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Google Wants Your Ads to Work Smarter, Not Harder: What This Means for Publishers

Search is getting smarter. During the Google Marketing Live keynote on July 10, 2018, the leading search engine announced new marketing features available on its platform. All of the new updates leverage machine learning to automate ad placement and further eliminate guesswork from ad strategy.


The announcements come hot on the heels of Google's rebranding of AdWords and DoubleClick products. The brands are now unified into three different platforms: Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google Ad Manager.

The extra attention on marketers from Google comes at a time when many publishers and brands have grown weary of social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The social ecosystem's frequent algorithm changes and overall ROI mystery have publishers looking to diversify more than ever.

It's important to remember, however, that Google in and of itself is its own platform with its own puzzling algorithm. Still, it's a powerful tool that can help publishers mix up platform dependence and revenue streams even further. Here's a breakdown of the latest updates and what they mean for publishers and brands alike.

Responsive Search Ads

The Update: Responsive search ads use machine learning to determine what ad creative receives the best results for each individual search term. Using this new feature, advertisers can provide Google with up to 15 headlines and four description lines, and Google's AI technology will mix and match them to determine which creative performs the best. Google first started beta testing responsive search ads in May 2018, and plans to have the feature available to all advertisers within the next few months.

What It Means: Think of responsive search ads as automated ad testing, similar to the way many publishers A/B test ads now. Google has preferred that advertisers add at least three ads per ad group, but many advertisers prefer to manually test creatives instead. This update further deprioritizes any sort of manual ad rotation and surrenders it to machine learning technology. Publishers should definitely test this new feature and compare results to previous strategies. Depending on the content, automated ad rotation could deliver better insights for less work from advertisers.

Local Campaigns

The Update: According to Google, almost 80% of shoppers still make their purchases in a store if they want the item immediately. The platform has seen the mobile search query "near me" increase in volume by 3x in the past two years. To take advantage of this surge, Google announced Local Campaigns to increase store visits for advertisers with brick-and-mortar locations. By inputting information into a few simple fields like ad creative, budget, and store addresses, Google will optimize ads across all platforms.

Image from The Drum.

What It Means: If you're a publisher with a physical location, Local Campaigns are worthy of implementing. If not, this is a good lesson in the importance of a hyper-personalized and hyper-localized — if possible — search strategy. Users are often searching for solutions. Some may be looking for commentary on the previous night's Bachelorette episode, while others are trying to find a sushi restaurant that's open late. Either way, it's important to understand your audience and how to reach them through personalized keywords.

YouTube Lift

The Update: YouTube's product manager for monetization, Nicky Rettke, said during the marketing keynote that YouTube saw 150% growth in ad conversions last year. Many buyers are looking to YouTube to research items or topics before they make a purchase. Using a Smart Bidding strategy, Google is rolling out a maximize lift option to help advertisers reach users who are most likely to engage with their brand after seeing a video ad. It does this by automatically adjusting the bid rate at auction to maximize impact during the time a consumer is researching a brand.

What It Means: This is an exciting update from Google. With publishers looking to other ad revenue options outside of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, YouTube is a prime location to start diversifying your ad strategy. This update is definitely worth testing, especially if you're willing to go all in with your budget when users are searching for videos related to your brand.

Smart Shopping Campaigns

The Update: The new Smart Shopping campaign option automatically optimizes ad delivery across Google's networks to reach a defined conversion goal value set up by the advertiser. The search engine also announced two new goals available for advertisers: store visits and new customers. Taking in factors like seasonal demand and pricing, Google will also use artificial intelligence to optimize where shopping ads show up, whether it's on Google, Google Images, YouTube, etc.

What It Means: Much like the other updates, this new campaign function allows you to diversify your ad placement more than ever before. If you're an e-commerce brand, this is definitely a great way to not only serve more ads, but ensure your strategy is meeting key goals for your business.

What to Do Next

If any of these Google updates are a fit for your brand or product, it's worthwhile to give them a shot. Be sure you stay close to your data when you first use the new features to ensure they're performing as expected. Alongside the launch of these updates, Google also announced cross-device reporting and remarketing for mobile in Google Analytics. So make sure you're looking at every data point available to you in your dashboard.

At RebelMouse, we can help you manage ad placements, Google Analytics, and monetization strategy — even if you don't use our CMS. We also keep track of every Google algorithm update here. Let's start working together. Request a proposal today to see how we can work together to transform your digital property.

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