Is Mobile Different Or Not? AdWords Muddies The Waters With ETA

I tweeted a lot about this yesterday, but it seemed like a topic that needed a longer format to discuss. I was not privy to the Expanded Text Ads beta in AdWords, so I learned about what was (and was not) included in this new structure yesterday when the availability rolled out to all US accounts. The parts I was excited about previously are still cool – having more characters is absolutely a plus. But there are a couple of parts that are not necessarily great and certainly confusing. The one I will focus on here is the removal of the ability to specify an ad version as “mobile preferred”.

I know, historically even if you specified an ad version as “mobile preferred” it did not mean that ad would always be shown to a person on a mobile device. But, it absolutely did mean that the majority of mobile users would see that ad. My question is larger than if mobile preferred ads showed to mobile users 100% of the time.

Here is what the new ad creation fields look like in the AdWords UI (with advanced URL options expanded):

AdWords Expanded Text Ad Creation In UI

Already looks more sophisticated than the “classic” ad creation fields in the AdWords UI:

AdWords Classic Ad Creation Fields In UI

No More “Mobile Preferred” Checkbox

As I mentioned above, there is no longer an option to designate an ad as Mobile Preferred. I find this a little nuts. This is what the little question mark next to Device Preference showed you in the classic ad creation fields:

Mobile Preferred Option Explained in AdWords

Right here AdWords itself gives you multiple reasons why mobile visitors are different than desktop/laptop or tablet visitors and explicitly encourages you to create your ads accordingly. In addition, there has been a tremendous amount of emphasis on the user’s state of mind while on mobile devices versus other devices and encouragement to interact with those visitors in their mindspace. You needn’t look further than this year’s (or last year’s) Google spring AdWords announcements (called the Google Performance Summit this year) to see the very, very strong emphasis on this very concept. To the point where separate device bidding was announced – to the unadulterated joy of PPC pros around the world!

There was also emphasis on what Google is calling a “mobile first world” that we are now living in. Mobile activity and therefore search continues to be on the rise. Taking their position from 2015 where the focus was on reaching people in the “micro moments” when they have a need that you could meet (with a heavy emphasis on mobile in this context) to the next level it seemed in 2016 by essentially saying that the world is now mobile first and every other device second so they are switching their AdWords paradigm to match up with this. While this might make sense when you look at some of the data, it does not work or make sense when applied as the only option in all scenarios.

Having the ability to put a different message in front of mobile users (without creating separate campaigns just for them, which has been the status quo since it was all but removed with Enhanced Campaigns) did make for more simplified account management. We have been forced into “one campaign option to rule them all” for some time now and it has become the norm. Having this no longer be an option means significant work to keep mobile messaging applicable for mobile users.

Search Engine Land has a great write up on the May 2016 event, complete with embedded link to the actual presentation, if you want to refresh your memory.

So Is Mobile Different Or Not?

Yes, mobile traffic and visitors are different from desktop/laptop or tablet visitors – I think we can all agree on this fact. Being able to bid truly separately on the three types of traffic will be a major step forward. The bigger question that this new format and capabilities raises for me is are we really in a world where “mobile first” is (a) the norm and (b) equally applicable to all types of advertisers? I would argue that the answer to both parts of this question is, no.

Actual people might be using their mobile devices more and more (I know I certainly am). But by no means is that type of activity equally distributed across tasks, intent, categories, etc. Local searching where a person wants to go to a physical place on mobile devices is absolutely on the rise. And AdWords new map ads are a perfect way to better meet this type of need in the marketplace. Traditional AdWords search ads though for this same type of business most likely have at a minimum a slightly different message for mobile vs. non-mobile users and at a maximum a very different message.

Separate Mobile Campaigns Are Back Baby!

Separate device bidding is awesome and all, but without the ability to choose separate messaging for mobile visitors, we find ourselves back in a place where it seems like separate mobile campaigns will be a necessary thing again. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I hated that mobile campaigns were forced to just be a subset of campaigns A.E.C. (After Enhanced Campaigns). I very much believe that in a lot of instances, the messaging and landing page you want to send your mobile visitors to is probably quite different than what you would want or design for non-mobile users. Being able to actually have campaigns that exclude a traffic type again is a definite plus.

You know what isn’t a plus? Having a whole bunch of work to do to keep mobile messaging different because AdWords totally removed the option for a mobile preferred ad in this update. As PPC pros, we will grumble about the extra work, but on balance will probably be happy about the greater control we have (again) to have separate mobile ads, landing pages and budgets. The part that sucks is having to explain this to clients, particularly why now not only are totally new ads going to need to be created (or you’ve been creating them in anticipation of the rollout) which means increased cost, but now if they want to continue with mobile specific messaging, we have to also build out new campaigns.

I imagine many scenarios going something like this in the wake of this:

PPC Pro to client: So, remember a few years back when we had to totally rework your entire account because AdWords rolled out Enhanced Campaigns?

Client: Yeah, the extra costs for that work was not really in the budget.

PPC Pro: Well, AdWords has made major changes again and in addition to needing to create new ads for everything to take advantage of the expanded text allowances, if we want to keep having a particular strategy for ad messaging for mobile visitors, we are going to also need to create totally separate mobile campaigns…

Client: How much is that going to cost?

PPC Pro: We can provide an estimate. But hey, great news – we can now exclude tablets and bid directly on mobile traffic!

Client: Uh huh. Get back to me on those estimated costs ASAP.

A much better transitional solution would be to continue to have the option to specify an ETA as a mobile preferred version. Or, if AdWords really wanted to go all in on “mobile first” mindset, change it to “non-mobile preferred” instead. By keeping this option, in the new ad characteristics, those who have been happy with the A.C.E. way of doing things could keep on keeping on and only worry about changing their actual ad copy to take advantage of ETA’s expanded text. Those who are giddy about being able to split out their mobile campaigns again, could get to work on that and be excited about it.

What Is AdWords Official Position On Splitting Out Mobile Campaigns?

Well, according to Matt Lawson’s piece on Search Engine Land, titled “How to use device bid adjustments, straight from Google” and subtitled “AdWords will soon have the ability to set bids specific to each device type. Columnist and Googler Matt Lawson explains Google’s official POV about what that means when managing your campaigns.” (emphasis mine).

First section in the piece? Keep Consolidated Campaigns. 

I know it’s tempting to want to split out mobile-, tablet- and desktop-specific campaigns in this new world. But I don’t think you should do that. Duplicating or even triplicating your campaigns creates so much additional work for your team.

Ask yourself if the benefits of splitting out new campaigns will outweigh the costs. Most of the perceived benefits of device-specific campaigns, such as keyword-level bids and device-specific creatives, can largely be achieved using existing features. For example, by organizing similar performing keywords into the same ad groups (or splitting them out when it’s warranted), you can use ad group-level device bid adjustments to achieve highly optimized performance. You can also use ad customizers to create device-specific messaging.

This is also part of what I take issue with here. If this is really what AdWords thinks, why not just leave a teensy little checkbox in this options?

What do you think? Love to hear your thoughts on this one. Is this a big deal or just a regular level annoyance or not even on your radar? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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