Wednesday's announcement from Google promises to make a real impact on advertisers. These changes will undoubtedly meet Google's primary goal of increasing the adoption of mobile search advertising, but unfortunately, this threatens to be at the expense of their most sophisticated marketers.
On the plus side, being able to schedule different extensions based on time of day (for example, using phone extensions only when your call center is open) can be valuable. The concept of "smarter" ads -- mobile-preferred ads, sitelinks, etc. -- is nice, yet many marketers already manage these through separate campaigns.
The notion of separate campaigns (or accounts) by device type is part of what Google is trying to cut down on. Google hopes to make it easier and require fewer assets to manage -- one campaign for all devices with a handful of modifiers as opposed to duplicating or triplicating campaigns. It will certainly make it easier to spend more across device types – something I'm sure Google is aiming for.
For smaller accounts and/or those with limited resources to manage paid search across devices, this has the potential to make things easier, although not necessarily as efficient from an ROAS perspective. But for larger marketing teams with the bandwidth and knowledge to manage their accounts with a more granular approach, these changes will inhibit some of the control they are used to.
These sophisticated marketers take advantage of a device-type structure to easily control spend by device type or target specific transactions or returns. That will no longer be possible. Instead, marketers will need to adjust the mobile bid multiplier for each campaign. And even then, that will not impact spend on desktops -- just on mobile.
Even more troubling is that marketers won’t be able to advertise just on mobile. They will essentially be required to advertise on desktops even for mobile app downloads, for example -- with a bid at least one-third of their mobile bid. We feel there will be a lot of pushback on this, and Google will likely need to reexamine.
The other big change is doing away with tablets as a targetable device type. Google makes a strong argument for the blurring of the lines between laptops and tablets (Just see Larry Page's comments on mobile design during last month’s earnings call). And while we agree there's some truth to the idea that users are finding laptops and tablets more interchangeable, there’s still quite a difference. There is great value in being able to target, bid and design for different screens. As our Q3 report showed, tablet users spent 30% more time on-site and had 20% higher Engagement Scores than PC users. This is a significant difference in behavior.
These changes will require some significant reworking of accounts, particularly for more sophisticated marketers with larger, more granular structures. The good news is that none of it has to happen overnight. Google is announcing this now to make sure everyone has time to be comfortable with the new structure by Q4.
Advertisers should pay very close attention to these changes and take the time to be sure they completely understand them before transitioning. That said, it’s imperative they migrate their accounts themselves or with the help of their agency or SEM partner before Google does it for them. The auto-updating of legacy accounts this summer is not likely to be in anyone's best interest.