Why You Shouldn’t Move Your Online Advertising Budget From Google to Amazon

Why You Shouldn’t Move Your Online Advertising Budget From Google to Amazon

Google

In the advertising world, the meteoric rise of Amazon Advertising is capturing a lot of buzz and inspiring commentary, including posts we’ve published on our own blog. At the same, Amazon Advertising’s biggest competitors, Google and Facebook, are as strong as ever. Consider the growth of Google’s own advertising business, which dominates the world of online advertising, even as Google’s share of the online ad market drops slightly, per eMarketer. Here’s the skinny:

Alphabet Reports Strong Earnings

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, surprised analysts recently by reporting stronger-than-expected earnings. As reported in Search Engine Land, Google produced $32.6 billion in advertising revenue in Alphabet’s second quarter. That’s a 22 percent increase year after year, and an uptick after several quarters of slowing growth.

The surge in advertising revenue for Google has a lot to do with Alphabet’s strong earnings. And advertising simply grew a lot better than expected. As Business Insider reported, “A resurgence in Google’s core advertising business, after a weak performance in the first quarter of the year . . . pushed Google’s net revenue up.” Interestingly, the earnings report came out on the same day that Amazon announced mixed results.

Why did Google Report Strong Growth for Its Advertising Business?

No one knows exactly why Google’s been nailing it with its advertising, because the company remains mum about the details. But as The Street pointed out, YouTube probably had something to do with it. Ruth Porat, Google’s Chief Financial Officer, revealed that YouTube revenue represented the second-highest growth of any segment for the search behemoth. And as management noted, “[W]e are building momentum with our subscription services, YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, now available in over 60 countries, up from five markets at the start of 2018.”

We also believe Google is succeeding because the company isn’t standing still and taking success for granted. As we discussed on our own blog, Google continues to launch new features and tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) to help advertisers launch smarter, more targeted campaigns. The headline is this: whether through paid search ads or display ads, Google has been making it easier for advertisers to do the work.

What You Should Do

What does Google’s trajectory mean to the savvy marketer? We recommend that you:

  • Stay abreast of the industry, and keep your options open. That includes staying calm in the face of inevitable fluctuation. For example, according to ad industry sources, some advertisers are defecting from Google and moving 50 to 60 percent of their ad budgets to Amazon. But news like this isn’t a reason to get rattled—or abandon Google. It doesn’t mean advertising should be an either/or between Amazon, Google, or Facebook. Ebbs and flows notwithstanding, the opportunities Google represents can’t be discounted. And no matter how much Amazon grows, Google is not going away. Brands that devote all their advertising resources to one outlet are likely to get burned—or miss out on opportunity.
  • Understand how Google is evolving. Google will continue to grow its ad business, drawing on several key advantages:
    • A head start in using AI with the specific aim of making advertising smarter and more effective. It’s true: AI is hot, and Google faces competition from Amazon and Facebook in this arena. But as noted above, the company is holding its own with a battery of AI tools.
    • An established global presence that reflects Google’s efforts to tailor advertising products in support of international ad campaigns.

Google continues to sense and respond to consumer tastes, even when Google’s profit motive is not evident. A good example is the forthcoming release of Stadia, the cloud-based gaming platform that Google announced recently. How Google will make money off Stadia is not clear immediately. But one thing is clear: Google is finding a way to keep people using Google by launching new products accessible through Google.

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Contact us to learn more about how online advertising might figure into your strategy. We’re here to help.

What Is Stadia?: Advertiser Q&A

What Is Stadia?: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Over the last decade, streaming has become one of the most disruptive forces media, changing the way we experience everything from movies to music. Now Google, with a new cloud-based gaming platform called Stadia, hopes to use streaming to irrevocably shape the way we play. Here are answers to questions you may have about it.

What Is Stadia?

Stadia is Google’s new cloud-based gaming service that will be accessible through multiple mobile devices including PCs, laptops, smartphones, and smart televisions and tablets. Instead of purchasing a game at a brick-and-mortar store or downloading a title on their console, gamers will simply stream the games running on Google’s cloud servers. As announced at Google Stadia Connect and Gamescom 2019 in August, the catalog currently includes 39 games ranging from Cyberpunk 2077 to Mortal Kombat 11, Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle, and Kine.

