Why Google’s Predictive Audiences Feature Matters to Advertisers

Why Google’s Predictive Audiences Feature Matters to Advertisers

Analytics

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is more than an upgrade to Universal Analytics (UA). GA4 is a whole new analytics solution available now. Businesses should switch from from Universal Analytics (UA) to GA4 now in order to capitalize on GA4’s many features such as Predictive Audiences in Google Ads campaigns. Predictive Audiences relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to drive better results than currently possible with UA.

What Is Predictive Audiences?

Predictive Audiences makes it possible to classify users who are likely to perform an action in the near future based on a predictive metric. For example, a business might build an audience for “likely 7-day purchasers” that includes users who are likely to make a purchase in the next 7 days; or “likely 7-day churning users” for purchasing users who are not likely to visit your website in the next 7 days, just to cite two examples.

Audience data

Predictive Audiences are automatically shared with any Google Ads accounts you have linked to your property.

AI is not new to Google Analytics. UA properties have Smart Lists, which are audiences Google automatically builds using machine learning. However, Smart Lists are much more limited than the new Predictive Audiences available in GA4. Whereas Smart Lists are not customizable by advertisers, Predictive Audiences can be built with custom traffic/activity filters, as well as a membership duration that is anywhere between 1 and 540 days.

What Are Some Applications of Predictive Audiences?

With Predictive Audiences, an advertiser can improve marketing campaigns to target users before they take an action, potentially increasing conversions. For instance:

  • As remarketing audiences. A shopper who is considering your product but not ready to become a customer is a hot lead. For example, someone who has added a product to a shopping cart but has not yet made a purchase might be ready to buy, but they also might be checking out the competition. It’s important that the merchant act on those leads – to strike while the iron is hot. GA4 uses machine learning to find deep patterns of behavior that are unique to your property and show that a user is likely to convert. A persuasive follow-up from you via a well-crafted remarketing campaign can provide that last nudge they need to complete the process.
  • In re-engagement campaigns. Shoppers who are likely to churn are signaling a waning interest in your business. But they have also previously demonstrated engagement with your business. Why give up on them? Predictive Audiences makes it possible to approach them again with reminders of the value you offer in terms of product variety, quality, and price, or convenient shipping and return options.

Analytics

Why Does Predictive Audiences Matter?

Predictive Audiences illustrates how Google is using machine learning to understand future actions of a user. This gives marketers more ways to reach potential customers and increase revenue. When a machine teaches itself with minimal programming needed, it can ingest vast sets of consumer data and use it to determine things such as the best times to send emails or to run an ad. Proponents say machine learning can identify the clients or customers that would be most receptive to given messages.

Google continues to invest in machine learning to make marketing more effective. However, we caution against simply automating advertising. Human judgment is needed to ensure that a marketing campaign is adaptable and flexible as the behavior of users changes.

How Does an Advertiser Get Started with Predictive Analytics?

Availability of Predictive Audiences depends on the underlying predictive metrics being eligible for use by meeting all prerequisites. If you have exported Predictive Audiences to linked product accounts, those audiences will not accumulate new users if the property becomes ineligible for the predictive metric and new predictions are not generated. Google shares more insight on how to use suggested audience templates to create your own audiences with conditions based on those predictions.

Getting started with Predictive Analytics is but one of many steps an advertiser will need take in order to make the transition to GA4. Don’t wait until July 2023 to get ready. Only by acting now will an advertiser prepare itself to capitalize on the new features available in GA4.

True Interactive can help you do that. Read more about GA4 in this blog post.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We design and develop successful marketing and advertising campaigns and know how to track results, including the use of Google. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

Consumer Behavior Underscores the Value of Analytics

Consumer Behavior Underscores the Value of Analytics

Analytics

How does an advertiser reach consumers this summer?

On the one hand, consumers say they are living more frugally amid inflation. More than half of consumers surveyed by Numerator said that inflation and high gas prices are affecting how they celebrate major holidays such as July 4. Many are scaling back their spending. They say they’re eating out less, spending less money on decorations and fireworks, and spending less on food for holiday cookouts.

But on the other hand, consumers are opening up their pocketbooks on expensive choices such as summer travel. Airports are overwhelmed with people traveling all over the world. People have been so tired of being cooped up during the pandemic that “revenge travel” is a phenomenon in the summer of 2022, even as the cost of flying has increased.

In fact, as The Wall Street Journal reports, there’s been a surge in travel, concert going, and entertainment throughout the year as pandemic restrictions ease and people continue to get vaccinated, which makes them more confident to be in crowded spaces such as concerts.

