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How Two Major SEM Changes Affect Online Retailers

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Recently Google made some bold moves in the search marketing space, in particular with Google AdWords and Google Shopping, which could affect many online retailers. Let’s take a quick look at these changes and exactly how they could affect your operational methods…


1) Google AdWords launched “Enhanced Campaigns”

AdWords, or the platform which Google uses for their paid search, is getting a serious overhaul. In the past, mobile ads included both mobile and tablet devices and required a completely different campaign within Google Adwords to manage. With enhanced campaigns, there is now only one campaign for all ads and tablet devices are lumped in with desktop ads. Mobile ads are now broken out and can be bid on separately.

This means that if you want to advertise on tablet devices you must have a campaign for desktop ads. Also, your campaigns for all ads must include desktop ads (even if bidding a small amount) to have mobile ads display on phones. Yes, even if you want to advertise on mobile devices only, your account must include desktop ads. This change could boost the price of ads across the board as there will now be more competition for text and display ads as a whole because the AdWords system requires it.

Another feature of the new enhanced campaigns is the ability to customize your ad campaign based on time and location. This change allows for total control of what time of day ads are displayed and the precise locations they are geographically shown.

The last major change is the ability to adjust your bids by percentages instead of fixed dollar amounts. With the old system you split your ad dollars into different campaigns and you were finished – the new system allows for only one ad budget to bid on ads across all devices (i.e. mobile bid budget is 30% of desktop bid budget). You can tweak these variables whenever you want using factors such as time, bid percentage, and location.


What this means for online retailers

Online retailers can now easily create ads for both mobile and tablet devices in the same campaign – there is no longer a need to manage multiple accounts and have to repeat the same tasks.

The inclusion of tablet ads into the desktop ad category changes the way online retailers will advertise on tablet devices as mobile ads were generally much cheaper than desktop ads.

With the ability to control ad location and times, omni-channel retailers can use these new changes to target consumers when they are at their physical locations (possibly showrooming) or during specific times when targeted consumers shop online (some fashion brands see a spike in the late evening). This will help online retailers make the most of their paid search budget.


2) Google Shopping is now a pay-to-play offering

Google Shopping is a comparison shopping engine (CSE) in which retailers can place products from their site directly onto Google.

After five years of being a free comparison shopping engine, Google Shopping moved to a fully paid business model in fall 2012. This changed Google Shopping from more of an SEO initiative to a SEM initiative. Now these shopping lists work like paid advertisements – you are charged every time someone clicks on a listing.


What this means for online retailers

It’s important for online retailers to look at their old analytics to see if any key products have seen a decrease in sales after Google made this change and whether or not it is worth their time to use Google Shopping given the recent changes. Online retailers can sign up for Google Merchant Center to manage product listings and place bids on these products for specific categories, much like Google AdWords. For many online retailers it’s forcing a change in the allocation of their online marketing budget, for others it has made them leave Google Shopping altogether.

In conclusion, both changes made by Google could affect the bottom line of online retailers. Some of the AdWords changes are not currently required but will be mandatory in June, so the sooner you make the changes and get used to the new AdWords system the better!

Looking for more specifics or a more technical description of these changes? Here is an in-depth blog post on enhanced campaigns and Google Shopping from our search marketing expert, Neil Lemons.