According to John Justice, VP of product for Google Stadia, the goal is to bring “all the games you’d expect to have” to Stadia, as well as games “only possible in the cloud.” Games are streamed from Google’s constantly upgraded servers, which means players don’t have to monitor (or wait for) downloads or updates.

And the platform is meant to allow for the multiple ways gamers play. As Google VP Phil Harrison told Eurogamer, “[The word ‘Stadia’ is] the plural of stadiums . . . A stadium is a place where you can have, obviously, sports, but it’s also a place where you can have entertainment. And so we wanted that to be our brand idea, which was a place for all the ways that we play and this idea of watching, playing, participating . . . where you could take a slightly ‘lean-back’ view of a game [if you wanted to]. You don’t necessarily have to be leaning into every last button press per second of a game.”

When Does Stadia Go Live?

Google Stadia’s Founder’s Edition will be released in November 2019 in 14 territories including the United States, UK, and Canada. Those who opt for the Founder’s Edition will drop $130—less than the price of a new PS4—for a Chromecast Ultra and a limited-edition “Night Blue” controller. These early adopters will receive not only the hardware, but also three months of free premium service (called “Stadia Pro”—more details below). They’ll also receive a three-month “Buddy Pass” so that a friend can also enjoy Stadia Pro.

Why Is Google Interested in Gaming?

A shift into the video game business may seem like a big move for Google, but gaming is a lucrative industry. According to market analysis firm Newzoo, the video game industry produced roughly $135 billion in sales in 2018. GlobalData predicts that number will balloon to $300 billion by 2025.

Who Is Google Competing against with Stadia?

As far as game streaming is concerned, Google isn’t the only company exploring this new frontier. Microsoft is in the midst of planning its own offering, called xCloud. Twitch is a well-known and popular platform owned by Amazon subsidiary Twitch Interactive and introduced in 2011, which focuses on video game live streaming.  And Playstation Now, from Sony, allows PlayStation owners to instantly access a library of (mostly older) games for $99 a year, even as Sony promises to take that service “to the next level later this year.” Meanwhile, Apple will launch its own subscription gaming service, Arcade, September 19.

How Will Google Make Money off Stadia?

Although Stadia has been predicted to be the “Netflix of games,” the analogy isn’t a perfect one: Stadia is not primarily a subscription service. Gamers should expect to purchase, not rent, the games they play using the service (with the exception of some free releases). As Google’s director of games Jack Buser told The Verge, “We will sell these games like any other digital storefront.”

The service itself comes in two tiers:

  • Players can get Google Stadia for free via Stadia Base, which is due out in 2020 and will allow streaming of purchased games with stereo sound. The catch? Gamers won’t have access to free game releases when they occur.
  • To get all features, including 5.1 surround sound and access to the free game library, users will pay $10/month for Stadia Pro.

What we no one knows yet is what kind of advertising opportunities might exist with Stadia. Knowing Google, the company will figure out an ad model to support its online advertising business, which is fending off the rising popularity of Amazon Advertising and long-standing competitor Facebook. Stay tuned.

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What Advertisers Should Do about Zero-Click Searches on Google

What Advertisers Should Do about Zero-Click Searches on Google

Google

Bad news for businesses in their ongoing efforts to optimize their websites for search traffic: for the first-time ever, more than half of search queries on Google result in no clicks to sites. According to marketing analytics firm Jumpshot, most people who search for content from Google find what they want from the search engine results page and don’t bother to click through to a website for more information. What happens on Google stays on Google.

In addition, per Jumpshot, Google continues to send “a huge portion of search clicks to their own properties . . . Those properties include YouTube, Maps, Android, Google’s blog, subdomains of Google.com, and a dozen or so others.”

Why the Rise in Zero-Click Searches?

Why the rise in zero-click searches? Because more than ever, Google is doing its job serving up essential information in response to queries. Over the years, Google has made it possible for business owners to build out rich, informative Google My Business (GMB) pages with information ranging from offers to customer/ratings reviews. Those pages form the foundation for businesses to be found on Google properties such as Google Maps.

GMB pages have become so useful and informative that people are finding what they want (“Find a grocery store near me”) in the knowledge panel of a business without needing to go to a business’s website. In fact, a company’s GMB page is now the single-most important way to attract local search traffic, according to Moz.

Meanwhile it’s no surprise that Google sends a huge proportion of clicks to its own sites. Facing rising competition from Amazon Advertising, Google is under pressure to keep its advertising business strong. To do so, Google needs to keep eyeballs on Google properties, where users are exposed to Google advertising (in May, we noted on our blog that Google is expanding its ad business on Google Maps, to name just one example).

