Search engine marketing professionals have their calendars marked for July 22, 2013, when Google will update all AdWords campaigns to enhanced campaigns. This platform update is poised to change the way paid search advertisements reach customers, particularly when looking at user context and intent. The main benefit proposed by Google of the upgrade is the ability for advertisers to target potential searchers through real-time contexts—time of day, location, etc.—across a variety of search-enabled devices. While enhanced campaigns were initially introduced in February, Google has decided that a full rollout to all AdWords users will be in the best interest of both searchers and advertisers.

Advancement of New Devices and Growth of Mobile Search

While many changes to paid search platform features like bidding, delivery, and architecture come directly from the providers themselves (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.), this shift toward enhanced campaigns by Google was precipitated by advancements in technology and changes in how people search for the things they need.

As we in the search engine marketing industry continue to see, the evolution and growth of mobile search on multiple devices favors those advertisers who prepare themselves and their websites accordingly. A multitude of studies conducted in the past few years show the explosion of mobile searches, while searches on desktops continue to decline. Additionally, a study released in May 2013 by the Local Search Association found that over 37% of smartphone owners in the U.S. also own other connected mobile devices, including tablets, e-readers, and other search-enabled handheld devices.

How many screens does it take to make a purchase?

This data echoes the findings of Google’s Think Insights The New Multi-Screen World Study, published in August 2012. The study labeled the U.S. as “a nation of multi-screeners” with 90% of people using multiple screens sequentially to complete tasks over time. Google’s Think Insights study also highlighted the contextual use of various devices, which is a major component of the enhanced campaigns update.

According to the study, the particular device a person uses at a given moment is driven primarily by context—time, location, goal, attitude, etc. For example, computers were found to have a productive, task-oriented context, smartphones were utilized primarily in on-the-go situations when information needed to be accessed quickly, and tablet use was slanted heavily toward entertainment and general browsing. It would appear that this data, along with more recent user feedback, was a driving force behind the enhanced campaigns movement.

The Nuts and Bolts of Enhanced Campaigns

The recurring theme in all of the information regarding Google AdWords enhanced campaigns is “context.” Previously, reaching potential customers with specific advertisements based on a specific device, time of day, or location required a lot of work on the part of the advertiser to cover all of the potential search contexts. Enhanced campaigns are designed to simplify that process for advertisers by eliminating the need to manage several separate campaigns. Jason Spero, Google’s Global Sales Director, states, “The desire is to help marketers not have to think separately about the mobile world, and the tablet world, and the PC world.” Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior VP of Engineering, Search Ads and Shopping, continues, “The approach that many marketers have adopted is really to create different campaigns for different devices and different use cases. They would set-up a different campaign, say, for mobile high-end phones, versus one for tablets, versus one for desktops, but they would have to set up the controls differently and go through a lot of repeated work because that was the way they could really customize their intent. Enhanced campaigns are a way of adjusting your bids by location, by device type, by time of day, and this lets you reach your users in a very flexible way.”

Google’s main goal with enhanced campaigns is to display the ad that will resonate most with a searcher at a particular moment, in a particular context. Enhanced campaigns aim to accomplish this by focusing on three main areas:

  1. The necessity for multi-device marketing – Enhanced campaigns will allow advertisers to adjust bids across multiple devices, along with accounting for time of day and searcher location.
  2. Easier ad application for varying search contexts – Automatic display of the most relevant  AdWords ad extensions based on detected searcher context, including sitelinks and click-to-call phone numbers.
  3. New conversion types need advanced reporting – Better tracking and attribution capabilities to follow multiple conversion types across multiple devices.

What Enhanced Campaigns Mean for the Future of Web Advertising

Curiosity abounds over what the long-term implications will be of AdWords enhanced campaigns. George Michie believes that while this first version of enhanced campaigns will utilize very basic contextual areas like location, device, and time of day, Google’s wealth of search behavior and user data could lead to future updates in which contextual targeting expands to include demographic profiles, purchase preferences and patterns, social media interactions, and GPS information, among many others.

According to Josh Dreller, Google’s full rollout of enhanced campaigns will mark a turning point in the history of paid search, ushering in what he calls “The Mobile Era of Search.” While it remains to be seen whether Google’s desire to simplify things on behalf of advertisers will actually benefit them, or if it will simply lead to less overall control, the fact remains that well-structured campaigns and a solid collection of keywords will continue to produce good results.

For search marketers, the hope is that new contextual insights gleaned from enhanced campaigns will lead to smarter, more effective paid search campaigns further down the road.

Top right image attribution: Mobile Search designed by San Salido Martínez from The Noun Project


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