Do Google Enhanced Campaigns Dilute the Importance of Quality Score?

Remember when pay per click advertising first started and the more the advertiser was willing to pay, the higher their ads average position? This was great for the big spenders, but it was completely unfair to the advertisers with a small budget. Most importantly, the “highest bidder wins” practice led to two false beliefs of PPC:

  1. PPC is so easy; anyone can do it!
  2. I don’t trust “Sponsored Listing” Ads. They are irrelevant and are spammy!

It has taken Google and other search platforms years to get these perceptions out of people’s minds. Now, more people are clicking “sponsored” listing ads than ever. How has Google gotten rid of these negative perceptions over the past several years? They made PPC management more like search engine optimization and created a unique algorithm to calculate quality score.

PPCer’s needed to understand the components of quality score, in addition to how much they were willing to pay per click to determine their ads average position. Quality score is mostly an indicator of how relevant the user’s query is to what the advertiser is offering. Google wanted to provide users with a better experience so they would continue to use their search engine to find the answers they were looking for (and hopefully click paid ads more often J).

Fast forward to Wednesday, February 6th 2013, when Google officially announced their “upgrade” to Google Enhanced campaigns. Many people are aware of what enhanced campaigns are as it’s been one of the most talked about PPC topics ever. But just in case you  aren’t as familiar, a quick summary won’t hurt.

All campaigns are being migrated to ‘enhanced campaigns’ by June 1st and many advertisers have already started the process. The big idea around enhanced campaigns is simply the ability to bid differently based on:

  1. Device
  2. Location
  3. Hour of Day

Honestly, for the most part it makes sense. Someone searching on a mobile device is most likely either more or less valuable in the eyes of an advertiser. In addition, for an advertiser with several locations, users closer to one of their locations is probably more valuable than someone further away. Google now provides advertisers the ability to make these bid adjustments within one campaign, rather than separate campaigns. However, it definitely has its flaws, such as:

  1. Not able to only show ads on mobile devices. Computers are automatically opted in and there is no way to exclude them.
  2. Not able to target tablets separately (now targeted the same as computers)
  3. Not able to target operating systems separately (iOS vs. Android).

Alright already, you’ve probably heard all of this several times. So what’s my point? My point, and partially my concern, is Google has potentially diluted the importance of quality score and relevance while changing its focus to “smarter bidding.” This in turn can take us back to a “bidding war.”

Think about it, an advertiser that knows their customer’s journey extremely well can simply bid higher, at the right place and the right time, on the right device and essentially outsmart their competitors, even if their keywords, ads, and landing pages are less relevant and have a lower quality score. Granted, this advertiser will have to pay more if they have a lower quality score, but the extra cost could be worth it.

I know several advertisers are hesitant about upgrading to enhanced campaigns right away. Many advertisers have spent sleepless nights constructing flawless structures that will soon become irrelevant. My recommendation is not to rush it. First, think strategically before switching over to enhanced campaigns. Make sure you collaborate directly with your client or your sales team (if you are running PPC in-house) to understand the importance of time and proximity. Review your dimensions reporting around hour of day and geography while taking note of the times and locations that convert better. Then, make bid adjustments based on the data you have from the legacy campaigns. Also, since enhanced campaigns have a huge mobile focus its imperative you have a mobile web site, or even better, a responsive site.

Please let me know how you think ‘enhanced campaigns’ will impact the importance of quality score. I hope these points might help you think outside the box when upgrading!


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