What Advertisers Should Do about Zero-Click Searches

So what should advertisers do? You should:

  • Build up your GMB page. If organic queries are increasingly going to your GMB and staying there, then make sure you’ve optimized your GMB content – including images, customer ratings/reviews, and location data – to be found.
  • Link your GMB account to your Google Ads account. As Google discusses in this tutorial, linking your GMB account to your Google Ads account makes it possible for your ads to appear with location extensions, which encourage customers to visit your storefront. Through location extensions, customers can see your ads with location information such as your address. And then they can get more information about your location by clicking on location extensions.
  • Make sure you’re capitalizing on Google ad products throughout the Google ecosystem. With Google keeping more searchers on Google and its properties, it behooves advertisers to capitalize on where that search activity is occurring.

In addition, Jumpshot’s Rand Fishkin suggests that advertisers seek out keywords whose results have higher click-through rate (CTR) opportunity. He told Search Engine Land, “I think paid search CTR will probably decline over the next few months. That’s because historically, each time Google changes how paid ads appear in the search results (like the late May shift to the black ‘Ad’ labels in mobile SERPs), ad CTR rises, then slowly declines as more searchers get familiar with the ad format and develop ad blindness.”

At the same time, I would be surprised if Google were to leave itself vulnerable to the risk that searchers won’t click on ads.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we know how to help businesses navigate the complex waters of online advertising, including advertising on Google. Contact us. We’re here to help.

Google Ramps Up Mobile Advertising with New Features

Google Ramps Up Mobile Advertising with New Features

Advertising Google

Over the next few years, mobile will drive nearly 90 percent of U.S. digital ad spend, according to Forrester. Businesses such as our client Snapfish are using mobile to achieve benefits such as a 343 percent increase in revenue from mobile app installs and a 756 percent return on ad spend. On May 14, Google made some major moves to accelerate our march toward a mobile advertising future:

App Deep Linking from Mobile Ads

Google announced that in coming weeks, Google will enable app deep linking from Google ads. Business that offers apps and also advertise on mobile will benefit from a more frictionless experience. Google will take users from shopping, display, and search ads right to the relevant page on your mobile app. Users with your app installed will complete a desired action (such as buying a product or booking a hotel stay) in a more personal and easier way with their check-out information pre-populated. As Google noted on its blog, “Early tests have been promising—on average, deep linked ad experiences drove 2X the conversion rates.”

In announcing app deep linking, Google shared the example of Magalu, one of Brazil’s largest retail companies. Magalu, seeing that its app was growing in popularity, enabled deep linking. According to Google, “By enabling deep linking, loyal customers who tapped on a Magalu ad were taken directly to the mobile app they already have installed, resulting in more than 40 percent growth in overall mobile purchases.”

Gallery Ads

Google also announced the launch of Gallery Ads later in 2019. Gallery Ads consist of swipeable images that will display on multiple pages on a user’s mobile phones. As Google announced,

By combining search intent with a more interactive visual format, gallery ads make it easier for you to communicate what your brand has to offer. We’ve found that, on average, ad groups including one or more gallery ad have up to 25 percent more interactions—paid clicks or swipes—at the absolute top of the mobile Search results page.

Advertisers will be able to feature up to eight images. As Search Engine Land (SEL) pointed out, one of the distinguishing features is the large carousel of swipeable images available. Per SEL, people can swipe through the images or click one to expand the gallery into a vertical view that users can then swipe down. At the end of the gallery, a call to action to visit the advertiser’s site appears.

Advertisers get charged for Gallery Ad interactions in one of two ways:

  • A cost-per-click basis when a user clicks on the headline to go to the advertiser’s website.
  • After the user swipes through three images in the gallery.

There is no word yet on an exact date when the format will appear. Advertisers can prepare now by experimenting with different ad, headline, and text options that optimize the available digital real estate.

What Advertisers Should Do

These developments have some important implications:

  • If you rely on an app to attract and service customers, creating ad experiences that link to your app is no longer ideal but is essential. As we’ve shared in our own client work, by varying ad formats wisely to account for factors such as seasonality, advertisers can make advertising and e-commerce more tightly integrated than ever.
  • Advertising on mobile is evolving to allow for more sophisticated storytelling. With a Gallery Ad, you can use multiple images to reveal new products with a series of images rather than collapsing the entire ad and offer into one image. In particular, the swipeable format makes it easier for customers to explore your products, which is especially useful for high-consideration products.

