Google Marketing Next – Items Of Note

Well, not surprisingly it seems that I could write an entire piece about how there was absolutely ZERO offered for B2B advertisers, but honestly, I am getting tired of writing about that. In fact, I revisited my post from after last year’s announcements and sadly, it held up quite well relative to this round.

There are a ton of write ups about the event and the features and functionalities that were announced (or re-announced when it comes to the new AdWords interface). If you want to read about the separate elements, I’d suggest heading over to Search Engineland or Marketingland, as they have comprehensive coverage.

If I had to describe the overriding theme of the event I would do it thusly – “We have heard from advertisers that online advertising is hard. We heard you, so we have come up with a lot of ways to help you with your struggles (and also gain more control over your content, data and dollars)”. Not surprising and I can’t even really say that I am upset or blame them. As I have also said about a million times, Google (or Alphabet now more accurately) is under immense pressure to meet Wall Street earnings expectations. With a constantly shifting landscape, that is really hard to do. I understand why they are doing the things they are doing to help try to overcome what I’d characterize as “first line objections” of potential advertisers and also to help retain advertisers that might be on the fence about whether their spend with Google is actually getting them anything.

And, let’s be honest for a second, we as PPC pros hear these same things. My husband often jokes that what I do for a living is “black magic” which is funny, but for an awful lot of people who don’t work in the space, it’s really kind of a true statement. Even businesses that are quite savvy in their general marketing are often still at a bit of a loss as to how to structure their online advertising initiatives and also how to really know the exact impact of said initiatives.

Google Attribution

There were clearly several items that took aim straight at this issue. The Google Attribution product is the most obvious in this regard. I admire Google’s desire to “solve attribution”  – it is a thorny issue all across the digital spectrum. But the solution is presented as being more omniscient than it is – all of Google’s tracking (this applies for in store stuff too) only work for people who are logged in to Google, and in the case of cross device attribution, logged in on all of their devices. And, it should go without saying that Google Attribution only applies to Google products/services.

The part the left out yesterday though are the minimum thresholds required to use the new free version of Google Attribution (from this piece on MarketingLand):

In order to use it, accounts must have at least 15,000 clicks and a conversion action with at least 600 conversions within 30 days. (emphasis mine)

Yowza. Those are some high thresholds. Especially if this is aimed at the type of advertisers it sounded like it was aimed at during the event – smaller ones who are not working with a PPC professional.

UPDATE: These figures apply to using the data driven Attribution. More clarification to come as I sort this piece out – in communication with the lovely Ginny Marvin on the topic.

UPDATE #2: After some more digging on my own, here is what I have found – the Google Attribution that was announced at the Marketing Next event simply is the ability to select from several different attribution models within AdWords, Analytics and/or DoubleClick. It does not involve any machine learning application to your data, for that you need to use their data-driven attribution, which has the thresholds described above (from an AdWords blog post about the subject):

Integrations with AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search make it easy to bring together data from all your marketing channels. The end result is a complete view of your performance….

Google Attribution also makes it easy to switch to data-driven attribution. Data-driven attribution uses machine learning to determine how much credit to assign to each step in the consumer journey — from the first time they engage with your brand for early research down to the final click before purchase. It analyzes your account’s unique conversion patterns, comparing the paths of customers who convert to those who don’t, so you get results that accurately represent your business.

In summary, Google Attribution takes your data from one, two or three of the channels based on your selection(s) (AdWords, Analytics and/or DoubleClick), runs it through your chosen attribution model and then makes the resulting data available to you in the different channels’ interfaces.

Machine Learning

I half jokingly put in my event BINGO card a square that said “when we don’t want to explain things, we will simply say it is machine learning”. Machine learning is getting applied to everything. In and of itself, that is not an inherently bad thing. Machines are quite good at learning lots of things and making processes run better. I love that part’s potential. But, as we can see with the questionable closeness of today’s “close variants” machine learning has a way to go to understand nuance. This is important, as nuance is a pretty big factor when it comes to determining user intents, in my opinion. The theme yesterday though was one of “we have awesome machine learning power, so you should let us just use that to make your accounts run better”.

Better for whom, exactly? That is my question. No doubt there are aspects of account management that can benefit from machine learning, but there is no substitute for human thought and judgement. It would be nice for that to be acknowledged for a nanosecond sometimes.

