This post was co-written by Conor Bond and Gordon Donnelly. Thanks to our own Tony Testaverde, who was there live on the scene, for the front-row photos!
It’s that time of year again, folks! Brew some coffee, pop a Claritin, and buckle yourself into your office chair—we’ve got ourselves a keynote to recap.
Ever consistent, Google once again brought the heat with the highly anticipated ads innovation keynote at Google Marketing Live. Google uses the annual event to let business owners and marketers know what features and products they can expect to roll out in the near future. Among the most exciting announcements last year were YouTube lead ads, enormous responsive search ads, and smart campaigns.
Last year’s keynote emphasized transparency and trust. While those tenets were still very much in play this year, and while machine learning once again came to the fore, the core message was simple: Be responsible, be there, and be useful. Deliver relevant ad experiences to the right people at the right moments—all while being respectful of their privacy preferences.
There was a bevy of massive new product announcements surrounding these tenets; and whether you’re an advertiser, an agency, or an online consumer, you’ll want to wrap your head around how these changes are going to impact the experience of browsing and advertising online—both in 2019 and beyond.
Let’s dive into the nine biggest announcements from #GoogleMarketingLive 2019.
1. Feed-based advertising gets a facelift with Discovery Ads
Don’t listen to the doomsdayers—the news feed ain’t dead yet! And in fact, it might even be on the rise.
You may remember Google unveiling Google Discover this past September. Now, they’re introducing a new way to advertise on it. Discovery ads provide an open canvas for advertisers to engage consumers in a swipeable image carousel.
Out of the box, Discovery ads offer plenty of reach—you can serve them across the YouTube home feed, Gmail promotions tab, and the feed in Google Discover. They also leverage machine learning to, over time, deliver the best ad to your prospects.
85% of online consumers take a product-related action within 24 hours. Discovery ads take advantage of that by allowing advertisers to show ads to prospects in the moments when they’re most open to finding something new. And they’ve done so to some legitimate early success. Online subscription fashion retailer TechStyle has experienced a 25% lower cost-per lead using Discovery Ads compared to other channels.
Be on the lookout: this ad type rolls out to advertisers later this year.
2. Immersive creative comes to the search network with Gallery Ads
Commercial intent on the search network is unmatched—but what about visual creative? This year, Google set out to combine the intent of search with a more interactive and visual ad format. Gallery ads allow advertisers to combine compelling images and copy to serve prospects their offering on the search network.
Like Discovery ads, Gallery ads exist in the carousel format and allow consumers to seamlessly swipe through your image creative. Unlike Discovery ads, they sit at the top of the search results page. That means advertisers now have the ability to not only show ads to prospects at the precise moment they’re searching for keywords related to their products or services; but show those same prospects the kind of legitimately immersive image creative that is going to induce clicks. As for the specs, Gallery ads let advertisers feature:
- Between 4 and 8 images
- A 70-character tagline with each image
- And up to 3 headlines (for CTA experimentation!)
On average, campaigns that leverage Gallery ads have experienced an increase in user interactions of up to 25%. They also roll out to advertisers later this year.
3. Big improvements to smart bidding
One of the three “meaningful revolutions” discussed at the beginning of the keynote was machine learning—a term you can’t escape in the digital marketing world that refers to the power of computers to find patterns in data and make informed decisions based on those patterns. Of the many ways Google is implementing machine learning across its advertising properties, one of the most prominent is smart bidding.
Smart bidding, otherwise known as auction-time bidding, refers to Google Ads’ use of machine learning to optimize your bids for conversions or conversion value. If you’ve ever automated your bidding with Target CPA, Target ROAS, Maximize Conversions, or Enhanced CPC, you’re familiar with smart bidding.
Happily, this year’s keynote included the announcement of three big improvements to the smart bidding suite:
- Campaign-level conversion goals: If you have a campaign dedicated to a single conversion goal—increasing in-store visits, for example—you can now optimize all of your bids within the campaign for that goal.
- Conversion action sets: If you want to optimize your bids across several campaigns, you can create a set of desired conversion actions.
- Seasonality adjustments: If you have an upcoming sale or event that you expect to increase conversion opportunities, Google Ads will optimize your bids for that time period and return them to normal afterwards.
As useful as machine learning is, it’s very much a work-in-progress. This suite of updates certainly seems to be a step in the right direction.
4. YouTube bumper ads for everyone
It’s no secret that YouTube offers incredibly valuable real estate to marketers. Collectively, we watch billions of videos on the platform every single day. What’s not quite as well-known is the value of bumper ads—the six-second ads that play before the video starts. According to worldwide data Google collected last year, a series of three bumper ads leaves a much more memorable impression on consumers than a single 30-second ad does.
As insightful as that is, there’s a problem. Few businesses have the resources to create sleek, professional bumper ads. In the somewhat rare case that a business does have video content, it’s typically in the form of a couple one- or two-minute pieces. The process of compressing those down to six seconds—while preserving logical, effective messaging, mind you—is difficult to say the least.
Introducing the bumper machine. Residing snugly in the Google Ads interface, the bumper machine is a handy new tool that can turn any video shorter than 90 seconds into a collection of YouTube-ready bumper ads. It’s slated to roll out later this year at no additional cost to advertisers. Plus, it comes with a suite of basic editing tools that give you total control over the final products.
5. Custom affinity + custom intent = custom audiences
Although the conventional wisdom is that Facebook Ads—not Google Ads—is the premier audience-based platform, that’s been gradually changing over the past few years. Unsurprisingly, this year’s keynote kept that trend in motion. Case in point: Google is merging custom affinity audiences and custom intent audiences to create, quite simply, custom audiences.
A quick refresh is in order. Whereas a custom affinity audience enables you to target a group of people who demonstrate a specific, shared interest, a custom intent audience enables you to target a group of people who demonstrate commercial interest in a specific product or service.
That distinction is going away. Soon, the ability to target prospects based on their interests and behaviors will be housed under the custom audiences umbrella. A key difference between this and a Facebook custom audience, of course, is Google’s direct access to search data.
6. Reach more prospects with the audience expansion tool
Moving right along, if you find that one of your custom audiences is working particularly well, you can use the brand new audience expansion tool to reach consumers who look and behave similarly to the people within that custom audience. This probably sounds awfully familiar to you, and for good reason—it’s practically the same as a Facebook lookalike audience.
For those who don’t advertise on Facebook or who are unfamiliar with lookalike audiences, the idea is simple: Google’s new audience expansion tool will enable you to grow the number of consumers who see your offers while ensuring that those offers are relevant and useful to them.
Not only more prospects, but more qualified prospects? If that’s not a win-win, we don’t know what is.
7. Google Shopping becomes more … shoppable
One of the most prominent developments in the ecommerce world is the emergence of shoppable content. Only a few months ago, Instagram unveiled Checkout on Instagram—a new (albeit limited) functionality that allows users to buy stuff directly within the app. Shortly thereafter, Google announced a pilot version of shoppable image search results. The common thread tying these two features together is the elimination of friction. In other words, advertising vendors want to make it less painful for your prospects to become your customers.
Presumably, that’s why Google is now enabling online shoppers to make purchases directly within the Shopping interface. They’ll still have the option to click through to your website if they’re so inclined, and Google guarantees that all shoppers will enjoy an easy returns process and top-notch customer service.
8. Shopping showcase ads in new places
In line with the theme of delivering relevant ad experiences, the importance of understanding user intent came up repeatedly throughout the keynote. More specifically, Google emphasized the importance of using visual imagery to inspire consumers whose search queries indicate that they’re hoping to discover new products. That’s why they rolled out showcase shopping ads in late 2017, and that’s why they’re expanding showcase shopping ads to additional ad properties this year.
For those who don’t know, whereas a standard shopping ad brings users to a landing page, a showcase shopping ad brings them to a catalog of related products. The idea is that these users are searching for inspiration and, therefore, can benefit from exploring an array of options.
In the coming months, Google will expand showcase shopping ads to the image search results, the discover search results, and YouTube. The reason this expansion is so exciting is that it enables you to deliver those discovery-based shopping experiences at a broader range of high-funnel touchpoints.
9. Local campaigns available for everyone
You’ve heard it a hundred times already, but it bears repeating: consumers do research on their smartphones before going to physical stores. With the emergence of this trend comes the opportunity to influence your prospects’ purchase decisions before they even enter your store. In other words, it creates the opportunity to deliver some of those killer, relevant ad experiences that Google harps on.
That’s why they’re rolling out local campaigns—a semi-automated campaign type that promotes your brick-and-mortar store across Search, Display, Maps, and YouTube—to all advertisers. The process is somewhat similar to that of responsive ads. Once you’ve provided your store locations, some ad copy, a couple images, a budget, and a bid, Google Ads optimizes ad delivery across its properties to maximize foot traffic to your stores.
Google tested a beta version of local campaigns with a small group of advertisers spanning several industries. The result: a median incremental ROAS increase of 5X. Not bad, eh?
Want even more coverage of GML 2019?
It’s not too late to sign up for our webinar tomorrow (May 15), where we’ll cover all these changes in depth! And watch this space; we’ll continue to provide more information on all these shiny new ad types in the coming days!
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