When Google speaks, everybody listens. The announcement of Enhanced Campaigns in Adwords is the biggest and most significant change in search marketing for years. But amidst the array of new features and tools, above the industry chatter about the pros and cons, beyond the debate about simplicity versus granularity, Google is attempting something fundamental; a step-change in the way the industry works. Enhanced Campaigns will push advertisers to follow consumer behaviour, to build campaigns that reflect how people actually use the plethora of devices in their daily lives. Marketers will undoubtedly miss the ability to build out separate campaigns for each device. But when consumers don't respect such divides, why should advertisers? Google is attempting to jolt the industry into recognising the increasing fluidity of people's behaviour. Search marketing is playing consumer catch-up.
The industry has long prophesied the 'Year of the Mobile'. But mobile is not a device, it is a behaviour. It does not mean a handset; it means 'on the move'. It is in this context that Google has simplified its campaign structure so that all devices are automatically targeted. Advertisers can no longer opt out of mobile or tablet. But it is hard to see why any would want to. True, there are advantages to segmenting campaigns by device, but not only is this increasingly out of step with consumers' device behaviour, it also takes time and resource to manage numerous campaigns. Having separate campaigns for every possible device, location and time of day is becoming less and less feasible as the number of different types of device continues to grow. The line between mobile and tablet is blurring with the emergence of smaller tablets and larger mobile phones, sometimes known as 'phablets'. People often start their search on one device in one place, and continue it on another somewhere else. A loss of targeting granularity is offset by a gain in simplicity. Enhanced Campaigns will force advertisers to have a multi-device strategy and make it easier to do so.
Advertisers must resist obsessing on the loss of this granularity and instead learn to leverage the new tools to reach their device-savvy consumers in better, smarter ways. Heavily segmented campaigns are only as beneficial as the functionality each campaign allows; at some point you hit a point of diminishing returns, where the advantages of granular targeting are outweighed by the time and effort spent managing so many campaigns. Bid adjustments will become a potent weapon in the advertising arsenal, allowing marketers to set multiple bid adjustments to take account of the context in which searches takes place. Someone searching on a mobile a few miles from a store at midday indicates a potentially different intent, and hence opportunity, from a search on a desktop device outside of opening hours. What can be shown in an ad varies significantly by device, at least for now. Enhanced Campaigns will adapt to display the most appropriate and effective ads depending on context and device capability. Click-to-call extensions will be shown on devices capable of making a call without the need for the advertiser to set this up manually. Combine this with time of day functionality, and ads can show sitelinks extensions that direct the user to the website outside of opening hours. In this way campaigns will be better able to meet the specific needs of the business.
The flexibility this affords is a significant advantage of the changes. Marketers will be better equipped to respond to events and patterns of behaviour and create more effective campaigns on the fly. The possibilities of smart automation should excite advertisingagencies and their customers.
In attribution and analysis too, improvements bring additional benefit. Enhanced reporting on individual ad extensions, including sitelinks, is something the industry has wanted for some time. Being able to identify and demonstrate the full value of search is the holy grail of search engine marketing. Cross-device conversion tracking is an important advance toward this goal. Better measurement means better attribution of value, allowing advertisers to understand what works and what doesn't. This can only be good for customers. Enhanced Campaigns is as an effort to put search (more) at the heart of the marketing industry. Enabling campaigns to be more deeply and dynamically connected in the multi-device landscape means that search will enjoy increasing prominence in the media mix.
People do not see the boundaries between devices and consumers are ahead of advertisers in how they use technology to find what they want. Search is a behaviour and not bound by where people are and what they're doing. As people increasingly search on different devices, in different places, at different times of day and in different contexts, advertisers need to be out there, showing their ads where and when they want them. Google is nudging advertisers into delivering a more seamless experience for the consumer. The year of the mobile may finally be here.
With contribution from Darren Coyle, iProspect Paid Search Planner