A paradox has emerged: consumers are reluctant to spend money in some areas but are happy to do so in others.

Mind Your Analytics

For advertisers, the shifting sands of consumer behavior suggest that they need to pay very close attention to analytics. Data-driven decisions have never been more essential. For instance, search behavior is even more important than ever. Google Search has always been a barometer of consumer purchase intent, and it continues to be. For instance, in the days leading up to July 4 as I wrote this post, Google said that searches for inflatable tent houses and water balloon launchers were trending alongside affordable sports bras, suggesting an interest in affordable, at-home fun and fitness during the holidays.

In addition, your own mileage may vary depending on the type of consumer you are interested in. For example, the Numerator survey indicates that younger generations are more likely to spend more during holiday events, which makes sense: younger generations in general are more willing to spend money on experiences instead of material things.

Analytics do not exist in a vacuum. They need to be applied across a variety of formats – say, text-based ads versus video – and platforms (ranging from Google to Amazon to Pinterest) depending on where your customers spend their time and how they spend their time (e.g., doing searches with intent to buy versus more casual searches for ideas that may or may not be related to a purchase).

To cite one example: recently one of our clients experienced a challenge: its share of branded search was dropping. The client, a photo curating and sharing company, naturally wanted to improve. So, we launched a video-based awareness campaign that spanned display, YouTube, Google Display Network, connected TV, Yahoo Online Video, Facebook, and Yahoo Display. Our focus: mobile and connected TV. We also ensured that YouTube ads could target connected TV screens.

We tested different video ad formats with a large audience (women aged 25-54) with the purpose of hitting as many eyes as possible. That’s because the brand’s low levels of search volume told us that it lacked brand awareness more broadly. Targeting an audience would have been premature. Analytics helped us manage a successful campaign while keeping CPMs down. (Read more about that project here.)

We recommend advertisers take an agile approach with analytics, constantly testing and learning from consumer behaviors as they change quickly in response to important variables such as inflation. In addition, manage your analytics closely. As widely reported, by July 2023, Google Analytics 4 will replace the current version of the popular web analytics service, known as Universal Analytics (UA), and advertisers need to prepare now.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we manage our clients’ campaigns with a robust knowledge of analytics (as discussed here). We interpret the story that numbers tell. We happily work tirelessly to centralize, aggregate, segment and analyze your data, ultimately sharing insights with you in these ways. contact us to learn more.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/YNaSz-E7Qss

Google Analytics 4: Advertiser Q&A

Google Analytics 4: Advertiser Q&A

Google

If you use Google Analytics, by now you are probably aware that a new version known as Google Analytics 4 is coming. By July 2023, Google Analytics 4 will replace the current version of the popular web analytics service, known as Universal Analytics (UA). This news has sent shock waves throughout an ad tech world that has grown dependent on UA to track and report website traffic. Here are some questions you may have – and some answers:

What exactly is happening to Google Analytics?

UA – the current version of Google Analytics — is going away. UA will stop processing hits in July 2023. That’s because Google is replacing UA with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If you want to continue using Google to track and report website traffic, you’ll need to transition to GA4. Google actually began to introduce GA4 in 2020, as noted in this blog post. But in July 2023, Google is making GA4 mandatory, as Google said in March 2022. While standard UA properties will stop working July 2023, Universal Analytics 360 properties will receive an additional three months of new hit processing, meaning these will stop working come October 1, 2023.

Why is Google Replacing Universal Analytics with Google Analytics 4?

Google says that GA4 is coming for three primary reasons:

  • Provide more user-centric data. UA is built on a session-based data model that is 15 years old. Google built UA to measure independent sessions, or groups of user interactions within a given time frame on a desktop device. This measurement approach has become obsolete. GA4 does not measure goals by user, only by session. For instance, if someone watches four videos in one session, the interaction can only count as one conversion. By collecting user data as events, GA4 seeks to provide businesses with more accurate insight into user activity.
  • Work across platforms. UA was built for a desktop experience. GA4 is designed to work across platforms, including mobile. According to Google, GA4 provides a complete view of the customer lifecycle with an event-based measurement model that isn’t fragmented by platform or organized into independent sessions. Google cites the example of UK-based fitness apparel and accessories brand Gymshark, which is already using an iteration of GA4 to measure user activity across its website and app. This allows the Gymshark team to better understand how users move through the purchase funnel. Google says that as a result, Gymshark has reduced user drop off by 9 percent, increased product page clickthroughs by 5 percent, and cut down their own time spent on user journey analysis by 30 percent.
  • Transition to a privacy-centric world. Google is under tremendous pressure to adapt to a world in which user privacy is a much bigger priority than it used to be when UA was introduced. GA4 does that. For instance, GA4 4 will also no longer store internet protocol (IP) addresses. GA4 also offers a workaround for when users reject cookies. UA works by setting cookies on a user’s browser when visiting your website. But more people are opting out of sharing their data via cookies. So, UA cannot report on all the people who visit a website. GA4 will rely on a technique known as conversion modeling to provide results in a cookie-less world. Conversion modeling uses machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence) to enable accurate measurement while only reporting on aggregated and anonymized data. GA4 will still collect data from first-party cookies, but conversion modeling makes it possible for GA4 to continue collecting user data when cookies are rejected by users.

