It has been almost six weeks since Google announced changes to AdWords designed to improve campaign management in the complex world of multiple devices. (Read extensive coverage from every angle yet on Search Engine Land.)

Touting how often searchers switch between computers, desktops, and mobile devices, and how location and/or time can play a crucial role in serving ads, Google says that allowing advertisers to use these factors to customize ads is of primary importance.

But there is one big change that can’t be explained by a desire to better serve targeted ads: removing the separation between desktops and tablets.

Google claims that these devices are essentially used the same way, and that its data supports this claim when examined at ” Google scale.”

At @WSP, we know that accounts are not managed “at scale,” but case-by-case. We manage very specific accounts with very different target audiences and use cases. Many other agencies and in-house teams approach their accounts in the same way.

We took a quick look at the performance of 10 of our own e-commerce clients and reviewed how conversion rates for three device types manifested in the real world.

The results were surprising:

Website Publicity: Ecommerce Conversion Rates by Device

For our e-commerce subset, there is not a single instance when Tablet conversion rates approach Desktop conversion rates. (And this is true for our complete client list, not just this sample).

In our test sample, one client’s ads to Tablets converted just 20% below Desktops. But overall, the average was a 40% lower conversion rate.

As we are now forced to aggregate the bids for the two device types, advertisers are left with two bad options:

  1. Pay too much for tablet traffic, and see their ROAS (return on ad spend) decline, or
  2. Bid lower for desktop traffic to maintain their ROAS, and watch their ad positions, traffic, and overall sales decline.

By taking away the ability to separate and accurately bid Tablet traffic, Google’s enhanced campaigns are sure to drag down what we were otherwise willing to bid for desktop traffic.

We hope Google will reconsider that this is not an improvement – it’s a real loss to advertisers’ ability to control campaigns, and will surely hurt both Google and advertisers in the end.

One Comment

  1. Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I think Google treats tablet and desktop the same because of the whole “immediacy” concept with mobile. On desktop and tablets you can’t really track phone calls. I do agree that they have not quite figured out a value prop for tablet so they just bucketed it with desktop (where to your point, doesn’t quite belong)