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It’s that time of year again! Ugly sweaters abound. The eggnog is flowin’. That cousin you marginally know who lives in the woods and calls himself Wild Mike wants to talk about his hemi F-250. What are you going to do?
Slip off into the other room, curl up by fire, and reflect on the nine biggest online advertising stories of the year.
2018 was one hell of a ride. From major re-brands to data scandals to targeting cutbacks—let’s dig into the headlines that made waves this year. 1. Exact Match Gets Less Exact (Again).
In the good old days of AdWords lore, exact match <> was just that—it was exact. If you bid on exact match keywords, your ads would only deliver when prospects searched for those exact keywords. But Google has changed the definition of exact match <> in recent years to include misspellings, plurals, prepositions, conjunctions, and even out-of-order phrases. This year, Google announced that, yet again, exact match keywords would match to even more keyword variants <>. These could include synonyms, paraphrases, and any results that share *implied intent*. So, for example, if you’re bidding on the exact match keyword [yosemite camping], the queries yosemite national park ca camping, yosemite campground, and campsites in yosemite will also now trigger your ads. 2. Google AdWords Rebrands to Google Ads
Far and away the biggest news to online advertisers this year (and to SEOs generating organic traffic from AdWords-related keywords) was Google’s grand rebrand of Google AdWords to Google Ads <>.
The change was more than an aesthetic one, though. Per Google, Google Ads “represents the full range of advertising capabilities [Google] offers today… to help marketers connect with the billions of people finding answers on Search, watching videos on YouTube, exploring new places on Google Maps, discovering apps on Google Play, browsing content across the web, and more.” And indeed, “Google Ads” better befits that extensive suite of advertising networks than the search-synonymous “AdWords.”
Google Marketing Platform, which integrates the old Doubleclick and Analytics 360 platforms, marries ad creative and analytics in a single location, making it easier for enterprise marketers and agencies alike to “plan, buy, measure, and optimize digital media and customer experiences in one place.”
The new Google Ads is more holistic and more simplistic than AdWords ever was and has shifted the focus of search advertisers toward audience creation, not just keyword strategy. “AdWords” as a concept isn’t exactly dead, though—even the most expert among us still forget the name change from time to time, and when people go to Search for Google Ads-related advice and services, they’re still searching, for the most part, for AdWords-related terms. 3. Responsive Search Ads Hit the SERP
Thanks in large part to machine learning, A/B testing got a heck of a lot easier this year. Responsive Search Ads <> is Google newest, largest, and most flexible search ad format. RSAs allow advertisers to write up to 15 different headlines and up to four different descriptions—which, collectively, can be arranged in 43,680 different permutations. That’s a ton of ad testing possibilities!
Google then automatically tests different combinations of your search ad copy and, over time, uses machine learning to determine which combinations perform best. Then it serves those combinations to prospects, taking into account the keyword they search for, their device, their past browsing behavior, and a whole host of other signals.
Google’s new Responsive Search Ads can show up to three 30-character headlines, a display URL with two 15-character path fields, and up to two 90-character description fields. That amounts to one more deadline, one more description, and 10 more characters of description text than an expanded text ad. Or, in simpler terms, way more SERP real estate!