During the first half of 2016, Microsoft and Google rolled out a host of updates and developments that further refined the way PPCs (pay per click) are rewarded. While not exactly re-inventing the wheel, the changes are being reflected in advertising and marketing strategies with announcements, updates and product launches keenly observed by savvy marketers. Here are some of the new features and services driving PPC trends.
Consolidation of the Bing Network
Earlier this year and half way through a 10-year deal, Yahoo and Microsoft formally announced the dissolution of their search alliance. The Bing Network was launched to fill the gap, including provision of separate account management for Bing ads – even those still showing on Yahoo search results.
The unwinding of the search alliance facilitated aggressive Bing expansion, resulting in the transitioning of many thousands of managed accounts. In an article written by Ginny Marvin for Search Engine Land recently, Microsoft’s Lynne Kjolso, general manager of global search, sales and service, reluctantly remarked that “it took us five years to globally roll out the search alliance…and we unwound 90 percent of that in less than six months.”
Expanded Text Ads requiring a re-think
In early June, Google announced big changes to AdWords. The move was prompted by expanded text ad testing. As a result, advertisers and marketers can now increase their reach with two 30-character headlines plus a description line of up to 80-characters. Additionally, 15-character path fields are automatically appended to display URLs.
The net result is provision of 45 extra characters for tailoring business and product promotion. Bing Ads is also on-board and has adopted the new strategy. Advertisers are expected to be busy this year re-writing text ads delivered by both search engines. Capturing reader interest is now more targeted by use of compelling headlines, along with expanded opportunities to inform of customer and user benefits.
The demise of sidebar ads
The Google move toward expanded text ads foreshadowed the end of ads located in the right-hand desktop rail. In fact, the changes have enabled more unified ad display across all devices. A major reason for the change has been the huge uptake in mobile devices for online use. Mobile devices don’t display right-hand-rail ads, so the writing has been on the wall for some time.
Overall, the new browser experience means that a page can display up to seven text ads, compared with the previous maximum of 11 ads when right-hand-rail ads were included. The move by Google is also the result of closely monitored user behaviour, and right-rail ads were becoming less effective. Every part of the screen is valuable real estate for user engagement, with any weakness ultimately sacrificed for the sake of greater overall performance.
Device bidding making a return
The ascendency of mobile internet created a challenge for advertisers. More than 50 percent of searches are now conducted on mobile devices, and tailored advertising needed to reflect this trend. The imbalance has now been rectified by Google’s new approach that allows advertisers to set bid adjustments across all devices, including desktop, mobile and tablet.
The change reverses the grouping of tablets and desktops as a single bidding category, and provides advertisers with more control over their marketing strategy. Base keyword bids can now be anchored to whatever device is most appropriate for every individual business. The new paradigm also offers a range of bid adjustment up to +900%.
Changes to Local & Maps
Searching online is becoming more regionally targeted. Around a third of searches on mobile devices are now local – outpacing increases in overall mobile search rates by 50 percent. In response, Google commenced displaying ads on the Local Finder – a page dedicated to local and map results. Users access this page when exploring ‘more places’ associated with general search results.
Another change rolled out by Google in April was the cessation of ads without location extensions being displayed in Maps. The adjustment was precipitated by Maps being demoted from Search Partner status within Google. Advertisers now have a little more flexibility; for example, the facility to show ads in Maps while opting out of display ads in Search Partners.
Additional significant developments
The online playing field remains in a constant state of flux. Keeping up with the changes can be the difference between profit and loss for businesses and entrepreneurs. Other developments include:
Shopping and retail: The Google Merchant Centre now offers easier facility for marketers to manage and add custom labels or make convenient fixes. Fine tuning of product listing relevancy was also rolled out in mid-May.
LinkedIn purchased by Microsoft: This $26.2 billion purchase and expansion by Microsoft will undoubtedly have an impact on advertisers. Discussions are ongoing, although LinkedIn remains a separate identity and will have a major influence on decisions.
Bing Ads Editor for Mac users: Bing is progressively rolling out the Bing Ads Editor for Mac. The move will improve Mac user experience across all markets, while transitioning Bing during the Yahoo/Microsoft dissolution.