The Enhanced Campaigns Waiting Game

Like many of my fellow PPC colleagues, I feel uneasy about the impending move to Enhanced Campaigns and the lurking cutover deadline of July 22nd.

Should we convert now and get it over with? Should we run a few tests with our smaller, simpler accounts? Should we abandon tightly-crafted, geo-segmented campaigns in favor of the new geo-bidding options within Enhanced Campaigns?

Or, do we wait? Do we keep reading articles like this one, hoping to find guidance, when what we really want to find is some secret AdWords hack that lets us keep targeting tablets and bidding on mobile keywords like we’ve always done? That’s hoping against hope, of course, because it is very clear that Google is taking us all on a one-way trip to the Enhanced Campaign (EC) Universe in July.

My Advice On Enhanced Campaigns: Wait

A few weeks ago, down at Hero CONF in Austin, TX, I suggested that all PPC managers should all wait until midnight on July 21st before cutting over to ECs as a form of protest. It’s the same sort of feckless protest I make once a year by placing my tax return in the post office mailbox just before the stroke of midnight on April 15th.

I was only half-joking about the EC protest movement; but, I am one hundred percent serious with my recommendation that we all wait as long as possible before doing our EC conversions. Why? Two reasons.

First, the engineering work is not done yet. Google effectively acknowledged this by pushing back the conversion deadline date by one month (so far) and announcing one major platform change (so far) to the way mobile device bidding works.

Perhaps we were supposed to receive the relaxed deadline and ad group mobile bid function as great news, but we didn’t. Great news would have been rolling the bidding feature back to the keyword level, where it has lived for the last decade.

Setting mobile bids at the campaign level as a percentage of desktop bids was one of the most hare-brained ideas ever to come out of the AdWords engineering group. With so many brilliant features coming out of the AdWords development team day in and day out, how did a feature like this ever see the light of day in the first place?

Who knows what other changes Google will announce in the lead up to July 22nd? Will they relent on the restriction from bidding on mobile devices only? If Google continues to be unpredictable about rolling out and rolling back platform changes, then the only sensible thing for us to do is wait and give them more time to figure things out. Otherwise, we risk having to undo the restructuring we’ve already done when they change their minds once again.

I asked Paul Feng, Google’s Product Manager, given the enormity of the project, why the hurried deadlines? His answer was very reasonable from a corporate point of view.

According to Feng, it would be very difficult to develop a new AdWords platform while also maintaining the existing one. Managing two parallel development efforts, one to sustain AdWords and one to rebuild AdWords from the ground up, would be difficult, time-consuming and very costly to Google. So, they calculated that the lesser of the two development evils was to get the new AdWords up and running as quickly as possible and to move as rapidly as possible to abandon the existing one.

Google was aware that this approach was going to be controversial and disruptive to advertisers in the short term, and this was part of their calculus. That would explain their big PR push to sell the idea when it was first announced in February. The decision to move quickly, he suggested, was analogous to taking off a band-aid. You can try to peel it off slowly and minimize the pain, or you can rip it off quickly and get it over with.

Fair enough. However, rebuilding AdWords in situ can’t be much less of a technical challenge or less risky. With only one development path, any misstep by the development team doesn’t just impact Google’s development schedule, it impacts every advertiser and third-party tool vendor in the world.

A separate development path might have been more costly and time-consuming for Google, but that’s nothing compared to the business disruptions and associated costs borne by us advertisers to restructure accounts and develop new bid and targeting tactics — and by third-party tool vendors scrambling to rewrite code — against the moving target of Enhanced Campaigns.

I am willing to bet that for every $1 Google has spent on EC development, advertisers and vendors are spending at least $100K-$500K in aggregate.

But I digress from my point. The point is that Google will do what Google will do when Google decides to do it; and so, it’s a good idea to wait to let Enhanced Campaigns mature, if even for just another month or two.

The second reason I recommend waiting to convert is that Enhanced Campaigns are sure to change the economics of advertising on Google.

There’s been plenty already written about this topic in the trade press; but, the reality is that Google’s decisions to get rid of device targeting options and downgrade mobile device bidding options will negatively impact — or completely wipe out — the feasibility of advertising on Google’s networks for advertisers who rely on targeting of specific mobile devices, networks and O/S, or vastly different tablet device bids.

For advertisers who rely on the ability to target mobile devices, networks and O/S, or need to bid tablets differently, Enhanced Campaigns will diminish or completely wipe out the advantage of advertising on Google. For these advertisers, the waiting game is also the end game. They’ll keep their campaigns online until Google does its automatic rollover to ECs, and then, they’ll turn them off and find new places to invest their advertising budget.

