Every spring, Google unleashes a slew of big announcements. One year, the big announcement was Enhanced Campaigns. Last year, they dropped the spectre of Expanded Text Ads on us.
Today, our own Mark Irvine was live in person at Google's Marketing Next event in Mountain View to get the scoop on what big changes and new features are coming to AdWords, and we've got a roundup of all the updates right here.
Between sweeping aesthetic alterations, a bunch of new audience features, and oodles of buzzwords, Google Marketing Next did not disappoint.
The good news: our AdWords overlords have bestowed on us a bounty of exciting new features that’ll enhance your digital marketing strategy.
The bad news: you’ve got some learnin’ to do! (But don't worry! We'll guide you through all the changes in our free webinar tomorrow. Sign up here!)
The overarching themes of the day (and upcoming year) were user intent, data, and machine learning.
I’d say the event was underpinned by another word: context.
Recent changes to AdWords (I’m looking at you, Exact-ish Match keywords) have led the digital marketing community to declare the beginning of the end for keyword-centric advertising; in its stead, we'll work with semantic and contextual information, targeting audiences, not clicks.
Between machine learning and the rise of voice search (which apparently makes up 20% of all mobile searches) today’s announcement did little to slow the march towards a keywordless future.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Some of the new features announced today will make it easier to find prospects, while others will help you cater to their explicit needs from your first interaction the point of sale and beyond.
Let’s dig into the 11 most interesting features and changes announced at Google Marketing Next.
1. AdWords Has a New UI
Google is billing this as “the most powerful change [they’ve] made to how advertisers visualize and manage their campaigns in over 15 years.” And it’s easy to see why. The new AdWords UI is sleek. It’s sexy. It’s everything the clunky old UI, with its overlapping shades of grey and unfindable sub-menus, is not.
That being said, you needn’t worry about wrapping your mind around the whirring new labyrinth just yet: despite the fact that millions of advertisers already have access (and can vacillate between the old and new UI’s at will) the “new AdWords experience” won’t be available to everyone until December.
Stay tuned: we’ll have a more in-depth post on the new AdWords UI later this week!
2. Life Events Targeting Comes to YouTube and Gmail Ads
There are some things that can be categorized as everyday purchases. Hand soap. Corn Chips. Cigarettes. Whatever.
For purchases that tend to happen around or because of YUGE life events (think weddings and graduations), though, things are a bit different.
There are patterns of behavior that tend to indicate an impending life event. Looking for an apartment and working on your resume and upgrading from kegs of swill to four-pack microbrews, for example, might establish that someone is graduating. If your product or service could help someone at this stage in your life, your advertising to them is a mutually beneficial proposition.
Check this out:
By using this exact strategy, smart-speaker company Sonos saw huge improvements in both ad recall and search intent.
Now, AdWords will allow you to use Life Events as a targeting option in both your YouTube and your Gmail Ads. Big, bold, targeted creative. What’s not to love?!
3. In-Market Audiences Come to Search
Machine learning was mentioned by virtually every speaker, but the bit that piqued my interest most was about in-market audiences finally coming to the Search network.
As you know, in-market audiences, which have been available on the Display Network for some time now, help advertisers find prospects who are nearing the end of the buying cycle. Through the synthesis of search query data and activity analysis, Google is now able to identify these hyper-valuable subsets of your target demo on the search network.
4. Location Extensions for YouTube Ads
Good: A totally disinterested stranger finds and watches your video on YouTube.
Better: A prospect sees your video on YouTube.
Best: A prospect sees your video, notices the new location extensions beneath it, then heads to your brick-and-mortar joint to buy bespoke shoelaces or chewing gum that never loses its flavor or [insert your product or service here].
Welcome to the new PPC reality.
5. Google Surveys 360
Account managers rejoice!
Surveys 360 allows users to:
Create a survey
Find a specific audience sample across the web
Generate results quickly
Why does this matter? It promises to make A/B testing SO MUCH EASIER, by giving you the ability yo solicit feedback from customers. By asking someone why they clicked your ad, you can get an idea as to what’s working (and what isn’t) straight from the horse’s mouth.
This was the feature that elicited the most favorable response from members of our Managed Services team. Nic D’Amato, a Senior Paid Search Strategist, said “It’ll help with remarketing, with ad copy testing: it’s got a bunch of applications and I’m excited to try this out.”
6. AMP Ads and Landing Pages for Search & Display
Mobile matters. (Duh.)
According to Google, every additional second of landing page load time represents a 20% dip in conversion rate. This is no good. You need fast(er) landing pages and you need them yesterday.
AMP landing pages are Google’s latest answer to improving page speed.
But wait: it gets better.
In addition to sending search traffic to AMP pages (as you can already do organically), Google has also unveiled Display ads for AMP pages. These ads allegedly load up to 5 seconds faster than regular Display creative: even though the ads look the exact same!
7. Google Optimize: The Landing Page Solution We’ve Been Waiting For?
After the big shiny new UI, this has the potential to be the most interesting announcement to come out of Marketing Next.
Google Optimize will now integrate with AdWords, giving advertisers more agility in the often clunky, belabored world of landing page testing.
Per Google: “With the Optimize and AdWords integration, you can quickly and easily create new versions of your landing pages and then apply them to any combination of AdWords campaigns, ad groups, and keywords – no coding or webmaster required.”
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Landing page variants with no coding required. It’s a PPC fever dream like no other.
Simplified landing page testing will give advertisers a massive advantage over their current selves (especially when you consider the new Quality Score reporting available in AdWords, which allows us to view landing page experience on its own).
I’m really curious to see exactly how this works and begin using it in my own clients’ accounts.
8. Hello, Google Attribution
Another new product!
The complexity of the average customer journey, which often traverses the digital and physical worlds, far exceeds my pay grade. Most attribution solutions don’t really make life any easier on this front, so the majority of marketers are stuck in “where did that conversion actually come from” limbo.
Google Attribution will allow you to view the true impact of your digital marketing efforts from 10,000 feet. For free.
Attribution modeling is a pain (unless you’re some kind of data scientist or something). This will make it easier. What’s not to love?
9. New Landing Page Report
More mobile stuff. Shocker.
For my money, this is the most actionable takeaway of the lot. Google has baked a nuanced, upgraded version of the PageSpeed tool right into the new AdWords UI.
Outside of providing suggestions for optimizing the load time for a specific page, this new Landing Page Report will allow you to review a site-wide usability report and ask experts questions.
10. Google Assistant Makes Buying Easy
Offering users a simple way to pay for your goods or services would be fantastic, right?
What if they could do so from their phone? Using only their voice?
So is Google.
Per the announcement today, mobile devices (plural: people using multiple devices, like up to 5 in a day, is a thing) will afford prospects much faster checkout times. That’s not the neatest part, though. That honor belongs to the way Google Assistant is being integrated.
By uploading local inventory, a searcher can be alerted to the exact number of X product in stock at your shop in real time.
This one’s got some stringent caveats (prospects must use Android Pay, the Play Store, or some form of payment stored in Chrome), but it represents the future, man.
11. Cookie the Dog
Last but definitely not least. Cookie, Bhanu Narasimhan's dog, stole the show.
Still got questions, about Cookie or about how all these new updates and features are going to affect your AdWords campaigns? There's still time to sign up for our webinar on WEDNESDAY, MAY 24. We'll talk you through everything you need to know.
About the Author
Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what's good for you, you'll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.