Google’s overhaul of AdWords to cater for multi-devices marks the biggest ever change in the history of paid search. Jessica Davies looks at what Enhanced Campaigns means for marketers and the knock-on effect to mobile cost-per-clicks.Rapid uptake of mobile devices has left many marketers playing catch-up in an ‘always on’ world in which consumers are well and truly calling the shots. Google’s overhaul of AdWords, called Enhanced Campaigns (EC), is likely to reduce this gap by some way, making it easier for advertisers to book campaigns for multiple devices while encouraging those less proactive in mobile to become multi-device brands by default.Yet the move has also sparked concern in the industry with many already seeing mobile cost-per-clicks (CPCs) spike as a direct result. Moreover, with Google’s cut-off date for migrating to EC fast approaching, marketers must ensure they are on top of the changes or risk disastrous consequences.EC, which launched this February, lets marketers adjust keyword bids depending on three core variables: location, time of day and device type – all within the same campaign for the first time. Using bid adjustments they can, for example, bid 25 per cent higher for people searching a half-mile away, 20 per cent lower for searches after 11am and 50 per cent higher for searches on smartphones.Marketers can also run ads across devices with the right ad text, sitelink, app or ad extension without having to manually edit each campaign separately for different devices, locations and times of day.The opportunities are compelling but there are pitfalls, such as the fact Google has merged tablet and desktop targeting options, citing that behaviours are the same across both. Meanwhile marketers can no longer target by handset device, and for the more sophisticated brands who were quick to embrace mobile this is proving a big frustration.MediaCom’s digital operations director Rob Weatherhead says the changes are a “blatant revenue move” from Google, aimed at driving up mobile CPCs as more search volume shifts from desktop to mobile. “Mobile queries are increasing, revenue per mobile query is lower than desktop, by increasing the auction intensity on mobiles, through auto opting everybody in, it [Google] increases revenue per mobile query and protects its income,” he says.Rise in CPCs ‘a worry’ for brandsMost agencies are in the final stages of migrating their clients’ campaigns across to EC, having adopted a staggered approach to ensure a smooth transition.Enterprise Holdings, parent company to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, tackled the transition early, along with its agency Starcom Mediavest, to ensure it had migrated its accounts in time for the peak summer season.Since shifting to EC the group can now manage geo and day-part targeting at a more granular level from within the same campaign, rather than disparate accounts, making it much simpler to use. However, its mobile CPCs doubled within weeks, with tablet CPCs also seeing a noticeable rise, according to the group’s online marketing director for EMEA Stefano Biondi.“We have benefited from EC bid modifiers but the rise in CPCs is a serious worry, and we [the market] are only mid-way through the transition. Once everyone has migrated they could rise even higher,” he says.Previously the group targeted campaigns by device so it could manage device targets on a granular basis. “Moving to EC meant we were forced to target all operating systems and all our costs automatically increased as a direct result. Our exact match CPCs for brand terms doubled and for more generic, competitive, and therefore expensive terms like ‘car hire’ CPCs will be even higher.“We were stripped of bid adjustments for tablets too as they are considered the same as desktop by Google. Seeing these increased costs we had to balance our budget in other areas of paid search so it didn’t affect the role of performance in general,” he says.Yet, despite the shortfalls, Biondi believes that in time desktop and tablet user behaviour will merge entirely, and therefore Google’s move is necessary, albeit unnervingly fast.Changing consumer behaviourAgencies have also reported inflated CPCs as a direct result of the rollout. Aegis’ performance arm iProspect has migrated most of its accounts and seen average CPCs across client categories spike (see diagrams), and is expecting this to rise further following the 22 July cut-off.Adrian Cutler, head of performance products and global clients, EMEA, says there is unease even among the larger global brands regarding the expected loss of control over device-level targeting.“After 22 July there will be a real turning point. Some big brands are a bit nervous about the fact they are losing the functionality… particularly telecoms brands. But for now the benefit outweighs the pitfalls because it is location, device and time-focused, and in time Google may allow for more granular features,” he says.Aside from the initial frustration and unease regarding the rise of CPCs for mobile, most believe the changes will be for the better in the long run. AutoTrader has been readying its digital-first strategy for years, having closely watched its audience all but abandon print in favour of digital products.AutoTrader’s head of performance marketing Berian Reed says the rollout is a “timely reminder” of how consumer behaviour is changing, giving brands that have not yet embraced mobile the “kick start” they badly need.“Google recognises the growth areas in search are in mobile and tablet and that’s where the consumers are and your websites must be up to date. I can understand some brands have felt frustration with this as until this change Google’s advice was to split out campaigns by device. It will cause friction with brands that don’t have responsive or adaptive sites that don’t deliver a good experience on mobile, but it’s a timely reminder that this is where we are seeing the shift in consumer behaviour – it’s a positive move,” he says. Starcom Mediavest’s search strategy director Oscar Romero agrees that the changes are making brands place mobile higher up on the agenda. “It has forced clients to make mobile a strategic priority. So it can be argued that EC has had a positive impact in terms of encouraging advertisers to implement device-optimised websites and adjusting their cross-device strategy, plans and budget,” he says. Adapting to shifting changes in consumer behaviour across devices is a phenomenon no one can ignore, least of all companies like Google who must be two steps ahead of the consumer. Overhauling AdWords to cater for multi-device search is both timely and necessary, but the speed of the changes may leave some reeling and brands must ensure their mobile sites and paid search strategies are adapted accordingly or face some serious hits to both consumer experience and CPCs.
Brands must ensure they don’t wait until the auto switch on 22 July to migrate to Enhanced Campaigns, or they could risk serious side-effects that could prove costly. It is those that have mobile-only campaigns who are likely to notice the changes significantly, as on 22 July, if they haven’t migrated over, their PPC campaigns will automatically run across desktop, mobile and tablet devices. Marin Software’s vice president and managing director for EMEA Jon Myers says: “If you’re running mobile-only campaigns and you incorrectly migrate them before that date, it could have a massively negative effect on your campaign and really hurt you in the pocket. Today you can split everything down to devices and target in different ways, but EC doesn’t so you need to adapt accordingly.”Brands running mobile-only campaigns must adjust the parameters ahead of the cut-off or they will end up not only paying for paid search ads across desktop, tablet and mobile devices by default but may also find their campaigns compete against each other on keyword terms and other variables, a factor which could also affect historic performance, according to Myers.
Experts urge brands: “do not wait for the auto switch on 22 July”