Google has made changes to the way marketers create, bid and target paid-search desktop and mobile ads. On Wednesday, the company released Enhanced Campaigns, a tool that combines paid-search ads on desktop and mobile. The changes -- which are expected to roll out in February -- rely on time, location, relevance, context and content rather than device distinction.
The new campaign structure will simplify targeting and bidding for different devices and locations, especially for small- to-medium sized businesses struggling to create multiple campaigns for one product. Management was too complicated and consuming for all but big-budget sophisticated advertisers, said Larry Kim, Wordstream founder and CTO.
"New click-to-call reporting options will allow marketers to make a connection between what they spend and what they get back," Kim said. It means an end to paying $1 extra per call to see what phone numbers were called, when, and how long the calls lasted. Kim said that by June, after the planned auto upgrade, Enhanced Campaigns aims to fill the gap between mobile and desktop cost per clicks.
"Enhanced Campaigns will roll out many requested features and betas, including improved reporting for all ad types such as sitelinks at the campaign and ad group level. One very exciting announcement is that all call tracking will be free, potentially replacing third-party call tracking solutions that some advertisers use," said Daina Middleton, global CEO of Performics.
Adobe Senior Director of Product Management and Strategy Bill Mungovan believes that by lumping higher-performing tablet traffic with desktop traffic, revenue per search will rise for Google, and CPCs will increase on the combined desktop and tablet traffic.
The anticipated changes also affect the way advertisers measure ROI across devices. Mungovan and The Search Agency VP of Marketing Strategy Keith Wilson are concerned that Google is lumping tablets in with desktops, while smartphones are targeted differently.
Some 126 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones -- 54% of the mobile market -- during the three months ending December 2012. That figure is up 5% since September, according to comScore.
While all three device types have their idiosyncrasies, a Google spokesperson said the focus now turns to content, context, location, time of day and factors other than the hardware. Wilson expects the application programming interface to provide more data points to advertisers, but one major change involves Google's removal of tablet-targeting capabilities in search. "We see conversion rates and behavior differ from tablet to desktop. The removal of tablet targeting is a short-to-midterm negative for search marketers."
Marketers point to the positives too, such as ease of use and reporting technologies. Paul DeJarnatt, VP and group director at Starcom, is "intrigued" by the advanced reporting Google promises, particularly in areas that have traditionally been hard to measure, such as in-store purchases.
While it's too early to tell how deep reports will go, DeJarnatt notes Google now becomes the gatekeeper to all of that data. "It remains to be seen how easily that will integrate into our clients' existing efforts at attribution across all media," but it comes at the expense of targeting capabilities on mobile, he said. "Our efforts to truly understand and adapt to very unique audiences in mobile become constrained because Google effectively treats all devices, and their audiences, as one large group."