In short, Google is changing website tracking and reporting to adapt to a more privacy-centric world in which people use multiple devices to interact with brands.

How does Google Analytics 4 differ from Universal Analytics?

GA4 is a replacement, not an update. It’s a completely new way of tracking and reporting website traffic. The key difference is the adoption of more user-centric data as discussed above. This post from the Google Help Center explains in more detail how the more user-centric data model differs from Universal Analytics. Don’t read it until you’ve had your morning coffee.

There are many other differences too numerous to describe here. For instance, with GA4, you can choose to retain data for two months or 14 months. And GA4 offers custom reporting templates (whereas UA favored the use of pre-built reports).

What will happen to Universal Analytics?

UA will go away. It will not be possible to track and report website traffic with UA as of July 2023 for standard accounts, and October 2023 for UA 360 accounts.

After UA properties stop processing new hits, all previously processed data will remain accessible for at least six months. In the coming months, Google will provide a future date for when existing Universal Analytics properties will no longer be available. After that date, users will no longer be able to see UA reports in the Google Analytics interface or access UA data via the API.

What should I do to prepare for Google Analytics 4?

If you rely on a marketing and advertising agency to manage GA4, it’s highly likely that they are managing the transition for you. Just the same, contact them to understand how they are going to make the transition and how your website tracking and reporting will change. True Interactive uses UA in our client work. We’re doing all the heavy lifting for our clients by transitioning them to GA4.

If you manage GA4 yourself, it’s important to start your transition now. Don’t wait until 2023. For example, right now you’ll need to start building historical data so that you can do a year-over-year analysis in 2023.

In addition, we recommend downloading historic data from your UA account and storing it for future reference before Google shuts off access to it via both the web interface and its reporting API as mentioned above.

Make no mistake: the learning curve is steep. You’ll need to understand how GA4 conducts event reports, conversion reports, and many other details. We recommend that businesses review resources such as:

It’s going to take an effort from an integrated team to pull this off. You’ll need to make this effort a high priority managed with a project timeline to get it right.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We design and develop successful marketing and advertising campaigns and know how to track results, including the use of Google. Read about some of our client work here.

How Google Insights Helps Advertisers Make Better Decisions

How Google Insights Helps Advertisers Make Better Decisions

Analytics

One of the many challenges businesses have faced in 2020 is customizing marketing campaigns for changing consumer behavior. Who could have predicted that during the pandemic we’d see a surge in people interested in puzzles and puppies, or that a Netflix miniseries would have inspired an intense interest in chess? For years, many businesses have relied on keyword search tools to anticipate consumer preferences based on their searches. But Google recently launched something better: the Google Insights Page.

The Insights page, in beta, makes it easier for a business to explore emerging trends based on Google trending topics. Google cites the example of how an outdoor retailer might see insights on the rising demand for tents during times when consumers gear up for more outdoor adventures. Over the same period, a vacation rental company might see a surge in demand for cabins.

This function might sound familiar to you if you use Google Trends to research trending topics that people are searching on Google. But Google Trends is a manual, standalone tool. Google Insights goes much further by offering more functionality to a business. As Google notes on its Help page, Google curates Insights for your business based on your account performance and searches across Google for the products and services you show ads for.

Insights update daily. A business can check back frequently for new insights that may appear. Per Google:

  • Get insights tailored to your business: the Insights page looks for trends across Google that are relevant to the products and services that you advertise.
  • Understand your performance: drill into each insight to more detailed information about your account’s performance and new areas of potential opportunity.
  • Act on recommendations: Insights are integrated with account Recommendations, making it easy to take action.

Search trend insights help you to understand the search interest for products and services relevant to your business. You can use search trends to respond to shifts in search demand by identifying potential growth opportunities for your business.