Google appears willing to write off that set of advertisers. Their bet is that Enhanced Campaigns are in the best long-term interest of their shareholders. From stock movements, it appears true, and investors apparently agree, if you take a look at this simple timeline I put together.

Enhanced Campaigns Timeline

Investors seem hot on what Enhanced Campaigns will do for Google’s bottom line. Many advertisers are hot about, too, about what Enhanced Campaigns will do to their bottom line.

What Do We Know About Enhanced Campaigns So Far?

At this point, I have only converted a few select client campaigns over to enhanced campaigns. These were B2B industrial accounts with no fancy geo-targeting and no significant reliance on mobile or tablet traffic.

The conversion went quickly and smoothly because no merging was needed. All I did was convert them over and set the mobile bid multiplier to -100% and implement ad group level site links. Some campaigns were running with CPC, and some were running CPA bidding. We kept these options in place to see if rolling over to ECs would cause any problems for the automatic CPA bidding algorithms, and we were prepared to reset to CPC if so.

Here’s what we’ve observed so far, after four weeks of post-conversion data:

  1. The CPA algorithms seemed to handle the conversion without incident.
  2. We are now getting 4-5% of our clicks from tablets, which we know for these clients have a conversion rate close to zero. We estimate that tablet clicks have increased our ad spend by 2-3% non-productively.
  3. Ad group level site links have had a positive impact on click-through rate and have increased traffic and conversions, essentially offsetting the 2-3% “surcharge” from tablet clicks.

So, for this small set of clients, for whom we were expecting no significant change with Enhanced Campaigns, we are actually quite relieved that account performance did not suffer and will take performance neutral as a win. We are not as optimistic about some of our other accounts where tablet traffic is more significant and has different conversion characteristics than desktops.

While You Wait, Spend More Time On Bing

I wonder how much of Google’s strategic consideration in rushing Enhanced Campaigns to market was to force advertisers to spend more of their working hours on AdWords issues for the next few months. After all, every hour spent having to keep up with Google’s changes is an hour that can’t be spent on Bing Ads.

I’m not a big one on conspiracy theories, but I get the sneaking suspicion that Google engineers purposely designed some of the wacky Enhanced Campaigns features specifically to slow down Microsoft’s engineering teams in their quest for total compatibility between Bing Ads and AdWords.

In case you missed it, Microsoft has been working fast and furiously to make it easy as pie for AdWords advertisers to port to Bing Ads, where by just about everybody’s estimates, CPAs are, and always have been, more favorable than on AdWords.

My advice to all advertisers is to take a fresh look at Bing Ads, and dedicate more of your time and your ad spend to optimize for Bing and Yahoo paid search traffic. If you are not getting between 20-25% of your traffic and conversions from Bing, there is a good chance you have plenty of opportunity there. And, since CPAs on Bing Ads have always been lower than on Google, you should absolutely consider optimizing your Bing Ad spend before you chase more traffic on Google.

And, of course, you can continue to target devices, bid on mobile keywords directly, etc., over the features that Google’s Enhanced Campaign simplification efforts have either complicated or eliminated.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, Google’s going to do what it wants to do, and while it is a fact of life that we all have to pay attention and make the appropriate changes to our accounts, we can also look at other options for our advertising investments.

Next month at SMX Advanced, we’ll be taking a more in depth look at how Enhanced Campaigns are performing, and we have an entire panel devoted to new best practices. Brad Geddes, Jeff Allen, Kevin Lee and Ben Vigneron will share their data, experiences, and new, evolving best practices for managing enhanced campaigns. If you haven’t already registered, do it soon. SMX Advanced is nearly sold out as of this column’s date.

Next month, I’ll start a multi-part series on optimizing for Bing Ads, where we’ll look at all the issues of creating, managing and optimizing your ad spend to get the most from Yahoo and Bing search networks.

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

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

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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.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | LinkedIn



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  • Pat Grady

    The EC migration tool just came out, proving your “procrastination pays” point, again!

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

    Right on, Pat.

  • http://twitter.com/Koozai_Ollie Oliver Ewbank

    Nice post. I think migrating smaller accounts to start with is a good plan. Google now have a specialist merge team which can also assist you with the process.

  • Adrian Huth

    We need to all be vocal to allow us a greater bid decrease modifier then 100%. Keep letting reps know and Google people at conferences that we see through the baloney that this is an improvement over the old way of targeting and we will be shifting our advertisers ROI to other platforms as the clients will not stand for a decrease in ROI. At best we will lower bids across the board to make up for the ROI decrease and get what remaining volume we can get out of Google and shift the rest to other platforms.

