Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Updates in 2018

Search engine marketing (SEM) is always changing, and 2018 was no different. We saw a multitude of changes that impacted how we tackle SEM. These changes and trends indicate a rise of automation, the increase of voice search and the demand for new ad features.

Google Ads Updates in 2018

2018 was a year full of changes, new features and updates to the Google Ads platform. This blog post has the essential updates that marketers and businesses need to know from last year for search engine marketing & PPC. Follow along to find out the major updates!

Changes to Search Ads

October 25, 2018 | New Click-To-Message Features

Google has added new features to click-to-message ads. The first, email forwarding, will automatically send any text messages to your email. Second, automatic reply sends a message back to customers immediately. Click-to-message ads will also get expanded reporting focused on more accurate attribution for conversions. Throughout 2018 we have seen Google implement a wide variety of new features aimed at giving advertisers advanced capabilities to share their messaging. This is just another instance of Google expanding the communication between advertisers and their target audiences.

August 27, 2018 | Responsive Search Ads Get Ad Strength Feature

Advertisers will now see an ad strength score ranging from “Poor” to Excellent” that measures relevance, quantity and diversity of ad copy and provides recommendations. Google is making a big push toward automation and machine learning in 2018 and is trying to simplify the process so users will rely on this automation.

July 10, 2018 | Google Integrates Machine Learning

Google is introducing responsive search ads which use Google’s machine learning to utilize an advertiser’s budget. Advertisers can provide up to 15 headlines and four descriptions lines which will be rotated to see which combination performs the best for specific search queries. Google is taking some of the guesswork out of optimizing ads and allowing advertisers to examine the effectiveness of their campaigns before running the ads.

Changes to Mobile Ads

July 11, 2018 | Speed Matters for Mobile Users

Google introduced a mobile speed score which lets advertisers see which pages are providing a fast mobile experience and others that need more attention. The mobile speed score is based on a 10-point scale with 1 being very slow and 10 being extremely fast. The score encompasses a number of factors, including page speed and potential conversion rate. This score makes it more evident to advertisers which pages need attention and shows the importance that Google is placing on mobile speed for users.

February 26, 2018 | New Mobile Speed Scorecard and Impact Calculator

With 53% of mobile visits being abandoned if a site takes more than three seconds to load, it’s more important than ever to see how your site speed stacks up against your competitors.

With the Speed Scorecard tool, advertisers can see the speeds of thousands of websites across the world. Google recommends that a site loads within 5 seconds on mid-range mobile devices with 3G connections and within three seconds on 4G connections—a great benchmark to try and meet when it comes to your own site. Google also introduced the Impact Calculator. The tool estimates the revenue impact of improving the speed of your mobile site to show you how much you stand to gain with improvements. With the addition of these two tools, it signifies the importance Google is placing on website speed and user experience as users increasingly switch to mobile. This impacts the Google Ads platform across the board.

Changes to Shopping Ads

October 25, 2018 | Merchant Promotions Program Comes to Shopping Actions

Merchant promotions allow advertisers to run online promotions for products on Google. With the addition of Merchant Promotions to Shopping Actions, shoppers see promotions wherever the advertiser’s product shows up on Google Express. This integration is helpful for advertisers with specific promotions or seasonal sales.

October 16, 2018 | Google Introduces Shopping Insights

With data from over 55,000 products and 45,000 brands, the new free Shopping Insights tool can tell you which products and brands are popular, the latest trends and how trends vary in different regions in the United States. You can also schedule weekly and monthly email reports for products and categories you’d like to follow. This new feature gives e-commerce advertisers more data to execute their strategies.

March 19, 2018 | New Shopping Actions Program

Google unveiled a Shopping Actions program to give customers a simple way to shop products on Google Assistant and Search with one cart across devices. Shopping Actions uses a shareable list, universal shopping cart and instant checkout with saved payment information. This new program shows that Google is putting a greater emphasis on voice search when it comes to shopping and aims to create a cohesive experience for customers to turn browsing into a sale.

May 3, 2018 | Shopping Campaigns Now Goal-Optimized

Shopping campaigns will now offer goal types. Goals include maximizing conversion values or return on ad spend. Machine learning predicts how likely users are to convert and attempts to make the best use of the advertiser’s budget by having the advertiser’s campaign be goal-optimized. This has been an option on Google’s traditional search ads for quite some time but is new to Shopping campaigns.

Changes to Video Ads

November 21, 2018 | New User Experience Changes

Google is making user experience changes to adapt to video trends. Google found that users are sensitive to the frequency and number of ad breaks during longer viewing sessions. Google is introducing ad pods—instead of interrupting viewers with more ad breaks on YouTube, Google will now run two back-to-back ads with the option for viewers to skip through irrelevant ads. With this update, Google is continually responding to users’ viewing habits and tailor the YouTube experience around them.

July 11, 2018 | Driving Results with Video

Coming soon is a Maximize lift feature to help advertisers reach people who are likely to consider your brand after seeing a video ad. The bidding strategy uses Google’s machine learning to help advertisers reach those likely to buy.

Also coming is the ability to have local campaign types designed to drive store visits only. This will be especially helpful for measuring attribution for those with storefronts.

