The PPC Show, Google Ads

How to Navigate the Change from Google AdWords to Google Ads

Google ad products recently had, perhaps, the biggest rebrand since the Starbucks Coffee brand dropped the word “coffee” from its name in 2011 and became just “Starbucks.”

Seven years later, Google AdWords removed the “Words” part from its marquee name. Just like Starbucks dropped “coffee” to prove that it stands for much more than just its Holiday blend, Google's rebrand showed that PPC has outgrown just the keywords.

As most performance marketers already know, this change has been going on for a while now. With more powerful targeting options on Google properties including GDN and YouTube and more sophisticated algorithms for automated bidding, PPC is very different from what it used to be just a few years ago. In this episode of the PPC Show, we’ll chat with Mandy Fitzberger of Atypical Digital about what the 2018 shakeup of Google Ads means for the future of ad biz.

PPC is becoming less about keywords and more about audience targeting

Google has launched a number of solutions that are less reliant on specific keywords and more on the actual intent and audience data. For example, on YouTube, you can now optimize campaigns not just for views and impressions, but also for reaching people who are most likely to consider your brand after seeing a video ad. “It’s a pretty big paradigm shift for Google,” says Mandy Fitzberger, Director of Paid Media at Atypical Digital.

Mandy has over a decade of experience in digital ads and has seen the ad platform evolve. “Both YouTube and GDN have gone super strong," she says. "Google is coming out with products that rely on audience data. It’s driving CPMs down, which is really, really great, as long as we’re getting data and attribution at the bottom of everything within that funnel.”

Google Ads are now powered by Google’s machine learning to deliver more relevant ads. Targeting got a lot better: you can now layer all the general targeting options like gender and location on top of the more sophisticated audience features such as affinity audiences, custom affinity audiences, in-market audiences, life event targeting, and remarketing audiences.

The early adopters of Google Ads are in luck, because they have the most data to fuel the automation. “We’ve been sitting on this data for a really long time,” Mandy says. “Google has done a great job of updating their algorithm, and layering audience targeting will be a really powerful tool. Early adopters will get the best benefits from historical relevance with the algorithm. It sets them up for success.”

The competition for ad placements is tougher than ever

“Everything is more competitive,” Mandy says. “With only a certain number of placements in existence today, we’re all competing for the same placement.” Instead of relying on the tried and true lead generation tactics, Mandy recommends that marketers should invest more in top-funnel advertising. “You really have to go into more of a branding 80/20 methodology,” she says.

For clients that have grown dependent on direct response advertising for many years, this may be a tough shift. Many account managers will have difficult conversations with clients this year. “I feel like some verticals are having a bit of a ‘squeeze’ moment,” Mandy says. “EDU, for example, is having an interesting moment that also goes into larger economic changes, because we’re experiencing a 4% unemployment rate, and less people go back to school.”

Robust attribution technology is key

Investing in top-funnel tactics means that marketers need to have advanced attribution to track customer journeys, whether it’s in e-commerce or B2B sales. “You either continue in a blind methodology or invest in data attribution and know exactly where to spend more money, because you’ve got the data to prove it,” Mandy says.

However, deciding which solution to go with is a challenge, as the number of modern marketing technology today is overwhelming. “The average “LUMAscape” (an infographic from LUMA partners showing technology solutions by verticals - Ed.) is enormous. It's gnarly,” Mandy says. CMOs, according to Fitzberger, are being bombarded left and right trying to find that one dashboard that really unites all of your data. It’s a big investment for many. “Google was supposed to launch the free attribution tool in Q1 this year, but it’s still not there, as they ran into some bugs,” Mandy says. “It’s going to be the next step up from just your regular Google Analytics.”

Mandy’s own technology stack features many different tools for advanced attribution. She uses Datorama, Tableau, Telium, Criteo, Adroll, and recommends AdStage for reporting and automation across search and social.

Automated bidding is the future

Many clients may feel a little uncomfortable with letting go of control and embracing automation. Mandy herself felt conflicted about the most recent Dynamic Search Ads. “Half of me as a marketer is like, ‘yes!’ give me that flexibility and take those users where they feel it’s most relevant, go for it!” Mandy says. “The other half is like, “you know, just letting the machines run is a little scary.”

But obviously, ads will become automated in the future. “Keywords are going away in the long run,” Mandy says. “I actually had my Google rep tell me that. They will not be ad ‘words’, just ads.” Likely, marketers won’t have to deal with negative keywords anymore, because the algorithm will be smart enough to take care of that.

The shift towards automation will mean that PPC marketers will focus on developing new skills. “When I first started, you weren’t able to automate pausing or starting a campaign for a holiday promotion. Everything was manual,” Mandy says. In the early days of PPC, to be great at what you did, you needed to train yourself on Excel, take the AdWords certification, and get some basic experience in working in accounts. But that is changing.

“The PPC role of the future will be more of a supervisor/trainer,” Mandy says. Communicating, building a strategy, helping the client interpret data, and being more culturally aware to work across diverse teams will be key to success.

Mandy thinks that in the long run, automation has a benefit to agencies. “We won’t have to tackle 8,000 tasks in a day for a client. Our jobs become a lot more strategic and a lot more focused on the overall business objective,” Mandy says. 

AdStage Q2 2018 PPC Benchmark Report Download
Anya Pratskevich

A senior content marketing manager on the AdStage team, Anya manages AdStage's blog, co-hosts the PPC Show, and curates a weekly newsletter with top news in ad tech. Send her tips, pitches, and guest post ideas to anya (at) adstage (dot) io. Anya tweets, occasionally, as @pratsaa.