Advertisers far and wide gathered at Google Marketing Live in San Jose, CA last week to hear about all the new features rolling out in Google’s suite of marketing tools. We’ve put together this recap of everything announced at this year’s event. We’ve had a week to digest everything and discuss internally here at Growth Pilots, and some of our our team members sat down with me to share their perspectives on these announcements. Note that this recap only covers announcements that were not subject to Google’s non-disclosure requirement.
1. Major Rebranding of Google’s Advertising Platforms
If you haven’t heard by now, Google AdWords will soon just be called Google Ads. While this name change may seem small, Google’s marketing tools actually haven’t gotten a makeover this big for the better part of two decades. As part of an effort to streamline its offerings, all of Google’s main advertising products are getting new names, reorganizing, and adding new features in a rebranding effort that executives say has been years in the making. Advertiser demand for a more seamless, less confusing platform was the main driver behind the rebranding. This objective was a key theme throughout Tuesday’s keynote presentation as executives emphasized the importance of simplifying the new platform to make it more accessible to everyone. More on that later…
But first, here’s a simplified breakdown of all the new name changes:
- Google AdWords is now Google Ads
- DoubleClick advertiser products and Google Analytics 360 are now under a unified platform called Google Marketing Platform
- DoubleClick for Publishers and DoubleClick Ad Exchange are coming together in a new unified programmatic platform called Google Ad Manager
2. New Optimization Objectives on YouTube
As marketers, we know that YouTube isn’t just for entertainment. People are increasingly turning to YouTube to inspire and inform purchase decisions, both large and small. Google knows this too, and they’re pushing video hard this year with tons of new features for advertisers. In fact, Group Product Manager of Video Ads, Nicky Rettke, revealed that overall conversions driven by YouTube ads have grown by 150% in the past year globally. Additionally, over 70% of campaigns have driven a significant lift in in-store sales. If that wasn’t compelling enough, data shows that people pay three times more attention to video ads that are relevant to them. It’s clear that advertisers need to make the most of these intent rich moments on YouTube, and Google has announced some new features to help advertisers tap into this influential point in the customer journey.
The first new feature is an automated bidding strategy for YouTube campaigns called Maximize Lift Bidding. This new bidding strategy uses Google’s machine learning to help reach people who are more likely to consider your brand after exposure to an ad.
Shaily Kashyap, Sr. Paid Search Account Manager at Growth Pilots, weighs in saying, “Advertisers have historically spent a lot of money on YouTube ads without seeing many conversions. I think advertisers have finally started to realize that YouTube is more of an upper-funnel awareness channel than a bottom-funnel direct response channel. And while YouTube has had custom solutions to measure brand lift to compensate for the lack of conversions generated, they have not had solutions that have allowed advertisers to maximize brand lift. This new feature likely represents the learnings that Google has accumulated from monitoring brand lift over the years and finally aligns advertiser’s new expectations with something they can optimize towards.”
Maximize lift bidding strategy lifts brand consideration by using machine learning signals to show ads to the customers who are the most likely to consider your brand after seeing an ad. Brand Lift is defined as measurement of the direct impact your ads are having on perceptions and behaviors throughout the consumer journey.
“After extensively testing other automated bidding strategies in the past couple of years, I know that Google has made great strides in ensuring that these work in advertisers’ best interest,” says Kashyap. “From knowing user’s search history (for logged in users) to frequency and recency of site visits, Google can use many signals to predict how a user is going to react to an ad.” Kashyap sees this new feature as promising for advertisers who are looking to expand beyond search while still driving towards something measurable.
Next, Rettke announced Google will be also be adding Form Ads to TrueView for action campaigns. This feature is designed to help generate leads directly from your video ads to make it easier for people to follow through on your call to action. This feature is still in the early stages and won’t be released anytime soon, but performance marketers are comparing it to Facebook lead ads.
Kashyap said she hopes YouTube’s new form ads will have similar UX and targeting options as Facebook lead ads mentioning, “If users won’t have to leave the YouTube environment to complete a form ad, that will reduce the drop-off opportunities for users and be a great source of driving leads from consumers in the consideration phase of the journey, which we all know make up the majority of YouTube users.”
Earlier this year Google released TrueView for reach and TrueView for action. The first, TrueView for reach, allows you to reach more unique prospects within a target audience. The latter, TrueView for action, displays a tailored CTA on your video ad and allows you to optimize towards specific conversion events. With these additions and the introduction of Maximize Lift Bidding and Form Ads, it seems that YouTube now allows you to hit every stage of the funnel which should be music to marketers’ ears.
You can expect to see these new features rolled out later this year across both Google Ads and Google Marketing Platform.
3. Responsive Search Ads
This one might look a bit familiar because Google released responsive search ads beta in May. As part of the push for machine learning, automation, and “smart” features, responsive search ads are bringing the same level of intelligence from Google’s other machine learning signals, such as the technology used in Smart Bidding, to Search Ad formats.
