What’s New in PPC? | Receptional Ltd

What’s New in PPC?

October 15, 2018

What’s New in PPC?

Our resident expert and head of PPC, Matt Loughlin, tells us what’s new in PPC.

  1. From Google AdWords to Google Ads

We’re moving from targeting keywords to audiences, from search to video, etc. It’s happening right now.

Reflecting this change, Google has rebranded AdWords as Google Ads and consolidated its other advertising products into Google Marketing Platform and Google Ad Manager.

The underlying products are the same, but in Google’s words “This is a better representation of what our products are and, more importantly, where they need to go.”

  1. The new Google Ads interface

The new Google Ads interface has been around for a while now, though many in the industry have delayed the transition given how different the old and new experiences are.

Having used the new interface for several months now, it’s clear that it provides us with more resources, i.e. better dashboards and data visualisations, including custom dashboards and greater reporting segmentation, but it certainly takes some getting used to!

The new interface also has a bigger and better recommendations engine. This supplies suggestions relating to all areas, including bidding, budgets, ads, keywords, extensions, etc. to help you optimise your campaigns.

  1. Ads are getting bigger…again

First, we moved from standard text ads to expanded text ads (ETAs). When ETAs were released in 2016, advertisers were happy, SEO-ers less so. Ads grew considerably (+50%) in size, and because of this, on average, advertisers saw their ad click-through rates (CTR) increase.

Since 2016 though things have changed. We’re using larger devices and can therefore handle larger ads! Queue – Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), first released in May 2018.

These allow you to input up to 15 headlines (of 30 characters), and four descriptions (of 90 characters, rather than 80 in ETAs).

They then display 3x headlines and 2x descriptions and the system automatically tests different combinations of headlines and descriptions to learn which combinations perform best

Advertisers can then expect click uplifts of 5 – 15% from the several thousand ad permutations available for testing. That’s more ad copy that we puny humans can feasibly create and test efficiently.

Fear not though, you can ‘pin’ headlines, if you’d like to be sure that the system limits its testing.

Most recently, as of late-August 2018, we’ve now moved to a new standard ad format of even larger expanded text ads which offer considerably  more ad space, 300 characters in total, over the 170 offered by Expanded Text Ads. That’s 76.5% more character space.


  1. Ad Extensions dominate more than ever

The majority of ad space now comprises   different ad extensions, making it more important than ever to test all available extensions.

What’s more, it’s clear that some of the newer extensions are just not being used well enough…

….whilst others are neglected – especially seller ratings. Seller ratings require just 150+ unique reviews and a composite rating of 3.5 stars+ to display. Despite this not being an overly high threshold for most advertisers, many seem to dismiss this option all too quickly.

Finally, price extensions still don’t appear to be used widely enough, despite having been around for some time now.

Whilst they can take a considerable amount of time to manage effectively, think about how much traffic you receive from mobile clicks, then compare the two different ads below.

In the mobile ad below, price extensions increase the size of the ad considerably, with the ad in position two barely making it above the fold.

Price extensions on desktop

Price extensions on mobile

  1. Ad suggestions

Do you trust Google to create ad variants for you? Well, they’ve been doing it since early 2018 for many advertisers.  Personally, I’m not a fan of this and have deactivated it in several accounts (under ‘Account Settings’- see below image).

How does it work? Google uses machine-learning and human review to create new ads, based on the information in existing ads. These suggestions go live after a review period of 14 days if you take no action or dismiss them.

  1. Mobile speed scores in Google Ads

Mobile landing page speed score now has a column in Google Ads. Why? “50% of users will move on from a potential purchase if the landing page is slow to load.” – Anthony Chavez, Google Ads Project Management Director.

This functionality scores individual landing pages from 1 (very slow) to 10 (extremely fast), based on various factors including considering the relationship between page load speed and conversion rates.

After all, what good are enlarged expanded ads and responsive search ads if your mobile landing pages aren’t good enough?

  1. The recommendations engine

There are plenty of good recommendations in what was previously known as the ‘opportunities’ tab: one valuable area relates to bidding and budgets. The system will recommend different strategies i.e. target CPA, maximise conversions, etc. based on your objectives.

Crucially, these recommendations now offer insights into the uplift expected from certain changes. We’ve found this very useful, especially for large scale, but (relatively) low-spending accounts, as it offers functionality that was previously only provided by bid management platforms.

  1. Google smart bidding

Why should we be using smart bidding? Think of all the factors that affect a user’s journey and path to conversion – the below image should help.

Some of this data we can access and review, some of it we can’t. Even if we could, it’s just no longer efficient to manually review this data and adjust bids. The system has more signals available than ever before and can bid in real-time, based on a multitude of factors.  Trust in the robots.

There’s now plenty of smart bidding options – Target CPA, Target return on ad spend (ROAS), etc., and even more coming soon (we’re sworn to secrecy!).

  1. From keywords to audiences

Google is investing more into allowing advertisers to target audiences instead of keywords. This now includes ‘Life events’, i.e. targeting those that are preparing for, or immediately, after certain life events such as graduating from college, marriage and moving.

This list is also expanding, with life events currently being tested relating to pet ownership, job changes, retirements, home renovations and more – with more due in the coming months!

Recently, Google also started to allow advertisers to use in-market audiences within search. These audiences allow you to target those that are actively searching for your products or services, i.e. those further down the purchase funnel, with higher intent.

It’s clear, from our own recent campaign reviews and conversations though, that most advertisers don’t appear to be leveraging the audience insight data available to see what in-market categories they could be using.

There are now hundreds of in-market audiences to target from popular industries, so what are you waiting for?

  1. Attribution is evolving…finally

Last-click attribution is years out of date. It’s just too simplistic when accounting for the complex user journeys and paths to purchase which span multiple, days, weeks, months, devices, sources, etc.

We’ve known this for some time, but the challenge has always been the lack of a credible and workable alternative. Thankfully, this is changing in two ways:

  1. Within Google Ads we can now adjust the attribution model for individual conversion actions. There are a few flaws with this though – firstly, the top recommended model i.e. data-drive attribution (DDA) is unavailable unless you hit high conversion thresholds, leaving only the second-best options – time decay, position-based and linear.


Secondly – this is only a solution for Google Ads reporting and optimisation

  1. The solution to the above problem? Google Attribution – coming in 2019. This will allow for cross-channel, cross-device, data-driven and actionable attribution that’s free for all – hurrah! Time will tell how useful this will be, but let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

Do you need help with paid search? Contact us today to discuss your PPC needs with our award winning team.

Matt Loughlin

Head of Paid Search

Matthew joined Receptional in 2008 and has worked on hundreds of paid search campaigns. He has worked on large-scale clients (spends exceeding £100k monthly) in markets such as travel, retail, finance and gaming. Matthew is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He is AdWords, Analytics and Bing Ads Certified. Outside of work Matthew enjoys travelling, cooking and music.

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