How to Survive Google's Latest Change to AdWords

Panic Is Not An Option

By Published on .

From the people who brought you the most efficient form of last click attributed advertising the world has ever known, we now have better mobile advertising. This week Google made some big changes to AdWords that means one campaign for multiple devices: PCs, tablets and mobile phones.

Like any big change, this will bring good and bad news for marketers, many of which are hard at work now forming strategies for following people from device to device. Google is betting this change will increase ad revenue in the connected device world.

Since the full transition isn't occurring until summer 2013, we have boatloads of time to prepare, complain or both.

First, the good news.
The foundation of any search or directive performance marketing campaign lies in its ability to track purchase behavior. Agencies and brands use a variety of tools to help understand what builds awareness, drive intent and ultimately a desired action.

A desired action can be offering an email address, collecting a coupon, herding customers into retail locations (a.k.a. local marketing) , buying something or some combination of any the above. The biggest challenge for every marketer in the multi- device world is trying to follow your audience from phone to tablet to TV to computer and back again.

People do research on tablets. They look for locations on phones. They buy stuff on devices with keyboards and big screens when they aren't interrupted by messaging, social updates, phone calls or calls of nature. We know this interruption is occurring but we haven't yet created a consistent experience for our people.

Until now, the disruptive nature of the multiple device world has created a black box for brands looking to track the experience and follow users from device to device. We needed a better way to create a consistent experience for people and the best way to do that is by completing the circle. The new and improved enhanced environment intends to do just that.

And now, the bad news.
Marketers have devoted resources to building campaigns around specific devices. We have landing pages, messaging and ad placement bids tailored to each device. We've learned to accommodate the quirky and unique nature of small devices, medium devices and larger devices. But, when Google giveth, Google sometimes taketh away.

In the not-so-distant past, long tail search marketing campaigns could be built to maximize the efficiency found in low volume, cheap click, and highly specific terms. We followed search behavior from raw, high volume terms like "hotel" right down to "hotel in my town with a pool near the airport."

Well, it made a lot more (financial) sense for Google (and other engines) to reduce the impact of the long tail and force marketers to position against more competitive, higher volume terms. Campaign management settings were changed to make managing long to the long tail quite a bit more complicated.

So guess what? All those campaigns we built focused on the advertiser centric low volume terms had to be updated and re-engineered. Funny how history repeats itself in the technology evolution process, here we are again facing a big change and everyone is scrambling to get ahead of it.

What you should be doing.
There's plenty of time to prepare for the upcoming changes. And of course, panicking is not an option. Moreover, if you think changes like this are permanent, you should do a quick history check. Google has a habit of trying something out and if it doesn't work, they have no problem changing it back, thereby making their problem, your problem.

While you should be scrutinizing your approach to device marketing, abandoning what you have learned to date in the device marketing world is a very bad idea. In other words, back up your intelligence before tossing everything out the window.

You'll be working with your agency, Google and campaign enhancement technology partners to make sure landing pages bids and messaging jive with a people centric approach as you migrate away from a device centric approach. In other words, you'll have no choice but to learn to make your campaigns mobile.

Mobile is a funny word, isn't it? The mobile label in advertising says just about anything and everything without actually saying anything at all. If the industry is to take anything away from the enhanced change, it should be noting the beginning of the end of the mobile moniker. We are here to reach people, but we are in a device world and the term mobile about to be as relevant as the rotary dial.

Kevin Ryan is CEO of the strategic consulting and project management firm Motivity Marketing. He tweets at @KevinMRyan.
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