Our In 60 Seconds series addresses a number of concerns and emerging trends in online marketing.
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Back in February, Google made a major announcement about a planned upgrade to Google AdWords called Enhanced Campaigns. You might have heard something about this. ;-)
If I could sum up the collective response from SEM professionals to this announcement, it would look like our friend Grumpy Cat here.
In fact, comments on the initial article from SearchEngineLand.com showed just how skeptical SEM professionals were from the outset. See my comment and others (and note the popularity):
Since the announcement, several of our AdWords contacts have called and emailed us asking why we haven't converted all of our campaigns to enhanced. "Everybody is going to be upgraded eventually, so you might as well do it now," they would say. Ok, well, with that logic I might as well start wearing adult diapers and take a spoonful of Metamucial each morning. It's not something I want to do, so I'm going to wait until I have to.
The fact is, there are some good benefits to Enhanced Campaigns. I don't believe anybody would argue otherwise. The problem is, Google has wrapped up the good improvements with some terrible changes, and packaged them together into one combo meal called "Enhanced" and they are forcing it on everyone. Personally, I believe Enhanced Campaigns are going to be awesome for Google (ka-ching!), but not so great for advertisers on balance.
One of the major issues with Enhanced Campaigns is the loss of targeting options, specifically with regard to targeting Mobile phones only and targeting Tablet visitors separately. I want to focus on the latter for just a minute.
With the announcement of Enhanced Campaigns, Google stated that "consumer behaviors on tablets and desktops are becoming very similar." Now, it may be true that behavior is becoming more similar, but it's not similar today. In fact, it is drastically different.
Many of our accounts have campaigns targeted specifically at tablets because we've seen much lower conversion rates from tablet users. I wondered if maybe Google had some data that showed something that I haven't seen before. As an exercise this afternoon, I pulled out our client list and starting going through Google Analytics accounts, just hoping to be surprised. I stopped after about 15, but this is what I found:
Now, this is a random sample, and I didn't leave any clients out to make a point. These clients span across verticals and range from household brands to SMBs, retail to B2B. As you can see, in only one case did Tablet traffic perform comparably to Desktop traffic.
Our SEM team uses this kind of data to appropriately target and bid tablet users today. We don't ignore tablet users, but we definitely bid lower for their clicks because they do not perform as well as desktop users. I don't know what else to say. I don't think this is going to change by July 22 when campaigns are automatically switched to Enhanced. Consequently, we expect the ROI for many of our clients to suffer. This is unfortunate and frustrating for us as a team. The funny thing is, when I bring this up to our AdWords reps, they actually agree with me! A typical response is something like, "yeah, I see what you mean. Well, you should upgrade anyway." Um...excuse me? I should purposely choose to downgrade my accounts and cause my client's ROI to go down? Yeah...I'll get right on that.
Here's the thing: I can understand Google's position to a certain extent. It will certainly become more difficult to distiguish tablets and desktop users in the future as more devices like this hit the market. But certain devices like iPads and Kindles, which make up the majority of tablet traffic, are easy to identify. At least continue to give us control to target and bid these devices separately.
As it is, Google will be the big winner here because all of us who have been bidding lower for tablet (in accordance with its performance) will be forced to pay a higher CPC for lower quality traffic. It's no wonder Google is expected to generate over $5 Billion from tablet ads alone this year.
We've been told there's no way Google is relenting on this, but we're still going to sign this petition. Will you join us?