Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Google Uncategorized

Google has been beefing up its showcase shopping ads product to help retailers spice up their holiday advertisements. Showcase shopping ads make it possible for businesses to group together related products to merchandise them more effectively. The format is tailored for mobile viewing. Recently Google added new features such as video to make these ads more powerful. At True Interactive, we’ve been applying showcase shopping ads with favorable results. One of our clients running showcase shopping ads has seen an 80-percent higher click-through rate over standard shopping ads. This blog post explains showcase shopping ads based on questions we’ve received.

What exactly are showcase shopping ads?

Showcase shopping ads appear as a collection of shoppable images displaying different products offered by an advertiser. The ads are built to capitalize on broad keyword searches such as “winter sweaters.” The showcase shopping ads work this way:

  • Someone making a non-brand search for, say, winter sweaters will see in their search results display ads from different retailers with winter sweaters and promotional ad copy.
  • When the shopper clicks on the ad, they are taken to a landing page with a merchant’s line of winter sweaters. The shopping ad display, or showcase, resembles a brand page to the user, consisting of products the advertiser wants the user to see.

A shopper may click on an inventory and complete a purchase.

A business can create multiple showcase shopping ads. The header image can be different based on what is uploaded into each showcase shopping ad. In the above example of winter sweaters, a retailer could run a header image that focuses on sweaters but have another header image that focuses on outerwear for a “winter coat” search. The Google algorithm chooses which products appear based on variables such as the product titles, description, and type.

Who is this a good fit for?

It is highly recommended that you have at least 1,000 products in your inventory. There is no minimum budget. The format is effective for anyone who wants to get their products in front of a large audience because it’s based on broad keywords. It’s not for people competing for specific keywords. For bigger advertisers, showcase shopping ads are a good way to display multiple products for broad keywords. You can create an engaging photo and additional messaging that smaller businesses may not be able to afford.

Why is Google beefing up showcase ads?

The main reason Google is pushing showcase ads is that they are optimized for mobile. Salesforce recently predicted that mobile devices would dominate both traffic and orders for the entire 2018 holiday shopping season (68 percent of traffic and 46 percent of orders). On Black Friday alone, retailers saw $2.1 billion in sales from smartphones, accounting for 33.5 percent of Black Friday sales. The rise of mobile reflects broader shopping trends, and Google wants to capture a share of ad revenue associated with mobile shopping by offering a shoppable ad format.

What is the pay model?

The pay format is cost per engagement, not cost per click. The user has to be on the ad for 10 seconds or more, at which time the advertiser is charged. This approach can be a drawback. A click is a specific action. But having a page open for 10 seconds is a passive way to measure user intent. A person may not be really engaged with a product while a screen is open.

Any tips for getting the most out of Google showcase shopping ads?

Yes. Advertisers need to do two things:

  • Ensure all your products are grouped together in an easily findable way.
  • Have your products accurately labeled in each ad group.

Bottom line: Google showcase shopping ads give multiple advertisers a way to showcase multiple products for generic keywords that can otherwise be very expensive. If you compete for generic keywords in a mobile centric world – and who isn’t? – then you should consider Google showcase shopping ads. If you need help getting started or if you are running Google showcase shopping ads and want to take your game to the next level, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Google

School is always in session at True Interactive. We regularly learn about Google products through Google’s Partner Academy, which keeps its advertising partners in the know about key product updates.  At a recent Partner Academy event in Chicago, we got immersed in Google’s recently launched smart shopping campaigns. Smart shopping combines multiple campaigns running on Google ad networks and uses machine learning to maximize their performance. My take: retailers should jump on smart shopping now to maximize your holiday campaigns.

Smart shopping combines shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns into one product available on all networks where people are conceivably shopping:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Remarketing.
  • YouTube.

Smart shopping provides an efficient way for advertisers to roll up multiple campaigns into one. In addition, Google optimizes performance of your campaign across each network. According to Google’s blog,

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

To help you get the best value from each ad, Google also automates ad placement and bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget.

The main advantage of the product is that Google serves your ads among the four networks where they perform best. In addition, smart shopping offers a more efficient spend, more sensible budgeting (you fund only one campaign and let Google optimize your budget), and a simplified approach to campaign management. The product is a boon for large retailers running complex campaigns, including, of course, holiday campaigns.

There is a downside, though: you cannot break out results by the four types of shopping experiences. Therefore you cannot really optimize toward the best performing format. When I asked Google about this limitation, I was told that providing this breakout is one of Google’s highest priorities for smart shopping campaigns in 2019. So, stay tuned.

In addition, you cannot apply negatives, such as negative keywords and topics, to your campaign. So if you want to, say, exclude news topics to avoid having your ad appear alongside an undesirable topic, you cannot do so.

The format also has limits. Smart shopping supports only two bid types: maximum conversion value and target return on ad spend. You also have to install the dynamic remarketing tag on to your site, which drops a cookie on users’ browsers and draws on the product ID as well as the revenue and other attributes to create audiences. (By contrast, with standard remarketing, you don’t need to fuss with this tag. You can use a generic tag that applies everywhere.)

