At its 2016 Performance Summit this past week, Google announced several updates to ad formats and targeting capabilities to help position AdWords for the mobile-first world. Of all the new updates shared, four in particular present pivotal opportunities for advertisers, aimed at helping them compete in the evolving platform where mobile now represents more than half of all searches.
Notably, Google introduced expanded text ad options, new responsive Google Display Network (GDN) ad units, updates to device bidding capabilities and new local ad units, all of which will help advertisers better connect to consumers on mobile devices and more efficiently measure the effectiveness of mobile advertising dollars.
In this post, we recap these important updates from Google’s Performance Summit and present suggestions on how advertisers should approach leveraging them to improve the performance of their advertising on the platform.
Expanded Text Ads
Expanded text ads represent the first major change to the text ad format in the history of Google. Following its update of the search engine results page (SERP) to remove right-hand side ads, expanded text ads are aimed at optimizing copy for the most popular smartphones, allowing advertisers additional character space to more effectively communicate the value propositions of their goods and/or services.
Initial testing of expanded text ads by 360i clients have shown improvements in click-through-rate (CTR) of over 20%, in line with the expected outcome Google shared in its announcement. While these gains are significant, they will likely drop back down as more advertisers begin to show ads in the new expanded format.
Nonetheless, advertisers should take advantage of this extra character space to communicate additional product and/or service details and promotions, and ensure keyword rich copy is running to improve quality scores.
Responsive and Native GDN Ad Units
Just as text ads are being revamped for a mobile first world, ads on the GDN are also getting an upgrade in both appearance and ease of creation. With the GDN reaching over two million publisher sites and apps, ads need to be more responsive to adapt to the unique content. These new responsive ads will also open up new native inventory in which ads will match the look and feel of the app or website. Finally, these responsive ads for display will be even easier to create. Google will automatically build responsive ads with advertisers providing headlines, a description, an image and a URL.
For advertisers who are already investing in GDN, this will come as a welcome improvement to the current product, allowing easier creation of better looking ad units. For advertisers who may have tested GDN in the past and moved away for performance reasons, this will present an opportunity to test the new ad format and new expanded native inventory.
Device Bidding Capabilties
Many search marketers will remember the days before Google’s rollout of Enhanced Campaigns, and if they’re still longing for the days of creating separate campaigns for every device, this update will cure their nostalgia.
Just as Google was preparing advertisers for a mobile-first world with Enhanced Campaigns, which forced mobile adoption for many advertisers, the search engine is recognizing the need for more control and flexibility when it comes to bidding. As such, Google is allowing advertisers to anchor base bids to the devices that are most important to them, with multipliers for all other devices ranging from -100% to +900%.
This new capability will help advertisers gain tighter control on bidding and performance across devices, aid in the creation of mobile-only initiatives, and address the need to treat tablets differently from desktops and laptops. While it may not be necessary to create multiple versions of all campaigns, agencies and advertisers will want to test this new ability to segment by devices on their highest priority campaigns.
Mobile and Local Ad Units
Over the past few years, Google has been giving advertisers tools to engage with customers indicating local intent. Products such as local inventory ads and store-visit tracking technology have been some of the major innovations helping advertisers connect with customers and understand the omnichannel performance of search.
At the Summit, Google announced plans to further improve the accuracy of its store-visit tracking, despite already achieving a reported 99% accuracy based on customer surveys. By utilizing beacon technology, Google hopes to further improve store-visit tracking, helping advertisers justify the efficacy of local initiatives.
Additionally, new ad units in Google Maps were also introduced to help brick and mortar retailers engage with customers. While ads in maps have existed on a small scale, Google is looking to expand this inventory, allowing advertisers to showcase their businesses when searchers are looking for things like “sporting goods store” or “sporting goods store near me.” In addition to text ads in maps, Google will begin rolling out Branded Pins that will help highlight brick and mortar locations and in-store offers to Google Maps users.
It will be important for advertisers that have store visitation and sales goals to ensure they’re taking advantage of these new ad formats and keeping their brands in the consideration set for whatever needs Google Maps users are expressing.
Innovations for a Mobile-First World
All of these major changes in Google’s platform and products have one thing in common: they all either help advertisers connect with customers on mobile devices, or help advertisers measure the effectiveness of mobile advertising dollars. New text and display ad units will help advertisers better communicate their brand’s value on small screens with diverse content, device bidding puts the power back into advertisers hands to decide exactly how much they’re willing to pay for traffic by device, and new technology is helping advertisers more accurately measure the drive-to-store efficacy of new and improving local ad units. With all these new tools at their disposal, advertisers have an unprecedented ability to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences for their customers, and where it fits in with their search strategies, advertisers should look to capitalize on these updates and more efficiently leverage the search platform.
David Mataranglo, Group Media Director, and Matt Turkel, Associate Media Director, contributed to this report.