Unlike 2016, Google wasn’t quite on such a rampage to release new AdWords features in 2017. Obviously, wrapping up and launching the new AdWords interface is a big undertaking and has diverted some attention away from other things. Still, Google did innovate this year, and if you didn’t update with new features your campaigns were probably left in the dust.

First, a quick note, many of the new features are only available in the new AdWords interface. Without further ado here are what I feel were the most important AdWords updates of 2017.

#10 – Google Optimize

Okay, this isn’t exactly a stand-alone AdWords feature, but the integration with AdWords is. Google Analytics’ Content Experiments grew up and moved out of their parent’s basement to become Google Optimize. Advertisers now have the ability to create landing page variations, split test, and deliver custom landing page content specific to different AdWords campaigns, ad groups, and ads. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of adoption this gets, but for free, you can’t argue with the price.

Google Optmize

#9 – Simplified Ad Rotation Settings

A couple of months ago, Google took away our ability to choose whether to optimize ad rotation for clicks, conversions, or not at all; independent of bid type. They also, thankfully, got rid of that bizarre rotate ads evenly for 90-days then optimize option. First, I agree that the new “optimize” or “do not optimize” for clicks options make a lot more sense for manual bidding. Second, I agree that forcing optimized ad rotation for conversions when using smart bidding makes sense. Third, I’m delighted that we can choose to optimize or not optimize for clicks (manual bidding only) at the ad group level. This little gem is fantastic when you only want to manually split test a few ad groups at a time. I know a lot of advertisers don’t like giving up control, but when you think about it, the new settings make much more sense.

AdWords new ad rotation settings

#8 – Landing Pages Report

In the past, assessing campaign landing page performance meant taking a deep dive into Google Analytics. But no more! The new AdWords interface provides a super easy to access tab that offers up KPIs for landing pages by campaign & ad group. Running 3 different pages for a particular ad group? No problem, you can now quickly analyze how each page is performing.

#7 – Store Visit Conversions

Launched back in 2014, and still only available to large multi-store retailers, store visit conversions are slowly gaining traction. In time, we expect that many, if not most, brick & mortar businesses will be able to track store visits as conversions. This feature is tremendously helpful, we wish Google would hurry up and unlock it for the masses.

#6 – Custom Intent Audiences

When In-Market Audiences aren’t specific enough you can now create Custom Intent Audiences for your display campaigns. To create your audience enter custom keywords, URLs, and videos to reach potential customers that are researching related products and services to what you offer. Google also offers auto-created custom intent audiences which will target people based on data from other campaigns you run in your AdWords account.

#5 – Gmail Remarketing

Earlier this year Google halted domain targeting in Gmail ads. This was crushing to anybody that was targeting competitor or their own domain. Fortunately, Google has now given a little something back. Starting in December we can target Gmail ads to AdWords visitor remarketing lists. Gmail ads are possibly the best overall placement offered in the GDN. Being able to finally remarket to website visitors is huge! Note that Google Analytics audiences are not yet supported, but we hear there is a possibility they will be in the future.

#4 – Quality Score Metrics

Up until Google released this little gem we had to live with a fairly coarse measurement of keyword quality. A keyword’s “quality score” is the current aggregate score of CTR, ad relevance, landing page quality/relevance, and account quality. There was no way to see how each element affected the quality score, nor was there any way (save using a custom script) to track quality scores over time. With new Quality Score metrics, we now have no less than 8 different QS metrics! Now we can, and often do go, nuts analyzing all aspects of the quality score to figure out what to work on. Good stuff Google, good stuff. Interestingly, currently only available in the old interface.

Quality score metrics

#3 – Ad Variations

New in “Drafts & Experiments”, Ad Variations (broadly available beta) is a tool specifically for ads split testing. You essentially do a find-replace operation across different campaigns or your entire account to create new ad variations and then run your split test diverting whatever percentage of traffic you wish. If/when your new variations work well you can implement the changes permanently. This tool is ideal for testing different headlines, headline orders, and calls-to-action at scale.

#2 – Household Income Level Targeting

Yep, Google AdWords has had income level targeting for Search for a long time (in some markets). But it was well hidden (inside location targeting), confusing as heck, and could only be set at the campaign level. For those reasons, almost nobody used the feature. Enter income level targeting as part of the demographics module. Now HILT works just as you’d expect, where you’d expect, and performance KPIs won’t be all mixed in with your location reports. Neat!

AdWords income level targeting

#1 – Promotion Extensions

There are loads of ad extensions but this is by far the best one yet for any advertiser that offers regular sale items. The old school way of running a promotion involved pausing your active ads and replacing them with similar ads that included text about the promotion. This would mean using a countdown timer or having to jump into AdWords to flip ads off/on when sales start and end. Also, this is obviously very disruptive to any ongoing ads split testing. Alternatively, you could try to cram your promotion into a Callout or use a Sitelink (assuming you had created a dedicated page for the sale). None of these options are great. Here come Promotion Extensions to the rescue! PEs let you promote sales for a specific reason, have a unique URL, run on certain dates, for specific products, offer a % or $ discount, and can optionally include a coupon code. In a nutshell, they work beautifully and can be applied to your entire account or just on specific campaigns or ad groups. For more details, you can read our Promotion Extensions article.

adwords promotion extension

What’s Coming in 2018?

Google should be making good on a number of exciting new features they announced this year. Besides sunsetting the old interface here’s what I expect is in store.

Google Attribution should be rolled out for free to all users with much lower limits on conversion volume. The new (not for enterprise) system will provide much more accurate conversion attribution models, giving advertisers a much clearer picture of how branding and remarketing contribute to the bottom line.

In-Market Audiences for Search will allow advertisers to target people that are actively researching products and services in their niche. We expect users will be able to either apply a bid adjustment to existing search campaigns or build custom campaigns (perhaps with broader keyword targeting) specifically targeting these folks.

Google’s new AdWords interface is starting to take shape. There is still missing functionality but we find we have to hop back into the old interface less frequently now. I can’t imagine the new interface still being in Beta in the latter half of 2018, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In addition, Google is certain to add a ton of unannounced features in 2018. Given recent trends, we can expect to see more automation in creative management, targeting, bidding, and tighter integration with landing pages. And I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe we may see audio campaigns for Google Home & Android Auto before the end of next year.

Google AdWords is a complicated platform. Check out our AdWords management services page to see how we can help.