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The 2017 PPC Updates Inventory
Produced by Hanapin Marketing
2017 has been a year full of updates in the paid advertising industry. From new social features to updated dashboards to new tracking to redesigns, we’ve seen a lot of change over the last year.. As a team that lives and breathes PPC, we understand the hardships of keeping up with every update and we’re here to help.
In this inventory list, we’ve pulled together a majority of new updates available on several platforms with a brief description of each. While we didn’t add in every single update available (there’s several small changes, on the Google and Bing platforms specifically), we did make sure to include the most valuable updates and the ones you definitely don’t want to miss!
The New AdWords Interface
Google is definitely taking steps to make AdWords more intuitive, and one of the neat things about the redesign is that most of the feedback has come from advertisers and agencies – the people that are using the product and in the weeds daily. As an agency, we’re very excited about the ability to slice up data and more deeply analyze account performance.
New features include the ability to see a graphical overview dashboard at the campaign, ad group and ad level. A lot of the hidden settings – like location, sitelinks, ad schedule, bid adjustments and device settings – are now pulled out and added to the main side navigation. There are other neat features meant to make it easier to get to the most commonly performed tasks in an account.
This new, free solution can pull in data from Google Analytics, AdWords and DoubleClick Search to provide a more holistic view of conversion actions across channels and devices for attribution modeling and bidding information. Most marketers know that conversions should be credited to more than the last touch point. A customer probably saw video ads, banner ads, emails, social ads, and other materials, so attributing a sale to the last ad seen is not sensible. Marketers can easily see the conversion impact of keywords and ads based on multichannel and multi-device conversion paths data. By automatically sending modeled conversion data into AdWords, automated bidding can take upper and mid-funnel contributions into consideration.
Cross Device Conversions
Cross Device Conversions (CDCs) is a really exciting update from Google, because it has been a long-standing issue in the world of PPC and SEO – tracking the customer journey when it crosses multiple touchpoints. On March 14th, Google started adding in CDCs for search and shopping campaigns, with display cross device conversions to come soon.
Google does this by taking aggregate data from any clients or users that are signed into any services that Google has to offer. From the backend, Google then pieces together the story of how a user went from clicking on an ad on mobile, to doing some research on tablet, to ultimately converting on desktop.
If they are able to pick up enough data points to tell an accurate story, they then pass the data back to you as a conversion. Instead of contributing the conversion to a direct desktop (the last click), we’d want to be able to attribute the conversion to a paid search effort because the user clicked on the mobile ad first.
Google revealed that advertisers that are using cross device conversions have seen an average lift of 16% more conversions when they pay attention to that data point.
As mentioned earlier, along with the new interface came new features for dashboards. You have now have the ability to see a graphical overview dashboard at the campaign, ad group and ad level. All dashboards in an account are conveniently listed in the Reports tab for seamless collaboration and you no longer have to navigate back and forth across different tabs and reports to get a comprehensive view of account performance.
Exact Match Variant
Google’s definition of Exact Match keywords changed this year. The latest definition makes the concept of “exact” a little looser. Google is now using machine learning to match search queries to exact match keywords, with some slight variations thanks to function words and reordering words. According to Google, early tests show that advertisers could see up to 3% more exact match clicks on average while maintaining comparable click-through and conversion rates.
If Function Ads
This one is a spin on ad customizers. IF functions allow you to insert a specific message in your text ad when a condition is met, and there is a default text when it does not. This makes your ads tailored to each search and more relevant. Essentially, IF functions give advertisers the ability to customize their ads in the same way ad customizers traditionally would do, but without needing a product feed. If you’ve ever had to deal with product feeds, you know all too well that they can be a handful and very daunting, so the IF function ad makes it a little easier.
With IF functions, text ads can be tailored based on whether users are on mobile and/or are members of an audience list. They can also be used to customize the description offer based on whether a user is in the advertiser’s “Cart Abandoners” retargeting list. If they are on the list, users will see a “15% off” promotion; if not, they’ll get a “10% off” offer. IF functions can also tell if a user is on a certain device in order to give them more customized ad copy. You can then customize and give special offers.