Shopping campaigns now allow advertisers to select store visits or new customers as goals and machine learning optimizes where your shopping ads show. This new feature is another push from Google to get more advertisers to shift towards automated campaigns.

June 12, 2018 | Discovering Online and In-Store Products

With around 80% of shoppers willing to go in store for an item they want immediately, Google decided to expand their affiliate location extensions on YouTube. This feature helps nearby people find your products in store. This will make it simpler to drive traffic to a store where the advertiser’s product is sold. Google is also adding local catalog ads, which allows shoppers to discover what you sell and see your inventory and pricing before going into the store. With both their SEO updates and changes to Google ads, we can tell Google is placing greater importance on local search.

April 17, 2018 | New Video Format

There’s a new format for video built for mobile devices, outstream video ads, which allows advertisers to reach more potential customers with video creative. The ads come into view on a mobile screen and begin to play with sound off. Users can keep scrolling or tap on the video to start from the beginning with sound on. The advertiser is charged on viewable CPM (since reach is the goal). The outstream video ads complement the six-second bumper ads and the True-View ads where the advertiser is charged on a CPM basis for viewing the full video ad up to 30 seconds. This is another great tool to display video ad creative without being intrusive and, again, shows that Google is placing an ever-growing emphasis on video for their ads.

April 2, 2018 | TrueView for Reach

People are 3x more likely to pay attention to online video ads vs. television ads and Google is building solutions to tap into YouTube’s reach for marketers. TrueView ads, the ad format where users have the choice to skip ads if they’re irrelevant to them, now have the billing format of CPM to optimize for reach. This is a tool marketers can utilize to gain greater reach on their video ads and it adds even more features for video advertisers.

March 15, 2018 | New Innovations for AdWords

Google will be releasing a beta for click-to-play video ads—which is a new way to reach gamers on Google Play with sight, sound and motion. The placements help users find a game as they tap, swipe and scroll to find their next favorite app. The ad placements are in the app store and show as users are looking for new apps.

March 13, 2018 | Find Consumers on YouTube that Searched on Google

Google announced that advertisers will be able to reach people on YouTube that searched for products or services on Google. The ads allow you to add a custom call-to-action with results that are important to your business. Instead of simply running TrueView ads, there is now an option to have your ads appear after specific search queries ensuring your ads reach your target audience across platforms. With this new feature, Google is helping brands stay top of mind even across platforms.

Google Ads Platform Changes

September 26, 2018 | Google Gains Media Rating Council (MRC) Accreditations

Google now has Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditations. The MRC is a group which ensures all audience measurement services are valid, reliable and effective. Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform and Google Ad Manager all now have MRC accreditations. This move is for advertisers to be better able to compare media placements and aims to make sure their metrics are trusted and align with industry standards.

August 31, 2018 | Third-Party Tech Support Ads Restricted

Google has decided to restrict third-party technical support providers due to misleading ad experiences. In the coming months, Google will be rolling out a verification program to ensure only reputable providers of third-party tech support can use Google’s ad platforms. With these restrictions, Google is holding strong to their commitment to providing the best ad experience for users by combating misleading and spam-like ads.

July 11, 2018 | Google Hotel Ads Joins Google Ads

Google Hotel Ads are joining the Google Ads platform as a campaign type. It will organize hotels by important attributes like brand and class, offer bidding controls unique to hotels, and smart bidding powered by machine learning and reporting. With this additional campaign type, it provides advertising solutions to the hotel industry. Google saw that hotels needed a specific campaign type based on their industry and created this feature.

May 30, 2018 | Optimize and AdWords Now Integrated

Optimize and AdWords are now integrated to make it easy for marketers to execute A/B tests. The integration makes it simple to test out changes on landing pages, such as wording, button text, form length and more.

April 2018 | Google Updates Its Healthcare and Medicines Policy

Google will update its policies for healthcare providers and will be adding more restrictions to recovery-oriented services for drug and alcohol addiction as of May of 2018. Examples of addiction services affected will include clinical treatment and recovery support service providers, lead generators, referral agencies and crisis hotlines. This restriction led to a large number of suspended search ads.

In the U.S., advertisers need to be certified by LegitScript as addiction services providers to advertise for related keywords through Google Ads, however, not all providers are eligible. While this has weeded out misleading ads which were taking advantage of vulnerable individuals, the fee to receive this certification has also made it more difficult for legitimate services to reach people seeking help. This had a large effect on the healthcare and drug/alcohol addiction treatment industry.

March 12, 2018 | New Insights for Click-To-Message Ads

Click-to-message ads were introduced in late 2016 as an easy way to connect with businesses to get info about products or services or scheduling appointments. Now, Google has added greater and more powerful analytics called Message reporting.

New metrics include Chat Rate, Chat Start Time and Messages. Chat Rate is how often users start a conversation with you after seeing the message extension. Chat Start Time is the timestamp after a user starts a conversation with you. Messages are the total number of messages exchanged between you and a user. The added metrics provide more information than ever for marketers to optimize click-to-message campaigns based on best performing ads and times of the day.

Keep Your SEM Account in Good Shape with Blue Compass

Our digital marketing team will be keeping close tabs on search engine marketing updates, new features and changes in 2019. If you’re ready to take our SEM campaigns to the next level, contact our experts at Blue Compass.

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Digital Marketing, SEM

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