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PMG Digital Made for Humans

The Next Era of Text Ads. {=Blog.CleverTagline}

7 MINUTE READ | February 14, 2017

The Next Era of Text Ads. {=Blog.CleverTagline}

We’re already placing our bets to see how long Google continues allowing advertisers to make static text ads. Ads that look like this blog’s title are already commonplace and it’s only going to get more complex (while also WAY more accurate and relevant).

member 2

In this day and age, it just doesn’t make sense to slap some unchanging text ads out there to be served to every user on the wild, wild web. We need to give people unique messages that perfectly match the intent and location of their searches, providing them with a highly relevant experience.

Ad Customizers for AdWords have been all the rage over the past two years. At its core, Ad Customizers are Google’s way of making a “programming language” for ads. If you provide Google with a file in your Business Data Center with updated “variables”, AdWords will dig into these files and return the relevant variable for your ad by matching the keyword a user searched for or the campaign/adgroup that the user fell into.

These updates have allowed advertisers to dynamically insert updated prices for their products, create an always-accurate countdown that signals urgency for the end of a sale, or even ad copy that changes based on a user’s location. Despite the great features that ad customizers have brought to the table, they’ve always had a fatal flaw. They require static text ads to run simultaneously in each adgroup. At best, with even rotation settings, you’ve got a dynamic ad that can only run 50% of the time (or <10%, if you get clever by copying and pasting the dynamic ad 9 times). So what were you to do if you find these ads using ad customizers have the strongest performance? Give control up by changing your settings to “Optimize for Clicks”? Cry in a corner? The options just weren’t ever the advertiser’s favor.

To avoid some of the complexities with ad customizers, PMG has been making ads for our clients that follow a systematic approach tied directly to the campaign and adgroup structure. In theory, it’s using the same logic that we would use with ad customizers, but we’re instead statically embedding the appropriate words for the most fitting campaigns and adgroups. This is super useful since ad customizers will just fail if the value it pulls in puts the headlines or descriptions over the character limit.

Using our internally designed system, we would make text ads using a structure similar to the one below.

Description Variation 1 = Shop {Brand} {Product} At {Client}. Over {Count} {Feature} {Products} Available!IF Length of Description > 80 charactersShop {Brand} {Product} At {Client}. {Feature} {Products} & More!IF Length of Description is > 80 characters{Brand} {Product} At {Client}. {Products} & More.IF Length of Description is still > 80 charactersShop At ACME For Our Latest Products.

Of course, the actual rules we use to create text ads are usually 4x more complex with multiple variations, but you get the gist. We’ve already been creating highly target ads by running each ad through a series of rules to ensure that if a user includes specific words in their keywords, those keywords will show up statically embedded in the ad, but the ads will never run over the character limit. This process has made a huge positive impact on our client’s quality scores and CTR, while also making sure that ads are consistently templated across all of the accounts, especially as new campaigns and adgroups continuously get made.

However, we didn’t think we should stop at just making the text ads as relevant as possible. We wanted the flexibility to change the underlying ad copy without the need to ever pause or remove existing ads. As a result, behold the beauty of this ad:

adcustomizer ad

We launched with 8 ad variants (consisting of a mixture of 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, descA, descB and descC), making each element of the ad copy a variable that can be referenced from a file located in the client’s Business Data. This ad format is extremely beneficial for us, as it now means that our entire ad creation process can now just be sent to a feed. If ads need to be updated for a promotion or exchanged every few weeks for testing, we just tie a start and end date in the feed to these ad variations and all of the ad copy will switch over seamlessly without ever having to add or edit ads to the account. Nifty, right?

While we’ve been experimenting to try and get around the issues presented by the current ad setup, lady luck may be on our side. Just a few weeks ago, Google announced the official rollout of “default values” for ad customizers across accounts. For every feed value you reference, you can tell Google what word or phrase you want it to insert in the event that it fails or errors out. In a nutshell, this means that you’ll now be able to have an account that’s 100% reliant on text ads that use ad customizers (since static text ads used to always serve as the backup). Woohoo!

On top of that, Google also dropped a bombshell by adding in IF statements into your ads. While you’re limited to changing the ad copy based on a user’s device or audience, it’s still one more step towards making ads look more obscure, but way more powerful.

if statements

While ad customizers have been one of the biggest steps towards making text ads great, they still have some major flaws that we hope Google gets fixed up over the next year or so. Until then, we’ll keep tinkering with the system to see how we can create ads that are both dynamic and flexible for our teams. Feel free to send them tweets on our behalf if you’d like to see these features added as well!

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  • When you choose a feed to pull variables from, you’re stuck referencing that feed for the rest of the ad.

    • You can’t mix and match things to pull some data from a product table (like pricing, quantity in stock, reviews), some data from a promotional calendar (like promo codes and end dates), and some data from an ad template.

    • This also means you can’t house geo-specific ad copy in one feed, but all other ad copy in a different feed. If you want that level of flexibility, you’ll have to build the feed out for all (1000+ cities X 1000+ campaign/adgroups/keywords). Gross!

    • This limitation prevents a lot of ad tests from being a reality, forcing you to either choose to narrow the content of your ad or create a giant concatenated feed.

  • Your variables can’t contain the ad customizer logic which prevents you from having a deeply nested chain of references.

    • You couldn’t have an ad that references a field called {=Ads.Headline1} where the Headline 1 value says “{=Feed.Client} {=Feed.Products}”. This would be extremely helpful when trying to update and re-arrange the dynamic logic used to build the ads, rather than hard-coding the ad copy in the feed to be updated.

    • You can’t create promotion ads that reference a field called {=Ads.DescriptionA} where the Description A value says “All products on Sale! Ends in {=COUNTDOWN(Feed.EndDate)}”

  • Landing pages can’t use ad customizers. This is a big bummer, as we’d love to test landing people on:

    • Search pages that contain elements of the keyword that a user searched for without having that hard-coded into the final URL at the keyword level.

    • Promo pages while a promotion is going on, but the normal landing page at all other times.

    • Landing pages designed for specific audience members on our CRM lists


Posted by Blake Burch

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