Workarounds To Make Enhanced Campaigns More Flexible

Last week at SMX West, I was on the “SEM Best Practices Debate” panel. Several of the topics we debated were related to Enhanced Campaigns, clearly something on the minds of search marketers these days. This month, I’ll recap a few take-aways from the event and share some ideas for workarounds and automation that may make your transition to Enhanced Campaigns a bit easier.

Does It Make Sense To Target Tablets & Desktops In The Same Campaign?

This debate topic was a tongue-in-cheek jab at Enhanced Campaigns which make the answer largely irrelevant since splitting out desktops and tablets into separate campaigns is no longer possible. Google has said that tablets and desktops should be treated the same. But what did the panelists have to say?

The majority of the panel agreed that combining tablets and desktops is not completely crazy because while there still is a clear distinction between the devices, it is shrinking by the day.

Case in point: all the people in the session were using new PCs running Windows 8 that can be physically reconfigured into either a laptop or a tablet. In this case, it’s the same device, and the main difference is in how the screen is used. If the user was using it as a tablet to do research and then wanted to convert it to a laptop to make a purchase, all they would need to do is flip the screen.

This raised the point that rather than targeting tablets and desktops where the experience may be converging, it might make more sense to be able to target based on the screen size of the device. We can all dream that this form of segmentation will come to AdWords, right?

In my own experience, I have seen the results on tablets vary wildly; sometimes they outperform the desktop and sometimes they underperform. So, while I’d rather still be able to set separate bids for tablets, I do agree that having the same ads will not necessarily make my results worse.

Workarounds For Targeting Tablet Devices In Enhanced Campaigns

It may still be desirable to show a different landing page to tablet users, which luckily doesn’t require making a separate ad for tablets. Instead, detect tablet devices on your landing page and then customize the experience by suggesting the user download your app or use a tablet-optimized version of your site.

One of the easiest ways to determine whether someone who clicked an ad was using a desktop, tablet or mobile is to use the {device} ValueTrack parameter. You can append this to your destination URL, and then Google will replace it with either ‘m’ for mobile, ‘t’ for tablet, or ‘c’ for computer. Based on that, you can vary up the content of your landing page.

ValueTrack To Identify Mobile Visitors

Some ValueTrack parameters as described in the AdWords Help Center

And, if you’re concerned like me that bids should take the device type into consideration, you can still use Google’s Conversion Optimizer or Enhanced CPC, which will raise and lower bids automatically based on the expected likelihood of a conversion considering the particular details of the click, including: time, location, other words in the query, and device. Even if you use your own bid management technology, Enhanced CPC can be used as a layer on top of that.

How Significant Is The Loss Of Mobile Device & Carrier Targeting?

While Enhanced Campaigns still allow advertisers to use a different ad text and landing page when their ads appear on mobile phones, the ability to target to specific devices (e.g., iPhone vs. Nexus 4) and to target different carriers (e.g., AT&T vs. T-Mobile) is now completely gone.

Considering that Google’s own Analytics Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik’s, says, “All data in aggregate is ‘crap’,” to make the point that online marketing success is highly dependent on smart segmentation that leads to actionable insights, it’s a shame that these layers of segmentation have been taken away from advertisers.

Device and carrier targeting were reasonable substitutes for demographic targeting, something not offered for AdWords search ads. For example, you could venture that iPhone users are more likely early adopters than BlackBerry users, and AT&T subscribers probably have higher incomes than Boost subscribers. I once met a locksmith who told me he had tremendous success targeting ads for the keyword ‘lost keys’ to iPhones because those users were more likely to pay his higher fee for rush service.

Workaround For Device Targeting

It’s not a complete solution, but just like in the tablet example, it’s possible to use ValueTrack to at least change up your landing pages based on the device. In this case, use the {devicemodel} parameter in your destination URL so that Google will pass the type of device on to your website. For example, they would replace {devicemodel} with “Apple+iPhone.”

Can We Run Successful Campaigns With A Single Bid Multiplier For All Ads In A Campaign?

Unfortunately, our panel ran out of time and this wasn’t discussed, but I have no doubt everyone would have argued that one bid multiplier is simply not enough for sophisticated advertisers. I would have argued that this is inadequate control because a campaign can contain keywords associated with different stages of the conversion funnel, and each stage may have different results.

Here’s an example: I find myself more inclined to do early research for a purchase on my mobile phone, but use my laptop when I’m ready to buy. For an advertiser targeting me, upper funnel keywords would be more valuable on mobile devices than lower funnel keywords. Of course, if your business is local in nature, it may be the exact opposite. You may value a search more from someone showrooming on their mobile phone than someone just starting their research on their home computer.

But, regardless of what applies to your business, my argument is that there is a wide spectrum of intents behind different keywords, and it would be better to allow advertisers to set multiple mobile bid multipliers within campaigns.

Workaround For Setting Multiple Mobile Bid Multipliers

I’ve heard two solutions for setting more granular mobile bids using Enhanced Campaigns.

