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Subtle Changes : AdWords Ad Diagnostic Now Using Mobile Devices as Default

A subtle change in AdWords Ad Diagnostics seems to have occurred within the last week with very little fanfare. Advertisers may not have noticed, or have, but don’t understand what is causing this shift from desktop to mobile default. The following is a more structured description to help advertisers navigate this change.

What is the AdWords diagnostic tool

The ad diagnostic tool can help you to diagnose the reasons why your ad may or may not be appearing for a given keyword on the Google search results page in your targeted location. It can be accessed in AdWords by hovering over the magnifying glass for a specific keyword. It will tell you whether or not a keyword is triggering ads, and the reasons why. This can be seen just above the keyword Quality Score information.

If the keyword does not show any ads there will be a link, “what can I do?”, which will take you to AdWords help center instructions on how you can fix the problem so that your keyword will start triggering ads. e.g. by increasing the max bid.

What has changed

Previously, the default device used for the keyword diagnostic tool was desktop, therefore if the ad diagnostic tool stated your ad was not showing you knew this was applicable to both desktop and tablet devices (until tablet bid modifiers are released) which was preferable when desktop and tablet devices accounted for the majority of sales and revenue. Last week, however, we started seeing a large number of keywords across our accounts displaying the below message in the ad diagnostic:

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However when clicking through to the ad preview tool, it was obvious that these keywords were still showing on desktop and tablet devices. Further investigation showed that what all these keywords had in common were large negative mobile bid modifiers which had been implemented to improve performance based on previous analysis of ROI by device, indicating that Google has changed the default device used for ad diagnostics from desktop to mobile.

Why has Google made these changes

With the current multitude of AdWords changes that have been implemented recently or are expected to become available this quarter – expanded text ads, tablet bid multipliers, demographic bid modifiers to name a few, this seems to be a relatively subtle change which may have gone unnoticed for many advertisers.

In May 2015, Google made it official, mobile searches had overtaken desktop. It is likely that Google has made this change due to overall traffic from mobile devices overtaking that of desktop across many sectors.

However, based on our client data, despite mobile traffic now being higher than desktop on many accounts, mobile revenue still only accounts for around 30% of the total revenue with the remaining 70% coming from desktop and tablet devices on a last click basis; meaning that this change is not a beneficial one in the majority of cases where the status of the keyword on desktop and tablet is still a priority. Another potential side effect as a result of this change could be an inflation effect on CPCs if advertisers start to increase their max bids based on making an assumption from the ad diagnostic that they have a low ad rank and need to increase their bid

What can we do?

Fortunately, advertisers can still run the keyword diagnostic on an ad hoc basis to specifically check desktop rather than mobile devices by navigating from the keyword view in AdWords to the Details drop down menu:

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And then amending the options in the Keyword diagnostic settings to look at desktop devices:

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Clicking ‘run test’ will then enable you to see the diagnostic status for desktop devices in the ‘Status’ column which can then be downloaded.

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This does, however, have to be done at a geographic level so it would need to be done multiple times for accounts containing campaigns targeting different locations. The data will also go back to the default mobile devices setting after a short time meaning that this will not be a permanent change, so advertisers will need to continue to take this into account when looking at the ad diagnostic status going forwards.