On July 22nd, Google transitioned all AdWords campaigns to the new Enhanced Campaign format, which includes search, display and remarketing campaigns. This change affects anyone with an AdWords account, whether campaigns are active, paused or even deleted.
This is one of the most significant campaign shifts in recent years, and it was announced without soliciting any feedback from AdWords professionals. The biggest impact is that Google has removed functionality which had existed for years, in favor of a semi-automated approach. This change is aimed at entry-level advertisers much like AdWords Express, but for power users it will significantly impact campaign optimization strategies.
What enhanced campaigns really change versus the old “legacy” campaigns is the ability to segment campaigns by device. Previously, advertisers could decide whether to include traffic from tablets, and run entirely separate campaigns for mobile devices. This allowed PPC managers to create custom tailored campaigns for smartphones. Now, AdWords managers must target mobile users via bid adjustments in a single campaign with all devices, and can set “mobile preferred” ads that are not guaranteed to exclusively show on mobile.
Another significant change is that phone numbers are blocked in ad text. This will reduce the return on ad spend (ROAS) of businesses who rely on phone calls for lead generation. In legacy campaigns a phone number could be written directly in an ad except for the headline. Now, call extensions must be used which show in a separate space from the ad. Finally, in a blow to businesses that use multiple marketing channels, vanity numbers are not allowed, ruling out mnemonic 800 numbers for their numerical counterparts.
This is a smart move for Google’s shareholders, but the benefits to marketers are limited. Google has basically taken control away from AdWords experts who have used advanced optimization strategies which are no longer possible. This has forced the PPC community to adapt and come up with new tactics to optimize AdWords accounts.
Other drawbacks include increased client spends and increased workload. Some advertisers have reasons for not targeting tablets and mobile, and now their options are limited. Reduced control on the device level means that to achieve quality score improvements, marketers will have to work harder and smarter to maximize performance. Additionally, setting bid adjustments for those devices now takes many more steps in enhanced than legacy campaigns.
If there were an AdWords genie with three wishes, the first thing I would wish for is the ability to adjust bids for tablets. I’ve seen marked differences in visitor behavior between desktop and tablet traffic even though Google treats these channels the same in AdWords. Secondly, adding a guarantee that mobile-preferred ads would only run on mobile would reassure advertisers as well. Finally, I would allow vanity text in call extensions, as many businesses have paid a premium to get 800 numbers that are memorable, and those are now useless in paid search.
I recommend that marketers lower mobile bids at least 20% to start, and adjust as necessary once data has been collected. In higher-spending campaigns where per-click costs are prohibitive, I would initially remove mobile traffic by reducing bids by 100%, unless there is compelling conversion data to justify the spend. Be aware that these bids are now set by a percentage instead of a dollar value, which may lead to overall increased spending due to the decreased precision. Keeping a close eye on costs and performance, particularly for mobile, in the weeks following each transition is critical.
The impact of enhanced campaigns on digital publishers and content providers will primarily be a wake up call that mobile traffic cannot be ignored, especially when actively promoting new content. Responsive web design in digital publishing is the new standard, and Google is pushing on all fronts to make sure content providers are up-to-date.
At the end of the day marketers or potential advertisers should not see doom and gloom in enhanced campaigns. What should remain clear is that AdWords management requires high levels of precision and is not a “set and forget” type of activity–there’s always room for learning and improvement. Enhanced campaigns just raised the bar for advanced optimization—how will you respond?