back in 2013, but not for much longer. The new system entirely separates the three formats of desktop, mobile and tablet. If you want to focus entirely on one and disregard the others you can, but if you like the way things work and want them to remain linked, then you can do that as well. Basically, this just gives advertisers more control over how they bid which is always a good thing. Once the learning curve is dealt with, this should be pretty much entirely for the better.
So What’s the Wrap?
Make no mistake, this a major update from Google, on a similar scale to its Enhanced Campaigns update from a few years ago. In fact, the latest updates actually seem to move away from the fundamental changes that came along with Enhanced Campaigns, leading some analysts to make the call that this is in fact a winding back of that update.
So, is Google admitting it got it wrong with Enhanced Campaigns? No, not at all. Enhanced Campaigns was the right update for the time, and nicely addressed the fact that the mobile market was going to play an ever greater role in AdWords. Google saw the way the wind was turning and took the right steps. However, three years down the track, things haven’t stayed static. Mobile is no longer just a changing and growing trend – it’s its own significant market that easily rivals desktop. It’s not appropriate any more to lump it in, or tether it to, its desktop equivalent, which is where the latest updates come in.
How Will This Change My Campaigns?
To be honest, this doesn’t have to radically change the way you use AdWords at all. If you’re happy with the way your campaigns are working and don’t want to risk making any drastic changes, you don’t have to. However, for those looking for more out of AdWords, these updates give us more choice than ever. An updated interface will hopefully go some way towards making AdWords more accessible for the beginner and more user friendly for everyone else. More streamlined and well integrated advertising on Google Maps has huge potential considering its enormous user base – especially for local search. A revamp of the long outdated 25-35-35 split of text based ads makes it that much easier for designers to decide the best format for their own. Improved data collection gives advertisers even more access to the vital stats which tell them how their campaigns are working. Making it possible for Google to auto generate an ad for all the available formats takes just that little bit more of a headache out of the advertising process. Finally, device dependent bidding makes it possible to tailor your campaigns depending on which format – mobile, desktop or tablet – works best for you.
Do you think you could take advantage of any of these changes, or does AdWords work well enough for you already? Do you envision any problems that might arise from the changes? Let us know in the comments! You can find out more over on our AdWords page. If you’re still confused about what these changes are going to mean, our friendly neighborhood AdWords pro can give you all the info you could ever need… and probably a bit more. Give him a buzz on 07 3117 2300