In-Store Data

The big announcement here was that YouTube was adding location extensions and in-store sales measurement. Location extensions are pretty self-explanatory. The in store sales measurement again, on its face sounds really next level. When you dig into the details of exactly what it is and how it works, it is less so. From the MarketingLand write up on this item:

There are two levels to Google’s in-store sales measurement. The more basic level will report on the in-store sales impact of AdWords campaigns without any back-end integration on the part of the advertiser. Google does this by comparing store visits using smartphone data with credit card transactions in the aggregate. In this way the company can determine whether, during some conversion window, online ads generated an incremental sales lift (in addition to visits).

Google says it has 70 percent coverage of credit and debit card transactions in the US. This is through data licensing agreements with major credit card companies. All of the data is anonymous and operates only at the aggregate level.

It is presented as definitively telling merchants if their AdWords advertising directly resulted in sales, but it does not really do that, not in the way that I think most business people would understand the concept. I would contend that most businesses would hear this and think that Google could now tell them that I clicked on an ad and as a direct result of said click, got in my car and went to their store and bought something.

Further from the MarketingLand write up:

Those that have customer loyalty and email data can “import store transactions directly into AdWords” and get much more detail about the ad impact on product level sales in stores. This is similar to the Facebook methodology and also involves hashed data matched on the back end. Google stressed that all of this was being done in a privacy-compliant way.

Both of these describe correlations, not necessarily causation.

Also, as an aside, I found the descriptions of the searching behaviors several of the presenters described to be odd. Maybe people are watching videos on YouTube for things they are thinking about purchasing? I don’t, but I am not representative of every demographic! The woman who described doing all kinds of searches for a birthday present for her daughter that started on at least two other devices, but then concluded on the Google Assistant where she was thrilled to be able to get location information and directions to the store to go buy it, also just seemed off relative to how actual searches would likely behave? Maybe it was just me though…

In Market Audiences For Search Advertising

I found this part a little odd as well and kept thinking that much of what they described could easily be covered by using capabilities that already exist, but it is always nice to have more targeting options rather than fewer to choose from. Especially as keywords seem to continue to get demoted in the search targeting hierarchy. Search Engineland has the write up on this part, from their piece an example of what this new targeting method can do:

For example, if you’re a car dealership, you can increase your reach among users who have already searched for “SUVs with best gas mileage” and “spacious SUVs.”

I’m not sure why you wouldn’t reach them with old fashioned search advertising, as these seem like pretty obvious terms to target for dealerships? And, if they had already searched and hit your site, retargeting is still available (though it was not mentioned once in the entire presentation). But, if you wanted to just target people who Google feels have this interest (with implied intent) go for it. It should be noted that the available categories are currently limited. This will probably change over time. The link above references “a dozen categories” available for AdWords search currently.

AMP For Ads & Landing Pages

I think we can all probably agree that MANY web sites have at best ok and at worst terrible mobile experiences right now. This is absolutely a significant issue, as people consume more and more content on their mobile devices. Sites have been way too slow to adapt to this, even though it has been obvious for years that this is where we were going to end up. Prioritizing the significant improvement of your web site’s performance on mobile devices should absolutely be in every organization’s marketing plans for 2017, period.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about AMP for a second. This piece was nagging at me all day yesterday. One of those things where it was bugging me, but I couldn’t quite articulate precisely why. Upon some reflection, some reading about AMP and some tweet exchanges, the issue has clarified for me. While the concept of using AMP for landing pages makes sense on some levels, it is troublesome on others (I care less about ads being converted to AMP, because we are already almost there with GDN pushing exclusively using responsive ads anyway).

First the pros:

  • It makes up for a site that currently has a crappy mobile experience and potentially has people sticking around on landing pages they would have probably bailed on.
  • AMP are fast.
  • The way it was described during the presentation made it sound like creating AMP landing pages would be simple to accomplish and not require any time or effort from your web development or design team (this has con aspects as well, but I’ll get to that).

