The AdWords announcement: More news around power tools

| 07 Nov, 2014

After the first day’s ‘teaser’ and the Livestream describing  upcoming changes, we were all eager to hear the details (see our words on AdWords Performance Forum  Day 1 here and here).

Paul Feng (lead Product Manager on AdWords) set the stage by outlining the Four Pillars of 2014 – Workflow, Reporting & Insights, Creatives, and Bidding & Conversions. Google is addressing our needs for both efficiency and control by offering more sophistication, with reduced complexity.

(He says 'Four Pillars', but there were several sub-pillars to all of them. Google knows we all need lists and bullet points!)

Pillar One: Workflow

Sub-pillar One: Planning and Keyword Planner (launching by the time APF 2014 ends, so check it out now).

More upgrades are coming to this ageless tool, with the ability to slice keyword CPC and traffic estimates by new types of data. Seasonality – we can now pick monthly time ranges for the estimates and see % growth/change. Mobile/device – we can now see the mobile bid adjustment landscape and device segmentation in the estimates. Geo – now segmentation by different geos too.

My take: Still no news on improving its accuracy, so these upgrades still need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Sub-pillar Two: A Rebuilt AdWords Editor! (coming the Summer of 2014).

Rumors of AWE’s death have been greatly exaggerated. This completely revamped desktop tool is much faster than the original – like, MUCH faster. Key features they highlighted: multiples levels of undo, quicker access across several accounts, and everybody’s favorite: having as many instances of AWE open at once!

My take: This is a game-changer that will make power users that much faster. And Bing’s Desktop tool looks that much worse.

Sub-pillar Three: Bulk Edits.

Tons of logical improvements to editing several important aspects at once, including Extensions and Settings. You could even filter campaigns by different Settings too. And Bulksheet uploads will have a much smarter UI, with in-live previews and clearer identification of errors.

My take: It shows that Google’s still listening to us in improving on the small things that make a big difference.

Sub-pillar Four: Draft & Experiments (new feature!)

Not much more insight into this beyond what was teased in the opening announcements. Draft will allow for better collaboration with the AdWords UI and Experiments will really take testing to another level.

My take: Both of these are new to AdWords, but still behind some of the features in third-party tools. Much needed, yes, but I’d like to see if Google really stepped it up after it comes out.

Sub-pillar Five: AdWords mobile app (new feature!)

This one got an applause from all of us nerds, and deservingly so. The AdWords mobile site is nifty, but the features of this app look much slicker and will finally support MCCs and switching accounts. The screenshots also look like there may be a way to push alerts to your phone, too.

My take: Google announced this as a way to finally leave the office on time and go home to the family. What I heard, “You now have no excuse to not work from home, on weekends, in bed.”

Pillar Two: Reporting & Insights

Sub-pillar One: Cross-account Management.

Finally we’re getting some upgrades to MCC Reporting – and tons of them. This will work just like Account-level reporting, with no restrictions on historical data (right now capped at last 90 days), data available at Account and even Campaign levels (straight from the MCC dashboard), available filters and navigations, and even enabling some edits (like pausing campaigns or changing budgets).

My take: It sounded like any advanced user takes full advantage of MCC clustering, with several sub-MCCs too, so this is a breath of fresh air. I foresee lots more cross-account reporting to watch top-level trends.

Sub-pillar Two: Intra-account Insights.

Google said there are three major reasons any changes can happen to a PPC program – advertiser changes, competitive changes, and changes in end-user behavior. Now, the Top Movers dashboard is getting smart enough to explain at least that first factor, providing recommendations on WHY some Top Moves may have happened, based on the change history tracked in AdWords.

My take: If you’re not making use of Top Movers already (relatively new), this may be a great reason to check it out.

Sub-pillar Three: Custom Columns.

This one is really exciting because it’s one of the first steps within AdWords to really recognise the different conversions that happen online. Not only can we create columns based on different conversions (separate lead conversions from purchases, or any other separation), but we can also create custom formulas and calculations (like different CPAs based on different goals, and iCVR, even splits in Mobile vs Desktop metrics).

My take: This is a powerful step in reducing reliance on CSV downloads and spreadsheets. The ultimate step…

Sub-pillar Four: Data Exploration.

Google calls this a way to finally “unshackle” their data, so that we can pick what we want to see, not what they expose. I wouldn’t take it that far, but it’s still pretty awesome.

This is essentially a drag and drop pivot table that sits online with live AdWords data. You can add up to three segments at a time, with the ability to filter by columns and by  campaigns or segments or different metric conditions. It’s missing the addition of Location segments, but that’s understandable considering the massive stress that would put on the system.

Oh, and easy creation of those pretty Google Executive Reports. Lines, Pies, and Bars (oh my!)

