Today Google announced some of the biggest changes to its Adwords platform in recent memory. With the roll out of what it’s calling Enhanced Campaigns, the search giant is doing a pretty dramatic 180 in its approach to the increasingly critical mobile space. Effective for everyone in June of this year and available as an option to all over the next few weeks, Adwords will be implementing the following changes:
- All device targeting (desktop, tablet and smartphone) will be managed in one campaign
- Advertisers will no longer be able to target tablets and/or smartphones in separate campaigns
- Desktop and tablet device targeting will merge, and advertisers will no longer be able to opt out of targeting tablets
- Separate bidding strategy and ads by device will be available within the new Enhanced Campaigns
In other words, all devices targeted to a location will now reside within a single campaign, and mobile-only campaigns will soon be a thing of the past. What’s most surprising about this change is that Google has been saying for the past few years that it’s best practice to break out separate campaigns for smart phones and tablets. With this new change, that will no longer even be possible. While advertisers will be able to manage different bids and ads by device and opt out of targeting smartphones within the new Enhanced Campaigns, they will now have no choice but to target tablet devices along with desktops.
In some ways, this is consistent with Google’s messaging around responsive design, which talks about delivering consistent, yet tailored, experiences to consumers across a continuum of screen sizes and devices. It also has the potential to simplify campaign management, as these separate campaigns by device all merge into one unified Enhanced Campaign. In any case, the message to marketers is clear: mobile will be a major element of your campaigns very soon if it isn’t already.
It certainly should surprise no one that Google would be motivated to nudge advertisers into the mobile space. Just this past fall, the Macquarie Group reported that the growth of mobile had caused the first decline in overall desktop search since they began measuring search volumes in 2006. As a marketer, one of the biggest arguments for breaking out tablet and smartphone campaigns has been to control budgets across those devices, as competition and costs per click tend to be lower. That’s been good for marketers, but maybe not so great for Google. Despite some really strong fourth quarter results, Google’s overall cost per click has been in a continuing slide, dropping another 6% year over year in the fourth quarter. This is almost certainly the result of the growth of mobile, where those click prices are lower. For Google to preserve and grow revenue into the future, more advertisers have to adopt mobile.
So, given this change, what should search marketers be focused on in the coming months? First and foremost, it’s clear that a comprehensive mobile strategy is no longer a luxury. Understanding how to best reach users on all devices through search marketing has never been more critical. Many advertisers have not even been targeting tablet devices through Adwords up until now, so making sure that landing pages and websites render appropriately will be very important. It’s increasingly clear that the best practice way to do this is through responsive design. If all devices are targeted from a single Adwords campaign, then the best way to increase efficiency, conversion and performance is to deliver a single, optimized experience across those devices. Of course, search marketers will also need to spend the coming weeks merging legacy smartphone, tablet and desktop campaigns into one, as these mobile-only campaigns will be automatically eliminated in June.
This mobile thing, it turns out, is more than just a fad. Google is clearly convinced that the multi-screen lives we’ve been living will only intensify as time goes by. Getting this sorted out will ultimately be a good thing for all advertisers. The fact is that everyone is getting non paid traffic from tablets and smartphones whether or not they’ve been targeting those devices through Adwords. Creating a multi-device optimized experience for users will undoubtedly reap benefits that go well beyond the Adwords platform.