Senior PPC Manager, Craig Edwardson gives his insight into Google Marketing Live 2018 and what it means for the industry. 

On Tuesday, Google held its annual keynote at Google Marketing Live in San Jose, California. The event was live-streamed, allowing digital marketing enthusiasts around the globe to tune in to the unveiling of the latest platform innovations to Google Ads (Google’s recent re-brand of Google AdWords), Google Analytics and Google Marketing Platforms.

Over the years, each event has had one key message that Google plants in the audience’s minds for the upcoming year; something to take away and incorporate into advertising campaigns the world over.

The key takeaway tends to flow, not so subliminally, throughout the event with content and statistics popping up to educate viewers, be it on the importance of mobile, cross-device user behaviour, micro-moments, touch points, etc.

This year was no different; Google was clear from the get-go that automation and machine learning is the future of online advertising. If we have not been thinking/obsessing/lying awake at night thinking of this, then we should be.

At BIG, we tuned in, scribbled away as the announcement was made yesterday evening and have summarised our top 8 Google Ads takeaways from the keynote.

  1. New Features of YouTube Advertising

Increasing advertising spend on YouTube has been a high priority on the agenda for Google in recent years. The low cost-per-view (CPV) pricing model, combined with a plethora of targeting options, makes YouTube an attractive option for traditional TV ad-buyers to start shifting their ad spend online.

In what was a “difficult year” for the platform, YouTube advertising made the headlines on a couple of occasions in 2017 regarding the quality of ad placement (i.e. video content) that the platform offers and associated issues with brand protection. However, introducing stricter criteria for content monetization and more control for advertisers on where their ads will show has been a positive step in the right direction.

During the live stream, Google announced two new features of YouTube advertising, both already available, to help advertisers drive results from their campaigns: TrueView for Reach and TrueView for Action. Maximise Lift Bidding, a bidding strategy designed to focus on brand consideration was also announced will be available later in the year.

TrueView for Reach offers a CPM style of bidding to YouTube’s popular 6-second bumper ad format. As CPM (cost per thousand impressions) tends to favour, this bidding solution is best suited to those advertisers looking for eyeballs: a general lift in brand awareness as opposed to driving action.

TrueView for Action, on the other hand, will introduce call-to-action buttons and text overlays to video ads; turning those eyeballs into converting visitors. Taking this further, a lead generation form will be introduced to TrueView for Action ads later in the year; somewhat mirroring the lead generation ad formats available on Facebook and LinkedIn.

  1. Responsive Search Ads: Bigger Ads and Increased Automation

Over the past 12 months or so, the best practices in PPC ad testing have evolved.

Advertisers are now strongly encouraged to run a minimum of 3 expanded text ads per ad group and to select one of Google’s machine learning based ‘Optimize’ options for rotation.

Adapting to these guidelines has left PPC managers loosening the reins and shifting from two carefully crafted variations of ad copy before working through the AB testing practice of rotating, reporting and repeating.

At Tuesday’s live stream, AdWords announced the release of Responsive Search Ads from beta over the next few months. This new ad format seeks to place even more control over text ad optimisation in the hands of Google.

Advertisers will be asked to provide up to 15 ad headlines and 4 description lines per ad group for Google to juggle, dynamically serving the combination deemed most likely to achieve the advertiser’s stated goal.

Cynicism in ‘trusting the machines’ aside, the result being the perfect ad.

In rewarding handing over the keys to Google, character limitations (the bane of most digital marketers’ lives) will be turned on their head with the possibility of 3 30-character headlines and 2 90-character headlines per ad. This alone may be enough to get most PPC managers giving these new ads a try.

As a side note, text ads have been known to change format over the years, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Responsive Search Ads becoming the only option at some point down the line…

  1. Introducing Landing Page Speed Score

Mobile landing page speed is a well-documented turn off for the modern-day consumer who wants everything and wants it now.

Google has proclaimed the danger of not taking mobile experience seriously with frightening stats reported during the live stream that 50% of users will abandon a purchase if the mobile site takes too long to load.

In response, and to keep us all in check, Google has announced the Mobile Landing Page Speed Score. The score will exist on a ten-point scale, based on multiple factors and updated daily, allowing advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their mobile experience in a clean, reportable way.

Landing page experience has long been a factor in Google’s Quality Score: an estimate of the quality of an advertiser’s ads, keywords and landing pages and a key component in the cost-per-click (CPC) calculation.

However, there has always been a degree of mystery surrounding the “experience” that will be rewarded with a higher QS and how Google measures this. Adding a quantifiable metric, in the form of a Landing Page Speed Score, therefore, is a refreshing piece of the puzzle which will allow advertisers to benchmark and improve upon building their overall user experience.

