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If you own a smartphone, chances are you know the frustration of accidentally tapping on an ad you had no interest in when you were trying to scroll down a page. These accidental taps aren’t just annoying to users, either. Advertisers hate these mobile clicks because they wind up paying for clicks from users who had no intention of converting.

Now, Google is stepping in to improve their mobile ad performance and user experience by altering how their ads operate on mobile devices.

Of course, Google has been trying to fight back against accidental mobile clicks for a considerable time now, but its recent announcement extends their initiative to its native ad formats. Before, their efforts were limited to just search and display ads. The search giant says they are stepping up their efforts because accidental clicks and taps are bad for everyone. Beyond simply being an inconvenience for advertisers and users, Google says accidental taps also drive down the value of ads.

“When we look at the effect for advertisers in mobile apps, we observe double the value per click,” Google said in a blog post. “We work hard to ensure that the clicks advertisers are charged for are more meaningful, and we hope sharing insight on these protections helps raise awareness and guide the wider advertising ecosystem.”

The changes being rolled out to native ads prevents accidental clicks in a few ways. First, Google ignores any clicks that are unusually fast, comparing itself to a professional baseball player having 680 milliseconds to tell whether they should swing at a pitch.

“That’s fast, even for a professional who’s paying close attention to hitting the ball,” Google said. “We think it’s virtually impossible for someone to read, understand, and take action on an ad in that amount of time.”

Additionally, Google says it will ignore when a user likely accidentally taps on an ad by excluding clicks on the edge of an ad. According to the search engine, clicks on the middle of an ad are associated with “dramatically higher” conservation rates and show much higher intentionality than those on the edge of ads.

GoogleAdWords

When it comes to search results pages, everyone wants the top spot. That goes for advertisers as well. But, a new analysis from Adobe Media Optimizer suggests the first ad on the page might not always be the best for your dollar. In fact, the 4th position may produce the best results in some situations.

The only catch is that sometimes Google doesn’t display the fourth ad.

According to the findings published in Adobe’s April 2016 Advertising Report, cost per click (CPC) is down ever since Google removed ads from the right side of the page. Meanwhile, click-through rates (CTR) has gone up.

The Adobe Advertising Report reviews three months of aggregated anonymous data from search advertising customers. The company specifically says they hoped this particular assessment would help customers understand Google’s decision to cut ads from the right-hand rail of desktop search results in February of this year.

Overall, the analysis found the changes impact smaller advertisers more because these advertisers generally depend on lower volume keywords. Due to the removal of the right-rail ads, smaller advertisers are having to pay our more to reach the top spots. They are also seeing 10% fewer clicks for less expensive keywords that appear in the lower ad spots.

The results also show that costs per click have risen for the number 1 and 2 positions by 6% and 7% respectively. Meanwhile, costs for the 3rd and 4th positions dropped by 8% and 10% respectively, showing advertisers are placing more of an emphasis on reaching the top spots.

Despite this, the lower positions are actually producing better click-through rates. CTRs for the 4th position jumped by 18% while the rates for the 1st and 3rd position rose by 13% and 2% respectively. Rates for the 2nd position have remained the same.

When all this is taken together it shows that the lowest spots on the AdWords results may provide the best value for advertisers, especially small businesses who are advertising on the platform. The results also suggest customers are responding well to the removal of right sidebar ads and engaging in ads more overall.

AdWords In Store Visits

When Google recently removed all text ads from the right rail of search engine results pages (SERPs), it caused quite a stir among both advertisers and webmasters who rely on organic traffic for their business. The change in design and the number of ads on SERPs pushes even more organic results below the fold and makes the competition even fiercer for both top ad spots and top organic listings.

Google has been overall fairly tight-lipped about the changes, only confirming that it has occurred and implying the change was largely aimed at bringing the desktop search experience more in line with the mobile search experience.

While it’s not an official statement, Google employee Matt Lawson recently went into depth on why Google decided to cut text ads from the right side of search results and how it could affect your pages and advertising account.

It largely confirms what was already suspected: Right side ads performed poorly and they wanted to bring mobile and desktop search closer together. However, Lawson provides data to show exactly how they expect the change to affect advertisers and steps you can take right not to mitigate any changes in your CPCs and ad performance.

Read what Lawson had to say about the change in his column for Search Engine Land.

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Most online advertisers consider conversion tracking an essential part of their toolkit. After all, why pour money into advertising if you can’t properly see how effective it is and optimize it? However, there are many businesses who are not using conversion tracking or importing goals from Google Analytics into AdWords. Google says they have a new feature just for them.

