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Google Redefines Mobile with Adwords Enhanced Campaigns

google changes the definition of mobile with enhanced adwords

In one sense, Google’s announcement of its new Adwords Enhanced Campaigns product represents an acknowledgement by the search giant of the convergence of mobile devices, as the sizes and capabilities of laptops, tablets, and smartphones continue to overlap and merge. It also reflects Google’s uncanny ability to evolve at just the right time to stay competitive while annoying advertisers and marketers in the process. For SMBs, Enhanced Campaigns is a net plus; for bigger companies, I don’t know so much. Regardless, Google’s latest switch redefines mobile as proximity based rather than device based, which is how it should be.


As Alistair Dent points out in a SearchEngine Watch post, the move to Enhanced Campaigns shows Google is becoming more contextually aware. Using data gleaned from various elements of the Google universe, combined with the geo-positioning capabilities of your mobile device, Google is getting better at distinguishing whether you are browsing at home or work, or somewhere else.

With this information, Google is redefining the term “mobile” as proximity based rather than device based. In other words, being on a smartphone or tablet per se does not make a user mobile - being on a device away from a static location such as home or work does. Enhanced Campaign’s “mobile preferred” feature takes this into account, allowing businesses to queue up ads based on the user's proximity to the business; in other words, to truly "mobile" users.

The mobile preferred feature is probably more useful for advertisers and marketers working with SMBs than for bigger companies. SMBs tend to have fewer resources to throw at highly-sophisticated marketing campaigns which micro target audience segments based on specific mobile device usage. Enhanced Campaigns does away with the ability for advertisers to target between smartphones and tablets. In fact, the new service treats tablets as desktops, which is sure to annoy advertisers who have enjoyed higher conversion rates from tablet-centric ad campaigns.

I think many SMBs will benefit from the simplicity of running single Adwords campaign across all devices, especially when coupled with the ability to target mobile-local users by distance to their physical place of business.

In addition, the Enhanced Campaigns “mobile bid multiplier,” enables businesses to pay more for customers closer to their physical business. This is especially relevant for retailers and companies selling products and services to a local consumer base.


Admittedly, one negative aspect of the simplicity of Enhanced Campaigns is the loss of keyword segmentation between mobile and desktop. As a general rule, longer-tail keywords often work better on desktop searches and shorter keywords on mobile (given the difficulties of typing on mobile). With Enhanced Campaigns, all keywords will apply to both desktop and mobile search. Though sure to rankle SEOs and digital marketers right now, I don’t see it as having a big impact in the long-run, especially when you factor in the inevitable shift to voice-enabled search.

{As a side note, Google’s slow march to HTTPS encryption on its search engine coupled with its tossing out of desktop-mobile keyword distinction in Enhanced Campaigns seem to reflect Google’s continuing de-emphasis of keywords in search.}


So why is Google making these changes? Like everything the company does, it seems as though there is more than one reason.

On a user level, the rollout of Enhanced Campaigns is a recognition that we now live in a multi-screen world, and as such the lines which have distinguished one device from another continue to blur. Moreover, many consumers now own multiple devices of varying sizes, and are beginning to integrate them into their daily tasks. In August of 2012, Google issued a study of multi-device consumers which found that 90% move sequentially between several screens to accomplish a task.

On a business level, Enhanced Campaigns represents a companywide acknowledgement that the times they are a changing.’ Google’s ad revenue model (Adwords pulls in roughly 2/3 of all Google revenue) is based on desktop search. For Google, CPCs on desktop are higher than on mobile. Unfortunately, the world is going mobile, and quickly. So how does Google prop up its ad revenue model when mobile CPCs are lower than desktop?

Why, combine the two Adwords sectors into one “enhanced” Adwords, of course.


What’s the bottom line? I think Google is doing what it has to do to stay competitive and relevant in a fast-moving world. In the short run, the changes to Adwords will benefit SMBs more than larger corporations; in the long run, the changes won’t matter much, as new technologies such as voice recognition, predictive analytics, and anticipatory computing work to completely disrupt search as we know it.

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