PPC 2017: Epic review of the biggest trends & updates in paid search

As 2017 draws to a close, let’s take a moment to catch our breaths and look back at the whirlwind that was PPC in 2017.
There wasn’t a big change that dominated the landscape like enhanced campaigns of 2013 or expanded text ads of 2016, but multiple trends created an atmosphere of constant, incremental change this year. However, if we were to dub 2017 the year of something in search marketing, it would clearly be the year of the machine. While machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence aren’t new to search marketing, their use became pervasive in 2017.
Here’s a look back at the big developments and key trends that happened in PPC in 2017 that will continue to inform and influence our work in 2018.
Finally past the year of mobile, this was the year of AI in search
Sure, there is still work to do in improving mobile experiences and conversion rates, and we’ll continue to see

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What you learn from talking with Google’s largest advertisers all day, every day

There’s a position at Google called “Chief Search Evangelist.” It’s evolved in the years since Fred Vallaeys filled that role, now focusing on meeting with our advertisers in person when they come to visit Google on-site. I think my job is pretty cool, but I must admit that the idea of talking search ads day-in, day-out with people at the cutting edge of their craft makes me more than a bit jealous. Nicolas Darveau-Garneau, who currently fills the role of Chief Search Evangelist, is the man whose job turns me a light shade of green with professional envy.
I learn so much every time I talk with Nick, so I thought it would be fun to sit him down and pick his brain about all of those meetings he gets to have. Here’s an edited transcript of the wide-ranging conversation we had recently about automation, growth, keywords and more.
Nicolas Darveau-Garneau, Chief Search Evangelist at Google
Lawson: What are the

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Supercharge your email marketing with Google AdWords

I have a confession to make.
The odds of my instantly deleting one of the many marketing emails I receive each day are about as good as Tom Brady and the Patriots making the playoffs — meaning it’s pretty likely to happen.
Unfortunately for all you email marketers out there, I’m not alone. According to email marketing service MailChimp, the average email open rate across industries is below 25 percent, with a click rate of 2 to 3 percent. That means that, on average, you’d need to send 100 emails to get two or three people to take any action. All that time and energy spent crafting the perfect email marketing campaign will be wasted if you don’t create a complementary strategy to get more sales from your hard-earned email list.
The good news is that you can use Google AdWords as your complementary strategy by simply leveraging the existing data you have on your email subscribers. Let’s dive into

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AdWords advertisers can use phone numbers & addresses for Google Customer Match targeting

Google has added more ways for businesses to target their known customers with AdWords campaigns. As of this month, advertisers can upload phone numbers and mailing addresses for Customer Match retargeting and similar audiences.
Launched in 2015, Customer Match lets marketers upload lists of customers or other proprietary lists —  newsletter subscribers, for example — into Google AdWords to target (or exclude) search and display ads to those users. Until now, Customer Match only supported email list uploads.
As with email data, Google attempts to match phone number and mailing address information with user-provided data in Google accounts.
Hashed email addresses and phone numbers are matched up with Google’s own hashed strings to find matches. The matches are then added to marketers’ Customer Match lists.
For mailing address matching, Google says it “joins hashed name and address data for Google accounts to construct a matching key. After you’ve uploaded your list with hashed customer names and addresses (don’t hash zip and

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‘Purchases on Google’ Shopping ads test is running on iOS devices

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Google appears to be testing Purchases on Google ads on iOS devices.
Purchases on Google ads enable consumers to buy products shown in Google Shopping ads right from Google-hosted landing pages when users have payments set up through their Google accounts. The product launched in pilot on Android devices in 2015 and opened up in beta to US advertisers this spring.
Below are a couple of examples of the Purchases on Google ads we spotted this morning on iOS. Each is slugged with “Easy checkout.”

