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Google AdWords changes 2016: First experiences in the practical test

Some exciting changes to the search engine giant from California in San Francisco were introduced at the Google Global Performance Summit last Tuesday. In addition to new features in local search ads and important extensions of the Google Display Network (GDN), now Google provides also expanded advertising and display options in the classic search ads, called Extended Text Ads (ETA).

Plan.Net Performance is one of the first agencies in Germany to test the new Google formats for a customer and enlightening experiences were gained.

Finally, there is more space with Google Extended Text Ads

25/35/35. Hitherto the number of characters was limited in the creation of text ads on Google Search for the title, text and URL. This limitation could cause sometimes real difficulties to advertisers, for example, if you wanted to promote a “pet owner liability insurance”.

Since last week, Google offers more freedom to selected advertisers: two headlines of 30 characters each and an 80 character line of text offer sufficient space for the use of USPs and call-to-actions. The domain of the URL display is generated automatically from the stored destination URL, additionally there are two fields for the individual definition of the URL path.

The easier ad creation by expanding the character limit is only partly true. In the old format advertisers were forced to restrict the texts to the most important information. Now there is a risk to use unnecessary text filler, thus distracting from the actual core.

Google AdWords: Google Extended Text Ads

Google Extended Text Ads

Is this a logical compensation after a few weeks ago all ads in the right column were deactivated from the search results? Agreed, for those who were used to the ads on the right side and the left-aligned view for years, Google search results page looked in February almost a bit empty.

The expanded text ads are available since Monday, 23 May 2016. The first results are promising and confirm the expected uplift in the core metrics (higher click-through rates, CTR, at slightly lower CPC). Google itself predicts an uplift in CTR by up to 20 percent. Since the new format during the beta phase is only limited and only few advertisers are unlocked, the actual effect will probably become clear in a few months.

Google’s strategy to further strengthen the premium positions has not changed meanwhile. Thus, the expanded text ads, as other enhancements, increase also the premium positions 1 to 3. The competition will not be lower.

GDN: Cross-exchange for Display Remarketing Campaigns and Responsive Ads

Through the Google Display Network (GDN) advertisers can publish classic display ads on a variety of participating websites and blogs. Under the keywords “Cross-exchange for display remarketing campaigns” Google facilitates its customers to extend their remarketing campaigns through additional inventory sources. So far, Google fell back on the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. DoubleClick is also part of the Google Group.

A major difference between the GDN and the major ad exchanges is the order process. While in GDN usually there are only incurred costs when an advertisement is actually clicked (CPC – cost per click), the Ad Exchanges are generally remunerated for each advertising appearance (CPM – Cost Per Mille). You might think that with the expansion of GDNs to additional ad exchanges, Google is taking a certain risk. Theoretically, this is also true, especially since Google most probably buys the advertising service on a CPM basis and offers it to its customers on a CPC basis. However, it would not be Google, if they did not know exactly what they are doing.

The newly acquired range is limited exclusively to remarketing campaigns. The generated CTRs are known to be many times higher than for campaigns with other targeting options. CTRs of 0.20 percent and higher for standard formats are not uncommon. With the higher expected CTR, Google is also in the position to pay the corresponding higher CPMs, or rather to ensure its own margin. This purchase model can be very successful, as other vendors like Criteo have long proved.

The extension of remarketing campaigns in the GDN to additional ad exchanges thus represents not necessarily a cannibalization, but rather a useful supplement for Google.

Another announcement are the “Responsive Ads for display”, i.e., advertisements that individually adjust to the respective content in which they are placed. This allows to place advertising spaces in the GDN which do not follow the usual format standards. It was exactly with especial formats when DoubleClick was not a very flexible partner. “Responsive Ads for display” should have a positive impact, especially on mobile devices and facilitate native advertising integrations. Google positions itself step by step in a “Mobile First” world and will significantly expand its range through adjustments.

What the new feature actually brings, will only be known in detail after a test. With the increasing “playground” of Google grows also the overlap with other areas of marketing. It is therefore more important to evaluate all the accordingly activities under an overarching strategy and coordinate the most important.

Other advertising opportunities in the local search

Finally, new features for Local Search Ads (LSA) were announced in San Francisco. So it will be possible for advertisers in the future, to highlight their ads on mobile devices and the Google Maps service. “Promoted Pins” put the company logo in the navigation via Google Maps prominently in scene. If a potential customer looks for services or products on the go and clicks on such a pin, in addition to the usual display texts, current information of offers or promotions will be available in the future. Google responded with this innovation to the unbroken trend towards mobile use of its services. According to own statements, one third of all mobile searches relates directly to local services, such as cafés, restaurants or shops. In addition, mobile requests with a local connection grow around 50 per cent faster than the totality of all mobile searches worldwide.

