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It’s been a very busy last couple of months for AdWords, and if you’re an AdWords advertiser, you might feel like you’re drowning in product updates, feature releases, and changes to the platform.

Here’s a distilled list of some of the most important ones that you as an advertiser or agency need to know about:

AdWords Editor Update

If you’re using AdWords Editor (and you should be), yesterday was an important date.  As of June 12, 2012, if you’re not on a > 9.0 version (the latest version is 9.7.1), you can still use the offline tool to make all the updates and changes you want, but when you post those changes, nothing will happen.

So upgrade or beware.

Also note that when you upgrade, you’ll need to re-download your account(s).  If you’ve got comments or pending changes you want to hang on to, you’re going to need to export a backup of your account (if upgrading from the interface, just select the “Backup then Upgrade” option) and then re-import your backup once you’ve upgraded and re-downloaded your account(s).

Ad Rotation Settings

You might have been watching this soap opera unfold, but here’s the recap:

April 30, 2012: Google makes the announcement that if you’re rotating your ads evenly, you’re probably doing it by accident, so they’ll go ahead and “fix” it for you by automatically shifting you over to an “optimize for clicks” setting after 30 days.

April 30, 2012: AdWords users who are using even ad rotation for things like manual ad split tests very much on purpose go nuts.  Flood of complaints and even a petition follow.


June 1, 2012: Google listens! And here’s the important part, Google changes this policy to the following:

  • Campaigns set to rotate ads evenly will do so for 90 days instead of 30, giving plenty of time to run a split test and accommodate the needs of most marketers
  • A full on opt-out form is published.  You can now go back to the good ‘ol days by filling out this form and your rotation will never be automatically changed for you

Matching Changes for Phrase and Exact

Similar to the ad rotation situation, Google announced that if you’re using phrase and exact match, then you probably meant to include “close variants,” which include:

  • Plurals (“book” vs. “books“)
  • Misspellings (“pixxa” vs. “pizza”)
  • Stemmings (“contradict” vs. “contradiction”)
  • Accents (“café” vs. “cafe”)
  • Abbreviations (“Aug concerts” vs. “August concerts”)

Problem is, many of us did not want to include those things, but the good news is that there’s an out.  For those of you that want to keep exact exact and phrase phrase, make sure to go into your Campaign Settings and make yours look like this:

close variant campaign settings

Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO) Out of Beta

Though this has been there for a long time, it’s now accessible to everyone and the requirements to participate have been relaxed considerably.  If you love CPA bidding and the Conversion Optimizer, now you can have AdWords do the work of optimizing bids and targeting against conversions across the entire Display Network for you.

This tool uses all kinds of data points (things like browsers and operating systems, geographic location, time of day, etc.) to build a model that can be used to predict which potential placements are more or less likely to result in a conversion and then adjust bids and targeting appropriately.  In order to use this, you have a few requirements:

  • You must be targeting the Display Network (remember to always use separate campaigns for search and display!)
  • You must have a minimum of 15 conversions per month
  • You must be using the Conversion Optimizer (CPA bidding)

Once you meet this criteria, head to your campaign settings and you’ll see one for “Automatic campaign optimization (Display Network only).”  Go ahead and turn it on (you won’t have the option to turn it on until you meet the requirements), and although the above list is all you need to do, there are some things we’ve found that help make DCO work even better:

  • Although 15 conversions is an absolute minimum, during the Beta period this requirement was much higher.  As with any statistical model, the more data you have, the better the prediction.
  • This works well when you have a very well defined, direct response type of goal. Think e-commerce transaction or very specific inbound lead that has a defined value.
  • Let this thing run.  It needs to collect data from a representative sample to predict the behavior of a total population, and for it to do this, you have to leave things alone and be patient.  Also watch out for seasonality, holidays, and other things that provide traffic that is not necessarily representative of your “normal” population of visitors.

Big News in Mobile

It’s true.  As of 2011, there were more mobile devices on earth than there are toilets.  This market is exploding, and there have been lots of updates here.

AdMob (finally) Integrated in AdWords Interface

AdWords advertisers now have access to 350M+ mobile users through the apps they use. Thanks to the 2009 AdMob acquisition, you can now target individual apps and app categories right from your AdWords interface.  To get started, create a new “Display Network Only (mobile apps)” campaign and select specific apps and/or app categories as placements from the Display Network tab > Change Display Targeting button.Creating a new mobile app display campaign

Device Level Targeting

We’ve had the ability to target smartphones, tablets and desktop / laptops for a while now.  Then it got even better when we could choose operating systems, and later versions of those operating systems.  The combination of a “tablet device” and an “iOS” operating system got us the iPad market, for example.  But now, we can simply pick devices from a list!  You want to target just Kindle Fire users?  Have at it:Mobile device targeting in AdWords

In your campaign settings (Networks and Devices), you can choose models you want to go after, and coupled with the device-level mobile reports in Google Analytics (available since summer of 2011) that show you data on those devices, you can now optimize at even deeper levels!

Mobile App Extensions

If you’re marketing an app download (iOS or Android), then listen up.  While you’ve been able to define a destination URL of a marketplace for a while now, things just got more interesting.  Take a look at this extension that will likely take up the vast majority of a smartphone’s viewing area: Beta advertisers have reported average 6% lifts in CTR so far.


Google is pulling app data (like screenshots and descriptions) right from Google Play and the iTunes Store and adding a big download button for you.  This is already available in the interface (Ad Extensions tab) and all you need to do is enter the package name (or look it up through the handy interface), some link text and a link URL.

Configuring a mobile app extension

Track Mobile App Downloads (Android only)

AdWords advertisers can now use the Conversion Tracking feature to track not just webpages and calls (did you know that? Not exactly what you might be thinking…scroll down to the “Set up on a mobile site with a phone number” section), but now you can track downloads from the Google Play store (used to be the Android Market).  Note that while the mobile app extension includes iOS, Apple still hasn’t given Google access to the back end of the iTunes Store, so app download tracking only applies to Android apps.

Get started by creating a new conversion and selecting the “Mobile app download” radio button:

mobile app download as conversion in AdWords

Zip Codes & Bulk Upload

Selling yachts and private jets and miss the golden years when you could simply upload a list of the richest zip codes to target your ads?  Those golden years are now back!  For US advertisers, zip codes can again be targeted and you can see this level of detail in the geographic performance reports of the Dimensions tab.

AdWords bulk location targeting

Bulk locations in the Advanced Location targeting area is back as well, and you can dump up to 1,000 city codes, names, or other locations in at a time.  The only caution here is that all of those targets must be in the same country.  So if you want to upload that list of the world’s richest cities, you’ll need to go one country at a time.

Auction Insights Report

In your Keyword reports, you can now look at a host of new competitive data for one keyword at a time.  Get started from the Keywords tab and the Keyword details dropdown (check the box next to a keyword in your reports first):

AdWords auction insights report

You’ll see a list of who you’re competing with in the auction (their display URL domain), what their impression share and average ad positions are, what percentage of the time you show up along with that competitor and how often you’re above them (overlap and position above rates), and what percentage of the time ads are showing up in the top ad slots (versus side).

What will be Next?

There have been many more things happening in the world of AdWords recently, and the pace doesn’t seem to be slowing.  We’ve seen automated rules at the MCC level, a new Display Network tab and interface, a new contextual targeting engine, more labels, new Quality Score details, updated Keyword and Traffic Estimator Tools, the launch of the Trusted Stores program, and now big changes to the way product ads and product listings will behave – better be prepared for what’s next!

What do you think about all these changes? Other important ones you want to highlight?


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