  1. Cross-device Reporting & Remarketing in Google Analytics

Cross-device reporting has been an issue for digital marketing tracking and measurement that has coincided with the rise of the smartphone.

Losing sight of a user who starts their interaction with your website on a phone before switching to desktop has caused a lot of head scratching and solution sharing when it comes to reporting.

The appetite for clarification and sharpening of reporting capabilities was perhaps best illustrated by the applause that came following the announcement of cross-device reporting and remarketing in Google Analytics during the live stream.

A caveat – much needed in these post-GDPR times that we live in – was that this new feature, which will consolidate views across devices, will only display aggregated data from users who have agreed to share it.

Tying up user behaviour across devices will allow for more informed decision making in marketing ad spend – taking a more holistic view of the customer journey as they interact with your website. Furthermore, the capabilities to build audiences across device will make for remarketing campaigns with greater reach and impact.

If it works as pitched, this is a very welcome update.

  1. Shopping Feed Automation & Smart Shopping Campaigns

For eCommerce websites that do not have the capabilities to auto-create a Google Shopping feed, the creation and management of a manual product feed have been an onerous (and sometimes completely neglected) task.

Google has announced the introduction of automated feeds for Shopping Ads. This feature, coming later in 2018, will crawl your website and automatically pull the data required to run a fully-fledged Shopping campaign for you.

This is a big win for small e-commerce businesses with a limited budget.

Also announced as part of the Shopping Ads section of the keynote was Smart Shopping Campaigns. This is another example of Google Ads showcasing its machine learning capabilities in automating the optimisation process.

Smart Shopping Campaigns will allow an advertiser to set an average daily spend and put Google in the driving seat in serving ads at the right times, with the right bid, to meet revenue targets.

It was also announced that two new business goals would be added to Google Shopping tracking capabilities in the coming months: driving store visits and driving new customers.

Much like the gaps that cross-device tracking leaves,, measuring offline store visits has been patchy regarding calculating the true ROI of digital advertising. It was not surprising then, to hear that Google is making waves in clarifying this to increase confidence in ad spend.

  1. Driving Footfall with Local Campaigns

In tightening up the reporting on offline store visits from Shopping Ads, and in response to the ever-reported increase in ‘near me’ local searches, Google announced the introduction of Local Campaigns.

Local Campaigns will be available globally over the next couple of months and are solely designed to drive store visits with reporting relying upon anonymised and aggregated data from signed-in Google users who have opted to turn on location history.

Again, banging the machine learning and automation drum, Local Campaign ads are generated automatically based on ad creative uploaded by the advertiser as well as location extensions.

  1. Advertising for Small Business

Google stated that they are ‘doubling-down’ on small businesses – identifying this as a key area of growth for the advertising giant. Alongside the Google Ads rebrand debut, a new feature called Smart Campaigns was announced specifically designed for small businesses. More detail of the latest campaign type was provided as part of Tuesday’s keynote.

Smart Campaigns are built on AdWords Express technology and will shortly become the default campaign type in Google Ads. The campaign process will be almost entirely automated from ad creative (via simple upload of assets) to delivery and optimisation.

Perhaps the most significant development is the ability for small businesses to start investing in Google Ads without even having a website.

As part of Smart Campaigns, auto-optimised landing pages are being introduced complete with in-built conversions and reporting. This is a response to nearly 50% of small businesses in the U.S not having a website, thus removing a previous barrier to investment.

As a sweetener, Google announced the introduction of free training for small business owners; inviting these companies to grow with Google.

  1. Hotel Ads

Finally, Hotel Ads aren’t necessarily a new feature; however, Google did announce that the ad format is to be simplified in an effort to become more accessible to more advertisers.

Hotel Ads will be integrated with the Google Ads platform (much the same as AdWords for Video was merged with AdWords a few years ago) which will no doubt increase the uptake.

In addition to the Google Ads product innovations, the keynote covered updated features of the new Google Marketing Platform; the consolidation of the Google Analytics 360 Suite and DoubleClick Digital Marketing.

With the recent move in merging these platforms, Google is looking to promote stronger collaboration and smoother campaign management for its users.

As with the keynote each year, the next couple of months will be interesting as we watch these new campaign types roll out and start integrating with existing campaigns.

While advertisers were perhaps reluctant to sit up and pay attention to the ‘mobile search is coming’ prophecy in years past, the advances of automation and potential this lends to account optimisation may see PPC managers quicker on the uptake of some of these latest features.

BIG Partnership can provide pay per click (PPC) management as part of our full-service digital offering. If you would like to learn how we can help you meet your online business objectives, please get in touch with our digital team.

Back to blog