Now is the time to test and learn with Google’s new ad formats and tools. At True Interactive, we possess extensive experience helping businesses launch successful advertising online, including the use of Google products. Contact us. We are here to help.

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Google

Google continues to develop new automated bidding products that make it tempting for businesses to hand over their online advertising to Google. The latest tool is a new automated bidding option for app marketers running Google App campaign, target return on ad spend (tROAS). With tROAS, an algorithm adjusts bids higher to serve ads to people who are likely to spend more after they install an advertiser’s app. As Google announced May 8:

To grow profitably, it’s also important to also consider how much revenue you generate relative to the cost of driving those installs and actions. That’s why, you’ll soon be able to bid on a target return on ad spend (tROAS) so you can automatically pay more for users likely to spend more, and pay less for users likely to spend less. If you’re looking for users who will spend twice as much as they cost to acquire, you can set that multiplier for your tROAS bid, and it will find you the right users accordingly. tROAS will be available next month for Google App campaigns on iOS and Android globally.

I’m not surprised that Google is adding to its arsenal of bid tools. Automated bidding is important to Google. It’s a source of revenue for a business whose growth is fueled by online advertising. And based on Google’s disappointing quarterly financial results announced weeks ago, the company is feeling the pressure to improve ad revenues – which might help explain why we’re hearing more and more about automated bid tools.

Making It Easy with Automated Bid Tools

When a business lets Google handle its online advertising, Google does all the heavy lifting. You tell Google how much you are willing to bid for a keyword, and Google manages the bidding including any modification, a process illustrated here. Ideally, advertisers connect with their most relevant audiences at an optimal price. And Google rakes in revenue.

Google will tell you that automated bidding is a more efficient way to manage your campaign, and indeed Google offers many tools such as machine learning to change bids constantly.

Proceed Carefully with Automated Bid Tools

If you lack the resources and time to manage your online advertising and you want to do it all in-house, then automated bidding can be very tempting. But it’s also important that you keep in mind a few big caveats:

  • When you let Google do the driving for you, you lose control of the ability to modify a bid as your needs change, and you lose control of any targeting adjustments you might want to make.
  • You have to be comfortable that Google is representing you on its own media platform. It’s like telling a TV network to pick the shows to run your ad on and set the price for the ad for you (would you ever do that?) And yet this is the kind of conflict inherent in having Google manage ads on Google. You lose control over the ability to negotiate and set a price while Google represents your interests on its platform – and the outcome may not always be in your best interest.

You can expect Google to roll out more automated bidding tools powered by artificial intelligence, which promise to manage bid modifications more effectively.

Test the Waters

If you’re thinking of testing the waters, I suggest that you test automated bidding on a few campaigns. Don’t give Google control over your advertising right off the bat. During your test, carefully check metrics such as costs per click and costs per action. Are they improving to your satisfaction? If so, test some more campaigns with variable bids. If you decide to move forward with automated bids, then commit to staying on top of these tools so that you can learn about developments that could have an impact on your bidding strategy. Automated bidding sounds easy, but you do need to stay invested in learning as with any technology.

True Interactive has deep experience managing online advertising for clients such as these. We understand the nuances of manual and automated bidding and are happy to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Google Maps: Opportunities in Advertising

Google Maps: Opportunities in Advertising

Advertising Google

Bloomberg’s recent article speculating that Google could make Google Maps a bigger advertising platform, just as Google has done with search in general, has created a stir. On the one hand, the promise of more advertising development on Maps has generated excitement among businesses eager to become more visible on this popular navigation platform. At the same time, the news has triggered some concerns among industry watchers that advertising could become obtrusive. In fact, advertising already happens on Google Maps, and advertising holds promise so long as the ads provide value.

The Worry

As expressed in a recent BGR article, a major concern about advertising on Google Maps centers on the fear that user experience will erode: “Hopefully, Google’s reported interest in leaning on Maps as it hunts for new sources of revenue won’t mean the company goes overboard—like the way you have to scroll down past a slew of ads and highlighted results after conducting a Google Search, for example.”

