The Big AdWords Update: Enhanced Campaigns Puts The Focus On Mobile

“If we were going to build AdWords today, what would it look like?” That’s the question Google’s Nick Fox, VP of Product Management, and his team began asking last year. The result is AdWords enhanced campaigns, a major update announced today that is google-adwords-square-logodesigned to simplify campaign management across multiple devices, and to increase adoption rates of mobile advertising among small and medium sized businesses.

PPC managers have become accustomed to the time-consuming workarounds needed to target ads by device type and location by cloning campaigns and managing granular settings and bid strategies.

With enhanced campaigns, managers will set different bids and show different ads based on a user’s device type, location and time of day, all within one campaign.

Here is an example from the Adwords blog:

A breakfast cafe wants to reach people nearby searching for [coffee] or [breakfast] on a smartphone. Using bid adjustments, with three simple entries, they can bid 25% higher for people searching a half-mile away, 20% lower for searches after 11am, and 50% higher for searches on smartphones. These bid adjustments can apply to all ads and all keywords in one single campaign.

These screenshots show the location bid adjustment and then the pop up where you can modify the bids:



 Increasing Mobile Adoption

The main focus of enhanced campaigns is on increasing mobile advertising adoption and Google’s market share in this growing space. The streamlining of campaign management tasks would appear to put Google in a position to accomplish this goal.

“Not only was the setup and maintenance process complex, but conversion tracking was much more challenging, and the reporting costs were being offloaded onto the advertiser. All of these factors acted as disincentives and barriers to seeing ROI,” says Larry Kim, Founder & CTO of WordStream, which works with about 1,000 SMB advertisers.

Kim says he was seeing roughly 4-5% of small business advertisers adopt mobile advertising best practices because of the complexity involved. “With Enhanced Campaigns, Google is making it much simpler and more attractive for even small businesses to realize ROI from mobile advertising.”

Google is highlighting three key features of enhanced campaigns:

  1. Simplified budget allocations: Manage bids across location, time of day, device type and more from a single campaign.A
  2. Customized ad delivery based on where, when and how a user is searching: Show ads across devices with the right ad text, sitelink, app or extension, without having to edit each campaign for every possible combination of devices, location and time of day.
  3. New conversion types for more comprehensive reporting: Track multiple types of conversion including app downloads and calls from smartphones. (A Google spokesperson also mentioned eventually being able to track offline conversions like store visits, which is interesting.)

The Caveats

What’s the catch? With simplification comes loss of control and transparency. Default bids will be set at the desktop/tablet level. Google says its data shows that search behavior on tablets is very similar to computers, and ads on tablets perform comparably to ads on desktops and laptops.

Thus, tablets and desktops will be grouped together, rather than treated as separate devices as they have been.  Advertisers who have gained efficiencies from targeting tablets separately from desktops will now be forced to pay desktop CPCs, and that transparency around tablet performance will disappear.

In addition, advertisers will set a baseline bid that applies to both desktop and tablet, and then set the mobile bid as a multiplier of the desktop/tablet bid. There is little guidance at this point on how advertisers are to determine what that multiplier should be.

When asked whether advertisers could opt out of mobile or set mobile bids lower than desktop, a Google spokesperson replied:

If someone doesn’t want to run on mobile, then they can decrease their mobile bid adjustment by -100%, which will effectively mean their ads don’t show up on mobile. So yes, all the bid adjustments can go up or down. If they value mobile more than desktop/tablet then they can set a lower base bid and then crank up the mobile bid adjustment by +300%.

The spokesperson also clarified that advertisers can set mobile bids at -30%, for example, if they want to emphasize desktop — and if they know mobile CPCs have been historically lower. Interestingly,  even as Google puts the focus on mobile, desktop is now a built-in foundation to AdWords — there is no way to have a mobile-only campaign.

