In 2016, mobile drove the nearly $6 billion year-over-year increase in search spend and and surpassed desktop for the first time, according to the IAB. Now that mobile is a given and we no longer have to wonder if this is its year, let’s look at the big trends, launches and news we’ve seen so far from Google AdWords and Bing Ads in 2017, starting with the other key given: machine learning.
- As former Googler and Optmyzr founder Frederick Vallaeys outlined in his column, The AdWords 201 roadmap is loaded with artificial intelligence, after the Google Marketing Next event, machine learning is powering just about every innovation in search marketing. A perfect example is Google’s earlier smart display campaigns announcement. Those campaigns rely on machine learning to automate just about every facet of the campaign.
- Another big development that has machine learning at its heart came in mid-March. Google declared it was expanding the meaning of close variants in exact match and would soon ignore word order and add or ignore function words in exact match keywords.
- Indulge me a side story on why this industry is such a great place to be. This news hit on the Friday before SMX West kicked off the following week. Fellow conference moderators Brad Geddes, Matt van Wagner and I hosted a last-minute session at 8 a.m. on the second day of the conference. The night before, we wondered if it might be the three of us talking to ourselves, but the large room was nearly filled by 7:55. We had a lively discussion (you can hear parts of that on this podcast) with lots of great questions and ideas. I later learned a Google project manager also came to hear the feedback. That more than hundred people got up extra early to talk shop and share ideas is a testament to the ethos of this industry.
- Merkle’s Andy Taylor dove into the agency’s data to analyze the early impact and published his findings on Search Engine Land in June.
- An update to Ad Rank thresholds began rolling out in May to account for the contextual meaning of queries such as whether a query is related to recent news versus a consumer product.
Conversion tracking & attribution
- In January, Google launched a pilot called “Ads Added by AdWords” in which 2,000 accounts were selected to participate (and could opt out). The system automatically adds ads into the testing rotation in ad groups.
- The green outline around Google’s “Ad” label on text ads became official at the end of February. Take a walk down memory lane with our visual history of Google ad labeling.
- In March, Dynamic Search Ads got page feeds and also now support expanded text ads. Both headlines are dynamically generated, and advertisers get the extra characters in the description.
- And, back on the automation theme, the automated call extensions program continued to roll out to more advertisers. Google automatically pulls phone numbers into ads from advertisers’ websites if they don’t have call extensions set up. That news followed a January announcement that Google would display local phone numbers automatically with location extensions instead of a central number.
- At long last, Google gave advertisers the ability to see historical Quality Score data in AdWords. It is also changing the bidding interface in the UI to show bid suggestions for various page positions.
- Another million or so more advertisers got access to the new interface called AdWords Next. Google says it will be available to everyone by the end of the year.
- Bing Ads rolled out expanded device targeting, which gives advertisers the ability to set up mobile-only campaigns. Additionally, all advertisers got access to Bing Ads Editor for Mac on the first of March.
In their own words
I had the opportunity to speak with Google’s head of search ads, Jerry Dischler, and Bing Ads GM Steve Sirich, at SMX Advanced in June, about the biggest trends and updates in search today. You can watch those interviews below.