Five Themes from the AdWords Livestream

Google hosted another livestream event yesterday, announcing their newest innovations and tools while providing insight on themes they've been focusing on in their product development. While none of the individual announcements were earth-shattering or will impact all advertisers dramatically in the way that Enhanced Campaigns did, there were several announcements that may be big for some specific segments, and the bigger takeaway from these largely incremental changes may be what they said about where Google sees the industry heading and where they want to take it.

The Importance of Mobile

The presentation began with Google speaking to how users no longer go online, but rather live there, and that this is particularly important as it pertains to mobile devices, which now account for more than half of all Google search queries in 10 countries including the U.S. and Japan. Specific industries, such as automotive, see a majority of searches coming from mobile devices, while the financial services industry saw a 48% year-over-year increase in mobile search volume. As such, Google argues that the consumer journey is now much more fractured and broken into moments of interaction when users turn to their devices for what Google calls ‘micro-moments’ in which users ‘want to know,’ ‘want to go,’ or ‘want to buy.’ The fractured customer journey results in advertisers needing to be there for all of these types of moments, and marketers who place importance on connecting with consumers in relevant moments, especially on mobile devices, are those who stand to win. Google would later go on to tout the greater cross-device conversion and in-store visit impact of mobile clicks, as well as announce the incorporation of measurements for cross-device conversions which are started in-app and completed on the web and vice versa into their cross-device estimates. Auto-Resizing for Display ads, which takes images of three different dimensions and resizes them to be compatible with 95% of Google’s available display ad inventory, was also released with an eye towards helping advertisers show their GDN ads show across different mobile devices.

More Interactive and Visually Appealing Ad Formats

If the rise of Google’s Product Listing Ads has taught us anything, it’s that searchers prefer rich content when it’s relevant to their search, as shown by PLAs delivering a click-through-rate 95% higher than non-brand text ads for the median site studied in Merkle|RKG’s Q1 Digital Marketing Report (DMR). Thus, it’s no surprise that Google is making moves to expand image based ads with Automotive Ads. This new format takes users searching for a specific make and model to a carousel of interior and exterior images for that vehicle. These images can then be tapped by users to display information about the vehicle, and users also have the option to tap a dealer’s link to go to a page with listing of nearby dealers.

Automotive_Ads

Automotive Ads will also be getting rolled out to mobile devices before they begin showing on desktop computers, another move which places importance on mobile devices. Google also announced the expansion of Hotel Ads, which can feature hotel photos along with pricing and other information, to begin showing globally.

Further Enhancement of Google’s Bid Optimization Tools

Google has touted its cross-device conversion estimates for some time, and once again used stats similar to those found in the RKG DMR which show mobile devices in particular seeing large increases in the orders driven from paid search clicks by accounting for these estimates. They announced yesterday that starting later this year advertisers will be able to bake these estimates into bid calculation through Google’s automated bidding systems.

 rkg-q1-2015-paid-search-cross-device-lift

Google also announced that advertisers will now be able to select an attribution model which will then be used in automated bidding. Many advertisers have been incorporating the cross-device impact and more complex attribution models into their bidding strategies for a while, and it’s good to see Google making use of these in their own bidding tools. While not on the level of sophisticated enterprise level bidding solutions, Google’s bidding tools have consistently improved over the years and are a great resource for advertisers without access to more advanced systems, at the low low price of free.

Greater Automation through Google

Aside from the upgrade to their automated bidding solutions, Google also touted enhancements made to their Dynamic Search Ads (DSA). These enhancements included giving advertisers recommended category targets based on crawling the content of their sites, along with suggested max CPCs for every category and greater insight into how ads created through DSA would end up appearing. Google’s automated bidding tools and DSAs are similar in that both represent Google giving advertisers the ability to hand over control to Google in exchange for free optimizations. Don’t have the time or technology to calculate and implement effective bids? Just tell Google your goals and let them optimize for you. Launching and maintaining keyword lists too complicated or time-consuming for you? Just launch DSA targets and Google will figure out which keywords you should be bidding on, as well as suggest how much you should be bidding for them. Google obviously has a lot of information which it can use to make life easier for advertisers who aren’t using advanced paid search management systems. They will likely move to incorporate in-store visits into their automated bidding systems as well in the future to continue to make their system a more attractive option. And in the case of DSAs, they clearly have an advantage in selecting relevant ad copy and landing pages in that they’re also the judges of how relevant ad copy and landing pages are. Combined with a robust understanding of the value of a click on any given query, Google is able to give advertisers who want an out from keyword creation and bid management a way to bid on relevant searches without having to deal with those components – though not nearly as effectively as a traditionally well-managed campaign.

Fully Valuing Paid Search

In-store visit and cross-device conversion estimates, along with greater attribution controls and insights, were all spoken to with regards to better valuing the impact of clicks on different keywords and devices beyond simple last-click, single device conversions. Google is actively seeking greater advertiser buy-in for their estimations, especially with regards to in-store visits estimates. Google has begun releasing more information on how they arrive at their in-store estimates in trying to convince advertisers that these metrics have real value and should be used in campaign valuation.

Conclusion

As mentioned before, none of the announcements were sweeping changes, but rather extensions of themes that Google has been talking about for some time. Mobile is a key battleground for Google as many see apps as a real competitor to search engines in how people will prefer to find information on their mobile devices, and Google spent plenty of time encouraging advertisers to ‘be there’ on mobile devices in search, video, and display. Google also moved to expand the success of its image-based ads in expanding Hotel Ads and rolling out Automotive Ads to provide users with richer content in more spaces. Both in bidding automation and ad creation through DSAs, Google is working to make its own tools more attractive to advertisers, and furthering their argument that advertisers should give more control to Google in order to achieve campaign success. Google’s ability to measure the more difficult to assess impacts of paid search given its vast data set is an important aspect in positioning its own tools to provide advertisers with the best possible optimizations. None of these are totally new ideas, but all represent important areas where Google is looking to establish itself as a leader in the years to come.
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