Targeting at the operating system level will no longer be available. A Google spokesperson clarified, “One exception to this is click-to-download ads where an advertiser would only want to show an app download ad on a device that could actually download the app (obviously). The advertiser would tell us which app they want to promote and then we’ll make sure to only show it on the devices that can download it.” Again, the advertiser loses control of the targeting and has to rely on/trust Google to do it for them.

The Rollout

A handful of advertisers have had hands-on access to enhanced campaigns for a couple of weeks. Over the past week, Google reps have been reaching out to another set of advertisers to get feedback (which seems only to have stoked anxiety). Enhanced campaigns will roll out to advertisers as an option over the next few weeks. Google plans to upgrade all campaigns in June of this year.

This is one of the biggest changes to AdWords since it launched. Will SMBs be convinced by the new simplicity to adopt mobile advertising strategies? Will current AdWords advertisers like the the new simplicity enough to accept the loss of control and transparency?

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: AdWords: Enhanced Campaigns | Search Ads: General | Search Ads: Mobile Search | Search Ads: Pay Per Call | Search Marketing: General | Search Marketing: Mobile | Top News


About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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  • MobileHero

    Our knee-jerk reaction with no experience interfacing with “enhanced campaigns” — on first blush, this seems like reduced granularity and control for marketers offset by increased simplicity. Cons from our perspective: (i) combining desktop and tablet marketing, when they exhibit different ROI characteristics; (ii) setting mobile bidding to desktop CPCs and combining desktop/tablet CPCs is cumbersome at best, and obfuscates public reporting transparency on device type ROI at worst; (iii) limiting ability to target by OS, no mobile only campaigns, etc…all of this seems counter to Google’s typical mantra of greater control and greater access to data. Overall, this may be good for smaller advertisers and SMBs but it is potentially bad for advanced marketers. Again this is our “knee jerk” reaction with no advanced interaction with the new tool. We look forward to getting primary data with enhanced campaigns and reserve the right to change our opinion later :)

  • Donna Saliter

    Wow! It’s hard to believe that we’ll no longer be able to have a “mobile only” campaign! Seems like Google is moving backwards with that decision.

  • Jerry Nordstrom

    MH – My motto is plan for the worst and expect the best. that said I had the same kind of knee jerk reaction. I was really hoping to hear all about precision targeting for all devices with mobile optimized ads etc. Instead, like you said it sounds like they are rolling out “adwords express” to advanced advertisers.

    Roll out for everyone by June.
    This type of change means fundamental strategy changes, large structural changes to campaigns and a complete review and update of Analytics tracking, goals automated reports. If Adwords would like us to change I sure as heck hope they will give us access to the new system WELL before the required switch over.

    Perhaps they did this just to screw with Bings auto Google Adwords import feature?

  • Tyson Kirksey

    In the second to last paragraph, I think there is a mistake. It should read: “Google plans to downgrade all campaigns in June of this year.”

  • Brandon

    No ‘Mobile Only’ campaigns? No OS targeting?? I will lose so many for opportunities for optimization. Our ROI on mobile SEM will take a big hit because of this roll out. So much for keyword level link reporting, and what am I supposed to do if my mobile site and desktop site sit on different destination URL’s???

  • Collin Stewart

    I’m surprised that more people haven’t posted on this topic. This is quite possibly the most frustrating change that I’ve heard about from Google. So this forces advertisers to take a blended average performance approach with mobile at the campaign level as opposed to being able to bid explicitly on keywords at the device/platform level. How is this considered an upgrade? I could already tier my bidding by location and by platform. The only ‘enhancements’ here are ad extention related (sitelink level tracking & ad extensions at the adgroup level), and these changes were supposed to be introduced as a beta last year.

  • Chris

    Great point on keyword level URLs.. If there’s no workaround (or additional URL field for a Mobile LP), overall tracking and optimization takes a huge hit

  • Chris Zaharias

    I just have a few questions about this:

    1) Google is projected to do roughly $60B in revenue this year. 15% of Google’s click volume is mobile. Mobile CPCs are currently 50% lower than desktop. How much incremental revenue does Google get if 25% of AdWords customers don’t opt out of this, ahem, enhancement? 50%? 100%?

