The changes to AdWords have been coming hard and fast over the past few weeks; Expanded Text Ads, Device Level Bidding, and Attribution Modelling grabbing most of the limelight.
But Responsive Ads — Display Network AdWords ads that Google auto-adjust to fit available ad space — also merit your attention.
Yes, they eliminate the need to create multiple versions of your ads to match all available ad space, and that’s a huge plus.
But — as we’ve learnt — there’s also a downside to these ads that Google has not made clear to advertisers (and it’s likely to concern any company with strict requirements as to how their brand is depicted in ads).
First, it should be made clear that if you are running a Display campaign (even if all you are running is a Remarketing campaign) you are obligated to run responsive ads. That is, there is no opt-out: Google will automatically change your ad’s size, appearance, and format to fit the available ad space.
Second — and a point that does not yet seem to have caught any attention — you can no longer create a text ad for your Display campaign.
For those of you scratching your head and asking why you would want to run a text ad in a Display campaign anyway, one word: Reach.
Previously, when running a campaign with a limited range of ad sizes, text ads gave us many more ad impressions (most websites accept text ads, but have limitations as to the display ad sizes they can use).
With Responsive Ads that changes: create a responsive ad and it may be shown as a text ad on one site and (to paraphrase the relevant Google AdWords help page) a native banner ad on another. You can also preview how that ad will appear in a variety of sizes but, as Google makes clear, “it’s not possible to show you every possible layout across the 2 million sites that make up the Google Display Network”.
So: we can no longer create a text ad, but if we create a responsive ad it may appear as a text ad, ensuring no loss in reach. So far, well…not so bad.
But, and this gets to the heart of the issue, what if you have been running text ads in your display campaigns, and have not created a responsive ad? What kind of ad will Google create from your text ad when adjusting it to fit a skyscraper, leaderboard or, for that matter, the ever-popular inline rectangle ad space?
You won’t see a visual depiction of the auto-generated ads in your AdWords account reports. You’ll only see these ads if you stumble across them (for instance, if you are included in your remarketing list).
A warning, though: it’s not always pretty.
Why should you care?
For any display campaigns we are already running on behalf of our clients, we are creating responsive ads (where performance warrants the campaign continue). At the same time, we are pausing any active text ads.
In doing so, we will be able to ensure colours and logos conform to brand guidelines, and that our clients’ brands are correctly represented.
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Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he develops search strategies for SureFire clients and helps them make sense of their website data.
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