Google’s new AdWords innovations

Google has announced their planned improvements to AdWords which they will be rolling out in the near future. Any online marketer worth their salt has already watched the live stream and come to their own conclusions about what these planned changes means to them. As an online marketer myself I have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

Google has been driving home the importance of mobile devices for a while now and they even go so far to admit it themselves. They were smart enough to anticipate mobile adoption, especially since they had a vested interest with the Android platform and the Google Play store falling under their umbrella. However they can’t bank on AdWords advertisers being similarly enlightened or forward thinking and have altered how AdWords campaigns are set up to naturally include mobile devices. This way the mobile ad market won’t be under populated or monopolized by the enlightened few.

However this is all old hat for those in the know.  Google stresses that we shouldn’t be focusing on the devices themselves, but instead the users of those devices, especially since it’s the user that will be buying your product and not their smartphone. It was probably inevitable that the focus did shift from people to devices in the bid for mobile advertising adoption to pick up. Google would like to realign our efforts to back to the customer.

Using cross device data to supplement a user’s search results is one way of doing this. If a user does a mobile search, and that search is relevant to an app on their device, then an ad can display to take the user directly to the relevant content in the app. This aids users in learning the value of apps that they have installed but haven’t come to use often yet.

This sounds like an elegant re-engagement mechanism, if it weren’t for the fact that the ads still need to be paid for. It could too easily become habitual for users to use this shortcut as the method for accessing relevant content on the app, at the cost of the advertiser, instead of converting to using the app naturally. This might not matter to Google very much, because they are keeping true to their promise of offering user re-engagement tools whilst making a healthy income from it.

Google mentions that there is an 80% drop off rate in app usage after installation. This is a horrifying statistic for app developers, who wish to retain all of their users if they could. It might just be me but I feel there’s an intense effort here to minimize an ugly statistic, which is otherwise just natural human behavior in my opinion, by introducing a monetization mechanic. I’ve sampled lots of things, never to return to them for a reason. If I only use an app once it is most likely because it wasn’t useful or engaging enough in the first place or had some other irredeemable quality. Granted it is good practice to delete apps that you don’t intend on using from your device but that is not a human behavior that comes naturally to most.

All said Google will nonetheless let app owners remind their audience that they do in fact have their app installed. It would be interesting to see how online marketers ultimately respond.

Moving along, Google announced new bulk action tools for AdWords. The idea might be that we shouldn’t be dependent on external methods (like AdWords Editor) for general edits, even if they affect a large number of variables. This extends further to their announcement of Advanced Reporting, to discourage downloading data and manually manipulating it, and instead seeing all the information you need live inside AdWords.

I’m excited for these last two mostly because they are core, elegant and thoughtful improvements to the tools we use most often every day. Their addition should have immediate noticeable effect on one’s day to day usage of AdWords.

Google’s also expanding with experiments, where you can make changes to your campaigns and compare them side by side. This might become one of the most useful and used tools in AdWords. Why implement any changes immediately when you can sample what results you would gain from it beforehand? It has the potential to change online advertisers’ penchant for acting on guesstimates and instead have every change be done in significant security about what it will cause to happen.

All in all while not revolutionary Google are continuing to update and improve AdWords whilst trying to stay ahead of the game.

Avoiding unwanted clicks in the display network

If a Pay Per Click advertiser started off only working with the Google Search Network then switching to or expanding to the Display Network might be somewhat daunting. The first thing one might notice is how differently keywords are handled, in that they aren’t necessarily needed at all.

Instead various targeting criteria, used to qualify your intended audience across Google Display Network websites, are employed. The tools at your disposal are:


  • Display Keywords

    Unlike regular keywords these are used for context in websites, to find pages that are related to what you’re advertising.


  • Manual Placements

    A very powerful tool, placements lets you decide exactly what websites you are interested in advertising on. Of course these websites must be opted into the Google Display Network.


  • Topics

    These are like Display Keywords but more broad in scope. You select general categories that are relevant to your ad and then Google finds websites that matches those categories in content.


  • Interests

    So far we’ve been targeting websites and their content. Google surreptitiously tracks the websites that internet users browse whenever it can which allows us to target ads to users that have shown interest in relevant categories. So the vital distinction here is that we are not necessarily showing ads on relevant websites but instead to users that have been on relevant websites.


  • Gender & Age

    These are actually two distinct targeting parameters but they are self explanatory enough to lump them together.


    You can combine multiple targets but bear in mind that each one limits your exposure, not expand it. So a potential user needs to be applicable to both targeting A and targeting B before your ad gets served.  If there are little or no octogenarians that have an interest in skateboards then try not to use that age and topic combination.


    Just like negative keywords in the Search Network you can add targeting parameters that exclude users to which it applies. This will become very important, as I will explain soon.


