ppc advertising

Every year, PPC advertising shifts in significant ways, offering advertisers new challenges and opportunities to deal with.

This year has been no different. In fact, this year might go down as exceptional for the vast number of changes that have transpired.

While the big news of last year revolved around Expanded Text Ads, this year has presented such a wide variety of changes that it is hard to pin down just one as the front runner.

The overarching theme for these changes, however, is quite clear: Google is focused on user intent and machine learning.

There’s lots for you to familiarize yourself with, so let’s dive in.

In-Market Audiences Hit Search

Most advertisers familiar with the AdWords platform are acquainted with in-market audiences as it has been available through the Display Network and YouTube for quite a while.

In-market audiences help advertisers to target prospective buyers who are nearing the end of their journey and are about ready to make a purchase.

In May, just before the Google Marketing Next event, the company shared via its blog that in-market audiences would be coming to Search. In the post, senior vice-president of ads and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy shared that:

“. . . If you’re a car dealership, you can increase your reach among users who have already searched for “SUVs with best gas mileage” and “spacious SUVs”.

He went on to state that, “. . . In-market audiences uses the power of machine learning to better understand purchase intent. It analyzes trillions of search queries and activity across millions of websites to help figure out when people are close to buying and surface ads that will be more relevant and interesting to them.”

While Google does use information like search history to determine applicable consumers, it does so in an anonymized way for privacy reasons.

There are now over a dozen in-market audiences that AdWords users can leverage.

Increased Targeting with Life Events

Continuing the trend of machine learning as it relates to user intent, Google also announced earlier this year that consumer patterns and life events targeting options on YouTube and Gmail Ads are now a thing.

This is a massive step forward for advertisers using these avenues. Before, the most effective way to target an audience was through leveraging high-intent keywords.

Using machine learning, Google can better understand various signals to understand life events based off of search and video histories.

This is vital for getting in front of consumers at the moment they are ready to buy because, “. . . Consumers going through life events are much more likely to have similar purchase needs than consumers that are merely in the same age, gender or income demographic,” as noted by Adweek’s Kimberlee Morrison.

Shopping Ads Come to the Display Network

Shopping ads have seen a massive influx in recent months.

This was empirically shown by Merkle’s Q1 2017 Digital Marketing Report. The document revealed that spending on Google Shopping ads saw a 32 percent year-over-year increase, compared to a 12 percent boost in text ad spending.

Because of the massive success Shopping Ads is experiencing, Google was wise to expand the offering to the Display Network.

This comes after the company rolled PLAs (product listing ads) out to YouTube, image search, and third-party sites within the Search Partner Network. When the announcement was made, Google restricted the expansion to fashion and home design websites, stating in an e-mail to AdWords API users:

This will allow them to expand the reach of their Shopping Campaigns beyond the Google Search Network. It will allow their shopping ads to be eligible to appear on a handful of select, premium fashion and home decor sites for this pilot.”

As of May 29, Google automatically entered all advertisers into the program. Though opting-out is a possibility, users cannot set up a separate display shopping campaign.

AMP for Ads

Another announcement to come out of the Google Marketing Next conference involved a greater degree of integration with AMP pages.

Search advertisers are gaining a beta program that allows them to serve AMP-enabled landing pages on mobile devices. When users click on the associated search ad, they will be sent to an AMP landing page that (naturally) loads faster than traditional pages.

Google has revealed that testing indicates positive results in user behavior and conversion rates.

For the Display Network, Google is automatically converting display ads to AMP format because it loads up to five seconds faster than previous builds.

AdWords UI

While this change has yet to roll out to the entirety of AdWords users, Google is calling it, “. . . the most powerful change [they’ve] made to how advertisers visualize and manage their campaigns in over 15 years,” so I thought it might be worth a mention.

Already in use by millions, the new AdWords layout and user experience is much more streamlined and intuitive than the cumbersome system advertisers are used to wrestling with.

Dubbed “AdWords Next,” the blog announcing the redesign makes it clear that mobile-first is the focus and intention; much like everything else Google is doing these days.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thought of having to navigate a new interface in the midst of all these other changes (and many more), fear not — the new design won’t see a widespread rollout until December of this year.

There you have it: Some of the most important changes to AdWords to come down the pipeline this year. It looks like you have a lot of learning to do so I’ll leave you to it.