2017 will probably be recalled as a milestone year in the AdWords evolution, not only for the roll out of the new User Interface to all advertisers, but for a global shift towards automation under all sides of campaign management. Here is a recap of the most important adjustments and new features launched for each type of campaign in order of appearance and potential impact on accounts.
In May 2017 Google removed 30% cap form “enhanced CPC” (optimize for conversions) bidding strategy (https://www.ppchero.com/adwords-announces-upcoming-changes-to-enhanced-cpc-bidding/).
Another step towards automation was taken in June when they added “Maximize conversion bid strategy”, which automatically sets all CPCs to get the best results in terms of goals achieved. That’s for sure a nice try in campaigns with a consistent history of conversions (at least 2 or 3 daily) https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/05/maximize-conversions-with-smart-bidding.html.
In October they decided to remove the 20% cap to daily spend limit in favor of a more “elastic” 100% limitation (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1704443). The decision to allow campaigns to spend up to the double of the limit set by the advertiser, if in previous days there were underperforming dates, was severely criticized within the AdWords community. But it was rapidly digested, because if you know how to manage your budget you are not going to have large oscillations in your daily spend anyway.
In October Google made available globally Data Driven Attribution modeling to all advertisers https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/6394265 and prevented conversion data from losing reliability in connection with the new Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention by saving AdWords GCLID in _gac Analytics cookie on September https://www.adworldexperience.it/en/better-adwords-goal-tracking-thanks-apple/. The launch of the free for all Google Attribution service in May was probably the first step in this process.
In November AdWords rolled out the possibility to test at scale small variations within every single Ad (http://www.clixmarketing.com/blog/2017/11/28/ad-variations-in-adwords-a-new-tool-for-ad-testing/). It is a little early to say how much this will affect our accounts, but it undoubtedly is something to test in the next months. In the meanwhile Google is working on generating new ads automatically, as demonstrated by a beta released in August (http://www.thesempost.com/adwords-beta-feature-suggests-new-ads-auto-enables/).
Back in September they released also AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page) landing page support (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/09/speed-up-your-search-text-ads-with-amp.html) and Analytics style Dashboards (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/07/get-panoramic-view-of-your-data-with.html).
Last but not least, in November and December came “Enhanced Customer Match”, now allowing remarketing list enrollment by users’ telephone numbers and street addresses (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/11/28/customer-match-phone-number-address), “Life events targeting“, with whom we could now target freshly graduated, moved or married people (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/11/29/adwords-life-events-targeting) and the “Custom Intent Audiences” (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2497941), which are the equivalent of custom affinities, but for In-Market audiences.
In February the green background “Ad” labels in SERP were changed to green outlined ones (https://searchengineland.com/search-ad-labeling-history-google-bing-254332). Considering that at least 50% of Internet users yet in 2016 did not recognize sponsored from organic results (https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/04/27/do-50-of-adults-really-not-recognise-ads-in-search-results/), when they were still yellow labeled and before Expanded Text Ads made them even more similar to natural listings, we can only imagine how many users are now clicking on ads considering them non-sponsored results. This is not a change in the back office system, but, believe me, for sure impacted CTR rates.
In February again “IF” operator was introduced to dynamically change text ads for different audiences or devices (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/7207341).
In March they weakened Exact Match (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/03/close-variants-now-connects-more-people.html) strongly reducing the usefulness of phrase match and Alpha-Beta campaign models in favor of more automatic or machine learning guided campaigns.
May was a really busy month for AdWords Search Network because they launched a partial revision of the Quality Score algorithm to consider also the query meaning (https://searchengineland.com/adwords-ad-rank-changes-bid-query-meaning-275000), thus favoring semantic matching and branded searches and rolled out segmented data + Historical Quality Score metrics availability in custom columns (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/05/16/adwords-quality-score-reporting). In May came also “Price Extensions” (https://searchengineland.com/adwords-price-extensions-now-live-devices-270325) and In-market audiences & similar audiences were extended to Search & Shopping campaigns.
In September ad rotation options were simplified to only 2 (optimized or non-optimized) https://www.adworldexperience.it/en/new-simplified-rotation-options-for-adwords-ads-starting-from-925/ and Call only Ads began showing Locations and Structured Snippets extensions (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/09/supercharge-your-call-only-ads-with-ad.html).
In November they rolled out Promotion Extensions (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/11/new-adwords-innovations.html) and rebranded/rolled out “Local services by Google”, the former “Google Home Services” program, in 30 cities in the USA (https://searchengineland.com/google-local-services-ads-30-cities-285895).
Shopping & Local Campaigns
Besides giving the possibility to use remarketing & similar audiences, in May Google started testing Product Listing Ads in the Display Network (https://searchengineland.com/google-shopping-ads-display-pilot-274251).
Launched in 2016, Local Inventory Ads during 2017 became available in US, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and UK https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/3057972.
In July they rolled out Showcase Ads in Shopping Campaigns (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/7325107) which potentially can be a rule breaker in many shopping sectors in which product images are important.
In September they made available Shop Visits conversions to all advertisers with registered My Business listings “gathering thousands of ad clicks and many store visits” (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/6100636). They claim a 99% accuracy of data and I am sure the future of retailers is here and in Affiliate Local extensions (launched in November 2016).
In preparation for holiday season, from September to November they rolled out a new revised Merchant Center (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/09/ring-in-holidays-with-new-merchant.html), improved Shopping feeds managment (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/11/new-efficiency-tools.html) and launched the Google Manufacturer Center (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/11/google-manufacturer-center-rolls-out.html).
Video & Display Campaigns
Besides the updates already reported in the global innovations, in April Google launched the totally automated Smart Display Campaigns (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/7020281), which in Q1 2018 will be available at group level (http://ppchubbub.com/google/dynamic-search-ads/dynamic-search-ads-is-now-an-ad-group-type-not-campaign-type/).
In September they made available Location Extension in Video Campaigns too (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2404182).
In November they released Remarketing in Gmail Sponsored Promotion (https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/11/21/new-adwords-features) while, back in June, they had announced the sunset of domain and specific content targeting options based on free users messages in Gmail (https://blog.google/products/gmail/g-suite-gains-traction-in-the-enterprise-g-suites-gmail-and-consumer-gmail-to-more-closely-align/).
In November Google rolled out the new Universal App Campaigns, replacing the former platform specific campaigns and completely automated by machine learning (https://adwords.googleblog.com/2017/11/apps-best-practices.html).
Is evident that Google is heading towards a complete automation of all promotional efforts, both from the point of view of targeting and ad creatives. In this scenario PPC professionals will soon be asked to move from creating and structuring campaigns to elaborating strategies and Optimizing Conversions. That is why in the last 2 editions ADworld Experience focused on these activities and will do it even strongly in 2018 (subscriptions are open and registration fees are rapidly growing).
I sincerely hope this recap will help you to improve your campaigns. May the ROI be with you! In 2018 too. ;-)