Enhanced Campaigns: The Future Is Now

Enhanced Campaigns are the most important architectural change to Google AdWords since it moved from the right rail to take the place of “premium placements” in 2004.

Much of the early commentary has focused on the version 1.0 implementation. It is important for Enterprise SEM program managers to start thinking hard and deep about the implications of Enhanced Campaigns in the long term, as well as understanding what it is likely to become.

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Better Architecture To Handle More Complexity Is Not Simplification

Google has mistakenly framed this as simplifying targeting. In fact, it’s just a different mechanism to accomplish the same goal.

In the past, if you wanted to have different bids, different landing pages, and different ad copy based on device type, you had to create replicated campaigns. Now, you just need one campaign, but you STILL have to provide all the same targeting information to Google with respect to what copy goes with what device, which URL to use, etc.

The problem with the old structure was that the number of replicated campaigns required to target by device, geography, syndication preference, etc., compounded geometrically. This was awkward from a management perspective, and likely caused inefficiencies in Google’s auction algorithms, as well. The single campaign with multiple levers approach is cleaner in that sense, but no less complex to do well.

As I described earlier, this change will actually add to the complexity of bidding in that instead of setting a bid for an ad that is associated with a keyword, match type and context, you have to set a bid for a keyword and then set multiplication factors for each different context.

This may make it simpler for the SMB willing to give Google their bank routing number and freedom to serve ads as Google sees fit, but I don’t see any Enterprise advertisers choosing that route. Two levers instead of one adds to the complexity of bidding.

It Is All About Context

Larry Kim has it right, it’s all about context. Many folks are upset with Google because the distinction between traditional computing devices (desktop and laptop) and tablets is gone in Enhanced Campaigns v 1.0. That is an error on Google’s part, and I’ll bet they fix it pretty soon.

Google’s research shows that the behavior of people using tablets in the context of being at home in the evening is indistinguishable from their use of computers in that context. Google has more data on this than anyone (possibly the understatement of the year), so I don’t doubt that’s right. But this is just hinting at the real future of enhanced campaigns.

The controls in v 1.0 are rudimentary (geo, device, time of day/day of week). But, let’s think about the future controls and all the amazing insights Google has about users that could be subject to targeting.

From your online behavior Google knows:

    • your demographic profile
    • what you do and say socially
    • what websites you like and/or frequent
    • your religion
    • whether you transact business online or prefer to do business in brick and mortar locations
    • what you’ve searched for ever, what you’ve searched for recently
    • whether you’re just researching or seriously comparing products/services and offers
    • what type of device you’re using
    • the size of the screen
    • the connection speed

And the list goes on and on…

Now, let’s add to that what Google knows from your device GPS, its own knowledge of geography, and your login to Google services:

  • where you live
  • where you work
  • how you commute
  • how fast you drive
  • where and when you go to lunch
  • whether you’re walking or riding in a car or riding a subway
  • They may be able to tell whether you’re sitting or standing
  • They could probably know who’s cheating on their spouse (look for two devices that are usually together at the same residential address… look for one of those devices spending the night at a different residential address when the other device is out of town at a hotel….)

…it is truly mind-boggling!

Campaign replication simply could not keep pace with this. The architecture had to change. You can bet your life that some or all of these contextual cues will impact the type of ad that will resonate most with that user at that moment, and how each potential advertiser should value that ad impression.

Used in the context of display advertising, this kind of information can be horribly creepy and bad. “Looking for a divorce attorney? You should be!” However, there is no creep factor with search ads. Not only do we understand a great deal about this user in this moment, we also know that they’re interested in seeing what we have to offer right now. The act of searching creates a “permission marketing” experience that makes ads relevant and useful in a way that no other type of advertising can since the print yellow pages  offer.

How will we know what ads to serve and what bids make sense in different contexts? Google will have to give us contextual information about each user who interacts with our ads. This will be done by passing a click ID that can be used as a key to pull context from Google. That, in turn, will allow us to see which contextual elements and combinations of elements impact post click performance. It will allow us to test different creative and landing page experiences so that we may learn what works best in a given context.

Keywords will remain King. I wager that we will all find out that the words used in the search are the most important predictor of value to an advertiser, but it would be crazy to think that those other contextual factors won’t be important as well. If context isn’t King, it will certainly be Duke.

Google isn’t sharing this data with anyone yet, and they won’t be willing or able to share everything they know about every user for privacy reasons. However, advanced advertisers should be furiously working on how they will gather and process the information Google passes and how they will react to it. The mechanics of what we do will have to change, but there are fundamentally new and exciting possibilities that smart marketers should start grappling with now.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Enterprise SEM


About The Author: is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Scientist of RKG, a technology and service leader in paid search, SEO, performance display, social media, and the science of online marketing. He also writes for the RKG Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @georgemichie1.

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  • Chad Summerhill

    I wonder how many of the variables you mentioned are already being used by Google with their Conversion Optimizer and Enhanced CPCs products. Maybe when Google uses the word “Enhanced” it means that they want to make the bid decisions for us. If you use Conversion Optimizer with Enhanced Campaigns you don’t have the option to set bid-modifiers, so I’m assuming in this scenario Google would modify your bids based on these same controls (plus more) for the advertiser. This would definitely be “simpler” for the advertiser on the bidding side. Perhaps not as profitable. It would still be just as complex on the UX side of things when you have traffic coming into your site from multiple contexts. Great article, George.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Thanks Chad. There is a strong possibility that Google already does this stuff as part of personalization: not changing the bids, but recognizing the CTR will be higher by serving a specific ad to a specific user at a given moment impacting AdRank for that ad for that query and making G more money. Conversion optimizer might conceivably bid differently as well. I’m hoping that Google will HAVE to share the granular data that they see with other bidding platforms; telling advertisers “you have to show us your underwear AND let us spend your money as we think best” in order to play with our controls and we won’t share those controls with other bid management platforms seems like something the DOJ would find troubling.

  • Stephen Lella

    As someone who was just voluntold to do their first ever AdWords campaign, this is a fantastic article on what’s possible with Google. As a natural SEO, it’s exciting (and intimidating) to know that Google’s trying to better themselves on every frotn imaginable. Great article man. Now I gotta find a PPC 101 article, haha.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Thanks Stephen, and good luck with the transition. Coming from the SEO world you’ll appreciate the ability to control the program and the immediacy of results. When you make a mistake you find out VERY quickly. Check out RKGBlog when you’re ready for more advanced stuff. Good luck.

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

    George, well said on all points. This is an early version and many hopeful features and opportunities abound.

    I hope you are right that Google erred on the tablet / desktop issue and hope you are right about them moving to fix it soon, because conversions to enhanced campaigns are happening now.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Hi Matt, I think the “device” delineation is difficult: where does a tablet end and a smartphone begin? Even laptop and tablet are blurring with the ultrabooks and other touchscreen laptops with detachable screens. To really understand the user’s interface and context we need to understand whether it’s touchscreen or mouse; how many square inches of surface area, type of connection, mobile or stationary…put them all together and we have a more complete picture. We’re holding off on transitions until we have what we need from G. Hopefully coming soon.


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