I’ll save you some (well, a lot of) time by cutting through the noise and covering the top-four most impactful changes of 2013.
1) Enhanced Campaigns: Smarter and More Effective Mobile
The surprise transition to Enhanced Campaigns, an update designed to make mobile advertising simpler to implement, was the number-one change on every marketer’s mind, thanks not only to the impact of the new features, but the sheer scale -- Enhanced Campaigns affects everyone with an AdWords account. What changed?
Google matches an ad to the device being used to perform the search, giving much-needed user context to ads. I wrote about the importance of user context here at HubSpot in June -- considering the time, location, and device of the searcher allows for better ad messaging. Within one campaign, advertisers can deliver desktop and mobile ads in intelligent and relevant ways.
New Bidding Options
Enhanced Campaigns also made it possible for advertisers to bid more or less for clicks based on the time, location and device from where a search originated from without having to create different campaigns.
The shift to Enhanced Campaigns brought with it much change, including the retirement of tablet targeting options, the addition of a mobile advertising conversion type, and the death of mobile-call reporting fees. For more on that, see our Enhanced Campaigns FAQ.
Enhanced Campaigns caused quite a stir and sucked up most of the time and attention -- but it was just one of thousands of big AdWords updates in 2013!
2) Updated Ad Rank Algorithm
This is a change every advertiser should have on their radar. Ad Rank itself is not new -- it’s the formula Google uses to determine ad placement and rank on a search results page and is also a factor in your cost-per-click (not your Max Bid, but the actual cost you pay).
Ad Rank used to multiply the maximum you were willing to pay by your Quality Score, then rank ads in descending order based on that information. However, they also use Ad Rank to determine the CPC of your closest competitor -- and in turn, use your closest competitor’s Ad Rank to help determine your CPC. This is the magic of the live auction.
Now, Ad Rank will also consider whether Google anticipates any positive impact from the usage of Ad Extensions and formats. This is a massive change for advertisers, as using Ad Extensions can now help improve ad positioning and lower CPCs. On the other hand, if close competitors are using them and you aren’t, that benefit can go entirely the other way.
Recommendation: Take advantage of Ad Extensions (such as Review Extensions, Image Ad Extensions, Click-to-Call Extensions, etc.) and work on your Quality Scores to see maximum benefit from the new Ad Rank formula.
3) Enhanced Ad Sitelinks
Changes to Ad Extensions included the expansion of sitelinks, which now give advertisers far greater control over the appearance of their ads. Google reports that ads with sitelinks have 30% higher CTRs, on average, so this update could have huge impact for you.
Sitelinks can give you a much greater chunk of real estate on the search results page, but also help searchers find more relevant content and deals on your site. Now, they can be set at the Ad Group level, meaning you don’t need to create a new campaign for each sitelinks optimization.
Top-performing sitelinks can be replicated across campaigns or ad groups, so long as they point to a different URL. Google also made changes to how sitelinks are measured -- see the Complete Guide to Enhanced Sitelinks for details.
Recommendation: Improve your Quality Score to maximize the chance of having sitelinks displayed. Make the most of top positioning with the additional real estate sitelinks provide.
4) Dynamic Remarketing
Google Merchant Center users can use dynamic remarketing to target potential customers with relevant messaging based on their previous on-site actions, without having to set up a new audience segment or ad for every single product. This is a great tool for larger retailers who want to get back in front of a customer who didn’t complete a purchase.
Dynamic remarketing uses the creative you already have at your disposal. For example, it can pull images, descriptions and prices from your online catalogue and use that to generate ads. You still retain a considerable amount of control over your ads, as illustrated above. After assigning audiences, you have over 15 dynamic ad formats at your disposal.
Recommendation: Use your internal data to inform audience segments and the types of information that will be most appealing to them. Bid more aggressively on those who were further in the buying cycle (i.e. people who abandoned a cart).
What’s Next for AdWords in 2014?
Again, these were just a few of the most impactful updates to AdWords this year, out of the dozens of announcements Google made each month. Given the fast growth in mobile and multi-screen interactions, and Google’s constant need to grow revenues, I expect to see even more updates in 2014.
What AdWords changes do you hope to see in 2014? Share your wish list in the comments.