The world of Paid Search has been buzzing today with news of ‘Enhanced campaigns’ that Google will be rolling out over the coming weeks and will be taking over from the current campaigns entirely by June. For those who haven’t already read about it the short version is that you will no longer be able to create campaigns by device anymore. Replacing that will be the ability to bid on mobile separately from desktop using a multiplier. If you are wondering where tablets come into that scenario, they don’t.
According to Google, “consumer behaviors on tablets and desktops are becoming very similar” so you will not be able to bid separately for tablets, it will be bundled up with your desktop bidding.
Here’s their bullet point list of key features;
- Powerful marketing tool for the multi-device world
- Smarter ads optimized for varying user contexts
- Advanced reports to measure new conversion types
Or as Google put it:
The benefits, they claim, will be in greater simplicity, without the need for large sprawling accounts with duplicated campaigns due to location, device and other factors. This will make life easier for account managers.
However, we are already seeing the same message from most paid search managers, we don’t want this so called simplicity.
Simplicity sounds appealing but what it really means is a loss of control over account structure and a lack of transparency in data. The fact that tablet traffic has been bundled into the desktop traffic will also cause account managers some pain, as tablets can show quite stark differences in performance when compared to desktop. Without the ability to bid separately, as with mobiles, we will lose control over tablet traffic. Tablets do perform similarly to desktops, but similar is most certainly not the same as identical. For managers attempting to squeeze every last drop out of a marketing budget this is not good news. Google want us to stop treating mobile so differently from other devices, but mainly they want us to stop bidding so differently.
Real Life Example
To provide some clarification on why this is a big deal, here is a look at how CPAs may change by device in an account:
This campaign is duplicated, running separately on all three devices – notice the very different CPAs and conversion rates, as well as what sort of figures we get when we look at averages at the bottom. In particular it is important to note the differences between desktop and tablet. The yellow Total value is what we will start seeing at the campaign level, which is not the full story of what is happening.
Now with Tablet & Desktop merged as 1 user experience, we will no longer see that Desktop traffic is the cheapest, which will have major effects on small business investment into AdWords.
Here’s another quote from Google about the new campaigns;
You can set multiple bid adjustments to target what’s most important to you and AdWords will then automatically determine the best ad to appear.”
With the current set up I can choose what ad will appear. I can bid based on locations, time of day and by device (including tablets), so I can determine what the best ad is and see the data to prove it.
But the question still remains…
What is so enhanced about the Enhanced Campaigns?
There are some more positive aspects to this move; bidding by location, reporting on sitelink extensions by individual sitelinks and tracking across devices, which would all be valuable.
Tracking across devices in particular would be a very welcome move that would help answer some of the difficult questions that even attribution modelling can struggle with, as searchers move from device to device. All of these features I would genuinely welcome as new additions to the AdWords interface.
However these genuinely helpful features do not entirely sugar coat the bitter pill that is the loss of control over device specific campaigns.
There may be things we can do to take some control back. I’m not sure we can do much to rectify the situation with Tablets, except for complaining to Google and hoping that someone is listening. Unless at some level they are segmented like mobiles we are stuck with the AdWords proscribed set-up.
However we can use the multiplier to create desktop only campaigns by setting the mobile device bids to -100%. The main bid is set for desktops and then mobile bids work off that. For mobile campaigns we would want to set desktop bids very low and multiply up slowly. However the maximum multiplier is 300% so this is likely to be an imperfect system in many cases.
Google are forcing us to hand control over to them. In the past there have been moves that were similar in direction, if not in scale, with broad matches expanding from tight to broader relevance, but this was countered by modified broad and we always had the ability to use negatives, as well as phrase and exact match types.
We also have seen AdWords Express, where Google tried again to simplify the process of setting up an AdWords account and take control over the targeting. In this case the service was a separate entity from a regular AdWords account. Or Dynamic Search Ads where Google use your website content to generate search ads? Again, it is an option, but not mandatory.
A Glimpse Into the Future?
Could Google one day be smart enough to completely take control over paid ads and deliver comparable or better ads through automation than could be managed by manual work? I don’t discount the possibility. Rather like their driver-less cars I am sure that people are going to want to see proof that they can out-perform manual operation before they hand over the keys entirely.
Richard Cotton Sr. Paid Search Marketer