Earlier this month, Google notified AdWords customers that all app install campaigns will be migrated to Universal App Campaigns (UAC). On October 16, new app install campaigns created in AdWords will begin running on UAC. And on November 15 of this year, existing app promo campaigns for search, display and YouTube will stop running.

So what are UACs, and why does Google have such tremendous confidence in them?

Universal App Campaigns use machine learning to improve ad performance and encourage app downloads or in-app activity, depending on your campaign settings. UACs were designed to give developers a single campaign type that reaches potential app dowloaders on multiple channels. This article will give you a rundown of how UACs work, what you can expect with the change, and some projections on what all this could mean for the future of app install campaigns and Google ads in general.

Universal App Campaigns

How do Universal App Campaigns Work?

UACs rolled out two years ago for Google Play, Google.com, YouTube, and the Google Display Network, so they are very effective at reaching multiple users on multiple channels.

Universal App campaigns offer two different ways to optimize for your marketing objectives:

  1. Installation focus: AdWords optimizes your bids and targeting with the goal of getting the greatest amount of new users to install your app. The bid you set should be the average amount you’d like to spend every time a user installs your app.
  2. In-app action focus: AdWords optimizes your campaign to focus on users who are most likely to complete the in-app actions you’ve set on the campaign level. Each key in-app action is tacked as a conversion. Bids are set for a goal CPA (cost per action) to be the average amount you’d like to spend each time someone performs the selected in-app action in your app.

Google states that its machine learning algorithms analyze more than 300 million potential signal combinations in real-time, to best deliver a relevant ad to the user who has an existing interest. For example, if a user has been spending a lot of time on banking sites, they may be more likely to have relevant bank app ads served to them close to the time at which they are on those sites.

How Successful are Universal App Campaigns?

According to Google, advertisers optimizing for in-app actions with UAC saw an average of 140% more conversions per dollar compared to other Google app promotion products. Google has also delivered more than 6 billion installs in total. In 2016, the company said the total number of installs it had delivered was 2 billion, so the increase in successful installs over the past year is dramatic. UAC currently delivers more than 50% of all app downloads from ads, which is a marked uptick since the launch of the campaign type 2 years ago.

What does this shift in campaign type mean?

For some time, Google has been shifting toward automation and understanding audiences more clearly to deliver conversion success. And it’s easy to see why: The technology is there, Facebook and other social platforms have the upper hand with audience targeting, and programmatic platforms are using automation to their advantage as well. It’s natural for Google to follow the trend where they see the most success.

And though it may feel like a brave new world to seasoned PPC nerds like me who cling to our keywords, it is also a sign that Google’s tech is becoming stronger and more accurate.

We already know that Google is going all-in with location targeting, using physical location as a beacon of interest, which is just another element of knowing its audience and delivering ads to the right person at the right time. Pair that with UACs using broad bid targeting based on conversion, and this could also one of many signs that manual bidding will slowly ride off into the sunset, to be replaced by automation across many campaign elements.

The first reaction that many in the industry have upon hearing these changes may be unease, but using machine learning to our advantage may be the only path forward, and it could deliver greater return on investment than a manual campaign would.

So prepare today by building your Universal App Campaign, as we roll into the fall of 2017.