The biggest change to Google Ads in recent years wasn’t to its name (it used to be known as AdWords), but to the way the system uses data points to improve performance.
Looking back five or ten years, control freaks (like me) were over-segmenting their campaigns to an intense degree in order to control all aspects of their Google Ads advertising. Back then, it was not surprising to see an account with hundreds of campaigns, broken down by device, sub-theme, match type and more.
A couple of years ago, 60% to 70% of a campaign manager’s time was spent on bid management. Nowadays, Smart Bidding has revolutionized the way we manage campaigns by reducing management time to between 15% and 20%, which leaves more time for thinking and analyzing.
Control freaks (a necessary state of mind, back in the day) may not like this new way of working, but they will have no choice but to adapt in the years to come.
In this article, we’ll go through what has changed and why we need to adapt to new ways of working in order to bring more value to our Google Ads marketing campaigns. First, let’s look at the two biggest changes of the last decade: AI/ML and new match type variations.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms have changed the game in terms of campaign management.
Indeed, Smart Bidding strategies such as maximize conversion value, Target ROAS, Target CPA and others use all the existing data points in your account to target users who are more likely to convert and maximize your return on investment.
Read | If you haven’t read Frederick Vallaeys’ book Digital Marketing in an AI World, cancel your plans and start reading. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
To maximize your use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in Google Ads, you’ll want to review your campaign architecture to ensure that you’ve maximized your data points to fully use the power of Smart Bidding. To maximize your data points, simplify the structure of your campaign by considering which variables are the most valuable to your campaigns and remember, less is more.
Here are some variables you might want to consider for the coming decade.
Does your performance really vary based on location? Your answer is probably yes, but don’t make the mistake of creating campaigns for every market. Group them by market tier to limit the volume of campaigns.
This variable will always be a crucial part of a digital campaign’s strategy. Keep in mind that Google Ads’ language targeting is based on browser settings. In a bilingual market such as Montreal, many people use an English browser but search in French. If your campaigns only target French keywords, you can add English to your targeting too!
When you start building a new architecture, always limit the number of tactics you activate. Yes, it’s tempting to create campaigns for every audience and product type to more closely control your budget and allow yourself to make micro-adjustments, but don’t do it. In today’s world, a simpler approach is better. Put your faith in the system, and simplify your account architecture to maximize data points. If you eventually realize that some ad groups are performing very well and not being maximized in terms of impression share or share of voice, then and only then would you slice and dice your campaigns to create different sets of sub-campaigns.
Audience is a dimension that’s been underused for too long. Google introduced “Target and Bid” now known as “Targeting” or “RLSA” some time ago but unfortunately, I don’t often see it used in Google Ads accounts, though should be activated in most accounts.
Think about what you want to achieve with your campaign. Where does it sit in your funnel? Are you trying to acquire traffic? Do you want to engage new people? Are you trying to sell your products? Remember, it takes many steps before a user will make a purchase.
Digital advertising in 2020 has become very competitive and Audiences are now a must if you want to perform with your most valuable users.
At Adviso, we introduced a new approach called the Audience Micro Funnel Migration Model (AMFM Model) two years ago, and we’ve since seen great results. Indeed, the overall performance of our campaigns increased and we gained efficiency in our campaign management. We were even awarded the top prize in the Audience category in Google’s Performance Honours Program. Audience-based marketing is not only for display and paid social, but for search as well.
What’s the simplest way to activate this model in a search campaign? Create a set of campaigns in Targeting mode for all your audiences and a second set of campaigns in Observation mode that excludes your audiences. This way you’ll be able to maximize your budget for your targeted audiences and invest any extra budget in prospecting.
Segmenting your audiences at the campaign level gives you the option to optimize for different goals by setting a specific conversion goal for each campaign. Are you looking to reach new users that tend to have a low conversion rate on their first visit to your website? No problem! Select a softer conversion action and let Smart Bidding optimize for a KPI that is higher in your conversion funnel. That way, you will be able to engage people with your campaigns and see their value in a full funnel approach.
Over the years, there have been major changes to the most fundamental ways that Google Ads works. A user types in a query and Google Ads triggers one of your keywords. A couple of years ago, things were easier to manage using the usual keyword match types: broad, broad match modifier, phrase and exact. Now things are a bit (a lot) more complicated and exact keywords are targeting and triggering much broader queries using the concept of “close-variant.”
Have you ever seen an account that was splitting ad groups by match type? Well, 2010 called and it wants its idea back!
Welcome to the new age of Google Ads. With the new concept of “close-variant,” it’s now obsolete to work the old way. In 2020, we strongly recommend consolidating your match type ad groups into a single group (think about data points!) and only use phrase and exact match types. Gone are the days of using the broad match type if you want a good return on your investments.
Another strategy that was popular a couple of years ago was the use of SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Groups). Back then, this was a genius idea. However, in this brave new world of match types, this old strategy has become obsolete. In 2020, if you have a single theme ad group with ads that answer the user’s query and drive that user to the right landing page, you’re good to go!
Search Engine Land has talked a lot about this new match type era and summed the change up nicely:
This is a fundamental shift for SEMs who tightly organized campaigns by match type — or even single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) — and sculpted query matching carefully with negatives.
Source: Search Engine Land
Watch | If you want more information about these changes to match types, I highly recommend that you check out this great webinar led by Google Ads veteran Brad Geddes.
If you haven’t upgraded the structure of your campaigns in recent years, you have reason to be nervous about this new way of managing campaigns. Always keep in mind that #LessIsMore, remember to maximize your #DataPoints and if you are still using an over-segmentation approach, know that you are most likely losing money every day. You should be able to visualize your funnel within your account architecture.
Another advantage of keeping a lean structure is that you will be able to be more responsive and adapt your strategies to new innovations. Maybe you’ve been living under a rock for the past month and haven’t heard yet but Google announced that they will be removing Third Party Cookies from their web browser. This is a big change that may strengthen Google’s position as a top player in the advertising world. They will most likely be launching a ton of new features on their display and video platform. If your Google Ads account is not set up to be easily managed, you may not be able to react fast enough to test new betas.