SEM: New Features for Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

This week, we saw an announcement of some new SEM features that are about to be rolled out for Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns. The last major update to Google’s flagship SEM platform was back in July, when they forced all advertisers to upgrade their AdWords to enhanced campaigns.

Of course, there was some pushback at first. Any time search marketers are forced to do anything without agreeing first, that’s part of the game. There were a number of complaints, particularly about the removal of an ability to target mobile via a separate campaign from desktop (enhanced campaigns forced SEM pros to get creative about how to target desktop and mobile in tandem).

In the end, the SEM industry generally accepted the new platform and moved on. Aside from a few small tweaks along the way, we had not seen another significant rollout until now. So let’s look at what Google has in the works for us.

Improved SEM Targeting for Apps

A key focus of the new SEM features is the App market, and the big updates are focused on the following three areas for Apps.

App Targeting Based on Interest

Through their existing work with the AdMob network, Google is now offering the ability to target app-related ads based on behavior. From what they shared, it sounds like we will be able to target display and PPC ads for new app downloads based on usage of apps that are in similar interest areas (e.g. exercise tracking users may see healthy eating apps).

Re-engagement for Installed Apps

According to Google’s blog post, 80% of apps are downloaded but used only one time before the app is removed from the phone. Harkening back to the old mantra that “it’s easier to sell to existing customers than to find new ones,” AdWords now offers the ability to advertise for your installed base to go back and use the app.

This is a great move for them. Now, when anyone searches Google for services in the local area, a related app can be advertised on the SERP to target that need. For example. Yelp, Travelocity, or a local dining app might pop up on mobile searches based on location, linking right to related content in the app.

Enhanced App Metrics

As part of the re-engagement effort, Google is also expanding how we measure the full life cycle of apps. According to the blog post linked above, you will soon be able to measure “from install to re-engagement to in-app purchases.” This is great – the more visibility we get into specific behaviors, the better we can plan out our ongoing marketing efforts.

Improved Conversion Tracking from Multi-Platform SEM Clicks

For those of you who follow SEM closely, you are already aware that Google moved from their old “Conversions (1-per-click)” and “Conversions (many-per-click)” nomenclature to “Converted Clicks” and “Estimated Total Conversions.” This was the first step in even more advanced conversion tracking on the platform.

One of the big changes behind Estimated Total Conversions was the addition of some visibility into cross-platform conversions, meaning across desktop, tablet, and/or mobile phone devices. Building on that announcement, the AdWords team now states that they have greatly enhanced their ability to connect devices for cross platform measurement. If true, this is a major enhancement to the offering. They even suggest that they are working on more advanced ways to tie together brick and mortar businesses with mobile traffic using smart phones for targeting. This is getting pretty cool folks!

Enterprise-Grade SEM Features

If you have ever managed a large and growing SEM campaign, you already know that efficiency is a big deal. Google is listening, and has rolled out the following enterprise-ready SEM management functions.

Additional Bulk Action Capabilities

In the past, most of our bulk upload capabilities had to come by way of the Google AdWords Editor desktop application. Now, Google is offering the ability to change campaign-wide settings en masse. This will be helpful for seasonal promotions and other quick turn changes that we need to make on campaigns. Types of changes include location targeting and ad rotation, and will be scalable up to even the largest of SEM campaigns.

Automated Bidding Features

In what has to be seen as a blow across the brow to some of the bid management software industry, AdWords now offers the ability to automate bidding based on conversions. Within this feature, you can pick whether you want to maximize the total number of conversions for the budget or the value of those conversions. We haven’t had a chance to test this yet, but this is one of the most intriguing features just announced. For bid management platforms that focus on value of conversion or Return On Ad Spend, this is a change that needs to be reviewed post haste.

More Advanced SEM Reporting

For a large share of the SEM providers out there, reporting has had to be done via either a custom report format or a separate dashboard that APIs into Google AdWords directly in the past. Google is rolling out more advanced features, with the stated goal to be “so you can perform most, if not all of your data analysis, right here inside AdWords.” That is a strong statement indeed!

They refer to these features as “new multi-dimensional data analysis and visualization tools,” and also state that we will be able to convert data into charts, graphs and tables easily. I’m all for updates that save us time, but will hold off on being too excited until we see how easy it actually is to generate the charts and graphs. If it is flexible enough to customize an advanced view sufficiently, this will be a huge value add for SEMs everywhere.

AdWords Testing Lab

Testing is part of the game with SEM. In the past, we had to silo out a small budget to run controlled tests in a separate account or campaign. Now, AdWords is offering a test environment right in AdWords. This sounds like it will work very similarly to the manual siloing method we used in the past, but it will be easier to do. Again, anything that saves us time is a good development.

Summary

Google has gone to great lengths over the past two years to extend their SEM capabilities on the AdWords platform. As we move forward, some of the misunderstood changes of 2013 are starting to make more and more sense. My team is already evaluating the possibilities for these features on behalf of our clients, and the whole SEM team is stoked to have all of these new capabilities at their disposal. Go check it out; I’m sure you will agree.

Related Resources

For more information and other opinions about the new features, check out the following links:

Larry Kim’s “What You Need To Know” About Google’s New SEM Features (Search Engine Journal)

Livestream of Original Presentation of this Information (AdWords Performance Forum, April 2014)