best of 2015 adwords

The Top 7 Paid Search Highlights of 2015

2015 was a big year in the world of paid search. Google always has a lot of rollouts and changes, and this year was no exception. Bing and Yahoo both have pretty big updates as well, but those will have more of an impact in the coming year. More on that shortly.

Now that we are in a New Year and looking ahead to our 2016 marketing strategies, it is important to make sure that we are fully utilizing the latest and greatest that paid search has to offer. For the features and tools already released, your competitors already have access to them, so you will want to jump in and stay a step ahead.

1. Extensions, Extensions, Extensions


Structured Snippets allow for an additional line of ad copy (shown at Google’s discretion) where you can highlight additional information relevant to your offering.

You can now choose up to two headers for your structured snippet ad extensions. Google will determine if they show one, both, or none, on a search by search basis.

For each header selected, you will want a minimum of three snippets, but Google recommends at least four (and you can use up to 10).

Currently Available Structured Snippet Extension Headers
Amenities Destinations Neighborhoods Types
Brands Featured Hotels Service Catalog Ad Hoc*
Courses Insurance Coverage Shows  
Degree Programs Models Styles

*Google will release new snippets from time to time. For example, they had one for Black Friday in 2015.

Important to note:

  • The Ad Extensions tab provides reports on a per extension basis. This will help you to determine which ad extensions are proving valuable.
  • While some of these headers are very specific, there are options available for most any advertiser or industry. The catch-alls are Brands, Types, and Services.
  • Keep in mind that if you want to use the ‘Neighborhoods’ header, make sure that they are actually neighborhoods and not cities, states, or counties. Google has been quick to disapprove these if they are not true neighborhoods.
  • Check and make sure that your extensions are approved. We have not received disapproval notices when structured snippets are disapproved, so this is important.

Callout extensions and sitelinks continue to be very valuable and can help to increase the size of your ad, as well as the clickthrough rate (CTR) and overall relevancy.

And while review extensions have been out for a while, many companies are still not using them. I highly recommend testing these. Better Business Bureau extensions do particularly well. Remember that your review extension cannot come from an individual review or an aggregate of individual reviews (i.e. Yelp) and that your review must be current (in the last 12 months).

Call extensions & location extensions are paid search fixtures and most everyone is using these, if relevant to their business goals. However, if you are not, take another look for the new year.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that ad extensions have been playing a huge part in paid search growth and performance improvement.

2015 was the first full year that we had callout extensions at our disposal and structured snippets were also released in 2015. Structured snippets have been so popular, that feature enhancements have already come out since the original launch.

Google Structured Snippet Example

Google Structured Snippets

2. Customize Your Ads Automatically

Want to customize your ads based on a user’s search query, their location, their device type, language, time of day, day of week, etc.? You don’t need to build a robot or even have API knowledge; just use Google’s Ad Customizers. Try them once and you will be hooked.

The limit is really your imagination when it comes to the current options for dynamic ad customization.

If you have a time sensitive event or sale, use the ‘Countdown’ feature to let people know how much time they have remaining to register or buy.

You can include the % discount for specific products, add in the user’s city, or test other ways to make the ad highly relevant to the searcher. Read More

3. Only Pay For Display Impressions That Are Viewable

Google made a big leap forward by changing their display model to only charge for impressions that are 100% viewable. This means that you will only pay when your ads can actually be seen.

If you are like me, it seems pointless to spend money on ads that can require scrolling for a user to see them or that do not even fully load before you are charged. I have always wondered how someone can be charged for an impression (or view) when their ad has not even been loaded and had no chance of being seen by a human.

This is especially useful for the growing mobile market, where screen size is limited and only so many ads can be seen above the fold.

While this is great news for running display and/or video campaigns on Google, it can have other benefits. If you are buying display outside of Google, use this as leverage when negotiating your placements and your pricing.

 “An ad is counted as “viewable” when 50 percent of your ad shows on screen for one second or longer for display ads, and two seconds or longer for video ads.” (Source: Google)

4. Our Favorite New (or Improved) Display Opportunities

Google Customer Match

Looking for a way to market to existing customers when they are online? Look no further than Google’s Customer Match.

You can now upload a list of customers and setup a campaign to target them while they are logged into Google Search, Gmail, and/or YouTube.

This is a great tool if you have a new product offering, or have an update that you want to push to your existing clients.

There are some rules and restrictions, so please get the details below before moving forward with a test. Or reach out to your digital agency for more information. Read More

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

While Gmail marketing opportunities have been available for a while, they have seen different iterations over the years.

These promotions are managed in AdWords and are formatted differently than other ads.

The prospect can see your offer on the Promotions tab and click in for more information. The cost per click is still very low, so this is a great time to try it out if you haven’t already.

Reporting is available to show primary metrics, as well as saves and forwards.

Gmail Sponsored Promotion Ads

5. Demographics Integration

If you are not utilizing the available tools to monitor and track performance by age and gender (at a minimum), you are leaving opportunity on the table.

Depending upon your line of business, age and/or gender can have a large impact on paid search performance and overall marketing strategy. This is certainly something that you would consider in traditional marketing, so why not integrate this with your digital strategy?

This has always been easy to do with display buys, but what about search?

Tools are available to let you see what your demographics look like today and how performance differs based on this information.

Have your agency reach out to Google to discuss the Demographics for Search BETA. This will allow you to adjust your bids and targeting based on age range and gender. From there, consider testing out campaigns targeting certain demographics.

6. On The Technical Side

The Google Partners Mobile Advertising exam rolled out in 2015 and allows digital marketers to test their knowledge and become certified in the latest and greatest that Google has to offer on the mobile front. Make sure that your agency, and/or anyone who works in your AdWords account is certified.

The Google Video Advertising exam was re-tooled in 2015. With the importance of YouTube and all of the new offerings that are available to capture this market, you will want to make sure that your agency and/or internal digital marketing team are certified.

7. Google BETAs and Other Opportunities

BETA Opportunities

Google has a constantly evolving list of BETA opportunities. If you are not receiving updates from your agency or your Google representative, ask.

Many of these BETAs have been strong performers and several are being added as permanent offerings. Why not get in early and be a step ahead of your competitors?

Other Search Engine News

Bing Ads has seen a lot of feature enhancement over the past year. This trend appears to be continuing for 2016. Effective January 1st, 2016, AOL search will now be powered by Bing. This traffic would have previously been handled via the Google Search Network, so keep this in mind as you view your reports and determine next steps. While AOL search traffic is a small percentage of the whole, there is still incremental value here, and this engine can be used more heavily by certain demographics.

Many of you have heard of Yahoo Gemini, but not too many are actively using the platform. This will become more important as we move further into the new year. Yahoo Gemini is a very strong native ads platform and is low cost when compared to the alternatives. Yahoo has a huge mobile foothold and there is a lot of opportunity here.

Native ads are simply ads that are made to look like they are part of the site or article content. We have all seen these, but it is sometimes hard to tell that these interesting “articles” are actually sponsored content. Since people have become accustomed to standard display ads, they can be ignored and not get the interaction that the advertiser was hoping for. Native ads encourage interaction and typically have very good engagement.

Native Ad Examples

Native Ad Examples

Equally important is that not all Yahoo Search can be managed in Bing Ads. If you want full search coverage in Yahoo, you will definitely want to learn more about Gemini.

If you made it this far, thank you for staying with me. I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on 2015 paid search enhancements that really made an impact. What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Michelle Kelly
Sr. Paid Search Account Manager
Philly Marketing Labs

Philly Marketing Labs


1150 First Avenue, Suite 400 King of Prussia, PA 19406
(877) 373-2605
[email protected]