Google Says “Do Mobile or the Kitten Gets It”

By , Senior Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

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There is so much going on in the world of PPC lately that we’re spending an entire week introducing the changes and letting you know how to make the most of them.  It goes beyond Google’s new “Enhanced Campaigns” feature to Facebook and Analytics. Over the next week, PPC Hero is going to take a look at each of these updates in a series of posts designed to get you ready for all of the added functionality, the new best practices and even more.

Today, we’re going to lead off with the big, neon-pink elephant in the room:  Device segmentation is going away.

It’s been a long-standing best practice in the PPC industry to tightly segment your campaigns by device type.  Common knowledge and personal experience have shown time and time again that campaign performance on a desktop can vary wildly in comparison to campaign performance on a tablet or mobile device.  Searcher location, intent, ad copy, selected keywords, heck – keyword length:  these factors need to be taken in to account when creating and managing a mobile campaign.  We’re going to be losing quite a lot of that specificity in our account management going forward.

How so?  Basically, they’re eliminating the ability to strictly segment by device type in our campaigns.  Campaigns will be opted in to all devices by default, and the only level of control on these devices will be a simple percentage-based bid modifier.  No individual keyword-level bids, just a blanket modification.  As one astute PPC pro tweeted:  “We need scalpels, not machetes.”  Indeed.

Now, you can choose to set a bid modifier low enough to not bid on mobile devices at all – so you still have the option of a non-mobile campaign.  That’s kind of like a bright side, I guess?  However, the converse is not true:  there is no way to have a Mobile or Tablet-only campaign going forward.

An artist's depiction of last week's announcement.

An artist’s depiction of how Enhanced Campaigns will potentially affect your account.  Or:  Google’s PR department last Wednesday.

Why are they doing this?

The cynic in me says:  “Because of their last earnings call.”

The optimist in me says:  “… Yeah, I’ve got nothing.”

An ever-increasing portion of Google’s traffic now comes from Mobile and Tablet devices, which have shown over time to come in at a much lower average CPC.  By removing the ability to strictly segment campaign device types, we lose the specificity and efficiency required to manage mobile traffic in a truly effective manner.

This increase in inefficiency will likely bring mobile and desktop average CPC closer to parity with one another, bolstering Google’s bottom line.

For all the flowery language regarding our “living in a multi-device world”, the motive behind this particular change seems purely driven by profit.  Managing mobile bids entirely through a percentage modifier sounds pretty nightmarish, and it’s my intent to hold off hitting that upgrade button for as long as possible.

To start, there’s going to be a gradual rollout over the next few weeks – you’ll have the option to opt in to the enhanced campaign format early and get your best practices in line.  Otherwise, you’ll be migrated over to the new system in the middle of 2013.

How do I know if I’m eligible now?

Easy.  Go in to your Settings tab on any given campaign and you’ll be greeted with the following message:

A glimpse of your immediate future.

A glimpse in to your immediate future.

In addition, you’ll also see an “Enhanced” column appear on your Campaigns tab, indicating whether or not the Campaign has opted in to the new Enhanced Campaigns, or if you’re using Legacy campaign settings.

Once you’ve elected in to the new campaign type, you’ll wind up managing your bids via the “Settings” tab like so:

Note:  You can't create a bid modifier for Tablets.  Great.

Note: You can’t create a bid modifier for Tablets.

To accentuate the positive side:  I can appreciate their desire to make things easier for the small marketer with limited funds and time to throw in to their AdWords account.  That’s probably why their example detailing the benefits of this change was centered around a tiny bed-and-breakfast cafe.  As others have pointed out:  the level of device segmentation might have been a bit overwhelming to some.  But by removing the ability to fully control and segment our traffic, they’re going to do some serious harm to our accounts in the interim.

We’ve got a lot of work to do.

What can I do to prepare?