    2) When did Nick Fox abdicate his AdWords product management responsibilities to CFO Patrick Pichette?

    3) How much is GOOG up after hours?

    4) Did the DOJ know Google has 96% mobile search share? When did they know it?

  • robthespy

    “Google says its data shows that search behavior on tablets is very similar to computers…”

    Ha! Search behavior may be similar in that people type things into the search box to find results.

    Come on, man, what a load!

  • robthespy

    They may allow segmentation.

    Or you redirect to a tablet optimized site (of which I’ve seen very few). And you don’t have to lose tracking if set up correctly.

  • Phill

    Almost too easy. I do welcome the change, but I believe it’s Google’s clever way of ensuring the CPC range between desktop & mobile is removed – hence making more revenue.

    This change is also inline with the fact Mobile will overtake desktop late this year. Well played Google, well played.

  • Emma

    Well this is annoying! From my campaigns I can see that tablet and desktop behaviour is different!

    Is there a workaround to have a separate mobile campaign by bidding 100% for mobile and -100% for desktop and then vice versa for desktop only campaigns?

  • David Veldt

    I wondered the exact same thing. The wording makes it sound like you can only adjust mobile relative to desktop.

  • Matthew Marshall

    It is actually much worse than any knee-jerk reaction I have seen.

  • Matthew Marshall

    Why would you or anyone welcome this change? Nothing has been made easier. You had the same option of lumping Desktop/Tablet/Mobile into on campaign in the current release of AdWords. This update is only good for Google’s image to wall street and it will come back to bite them when the budgets get pulled due to lack of performance.

  • Stephanie Casajuana

    I find this extremely frustrating. The more Google “enhances” AdWords, the less control I have on how I manage a campaign. As someone who manages other people’s campaigns, I need the transparency to see what is and is not working. This change seems to help more of the mom and pop places that manage their own campaign and do not take the time to make sure it is working correctly. I get it, Google wants to make more money, but it makes my life harder. I hate that they are grouping tablets and desktops together. People search differently on those devices too!

  • Pat Grady

    The fewer knobs they give us, the less aggressive we can be. One big knob, we’ll turn it down a ton. Simplicity is as simplicity does.

  • Pat Grady

    Imagine you own a corvette and a minivan, and someone decides they must now share a single, shared gas pedal…

  • Pat Grady

    Aggregated Simplicity Segmented Optimization.

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  • searchengineman

    Dear Google Adwords — from my “Cold Dead Hands” are you taking
    away my device target settings.
    ———————–Petition Link Below—————————————–

    I’m surprised more advertisers are not being vocal about this?. (the big Snowstorm?)
    Google please tell us why you feel it’s best, that advertisers no longer will be able to
    exclusively target mobile users or specific devices?

    Sign the petition …and let Google Adwords know.

    Transparency and the ability to choose where/when to buy specific channels of traffic
    is critical for SEM’s with ROI and segment based campaigns. Google can’t wrap this up as an improvement package deal.

    Up here in Canada they are beginning to enforce a new law, that the big cable companies can no longer bundle (useless channels). They must give consumers the options to buy individual channels. How is this any different? Why should I be forced to buy something that I do not want?

    Please Google do the right thing for professional advertisers.
    Please provide us with an opt out. So we can put this under the bridge.

    Please sign the petition from this SEL article (To read more):

    or Link to the petition directly:

  • Pat Grady

    Mom and Pops don’t spend much, optimized managed accounts do. Make it easy for them, sure. Take away the ability to segment towards optimizing for us, not good for anyone, not even G.

