Google Rolls Out Enhanced Campaigns for AdWords

On Wednesday, Google announced what it called an upgrade to its popular AdWords advertising platform. Called “enhanced campaigns,” it’s supposed to help users “more simply and smartly” manage their ad campaigns. It might be  simpler, but some vocal observers note that it isn’t smarter.

You can read all about the new features straight from the horse’s mouth in a Google blog post. The whole idea behind enhanced campaigns is to reach users with ads that are appropriate to their time of day, location, and the capabilities of the device they happen to be using. For example, as the blog post notes, if you run a pizza restaurant and want to reach users, you might want to deliver one kind of ad to the person searching for “pizza” at one in the afternoon on their desktop at work (with a link to a menu or an order form, maybe), and another ad to someone searching for “pizza” at eight in the evening on their smartphone and about a half-mile from the restaurant (how about a click-to-call phone number and a restaurant locator?).

With Google AdWords enhanced campaigns, you’ll be able to manage these different kinds of ads all from one place, and with one campaign. “Enhanced campaigns help you reach people with the right ads, based on their context like location, time of day and device type, across all devices without having to set up and manage several separate campaigns,” Google notes. And you can adjust your bids accordingly – by bidding higher or lower based on how far away someone is, what time of day they’re searching, and on what kind of device they’re searching. “These bid adjustments can apply to all ads and all keywords in a single campaign,” Google explains. Keep that last point in mind – because it’s the root of one of the criticisms leveled at enhanced campaigns.

Pamela Parker, writing for Search Engine Land, does a great job covering the reaction to Google’s enhanced campaigns. Many advertisers like the fact that they won’t have to run multiple separate, parallel campaigns to manage these different ad contexts, as they have had to up until now. Others praised the new reporting features, that give greater and finer details to help measure the new conversion types. Parker notes that brick-and-mortar businesses, especially, will benefit from the location-specific and time-specific features of enhanced campaigns – so you can bid higher for customers physically closer to your establishment, for example or include a click-to-call phone number only during the hours that your business is open.

Unfortunately, while AdWords enhanced campaigns may make it easier for certain kinds of advertisers to run the sorts of ads that will increase their traffic, for others, it just might be a disaster. Surprisingly, for certain things, it’s not granular enough. Neil Sorenson does a great job taking apart the issue here. Enhanced campaigns groups tablets and desktops together – and for the sophisticated advertisers who have used AdWords’s device targeting features, that’s actually a major step backwards.

According to Sorenson, tablets and desktops do not convert the same way at all – to the extent that it makes no sense to group them into the same category. He noted that one of his clients boasted a conversion rate on mobile devices that was 20 percent better than their desktop rate. The client’s conversion rate on tablets, however, was 70 percent WORSE than the desktop rate! But with enhanced campaigns, the tablet/desktop is the “default” bid, and the mobile device bid is a multiplier of that bid. As Parker notes in her piece, “There’s no way to conduct a mobile-only campaign.”

Sorenson, for his part, would like to see much finer-grained control, with the ability to aim ads by type of tablet, distinguishing between iPads and Android tablets. His company sells accessories for iPhones, Android devices, iPads, and similar devices. In the year after his firm implemented device-specific campaigns on AdWords, their mobile conversion rates improved by a third, and their tablet conversion rates more than doubled. To no one’s surprise, they found that “ads targeted directly to users, while they were on their iPads, pitching iPad accessories were successful!” While Sorenson acknowledges that his business is an extreme example, he knows no one who has implemented device-specific campaigns that would agree with Google’s assessment that desktops and tablets convert similarly.

That’s not even the only issue with lumping desktops and tablets together for enhanced campaigns. Tablets are more mobile than desktops or even laptops. You may not want to show the same ad, with the same interactive features and links, to someone searching on a desktop computer as you would to someone on a tablet. Enhanced campaigns doesn’t seem to give you a choice in the matter.

Let’s finally touch on a point I mentioned earlier: that bid adjustments can apply to all ads and all keywords in a single campaign. Sorenson notes that this replaces the kind of device targeting he’s been able to do up until now. So now he can modify bids specifically for mobile devices, but only at the campaign level. “That feels a lot like giving a Band-Aid to a heart surgeon and wishing the patient a successful triple bypass,” he sarcastically observes. “What are we going to do with bid modifiers at the campaign level when actual bids are calculated at the keyword level? Workarounds? Tricks and tips to get back what we currently have? Ugh.” He doesn’t think that improving the experience for local advertisers should have to come at the cost of power advertisers losing valuable capabilities.

This, of course, is the root of the complaints from advertisers about enhanced campaigns: the loss of control, and valuable features that helped advertisers manage how and where their ads were displayed. Jeremy Hull, director of search at iProspect, observed that “This is an example of Google deciding what is best for the advertiser.” To be fair, he praised some of the other new features. But if his comments – and those of many other advertisers – are any indication, Google will get a fair bit of push-back on these “enhancements” to AdWords.

Have you tried out AdWords enhanced campaigns yet? What do you think of the changes? We’d love to hear your opinion.