It’s that time of the month again – September has come to a graceful close here in the Pacific Northwest, winding down what has been an eventful summer (and month!) for paid search. Each of the big platforms had something interesting to offer in September – read on for details!
The undisputed leader in the industry of PPC advertising has made a lot of changes over the past year, but this past month seems to reflect a slightly slower pace, with what are mainly minor (though still useful!) changes to the platform. Here they are, in rough chronological order:
Early in the month, AdWords rolled out callout extensions, which allow advertisers to quickly display benefits, promotions, or specific services with their existing ads. We’ve covered callouts more thoroughly in our most recent blog post, but for now, here’s what you need to know about this new extension:
- Appear under your main ad copy (like sitelinks), but do not include hyperlinks
- Can be shown with any of your existing ad extensions
- Can be configured or swapped out at any time, without losing data
- Can be displayed anywhere from 2 to 4 at a time (minimum of 2 to display)
- Can’t repeat any copy from description lines, extensions, or other callouts
Callouts are intended mainly to improve click through rate (CTR) for your ads, by quickly presenting users with the key bits of information they’re likely to be most interested in.
Local Inventory Ads Expanded
This fall marks a full year since Google added local inventory ads to AdWords in the US. Seeking to provide search users with information about where and when they can buy products locally, these ads offer a great solution for businesses who want to use search to attract customers to their brick-and-mortar stores, rather than simply directing them to purchase online.
This September, local inventory ads are becoming available in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia. They’ve also been improved globally, adding better functionality for store-only ads and campaigns on desktop devices.
Google is promoting this new feature as the first in their upcoming series of “Tools for the Power User,” which essentially means tools that will be most useful for advertisers working with very large campaigns and accounts. Ad customizers are intended to, in Google’s words, help “optimize creatives at scale.”
This feature incorporates specific information about your business, the product being advertised, its price, and other relevant details, and uses that to create ads that are as timely and relevant as possible. It’s like a more upgraded take on dynamic keyword insertion – one that ideally will help large brands avoid the pitfalls experienced by some of the less attentive ones.
By automatically including highly specific information with ads – such as availability, price for particular models, and promotions unique to that product – advertisers can significantly improve click through rates for thousands of ads at a time.
Read more about it in Google’s own post here.
New Display Ad Formats for Mobile
In an effort to address the challenges faced by display advertisers crunched for space on mobile devices, Google is rolling out several new ad formats over the next few months – all of which should help improve ad consistency across platforms.
Here’s what they’ve revealed so far:
- Engagement ads. Consistent with the theme of streamlining large campaigns through dynamic ad creation, this new format is intended to create HTML5 ads using brand assets and media already in your AdWords account. AdWords adjusts the ads as needed to fit various formats, screens, and sizes, drastically reducing the amount of time needed to scale great-looking ads across large accounts.
- TrueView video ads.Google is now including TrueView Ads throughout its AdMob network, expanding beyond gaming apps and charging advertisers only when users choose not to skip ads.
- Anchor ads. This format stays at the bottom of a mobile screen regardless of where the user scrolls – though they can opt out by dismissing the ad if they find it irrelevant to their interests.
- Magazine style text ads.While this format has already been included on mobile websites, it’s now being added to the AdMob network for apps. Google advertises these as combining the “glossiness of print magazine ads” with the “ease and practicality” of text ads.
- Google has also added a set of new tools intended to improve their ads’ mobile readiness, including automatic mobile sizes for image ads, interactive HTML5 backups (for instances where Flash is being used), and numerous new HTML5 and in-app formats.
Bing Ads has released a slew of new features over the past few months, working hard to prove its platform on par with its competitor at Google. Here’s a rundown on the biggest new features added this month:
- Expanded Keyword Count for View and Bulk Edit on Web. Bing has been trying to reduce friction between its web interface and desktop application, and previously one of the biggest constraints has been the limitation on the number of keywords that can be viewed or edited at one time via the web. With the most recent update, users can now view and bulk edit as many as 1 million keywords, and view up to 500,000 ads and up to 250,000 ad groups in the respective tabs for those account levels.
- Dynamic Sitelinks.Only a few months behind Google, Bing just announced dynamic sitelinks this month, a feature that automatically generates links to various pages on your site based on the information available to the platform. This includes your site’s deep links information and any available content, which is dynamically pulled and presented to a search user based on its relevance to their query. As with this feature in AdWords, any click on a dynamic sitelink (rather than the ad headline) is free, because the link and content is not decided by you.