Google changes its appearance as an advertising platform in the context of an increasing competition and a rapidly changing user behaviour. Especially Facebook has been able to benefit from the increasing mobilization of internet usage. For advertisers and agencies, this means to observe developments and innovations closely and to have the courage to experiment and question traditional paths.

Five tips for integrated Google Shopping Campaigns

The step was not unexpected, but its consequences are nevertheless striking. For a few days now, the Google search engine is no longer showing paid AdWords ads to the right of search results. Google made this change as part of its endeavors to adapt search results to mobile devices, departing from the classic desktop experience.

The conversion substantially squeezes the ad space available for advertisers. It reduces the overall available count from up to ten text ads across the entire page to a mere three positions above the search results. According to Google’s announcement of the changes, only “highly commercial” queries will be given a fourth central spot. The move will increase competition for the remaining positions, so customers and agencies must expect higher CPCs and thus more expensive AdWords.

Stronger in the focus of digital marketing planning

To cope with the intensifying competition for Google AdWords, it is worthwhile to take a fresh look at Google Shopping. Unlike AdWords, the image-supported ads do stay in the right-hand column and thus become more prominent from the point of view of digital marketing.

This makes it an advertising format with many advantages. Finally, there is hardly a channel as goal-oriented and platform-independent in its approach to users such as Google Shopping ads. Not only do Google Shopping’s graphical results visually stand out in comparison to classic text ads, their usage is continuously increasing as well. According to a 2014 study by the advertising technology company Marin, more than 30% of all ads in the retail sector were placed through Google Shopping, with more than 45% of Google Shopping clicks coming from mobile devices.

Optimize product data towards a targeted customer approach

However, the success of a Google Shopping campaign is not sure-fire. For best results, various disciplines of online marketing must work in synergy. To permanently achieve high click-through rates at the top of search results, you should optimize all product data for a targeted sales approach and provide them through platform-specific data feeds.

In addition, smart bid management makes all the difference when you want to get the maximum return on investment (ROI). In general, you need to consider the following five aspects:

1. Feed relevance
All information relevant to an ad is sent to Google via the data feed. It might need to be changed more or less often depending on the industry — for example, if the price changes or specific product versions are sold out. It is important that the data sent in the feed to Google Shopping stays up-to-date at all times. You must ensure round-the-clock monitoring of data feeds to avoid downtime and to be able to update prices and offers quickly and smoothly. The goal must be to have context-specific offers displayed to potential customers at any time and in any place.

2. Feed content
The integrity of the feed is just as important as its relevance. In this context, all product specifications defined in a Google Shopping feed must contain all relevant product information, such as its description, availability, price, or category. This applies in particular to optional configurations. Such custom data feed columns are used, for example, for top-performing products, brands, or to introduce other meaningful criteria to optimize the campaign. Product texts and descriptions must be analysed and published based on actual user search behaviour. This step is crucial to enable the tracking of ad visibility and shop purchases. Finally, high-quality pictures top off a positive user experience.

3. Keyword control
Advertising campaigns are controlled based on product information. In doing so, Google analyses behavioural signals to decide whether a particular product fits a query: If a product is especially often clicked in combination with a certain request, Google gives such ad a higher priority. But high click-through rates do not always mean high margins. Thus, it is better to have a product displayed when it leads not only to a click-through but also an actual sale. By properly controlling the keywords you can make it so that a data feed-based ad is preferably displayed when the product is searched in combination with its own brand. Here, the conversion rates are generally higher than those of organic entries or text ads without product images.

4. Reviews
64% of all E-commerce users state that product reviews are among the top two criteria in making a decision to buy. For women, this value is even higher, reaching up to 70%. In Google Shopping, you can configure the integration of product reviews graphically and in close connection to ad content. Good usability on smartphones and tablets maximizes the user’s awareness of and attention to product reviews, bringing them much closer to an actual transaction.

5. Bid management
As Google Shopping campaigns often generate a large part of sales in the long tail, it is essential that you use technology to recognize and analyse patterns in the bulk of individual values. Based on these findings you can not only optimize daily budget allocations and bidding strategies, but also forecast upcoming developments and seasonal trends by analysing recurring behaviour patterns. Furthermore, in order to control the campaign’s budget in a more efficient way, it is advisable to separate branded keywords, generic search queries, and, where appropriate, product-related keywords.

Bottom line

On the way to a data-driven marketing, one that focuses on compelling, cross-platform user experience, Google Shopping should be a staple in any marketing mix, as it is currently the most efficient and wide-ranging advertising channel. But from creation to delivery to reporting, this requires a complex process that takes into account a lot of different aspects. If such a process is in place, Google Shopping ads can also yield exceptionally high click-through and conversion rates. The effort is worthwhile.