Since smart shopping campaigns take about 15 days to really take effect, make sure you plan ahead so that you hit peak performance on days that matter most to you, such as Cyber Monday. If you have questions about how to deploy smart shopping campaigns, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Note: this post is the first in a four-part series on recently launched ad products from Google. Watch our blog for more posts.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/working-macbook-computer-keyboard-34577/

Why Advertisers Need Bing

Why Advertisers Need Bing

Marketing

I know of businesses that consider Microsoft’s Bing search engine to be a “cover-your-bases” alternative to Google. But Bing continues to grow as a strong advertising platform on its own terms. As The Verge reported recently, Bing is contributing to surging growth at Microsoft:

Microsoft’s search advertising revenue from Bing has been growing steadily over the course of the financial year. Each quarter it has consistently grown by around 15 percent, and Q4 is no exception. Search revenue is up 17 percent, thanks to higher revenue per search and an increase in search volume. While many are quick to dismiss Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Microsoft might have a unique opportunity to capitalize on its search engine after the EU ruled to force Google to unbundle its search app from Android. Phone makers will certainly be looking for opportunities to bundle rival search engines and browsers in the coming months.

Here are two reasons to invest in Bing as an advertising platform based on its own merits:

1 Bing Is Valuable

At True Interactive, we have seen larger average order values on Bing compared to Google. In other words, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. Why? The average Bing searcher probably has a higher income level than the average Google user.

2 Bing Innovates

Bing has been a forward-thinking innovator from the start. For instance, Bing’s visually stunning layout, emphasizing crisp graphics, has always been light years ahead of Google, making Bing literally a more attractive-looking platform in the Instagram age.

Bing continues to raise the bar with visual content. The recently launched Bing visual search extends a strong visual search capability across both Android and iOS devices, whereas visual search on Google remains limited to the Android world.

Bing innovates in many other ways, too. Recently Bing announced Spotlight, which relies on artificial intelligence and an extensive knowledge graph to provide a more well-rounded perspective on news that evolves over time. As Bing explained on its blog, “Spotlight shows users the latest headlines, a rundown of how the story has developed over time, and relevant social media posts from people around the web. Spotlight also shows diverse perspectives on a given topic so users can quickly get a well-rounded view on the topic before deciding what they want to go deeper on and read by clicking on any of the articles.” Here’s an image from the post:

Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn gives Bing more fertile ground to innovate. Bing recently made it possible to allow advertisers to target LinkedIn audiences. By contrast, Google Ads lack this option.

Google remains the top dog in search because of its market share alone. But Google is not the only option. Bing provides advertisers a tool to tap into a wellspring of innovation especially as consumer behavior continues to evolve with visual search.

For more insight into how to integrate Bing into your own digital marketing, contact True Interactive.

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Analytics

Amazon is testing a new attribution tool as it ramps up its platform for holiday advertising. According to Digiday, Amazon has invited a select number of advertisers to test Amazon Attribution, which “lets advertisers compare whether ads on its sites are more effective than those on its rivals.” Amazon Attribution includes page views, purchase rate, and sales among the conversion metrics advertisers can select to understand the impact of their display, search, or video ads outside of Amazon.

As we have reported, Amazon’s advertising services are growing as more brands capitalize on Amazon’s popularity for search. As Marketing Dive notes, Amazon is positioning itself for an uptick in brand advertising for the 2018 holiday shopping season. Even if you are not one of the businesses using Amazon Attribution, I suggest you get a jump on the holidays by building awareness now inside and outside Amazon. You don’t need to do holiday advertising just yet – but you should prime the pump for the holidays by:

  • Building your name awareness on Amazon by using some of the advertising tools that Amazon has rolled out. Amazon has launched products such as display advertising designed to make it easier for merchants to reach its vast audience with paid media. Some of those products also help businesses advertise outside Amazon. Amazon’s advertising products were recently bundled under Amazon Advertising. For more insight, check out this Amazon page.
  • Step up digital advertising outside Amazon, too. Rolling out holiday ads in September is not the point – priming the pump by building general name awareness is.

You can measure the effectiveness of your pre-holiday campaign by expanding the conversion pixel of your display ads for a maximum of 90 days. Per Google, a conversion window is the period of time after a customer clicks your ad during which a conversion, such as a purchase, is recorded in Google Ads. The default window is 30 days.  But you can change the conversion window as often as you’d like. Doing so can makes it possible for you to track behavior all the way back to the click someone made on your display ad.

A Caveat

A caveat is in order: if you use the Google Ads conversion pixel as your primary source for tracking purchases, then it may not be the best idea to expand the pixel window to 90 days. Doing so can cause results to become inflated. If you are using another source as your true north (e.g. Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or a third-party platform like Marin or Search Ads 360) then the inflated conversion totals aren’t as much of an issue.

How are you preparing for the holiday season? Contact True Interactive if you need help. We collaborate with brands on all aspects of digital marketing every day.

