Google Enhanced Campaigns | Don’t Believe the Hype

If you are in the online marketing community and haven’t heard of Google’s new Enhanced Campaigns that will be rolled out in Beta shortly to a few “lucky” marketers and then to everyone around the June timeframe you have likely been in a coma or are living under a rock (if you actually just woke up from a coma, I apologize).

Now, I will say that when something big like this rolls out I usually don’t post about it. With Enhanced Campaigns, however, it really hits close to home and my need to rant a little has superseded my desire to be a herd animal, so here we are…

What are Enhanced Campaigns?

What Google says:

According to the official Google adWords Blog Enhanced Campaigns will give marketers the ability to bid on multiple devices more easily by allowing for segmented bidding from within a single campaign. According to the Goog, users are utilizing multiple touch points when making purchasing decisions and are moving seamlessly between devices. They even offered a snazzy slideshow and infographic to show how this is happening:

Google's New Multi-Screen World infographic

While this is all true, if you think for a moment that Enhanced Campaigns is some altruistic present from the search giant you are sadly mistaken.

What I think:

I’ve said it before, and I will never stop saying it; Google likes to make money. While they insist that these “upgrades” are going to make life easier for the average marketer, Enhanced Campaigns are going to make bidding across multiple platforms a lot more wonky & will drive up the CPCs on mobile devices unless you really spend some time making your campaigns awesome.

Oh, and if your campaigns are already awesome, get ready to start from scratch on many fronts (specifically mobile & tablet).

All that said, Enhanced Campaigns do offer quite a few niceties that add a little sugar to the meds. Here are my thoughts on the goods and the crap that are coming our way in the near future (Believe it or not, I am a glass half full kind of guy (my Buddha nature almost requires it :) :

The Awesome

  1. Sitelinks at the adGroup Level (And Enhanced Reporting) – This is actually how my Google reps actually sold me on the whole Enhanced Campaigns last week on a call (they knew that adGroup level sitelinks was something I have been jonesing for for quite some time. Not only is Enhanced campaigns going to allow for the addition of sitelinks at the adGroup level (so you no longer have to break out individual campaigns), but it will also allow marketers the ability to see individual sitelink performance for improved optimization. There is literally nothing bad about this. Nothing.
  2. Location-Based Bidding – This feature is just basically awesome. In a nutshell, you will be allowed to increase or decrease your bids based on locations you enter manually or by linking to your Google + account. This will be especially cool for those who have more sales coming from a particular area or local businesses that would like to stagger bids based on how far the searcher is from your location.
  3. Extension Scheduling – Only looking to run certain sitelinks or promotions at certain times of the day? You’ll soon be able to. ‘Nuff said.

The Bad

  1. Contextual Ad Placement – This will allow you to place ads separately across devices based on how and on what the user is searching. I’ve seen a lot of people posting goodness about this feature, but I am not sold. Basically, you are allowing Google to decide which ads to show your potential visitors based on what they determine in their algorithms. First, you can already do this by breaking out your campaigns into mobile only. Second, you are leaving this up to Google, as if they understand your businesses and customers better than you do. They think they do. They tell you they do. If they actually do, however, you need to re-evaluate what you do for a living.
  2. Say Goodbye to Tablet Bidding – This literally blew my mind. According to Search Engine Land, “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.” I am calling COMPLETE BULLSHIT on this one. When I attended a Google Learn event late last year, Google repeatedly drilled into us the need to break out mobile and tablet due to the performance differences. AND THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE! Not only is traffic distribution different (as seen in the image below), but tablets tend to have higher click-through-rates and conversion rates
  3. Percent Based Mobile Bids – Seriously. With the new platform, all mobile traffic will be bid from the same campaign as the new (improved?!) desktop/tablet segments by increasing the bids or decreasing the bids by X% compared to the standard desktop/tablet bid. Sure, if you do not want to bid on a keyword in mobile, you can simply drop the percent to 0% and call it a day. But, what if you want to bid a term on mobile only? The biggest problem here is the inability to NOT bid on a keyword on the desktop if you want to bid on it with mobile (Google knows that search behavior is way different). Shorter key terms that may not perform on desktops can do better with mobile based on search behavior. But hey, who needs that, right?
  4. Addition of Phone Revenues and Store Revenues – This isn’t necessarily bad, but Google has been talking about this for years. While it would be cool, I really don’t see how they plan to do this and make it accurate.

Reactions

Enhanced campaigns have likely garnered some of the strongest reactions I have seen from the paid search community. While there were a few positive reactions, I am of the opinion Google pays certain people off to say nice things when they do something crazy. That said, here are some of my favorites from today:

If they are going to start naming updates, I suggest going with fruits or vegetables.

The above is totally true.

There absolutely will be workarounds, and the smart ones out there will find them. The problem is we really shouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense in the first place.

Google knows what they are doing. It is no secret that mobile traffic is becoming a bigger and bigger part of search and that average CPCs for mobile are much lower than desktops. The cynical side of me sees nothing but a company looking to make a buck and banking on the fact that most people will be either too lazy or not educated enough to make the appropriate changes to their accounts to make things work the way they should.

Google recently did the same thing with product listing ads (PLAs). They disguised a money-making scheme behind a veil of “improvement”. Not much has changed in Google shopping except people are now paying for traffic that used to be free. Sure, PLAs are nice, but from what I have seen, and what others are saying, PLAs are stealing a lot of traffic from traditional search with their shiny objects in the upper right corner of your search results.

I also wonder about 3rd party management systems. Every one of them will now have to update their systems in order for this all to work smoothly. How long will that take? Who knows, but it won’t be tomorrow. My best guess is months. I see a lot of people having to de-sync their management systems until upgrades are made.

Bottom line, Google is basically trying to make adWords for Idiots…and idiots probably shouldn’t use adWords in the first place.

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