    By far the most powerful tool here is manual placements. With all the other tools we are trusting Google to be reliable and accurate, which are not always guaranteed. Except for manual placements we are targeting characteristics of users that are collected, estimated or even guessed at. Of course we aren’t even targeting the user personally, just the device that they browse the web on. It is possible that the tablet, laptop or personal computer that has become associated with certain browsing habits is shared or becomes shared with another person. Users that


    So eventually only with manual placements can one be confident that the website showing your ad is showing it to a relevant audience, because why else would someone have visited it?


    Until you start curating where your ads appear you may be surprised where they might pop up otherwise. For this reason you may want to use the Display Network’s site category options to exclude types of websites that don’t line up with your ad’s message.  You can choose to not display your ad on websites based on what type of content those websites carry or what type of service they deliver. For example you might want to avoid placing your ad on a gambling website or one that contains profane language.


    So far we keep referring to ad platforms as websites, which is correct for the most part. However the Google display network extends to their Google App network for mobile devices. You may find that your ads aren’t appearing on websites at all but on Android games and apps. This market is undisputedly very different and if you are not overtly aware of it when you launch your advertising campaign then you might be capturing clicks from disinterested or irrelevant parties.


    Like the shared family computer, targeting a device isn’t like targeting a person. It is not unusual for a typical mom or dad to browse various websites on their tablet and then hand it over to their child to play games on. Serving ads about the latest fashion trends in high heels or camping gear won’t hold sway over little Timmy playing with his edutainment app. And if he does tap on your ad, incidentally or not, it would be a wasted click.


    You can avoid advertising on mobile platforms by adding the GMob mobile app non-interstitial category as an exclusion.


    Ultimately with all PPC campaigns you need to constantly experiment and monitor the results. A portion of your budget should be allocated to finding new marketing strategies, especially so in the first few weeks. This counts double for the display network since you’re using broad audience qualification parameters than simple Search Network keywords. Also if you don’t start off using manual placements, which is fine if you don’t know where your target market spends their time, then you don’t know where your ads may end up.


    There is no sure fire strategy here since every marketing campaign is unique. It is up to the advertiser to see what works and what doesn’t.

Ad Viewability – What All the Fuss is About

On the 31st of March the Media Rating Council lifted their viewable impression advisory for display advertising.

What does this mean for us?

Well let us look at what the MRC does.

The MRC examines the technologies that the media industry employs to measure the impact of advertising on their respective audiences, and ensures that all those services that it accredits are valid, reliable and effective. Notable members of the MRC accreditation program include various Google, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo services. If the MRC advises anything then the big players in online marketing are likely to listen. What the MRC did advise was not to think you or anyone else knows how to measure viewable impressions.

Since November 2012 and up until the end of March 2014 the MRC have deemed viewable impression technology to be in its infancy and not sufficiently advanced enough to guarantee accurate measurements. This advisory was not intended to stymie research forays into the field, but instead to protect both the companies from offering flawed measurement services and the people willing to use them. The time since the advisory was put in place was enough to develop the technology and standards needed to provide rich, accurate data on viewability.

The MRC outlines their decision and the rationale behind it here, or alternatively visit their website at


Why is impression viewability important to us?

The watchword of online marketing is measurability. Instant, real-time information gathering on what you’re advertising, when you’re advertising it and to whom you’re advertising it to. Today you can see how many people are on your website, what they are viewing, how they got there and what path they followed to get there. The more information we can gather on our customers, as well as who didn’t turn out to be valuable customers, the more we can do to fine tune our marketing efforts.

Right now Google’s Search Network is a finely tuned machine for advertisers. Everyone knows exactly what they are bidding on and where their ads are displaying. If you are maintaining a 2.0 ad position average then you can be confident that your ad is appearing within the top three spots on Google’s Search Engine Results Page.

Display advertising is severely lacking in a number of these metrics.

First and foremost you have little control over where exactly your appears on 3rd party websites. You have no guarantee that your ad is being displayed in a prominent position likely to get the user’s attention. Worse still, there is no guarantee that your ad is seen at all despite racking up impressions. This is the lack of security that impression viewability technology wishes to address. In theory if an ad has been scrolled passed or not even seen then that should not count as a viewed impression. In practice due to the lack of cohesive standardisation around website design and even impression view metrics it has been difficult to know whether viewed impressions really were viewed impressions.

That, the MRC believes, is now a thing of the past and Neal Mohan (VP of display advertising at Google) agrees. He writes a compelling article advocating why impression viewability is a sorely needed metric in online advertising. You can read his article here.

Google has long been working on their Active View service (which is only available in the United States as of writing). With this service you can purchase views on the Google Display Network Reserve, which are similar to clicks in nature. You don’t pay for your ad appearing, you pay for it being viewed (according to the measurements Google defines as being viewed.)

The hope is that because only a finite amount of online content can be reasonably be consumed by the web-surfing public  guaranteed views are actually a valuable, limited resource. A webpage might serve an unrealistic amount of ads, but only a fraction of them, if any, can be classified as guaranteed views.

Advertisers wish for their marketing efforts to be measurable and have a demonstrable impact. Advertising platforms such as Google wish to keep their ad networks of high quality and desirable. With viewable impressions set to become an industry wide standard both may come to be realised.

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