Here’s how responsive search ads work: You provide Google with up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines. This gives Google a pool of copy to work from; from there, the platform will automatically test different combinations of headlines and descriptions and learn which combinations perform best and what is most relevant to the searcher. Over time, your responsive search ads will serve the best message to different searchers depending on the keyword they search for, their device, their past browsing behavior, and other signals.
Anthony Chavez, Product Management Director of Google Ads, says these ads aren’t just responsive, they also give you more flexibility. Responsive search ads can display up to three 30-character headlines and two 90-character description lines. This is an increase of 90% more text compared to today’s search ads. This gives you more opportunity to convey the features and benefits that will resonate with users.
Kashyap, who has been using responsive search ads since it launched in beta, gave some insight into the new ad format saying, “By combining various user signals and possible ad copy variations (from 15 headlines and 4 descriptions), Responsive Search Ads can unlock incremental impressions by entering more ad auctions hence driving more value to your campaigns. Also, the asset-level reporting is rolling out to more advertisers where the number of impressions received by each ad copy combination can be seen.”
4. Mobile Landing Pages Speed Score
Half of all web traffic now comes from mobile. But more importantly, more than half of all consumers will move on from a potential purchase if the mobile site takes too long to load. That’s why improving the speed of your mobile landing pages is absolutely crucial if you don’t want to lose your consumer’s 8-second attention span.
Google’s new Mobile Landing Page Speed Score gives advertisers an easy way to gauge landing page load times and how they impact your performance. Here’s a quick rundown of the new Mobile Landing Pages Speed Score: It’s a ten-point scale which tells you how fast each of your landing pages load on mobile devices (1 being the slowest, 10 being the fastest), it’s based on multiple factors including things like the relationship between your page speed and your potential conversion rate, and it’s updated daily so you can track how your landing page optimizations are working over time.
Using this score, you can determine which pages are delivering a less than ideal user experience and prioritize the most important ones to tackle. While page speed has always been a factor in determining both organic rankings and AdWords Quality Score on desktop, we now know that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. As advertisers work harder to optimize mobile pages for speed scores now, we can only assume that this will also affect mobile quality scores.
Well, the Mobile Landing Page Speed Score column lives within the Google Ads UI so you won’t have to leave Google Ads to assess your page speed, is automatically updated daily so you won’t have to wait weeks to figure out if your speed optimizations are working, and is the first of Google’s speed tools to take potential ad performance into account when assigning a score. For paid search advertisers, this is sure to be the new go-to page speed tool.
5. Cross Device Reporting
Google also unveiled new Cross Device features in Google Analytics. Now you can compare segments, visualize data, and distinguish usage across desktop, mobile, and tablet at each stage of your purchasing funnel – all within Google Analytics. The Cross Device report lives within the Audience section of Google Analytics, and is divided into three sub-reports:
- Device Overlap: Find out what type and how many devices are used to access your content.
- Device Paths: Discover the last 5 device types used before a conversion.
- Acquisition Device: See the relationship between acquisitions and conversions.
One thing to take note of here is that Google will only display aggregated data from users who have agreed to share it.
As a performance marketer, this feature definitely makes you think of Facebook’s people-level tracking capabilities, which makes cross-device much easier to accurately track. Google is still playing catch-up here compared to Facebook, but it’s always great to see more data in an increasingly cross-device world.
6. Smart Campaigns
Remember in the beginning when we mentioned Google’s emphasis on simplifying the Ads platform to make it more accessible to everyone? Well, bringing it full circle here with Smart Campaigns. Kim Spalding, GM and Product Management Director of Small Business Ads at Google, described Smart Campaigns as being tailored for simplicity. Smart Campaigns can be set up in minutes and are almost entirely automated by Google using machine learning from ad creatives to delivery optimization, based on the product or service being advertised and the goal the advertiser sets. Smart Campaigns are designed to do almost all of the work for you. Can’t get much more simple than that. But wait, there’s more! What good is an automated ad campaign without an auto-optimized website?
As part of the Smart Campaigns experience aimed at automation and simplicity, Google is taking it one step further and testing the ability to automatically create web pages that are optimized for ads in the new auto-optimized landing pages feature (coming later this year). They will use machine learning to pull information about your products and services directly from your ad, and create a tailored landing page. Google has also built conversion tracking and reporting directly into the experience; so ad creation, landing page creation, and conversion tracking and reporting now all live within the Smart Campaigns UI.
While this all sounds great in theory, Joshua Wong, Paid Search Account Manager at Growth Pilots, admits he is apprehensive about the new fully automated campaign type saying, “I’d be cautious when using this campaign type because Google’s machine learning will not be able to replace good judgement nor a company’s brand guidelines anytime soon.”
