The Top 10 Biggest Changes in Paid Search History (10-6)

Kamal Thakarsey
June 10, 2013

With the migration deadline for Google enhanced campaign right around the corner (July 22nd), we thought it would be fun to look at where this AdWords upgrade would rank among the other significant changes to the paid search landscape over the last decade plus. Here’s a look at one search marketer’s (mine) perspective on the 10 biggest changes over the years:

10. Upgraded ad rotation settings

Last year Google made some adjustments to their ad rotation settings. Gone are the days where you had simple “rotate evenly” or “optimize for clicks” options. A new rotate evenly option was introduced that would automatically change to optimize for clicks after 30 days (which was subsequently changed to 90 days after the search world let Google know of their disapproval). They also added a rotate indefinitely, an optimize for clicks, and an optimize for conversions option.

AdWords Creative Rotation Settings

It wouldn't surprise me if many search marketers had a "set it and forget it" ad rotation strategy in place. This change did make search marketers more aware of the available options and which one was most appropriate for their business needs. The increase and improvement in ad rotation settings gave search marketers more tools for successfully executing their ad testing and optimization strategies.

9. Impression Share

I was actually inclined to put this higher on the list. However, I looked back and asked myself how often do I actually use this feature? I asked a few other search marketers the same, and all said it’s a neat feature in principal but I don’t find myself using it as much as you’d think. Impression share does allow us to get a good gauge on how much potential spend/leads/revenue you could be missing out on, but in the long run, we probably know better than to cap our campaign budgets, especially on the higher performing groups.

Impression Share Metrics

8. Yahoo! Bing Alliance

Yahoo Bing Alliance Logo

It wasn't much of a surprise when the Yahoo! Bing alliance was announced as rumors were running rampant for quite some time before it became official. The change did cause some frenzy in the industry as marketers were unsure what the short term and long term impact would be. The first piece was the migration itself onto the Bing platform. The second was how this new merger would affect performance and if Yahoo! Bing could take a bite out of Google’s dominance in search. Looking back, the changes and impact were probably not the biggest, but we could say this was the #1 most newsworthy moment on this list.

7. $.05 to $.01 minimum bid and keyword minimum bid requirements

Sometime in either 2006 or 2007, Google changed the way they calculate the minimum bid requirements. This change dropped the minimum bids from $.05 to $.01, but then added a never before seen wrinkle: assigning a minimum bid requirement to activate a keyword for a given search if the quality score was deemed too low. Here was an example:

AdWords First Page Bid Updates

This change really started the movement to create and deliver the most relevant ads for very specific search queries. Gone were the days where you could easily delivery ads promoting “nike shoes” at position one for searches on “new balance shoes”. I feel this change caused a significant shift in terms of how search marketers started focusing their efforts on specific keywords and keeping ads/landing pages as relevant as possible.

6. Device targeting

The shift to mobile and tablets really took off with the launch of the iPhone and the iPad, respectively. As consumers started spending more of their time on these devices, advertisers quickly aligned their paid search strategies towards these devices as well. As a result, we saw the introduction of device targeting capabilities within campaign settings. The ability to segment and target these devices, deliver unique ad copy and landing pages, and measure the performance separately helped kick-start a new wave of mobile advertising strategies. However, this all changed in February of this year…

Later this week, I’ll reveal my top five biggest changes.

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