Tipped to be the biggest change in paid search since Google was born, the mighty overhaul of AdWords – Enhanced Campaigns – has already undergone rapid changes. Jessica Davies looks at how marketers are adapting.
It’s only a few months since Google rebooted AdWords to cater for multi-device search, yet the new version – Enhanced Campaigns – is already causing waves. Since the February rollout Google has released what some believe to be the fastest pace of product launches to AdWords ever seen, none of which would have been possible without the existence of Enhanced Campaigns. It is these subsequent changes that are proving most compelling for search marketers.
Enhanced Campaigns is designed to let marketers adjust keyword bids depending on three core variables – location, time of day and type – across devices, and all within the same campaign for the first time. By 22 July all paid search campaigns had to migrate their accounts to the new version or be switched over automatically, and like any mandatory demand from Google this triggered alarm in the advertising world, with many seeing a sudden spike in mobile cost-per-clicks (CPCs) as a direct result.
Yet since its initial rollout in February, the internet giant has released a host of new AdWords products, and one in particular is resonating strongly with agencies – Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs).
Updates like this have helped reverse much of the negative fallout around the rollout. Independent agency Periscopix was among the first to migrate its campaigns, rather than wait for the July cut-off. Head of PPC Alistair Dent says initial concern over the rollout has “changed wildly” because of the multitude of updates that have followed, which have offset the pitfalls.
“In the early days we had serious concerns and Google could have communicated better. When it trials something it launches it on a small scale and then rolls out slowly, so it couldn’t share a lot of the stuff it had in pipeline. So we didn’t know what was coming, therefore our initial response was to only see the downsides. The increased difficulty of keyword-level targeting on mobile was a real blow because we used that extensively to maximise performance,” he says.
Yet since then there has been an accelerated rollout of products that stemmed the flow of criticism towards Google. “These changes were already in its timeline but it needed to launch Enhanced Campaigns to ensure the technical capabilities were in place to enable them. The RLSA is amazing, it’s one of the greatest product developments Google has ever given us,” he says.
In a nutshell, RLSA is designed to let search marketers adjust bids according to whether a person has already visited their site or interacted in any way, whether it be to buy a product or service or download an app. This means they can tailor their bidding strategy and tailor their creative to ensure they are not remarketing to people who have, for example, already converted. Or they can choose to bid higher for people who have converted previously, and are therefore regarded as stronger prospects than someone who may have arrived at the site by chance.
The result is that advertisers can reduce any wastage of the search budget, which can then be reallocated to other areas.
Adding this remarketing capability to the other multipliers makes a compelling mix for marketers. Enhanced Campaigns has seen the back of the traditional method of bidding X for a particular keyword, instead introducing multipliers based on information about the user – their location, time of day, whether they are on their mobile or not, and now – their remarketing status.
Dent says: “We’re not talking a couple of percentage points’ difference here. We are talking big numbers – 30 per cent savings in some cases from search budgets. That can then be put back into other areas of search that are working well. For example, if a client is advertising on its own brand term it may not know if that is generating incremental sales.
“But if you know they have been to your site before you can turn off the ads as it’s a repeat visitor and you know those aren’t incremental. You are saving that money which can be put back into the new-customer acquisition portion of budget,” he says.
Periscopix is trialling the new features with a range of clients including dating site MySingleFriend, among retail and finance brands. For MySingleFriend it adjusted bids and applied a “negative audience” to ensure it was not bidding anything on members who had already visited its dashboard page that can only be accessed by members. Given they were already members, the brand needn’t pay again for them to see their ads. The results were positive, with conversion rates for the brand campaign rising 26 per cent as a direct result. Cost per conversion also fell by 26 per cent, and CPC and conversion volume remained stable.
It is early days but many are excited by the opportunities posed by RLSA. Adrian Cutler, head of performance and mobile at Aegis Media’s performance arm iProspect, believes RLSA is already making a big difference. “Being able to change the message of an ad based on a consumer’s behaviour on site was something that was only reserved for the Google Display Network. We eagerly await other advancements to this. Now that EC has bedded down and some of the initial features are starting to be released such as expanded site links, we are starting to see the true benefits.”
However, there is still some way to go before marketers are completely at ease with the changes, some of which have hampered former capabilities. Luxury men’s shirt brand TM Lewin was among the brands to see a spike in mobile CPCs after the rollout of Enhanced Campaigns, but it has now seen them stabilise.
TM Lewin’s head of search Francisco Lema says: “Pulling granular data and setting up tests have become more limited in my view. I see that Google is trying to make things easier for the majority of its clients, but there’s a group of us that have been affected by a ‘less sophisticated’ tool in terms of data analysis and testing. Of course, there are always workarounds, and as far as I understand Google is planning some updates to tackle some reporting limitations. But today I think it is still not as powerful as it used to be.”
Although accounts can now be managed in one place, the “blended” results they give are not helpful, and there isn’t yet an easy way to separate them satisfactorily, according to Lema. “Google is not telling you what the split is, in terms of results, of mobile, tablet and desktop separately. You have to sort this out with other analytics tools. Also you can only have one destination URL instead of different ones like before, and it is only leaving you one option – responsive design – or a workaround that requires a bit of coding. This limits landing page testing from the PPC side. You can still do it of course, but not directly in AdWords,” he adds.
It’s clear there is some way to go before the advantages of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns can be fully grasped and implemented. Yet there are early signs that the changes are opening up new opportunities for search marketers, and it will be those who are quick to begin testing, honing and refining who will reap the benefits for their clients.
This feature is published as part of The Drum's latest Search supplement. The supplement is available for purchase or as a download for subscribers of The Drum.