This past week has been fascinating to watch as the news of Google’s plan to limit search query data for pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers unfolded. The original breaking news was confusing and misleading, making many folks believe that search query reports in AdWords would be full of “not provided” results. Admittedly, at first blush I was included in that group. But as more information flooded the blogosphere and people like Larry Kim broke this story down and followed up with Google for facts, the utter mayhem has and should continue to die down.
What this short-term “scare” did was lead to some interesting conversations among PPC professionals. What is Google up to? Even though we didn’t lose all query data, what does this shift mean for the long term? What does the world look like without search queries, nay, without keywords?
The conversations I’ve had have all come back to this exact point. What does AdWords or the PPC ecosystem look like without keywords? We already have a glimpse into this potential future with product listing ads (PLAs). Google scans your product feed data and semantically/contextually matches your products to keywords the algorithm deems relevant. Who’s to say traditional search campaigns won’t end up the same? Create a feed of your products, services, and target audience parameters and Google takes care of the rest.
Scary, right? Makes you feel out of control, yes? That’s the worst part. Loss of control. But once again, we have clear signs that this is, and will continue to be, the trend. Enhanced Campaigns took away control over device segmentation and bidding. Shopping Campaigns are taking away control (not all, but quite a bit) of PLA campaigns. Your guess is as good as mine as to what’s next.
Is it all bad? Not necessarily. Despite the grumblings in 2013 over the Enhanced Campaign transition, performance hasn’t bottomed out in our AdWords campaigns like we expected. Many of the CPC trends didn’t pan out as many predicted. Is tablet performance as great as we would like? No. Have we figured out how to adjust? For the most part, yes. Will we figure out Shopping Campaigns? I’m confident we will. In fact, my early experiences with them have been positive.
Losing keywords, which has been the foundation of PPC since day one, would be a huge change (that’s putting it lightly). It is hard to imagine the mechanics of AdWords in that scenario and what new features and controls would be available. Either way, as long as search exists, PPC exists. And as long as PPC exists, we digital advertisers will continue to roll with the punches.
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