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GoogleAdWords

This past July, Google began rolling out expanded text ads to advertisers everywhere. The intention is to eventually replace the standard text ads offered by Google with the new, longer versions. But, it looks like some advertisers are taking longer than expected to get adjusted to the new ad format.

When expanded text ads were released, Google said standard text ads would cease to be available starting October 26, but it is pushing back the deadline to early next year to allow advertisers to become more accustomed to expanded text ads. Now, Google says advertisers have until January 31, 2017, to make the switch.

After this date, brands advertising on Google’s network will no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads. Instead, they will be forced to use expanded text ads. While standard text ads won’t be available to advertisers, Google says it will continue to serve ads standard text ads that have already been made and published after the deadline.

Google has said the release of expanded text ads is intended to help advertisers improve their ad quality scores and improve clickthrough rates, but it is important to note that just making your ad longer doesn’t necessarily mean it will receive a better quality score. It does, however, allow advertisers more flexibility to put forth the best ads possible.

In order to raise your quality score on all ads – not just expanded text ads – Google offers a few suggestions:

  • Test multiple versions of your expanded text ads.
  • Focus your testing on headlines.
  • Replicate what works in standard text ads in your expanded text ads.
  • Consider shorter headlines on brand terms.
  • Leave your standard text ads running until the new versions are consistently outperforming them.
  • Review your pre-existing ads for previous success with longer headlines.
  • Don’t implement the same expanded text ad across many different ad groups.
  • Don’t blindly insert a new second headline without changing the rest of the ad.
  • Don’t write expanded text ads that lose their relevance to a user’s query.
  • Don’t leave out specific benefits or attributes of your product that had proven to be enticing in the past.

googladextensions

In the past, Google AdWords used a complex and confusing algorithm for deciding when to display ad extensions. Recently, the company changed this by introducing a new policy which adjusts the impact of ad formats in the ad rank formula and allows AdWords to provide an estimate of how visible an ad would be on search engine results pages (SERPs).

As of now, an ad’s visibility will depend on ad position and ad formats, meaning ads with higher positions in the SERPs will display more ad extensions than ads in lower positions. This is a shift away from past systems which allowed lower ranked ads to show more ad formats than those above them.

The term ‘ad formats’ refers specifically to visual extensions that appear on ads in search results that display extra information about a business, including phone numbers, addresses, consumer ratings, and more.

In a way, this change ads even more incentive for businesses to make sure they get the top rankings in search results pages, as they will be rewarded by having it be more likely their ad extensions are shown along with their ad. Those who are able to score the top spots will certainly be happy with the change, though, as it means they are less likely to be outshined by a lower ad on the page.

Google Logo

Google has officially confirmed the end of ads in the right hand column of its search pages, except for two notable exceptions.

As of February 19th, Google is phasing out ads on the right side of its desktop search results. Instead, all ads will appear at the top or bottom of the results, though Google may include an additional ad above results for “high commercial queries.”

The change will effect users worldwide, in all languages. Google is also saying the change is motivated by a push to bring desktop results closer to the mobile experience, however rumors suggest the low click-through rate (CTR) of right side ads may also be a factor.

There are also two specific exceptions to the change. No ads will appear on the right side of desktop search results except in two cases:

  • Product Listing Ad (PLA) boxes will still show either above or to the right of search results
  • Ads can still appear in the Knowledge Panel

Overall, most users probably won’t notice the difference in search results. However, businesses competing for the already limited organic space on the front page of search results may find the change makes the competition even fiercer.

The decreasing front page real estate means an even higher focus on SEO for businesses seeking high ranking organic listings.

The rollout for the change should be complete today.

adobe-flash-player-logo-2011-540x334

Adobe Flash is all but dead and Google is putting the final nails in the coffin by dropping support for Flash-based ads in favor of ads coded in HTML5. This isn’t happening immediately, but Google announced its intention to move to HTML5 by January 2017 in order to give advertisers time to transition.

As part of this transition away from these ads, Google will no longer allow Flash formatted ads to be uploaded to the Google Display Network starting June 30th of this year. Up until then, you can still upload any Flash-based display ads you’ve been working on and they will continue to run until January.

Google notes that you should update your display ads before either of these dates for best performance, and that video ads built in Flash will not be impacted by the change.

The death of Flash is likely to be dragged out for quite some time, but this is a big loss for Adobe’s format. Adobe’s player only accounts for 5% of mobile and web video seen last year, but it has still been a major part of major online ad networks. If these ad networks no longer accept Flash, then Flash loses its one last thing keeping it relevant.

