Google Fights Amazon through Location-Based Advertising

Google Fights Amazon through Location-Based Advertising

Google

Amazon is gunning for Google. A recently published report by Forrester says that Amazon Advertising will have a break-out year in 2020, leveraging its popularity as a search platform to make its booming online advertising business an even bigger threat to Google than it is. Currently, Amazon is the third-largest online advertising platform – still far behind Google and Facebook in terms of market share, but rapidly growing.

But Google has many cards to play, and strengthening its advertising services at the local level is a big one.

Location-Based Digital Advertising Is Big Business

Location-based digital advertising is big business, as brick-and-mortar establishments capitalize on increasingly prolific tools such as search and display to attract customers. As well they should: in 2018, Google reported that the number of “near me” searches on Google has risen by 500 percent over a period of two years, meaning an explosion of searches for people seeking things to do, places to go, and purchases to make near their location. Google has seen an opportunity to monetize that kind of search behavior and acted on it.

How Google Is Developing Location-Based Advertising Tools

Here are some examples of Google products for businesses to use in order to attract those near me searches to their locations:

  • Promoted Pins. Google is barely scratching the surface for using Google Maps as an advertising platform. I mentioned local search ads on Google Maps above. But that’s not the only way to advertise there. Businesses can also use tools such as Promoted Pins, which are visually appealing markers that make a business’s location stand out. Earlier in 2019, Bloomberg discussed how Google is evolving Google Maps with more advertising tools. Especially as more cars integrate mapping technology, Google is going to place even more advertising emphasis here.
  • Location extensions.These make it possible for a business to show an address, phone number, and a map marker along with its ad text. There are two types of these extensions: Google Ads location extensions help people find a location by showing ads with address, a map to a location, or the distance to a business. And Affiliate location extensions help people find nearby stores of a retail chain that sell your products. Per Google, the Affiliate location extensions tool is useful if you sell your products through retail chains and want to reach consumers when they are deciding what and where to buy.
  • Google My Business. Google My Business (GMB) is the central repository for a company’s locations. Technically being on GMB is an organic play, and your GMB listing is crucial. It’s really like a second website. When businesses claim a GMB listing for a location, they can enrich it with location information, deep content describing their business, visual information, customer Q&As, and reviews. GMB is actually the most important local ranking signal on Google. But note the tie-in to advertising. Google allows a business to link its GMB to its online advertising via the location extensions I mentioned above. Doing so makes a business’s GMB an even more powerful tool to attract customers.
  • Local Services by Google. Google launched this offering to help businesses such as plumbers and contractors that provide services at a customer’s location. Businesses that participate in the program have their ads appear above search results (even paid search results). The compensation model is pay per lead, meaning that the advertiser pay only for leads resulting from the ad as opposed to clicks. Local Services ads complement paid search.

These and other location-based advertising tools will give Google a strong base to fight Amazon in 2020. Google has an already vibrant advertising business. Google didn’t become the leading online platform by sitting still. About half of all Google searches stay on Google properties, meaning people searching for things find what they need from search results without clicking through to a website. In 2020, look for Google to further monetize this ecosystem through local advertising.

Contact True Interactive

To learn more about how you can succeed with online advertising, including on Google, contact True Interactive.

Will Increased Scrutiny Make Google More Transparent?

Will Increased Scrutiny Make Google More Transparent?

Advertising Google

It’s been a tough week for Google from a PR standpoint.

On November 11, The Wall Street Journal published a story about how Google has been collecting Americans’ personal health data as part of an ambitious foray into healthcare. Although Google was not accused of any wrongdoing, the examination of its data collection practices resulted in the announcement of a federal probe. And then to cap off the week, on November 15, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy article, “How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results.”

Let’s just say the title of that second article captured plenty of interest in the advertising world.

Do Google’s Actions Match Its Message?

The November 15 article, like the article about Project Nightingale, did not accuse Google of doing anything illegal. But The Wall Street Journal painted a picture of a company whose actions are not always aligned with its statements. For instance, The Wall Street Journal pointed out examples of Google intervening to manage search results contrary to what Google says on its blog, “We do not use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Google:

  • Weeds out more-incendiary suggestions in the search auto-complete function.
  • Has made algorithmic changes to search results that favor big companies over smaller ones and “in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser,eBay, contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc.  . . . .” (The comment about Facebook and Amazon is especially interesting given how Amazon and Facebook compete with Google for advertising revenue.)
  • Employs thousands of contractors whose job is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. “Even so,” says The Wall Street Journal, “contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.”

For me one of the most fascinating details in the article is the inference that Google’s advertising growth has influenced how the company treats businesses on Google. According to the article:

Some very big advertisers received direct advice on how to improve their organic search results, a perk not available to businesses with no contacts at Google, according to people familiar with the matter. In some cases, that help included sending in search engineers to explain a problem, they said.

One former executive at a Fortune 500 company that received such advice said Google frequently adjusts how it crawls the web and ranks pages to deal with specific big websites.

Google updates its index of some sites such as Facebook and Amazon more frequently, a move that helps them appear more often in search results, according to a person familiar with the matter.

For its part, Google said it does not provide specialized guidance to website owners. Google said that faster indexing of a site isn’t a guarantee that it will rank higher. “We prioritize issues based on impact, not any commercial relationships,” a Google spokeswoman said.

