co-authored with Ron Hutchison
Since Google's announcement of the new AdWords Enhanced Campaigns, the PPC world has been buzzing with thoughts, opinions, and even a few petitions relating to the impact that Enhanced Campaigns is going to have on campaign managers.
Let's take a few minutes to cut through the noise, and look at exactly what changes are coming, and what they mean for you and your accounts.
Why Is This Happening?
According to the official documentation from Google:
"Google AdWords introduces enhanced campaigns to make it easier for advertisers to promote marketing messages based on people's context like their location, the device they are using and the time of day - all within a single campaign."
"People are constantly switching between devices, using the one that works best for where they are and what they are doing. This makes it important for marketers to focus on reaching the right audience in the right context, rather than just targeting a specific device."
-- Upgrading to Enhanced Campaigns, Google Adwords, PDF
What Are The Key Changes?
- Elimination of device-specific campaigns, and the consolidation of desktop & tablet devices.
Enhanced Campaigns have been designed to allow marketers to target all devices via a single campaign. Desktop and tablet devices will now be treated as a single device, and mobile-specific nuances (such as bidding and ad copy) will be managed by different settings.
- Introduction of context-specific bidding multipliers While traditional campaigns have allowed managers to schedule bidding multipliers based on time and day, Enhanced Campaigns introduces the ability to set bid multipliers based on device (desktop/tablet versus mobile), and location. Multiple bidding multipliers can be applied to a given keyword auction - this opens the door very specific bidding (think about bidding on "Toronto seafood restaurant" - how much more would you pay for that click if it's 6:30 on a Friday night, and you know the searcher is less than a kilometer away and performing the search on their mobile device?
- Increased control over ad extensions
As part of this roll-out, Google is also introducing some enhancements to the Sitelinks, Cal,l, and App Extensions, which can now be set at the ad group level (previously, these only applied at the campaign level). Extensions can also be specified as being mobile-specific.
Each Sitelink (link text + URL) will be treated independently - managers can now see performance at the individual link level, and approvals will also be at the individual level (this means the end of having your entire extension disapproved due to one URL or link text). Sitelinks can now also be edited without losing historical performance data.
- Introduction of new conversion points
As part of the rollout, Google has also announced the addition of new conversion types, which include:
- Digital downloads (books, apps, and music)
- In-store purchases (via the redemption of saved offers)
- Cross-device conversion tracking (tracking of conversions that start on one device and end on another)
There isn't much information available on these new conversion types yet (other than that they've been marked as Coming Soon) but managers should be excited about the prospect of more detailed and holistic conversion tracking.
A change of this magnitude also comes with some fairly significant challenges and concerns that will apply to most PPC accounts.
- Loss of control over mobile campaign management While Enhanced Campaigns will bring some exciting new tools and features to AdWords, it comes at a fairly significant cost. Based on how we interpret the changes, managers will no longer have control over specific bids for keywords on mobile devices; instead, mobile bids will be calculated by applying a multiplier to the desktop bid. This will make bidding for position difficult and/or potentially impossible, and also present significant challenges for conversion optimization at the keyword level on mobile devices.
- Impact on mobile CPCs and overall CPAs
With mobile bidding now moving to a multiplier-based system (versus a straight bid system), there is a very real possibility that mobile CPCs will drastically increase. Unless the overwhelming majority of managers assign a negative multiplier, decreasing the mobile bid relative to its desktop counterpart, costs are going to increase (if your competition does not assign a negative multiplier, or worse, assigns a positive multiplier to their mobile bids, you'll be facing some tough decisions).
From a conversion standpoint, you will likely also see a variation in your CPA figures. Depending on how your account performs, this could be an increase or a decrease, based on how your traffic currently breaks down.
- Migration process
Existing campaigns will all need to be migrated to the new campaign type by mid-2013. In cases where campaigns have been segmented by device (eg. Plumbers - Desktop and Plumbers - Mobile) the old campaigns will need to be merged into a new, single "enhanced" campaign. Google has released a guide to help with this process, but in short, managers will need to specify which campaign is the primary campaign, and which campaign is the secondary campaign.
Post-merge, only history and statistics from the primary campaign will be retained in the new campaign (data from the secondary campaign will be available for reporting purposes, but will not be considered a part of the history of the new campaign). The primary campaign should be carefully selected - be sure to consider the history, statistics, and scope of each campaign before making a final decision.
You can read more about the migration process in the official documentation  from Google.
Other Interesting Notes
Google dropped some interesting points and hints throughout the materials available relating to Enhanced Campaigns:
- We can expect a new version of AdWords Editor to be released (and ready for Enhanced Campaigns) by the end of February
- There will be a "mobile" flag at the ad level, that will specify which ads should be served to mobile devices
- You can opt out of show ads on mobile devices by applying a -100% multiplier to those devices
- Phone numbers in ad copy will now result in ads being disapproved (Google wants to drive users towards Call extensions)
The ability to roll a searcher's location, device, and time of the search into different bid multipliers (and have different sets of multipliers applied to a campaign) is an interesting change that will allow managers to continue to improve the relevancy of their campaigns and deliver targeted offers to users in specific situations.
However, the inability to fully and independently manage mobile campaigns (and potential for increased costs associated with rolling mobile campaigns into campaigns with desktop/tablet devices) is a major loss for every campaign manager that has invested time and energy into building out and optimizing their mobile campaigns. With the consolidation of all devices, the threat of rising costs is very real, and should pose a major concern to campaign managers. A big part of this will depend on Google's default and suggested bid multiplier settings for mobile devices - a recommended setting of anything other than a negative multiplier setting (to decease mobile bids) will result in inflation of mobile costs in comparison to today's values.
While most of the content circulating around Enhanced Campaigns is based on a handful of source documents and AdWords support articles, it seems that the changes are inevitable, and will be quite drastic. Unless Google changes course over the next few weeks, it is safe to say that PPC is facing one of the biggest shifts in the AdWords landscape in recent years.