Two months ago the Google AdWords team announced enhanced campaigns for AdWords. This announcement represents a sweeping change to how search advertising will work in Google’s family of products over the next few months. These changes are so fundamental that advertisers are strongly recommended by Google to go into their AdWords accounts and manually migrate their campaigns to the new model instead of having these changes automatically applied.
Since the announcement, our sales, marketing and engineering teams have fielded numerous questions from anxious customers concerned we would make similar changes to our system, since this is such a fundamental change in AdWords which takes desired control away from customers.
After reviewing the user guide for upgrading to enhanced campaigns and additional material on the enhanced campaigns website, we can see why our advertisers are worried. Consequently, we are taking the unprecedented step to announce our future product direction as it relates to functionality recently announced by a competitor.
An Overview of the Most Significant Enhanced Campaign Changes
Prior to the announcement, advertisers could target PCs, tablets and mobile devices individually. In fact, they could go as far as targeting individual flavors of the operating system for tablets (e.g. iOS 5.0 versus Android Gingerbread), or device model and carrier for smart phones.
Figure 1: Device targeting in AdWords prior to enhanced campaigns
With enhanced campaigns, fine-grained targeting by operating system, device model and carrier is no longer available. More importantly, tablets and desktop PCs are now treated as a single entity. It is no longer possible to target an iPad or Kindle Fire user differently from a user of on Dell or HP desktop PC.
Another elimination of flexibility also occurs when it comes to targeting users on mobile devices. All search marketing campaigns in AdWords are now desktop/tablet targeted campaigns. The ability to target mobile devices is only available by augmenting certain aspects of a desktop/tablet campaign.
Figure 2: Device targeting in AdWords after migrating to enhanced campaigns
Now, to target mobile devices, an advertiser can make two changes as part of a desktop/tablet campaign. The first is to set the device preference on an ad to “mobile.” According to the user guide for upgrading to enhanced campaigns, this will have the following effects:
- Mobile optimized ads will tend to show more often than other ads on mobile devices.
- Other ads (not set as mobile optimized) will tend to show more often than mobile optimized ads on desktop and tablet devices.
It should be noted that specifying a mobile preference on an ad does not mean it won’t show up for a desktop user. This is different behavior from that prior to enhanced campaigns where, with explicit device targeting, an advertiser could be sure that an ad intended for mobile users was not seen by desktop PC users.
The second change an advertiser can make to target mobile devices in enhanced campaigns is to specify bid adjustments for searches from mobile devices. For example, an advertiser could say they are willing to bid 50% higher for a user on a mobile device than one on a tablet or desktop PC.
Why Advertisers are Worried about these Changes
There are multiple causes for concern with Google’s enhanced campaigns. The first is around the bundling of tablet and desktop advertising as a single target. This is worrisome given that there is research that shows tablets convert better than PCs with a lower cost-per-click (CPC). Advertisers who have optimized their campaigns around these differences in return on investment can no longer do so and will have to make changes to their search marketing budgets to compensate.
The second is that the elimination of mobile device targeting also removes choice from sophisticated advertisers, because a mobile campaign must now always be a subset of a desktop search marketing campaign. The inability to create specific campaigns for mobile devices going forward has led to the creation of complicated and impractical workarounds by advertisers who are struggling to ensure they can continue to manage their budgets to get their previous rate return without having to pay Google more money to get a less relevant audience.
Finally, the inability to create dedicated mobile campaigns in AdWords doesn’t just create problems around bidding and budgets but also generates fundamental questions about whether Google is asking advertisers to rebuild their websites. In a recent blog post on the Inside Adwords blog, AdWords Sr. Product Manager Karen Yao wrote:
Responsive web design is often a good fit for advertisers who provide device-optimized experiences to their users. If you must specify different landing pages depending on device, you have two options. If the landing page varies by creative, you can simply create mobile-optimized ads by setting the device preference to “Mobile.” If the device-specific landing page varies for each keyword, then you can use the ifmobile and ifnotmobile parameters in the keyword-level destination URL. It is important to remember that if you are using the ifmobile parameter today, it will no longer insert a value into the URL for tablet clicks. The new parameter ifnotmobile will now insert a value into the URL for tablet and desktop/laptop.
Google’s current approach with enhanced campaigns is designed for websites that have a single website that serves both mobile and desktop traffic. Although this has grown in popularity with the rise of the responsive web design movement, it is not a universal practice. Thus, there are some advertisers who are effectively being recommended to rebuild their websites from scratch.
What You Can Expect from Bing Ads
As stated in David Pann’s earlier post, we are committed in giving advertisers the tools to control their spending, target the most relevant audience, and ensure they can get the best return on investment. Thus, we do not believe bundling together mobile, desktop and tablet advertising in an opaque manner is in the best interest of our customer base or the industry at large. The Bing Ads team wants to ensure you, our customers, have maximum transparency.
We do have customers who have taken advantage of the ability to Import their AdWords campaigns into Bing Ads and may wonder what it means to bring their campaigns over if we do not have similar concepts and constructs to those in enhanced campaigns. Given our strong belief in the portability of advertiser data which was recently reinforced by Google's settlement with the FTC, we will be updating our product to ensure advertisers can continue to seamlessly transition between both products.
For advertisers who import campaigns from AdWords, we will plan to support the ability to mark ads as being mobile optimized and will honor this as a directive. This means ads that are marked as mobile optimized will not serve to desktop or tablet users. However we will continue to support being able to go into that campaign to mark the ad as only targeting mobile, tablet or PC users.
In addition we plan to augment our existing incremental bid functionality to support negative bid percentages as well as mobile and location radius targeting. This will ensure that ad campaigns that will have to use these features as part of AdWords enhanced campaigns can expect this functionality when imported into Bing Ads.
We intend to make these changes towards the end of the third quarter of this year. This should be within weeks of the date Google has announced for enhanced campaigns becoming mandatory for all AdWords users. Please look forward to a blog post in the next few months detailing how we will support this seamless transition and for other updates on ways we are committed to making Bing Ads a better investment to your search efforts.
Program Manager, Bing Ads Platform