An AdWords Wishlist for 2014

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This post is brought to you by our special guest, Toni Voutilainen. Toni is a passionate PPC practitioner from a Finland-based Internet Agency Tulos Helsinki, operating in Scandinavia. Tulos and Portent are conducting a pilot of an International Geek Exchange program – this article is the culmination of Toni’s visit here to Seattle.

This October, AdWords will celebrate its 14th anniversary. Given the fact that it’s Google’s main revenue source, the search giant has developed the platform with staggering speed.

Some of the recent updates have been quite controversial (like forcing advertisers to target tablets and PCs together), but for the most part I personally think 2013 was filled with great updates. Recently Larry Kim asked PPC practitioners about their favorite AdWords updates in 2013 and wrote a nice wrap-up of them.

Yes, the tool seems to be getting better by the day. But still, if you’re a practitioner that spends most of his days optimizing accounts you probably agree: Google could make AdWords still so much better for advertisers. I have my pet peeves, I’m sure you do, too. So here’s my top wishes for AdWords in 2014 (hint hint, Google!):

1. Show me Statistical Significance

I love testing ads, not just because it’s very effective for getting better results fast, but because you can learn so much about your target audience in the process. But if you’re not careful your A/B testing efforts can be as good as guesswork if you’re making decisions based on statistically non-significant data.

There are 3rd party tools and whatnot that you can use for calculating stat significance yourself, but I really, really, really wish Google would build an integrated calculator into AdWords that would reveal the statistical significance of the metrics you choose. Now AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE) was an important step in the right direction back in the day, which brings me to my second humble wish.

2. AdWords Campaign Experiments, out of beta soon?

This is one of the best tools within AdWords, but still probably one of the most underused. Yes, ACE, hidden at the bottom of campaign settings, has been around since 2010 and still isn’t out of beta as if Google never decided whether it will stay or not.

ACE is a great tool, but it has serious limitations – for example, you can only have one active experiment per campaign and you can’t experiment with campaign settings. I can only imagine how much more interesting and easier ad A/B testing or justifying higher bids or budgets would become with a ‘full’ version of ACE, where you could have multiple (not overlapping) experiments in a single campaign. So I really hope Google will release that in 2014.

3. More Attribution Data into Bidding

If you didn’t know it already, Last-Click Attribution is officially dead. It is all too easy to go wrong with bidding if you limit yourself to only looking at last-click data.

One of my retail clients was in a challenging spot with more and more competitors fighting for clicks at the same point in the search funnel – close to purchase. By simply experimenting with certain high search volume and potentially low converting searches and utilizing search funnel data I was quickly able to see ways we could introduce the clients eCommerce site before the competition in a very, very profitable manner as there was virtually no competition. My take for the lack of competition is because the client’s competitors are only looking at last-click conversion data and thus don’t know better.

I could probably do much better if I Google allowed importing a larger multi-channel view, which we thankfully already have in Google Analytics, straight into AdWords. We could easily factor in more of the important metrics in bidding. And talking about Analytics…

4. Expanding GA Remarketing into Search

Remarketing is powerful. But when you’re able to segment your audience according to Google Analytics metrics and then remarket, that’s powerful times ten.

You can already now use either the basic remarketing script from AdWords through which you can target people according to the pages they have visited or update your Google Analytics code, populate remarketing lists within GA and use the vast selection of metrics only available in GA for segmenting your heart out. That’s like remarketing 1.0 vs 2.0.

Now Google already has expanded their basic remarketing script (1.0) so that it can be used for retarget prior visitors not only via display ads but search ads also. Powerful stuff. Now imagine how interesting this form of search retargeting becomes if Google does the same for GA remarketing (2.0).

With that we would be able to retarget prior visitors according to Device Category (no more lumping tablets with PCs! This already works fine with display remarketing, by the way), Browser, Operating System, Visit Duration, Days Since Last Visit, Exit Page, Source, well, you get it.

5. Labels and Automated Rules in AdWords Editor

AdWords Editor is great for bulk changes, or nearly great. That’s because it still doesn’t support the use of labels or automated rules, which is a very needed basic functionality.

For example, being able to label a large set of promotion ads (especially banners) to be run for a specific time period and setting a rule that activates and pauses them – that’s something marketers want and need. Not having those available in a bulk editing tool just seems silly.

6. Historical Quality Score

Quality Score isn’t a KPI, but it’s still a decent proxy indicator of how well you are doing with your CTRs, quality of ads and landing pages relative to your competition, and so on.

It would be much more useful, though, if Google allowed us to see how your Quality Scores has developed with time – of course preferably not only your keyword QS, but that of your account, campaigns, ad groups, ads and sitelinks too. To gauge your progress now, you would have to store keyword reports or use AdWords scripts, which is unnecessarily cumbersome.

7. Secondary/Backup URLs

If you work with retail clients that are not utilizing a feed solution (or AdWords scripts) you probably have had this problem: ad URLs turns bad for whatever reason, perhaps the product is not sold anymore, or is out of stock and you’re wasting money taking visitors to that page.

It would be great if by default Google allowed us to set up secondary or backup URLs for ads that would activate under predetermined conditions, like whenever a landing page turns into a 404 or has certain content on it. Less waste, happier advertisers.

8. Paid and Organic Conversions

One noteworthy update Google recently introduced, is the Paid & organic report where you can compare how you rank organically with the searches you are targeting with AdWords. While it’s nice to still get some organic keyword data, Google has chosen not to share a somewhat key factor in it all – conversions from the two channels, which would make the data much more useful. I hope Google goes all the way with that soon.

Oh, I could go on and on – I was going for just a top 5 list originally. Overall, the more Analytics we get directly into AdWords, the better. But even with some of these updates I’d be very happy to make Google’s next earnings report even prettier.

I’m expecting a great year, how about you? What is on your wishlist for 2014? Tell me below in the comments.

Portent wishes to thank Toni (we’ll always have salt licorice!) for visiting and encourages every agency to exchange geeks worldwide.

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