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Source: Robert Scoble / Flickr

Google has released its annual “bad ads” report, though they’ve changed the name a bit. Every year Google uses its bad ads report to highlight the efforts they are taking to rid AdWords of scammers, malware, and fraudulent ads. This year, they covered pretty much the same areas but chose to focus on the positive, calling its annual report the “Better Ads Report.”

This year’s report says the search giant disabled over 780 million ads last year for policy violations, up from 524 million ads disabled in 2014, and 350 million ads disabled in 2013.

Google describes “bad ads” as advertisements carrying malware, blocking the visibility of content, promoting fake or illegal goods, or leading to phishing scams. The company used a team of over 1,000 people around to world to constantly fight back against these ads. The majority of the time they are able to block the ads before they are ever seen by regular users.

Google also went in to detail, showing the most common bad ads they encountered in 2015:

  • Counterfeiters: Over 10,000 sites and 18000 accounts were suspended for attempting to sell counterfeit goods (imitation designer watchers for example).
  • Pharmaceuticals: Over 12.5 million ads were blocked for violating Google’s healthcare and medicines policy, such as advertising pharmaceuticals that have not been approved for use or ads that made misleading claims about the effectiveness of prescription drugs.
  • Weight loss scams: Over 30,000 sites were suspended for making weight loss promises that were dishonest and typically impossible to achieve.
  • Phishing: Over 7,000 sites were blocked for attempting to steal user information, aka phishing.
  • Unwanted software: More than 10,000 sites were disabled for forcing unwanted software and unapproved downloads via Google ads.
  • Trick-to-click: Over 17 million ads were rejected for attempting to mislead users to click an ad that would redirect them to unrelated pages.
  • Bad apps:  Google also blocked over 25,000 mobile aps from displaying Google ads due to breaking policies. Approximately 1.4 million apps were rejected from ever being able to display Google ads in the future.

Looking forward, Google says it is going to start cracking down on ads that may lead to accidental clicks. It also says it has developed technology capable of determining when mobile ad clicks are accidental, and will be able to prevent users from being taken to ad sites they didn’t intent to visit.

Google also plans to bolster efforts to cut down on weight loss ads in 2016 by adding additional restrictions on what advertisers can say is effective for weight loss.

View the full report here.

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.

 AdWords In Store Visits

Today, Google announced their highly anticipated ‘Buy’ button with the unveiling of the new “Purchases on Google” feature, along with several other big upgrades.

Select retailers running mobile ads can now choose to include a ‘Buy on Google’ option that takes shoppers to a branded product page hosted by Google. From there, shoppers can finalize their purchase and save purchasing information for future use if you choose.

According to Google, this feature is only in the experimental early stages and is being limited to a small number of retailers.

Retailers who choose to use Purchases on Google will only have to pay for clicks on the shopping ads to the product page. They will also have the option to invite customers to join their mailing list during the transaction.

While Google will take responsibility for hosting product pages and providing security throughout the sale, it will be up to retailers to provide customer communication.

Along with the announcement of Purchases on Google, the company introduced a few more new features for AdWords:

  • Swipe to Reveal: When a user swipes on a Google ad carousel will show more information about the products, including price and availability.
  • Ratings and Reviews: Shopping ads with product ratings and reviews will now be shown if searchers use specific trigger words, such as “best”, ”reviews”, “recommendations”, etc.
  • Priority for Local Inventory Ads: LIA’s will now receive priority for local intent shopping queries.
  • App Deep-Linking: Ads from select retailers will now include links to view a product on their app.Today, Google announced their highly anticipated ‘Buy’ button with the unveiling of the new “Purchases on Google” feature, along with several other big upgrades.

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.

Over the past year Google has been pushing to streamline the look and functionality of many of their products. They have redesigned several of their products, and replaced many tools webmasters rely on with new tools with better performance. AdWords is the next tool on their list for an overhaul, as Google announced earlier this week while highlighting “more screen real estate to the tools and reports you love.”

Their announcement also assures you, “By updating AdWords to the look and feel that we use across Google, you’ll spend less time getting where you want to go in your account, and more time focusing on growing your business.”

The redesigned AdWords will be implementing several stylistic and functional aspects from Google’s broader network, such as moving navigation links like billing, help, and account setting into the gear icon.

adwords-menu

They have also shifted key campaign information above the fold in the dashboard, so you won’t have to scroll to get to the information you’re looking for. You can also quickly see who is signed in for accounts with multiple users

On the purely aesthetic side, Google has brought more white space into the page, especially within charts and tables. They also softened their color palette to make AdWords “easier on the eyes.”

adwords-charts

You can expect to see the changes appear within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime you can acclimate yourself to the updates with a short video Google released focused on navigating the redesigned AdWords.