  • Heather Physioc SEO

    I say this with the disclaimer that I’m not a paid search expert, I just work alongside one toward a common goal. At the end of the day, I’m all for simplifying and steamlining. I see the benefits and the flexibility and robustness that comes with this gravity of change, and on the whole I do believe this will end up being a good thing. But there are going to be some serious bumps along the way. I anticipate tighter margins for a while after this thing rolls out as we all try to get our bearings and right ourselves. I think there are a lot of people out there not bidding on mobile because they don’t have a high quality mobile presence or experience yet, and bidding on those mobile campaigns would be throwing money away without that quality mobile experience. So those kinds of folks are definitely going to be forced to adapt and adjust those campaigns quickly, or finally invest in the mobile experience. If there’s one thing that always stays the same, it’s the fact that things are gonna change. :)

  • robthespy

    You are overreacting, IMO.

    How can you be so against something for which you know very little about?

    Just calm down!

  • searchengineman

    Google Changes the rules.- and we jump thru hoops..

    –Enhanced Broad Match- (Google serves your ad on terms it thinks are relevant) – Broad Match people beware…(You can’t turn this off-use Expanded Broad Match)

    –Not-Provided is 30-40% and growing.. (touch luck)

    –Broad Match, Plurals (Hidden setting turn it off)

    ex: If I type headache = I need an Aspirin
    if I type headaches = Persistent problem
    (Same word but the intent is completely different-Google will serve both)

    –(Standard – Accelerated Ad serving) nuff said

    - 90 day Ad rotation.(only After Adwords Community begged them)

    –Annoying 15 Conversion/1month waiting time (Before Adwords willing to import a goal in the Adwords UI-via Analytics Link) -

    Most of these are just irritations-but the big companies who are testing this out in Beta are the ones screaming like Adobe, ,It’s the little SMB’s who are really going to get shafted. I respect the wait and see but once Google makes the switch, it’s going to be yet another (not provided) reminder, every day you look at your daily traffic, You can’t do anything about it. (No cancelling Adwords is not an option)

    POSTSCRIPT: Details here from Wordstream on changes

    Quote Larry Kim: …For mobile devices, you can now specify a bid adjustment between -100% and +300%. If you absolutely want to opt out of mobile (for example, suppose your company sells only desktop software that doesn’t work on mobile), then you can bid it down by -100%, which effectively turns off mobile search.

    As a result of having the new campaign bidding options for location, time of day, and device – *****all device targeting is going away.
    So it’s pretty much official you don’t get to choose.******

    end Quote

    I can’t wait to see the new Android Mobile Ads –Appearing on iPhones!

    Searchengineman (Informed and still upset)

  • robthespy

    I hear ya, man.

    I don’t blindly advocate or praise every change Google makes. But for the most part, I think they’ve done a pretty good job w Adwords (minus their horrible support). Especially if you know what you’re doing!

    So this announcement certainly interesting and something to start planning for. But I’m not going to let it bother me…..yet. ;)

  • Chris Zaharias

    Of all the SEM firm opinion pieces that have been published in the past 4-5 days, this one from SearchForce is the best IMHO, as it has actual data on the relationship between mobile site preparedness and campaign success:

  • David Vallejo

    If Google was looking to help out smaller advertisers, they should’ve made these changes to AdWords Express. This is where you’ll find less experienced individuals. Lack of granularity for bigger account owners is a nuisance. We have the expertise and resources to tweak as needed.

  • John Rampton

    I love the recap, thanks for the valuable info. Switching a few clients over… still skeptical but still, we have to do it.

  • Jerry Nordstrom

    Matthew do you mean my reaction?

  • Jerry Nordstrom

    The ability to switch to “enhanced campaigns” or wait for two months has started to appear in a large number of advertiser accounts. It would be nice to test… this all or nothing decision with very little understanding of what work will be needed to “adjust” our campaigns or the impact it could have on returns is very unsettling.

  • Claire Kuter

    Wow! big change to the way we use Adwords and run our campaigns. From what i see on here there seems to be a lot of mixed reviews. I have seen a really good article which I found really beneficial to read. Follow the link:

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