My take: “It can cut through a tin can, then slice through a tomato like butter.” There are so many reasons this is awesome.

Pillar Three: Creatives

The big idea here is the application of an electronic engineering term, demultiplexer (or demux): a single input going to multiple outputs. Essentially, do it once, and use it many times. But first of all, I didn’t know people referred to multiple Creative as Creatives. Oh well. 

Sub-pillar One: Ad Placeholders (beta coming end of Q2)

This a way to dynamically change our text ads making use of feeds and rules. Just like the Dynamic Display Ads, there’s some manual thought and organisation in the beginning, but once it’s set up once, you can use it in a lot of cases. Some common uses: substitution of sections of copy, countdowns of availability or to dates, geo references, remarketing intelligence.

My take: This isn’t totally useful until there’s also a way to dynamically change the actual destURLs too, but it’s promising. I would warn that it’s not really to be used on any of Top Keywords, as those should be tested with more intent, but can be great for the longtail part of your program.

Sub-pillar Two: Ad Variations (pilot coming soon)

More of an automated way to do multi-variate testing on our ads. By identifying some elements to switch in an out, like call-to-actions or themes, you can make iterative improvements on ads according to an actual plan and system.

My take: This is probably the most thoughtful addition to AdWords that I saw all week. We all should be testing our ad copy in this way, so it’s great to have a tool that really helps us with strategy.

Sub-pillar Three: URL Management (beta in mid-May)

Finally, a separation between the actual URL and the appended tags and parameters (or query string). This fixes the problem where any kind of new URL would result in a brand new ad, regardless if the actual landing page stays the same. AdWords will now have a nice Tracking Template, where tags and other custom parameters can be logically connected to landing pages for some smart, bulk URL management.

My take: I didn’t quite realise this was a problem until I realized that the solution made tons of sense. Even if you don’t have a problem with URL management now, you should definitely start organising your URLs using this system. It’ll allow for much better scaling when it matters.

Pillar Four: Bidding & Conversions

Surprisingly, one of the most important elements of any PPC program took a backseat to the other three pillars, but that really speaks more to the improvements of everything else. Google is really pressing here that the landscape has gotten to the point of complexity that if you’re not stay ahead of bid management, you’re falling far behind (think Wall Street and all the hoopla around High-frequency Trading). So, more news about their improvements to their auto-optimisation tools.

Sub-pillar One: Improvements in Conversions.

Tag-teaming with the news that you can separate conversions in reporting, AdWords is also allow for more sophistication with conversions. Revenue can be support by multiple-currencies, Analytics conversions can be linked at the MCC level, and we can even import our own conversions.

And there will also be much better troubleshooting for conversion tags in general, with the ability to see when tags may have last fired or fallen off a page.

My take: This is another space where AdWords has always been behind. And although they’ve made huge ground, it’s nothing ground-breaking. Much needed, but not anything innovative.

Sub-pillar Two: Bid Strategies.

We already heard the day before about the auto-optimise settings to Maximise Conversions and Maximise Value (if you’ve got Revenue and ROAS targeting). Not many new details here, but it’s a pretty straight forward option that can effectively test the market to see what’s possible with your program. AdWords is also incorporating the Estimated Conversion data (possible offline and/or call conversions) into their bid strategies. 

The funnest news was the new data in Auction Insights – Outranking Share. You can now see how often you are ranking higher than the other advertisers in the auction. Not only that, but you can actual set an outranking target in your bid strategies! If you want to make sure you’re beating your main competitor 80% of the time (with some Max CPC bid), Google will allow you to do so.

My take: As always with these Google-driven optimization tools, be careful to set reasonable CPA targets and Max Bids. That said, I’m sold that Google really is constantly improving their algorithms with some of the smartest people in the world, so I would give this another try with a long leash.

Sub-pillar Three: Attribution Models.

All of the default attribution models from Analytics are coming into AdWords.

My take: It’s unclear if you can build your own custom models in AdWords too, and how they’ll start tying this into their bid automations, but this is a huge leap forward. Lots of these changes to Conversions and Attribution bring AdWords to that next level of personalisation, where every account is not as straightforward as it may seem at first glance. Exciting times for all the data scientists out there!

To summarise, this year’s APF set the roadmap for the entire year, and there’s lots of exciting updates. Overall, Google is pressing us to trust (or at least try, again) their automation tools, but they also give us the resources to be more sophisticated with other aspects of PPC management too. Most of these new updates will be accessible through the API too, though we have to see how they’ll shake out and which ones will be worth our time and which ones will need to be improved in time for next year’s APF. Till then, we will have plenty to play with in AdWords! And finally, here’s a link to further details via the AdWords blog

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