It’s hard to find a place where we can’t be connected at this point — we’re “online” whether at home, in the office, in the car, checking email on one phone while talking on another, etc. Regardless of the device or context, we’re looking for content. And so, Google has begun the shift to align the online advertising structure and mindset to better fit this reality.
Over the next several months, Google will gradually roll-out a new campaign structure in AdWords that looks to tear down device-specific silos in digital advertising and better align digital media strategies with user behavior. This means that advertisers will not have to (or, be able to) create separate campaigns targeting specific devices, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity to advertisers. It will reduce the complexity of an advertiser’s AdWords account by consolidating all device targeting into a single campaign, introduce new bidding controls, and allow for more relevant messaging based on a multitude of variables (time of day, location, device, etc.). For example, it should be easier to target and increase bids on a person looking for a place to eat dinner (from 5 – 8 p.m.) within a certain distance of your store locations, and to speak to them with mobile-specific messaging.
In doing so however, they are also removing something that advertisers have grown accustomed to and planned marketing budgets around – the ability to allocate budgets based on device (i.e. desktop, tablets, or mobile). With this consolidation, Google is taking the key step of beginning to provide visibility into cross-device behavior – showing, for example, that a user who started their search on their phone may have later made a purchase on their desktop computer. This level of visibility has been a major industry challenge and to-date has only been possible in very limited circumstances with additional technology integrations.
Google’s partners and agencies, including Resolution, noted that in many ways, account management was becoming too fractured and complex. While search managers typically like this level of control, it also led to complicated and time-consuming account structures and an approach that didn’t lend itself to thinking holistically about the searcher, but rather the device. This is Google’s first step in trying to encourage advertisers to shift their approach.
Why this? Why now?
By combining data across devices, platforms, and other data sources (such as in-store POS systems), Google is now able to deliver a much more complete picture of how media dollars are being spent, understand performance across channels and devices, and finally make some solid steps forward towards closing the online/offline loop. With this, they have also taken the opportunity to streamline the tools that advertisers use to manage their advertising against these data points. Resolution welcomes this push forward from Google towards evolving how paid search is managed. However this is new territory and as such there are going to be stumbling blocks and differences in opinion as to the best way to proceed.
While there are many components to this update, there are several new features we are very excited to introduce to our campaigns:
Consolidated Bid Management/Account Structure
Google will remove the ability to break out campaigns by device type. This means setting a budget for a mobile-only campaign will unfortunately no longer be possible. To help users manage the different behavior of various devices, Google is introducing bidding tools to allow advertisers to set multipliers to increase or decrease bids on various devices based on a single max bid. So, you might set desktop at 100% and mobile at 50% if you want to emphasize desktop, for example. The current understanding is that each campaign will maintain its own device-specific Quality Score so that one advertiser’s strong desktop quality score does not impact another advertiser’s mobile Quality Score for example. Additionally, Google has a component of this called “stacked bidding,” where advertisers can include several layers of bid preferences based on a variety of circumstances such as the one mentioned above.
More Granular Site Link Management/Reporting
Now that device campaigns will be consolidated, Google is enabling advertisers to create separate sets of site links by device so that an advertiser can include mobile-only links, for example. As part of this, Google will also report on full performance breakouts down to the individual site link level. Combined, this will allow advertisers to deliver a more relevant site experience when site links show, and allow more effective optimizations to be made.
Situational Bidding and Ad Creation
With the increased visibility gained regarding user behavior across devices and locations, Google now enables advertisers to break out ad copy and set bids based on the user’s situation. For example, it may be beneficial to show one set of ads to a customer showing geo-specific intent with their query, versus another set to users who appear to be doing comparison shopping for products at home. Or, for instance, a retailer could increase bids on people that are within a close proximity to their store locations who previously searched for products the store carries on their home computer.
Multiple Conversion Types
While before advertisers had some limited control over conversion types, Google is now facilitating this through an expanded list that includes more formal recognition of call conversions, as well as finally adding support for offline conversions (assumedly provided by 3rd party data integrations).
Cross-Device Conversion Attribution
Google has said that advertisers will finally be able to measure conversion paths that may have spanned multiple devices. This means, for example, that when a user searches for a product in a retail location on their mobile device to compare prices, and later decides to purchase it through a paid search ad when they get home, there will be a thread that ties these two touch points together in the reporting. When viewed in aggregate, this will give a much more complete attribution picture of how users are truly behaving as they go about their day interacting with a variety of devices/channels.
The details on the release and full functionality of this feature are still somewhat in question at this time, so we suspect that this may be more of a long-term enhancement.
While Resolution is excited for a large number of these changes, there are several that we have reservations about based on initially available information. We anticipate a few challenges that are worth highlighting:
We’ve seen that when Google releases major changes regarding how bids are managed or new targeting options, bid behavior tends to fluctuate. We expect to see some variance in average CPCs at the account level — particularly around mobile where Google will be removing its Smart Pricing algorithm that helped keep mobile CPCs low for some time.
It is quite possible that average CPCs will see a net increase as a result of this change. This bidding by device will be set at the campaign level, which removes a level of control previously taken advantage of by more sophisticated advertisers and potentially further increases CPCs. Resolution will be closely monitoring this and teams will take appropriate action, including shifting spend away from Google to other engines (such as Bing) if necessary.
Conversion Data Segmentation/Third Party Tools
For clients who manage AdWords through a 3rd party bid management technology, it is possible that some granularity in conversion data at the device level may be lost with the consolidation of campaigns. Google is making changes to their AdWords API to support this update, and will be working closely with their technology partners to minimize any potential impact or loss of visibility.
Many of our clients recognize the importance of mobile and tablet devices and have frequently chosen to support them through initiatives that often include device-specific budgets. Based on how Google has chosen to consolidate device targeting, this will no longer be an option. Resolution has provided feedback on the importance of being able to manage device budgets independently, and we will be working closely with our clients on potential solutions for this shortcoming.
Resolution will be working closely with Google to ensure that Resolution client teams and clients are fully aware of best practices, changes to the accounts, and implications for performance and targeting options. This new structure will be tested quickly upon release during the ramp-up period so that all of the new functionality and performance repercussions are understood by the time of the full transition, which takes place in the summer, according to Google. Resolution will be working with Google agency leads to ensure agency-wide transition.