The new Smart Goals are powered by Google Analytics and aim to help businesses without a way to measure conversions evaluate their advertising efforts and optimize their campaigns.

Unlike conversion tracking and Analytics goals, Smart Goals don’t measure actions taken directly on an advertiser’s website. Instead, it uses the anonymized conversion data collected from other websites by Google Analytics to identify visits “most likely” to convert based on Google’s estimate.

The announcement explains:

To generate Smart Goals, we apply machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data. From this information, we can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert: things like session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser. We can then apply these key factors to any website. The easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect your website visits that our model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions.

To set up Smart Goals, advertisers will need to link their Analytics and AdWords accounts and must receive at least 1,000 clicks rom AdWords over a 30-day period “to ensure the validity of your data.” From there, select Smart Goals, under Goals in the Admin tab.

Advertisers can even preview well Smart Goals can work for their site before activating it by exploring the new “Smart Goals” page under Conversions in Analytics. This page lets you analyze the behavior of Smart Goals visits and compare those to the visits deemed unlikely to convert. If you like what you are seeing, you can then import Smart Goals into AdWords.

Once Smart Goals have been imported, advertisers can set a target cost per acquisition (CPA) with the Smart Goals being the acquisition. The announcement says, “in this way, you’re able to optimize your AdWords spend based on the likelihood of conversion as determined by our model.”

Google says Smart Goals will be rolling out over the next few weeks. While it may serve as a reasonable solution for some businesses, for most Smart Goals may seem like a bit of a stop-gap solution. To really take control of your online advertising and guarantee you are getting your money’s worth, you will want to use conversion tracking,

If you need help getting started, contact us. We can get you set up and help you optimize your advertising to ensure the best results.

AdWords In Store Visits

With the holiday shopping season kicking into high gear, Google is rolling out new features to help retailers maximize their sales. Google announced two new AdWords features this week aimed at helping businesses keep in contact with customers during the holiday shopping season, even when they are offline.

Subscribe To Text Updates

The first feature is a brand new ad unit that grants retailers the ability to send marketing messages straight to customer’s phones. The new unit allows users interested in being kept up to date with the latest specials and deals opt-in to text message updates when searching from their phones.

Users just have to tap the “Subscribe” button and they will be set to receive text messages from businesses through Google. Once subscribed, they will receive relevant updates and announcements, like limited time sales or special unique promotions.

To unsubscribe, customers can reply “STOP” at any time.

To protect user privacy, Google will not provide customer phone numbers directly to advertisers, and retailers will not have the ability to contact anyone directly. Instead, Google will act as the messenger, delivering any updates from businesses to consumers.

Holiday Structured Snippets

AdWords also announced a new extension to existing ad units to highlight holiday specific deals, called ‘holiday structured snippets.’ The new feature is specifically designed to promote holiday shopping deals specifically for Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

The new structured snippet acts the same as any other, and is accessible through a simple drop down menu which allows you to select either “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” as the header of an ad extension.

These snippets are unique for being able to promote a single offering for a specific holiday promotion, while standard structured snippets require at least three offers.

Google says Black Friday structured snippets will not begin appearing in search results until November, 20, running through November 27. Cyber Monday ads will be shown November 20, through November 30.

google-display-network

This week, Google announced it would make a big change to ensure advertisers are only charged for display ads that are viewed.

During a keynote discussion at SMX East in New York, Brad Bender, vice president of product management of the Google Display Network said: “I’m pleased to announce that GDN is moving to 100% viewable. We’re going to migrate all of the CPMs in the system to viewable CPMs. All advertisers will be able to see viewable metrics so they can make better decisions.”

Bender told the audience the change will be rolled out to GDN users in the upcoming weeks. The change is likely to be received warmly by advertisers as there has been some concern over statistics (provided by Google) claiming 56 percent of online display ads never have the chance to be seen.

These ads are often not seen due to being low on the page or on a non-activated tab.

According to Marketing Land, Bender said Google has been working on the viewability issue and did not charge advertisers last year for over 70 billion impressions that went unseen.

For more on the change, read Google’s announcement on the Inside Adwords blog.

 Bullseye

Over the weekend, Google announced a powerful new feature in AdWords that will allow advertisers to target their audience unlike ever before. Through Customer Match, a new feature rolling out in the coming weeks, advertisers will be able to target ads by email address.

After you upload a list of email addresses, Customer Match will pair them with the corresponding Google users who you can target ads to. Advertisers can also target ads to similar audiences who share similarities with the individuals in the email list.

Customer Match is capable of targeting ads to anyone signed-in to Google on Gmail, Search, and YouTube.

