AdWords Marries Opportunities Tab to Campaign Experiments: What Does it Mean for You?

August 17, 2016

We've written here about some of the things to be aware of with regard to the AdWords opportunities tab, and we've talked in depth about AdWords Campaign Experiments. AdWords recently announced a new feature that enables advertisers to run campaign experiments against AdWords opportunities. This is a really interesting feature combo -- both from a pure functionality standpoint and in thinking about where AdWords is heading, so let's unpack it.

What Exactly Does Opportunities & Experiments Combining Mean?

So how does this play out, exactly? Basically all Google's done (from the end-user perspective anyway) is make the campaign experiments functionality visible and available as you're browsing the opportunities Google is presenting you with:

AdWords opportunities & AdWords campaign experiments

(Funny aside: this is the screenshot from the Google blog post, and if you look at it these are probably pretty terrible keywords that would drive a lot of traffic, have ridiculously low CTR, and not convert very well.)

At first blush this is actually a pretty handy feature -- rather than giving you rough estimates of the "opportunities" they're recommending Google is letting you run a test! This is certainly better than just rolling out the opportunities based on Google's estimates and hoping for the best, and there are certainly going to be some useful suggestions generated by the opportunities tab. 

As with all things Google, though, there's a bit of a catch (bolding is mine):

This new feature uses AdWords Campaign Experiments to run experiments on the keyword and bid ideas in your Opportunities tab. Experiments run on 50% of your AdWords traffic for thirty days, during which time you’ll have the chance to compare your original campaign setup with your test setup. You can decide at any time whether you want to apply your experiment settings to 100% of your traffic. If you take no action after thirty days, your experimental changes will be applied to your campaign automatically.

This is obviously a red flag, and if you're an advertiser setting up experiments, you want to be sure to keep an eye on this and not allow yourself to get opted in to the losing side of an experiment! Note from the post that they don't say that they'll pick a "winner" -- which isn't always in your best interest anyway, as in the case of the AdWords Optimize for Conversions setting -- they are just opting you in to the experimental changes (i.e., the opportunity suggestions).

Beyond this obvious warning for advertisers I think this has an interesting implication for where Google is going with the AdWords platform. This is a bit like the strategy of asking for a credit card up-front in a free trial and hoping that some percentage of visitors forget to cancel: Google is giving you a free trial of the opportunities they want you to opt in to, and hoping you just let them ride.

In terms of where the AdWords platform is going I think this is a great example of Google's internal struggle to balance simplicity for the novice with power for the experienced PPC manager. Google really wants to take control of your spend -- they want to be sure you're using your budget, bidding in the auctions they want you in, and doing well enough to continue to advertise with them. Experienced PPC advertisers want the ability to run their own tests and monitor progress, making adjustments as they go. Here Google's found a "free trial" sort of balance to try to get more people into the opportunities tab without totally giving away their chance to get people into the activities they want.

As always the moral of the story is that you should be leery of new AdWords features and make sure that you're getting value for your business (not opting into the features that offer the most value for Google).

Tom Demers

Tom Demers

Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.

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