Enhanced Campaigns Bid Strategies

Two possible ways to structure Enhanced Campaigns to preserve more granular mobile bids.

Solution 1: Duplicate Campaigns

The first workaround is to create 2 campaigns that contain all keywords, one called ‘Mobile,’ the other, ‘Desktop.’ By setting all bids in the ‘Mobile’ campaign lower, the ‘Desktop’ campaign’s higher bids should cause it to serve all the ads for desktops and tablets.

Then, by setting the mobile multiplier of the ‘Desktop’ campaign to -100%, all mobile ads will be served by the ‘Mobile’ campaign. Now, you can vary bids for every keyword in the mobile campaign to determine mobile bids. You can use a mobile bid multiplier in this campaign if you need mobile bids to sometimes exceed desktop bids.

The challenge with this setup is that you need to make sure that your base bids in the ‘Mobile’ campaign always stay lower than the bids in the ‘Desktop’ campaign.

Solution 2: Tiered Campaigns

In the second workaround, you create several campaigns with different mobile bid multipliers, and then assign keywords to the campaign whose bid multiplier most closely matches your needs. I prefer this method because it’s a little simpler to maintain in the long run, if you’re okay assuming that conversion rate differences between desktop and mobile will remain relatively consistent for the same keywords.

To put this into practice, download your entire keyword list and compare the current desktop bid to the mobile bid. You’ll probably find that you can now group the keywords into a handful of ‘buckets,’ e.g., 0 to 20% lower mobile bid, 20 to 30% lower mobile bid, and 30 to 60% lower mobile bid. Based on these buckets, create campaigns with the desired mobile multiplier, e.g., -20%, -30% and -60%. Then, move the keywords to the correct new campaigns.

Now, when you change the bid for a keyword, you don’t need to worry about accidentally shifting impressions to a parallel campaign where the same keyword has a higher bid and ad rank.

This process can be tedious, but as I’ve explained in my previous two posts, AdWords Scripts can come to the rescue to automate this task.

Use Big Data To Improve Your Account By Setting Location Bid Multipliers

While we’ve lost segmentation for tablets, mobile devices and carriers, there is good news, too, in that we’ve gained a simplification in how we can segment for locations.

In the SMX session on Big Data, Kevin Lee gave the example that location is a big data signal that can be used to set better bids. In the past, that would have required creating separate campaigns for every region, but now, it can be done with a location bid multiplier in the settings of Enhanced Campaigns.

Setting these location multipliers through the AdWords interface is fine if you only have a few campaigns, but when you have hundreds, consider using the AdWords Editor, where the just released version 10 now supports copy-and-paste of location bid multipliers between campaigns.

Automate Merging Campaigns

Google makes it sound very easy to merge campaigns in their documentation for switching to Enhanced Campaigns. But, if you’ve followed their previous recommended best practice for mobile ads, which was to maintain a separate campaign for mobile ads so that you could set separate bids, run different ad texts and use landing pages designed specifically for mobile devices, your campaigns may no longer look like duplicates, and you may find yourself facing a long slough to get the upgrade done.

If your mobile campaign is no longer a simple copy of the structure of your desktop campaign merging is not a simple matter of combining ad groups with the same name, but it’s now a matter of figuring out which ad groups are similar and could be merged together.

This is another instance where AdWords Scripts can really help with automating a tedious task. Let’s assume for a moment that you will merge everything from a campaign called ‘Mobile’ into a campaign called ‘Desktop.’

You could write a script that goes through every keyword in ‘Mobile’ and finds the equivalent ad group in ‘Desktop’ by looking for the ad group name that contains the keyword. It could then write the ad text from ‘Mobile’ and the ad group name from ‘Desktop’ to a spreadsheet, giving you the basis for a spreadsheet you could upload through AdWords Editor to move all your ad texts to the right location.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Enterprise SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: AdWords: Enhanced Campaigns


About The Author: is the founder and Chief Marketing Technologist of Top Tier Marketing, an online marketing agency specializing in AdWords. He is also the Cofounder of Optmyzr, an AdWords tool company that makes account management more efficient. Prior to forming Top Tier, Vallaeys spent 10 years building AdWords and teaching advertisers how to get the most out of it as the Google AdWords Evangelist.

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  • Jeff Collins

    Isn’t it sad that as advertisers we have to come up with workarounds in order to get the granularity we need at the mobile level when it could be, and is currently, easily available to us? I can’t believe there isn’t more of an uproar about this change. When implementing these workarounds our clients’ accounts are going to become way more disjointed and convoluted than they were when we had mobile segmented campaigns.

  • Kevin Lee

    Interestingly, at we adapted a click routing technology initially designed for landing page testing to route clicks based on device. Tat way if the advertiser doesn’t have an adaptive design site or can’t handle dynamic click routing or personalization of the user experience on the site but does have a tablet-specific site, we can route the clicks appropriately.