This is a valid point. No one—including Google—wants to see the user experience on Google Maps become tarnished. Google needs to keep giving users reasons to stay on Google in its many forms. So the company has a strong incentive to monetize Google Maps in a way that keeps the consumer at the center of the experience.

Google appears to be honoring that commitment by exercising caution: Philipp Schindler, Google’s business chief, said at a recent conference that while Google Maps is “a really, really interesting playground [for advertising] going forward,” the basic directions provided by Google Maps are a “utility” that shouldn’t be tampered with. In other words, consumers shouldn’t be bombarded with ads when they are just looking to get from Point A to Point B.

The Reality

If history is any indicator, caution appears to be a feature of the Google Maps playbook. Technically, advertising on Google Maps is nothing new. As Bloomberg points out, “The company has tested ads in Maps for years.” And Google has proceeded thoughtfully all along, keeping the user in mind. Rajas Moonka, the director of product management for Google Maps, notes, “We’ve been pretty careful about not being very aggressive about how we present those to users because we don’t want users to feel like we’re overloading the experience.”

According to The Manifest, Google Maps ads already include features such as:

  • Promoted pins. These purple location pins are meant to stand out from the pack of familiar red location pins. When consumers tap on the Promoted Pin, which is paired with the advertising business’s logo, they access more information about the company and its products.
  • In-store promotions. A business advertising on Google Maps can show coupons and deals right on their ad.

Promotions are a great example of how an ad on Google Maps can be useful to all parties. If I search for “bookstores near me,” I am probably looking for something to buy—or I’m at least interested in browsing. If a ten-percent-off coupon from a nearby bookstore pops up during my search, I might be convinced to choose that store over another. In other words, a great promotion on Google Maps can turn a casual searcher into a bona fide customer, and prompt a scenario in which both business and consumer are winners.

What’s New Under the Sun

The Bloomberg piece isn’t suggesting that Maps is a new advertising frontier. The question being asked, rather, is are there different and more ways to use the app for advertising? We at True Interactive happen to think that the possibilities are legion. Consider the opportunities afforded if Google Maps advertising became personalized with content sponsored by different companies. In that scenario, a bookstore might serve up a personal ad on your Google Maps app based on your usage of Google Maps, just as already happens on Amazon.com when you get a personalized ad from a company that sells products on Amazon, based on your Amazon search history.

What You Can Do

In short, ads on Google Maps aren’t new, and their evolving services represent an opportunity for both businesses and consumers. We recommend that you:

  • Keep track of how Google is transforming itself.

Questions? Contact True Interactive to learn how to advertise on Google Maps and beyond.

 

 

Advertiser Q&A: Ad Customizers

Advertiser Q&A: Ad Customizers

Advertising Google

An ad customizer is an incredibly helpful tool that makes it possible for a business to make fine adjustments to an ad while the ad is still live.  The Google ad customizer is especially useful. But many businesses are not aware of the ad customizer and how it can help them. Let’s take a closer look.

1 What is an ad customizer?

An ad customizer is a feed that allows you to make changes to your ad copy while keeping that ad running 24/7. Put another way, an ad customizer makes it possible for you to make changes on the fly using a feed of business data that you swap as needed.

For example, let’s say you are a retailer running search ads for a throw blanket. Furthermore, let’s assume you need to change your ad frequently – running a 30-percent off price deal one week; then stopping the 30-percent off deal for a few weeks; and then running a 25-percent off promotion for another week depending on seasonal demand.  With an ad customizer, you can update your add accordingly in your feed while running the ad instead of having to take the ad down and create an entirely new promotion.

2 Does ad customizer work only for retail?

Any business can use ad customizer. For example, a service-area business such as a plumber or lawncare service might use an ad customizer to adapt a promotion by different zip codes in a particular city or region. A business might want to do so for a number of reasons, such as noticing an uptick in searches for plumbers or lawncare services in a particular zip code.

3 What are the benefits of using an ad customizer?

Using an ad customizer keeps your costs per click (CPC) steady. That’s because you don’t need to re-load an entirely new advertisement, which would affect your CPC. In addition, an ad customizer, when used well, can increase your click-through rate by making your content more targeted.

4 Is there a downside to using an ad customizer?

Using an ad customizer could result in an increase in CPC, but you’ll enjoy a better click-through rate, which is especially beneficial for seasonal ads or flash sales.

If you’re interested in using an ad customizer and need help, please reach out to us at True Interactive. We help businesses maximize the value of their online advertising.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash