Enhanced Campaigns: Google’s Grand Unification Theory

Early last century, Albert Einstein turned the world of established physics upside down when he introduced his theories of special and general relativity. Newton’s Laws, which had successfully driven the work of physicists for hundreds of years, were usurped by Einstein’s new theories.

At the heart of Einstein’s FIELD theories, which describe space-time, was his famous formula:

Einsteins Space-Time Equation

Okay, maybe you’ve never seen that before, but it is famous among theoretical physicists and cosmologists. The lambda, (Λ) is the cosmological constant, which we’ll touch on later in this article. Einstein’s most famous formula is, of course, E = mc2 which describes the conversion of mass to energy, as in that which happens in an atomic explosion.

It took the world of physics years to figure out what Einstein was even talking about, and then even more years for experts to work out whether he was right or wrong. As it turns out, Einstein was more right than wrong.

Google’s Grand Unification Theory Of Devices

In similar fashion, Google turned the world of paid search on its head last month when it unveiled Enhanced Campaigns, which I refer to as their Grand Unification Theory of Devices. Google’s stated purpose in pursuing the Grand Unification Theory is to create a new advertising universe where paid search campaigns are elegant and simplified, and where we can target all devices, bids, time and space from within a single campaign.

This theoretically perfect PPC universe is still young and unproven, but that has not stopped Google from creating it and implementing it before the end of the next fiscal quarter. Of course, they can do that; they’re Google. While Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. Albert Einstein had to content themselves with just describing the world around them, Google can change the way the PPC universe actually works.

Just as Einstein created his elegant equations to describe the grand workings of the cosmos, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick peek into some of the fundamental assumptions that Google must make in order for an Enhanced Campaigns universe to make sense, and express them as simple mathematical formulas.

This new universe operates differently than our current “Legacy” world, and I hope my math logic will help your understanding of what’s fundamentally changed. Making things simple isn’t always so simple, after all.

The Law Of Approximate Device Equivalence (LOAD)

To achieve simplicity and elegance in its new Enhanced campaigns, the first thing Google needed to do was get rid of all that pesky nonsense about campaign ROI performance being different on tablets than on desktop devices. Rubbish. How can anyone create simple campaigns if devices all perform differently?

Unless and until device performance could be proven to be equivalent, it would not be possible. This led to the necessity of inventing a new Law to describe device behavior in the new Enhanced Campaigns Universe, which I’ve named the big new Law of Approximate Device Equivalence, or I prefer to call it, the big LOAD.

Here is my equation that describes it:

AdWords Enhanced Campaigns LOAD Equation

According to the big LOAD equation, where rho (ρ), represents advertising performance, and ρ(t) represents performance of Tablets, and ρ(d) represents the performance of Desktop campaigns, Google has simplified the way things work by declaring that desktop and tablet advertising performance are equivalent, or at least close enough so that we need not concern ourselves with optimizing for them anymore.

Now, perhaps you are not a ‘math’ person, but you, as well as many advertisers, doubt that this can possibly be true. Perhaps you “just know” that tablets will perform differently than desktops. You see it for yourself in your everyday life. You see how tablets are replacing favorite magazines as something to browse through as you sit and watch the tele or enjoy a cocktail with your significant other. In the morning, whether traveling or at home, you see how tablets are starting to push newspapers off the breakfast table, and you ‘just know’ this can’t be true.

Or, maybe you are a data person, and claim to have “actual data” that confirms your suspicion about the veracity of Google’s big LOAD. Don’t fret, you are not alone. Even Google has data like this, and publishes it on its website like this:

Tablet and Desktop Usage Profile from Google

Google’s own data shows significantly different usage profiles between Tablets and Desktops.

Hmmm, you ask. Shouldn’t Google use its own data to challenge a fundamental assumption of Enhanced Campaigns? Well, let me ask you something. When was the last time you tried to create an online ad system? What? Never? Then don’t question the wisdom of someone who has. And, besides, the big LOAD equation does not work in a Legacy Campaign world, so stop whining and start converting. And don’t laugh, either. After all, didn’t Isaac Newton have to create new math before he could prove his three Laws?

The second controversial, and even more mysterious, aspect of Google’s Grand Unification Theory of Devices is that individual keyword bids on mobile are no longer useful. Instead, mobile bids will now be calculated as a function of desktop keyword bids as explained in this equation:

The Law Of Bidding On Mobile & Desktop Devices (BMAD)

Translated, this equation states that your mobile keyword bid amounts will vary as a constant function of your desktop bids:

AdWords Enhanced Campaigns BMAD Equation

It no longer matters how your mobile keywords actually perform on mobile devices, what matters now is how your desktop keywords perform on desktop devices.

In olden days, advertisers only had one economic model to apply to AdWords bidding calculations. That model was based on the premise that your keyword bid should be a function of your conversion-rate-performance for that keyword. Now, with BMAD, we have two models. We can use that old model for our desktop device campaigns, and the new BMAD model for mobile keyword bids.

Now, I know you are saying to yourself, “how can it be simpler to employ two models rather than one?” As I said earlier, creating simplicity isn’t all that simple. Does that help? Good. Read on.

To make working under two economic models more simple than working with one, and to make the BMAD economics viable in the first place, Google simply invented the Mobile Bid Adjustment Factor, or BMAF, for short.

The BMAF is a constant, a percentage ranging from -100% to 300% that you can set yourself at the campaign level, which automatically creates your mobile keyword bid as a percentage of your desktop keyword bid. And, to make things even easier, any time you change any of your keyword bids, the BMAD BMAF instantly changes your mobile keyword bids, too. You’re welcome.

Still skeptical? Why, you ask, should mobile bids change every time we change a desktop bid? Why should mobile bids vary based on desktop bids in the first place? These are good questions. Let me get back to you on that.

Did Google Get It Right With Enhanced Campaigns?

Putting aside the shaky assumptions underpinning Google’s new Enhanced Campaigns that I satirized above, the question of the day is: will Enhanced Campaigns work and will advertisers be happy with it? Will Google be happy with it? Will Mobile CPCs rise and improve Google’s net profits?

There are certainly a lot of questions to be asked, and answers to be discovered, and the topic will certainly dominate the blogoshpere for months to come.

We’ve started modeling the expected impact of merging campaigns, and so far, we can find no significant gains or losses in the cutover, and so, we are starting the conversion process for our smaller customers.

Final Thoughts

A few final thoughts and questions about Enhanced Campaigns. Anyone who wants to weigh in, including Googlers, please leave your comments at the end of this article.

First, why didn’t Google first change the way it handles the time of day reporting and accounting for clicks?

I’d have thought this would have been the very first part of any AdWords reorganization. As it stands now, we still have to bid for clicks based on the time zone of the account, rather than the time zone where the click actually occurs. So, for example, If you want to reach people during their lunch hour, it would take 3-5 different campaigns for the US alone.

Some of the exciting new features in Enhanced Campaigns, like geographical bidding and site link scheduling would be much more useful if AdWords campaigns were based on click location.

Second, Google’s Product Managers have learned that handling PR surrounding new platform releases is probably as important as the release itself. I am sure that Google PR teams were embedded with the development teams, because the minute the story broke, there were industry pundits all lined up to say nice things about the changes.

Google strategically ‘leaked’ info to hundreds of major account reps, writers and bloggers so that within minutes of the announcement, the Internet was full of positive spin, which drowned out the negative voices. Well done, Google Product Development and PR teams. I sure hope there is as much steak in this new rollout as there is sizzle.

Well, that’s all that’s on my mind for Enhanced Campaigns this month. Want to give a big shout out to my brother, Bob, for his help with the physics and math stuff. Helps to have a physicist in the family! Please comment below with your own thoughts and ideas on Google’s latest efforts.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords: Enhanced Campaigns | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is President and founder of Find Me Faster a search engine marketing firm based in Nashua, NH. He is a member of SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), and SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization as a member and contributing courseware developer for the SEMPO Institute. Matt writes occasionally on internet, search engines and technology topics for IMedia, The NH Business Review and other publications.

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  • http://twitter.com/andrew_goodman Andrew Goodman

    Hey Matt, despite my head spinning I sense there is one clear takeaway from this article! And that is you disagree with the lack of tablet-specific bidding. What is becoming clearer to more people today is that Google takes a “translucent” approach even to the most seemingly transparent aspects of how the AdWords platform behaves. To people on the outside with an engineering mindset, this must be maddening. After all, if the thing is designed by engineers, can’t we, um, think about it in the same way on the outside? Perhaps… with a decoder ring. For example, Google figured out a long time ago that it needed to manage the wild disparities in publisher quality in the display network, *even though* advertisers could theoretically deal with problems through exclusions, bidding, etc., and *even though* Google hypothetically *should* police participants in its GDN through direct enforcement and *should* be able to filter out fraudulent clicks proactively and reactively. So even with these *five means* of making click pricing fair to the poor advertiser, Google realized themselves it wouldn’t be fair. So they “smart price” the actual prices of clicks. To prevent a backlash, or a loss of confidence in the whole network that would hinder adoption.

    Advertiser confidence in this new architecture of the AdWords platform is paramount, IMO, or Google will lose more new dollars than it gains.

    But there are quite a few improvements that for my money look like they’ll help us more than they hurt. So I am keeping an open mind.

    There are a few thorny parts and a few things I would want them to change, of course. But managing all that complexity is a major issue for advertisers, even sophisticated ones. Squeezing ROI out of very granular campaigns with many moving parts *while spending minimum time and effort managing those parts* (still resulting in a huge commitment of time and expertise, but a manageable one) is the end goal for everyone.

    What’s clear to me is that there have always been serious flaws lurking in here — I mean flaws that *cannot* be worked around, such as the inability to bid differently on search network partners.

    Tablets, for now, looks like an issue for some. We found they performed similarly enough that we collapsed them back in, for several clients. The issue there is how much granularity is really possible? We used to go in and exclude certain mobile OS’s or devices based on anecdotal evidence about spending behavior. Perhaps in future there will be so many device sizes, it’s going to be too cumbersome to handle all the differences with bid management.

  • http://twitter.com/ethanmowery Ethan Mowery

    Enhanced campaigns are just poorly conceived. I want to target mobile devices only. I don’t need to get in to specifics as to why. It’s what I want to do, and was able to do with legacy campaigns. Why take this away from me?

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Agree strongly, Ethan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Thanks, Andrew. Yes, in a nutshell, I believe Google handled the tablet thing backwards.
    Tablet usage is increasing, desktops usage declining. However, my assumption is that Tablet growth is at the expense of laptops – at least at the beginning. Laptops are not segregated out in reporting, so there’s no way to know. However, if that is the case, then what is left, once laptops are more or less gone – are desktop computers. For b-2-b, especially industrial, desktops will be around for a long time, and so the ability to target them specifically would be immensely useful.

    I think that keeping tablets segment, allowing desktops to gradually decline would have been the more logical approach. And, less disruptive to the entirety of the advertising community.

  • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.young.524381 Barbara Young

    I really do not like the direction Google is taking with the attitude of “we know what’s best for you, so take it or leave it”. As you point out (thanks for the graph!), their own data doesn’t support their claim that “tablets perform the same as desktops”. NOT IN THE EVENING HOURS THEY DON’T!

    I’m also with you 100% on the time zone bidding. I’m here in Eastern Time Zone setting up ads for my client in London who wants to target people in New York who are searching for things to do in London . Oiy! It certainly makes for interesting ad scheduling, and definitely not something one would want to tackle say on a Monday or a Friday until fully caffeinated…if you know what I mean.