  • Brad Geddes

    Hi Fred,

    So one of our first enhanced campaign tests is doing the segmenting of keywords by bid multipliers trying 10% and 25% increments (so we went from one mobile campaign to about 20 in some cases). The issue isn’t the setup. The issue is trying to manage the structure post launch. Having an easy way to look at the CPA data, the current multiplier, then seeing what keywords need to switch buckets is not well supported to any software, and is very tedious in Excel. I agree its a workaround; but in some cases, its so hard – I can see where advertisers will give up trying to manage it and then Google will just see people using their system and think its all OK.

    The other issue is that CPA bidding does not do a good job of taking device into account. I did an audit recently where the company forgot to put the conversion tracking script on their mobile website, and campaign was targeted to all devices. They were still receiving 25% of all traffic to the mobile site, even though there had never been a mobile conversion in 6 months. CPA bidding works well if you are good at segmenting the data into multiple campaigns. If you don’t segment, it can still work well; but the results won’t be nearly as good as someone who did segmenting first.

    Any thoughts on how to manage keywords by bid modifier moving forward?

  • Shockley Au

    Hi Fred,

    Great post! I know that all the changes coming via Enhanced Campaigns has search marketers looking for ways to retain control of running how their campaigns run, although to be fair, there is also a lot of exciting features coming with Enhanced Campaigns.

    With regards to delivering a tablet/mobile experience to a user based on device, assuming your site isn’t responsive, would it make sense to use dynamic serving ( ) rather than a ValueTrack parameter?

    It would just be a section of code you add site-wide, and you don’t need to manually {device} tag all your destination URLs in AdWords, or set up profile filters to clean up all the ‘?device=’ from your Analytics reporting.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

  • Joseph Kerschbaum

    A question on Solution 1, Duplicate Campaigns: Can you decrease desktop/tablet campaign bid modifiers by 100% (“Then, by setting the mobile multiplier of the ‘Desktop’ campaign to -100%, all mobile ads will be served by the ‘Mobile’ campaign. “)? Therefore, with this change, you have created a mobile-only campaign? When I access this screen within AdWords, I see my mobile modifier but I don’t see a modifier for desktops. Screen shot of mobile tab:

  • Frederick Vallaeys

    Hi Shockley,

    You could definitely do dynamic serving at the page level but then you’d have to maintain a list of user agents which comes with its own set of challenges ( I guess we all just need to figure out for ourselves what level of inconvenience we’re willing to deal with in exchange for the possible benefits.

  • Frederick Vallaeys

    Hi Brad,

    You’re right that the maintenance of the extra campaigns is going to be tedious if you find that conversion rates fluctuate significantly and you need to move keywords back and forth between campaigns with different mobile bid multipliers. Have you found that you can still get good-enough results with fewer than 20 tiered campaigns? The fewer tiers you run, the less you’ll need to move keywords around but it will of course come at the cost of optimal ROI.

    I haven’t seen any of the bid management systems build support for this strategy into their tools but maybe Marin can take some of its IPO money and build this for us :-) Or for those with access to the API, they can build this themselves. And for those without the API, AW Scripts can be used to build a semi-automated solution.

  • Frederick Vallaeys

    Hi Joe,

    No, there’s not desktop bid multiplier unfortunately… The idea is to force the “Desktop” campaign to be desktop only by setting a -100% multiplier for mobile. Then by setting all the bids in the “Mobile” campaign lower than those in the “Desktop” campaign, Google would most likely only serve those ads on mobile devices since they would never outrank the equivalent keywords from the desktop campaign where all the bids are higher.

    Hope that makes sense…

  • Brad Geddes

    Hi Fred,

    For our accounts that are currently segmented by operating system and device; we’re going to lose so many conversions (our CPAs range by more than 10x (roughly $10 to $120) based upon operating system & carrier); that we want super fine control in order to see if there’s anyway not to lose too many conversions.

    We’re examining all the search query data between operating system and device to see if there are subtle differences by demographics that we can take advantage of in order not to lose too many conversions. We’ve found some already, but its a lot of comparison work.

    In those campaigns, I think we’ll end up with many tiers of bids.

    For others, its a practical matter of using 25% ranges not because we want to use such large ranges; but because of the ongoing management issue.

    We’ll probably build this reclassification function with the API; but first we need to manually bid it for a while to understand all the rules before we lay out the system specs.

    When you think of these tiers. Are you taking the CPAs, normalizing the data by device as if the adjustment wasn’t used; and then classifying the keywords into tiers for ongoing management? Or, are you taking the actual CPAs, comparing it to your target, and then reclassifying based upon current targets?

  • Adrian Huth

    talking with Google reps has sure been pleasant lately let me tell ya. I feel bad for them actually as they are now being paid to push something which the advertiser pushes right back on and now best practices become workarounds to them shoving non converting traffic down our throats. every week we basically have the same conversation now and make no progress on growing the accounts.

  • Shockley Au

    Agreed. Personally I prefer responsive web design, although that often requires rebuilding a website. New websites should be built responsive from the start, though.


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