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

    Thanks, Adrian. Agree 100% about being vocal.

    Let me add that as “money walks, money talks” too. As soon as Google sees ad spend redeployed elsewhere, changes will come more quickly.

    I’d guess Google’s next move will be to widen the mobile bid adjustment range from current (-100% to +300%) to something much wider. Hopefully they’ll do that sooner rather than later.

  • M Rhodes

    Great article Matt

    I’m interested, what’s the best work around to spoof a mobile only campaign that you’ve seen so far?

    Mike

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

    Hi Mike,
    None so far, except the obvious.

    1) create a separate mobile campaign
    2) set desktop (default) bid to lowest value to decrease likelihood of entering auction. Use largest multiplier needed to enter and win ad position in mobile kw auction.
    3) Use value track parameters to specify mobile landing pages.
    The influence of Landing Page QS may exert a small difference in auction dynamics and give preference to the same KW that lives in a different campaign.

    As soon as Google release ad group level mobile, do the same thing at ad group level, and group your most significant mobile KWs into their own mobile ad group, perhaps segmenting by largest mobile-to-desktop bid differentials.

    Second best workaround – Wait.

    My hunch is that Google will open up the bid ranges, either on a quiet, special case basis for large advertisers with dedicated account reps, or as a general feature, later on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755555254 Stuart Meyler

    Good advice. One thing I might disagree with, however, is the idea that the bid settings for Enhanced Campaigns is hare brained. On the contrary, I think it will do exactly what Google wants it to do – increase the competitiveness, and hence price, of mobile bids and vice-versa. CPC’s will escalate as a result.

    That is only a hare brained idea if you are an advertiser. If you are Google, or a Google investor, it is a great idea, particularly since most paid search advertisers are running their campaigns at very high ROI levels. Google figures they will pay more without cutting their spend because of this and they are very likely correct given the monopolistic nature of the paid search landscape gives most advertisers few other options.

  • http://twitter.com/tysonkirksey Tyson Kirksey

    Matt, you are spot on with your recommendation. I just wrote this piece on our blog with conversion rate numbers backing up our decision to wait. http://www.verticalnerve.com/blog/detail?id=284

    We are expecting many of our clients to take an ROI hit this summer, and that is unfortunate and frustrating (not to mention seems very “un-Googley”). What / how are you preparing your clients at FMF?

  • Adrian Huth

    Love your article and how you outline the tablet stats showing Google is just flat out wrong. We see the same thing and though with ipad users we sometimes see better but with other tablets much much worse. For us though we calculate a slight reduction in bids should cover the ROI loss on most clients. The biggest problem for us is accounts where we are bidding insanely high for desktop searches and the bid reduction will still put bid prices for mobile traffic way higher then the ROI can justify. This is why we plan to shift budget to bing and other platforms to make up for the volume loss as we will lose a lot of volume once we drastically reduce bids on these keywords to offset the “enhanced” ROI.

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

    I agree with you that this is likely to be beneficial to shareholders. There are other ad networks that are very very close to being able to whittle away at Google’s paid search market share. Microsoft has been nibbling away, and FB is positioned to take a big bite if they could figure out a search engine integration.

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

    Tyson – thank you for sharing that data. Vivid and Compelling.
    We are planning to watch mobile CPC like a hawk this summer. Early adopters are likely to make reasoned mobile bid adjustments, even if they don’t get it all right. Hard to say what will happen on automatic rollovers. I’d suppose the inert advertisers may be igorantly bidding on mobile now, in which case, the CPCs may not vary as wildly as some people are projecting. It’s a big unknown.
    We’re telling clients what I just wrote about. We’re studying, waiting, and creating draft models for new campaign structures to lay in when we’re ready. Ad group site links is the one pece of candy that helps the bitter EC pill go down.

  • http://twitter.com/SusanEDub Susan Wenograd

    Ah, one of my two favorite dudes from HeroConf! (Incidentally, my other was from Bing!) :)

    So, so well-written, Matt. I just had a conversation yesterday where the client is so happy with Mobile results in AdWords they wanted to do a bunch of stuff that we really won’t be able to do accurately after July. It was a very uncomfortable conversation. Thanks, Google.

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

    Glad you enjoyed it, Susan, thank you so much for letting me know!

    The easiest adjustment for Google to make at this point would be to widen +/- mobile bid range – I’ve got to believe its there. Hound your Google rep for it – and let me know how it goes…

  • Kostas A

    Great article, we are continuously pushing client budgets to Bing.

  • http://twitter.com/SusanEDub Susan Wenograd

    Will do. I keep hoping if I whine and stamp my feet enough they’ll give in just to shut me up. :)

 

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