As the digital world prepares for 2014, there's already much speculation about what the next year will bring. Before we look ahead, however, it's worth pausing to review the current state of paid search advertising.
This has been an exciting, tumultuous year for search. Change is coming from everywhere-changing consumer search behavior, changing feature sets (such as Enhanced Campaigns), and even the largest change to Google's core algorithm since 2001 (Hummingbird). As the digital world prepares for 2014, there's already much speculation about what the next year will bring.
Before we look ahead, however, it's worth pausing to review the current state of paid search advertising. There are a number of recently launched AdWords features that are under-utilized by search marketers today. For the first eight months of 2013, both Google and AdWords advertisers focused almost exclusively on Enhanced Campaigns migration, pushing back new feature launches to late fall. By that point, many advertisers were deep in the stresses of the holiday season, without much free time to explore new functionality.
So instead of speculation on what might happen in 2014 or a list of vague, clichéd New Year's resolutions for marketers, here are three current AdWords features available to all advertisers that you can (and should) begin incorporating into your digital marketing strategy immediately.
Cross Device Conversions
While first announced last February, cross-device conversion tracking wasn't launched until October. This metric is part of Google's new "Estimated Total Conversions," which provides advertisers with granular, real-time conversion data for cross-device activity, phone calls, and soon in-store visits driven by their paid search campaigns.
Historically, advertisers looking for this type of data had to do expensive, time-consuming studies which gave them a snapshot of consumer behavior which they then used for the next year or two. Now, Google is giving us this data in real time-meaning advertisers can measure how changes to their search strategy impact these consumer behaviors and optimize against them.
From what I've seen, thus far few advertisers have integrated this data into their regular analysis and optimization. Initially, I suspected there might be concern about the validity of these conversion counts, since they're based on a sample set of data which is used to extrapolate estimated totals. However, in my conversations with clients and others in the industry, I've found few who doubt the data -- in fact, I suspect that the long delay between announcement and launch was due to Google taking extra time to ensure the data quality. The lack of adoption has more to do with advertisers not taking the extra time to incorporate these new metrics into their analysis and reporting. Google has given us a wealth of new data-but it's up to use to take the initiative and start utilizing it.
What To Do About It: This data is available to all AdWords advertisers that have an AdWords conversion pixel in place.
Image from Google Support
In the AdWords UI, click on "Columns," choose "Customize Columns," and choose to show these metrics under the "Conversions" menu. Begin reviewing these conversions as part of your daily and weekly analysis, and use them to inform your mobile bid modifier strategy.
The New AdWords Opportunities Tab
When the Opportunities tab first appeared in AdWords a few years ago, many cynics (myself among them) saw it as simply a way for Google to encourage advertisers to spend more. Most of the recommendations were based around increasing bids and budgets, and many AdWords users took one look at these suggestions and wrote them off.
Image from Inside Adwords
A few weeks ago, Google launched a revised and improved version of the Opportunities tab. If you haven't looked at it in a while, it's worth revisiting. Sure, there are still suggestions that encourage you to increase budget or raise bids, but there are a number of additional optimization tips that are built specifically for your account.
My favorite element is a list of campaigns which are eligible to show sitelinks but don't have any, along with other extension suggestions, which is especially useful since extensions now play a much more significant part in ad position. There are several other useful suggestions for optimizing your account, such as restructuring AdGroups to be more granular. In some cases, Google even recommends reducing bids.
What To Do About It: Schedule time to review the opportunities tab on a weekly or monthly basis and take action on the suggestions that align with your business goals.
Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)
RLSA is, in my opinion, the most exciting AdWords feature Google has launched in the past three years. By combining the audience qualification of display remarketing with the real-time intent of paid search, advertisers are able to tailor their bids, budget allocation, and messaging to individual searchers based on their previous activity on the advertiser's site.
It's personalized advertising, it's available now, and savvy advertisers are already seeing incredible success with this feature.
Image from Google Support
I'm continually surprised by how few marketers are taking advantage of RLSA. While iProspect has been fortunate enough to test RLSA for quite some time, this feature was released to all AdWords advertisers this past summer.
The primary barrier to entry is figuring out a strategy for this tool. It's not a feature you can just toggle on and off; for success, RLSA must be paired with a plan for how to manage these different audience segments.
What To Do About It: First, make sure you have Google remarketing tags on your site. Then, create audiences in AdWords based on your site traffic -- users who have been to the site, users who have placed items in their shopping cart but haven't purchased, and any other behaviors that warrant a unique strategy. Next, create separate AdWords campaigns strategically targeted to these audiences with unique bids, budgets, and ads. Continue to test and refine your RLSA targeting strategy over time.
As digital marketers, we're constantly looking toward the future, aiming to be first movers and innovators in the industry. However, it's worth taking the time to review the incredible resources available to us right now, to ensure we're making the most of them to drive fantastic results. It gives us more freedom to test the next the next round of exciting, new, but ultimately unproven innovations.
A recognized leader in the digital marketing space, Jeremy Hull keeps iProspect's bought media teams on the forefront of new technology and industry developments.
A passionate champion for digital advertisers, he strategically gains clients placement in many alpha and beta tests with search, display media, and tracking partners. The search engines rely on Hull's insightful analysis and feedback to improve developments like Google's Enhanced Campaigns and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). Hull provides paid search strategy for all iProspect teams in the United States, and also collaborates with iProspect offices around the globe. A regular speaker at tradeshows such as SES, SMX, and Advertising Week, he has also written articles for Search Engine Watch, ClickZ, Wired Innovation Insights, MediaPost, SES Magazine, the annual Internet Retailer Search Marketing Guide, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal. In 2013 Hull was inducted into the ClickZ Digital Marketing Hall of Fame.
Over the past nine years, Hull has provided campaign analysis and strategic direction to iProspect clients including General Motors, adidas, Neiman Marcus, The Gap, Hilton Worldwide, Cole Haan, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Timberland, and many other leading brands. He was instrumental in taking Nike's successful domestic online marketing campaigns international with Nike EMEA. One would be hard-pressed to find an iProspect client that Hull has not worked with.
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