With the audience sets generated by Customer Match, you can craft ads specifically build around reaching them, such as in the example provided by Google:

“Let’s say you’re a travel brand. You can now reach people who have joined your rewards program as they plan their next trip. For example, when these rewards members search for “non-stop flights to new york” on Google.com, you can show relevant ads at the top of their search results on any device right when they’re looking to fly to New York.”

There are still no details about any security measures in place to protect customer email addresses uploaded to Customer Match, other than stating the process is conducted in a “secure and privacy-safe way.”

Google has made a big deal about its ability to prevent advertisers from paying for ads that aren’t seen by real human eyes, including on YouTube’s ad network, but a new study by a team of European researchers suggests something is amiss. According to their findings, advertisers are still being forced to pay for ads despite YouTube’s systems flagging the view as “suspicious” or fraudulently coming from a bot rather than a human.

The experiment from researchers at NEC Labs Europe, UC3m, Imdea, and Polito, was conducted in three stages. First the researchers uploaded videos to YouTbe and set up an AdSense account to monetize them. Then, the team set up AdWords accounts to run ads against the video, before creating and deploying bots designed to specifically view the videos with the ads.

While the researchers concluded that “among the studied online video portals, YouTube is the only one implementing a sufficiently discriminative fake view detection mechanism,” they also found “that YouTube only applies this mechanism to discount fake views from the public view counter and not from the monetized view counter.”

That means that YouTube filters out views it deems as fraudulent for the public view counter, but they are still charging advertisers for those views.

Throughout their experiment, the group observed the number of monetized views was consistently larger than the number of counter views and came to the realization that “views considered suspicious are removed from the public view counter, but monetized.”

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This isn’t the first time Google has been accused of charging for fraudulent clicks. When similar situations were brought up with YouTube, the company said the discrepancies are likely due to users watching the video ad, but not the video itself. That would lead to the view to be monetized but not included in the public counter.

However, the researchers say that cannot be what happened here because the bot was designed to “view” both the ads and the accompanying video all the way through.

The team also took the fact that YouTube performs part of its view validation after the fact into consideration, however after six months the team saw no compensation adjustments. That happened even after YouTube suspended the AdSense account due to the bots’ suspicious activity.

The team also found YouTube is vulnerable to relatively simple attacks. They say they have given their findings to Google and will continue to refine the tools used for the study and potentially make them widely available.

A Google spokesperson said, “We’re contacting the researchers to discuss their findings further. We take invalid traffic very seriously and have invested significantly in the technology and team that keep this out of our systems. The vast majority of invalid traffic is filtered from our systems before advertisers are ever charged.”

googleadwordsGoogle AdWords is one of the most powerful tools available to companies trying to get their ads seen online. The only problem is the service can often feel overwhelming to those who are not experienced with the tool, especially with the near constant updates.

Thankfully Google is making it easier for business owners and advertisers to keep up to date and learn the ropes of AdWords with a super useful how-to-guide to paid search.

The guide is part of the Google Best Practice series, located in the Help section of AdWords. The series provides practical advice on using AdWords products to get the most out of paid search and covers everything from optimizing keywords to measuring analytics data.

To help keep up with the frequent updates, AdWords has also added a timeline tool which displays new features and changes to policy and guidelines in a convenient location. The timeline shows recent updates chronologically, so you can easily see what the latest news is.  The tool will show brief descriptions of all new products, features, and updates, with links to more information.

Considering AdWords updates hundreds of times a year, this timeline will be a godsend to many advertisers who are vigilantly watching for updates.

Online ads on Google’s AdWords network are a great way to reach a larger audience interested in your services, but breaking the rules can have harsh consequences. Google removed over 524 million “bad ads” from its ad network last year, and 214,000 of those advertisers are entirely banned from the service due to their bad behavior according to a recent announcement from Google.

“While this represents a tiny fraction of the total ads on our platform — the vast majority of advertisers follow our policies and act responsibly — we continue to remain vigilant to protect users against bad advertising practices,” Vikaram Gupta, director of ads engineering at Google, wrote Tuesday in the post.

The latest data shows several improvements from past years, such as a distinct drop in banned advertises for promoting counterfeit goods, but Google says it is a “constantly evolving fight” and the war against bad ads is far from over.

The announcement highlighted several of the “bad ads” trends that dominated 2014, including more than 43 million ads trying to trick users into clicking, over 4.3 million ads containing copyright infringement issues, and over 9.6 million ads containing healthcare-related violations.

The following infographic breaks down Google’s efforts to weed out bad advertising last year:

Google_BadAds_Infographic_Feb02-Final