This is another step into Google’s efforts to use machine learning to improve targeting through the newly launched Smart Display campaign. Smart Display just came out of Beta mode in May 2017 and allows advertisers to target their ads to audiences and placements that are most likely to drive conversions for their business, without requiring any set targeting. All advertisers need to do is pick a CPA goal and upload some ad assets. Google handles the rest.
This tool requires you to relinquish some control over creative and can interfere with ad testing, so if you are a PPC control freak, this may not be for you. You also need at least 50 display conversions or at least 100 search conversions in the last 30 days in order to be eligible.
This new update also allows you to work smarter, not harder, by doing a lot of the optimization for you. Smart display campaigns automatically optimize within days. Your campaign automatically selects the best combination of assets to give you the best performance. In this way, you can learn which of your headlines, descriptions, images, and logos perform best.
Similar Audiences for Search and Shopping
Similar Audiences looks at data about your existing remarketing audiences (using your remarketing tags) and finds new and qualified consumers who have shared interests with that audience. It’s a powerful tool for reaching a much larger audience and driving clicks and conversions among new prospects. People on your original remarketing list are automatically excluded from the corresponding similar audience list. Lists are constantly and automatically updating as users change their search activity. Once a user visits a site, they’ll no longer be included on the similar audiences list.
Similar audiences targeting basically takes the guesswork out of discovering new audiences by finding potential customers who are similar to people are your existing remarketing lists for search ads. This is a great tool if you’re looking for a fresh audience to reach out to.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
For every 1 second it takes a retail website to load, conversions fall by up to 20%. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) allows mobile web pages to load at lightning speeds, creating a better and faster experience for the user. A better landing page experience results in a better ad experience. By directing search ad clicks to AMP landing pages, you can create the super-fast and delightful mobile experience that consumers expect.
2x Daily Budgets
Starting on October 4th, 2017, all AdWords campaign daily budgets were updated. That is, all campaigns can now spend up to twice the average daily budget. According to Google, this update is in line with helping advertisers reach different goals around advertising metrics such as clicks and conversions. The idea behind this update is placing more value on high-quality traffic and less value on low-quality traffic. Further, it will help capitalize on days of abnormally high traffic. This will translate to a fluctuation in daily spend over the course of the month. The days with higher spend will be counterbalanced by days with lower spend which means you won’t spend more than the monthly charging limit (30.4 days multiplied by your average daily budget).
Traffic will not always be consistent throughout the month. For example, say you have a campaign with a daily budget of $10 ($304 for the month). If there are 10 days in the month where traffic is low and you only spend $5 per day, that equates to $50 left on the table. Furthermore, if you are budget-constrained on 10 other days, this update allows your campaigns to use that $50 that was previously left on the table. In other words, it helps dynamically allocate the monthly budget on a per-day basis to ensure campaigns make the most of their monthly traffic. So, this update will ideally help advertisers hit budgeting goals more consistently and in an optimized manner.
Previously, advertisers were prompted with a few options including rotating evenly, rotating indefinitely, optimizing for clicks, optimizing for conversions, etc. However, with this recent update, Google is trying to eliminate advertiser uncertainty in what rotation setting to select.
The new update will simply show two options, “Optimize” and “Do not optimize.”
The option to optimize would involve allowing Google to determine which ad to serve based on its likelihood for a click. This process considers keywords, search terms, devices, and locations, among other factors.
On the other hand, you can choose to do an even ad rotation, meaning all ads in the ad group are shown an equal amount. Though the wording “Do not optimize” can be a little misleading to advertisers, it is important to note that this option can still be just as impactful. This option is best for when you have a specific ad test in place and/or you want control over giving each ad an equal opportunity to perform. The final piece to this update is noting that the ad rotation settings can now be implemented at the ad group level meaning you can have multiple rotation settings in place within one campaign.
