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The name isn’t the only thing that’s changed (or is changing) about the network formerly known as Google AdWords. The program that was just about every brand’s introduction to pay-per-click advertising has been in the process of a significant makeover for several months now.

The changes taken as a whole seem to reflect an acknowledgment that the process of running digital ads can be a bit more user- and beginner-friendly. While some of the changes may at first blush appear to bring more complexity than simplicity to Google’s ads program, the new metrics and tools actually help small businesses scale up with their campaigns while avoiding the too-steep learning curve that might scare off a newcomer.

Here are some of the changes that have been made to Google’s popular ad program and how they might affect you and any PPC campaigns you’ve got in the works.

Google Ads: What’s in a Name?

Google debuted the AdWords program in its initial public release on October 23, 2000, over 18 years ago. This past July, Google officially retired the name in favor of the simpler and sleeker Google Ads.

The name reflects a changing reality for a still-young industry. For one thing, words—while still crucial as the essential building blocks of web content, including advertisements—are no longer the only means by which advertisers seek to capture consumer attention.

Moreover, the creation and rapid evolution of mobile technology, not to mention its impressive adoption by consumers around the world, have precipitated changes in the ways consumers interact with content of all kinds. These days, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, users hop from searching to playing a game to watching a short video to dashing off a quick email back to searching and shopping.

This opens up a fresh opportunity for advertisers to reach out and connect with increasingly targeted sections of their audiences. However, with that opportunity comes a higher degree of complexity and confusion. We’ve long since moved from “just search” to “search plus,” implicating not only the written word but also video, maps, in-app and display ads.

Yet even with the new complexities of digital advertising, no single solution will suit all brands. Advertisers need to make sure they’re selecting the right ads, delivered across the right devices and through the right channels, at the right time to the right people. Targeting and personalization are part of this process.

New Metrics for Ad Position

For search ads (that is, ads displayed above the search results for a given keyword), position may not be everything but it’s certainly important to know.

Up until late last year, Google would only tell you your average position. This was a metric that was woefully misunderstood. It merely meant your ad’s position relative to other ads in that specific keyword’s auction. As a result, you could have a position of 1 but still show at the bottom of the page, not the top (since in some cases, all the ads showed after the results, not before). Confusing, right?

Enter the four new position metrics:

  • Impression (Absolute Top) %: The percentage of times your ad displays in the number one position on the page – the actual (absolute) top of the page.
  • Impression (Top) %: The percentage of times your ad displays anywhere above the search results themselves – in other words, positions one through four.
  • Search (Absolute Top) IS: A proportional metric that measures the impressions from the ad in the absolute top (first) position divided by an estimate of the impressions your ad was eligible for in the top ranking position.
  • Search (Top) IS: Like Search (Absolute Top) IS, this is a proportional metric that compares all impressions your ad earned anywhere from positions one through four to the estimated impressions your ad was eligible for in the top ranking spot.

These metrics should allow advertisers to better analyze their results and make useful changes to their bidding strategies within their budgets.

Focus on Your Goals

The old way of creating a campaign with Google’s platform started with the campaign. You’d create the new campaign, choose your network (example search or display), and then choose a type of campaign (clicks, for example).

The new Google Ads is more focused on outcomes. Now, you start with your goal. Would you like to increase sales? Generate leads? Promote brand awareness? Select your goal, and then Google Ads will guide you through creating the campaign that best fits your goal. This change brings Google Ads more in line with other popular digital ads networks and helps advertisers stay on track with their objectives.

Google Sheets Integration

If you’re looking for a more streamlined way to review and analyze your Ads metrics, look no further than Google’s own Sheets, part of the G Suite apps. All you need is a simple add-on and you can then launch a number of useful reports inside your Google Sheets environment, including video keywords, device reporting, landing page reports and more.

To install the add-on, sign into Google Sheets and launch the app. Under the Add-ons menu in the Sheets toolbar, select “Get add-ons” then search for “Google Ads.” Then click “Free +” button to install. After that process is finished you can then access and generate new reports directly into a new spreadsheet.

Goodbye, Display Planner

For many experienced Google advertisers, the loss of the Display Planner was a blow. The Display Planner was not retained in the new changes to Google Ads’ UI, so if you’re looking to replicate this experience exactly, that’s no longer there.

However, Google points out that its aim was to incorporate the main functionality of the Display Planner into the general workflow of creating a campaign and setting targeting options.

As a result, you can use the new UI to estimate your impressions in a display campaign without having to switch views to get that data. Additionally, because more ad formats and targeting choices are included, the accuracy of your forecasts may improve.


This is far from an exhaustive list of all the changes to Google Ads, either already made or coming down the pike. Video Ad sequencing and TrueView are both now out of beta and widely available. You can also now customize your metrics on the ad types that lend themselves best to mobile environments, such as “click to call” and “click to message.”

Keep on top of future Google Ads changes directly from the source at the Google Ads Help announcements page.

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