The targeted launch for this change is June 2013.  In the mean time, I recommend taking stock of your existing mobile bids to get an idea of the general bid modifiers you’ll require to keep performance on par with where it is now.  You might also consider creating a separate mobile-focused campaign containing your absolute best mobile keywords – but take care to utilize the bid modifier system to (attempt to) segment them properly.  For those of you not using mobile:  be ready on the launch date to set your bid modifiers as low as they’ll go.

Oh, and MAKE A MOBILE SITE.  This is essentially Google’s way of saying “Take the time and care to invest in mobile, and make it work for you.  Or the kitten gets it.”

I’m sure you all have thoughts on this issue – we’ll continue to explore the ramifications of each change throughout the week, but this is certainly the hot-button issue of the moment.  Much like the ad rotation settings debacle, a similar petition has come about, so consider signing it.  Leave your comments below regarding this new “Enhanced” campaign feature and, as always, thanks for reading!

 

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  • http://twitter.com/ian_williams Ian Williams

    - If you run a mobile site as your landing page in Adwords then that will still be shown to desktop searchers – not optimal.

    – If you run your desktop site as standard with an automatic redirect to a mobile site for mobile and tablet screen sizes, Adwords has had problems understanding this in the past from a policy POV.

    - So you run your desktop site to mobile and tablet. But that site has to function at a level that can convert effectively across multiple devices, screen sizes, browsers and OS.

    The best solution I can tell is responsive design – although even this won’t account for differences in user behaviour simply due to device type (e.g searcher prefers to convert on their desktop rather than their tablet).

    That’s what I get from this. If brands aren’t willing to invest in their site being mobile-friendly then PPC agencies targeting CPA and Conversion Rate metrics will have a tough time for sure – but even if they do invest these metrics may well suffer.

    • EricCouch

      Well said. There may be some ability to control mobile landing pages through the use of the “mobile preferred” ad setting – allowing you to set mobile optimized landing pages on an ad level, but it’s still going to be a major pain to work through. Thanks for reading!

      • http://twitter.com/ian_williams Ian Williams

        But then those mobile optimized landing pages can & will still appear to a certain percentage of desktop searches, right?

        • EricCouch

          In a perfect world, it would be perfectly segmented by device – because to do otherwise would be pretty dumb on Google’s part after going through the trouble of doing this. I’m hopeful that it’s just poor wording.

          The details are still pretty unclear outside of “it’s a setting you can enable to note some ads as preferred to show to Mobile devices”. It’ll probably end up as a follow-up to this article as more details emerge.

          • http://twitter.com/ian_williams Ian Williams

            Great – thanks Eric! I really want to see one of the new enhanced accounts – but I’m not willing to upgrade our clients until more details come out.

  • http://twitter.com/larrykim Larry Kim

    eric nice artist depiction of enhanced campaigns

    • EricCouch

      Thanks, Larry!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nielrobertson Niel Robertson

    Google has said that they are going to allow device specific ad copy in the near future as an extension to enhanced campaigns. Will solve the mobile ad problem but not all the other ones you’ve listed. Here we go…

    • EricCouch

      That’s definitely helpful for the ads, and it can’t get launched soon enough. We’ve also learned that they’ll be launching an Editor update for Enhanced Campaigns… in March. I’d hold off on upgrading your campaigns until then.

  • Ben

    Hi Eric,
    Can you elaborate on why you mentioned creating a mobile campaign with your top performing mobile keywords?

    • EricCouch

      Sure thing – It’s something we’ve been kicking around the office as a way to segment traffic. In this case, you would break out the mobile campaign and bid them low for search, but utilize the bid modifiers to try and keep it weighted toward mobile traffic as much as possible. It’s still kind of a work-in-progress theory, though. You’ll probably be hearing that a lot as we wrap our heads around Enhanced Campaigns. Thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/fixido fixido

    To setup a mobile campaign, set default bid low and increase mobile bid.

  • Anna Pham

    It’s so true and urgent to have a mobile website since the decade is going to be mobile dominating. Thanks for such an informative post.