It’s that time of year when we all get a little bit retrospective. Maybe it is the changing of the seasons. Maybe it is the prospect of returning to one’s home for the holidays. The snow. The spirit. We look fondly (or maybe begrudgingly) upon the past year and pat ourselves on the back for getting through it in one piece. Before we set sights on what is to come in 2017, let us take a walk down memory lane and pause to say “thanks” to the 10 most significant PPC Updates of 2016.
Number 10: Bing Introduces Editor For Mac
Thank you, Bing, for entering the 21st century and developing editor for Mac. Sure, I understand—it wasn’t because you didn’t want to make our lives easier. You had hoops to jump through. Developers to pay. Totally get that. I’m just thrilled to not have to log on to the dusty office PC (see below photo, which is extremely accurate) to try to upload my Bing campaigns in bulk. No, not all PPC nuts are Mac users, but for those of us that are, this was a welcome change.
Number 9: Device Bid Modifiers
Thank you, Google, for giving the power to the people. Device bid modifiers were a welcome addition to our bag of tricks. Though maybe you went one step too far? Do we need the ability to bid up 900% on any given device? Yes, we do live in a mobile-first world. The ability to control how we are bidding on certain devices is a gift. Certain products and services will most likely always be best served on desktop over mobile and vice versa. As a token of my appreciation, I promise not to enable ad blocking software (as long as you promise to help advertisers get better at targeting). Cross my heart.
Number 8: Bing Ads Interface Now Has “Compare To” Option In Date Range
Bing, come here. A little closer. I want to hold your hand and look you in the eye when I say thank you. Thank you for adding the little toggle in the date selection box of the user interface that reads “Compare.” Oh, what joy! What a wondrous thing! To be able to see metrics in the interface, side by side without having to download a report is a magical thing indeed. Should we hug?
Thank you, Google, for allowing us to show the value of PPC in ways we never imagined. Our clients’ accounts are like little snowflakes—no two are alike. Last click, first click, linear, time-decay, position based, data-driven; we are now able to fight to save keywords and ad groups based on their contributions to conversions, even if the path is not direct. We can paint a lovely and complete picture of performance using these new models for conversions.
Number 6: Google Says ‘Adios’ To Converted Clicks
Thank you, Google, for getting rid of converted clicks. Your long and winding path from conversions to converted clicks and conversions back to conversions is a bit mind-boggling to me. Sure, I understood the need for some advertisers to differentiate between the two metrics. But why the run-around? Why did it take you so long to just change the user options for how conversions are measured instead of making us jump through hoops? Hindsight is 20/20, of course. I can tell you that I appreciate the simplification of columns and the ease of reporting with one metric.
Number 5: Expanded Customer Match Options
Thank you, Google, for expanding capabilities with customer match. When you rolled customer match targeting out last year, we were all pretty pumped. But now, with Shopping, we can truly put the right product in front of the right person.
Number 4: Custom Formulas For Custom Columns
Thank you, Google, for allowing us data geeks to customize our own formulas the way we customize our coffee orders. Sure, we’ve been creating custom formulas since the dawn of PPC in Excel. But this goes above and beyond for us! Keep us in your grasp with your tools. We are hooked.
Number 3: Facebook Running Out Of Ad Space
Thank you, Facebook, for squelching the dreams of all little PPC (boys and) girls by telling us that there is a ceiling and well, we’ve hit it. When Facebook held its quarterly earnings call in July, it was clear that the $6.42 billion ad revenue for the quarter was both the tip of the iceberg and the part that sunk the Titanic. Facebook was running out of ad space fast. I believe this to be significant for PPC. This revelation told us that 1) the marketplace is finite. While it can and will grow, adapt, and expand as needed, we will hit dead ends. We will be battling with more competitors. We will be rethinking strategy. And 2) I believe it puts immense pressure back on all advertising platforms to provide better targeting options and more reliable data. Options like customer match, look-alike, custom audiences, etc. are providing better opportunities for advertisers to reach the right target at the right time.
Number 2: Expanded Text Ads
Thank you, ETAs. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. By giving us 45 more characters per ad, I finally have room to now describe things as “serendipitous”, “lugubrious”, or “parsimonious” without running out of space. But in all seriousness, this was a huge update for both Bing and Google. As a self-described ad writing guru, this update changed the way I think about copy. More options for testing. More options for calls to action. Our ads are now plump with description.
This was a welcome update for most of Hanapin’s accounts. But not everyone agrees with my cheery outlook on ETAs for a variety of reasons. For clients generating a good portion of traffic from Search Partners, this update proved that the entirety of Google’s network was not prepared to serve anything but standard text ads. Several of these clients saw a dramatic decrease in impressions from search partner sites. So some clients had to make a decision: turn off standard ads completely from the get-go and potentially lose traffic from Search Partners, or wait until the January 31, 2017 deadline and deal with whatever happens to traffic at that time. When Google first announced the ETA deadline extension, they cited allowing advertisers more time to update creative as the reason for the extension. I would also like to believe it was extended so Search Partners would have time to get in gear and adapt to the new format.
Number 1: Removal Of Sidebar Ads
Thank you (or no thank you?), Google, for removing sidebar ads for search. With an increasingly crowded marketplace, we humbly thank you for making auctions much more competitive for visibility. Back when this was announced in February, I think all advertisers felt they were extras in The Hunger Games, circling the cornucopia of ad space, ready to fight to the death for prime position. For one PPC Hero, this was by design and exactly what Google wanted.
After the initial shock wore off, I think we settled into life after sidebars. For some advertisers, this meant exploring other platforms including Yahoo!, Bing, and Social (see Number 3 re: Facebook running out of ad space). So Google, feel free to keep changing the rules of the game. We in the advertising business, we will be here, waiting to throw the rules back in your face and be smarter about our investments, our targeting, and our data.
Every year since I began my PPC career, I am blown away by the amount of changes that happen in our industry. In 2016, I feel these changes are more impactful and more significant than years past. I am excited to see what 2017 brings. Though I do not have a crystal ball, I do know whatever is thrown into our world, we PPC Heros, we will be here ready to take on the challenge and walk you through the best and the worst of it.
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