It’s been another exciting year in the paid search stratosphere with Google debuting a host of new features designed to help advertisers get their products and services in front of the right customers at the right moment.

Join me as we rewind the year and review some of the biggest changes of 2018!

Google Ads Rebrand

In the year 2000 Google released their online advertising platform – AdWords. This year marked their 18th birthday and with this came an image revamp. The name change to Google Ads aligns them with two of the other big players in PPC advertising – Bing Ads and Facebook Ads – and also signifies how far they’ve come from relying purely on keywords to attract users. Once a platform for text ads, Google Ads now utilises a variety of ad formats and targeting options which help advertisers reach their audience in multiple ways across the internet.

Responsive Search Ads

The arrival of Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) brought with them many benefits for advertisers; description character limits were extended from 80 to 90 characters, plus you can now create up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions within an ad, which the system then rotates. This automatic rotation allows the system to learn which ad copy combinations work well together and which messaging is most relevant for a potential customer’s search. Whilst performance reporting is a little less clear-cut than with text ads, the ‘Assets’ view allows you to see how many impressions a given headline/description has received, and ‘Combinations’ shows the percentage of times an ad combination appeared together.

Expanded Text Ads Update

RSAs are not yet available in all languages but in the interim Google have applied updates to expanded text ads. The introduction of a third headline and a second description line, and the extension of the description character limit to 90 characters (same as RSAs), means everyone can create larger, more informative text ads. Truncation can occur based on device size and Google states the third headline is more likely to appear on wide mobile devices. Bing now has support for the second headline/third description line which means ads can be seamlessly imported from Google, allowing continuity of messaging across networks.

Exact(ish) Match

This year exact match lost its literal meaning; the match type now includes close variants which can be triggered if the search intent is considered to be the same. To provide an example, the search [free copyright images] may match with your keyword [images royalty free]. These close variants of your exact match keywords allow your ads to show for a broader spectrum of searches and negate the need to create exhaustive keyword lists. Check in on how these close variants are performing by regularly running Search Terms Reports and if necessary add searches that are spending without converting as negatives.

Search Ad Position Metrics

Gone are the days where you rely solely on average position as the indicator of where your search ads might be appearing on the results page; in November Google introduced four new position metrics which help advertisers better understand the placement of their ads against the organic listings, and not just their competitors. With average position an ad might be stated as appearing in position 1 but that could potentially be below the fold and under organic entries. However, with the metric Impr (Top) % you can see the percentage of times your impressions appeared at the top of the page, and Impr (Absolute Top) % shows for what percent of the time your ad occupied the very first spot on the page. Accompanied by Search (Absolute Top) IS and Search (Top) IS, these metrics can better diagnose issues advertisers commonly face, e.g. a high average position but a low click-through rate, which could be due to ads appearing at the bottom of the search results page.

Automated Bidding

Accompanying the aforementioned new search ad position metrics is a new automated bidding strategy – Target Impression Share. This strategy joins Maximise Clicks, Maximise Conversions, Target CPA, Target ROAS and Enhanced cost-per-click as bidding options which leverage machine learning to help advertisers achieve their campaign goals. Automated bidding can account for auction-time signals which cannot be manually adjusted for, such as internet browser and operating system, so by utilising these strategies the process of targeting the customers most likely to convert is even more sophisticated. For Display campaigns an exciting new strategy has been added – Pay for Conversions. Here you set a CPA target and you are only charged for the conversions you drive, e.g. a CPA target of £10 and 25 conversions would equate to an advertising cost of £250, with an actual CPA of £10. Unlike other bidding strategies, you only pay for conversions, not clicks or impressions.

Smart Shopping and Smart Display

Automated bidding really comes into its own in Smart Shopping and Smart Display campaigns. These campaign types rely on automated bidding plus automated ad creation and placement to help simplify the process of expanding reach, broadening your customer base, and maximising conversion value. After the initial learning period has completed (typically 15 days) your Smart campaign should begin to optimise and you can start evaluating performance. In addition, it’s worth remembering that if you have products in a standard Shopping campaign and a Smart Shopping campaign the Smart campaign will take priority, thus it is recommended the standard campaign is paused to minimise interference.

If you would like to update your PPC strategy please get in touch for a free account audit and see how Circus can help 2019 be your best year yet.

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