I would urge any business to take the time to read the article. Here again, this is not an exposé of wrongdoing but rather an in-depth examination of how well Google’s practices align with its words.

The Core Issue: Transparency

Google is certainly not alone in facing increased scrutiny for its management of data and its relationship with advertisers, and the heat Google is experiencing right now is nothing compared to the firestorm that Facebook is enduring.

To me, the core issue of the November 15 article is this: transparency. Google’s practice of holding its cards close to the vest has created an impression of a business that has something to hide – perhaps not a fair impression, but as they say, perception is reality. As Google manages the fallout from the November 15 story, I do think we may see some interesting outcomes for advertisers:

  • Smaller businesses — which the article characterizes as second-class citizens groveling for fair consideration — may receive more responsiveness than they typically get from the advertising giant when issues arise that demand attention.
  • All businesses may see more transparency from Google, such as how the algorithm works and the explicit impact of the many algorithm changes that Google enacts through the year. A message of “Trust us – we know what we’re doing” just isn’t going over very well. At the same time, Google needs to protect its intellectual property, and the company says that revealing too much of how the algorithm works will make it easier for parties with bad intentions to game the system. It will be fascinating to see how Google reconciles these factors amid increased scrutiny.

In many ways, Google is grappling with issues that social media platforms do all the time – providing an open forum for the exchange of ideas among people while at the same time making it possible for businesses to succeed through advertising and commerce. What exactly goes on behind the scenes to represent the interests of both people and businesses is not always clear. But that situation may change soon.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we live in the world of online advertising. We know how to help businesses succeed with Google, Facebook, Amazon, and many other advertising platforms. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

3 Ways to Gear up for Black Friday with Online Advertising

3 Ways to Gear up for Black Friday with Online Advertising

Advertising Google

Black Friday is coming in hot! We’re already seeing an explosion of deals. For instance, Walmart has gone live with a wave of reductions and early Black Friday deals. Amazon’s Black Friday “preview” features a smart home device bundle deal. And not to be outdone, on November 8, Target celebrated “HoliDeals” with a two-day Black Friday preview sale.

As we discussed in our recent blog post, “3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season,” Black Friday is more than a day. It’s more like a season unto itself. And as the examples above illustrate, more retailers are responding by not only extending Black Friday hours, but actual deals, beyond the day. As a consequence, advertising begins early, too, and carries over into Cyber Monday.

Don’t want to get left behind? Here are some ways to stay competitive with your Black Friday offerings:

1 Put Google to Work for You

Maximize the value of Google’s many advertising tools to showcase your Black Friday sales and your merchandise. These tools include Black Friday promotion extensions, which allow advertisers to get granular with specifics in their text ad promotions, without cutting into established character counts. And note that Google’s Black Friday-specific ad units, as distinguished from the typical promotion extension, will drive your ad to prime placement so that it shows up at the top of the SERP under “Black Friday Deals.”

2 Be Visual

It should go without saying that Black Friday means turning it up a notch with visual storytelling. This is a time to make your merchandise pop. Fortunately tools exist to make it easier on platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Instagram.

As we’ve noted, Google’s Showcase Shopping Ads take a common-sense approach to advertising. Using Showcase Shopping Ads, brands can visually group related products, and in the process merchandise them more effectively. Google recently blogged about how retailers such as Urban Outfitters are benefitting from Showcase Shopping Ads. According to Google:

Urban Outfitters is one example of a retailer using Showcase Shopping ads to get into the consideration set and inspire those new to their brand. Urban Outfitters expanded their Showcase Shopping ads to 50 key categories across apparel, home decor, and beauty. Overall, they saw a 241 percent CTR lift across campaigns running Showcase Shopping ads, with 52 percent of those customers being new. Moreover, Urban Outfitters saw a 186 percent increase in sales from new customers via Showcase Shopping ads (compared to reactivated customers).

In addition, Google recently announced it has improved Showcase Shopping Ads by expanding them into Google Images. Moreover, Google also announced it is making YouTube more shoppable. You get the idea: Google wants advertisers to rely on Google to reach customers.

Meanwhile, Instagram and Facebook Stories are a brilliant way for advertisers to draw potential customers with appealing content that incorporates a narrative and interactive elements. In a survey by research firm Ipsos, 62 percent of respondents reported becoming interested in a product after discovering it via Stories, and more than half indicated they make more purchases online due to Stories.

Finally, Amazon, now the third-largest online ad platform behind Google and Facebook, offers tools like Sponsored Products (which promotes products to shoppers who are using certain keywords, or viewing similar products on Amazon) and Sponsored Brands Display Ads (through which advertisers can upload a customized creative). Amazon provides more insight into these products here.

3 Go Mobile

As we recently blogged, the 2018 holiday season marked the first time smart phones accounted for more than half of all visits to websites during the holidays. Brands are wise to embrace mobile—and deliver a great experience on their site, regardless of where consumers are accessing it from. You don’t want to lose customers to an online experience that reliably delivers from a PC or laptop, but not a smart phone. A failed purchase from a smart phone may result in . . . no purchase at all.

Contact True Interactive

Need help making the most of the opportunities Black Friday affords? Contact us.

Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

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.

Contact True Interactive

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.

Contact True Interactive

To learn more about advertising opportunities online, Contact us.

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.