Wong’s viewpoint is a common one. Performance marketers have historically been skeptical of using automated features due to the lack of control; however, Google has proven the effectiveness of their automated tools and built their credibility with the marketing community in the past few years. With that said, a performance marketer relinquishing control based on testing is a completely different use case than a new advertiser joining AdWords and taking the path of least resistance by blindly using automated features to get up and running quickly. Not understanding the fundamentals of how the platform works and the gaps which machine learning has not been able to perfect yet could make for an instant disaster.
Smart Campaigns are currently available in the US and Australia and will be rolling out globally later this year.
7. Automated Feeds
In the past, managing a feed to give Google information about your products has been a long and manual process – one involving frequent checks to make sure your products are up to date. Later this year, automated feeds for shopping ads will launch. This new feature will give advertisers the ability to create product feeds quickly and easily. Google crawls your website, gathers the relevant details, and automatically builds a feed from your online inventory. No more complex set up required to upload your product data and get started.
After you set up your automated feed, the next step is building an effective campaign. This brings us to…
8. Smart Shopping Campaigns
Machine learning is rolling over to shopping campaigns now too. Smart Shopping Campaigns were announced back in May and are now out of beta (Pro-tip: You must set up conversion value tracking for your conversion actions before you can set up a Smart Shopping Campaign). This new campaign type runs your shopping ads across Google’s networks (Google Search Network, Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail). This dramatically reduces the complexity of managing shopping campaigns. According to Google, early testing has shown a 20% increase in conversion value at a similar cost when using Smart Shopping Campaigns.
Google is also introducing new goals for Smart Shopping Campaigns. Advertisers will have the option to select driving in-store visits and new customer acquisition as goals in the coming months. These new goals are aimed at finding potential new customers that start online and go in store. Machine learning does the rest – making bid adjustments, optimizing your ad placements, and optimizing which products are featured – based on a wide range of factors, from seasonal demand to pricing.
The best part? Smart Shopping is now integrated with leading e-commerce platforms like Shopify; so if you’re a Shopify user, you can sync your real-time inventory with Google’s Merchant Center to create and maintain your product feed on an ongoing basis. By the end of July, you’ll also be able to manage your Smart Shopping Campaign directly in Shopify, so you can now work in one single interface without having to switch back and forth between Shopify, Google Ads, and Merchant Center.
9. Local Campaigns
This new campaign type is dedicated to help drive local conversions to brick and mortar businesses. In a few easy steps, local campaigns can help promote local businesses to consumers across Google’s networks. Google has taken advertiser feedback into account when simplifying the process of linking business locations to accounts. Finding the right Google My Business account has been known to be a pretty painful process, but local campaigns will now eliminate the guesswork by automatically surfacing relevant Google My Business accounts. Then, just set a daily budget and upload the creatives, and Google’s machine learning technology automatically optimizes campaigns to maximize store visits and promote business locations across Google’s properties.
Local campaigns are designed to help business owners and advertisers achieve offline performance goals by focusing on driving in-store visits.
10. Hotel Campaigns
Google is launching another new campaign type right in the Google Ads platform: Hotel Campaigns. Formerly known as Hotel ads, the ad type will become a part of the Google Ads platform as a new campaign type. The new integration comes as a result of feedback from partners who have expressed frustration managing their Hotel ads in a separate platform from their other Google Ads, like their search and display campaigns. Google is now integrating them into the Google Ads platform so advertisers will be able to access this campaign type from the same place as everything else. Google is also launching a new Hotel Center to simplify the management of hotel price feeds.
Hotel campaigns in Google Ads will launch later this year.
Phew, that was a lot to take in! This was a big year for Google’s suite of advertising tools as machine learning continues to make its way into more and more features. On top of it all, Google has now given advertisers a more streamlined and cohesive advertising and analytics platform that works to unify a previously fragmented system.
Kashyap believes the most exciting new feature release for performance marketers is responsive search ads. “Ad copy creation in general and following an iterative approach to ad copy testing takes a lot of time and energy. This is Google’s effort to make A/B testing easier where Google uses similar signals as they do for smart bidding to find the best possible combinations for each user.”
Wong agrees with Kashyap saying, “Responsive search ads are the most exciting announcement to me because it allows you to test different messaging and types of ads much faster. They allow you to test what is working best among your audience faster and give insights into what is driving that success, eliminating the guesswork.”
Christine Forni, Sr. Paid Search Account Manager at Growth Pilots, shares her thoughts on the new announcements overall saying, “While I understand that the direction Google is taking is to help frame a company’s mindset towards smarter marketing objectives and less manual optimization I am still concerned at the level of granularity they are slowly removing. I understand the way they are trying to have their platform do the bulk of the work, but it gives us less control and insight which is always scary for performance marketers.”