Google Enhanced Campaigns: Were The Forecasts Accurate?

In the world of search marketing, no 2013 milestone sparked as much interest, speculation, and even fear as Google's debut of Enhanced Campaigns.  Now that we've had nearly five months since the July launch, let's take a look at if -- and how -- four commonly expected forecasts have actually played out on the front lines. 

Forecast # 1:  Complexity of campaign setup will increase.

This has borne out as expected, although with complexity has come opportunity.  Each campaign now has the options of bid modifiers by device, geo-location modifiers, call extensions and day-parting, to name just a few.  With Enhanced Campaigns, it is possible to dial up a campaign 150% during business hours, turn off call extensions when a call center is closed, and dial down campaigns at a local level, such as cutting back in Texas during high school football Fridays.

Although this has increased the number of factors a marketer needs to consider, it also provides a greater opportunity to get granular and to act on information about location, consumer preference and time of day.  This is a big advantage for hands-on marketers who focus on measurement and have access to reliable, actionable data.



Forecast #2:  At the same time, the number of campaigns will decrease.

Reality: With Enhanced Campaigns combining mobile, tablet and desktop campaigns into one, we expected to have a much smaller campaign footprint. While this can be true, we have found many cases where splitting up campaigns to target devices is now necessary.  Why?  Sophisticated advertisers have found that there can be spectacular differences in ROI by device for the same keyword, and device-specific bid modifiers are not flexible enough to account for this factor.  This scenario is most true when a keyword is extremely profitable on smartphones, but not on PCs.

Forecast #3 -- Mobile CPCs will rise.

Reality: When Enhanced Campaigns was launched, any desktop-only campaigns were opted in to mobile, and it was our opinion that mobile CPCs would increase with more advertisers in the mobile auction.  In addition, with monthly increases in mobile search queries, it would be natural to see increased competition.  As expected, we have seen mobile CPCs increase in highly competitive categories, especially those with already high CPCs.

However, Google has reported that mobile CPCs have actually decreased.  How do we reconcile this with our observations, and also with the fact that Google’s mobile revenues have increased?  My feeling is that Enhanced Campaigns placed more advertisers in the auction for millions of lower-priced keywords.  In other words, there has been significantly higher volume of lower-priced keywords to drag down the average CPC.  In all cases, though, the auction is more competitive and requires marketers to pay more attention to be successful.

Forecast #4:  For mobile-only click-to-call campaigns, an increase in traffic from desktop will not convert into phone calls.

Reality: Like Google, we saw that the most natural response to a local search on a smartphone is a phone call, so we set up “pre-Enhanced” click-to-call campaigns as mobile-only.  As Enhanced Campaigns was launched and desktop traffic was unavoidable, we found something we weren’t expecting.  A large volume of phone calls were occurring from desktop traffic.  If anything, we had been underinvesting in the “PC to phone call” scenario.

This last observation sums up perhaps the most exciting and promising piece of Enhanced Campaigns for marketers.  On all of a consumer’s devices,  Google has broadened the scenarios it touches in the path to purchase.  Come to think of it, that’s why Enhanced Campaigns were launched in the first place.

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