Google Gets More Targeted with Audiences

Google Gets More Targeted with Audiences

Marketing

Google continues to place more focus on audience-based targeting instead of keyword search. An example is the recent launch of the Home Owner Audience product.

Home Owner Audience makes it possible for businesses to target ads to people looking for home services such as plumbing and painting. At True Interactive, we’ve been using the product in beta and have been seeing positive results. The product is useful because it allows advertisers to exclude similar but irrelevant audiences such as apartment renters who are more likely to rely on their landlords to manage in-home repairs.

We’ve also been seeing Google display audiences in more refined ways. Through Google’s In-Market Audiences product, advertisers can target, say, people searching for Acuras in a certain zip code based on the search activity of the car shopper. A product such as In-Market Audiences has strong potential for any high-consideration product such as real estate or financial services, where consumers need to do considerable online research before making a purchase.

The move toward stronger audience targeting started when Google began to cut back on long-term keywords as a focus and began offering more demographic targeting. The idea is to hit a targeted audience with more focused, highly qualified keywords to drive a more qualified audience to advertisers.

The implication for brands: start sharing your customer demographics in more detail with your agencies, or, if you don’t have an agency, with your paid search team. Doing so will help you drive new business by expanding campaigns that drive a more qualified audience to you.

Contact True Interactive for more insight. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/target-goal-aiming-dartboard-aim-1551492/

Google Capitalizes on Mobile with Outstream Video Ads

Google Capitalizes on Mobile with Outstream Video Ads

Mobile

Google’s recently launched outstream video ads are the right format at the right time.

The ads appear as auto plays on mobile devices without sound, with users activating sound by tapping on the video. According to Google, mobile is key to the success of the outstream format: “Over the past year, we’ve been working on a way to extend the reach of your video campaigns to people beyond YouTube, especially as they spend more and more time interacting with applications and sites on their mobile devices . . . Outstream ads drive incremental, cost-efficient and viewable reach beyond YouTube.”

By capitalizing on the growth of mobile, Google is building its presence in the right place. As we noted in a recent blog post, Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018 report revealed that U.S. adults are online 5.9 hours per day, and more than half of our time spent on mobile. Mobile is our preferred way of being online.

In a new column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I share insight into outstream video ads and their importance to Google in light of the company’s problems keeping inappropriate content off YouTube. I think you’ll find the column to be useful. Please check it out and contact us to discuss how to incorporate video into your advertising strategy.

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Marketing

For many marketers, Google means advertising. But Google also wants us to associate its name with artificial intelligence. Recent events illustrate how the company has one foot planted in the present and future. Can Google have its cake and eat it, too?

The Present: Advertising

The latest quarterly earnings announcement of Google’s parent, Alphabet, shows that Google remains a formidable force in the world of online advertising. Alphabet’s first-quarter revenues, $31.1 billion, outperformed analysts’ expectations. Why? Because Google is an advertising cash cow. As much as Alphabet likes to tout its forays into emerging technology, its money comes from Google’s ability to secure revenue via time-honored advertising tools such as AdWords.

Approximately $26.6 billion, or 86 percent of Alphabet’s quarterly revenue, came from Google advertising. Think about that: $26.6 billion. That’s enough to land a company in the Fortune500. Google is protecting its position by refining current tools such as AdWords while rolling out new tools to make online advertising more personal and mobile-centric. Although much has been said about Google’s struggle to make YouTube a safer advertising platform for brands, probably Google’s bigger threat is Amazon, which continues to ascend as a major search platform – and offers advertising tools of its own. As reported, Amazon is now a multi-billion dollar advertising giant. Google needs to adapt or fall behind.

The Future: Artificial Intelligence

The 2018 Google I/O event, occurring May 8-9, illustrates Google’s intent to change itself and the world around it. At this year’s I/O, Google has been pushing artificial intelligence through its products. For example, Google announced the creation of Duplex, an “AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone” in the words of a Google blog post. As Google noted:

The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated how accurate Duplex already is when he showed how Duplex can make Google’s voice assistant (Google Assistant) smart enough to place a call to a hair salon and book an appointment with a real person, sounding so natural that a human being is not aware they are talking with a voice assistant.

Google also unleashed a number of AI-based product improvements ranging from a smarter, more personal Google Maps to a customized Google News. So why the push into AI? Because Google knows that the company needs to become more than a leading search platform. Google has long been evolving as a media platform for accomplishing everyday tasks, and in recent years, it has looked to emerging technology such as virtual reality to do so. Google needs to demonstrate to its advertisers that it can keep consumers inside the Google ecosystem, and simply making search better is not enough to do that.

If Google can pull off a future defined by AI, it will protect its advertising base. But here again, Amazon looms as a threat. Amazon is making its own investments into AI to be a smarter platform for its customers, both online and offline.

The competition between Google and Amazon is good for consumers and advertisers. Consumers should benefit from more personalized services while businesses have more choices to advertise. Choice is good. And Google wants to be the first choice. Contact us to learn more about how to thrive with online advertising with giants such as Google and Amazon.