June 3, 2016

Important AdWords Changes Announced

I’ve been asked a few times in the last week for my opinion on the forthcoming AdWords changes Google announced last week.

These changes matter, so let me give you a summary.

Google have been waxing lyrically for years about how we are all supposed to spend 27 hours a day glued to our smart phones. The AdWords literature talks endlessly about our ‘constantly connected society’.

Grudgingly I admit there is some truth to this. I cannot walk around Sheffield any more without some cretin walking in to me because they are staring at a phone.

Mobile traffic has always worked for local businesses. If you run a sandwich shop the majority of your clicks should come from mobile devices.

Now, I’m guessing you sell something more complicated than sandwiches, and that your customers have to give buying your products more thought than what filling they would like.

This has posed most AdWords advertisers a conundrum. The majority of AdWords traffic is now mobile, but most mobile traffic isn’t too keen on reading much, filling in forms or making decisions.

In Google’s testing they found that clicks from mobile devices were more likely to lead to an in-store visit than to an online sale. Many of the people doing searches on their phone want to know where you are, what your phone number is and what time you close.

AdWords Change #1: Google Maps Ads

You will soon be able to run ads on Google maps, giving your location pin a slightly larger ‘sponsored listing’ pin. On your places listing you will also be able to run in-store promotions. Google will show these ads based on ‘user content signals’, I.e. a person’s browsing history, interests, location, time of day, rather than keywords.

It isn’t 100% clear how these new maps ads will work, but if your location is important you should spend some time today reviewing and updating your Google Maps listing. This is now managed through Google My Business (https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/business/). Make sure you link your maps listing to your AdWords account as a location extension. Seehttps://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2404182?hl=en.

Seriously, if your business has a physical location do this immediately after you finish reading.

AdWords Change #2: In-store Conversions

Never a company to do things by halfs, Google have been busy indexing the physical location of every retail premises in the world. Or at least every business they know about, which is another reason to update your My Business listing.

It will soon be possible to measure a conversion when a user with a GPS-enabled phone clicks on your ad and shows up in-store. Google say that with GPS enabled they can measure this as a conversion 99% of the time.

Reading between the lines here, Google is bending over backwards to cater to the world’s retailers. Google knows that far more money is spent in retail stores than online, yet historically retail stores have not been able to measure conversions.

AdWords Change #3: New text ad format

The format for Google’s text ads hasn’t changed since AdWords started in 2002. 25-character headline and two 35-character description lines.

This format was originally developed for right hand search ads, which no longer exist.

The new ad format will be two 30-character headlines and a single 70-character description which wraps automatically to screen size. On desktop searches you will find that both headlines sit next to each other, making the ad look more like an organic listing.

Larger ad format

Click to enlarge

Image credit: Search Engine Land. Original image

Google reported this ad format led to 20% more clicks. Which makes sense given they have almost doubled the real estate size of an ad.

Oh, this is bad news for people who rely on SEO traffic. More clicks on paid ads means less clicks on the organic listings. If you are still having the ‘SEO vs PPC’ debate it really is time to stop and do both.

When the new ad format comes out there will be a race to re-write your ads. Some of your competitors will sleep at the wheel on this. Hint hint hint.

AdWords Change #4: Similar Audiences for Search

This is slightly more complex, so bear with me.

In 2012 Google introduced Remarketing for Search, formally known as ‘Remarketing lists for search ads’ (RLSA). RLSA allows you to layer keyword targeting with remarketing audiences.

A shoes retailer for example could target the keywords ‘shoes’ on broad match, but choose to only target people who visited his website in the last 30 days.

I love RLSA, but it only really works if you have a large amount of website traffic (say over 10,000 unique visitors a month). RLSA leads to high click through rates and lower cost per clicks, but remarketing audience size becomes the constraining factor.

Similar Audiences for Search is similar to RLSA in that we can overlay keyword targeting with demographic or interest information.

Our shoe retailer for example could target the keyword ‘shoes’ on broad match, but specify he is only interested in women aged over 30. Or women over 30 who are interested in clothes.

Rather than targeting people who actually did visit your website, Similar Audiences for Search allows you to target people who Google thinks should have visited your website. In effect we are widening the net.

I believe RLSA is AdWords’ most under-used feature. When Similar Audiences for Search shows up it will make this type of targeting available to all advertisers, regardless of your remarketing list size.

I also predict a big delay on uptake. It will take many of your competitors years to understand what has happened. (Hint hint hint).

These changes will appear in your AdWords account in the next few months. I suggest you trial them.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.