Insights not only tells you what is trending but it also tells you how those trends will affect your performance – such as how many clicks you can expect to get from your current keyword coverage. You cannot get that kind of reporting from search tools such as Moz or SEMRush.

At True Interactive, we’re already using Insights for our clients, such as in higher education, an industry that is rapidly changing during the pandemic. Here’s a screenshot that shows the level of detail in the reporting we get from the tool:

Google Trends dashboard

In the above example, I didn’t need to do a manual search to see what types of topics are trending in the education space. Insights told me. In addition, Google Insights suggested how we might want to adapt our keyword bid strategy accordingly.

Using Google Insights with Explanations

Insights can be especially useful when you combine it with other Google ad tools. For instance, consider how you might use Insights along with Explanations, which helps you understand changes in your ad performance based on variables such as your campaign settings and auction activity. Let’s say Explanations tells me that impressions are falling for a particular brand campaign. Digging deeper, I might realize I added some negative keywords that are excluding some searches. When I look at Insights, I might further see that they keyword I excluded is related to a trending search. This data is like a red flag telling me I need to re-evaluate my decision to exclude that keyword.

Insights should prove to be an even more valuable tool when Google rolls it out more widely. Responding to advertisers with this tool is especially helpful now because there are limitations on what we can do in a world of automated bid strategies. It’s nice to have more data to support human decision making.

For more information about insights, read this useful article from Search Engine Roundtable.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We have the inside scoop on new ad tools such as Insights. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Best Practices in Applying Analytics to Digital Marketing Campaigns for Retail

Analytics Retail Analytics Spotlights

The-Marketing-ScopeThe retail industry depends heavily on digital marketing, and consequently, that makes online advertising very competitive. The online marketplace brings additional challenges that don’t exist in the brick-and-mortar world. Products, prices and even competitors change rapidly, sometimes by the minute.

To have any hope of achieving a positive return on advertising expenditures, online retailers must analyze what is working and what isn’t. While most digital marketers have an analytics program, such as Google Analytics, in place, more than half of them aren’t using analytics effectively.

These issues were the focus of a conversation I had with Eric Vidal, an Editor & Chief Content Officer, on this episode of “Marketing Mash,” a video series produced by The Marketing Scope. Watch the video, “Why Digital Marketing Analytics Is Important for Retail Sales,” to learn some best practices in applying analytics to digital marketing campaigns.

Close Variant Matching: How to Know When “Close Enough” Is Good Enough

Close Variant Matching Spotlights

Horseshoes ClusterAbout 18 months ago, Google AdWords made a significant change in how keywords trigger ads. If you use Phrase and Exact Match ads, AdWords also now automatically uses Close Variant Matching. Previously, this was the default but you could – and many did – opt out of it. Now, that’s not possible.

What does this change mean and why should you care? We cover that in some detail in “Horseshoes, Hand Grenades…and Now Google Close Variant Matching,” which was originally published on The Social Media Monthly (February 2, 2015.)

The Social Media MonthlyBut the short answer is this change means your costs could rise and control over your keywords could drop – if you don’t actively manage your campaigns. For example, if you use “hard drive” in an ad group, it could be shown to people who search for “hardly driven” used cars. That’s not exactly an ideal prospect for you.

However, Close Variant Matching can be extremely beneficial to you by pulling in “hits” from people who misspell, mistype or fall victim to dreaded “autocorrect” errors. Close Variant Matching also accommodates abbreviations and acronyms, so you can gain exposure for some terms without having to pay for another keyword.

We explained this in the Google AdWords Workshop: How Consistent Evaluation & Consolidated Keywords Yield Greater Exposure with Your Prospects. You can review the presentation from that workshop below.

In many cases, “Close enough” might be good enough. That’s your call. Once you understand how Close Variant Matching works and how you can regain control over your Google AdWords campaigns, you’ll be in a better position to make the right decision for your business.

Nuts & Bolts: Why Mobile is Important to Your Paid Search Strategy

Analytics Mobile Nuts & Bolts

In this installment of the “Nuts & Bolts” series, which digs into the nitty gritty of paid search, I want to share with you some valuable findings on the importance of mobile in your paid search strategy.

In a PPC Workshop I presented recently, I outlined five ways analytics makes paid search campaigns better. Further, I recapped the three-part series on mobile search that explained the driving forces behind the explosion of mobile search (and why it will continue to increase), what this means to marketers, and how this affects your paid search strategy.

Links for further reading and learning occur throughout the slides. And if you would like to share the workshop, we’ve posted to SlideShare for your convenience. Just click on the LinkedIn button or the file’s title to be immediately signed into the SlideShare site.