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What Google’s Adwords update means for marketers

By Ben Gibson

February 8, 2013 | 4 min read

Google is rolling out an AdWords upgrade aimed at helping marketers hone paid-search targeting across multiple devices, while letting them adjust bids for ads according to device type, location and time of day. Ben Gibson, MD of the Search Agency UK believes it will fundamentally change the world of search advertising.

Ben Gibson is managing director of The Search Agency UK

The changes announced this week make an immediate impact in some key areas, and structurally most advanced campaigns will need to change to take advantage of this.

This move can in some ways be seen as a step backwards, for example the loss of mobile-specific campaigns and the inability to separate tablet and desktop seem to blunt the tools of the advanced search marketer.

However device targeting as a means of optimisation was always in itself a blunt tool. Gross assumptions had to be made about mobile users as a whole, when the reality is there is a radical difference between searches based on location and time of day; searching for Italian food on a mobile at home indicates a desire for takeaway, whilst that same search on the move indicates a desire for a restaurant.

So proximity and time as bid optimisation elements make a lot of sense; these are strong indicators of intent, and as such can be usefully used to better target campaigns.

Cynically speaking, this does look like a move on Google’s part to drive up mobile CPCs. Mobile has long lagged behind desktop CPC prices, giving savvy marketers a bargain for traffic. Our own research showed that last year CPCs on smartphones represented a 48 per cent discount from computers whilst tablets had a 17 per cent discount (and the tablet discount was growing).

Enhanced campaigns sets, as a default, identical bids for all devices. As only the more advanced practitioners will then vary those bids based on performance, time and proximity, this will rapidly level CPCs across all devices. Good news for Google investors, not so good news for those advertisers that were profiting from the cheaper CPCs.

However it is what has not been focused upon that is perhaps more interesting. This seems, as a totally new architecture for Adwords, to be just the beginning of an interesting new world. The new structure of optimisation dimensions offers the probability of other new dimensions. And in particular, because of the primary position Google holds over data, things could get very interesting.

Google is uniquely positioned, with its market share of search, mail, Android and Chrome to gather much more user-specific data than anyone else. And it is, ultimately, user-specific data that we want to optimise towards. Device targeting was always just a rough proxy for this.

This potentially gets us to the true holy grail: cross-device tracking and optimisation. It is commonly known that users will research through multiple devices prior to taking action, and more so and for longer based on the cost of the end action.

It is very hard to know exactly whom has then gone on to make that final purchase, and where they originally came from. Except if you are Google. Chrome, Android, Gmail, G+ and Google search data are a powerful data cocktail, allowing Google to more precisely understand who has done what. And with Google Now they even know what users are likely to be doing next.

This rich set of data should allow for the full research path to be captured, and then used for post-action optimisation, as well as pre-action prominence. Someone has been researching hotels on their way home from work, and is now on their home tablet? It makes sense to do something about it.


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