Confusion reigns over Google's Enhanced Campaigns as launch nears

Google’s Enhanced Campaigns will be fully implemented on 22 July, but the majority of brand-side marketers are still unsure how the update – the most fundamental change to paid search advertising in years – will impact their online media strategies.  

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A survey of 750 brand-side marketers by Marketing Week’s sister company Econsultancy found Enhanced Campaigns has had a mixed response among brands and advertisers.  

The study found 29 per cent of client-side marketers think that Enhanced Campaigns will have a positive impact on their search marketing activity, compared to 14 per cent who said that it will have a negative effect. More than half (56 per cent), however, of respondents said they didn’t know what the impact would be.

The changes, initially announced in February, effectively simplify the process of creating AdWords campaigns so that advertisers can target users from across device types (see related videos, right).

This means instead of creating device-specific campaigns for mobile, tablet and desktop, all devices can now be served with ads within the same campaign and from the same interface. An update welcomed by many campaign managers. 

The changes also mean advertisers can now adjust their bids for ad impressions on smartphones based on location and on time of day using a single interface.

However, the changes also mean Google effectively takes greater control over brands’ location targeting by automating how and where an ad appears.

Enhanced campaigns also provide brands with improved measurement of mobile elements of their campaigns with improved analytics tools making it easier to count the number of calls or app downloads generated by each AdWords campaign.

Andy Mihalop, head of biddable media at Mediacom – the top performing media agency in the recent Top 100 interactive agencies list from eConsultancy – says many brands and media buying agencies are still in the process of examining if their third party bid management platforms – such as Marin Software or Kenshoo – have updated their algorithms to be fully compatible with Enhanced Campaigns before fully optimising their bidding strategies.

Lack of presence in a multi-screen world

tablets

Sources consulted by Marketing Week indicate the number of brands without mobile or tablet optimised properties is a major reason behind the apparent trepidation over the full roll out of Enhanced Campaigns; as this lack of a mobile presence means that brands’ ads may direct mobile users to sites where they will have a sub-standard experience, and therefore less likely to convert. 

This theory is supported when examining the IAB’s recent Mobile Retail Audit which found that although 74 per cent of the UK’s top 50 retailers had a mobile optimised site, only 8 per cent had one optimised for tablets. 

The research, conducted in May this year, also showed that only 48 per cent of the top 50 UK retailers optimised their search campaigns for mobile, despite the opportunity to migrate to Enhanced Campaigns being available since February.

Mark Syal, head of media at Essence – another of the top performing agencies in eConsultancy’s Top 100 Interactive list – says: “If you haven’t got a properly optimised mobile experience then this will be a bad thing and a lot of clients are in that position.” 

Concerns over price increase 

money

Chief among the concerns expressed by both brands and online paid search specialists approached by Marketing Week has been an anticipation that the introduction of Enhanced Campaigns will also lead to the increase of search ad placements, particularly for mobile devices – which have historically been much lower than desktop. 

Jon Myers, managing director EMEA for search bid management platform Marin Software, says keyword auctions are likely to be a bit “volatile” in the weeks after Enhanced Campaigns’ full implementation, as advertisers acclimatise to the new way of buying search ad placements.  

This fear has also been backed by a study published by Adobe which demonstrated the cost of paid-for search advertising rose steeply in the three months to June this year, with the average cost-per click (CPC) increasing six per cent during the period, primarily due to the introduction of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns, according to the report.

Mediacom’s Mihalop adds: “A lot of the concerns from clients are around whether or not they’ll see conversion decrease but prices increase.”  

In response to concerns listed by advertisers, a Google spokeswoman says: “Nothing is fundamentally changing about our auction system. Advertisers will continue to choose their bids and adjust their spend based on the value they see in their campaigns. We understand that upgrading to the new AdWords may involve some initial changes but there are strong benefits for marketers to reach customers across devices anytime, anywhere in this new multi-screen reality”.

Early success stories

Despite the concerns expressed by some, beauty brand L’Occitane en Provence has found success in increasing early efforts to adjust to the Enhanced Campaign update with its paid search agency 4Ps Marketing finding itself able to generate improved conversion rates from mobile users plus an improved understanding of (generally more affluent) tablet users.  

Jasmine Zhang, L’Occitane CRM and e-commerce manager says: “As Enhanced Campaigns do not have the functionality to separate mobile targeting from desktop and tablet, we expected traffic from mobile would increase visits to the website but not necessarily directly result in sales.

“We have found that due to optimisation work on bidding strategies and by working on improving our mobile site, we have been able to leverage these visits into tangible online business. Another observation is that user behaviour on tablets has become similar to desktops/laptops. The conversion rate for tablets have increased considerably over the past months.”  

Although desktop is still recording the highest conversion rates, tablet is following close behind and is still growing.

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