SEO has received a lot of attention in the last few months due to some interesting changes to Google’s algorithm (the major updates including Panda, Penguin and Mobilegeddon), but 2016 is actually ramping up to be one of the most significant years for paid search in the 15 years PPC (pay-per-click) advertising has been around.
Here’s a look back at all the main developments, launches and news from Google AdWords and Bing advertising so far this year.
In February, Microsoft formally separated from Yahoo with the launch of the Bing Network. In April 2015, the two companies announced what largely amounts to a dissolution of the Search Alliance after five years into the 10-year deal. Bing continues to serve ads on a good portion of Yahoo results, but account management is now completely separate, and Bing Ads scaled up a sales force of 450 and transitioned over 10,000 managed accounts in North America. In talking about the transition, Microsoft’s general manager of global search sales and service, Lynne Kjolso, said, “It took us five years to globally roll out the search alliance… and we unwound 90 percent of that in less than six months.”
In February, Google confirmed that they would no longer serve text ads in the right rail on desktop. The move unifies how text ads display on all devices and paved the way for Google’s big Expanded Text Ads announcement (more on that below).
For more on the change and its impact, check out: what the changes mean for search marketersby Alistair Dent and why not to overreact by Kevin Ryan. Frederick Vallaeys offered advice onhow to respond. Larry Kim and Andy Taylor shared looks at what happened in the early days of the change and how it affected bidding. And finally, here’s what Google’s Matt Lawson had to share about the reasoning behind the changes.
In April, Google started showing ads in the Local Finder, the page of local and Map results that users get to by clicking on “More places” from the local three-pack on the main search results.
Also as of April, Google no longer categorizes Maps as a Search Partner. The change means that only ads with location extensions are eligible to show in Maps, and it also means advertisers can opt out of Search Partners and still show ads in Maps.
Later that month, Google started using purple ad labels in Maps.
In May, at Google Performance Summit, ads and commerce head Sridar Ramaswamy announced that Promoted Pins will be coming to Maps, taking a page from Google-owned Waze. Ramaswamy also said that a third of mobile searches are now local and growing 50 percent faster than mobile searches overall.
The next frontier for ads is in the Local Pack in search results. Google’s Global Product Lead for Local Ads, Ali Turhan, discussed the testing the company is doing to show ads in (or possibly above) the pack of organic listings at SMX Advanced. We know for certain these ads are coming, but what they’ll look like and exactly where they’ll be placed is still being tested.
Expanded Text Ads are undoubtedly the biggest change announced in the first half of the year. Every single advertiser running text ads will be rewriting ads in the coming months. We first reported on the Expanded Text Ads test in April. The new format was officially announced at GPS. Bing Ads soon announced it would support ETAs. Google’s Sundeep Jain, who oversees all things text ad,discussed the rollout in a keynote discussion at SMX Advanced. The message from both Google and Bing is to rethink your ad creative; don’t try to tack on some extra characters.
For more on ETAs, check out:
AdWords’ new extra headline: 7 ways to make the most of it from Matt Lawson.
The best-received announcement of 2016 so far has to be that Google is bringing device bidding back to pre-Enhanced Campaigns days. Bid modifiers remain, but tablet and desktop bids will be separate, and advertisers can set base bids for mobile. Will search marketers go back to setting up device-specific campaigns? These and other implications will be the focus of a lot discussions in the coming months.
A helpful update for marketers manually managing their product feeds was the addition of Feed Rules in Google Merchant Center to add custom labels, make quick fixes and more at the end of April.
GTIN requirements for Shopping feeds went into effect May 16 to help Google improve the relevancy of product listing ads for user queries. Google said GTINs can lead to more impressions and more conversions.
In mid-May, Google:
This change wasn’t necessarily splashy, but it’s significant in that it gives marketers another way to move beyond last-click attribution. Search marketers can now set different attribution models — including the new data-driven attribution model — for individual conversion events in AdWords.
The mid-June announcement that Microsoft plans to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion caught people by surprise and a minute later had us all speculating about what it could mean for advertisers and for Bing. At SMX Advanced, Microsoft’s general manager of global search sales and service, Lynne Kjolso, said discussions around advertising are happening internally but that LinkedIn will be guiding those decisions as it remains a separate business unit.
Bing finally launched Bing Ads Editor for Mac in June. It’s available in beta in the US and will be rolling out to all markets. The launch is significant in that it relieves a big barrier to entry for Mac users and highlights a major shift in engineering priorities at Bing Ads since the separation from Yahoo.