Page load speeds are crucial to PPC account performance. Adding tracking to the page is just one more element that adds to the overall load time, ultimately drawing out the user’s experience. To help combat this, Google rolled out parallel tracking.
With this new tracking, the idea is to mitigate delays and create a better overall experience. With parallel tracking in place, users will head directly to the landing page after clicking an ad. Meanwhile, the browser will process URL tracking requests in the background. This allows users on slower networks to reach your site faster, ideally cutting back on wasted spend and increasing conversion rates.
Shopping Ads in New Countries
With this new update, you can quickly expand your shopping campaigns to multilingual countries. If you sell and ship products to multiple countries, but your website doesn’t have different product pages for each country’s currency, Google will automatically display your product prices in the local currency and convert the currency for you. Shopping ads are available in 30+ countries now.
Product Ratings on Shopping Ads Now Available Globally
Product ratings appear in the form of stars and review counts on Shopping ads. This 5-star rating system represents aggregated review data for the product, compiled from multiple sources including merchants, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users. Product ratings are now available in all markets where Google Shopping is present.
Only available in the new AdWords Interface, promotion extensions make it easy for you to keep your promotions up to date without the need to create new ads. The extension adds another line of promotional information to your ad. However, they must be specific to a discount or offer (i.e. a monetary discount, a percent discount, a price qualifier, etc.). Beyond that, advertisers can choose to also display promo codes, occasions, dates, and/or order amount qualifiers.
Display Ad Extensions
Google now offers location extensions and store visits measurement in the Google Display Network. With the new extensions, you can reach nearby customers when they’re ready to buy and get a better understanding of your offline performance across channels with the store visits measurements.
Soon, they will be rolling out affiliate location extensions for display ads. If you are at a manufacturing company, these extensions need to be on your radar, as they allow manufacturing brands to show which retail chains sell their products. In this example, Google is using the affiliate extension to promote the Pixel 2 and the ad is showing local locations you can purchase the device, as well as the ability to get directions to the store and find more information about the store.
Youtube Ad Extensions
Location extensions and store visits measurement are now available on YouTube! These are the first-ever ad extensions for TrueView in-stream and bumper ads. The goal of the extensions is to engage viewers with your brand offline to drive more visits and in-store purchases. People watching your videos will see your address, directions and business hours right in the ad, which you can see an example of here with IHop. Once you have the location extensions in place, you can then use store visits measurement to see how your video campaigns are driving foot traffic and make adjustments as necessary.
Life Event Targeting
Life Event targeting, now available to all AdWords advertisers, allows you to target users around major life events. The life events include graduating college, moving, and getting married. With the targeting, you can pinpoint users before or after the event to maximize the efficiency of your targeting. For example, if you are a wedding venue you can target people as they are planning their wedding or if you are a local furniture company, you can target users after they have moved to your area. The life event is currently available for Gmail-only and video advertising campaigns.
This update is a fast and easy way to test changes across your text ads at scale. For example, you may want to see how “Happy Holidays” performs when used in your text ads. With ad variations, you can test this change across thousands of ads in just a few clicks. You’ll then get the test results as soon as they’re statistically significant. If you see that an ad variation is doing well, you can quickly replace all of your original ads with the new variation.
Custom Intent Audiences
Available on the Google Display Network, this update makes it easy to reach people who want to buy specific products you offer–based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel. For example, if you’re a travel agency offering holiday getaways, Google could automatically create an audience of people shopping for “all-inclusive ski resorts” or “flights to Palm Springs.” They’ll then show you reach and performance estimates for each audience.
Monthly Budgets to Daily Budgets
In April 2017, Bing Ads announced that they were migrating all monthly budgets to daily budgets, with budgets defaulting to “Daily Accelerated” instead of Standard. This means that daily accelerated budgets will spend as quickly as possible throughout the day whereas the standard would spread the budget more evenly throughout the day.