  • Athena Catedral

    This is a rather complicated analogy, but seeing enhanced campaign as Google’s Grand Unification Theory of Devices is quite enlightening. However, practically speaking – some businesses are just not ready to integrate mobile or tablet, let alone both at the same time and forcing them to do so is going against Google credo to do no evil.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Hi Athena, point taken. It was an elegant analogy in my mind, but committing it to an article was more tortured than I had hoped for. Many conversations about this today at SMX can be distilled to: Why the rush? Why now? Why are tablets more like desktop devices than mobile? I hope Google will delay this requirement for 24-36 months.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Thank you, Barb. Your points are echoed by many here at SMX West this week.

  • Pat Grady

    Matt, you are both funny and brilliant, I loved this article!

  • Phil Lauriat

    This reminds me of an old story about an expensive movie house with a sign that said, “Popular Prices!” When asked by a customer about it, the owner replies, “Well, we like ‘em.”

    I don’t understand mobile as a blanket percentage of desktop. In some parallel mob/desktop campaigns I’m messing with, the top of page bids in the MOB campaigns vary tremendously up and down from the desktop campaign. MOB device users just don’t want to type long tail queries!
    I guess we’ll have to separate long and short tail queries into different campaigns/adgroups, and adjust accordingly. That’s simplification!

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Good one, Phil. Yep, sure does feel like that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Very interesting thought, Matthew, and I agree that it is important to make Google aware of your opinions, positive as well as negative. However, I don’t hold out hope here. Google has revved up the public relations campaign to sell this change, and once people start converting, they are less likely to reverse themselves. They believe are doing the right thing for the right reason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Aw, shucks Pat. Thanks – glad you enjoyed it.

  • http://houseofsem.pl/ Marcela

    i guess we’ll just wait for big bang ;-)

  • Kristin Brimi

    Excellent article! Thanks!

  • Adrian Huth

    Haha, sounds like the same math and PR scheme Bush and Cheney used to get us to accept their new “enhanced” interrogation methods.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Yes, Adrian. I cringe anytime I hear someone use the word enhanced anymore…

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.vanwagner1 Matt Van Wagner

    Would be nice, but as I mentioned above, I think we’re going through the wormhole into the EC universe. See you on the other side.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisgoward Chris Goward

    This got me laughing, Matt:
    Law Of Bidding On Mobile & Desktop Devices (BMAD)

    Nice one :-)

  • maikencw

    I’m sorry to say that what google is doing is about as bad as it gets. Why shouldn’t an advertiser be able to set bids at the device level? Let me put it this way – in the past when I have tried to merge a computer campaign with tablets, the tablets convert at 5x the cost of the computers. In order to control this I have seperate campaigns for tablets and computers. I don’t even bother with mobile phones. It’s really bad!

  • maikencw

    Do you think google is doing this because they feel it will be best for the advertiser or for google? I don’t need a “parent” forcing me to do something because they think it’s what’s best for me. There is also one really big problem with tablets – they don’t function as a computer when it comes to personalizing items online. For example, most people on tablets have difficulty uploading photos and art files. 2 of the companies I advertise for sell personalized ware online and will without a doubt be at a financial loss once these campaigns are forcefully enhanced. The only thing that has worked for in the past is that I separate bids for tablets and computers into their own campaigns. Combined these companies have spent over a million on google in just a few years. I know that’s small change to google – but it’s not small change to a small business.This is a very difficult problem as google is pretty much a monopoly and bing is yet to make a dent into the search engine market. I cannot at this time switch all ads to bing and am therefore forced to stay with google and adjust my bids down so the conversion cost doesn’t skyrocket.

  • David Graham

    Yeah, I know. Too bad because for us, it will mean a step back in performance, specifically with one of our bigger clients. Right now we have tablets and PCs separate and tablets have similar CPCs and CTR, and even similar onsite behavior. That is until you get to the conversion. Then, PCs outperform 6.5 to 1.

    Our Adwords reps keep trying to “encourage” us to go ahead and move to enhanced campaigns because they are seeing such fantistic results. Whatever. I told them knowing that tablets don’t perform as well, I can’t justify that change to the client until we have absolutely no choice.

    We know performance is going to take a step back, why in the world would I want to rush it. They are just worried about a logjam on July 22nd.


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