Now the cons:

  • If you really can plug and play to make AMP landing pages, there are a lot of potential issues for organizations relative to legal, compliance and brand standards.
  • Tracking (analytics) capabilities are more limited for AMP than for actual pages.
  • Again, if you use the system to be integrated into AdWords, I assume you will be restricted to a set of templates, which may or may not work with the overall look and feel of the company’s branding – digital and otherwise. And your landing pages will potentially look like everyone else’s.
  • You will be creating content in the Google ecosystem, not yours.

So what should you do? Make your mobile experience better. This is not just for your paid search efforts, but for all of your digital efforts.

This piece was the last one I read, after reading a few other posts with commentary about AMP and looking into the AMP Project documentation to get a better handle on what AMP is and how it works. It sums up the concerns I was feeling all day but couldn’t quite organize into a solid thought. The tone is pretty harsh, but the case outlined covers the things that I think made my spidey sense tingle over this.

Ultimately, like everything, time will tell.

Google Optimize (For Landing Pages More Generally)

Hey Unbounce – Google is coming for you…

From the way this was presented, it seems like it will again, let advertisers create customized (I have many questions on this front) landing pages down to the keyword level. Again, the idea that you can make landing pages without needing pesky web developers was a big benefit touted. I get this concept. I have been on both sides and worked with plenty of developers over the years. They can drive you nuts and also take forever to just make the landing page you need right now. A way to streamline this process is quite appealing, for sure. But again, I have seen what people do when they design their own stuff – even when they are supposedly using tools that should prevent them from making terrible pages. They can always find a way!

I like the idea of getting more landing page data inside of the AdWords interface. Although of the items highlighted – bounce rate, conversions and mobile friendliness – two of those three can be had either right in AdWords now or by linking Analytics to AdWords? You can see your pages’ mobile friendliness by looking at page speed data in Analytics too. I will be interested to see how this actually works when it becomes widely available.

Google Surveys 360

Previously only available in the enterprise level products, advertisers will now be able to survey people about their ads. Details were vague on this one, but the premise was that you could survey people who saw and/or clicked on your ads to get feedback on what made them click or not. I’m going to do a mini rant here, so hang on to something.

I hate this. To me this is one more step down the road of lazy marketing we have been on for some time now. Surveying your actual customers is one thing. You can gain valuable insights from people who have bought your products or services about their purchase experience and their experiences with your product/service and/or your customer service. All good stuff. But surveying people about your marketing – stop it. As if ads are not intrusive enough, now you want me to tell you all about my feelings relative to your ad and from the looks of it, all about the device I’m using, my operating system, exactly where an ad was on a page, etc. That is not my job as a potential customer. It is our job as marketers to look at the data that comes back to see what is working and what is not and try to apply the stuff that is working in more places and stop the things that are not. Besides, as I tweeted yesterday – have you ever looked at comments on Facebook ads?

Wrapping It Up

I’d sum up my overall reaction to the announcements as a solid “meh”. Some potential for actual advancement in how things are done and/or can be tracked. That would be terrific. Zero items for B2B, so we are left to “make the available stuff work” as best we can without features designed for this mega segment. Continued focus on either very large brands (all of the examples cited were large brands) and either specific industries (hello travel!) or businesses that are trying to drive foot traffic, again was a focus that is hard for me to get too excited about because I don’t work in those spaces.

I think after watching several of these annual events now, it is pretty clear that when they say they have “talked to advertisers” they pretty much mean advertisers of the size and scale to get invited to this event and not really any other segments. Which is fine, totally their prerogative. I will check out each new feature as it becomes available to me and evaluate the real stuff and apply and test what seems like could be a positive in my clients’ accounts.

Some other interesting reads relative to the event and its announcements:

Google knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff” (Washington Post)

“Google is adding more automation tools for marketers” (Recode)

“Google Assistant will make money from e-commerce” (Recode)

“How Google plans to kill last click attribution” (Ad Age)

“Google to launch a host of new features including attribution, location extensions and machine learning for marketers” (The Drum)

“Google is adding its fast-loading mobile pages to search and display ads” (Ad Week)

“The race to $1,000 – Alphabet and Amazon hit new record highs” (CNBC)

“Making marketing easier with new tools for productivity” (Google AdWords Blog)

“Bringing the speed of AMP to search & display ads” (Google AdWords Blog)

Have another perspective on all of this – your own or another post? Please share! As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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