Starting in late 2019 through 2020, Google has quietly been changing its organic and paid platforms. At the same time user behavior, advertiser tactics, and the overall market have shifted. As a Google Ads advertiser, I have had to revise many of my best practices to remain competitive and deliver the results my clients expect. In this article, I will address the changes affecting online advertising and tactics for leveraging these changes to help your business and maintain cost-effective results.
Google Ads Changes in 2020
Google has continued the move to integrating more artificial intelligence into its search results to improve both relevance and boost ad revenue. With Rank Brain identifying groups of words to predict user intent having ads and landing pages that use normal human language more important than ever.
BERT – Biggest Algorithm Change in 5 Years
If you’ve followed Google’s organic search changes over time you are familiar with the major algorithm updates. Maybe you remember Penguin, Panda, etc. and how they affected SEO. It has been a while since a big named update has been released as Google has rolled out changes in smaller fixes and releases. But that changed in late 2019 with the release of BERT.
BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”(!?), which is a bit of a mouthful. In simpler terms, BERT leverages AI to assign context to better determine the intent of conversational search and return the correct results. This allows it to make a better guess at what someone is searching for with a very limited amount of information, based on analysis of historical search data
The big takeaway for SEO purposes is to make sure your important pages have user-friendly natural language and a clear focus on keyword phrases and the main subject. Awkward keyword stuffing will continue to be deprecated and text that is written for humans rather than search engines will be increasingly important.
This also shows Google’s continued focus on mobile/voice search which has continued to outpace desktop for searches and purchases.
Upcoming Limitations on Demographic Targeting
Google recently announced that starting October 19 they will limit what demographic information will be available for use with certain types of ads. In short gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP will no longer be able to be used when targeting audiences for housing, employment, or some financial services (loans and credit cards). This may be modified prior to launch so be sure to review Google’s personalized advertising policies if you have campaigns in these industries to get ahead of potential issues.
The demise of the Tablet
2020 saw a big drop in the use of tablets in Google searches, down 45% from the last quarter of 2019. This tracks with the reduction in tablet sales. Likely driven by the increase in size of smartphones, the tablet really doesn’t have a niche anymore. Be sure to review your analytics and see if there is a rationale to adjust your device-specific bid adjustments.
Changes in Advertiser Results
Broad match results have dropped in popularity and now account for just 10% of paid search clicks. This is significant as this match type is most likely to match any given search. It is also the default keyword match type when setting up a campaign. Apparently more advertisers are putting a decent effort into optimizing their campaigns to more specifically target their audience. It’s also likely Google Ads is favoring more specific match types, which would be in line with their quality score algorithm.
My recommendation would be to review your keyword report for activity and conversion rates. If your broad match terms aren’t performing well consider switching them to phrase match or even exact match. Also, check the search term report for related searches that might be wasting your budget. Consider adding negative keywords as needed. The competition is getting tougher and going with the default options will put you at a disadvantage.
For anyone having issues excluding categories in your display ads please read my article on Google Ads Editor.
Adapting to Changes and Future-Proofing Your Google Ads Campaigns
Review search terms (what users search) regularly. Be sure to have the most popular and effective converting phrases in your ads and landing pages. This will improve your quality score and your conversion rate.
Monitor your display placements to keep an eye on potential low-value traffic and exclude as needed. Google continues to change the audience’s parameters, and you need to be aware of where your budget is being spent. A better practice than letting Google decide where to show your display ads is to research and assign placements. Also, be sure to exclude specific non-relevant categories to ensure google won’t decide to show them.
Review your Google Ads optimization scores and check the recommendations on a regular basis. The optimization scores change over time as Google collects more data on how your campaigns perform. Striving to keep your optimization score as high as possible will be helpful in keeping your campaign performing well.
Choose respected news and blog sites to regularly follow and read relevant articles. Nothing changes faster than digital marketing and being ahead of the curve will keep your accounts running smoothly.