Bing Ads Editor (BAE)
The Bing Ads Editor, version 11.9, is out! Two of the big changes revolve around enhanced CPC bidding and utilizing exports to create expanded text ads.
The new Editor includes the ability to select manual or enhanced CPC bidding, whereas before it only had the manual option. With the ETA exports, you can export this data into Excel, add a title and then import them back into the Editor. If you’re still behind on updating those ETAs, this is an awesome and time-saving tool for you.
And, Bing Ads Editor (affectionately known as BAE) is now available on Mac for everyone so the whole world can enjoy.
AdWords Feature Adoption
Bing Ads spent a great deal of energy this year catching up with the ever-growing list of advertising features and management tools available in AdWords. Here is a
“Top 10 List” of Bing Ads adoptions you should be aware of:
- Competitive Metrics in Interface
- Dynamic Search Ads
- U.S. County Targeting
- Maximize Clicks Automated Bidding
- Countdown Ad Customizers
- Offline Conversion Import
- Account Level Ad Extensions
- Remarketing Exclusions
- Scheduling Ad Extensions
Ad Extension Updates
The new Bing Ad Extensions now include a multi-select feature, so you don’t have to add them one at a time. This does include all extension types, except for image extensions.
Also new! You can now schedule ad extensions, which allows them be more efficient and universal for time-sensitive offers. The scheduling feature should be helpful with management around promotional offers, top-performers, and, hopefully, reduce wasted spend and clicks.
Shopping – Merchant Center Promotions
These are special offer extensions for shopping campaigns that include a description, promo code and expiration date. They’re displayed by interacting with the special offer box. If you run ecommerce accounts, then you should test these out, especially if you have frequent promotions that resonate well with your customers.
Shopping – Product ID Search Terms
You can now see the search queries that triggered at a product ID search term level, which can be a huge help with title optimization. You can also pull a report on untargeted offers. Both of these updates will help you plan for products you could be advertising, but can also help identify missed opportunities with your product offerings. And, you can have a downloadable report in the Bing Merchant Center.
Shopping – Bid Landscape Tool
This new tool provides forecasting for different bid adjustment levels. It can estimate cost, clicks and conversions for each level that you set. However, like most forecasting tools you should take what the Bid Landscape tool displays with a grain of salt, but nevertheless it’s great to have quick forecaster budget recommendations.
Bulk Edit with Multiselect
This highly requested update helps improve efficiency of bulk edits by selecting multiple campaigns or ad groups in BAE, as well as copying and pasting multiple items from one account to another. Currently this update is only available for Windows users, but is promised to roll out to the Mac version in the future.
Opt Out of Ads on Desktop
Advertisers can completely opt out (set to -100%) from displaying ads on desktop. The new range for desktop is now in-line with the rest of the devices at -100% to + 900%.
Streamlined and intuitive, multi-linking allows advertisers to link accounts without having to classify itself as an agency, as advertisers had to do previously. In addition, accounts can have up to five managing entities, and billing responsibility can also be moved between entities with no pausing of the account necessary.
Multi-Linking is helpful for agencies and multi-account advertisers in various scenarios, such as when you’re looking to:
- Run reports across all your managed accounts.
- Transition clients from one agency to another.
- Manage billing information from one customer shell.
Bing has positioned this as the first part in a multipart upgrade for agencies that desire increased options and capabilities with multiple-account management. The second phase will reportedly be Multi-User Access, allowing users to have a single username that can access multiple Bing Ads customers.
The Overview tab offers a high-level, customizable view of advertisers accounts.
Not to be confused with the Homepage in the top navigation of the Bing Ads UI, the new Overview tab is found under the main Campaigns page. It provides a high-level view of account performance with more customization opportunities than the Home page.
From a design and layout perspective, the new tab more closely resembles the overview pages available in the new AdWords UI. Individual tiles feature data in charts and tables. Users can resize, hide or remove a tile from the three-dot icon in the upper right-hand corner of any tile. Moving tiles around is as easy as dragging and dropping. Campaign and metrics filtering can be applied to the entire Overview page.