- Location Targeting and Ad Scheduling Makeover. Targeting options on this platform have been a bit limited, and this month’s updates help address that. Now, advertisers with Bing can schedule ads for any time they want, down to 15-minute increments – with separate bid adjustments possible for each period. Location targeting has also been improved, allowing targeting and exclusion at the zip code level for US users on any interface, improving radius targeting (now at the 1 mile/1 kilometer level), adding an updated Geo Location Report, adding intent only targeting (for users searching for, not from a particular location) and enriched city level targeting. Finally, Bing has upped the maximum location targets per campaign and ad group to a total of 10,000.(9/14)
- Close Variants in Exact Match and Broad Match Modifier.Over the month of September, Bing has added a “close variants” feature (just like the one in AdWords) for both its broad match modifier and exact match types. This way, advertisers can capture users who may have used similar but not identical search terms in a given query – including typos, plurals, or common synonyms of those terms. Microsoft found that, in internal testing, click-through rates increased an average of 3% for broad match modifier ads using this feature, and 2-3% for exact match.
- Market Sizing Dashboard Added for US users.This new feature, available as an Excel file download, provides essential information about specific markets in the US, including impressions, clicks, average CPC, and average CTR for various verticals and sub-verticals. The dashboard offers a lot of flexibility – take a look through it yourself!
- Updates to Tablet-related Device Targeting.As Bing moves forward with its own enhanced campaigns, it has begun to combine targeting for tablets and desktop devices – paralleling the move made by Google in its own update last year. However, advertisers still retain the option to adjust tablet bids separately. According to Bing, the next phase of their update, which will begin in early 2015, will fully eliminate mobile device “targeting” and replace it with bid adjustments.
- Campaign Planner Launch in US.This month marks the launch of Bing’s new Campaign Planner tool, which aims to provide advertisers with as much information as possible about their target market and competitors. The tool uses data taken from the entire Yahoo Bing Network and presents it to the user, allowing them to scope out search trend history, competitor insights, and relevant data on possible new keywords (such as volume and average CPC). Describing all the functionality here would take up too much space, so go read about it or play with it yourself!
- Mobile and Product Ads Now Easily Previewed.Everyone knows the trick to a great mobile ad is making it look as good on a phone as it does in your ad interface. This can be much easier said than done, so Bing Ads is rolling out a new ad preview tool that lets you see for yourself. The update also lets advertisers diagnose underperforming product ads, adding a column under the “Product Ads” tab that provides an explanation for why an ad might not be showing.
- Shared Negative Keyword Lists at Account Level.Previously, whenever you wanted to tell your ads not to fire for keywords totally irrelevant to your business, you had to create a separate list for each campaign – which, if you’ve ever had to deal with ambiguity in the terms that describe your business, product, or services, you know to be a pretty frustrating and unnecessarily time-consuming task. Now, any negative keyword list you create can be applied to any campaign you want, with an account maximum of 20 (each containing as many as 5,000 negative keywords).
- Enhanced Sitelinks in the US. Following Google closely (if not subtly), Bing Ads just launched enhanced sitelinks for advertisers in the US market. The new sitelinks allow two lines of descriptive text underneath the actual sitelink, taking up substantially more of the SERP real estate and, according to Microsoft, bringing about click-through rate improvements in the neighbohood of 30-60%. Enhanced sitelinks can be added from the Ad Extensions tab, under Sitelink Extensions. Advertisers can edit their existing sitelinks to add new descriptive text, maximizing the usefulness of this new feature.
Interestingly, there’s not a lot of news on Facebook’s PPC platform this month… except for the fact that it has, apparently, been completely rebuilt. Facebook announced the official debut of its update to Atlas on Tuesday, the 29th.
The Atlas platform, originally purchased from Microsoft last year, has reportedly been under (re)construction since then, and is now ready to be unleashed upon the people. According to Facebook itself, the new platform is geared toward “reaching people across devices” and “bridging the gap between online impressions and offline purchases” – two goals that ought to resonate with most online marketers out there today. One of the most prominent features is the platform’s ability to sell advertising space to advertisers on platforms not owned by Facebook, but which comprise a “key group of partners” that will make possible the company’s goal of reaching Facebook users wherever they are on the web.
The platform is, as of now, still only two days post-launch, so there will likely be more to report in the coming months.
Anything we missed? Tell us in the comments below!