Paid search has gotten exponentially more complicated in the last couple years — AdWords in particular has added all kinds of new targeting, new ad formats, new extensions for the new ad formats. What was once a keyword, 95 characters of ad text and a CPC bid is now a modified broad match keyword further modified by negative keywords and negative keyword lists, 95 characters that may be 1 line or 2 depending on placement, plus or minus any one of several sitelink, location and/or product extensions, targeted to a custom-defined audience, all based on your choice of CPM, CPC or CPA bids. You can decide where you want the ads shown or not shown, at what time of day, and at what percentage of your bid at that time. All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the ever-expanding display network, where you can now re-target the people you just targeted with dynamically generated rich media ads!
So, I got to thinking…given that our time, resources and brainpower are always limited, are we better off adding every bell & whistle to our campaigns, or keeping the focus on tried-and-true paid search basics. If I have a spare hour, am I better served setting up an account with Google’s latest & greatest experiment, or spending the extra time on traditional best practices — bid management, negative keywords, analyzing ad text? Now obviously, the answer lies firmly in the middle, and as an agency, we are held to the lofty standard of keeping up with new developments while simultaneously attending to the “basics.”
I’d say we here at Anvil (a) lean on and benefit from the curiosity of the rest of the team and (2) trust our gut based on the needs of individual clients. But, I am curious if anyone has a good rule of thumb for these types of decisions? How many experiments can an account accommodate before the manager can no longer keep proper tabs on all the new stuff? (I seem to recall a factoid that the human brain can keep a maximum of 7 pieces of information at front-of-mind — hence the 7-digit phone number) How do you efficiently evaluate the potential upside of a new feature against the cost in time of learning how to use it? Google’s newest AdWords tool may be huge in a year (I remember when search term reports were one of those newfangled bells & whistles!), or it may be relegated to the dustbin in 6 months. If you take a wait-and-see attitude, you’re likely to find yourself playing catch-up to your competitors, but, if you jump at every new feature, you run the risk of ending up with one of these.