The new tab is rolling out globally in the Bing Ads UI over the next few weeks.
Excel uploads are now accepted
Last year, the UI only accepted .csv docs when it came to uploads, which resulted in several formatting issues, especially when special characters were involved. Now, excel uploads (.xlsx) are accepted and allow you to use all the special characters you want.
Carousel ads let you take advantage of multi-image storytelling to deliver more informative messages that drive greater user engagement, interest and demand. You can highlight your product features, its benefits and attributes by using a sequence of image panels that build on your story. These are available on desktop, mail and mobile and you’re allowed up to 5 images to communicate the value of your product and drive engagement on Yahoo web properties.
New Account Alerts
Yahoo released a new filter that allows you to see which keywords have too low of a bid for your ads to show. One thing to note is that this is not a “default” filter and can only be accessed via the notifications drop-down at the top right of the UI.
A second alert sends advertisers a notification when there are keywords without ads in the account. This ensures that volume isn’t lost due to a user error or upload error.
The cloning feature
Yahoo finally jumped on the copy/paste bandwagon to save advertisers precious time. While they decided to be fancy and term it “clone” rather than “copy”, advertisers can now copy campaigns, ad groups and ad copy for faster implementation and upload.
Interface Update in Ads Manager
The Facebook Ads Manager got a makeover as well. Excluding the transition and initial learning curve, it will ideally make management easier, quicker, and more efficient by featuring automatic filters based on what you select from the campaign ad set level to ad level. So, if you select a campaign, it will filter through only the ad sets and ads that are associated with that campaign, making it much easier to navigate.
They’ve also added the right-side toolbar, as you see below, as an easy alternative to navigate through ad options and scheduling options. Those options will appear beneath the name of whatever you’re working on when you hover over the title of a campaign or ad set.
This is a team favorite update on Facebook – a new type of mobile-specific ad focused around ecommerce. It combines image and video, with four product images. When the user clicks on one of those images, they are directed to an immersive shopping experience within Facebook, displaying up to 50 products. Then to take it even further, if the user clicks on one of those products they are redirected to the site or mobile app.
Collection ads are meant to drive product discovery and to deliver a seamless browsing experience on mobile. It serves as its own funnel in one way, bringing more interested and qualified traffic to your brand and converts demand into sales. Basically, these ads combine a normal ad with PLA and funnel-qualified traffic through at the ad level.
Facebook Ads Manager for Excel
FAME is basically an add-in to download data to Excel, and a single report covering multiple ad accounts. This will sync your Facebook data directly into excel and you can download it for free in the Microsoft store.
Offline Conversion Data
Facebook now offers offline conversion data specifically around lead ads, by providing better integration with CRMs, points of sales, and call centers. With this data, you can map leads back through sales cycle, attribute more weight to your Facebook efforts, and gain a more defined view of how Facebook positions in your sales cycle.
Split Testing Ad Optimization
This feature allows you to perform a Facebook-driven split test for your ads, where Facebook will provide a winner between the two ads with a certain confidence level percentage. You might already be doing this manually, but this could be good for ongoing campaigns, where you need to keep your creative fresh on a frequent basis and also provides a more time-efficient way to run these tests.
2017 has been the first year under Microsoft ownership and with that came a lot of new updates to LinkedIn. Improvements to demographic targeting, conversion tracking, and a whole host of smaller updates should make many pause and take a second look at the platform if it hasn’t been tested in over a year.
LinkedIn Matched Audiences
With this update, LinkedIn added three new powerful targeting options for marketers to use in their platform.
- Website Retargeting: Create audiences based on website visitors allowing you to re-engage with people who have shown interest from other sources.
- Account Targeting: Companies can upload a CSV list of company names and it matches them to users who work for that company. Great for use in Account-Based Marketing initiatives.
- Contact Targeting: Remarketing to an uploaded list of email addresses.