It’s not clear how long these ads have been available on iOS. With the initial pilot launch in 2015, Google said Purchases on Google would come to iOS in the “coming months,” but it appears to have taken much longer than that, perhaps closer to the beta opening up. We’ve asked Google for comment and will update here if and when we get a response. Update: We received confirmation that these ads have been available on

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Google’s new custom intent audiences and you

In mid-November, pre-empting the hellish holiday shopping season, Google unveiled a slew of new features designed to help advertisers maximize their AdWords budgets. While promotion extensions and ad variations are neat and all, the thing I’m most stoked about is the new custom intent audiences feature on Google Display Network (GDN).
If you haven’t checked out Ginny Marvin’s quick summary of what they are (linked above), here’s the gist: Custom intent audiences offer advertisers the opportunity to use the GDN to find “people who want to buy the specific products you offer — based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.” They come in two distinct flavors:

Create-your-own. Like a trip to your favorite pizza chain (but for the GDN), you can mash topics and URLs together like mushrooms and pepperoni in order to target net-new prospects who are probably into your product or service.
Auto-created. No idea where to start with the Display Network? Let your ol’ pal Google help!

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Is holiday paid search more competitive in 2017 than 2016?

The busy 2017 holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and we’ve already witnessed impressive Y/Y sales growth on key shopping days.
As advertisers dig into their own performance, many are taking stock of the competition to get a sense for what other brands are doing. This was a key topic for a #ppcchat Twitter conversation immediately following Cyber Weekend, in which host Kirk Williams posed the following question to chat-goers.

As you can see, most brands felt they saw more competition this year than last year, though 39 percent felt it was about the same. Zero respondents felt that there was less competition this year than last.
Taking a look at Auction Insights reports from Google for a sample of large Merkle retail advertisers, we can get a sense for how many brands were bidding on paid search keywords this year compared to last. As always, the metrics found in these reports and the stories they tell will

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The lowdown on driving app downloads with Universal App campaigns

Universal App campaigns (UAC) help you find new app users across Google’s largest properties: Google Play, Search, YouTube and Gmail, as well as millions of websites and apps across the Google Display Network. Back in August, Google (my employer) announced that all app install campaigns in AdWords are becoming UACs.
Whether you’re starting UACs for the first time or are looking to get the most out of existing UACs, here are some best practices that I’ve discovered from talking with a bunch of other Googlers.
Getting up and running with UAC
The first key step is defining your goal. You’ll need to set a target based on one of these key performance indicators:

If you care about different metrics in different situations, create separate campaigns for each desired outcome.
From there, you’ll need to set up a few more items:

A daily budget. When you’re driving installs, this should be your target CPI multiplied by the number of daily installs you want (shoot

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Google Manufacturer Center for product data expands scope, launches API

With the growing importance of Google Shopping campaigns in paid search results for brands and manufacturers, getting product data correct and consistent has become an increasingly urgent task. It’s been a somewhat sleepy product, but this week, Google announced new features and an expansion of Manufacturer Center.
Launched in 2015, Google Manufacturer Center was designed to be a central repository for the product data that powers Google Shopping campaigns. Now, Google is using that data in knowledge panels in the US, including product features, images and descriptions. Earlier this month, Google began showing much more content in knowledge panels on mobile, including product features as shown in the example below.

Google Manufacturer Center is now available in more countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
With the launch of a new Manufacturer Center API, brands and third-party data partners can add, update and delete products without having to rely on manual feed uploads.
In addition to streamlining product

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Google AdWords Editor updates to support budget type option for video ads & more

Google has rolled out version 12.2 of the AdWords Editor. It brings a nice number of new features including Gmail asset-based ads, full support for promotion and video extensions and a new budget-type option for video ads.
The last update to the AdWords Editor was version 12.1, which brought Shopping Showcase Ads support.
Here is a list of features added with the version 12.2 update:

Gmail asset-based ads: Asset-based ads in Gmail are now fully supported in AdWords Editor.
Campaign total budgets: Video campaigns now have the option of choosing Campaign Total budget type.
Custom rules updated: New built-in custom rules are now available for structured snippet extensions and non-serving campaigns and ad groups.
Semantic location: You can now set a bid modifier to target your ads by location with AdWords Editor.
Promotion extensions: Promotion extensions are now fully supported by AdWords Editor.
Life events: “Life events” is now a category of audience targeting.
Video campaign extensions: All video campaign extensions are now supported.
Ad group level

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