Lead Generation Ads
Lead Gen Forms helps drive more high-quality leads from Sponsored Content campaigns and remove the barrier to mobile conversions. The Forms make it easy for users to submit their information by auto-populating information they have provided in the respective fields. By syncing your leads with a CRM system or simply downloading them, you’ll have a great new source of quality leads entering your funnel.
Instagram is making great efforts to make ecommerce easier with the introduction of Shoppable Instagram, a feature that lets users buy products directly by clicking on a CTA in the app.
In order to set up a shoppable feed, you are most likely going to need a third-party to help you. Unfortunately, it’s still a little too complicated for an individual advertiser to manage and maintain, but the value of it is fantastic once it is set up. The myriad of tools available to create a shoppable gallery make the transition quick and simple, with no coding necessary. Many of the tools out there to create a shoppable Instagram include built-in analytics that can show you which images generate the most customer interest, optimal posting times for highest sales conversions, and other details that can help shape your Instagram strategy.
The focus for awareness campaigns is to get your ad in front of as many people as possible, rather than focusing on any sort of conversion action.
It’s a great campaign option for one’s first foray into Twitter advertising, when specific goals aren’t hashed out yet or to run in conjunction with more targeting campaigns to continue to get your message out to a broad audience.
Rolled out to everyone in October, keyword based advertising is now available on Pinterest. You Search ads mimic traditional search; picking broad, phrase, or exact keywords that your ads will show on.
While Pinterest has generally been great for generating interest at the very top of the funnel, this should allow marketers to really hone in when someone is closer to making that purchasing decision.
One of the things that Snapchat did this year to make a relationship between business and users a little easier is a feature called deep-linking. Deep-linking allows advertisers to take users out of Snapchat and directly to an app download page. If you’re advertising an app and the users don’t have the app requested, they’re redirected to the requisite download page. In the past, Snapchat would take the user to your main page, where the user would then have to find their own way to the download page.
Auto-fill forms take advantage of Snapchat’s user-signup information. They leverage that info to auto-complete forms for other ads that pull info from Snapchat: names, phone numbers, addresses, etc., to increase the likelihood of users engaging with ads that have their info pre-populated.
Lens is a visual discovery tool. It is still in Beta mode, but US iPhone and Android users are getting a sneak preview of the tool. Lens allows users to tap the Lens icon and swipe up in order to access new idea Lenses to try out. Users can incorporate their devices’ cameras into their searches by tapping the camera icon in the Pinterest app and taking a photo of something, after which they will see recommendations for similar objects or ideas.
Lens is basically the Shazam of objects in the real world. The feature can bring more attention to your products that are available for sale and help more potential customers find you.
This is another visual discovery tool introduced by Pinterest this year. When you notice an idea that looks interesting, just tap the circle that appears on each Pin to instantly unlock related ideas and lead you down a rabbit hole.
The new ideas appear right inline, so it’s like you’re instantly reshaping your feed around whatever sparks your interest, all without losing your spot. Behind the scenes, your feed will get even more personalized, delivering you the very best ideas that people are loving on Pinterest, all in real time.
Shop the Look
Where advertisers can make the most direct ecommerce revenue is the visual discovery tool called “Shop the Look.” Users can click on individual items in photos so they can buy them or, if they aren’t for sale, see similar items that are for sale through the network.
Brands can tag items themselves, or Pinterest employees will tag them so users can click through to make a purchase. In the past, Pinterest had buyable pins, which let users make purchases, but those pins were limited to a single item each. Now a brand can essentially advertise multiple products in the same pin.
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
The updates will keep rolling in this year and as 2018 begins. The best way to stay updated on what’s new is by reading PPC and Search blogs like PPC Hero, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, Beyond the Paid, and Wordstream’s blog (just to name a few!), as well as the blogs for each platform.
If you really want to ramp up your PPC efforts in 2018, then make sure to check out the Largest All-PPC Conference, Hero Conf, which will take place on April 16th – 18th, 2018 in Austin, Texas . (maybe an ad here instead?)