Google Ruffles Feathers with Suggested Search

Google Ruffles Feathers with Suggested Search

Search

One of Google’s many useful search features is the “users also searched for” suggestion that appears in your search results. When you make a query for, say, car insurance or car loans, Google suggests similar phrases or words that people are also using. It’s a great feature, right? But not everyone thinks so.

Here’s why Google is ruffling some feathers with suggested search: businesses have begun to notice that Google has been dropping suggested searches amid advertising results. And those suggested searches can lead people to an advertiser’s competitor sites – potentially hijacking the ad. For instance, as depicted in Search Engine Land, if you search for car loans, Google may serve up ads for car loan offers, but then also tell you that people are also searching for car loan rates, new car loans, and other similar phrases:

The problem is that if you click on the eight suggested searches depicted in the above options, you may very well be taken to a site that competes with the advertisers such as Lending Tree and CarMax where the suggested searches appear – which is hardly good news for Lending Tree or CarMax.

Why Suggested Search Is Good for Advertisers

As Search Engine Land reported, advertisers are annoyed. But maybe they shouldn’t be. Here’s why:

  • If your ads are compelling with good creative and strong calls to action, you have nothing to worry about.
  • With the suggested searches, Google is providing ideas for you to test copy and to bid on keywords that might have escaped your notice.

By meeting the needs of users first, Google might actually be helping advertisers.

What do you think?

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/

Amazon’s Advertising Business Explodes

Amazon’s Advertising Business Explodes

Marketing

 

Is there anything Amazon cannot do?

In its second quarter earnings announcement, Amazon reported another stellar performance, with earnings that far exceeded analysts’ projections. Its growth was uniformly strong across its businesses, ranging from its cloud computing operation, Amazon Web Services, to its core retail store.

The most intriguing aspect of Amazon’s growth is the way its advertising arm is faring.  As Reuters reported, “Highly profitable ad sales were a bright spot last quarter. The company said revenue from the category and some other items grew 132 percent to $2.2 billion. Analysts were expecting $2.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.”

The company has now been profitable for three straight years. And although online advertising is not the biggest reason for that profitability, it’s becoming crucial to the company’s future, as Amazon continues to look for ways to counterbalance eroding margins from retail. What’s more, advertising growth means Amazon threatens Google and Facebook, with Facebook’s stock being battered in recent days as its advertising business faces a downturn. The Wall Street Journal sums up Amazon’s advertising growth as follows:

Amazon’s advantage is that it can tell advertisers when a consumer bought a product, showing an ad’s effectiveness. Amazon also is attracting spending that would have traditionally taken place in brick-and-mortar stores to ensure good shelf placement.

“Stepping back, it’s now a multibillion-dollar business for us,” Mr. Olsavsky said.

The hundreds of thousands of customers buying up ads include merchants and brands selling on the site, as well as authors and other advertisers who want to reach Amazon customers. The company is going to keep working on automating more of the process and inventing new products, too.

As we have noted on our blog, Amazon is growing its advertising services the way Google has always done: by offering tools that make it easier to rely on Amazon as an advertiser. For instance, Amazon’s Marketing Services and Advertising Platform products offer options ranging from Sponsored Products (a keyword-based campaign promoting a single product) to Amazon Managed Service (Amazon manages display ads on an advertiser’s behalf). These products make it possible to capitalize on Amazon’s increasing popularity as a search platform.

Amazon is building a strong advertising ecosystem that is now extending beyond its core website. As Amazon develops more advertising products, the company will continue to threaten Facebook and Google. Our advice to clients: pay attention to Amazon’s growth and begin to experiment with Amazon advertising if you have not done so already. Get smart on the platform. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

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.

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Apple Plays Catch-up with Voice at WWDC

Marketing

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple showcased a new and improved Siri voice assistant, which was a must-do for a company that pioneered voice only to fall behind competitors such as Amazon and Google.

As we have discussed on our blog, voice is without question an important wave of innovation fueling how businesses interact with their customers. In her widely read Internet Trends report, Kleiner Perkins Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker said, “With voice, we’ve hit technology liftoff with word accuracy, and we’ve certainly hit product liftoff with Amazon Echo’s install base estimated to be around 30 million plus.”

Indeed, adoption of smart speakers alone has skyrocketed in the United States. According to NPR/Edison Research findings, 39 million Americans owned smart speakers in January 2018, an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Businesses such as Jim Beam are literally figuring out their brand voices through voice assistants. Jim Beam, for instance, offers a playful bourbon container that relies on a voice assistant.

Apple knows voice is the future, but the company has struggled to shape that future. Its Siri voice assistant is widely viewed as a weak alternative to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, and the HomePod smart speaker didn’t launch until 2018 (to tepid reviews). At WWDC, Apple did not unveil any dramatic breakthroughs in voice, but it did showcase some tangible improvements to Siri.

First off, Apple has made Siri more efficient by incorporating short-cut commands through an app known literally as Shortcuts. With Shortcuts, users can rely on commonly used commands that Siri learns to act on. The idea is to make Siri more convenient. As Mark Vena of Moor Insights & Strategy noted, “Shortcuts could also be used to help proactively plan for your day. For example, if you were about to go to the beach, Siri might suggest that you check the weather and remember to bring a beach towel with you.”

But as Vena also wrote, Amazon and Google have already developed a short-cut capability in their own voice assistants. The more interesting development from WWDC is how Apple is making Siri smarter. The voice assistant can actually learn from the way you use Siri to suggest to you activities based on your habits. For instance, Siri might suggest to a cup of coffee at a time of day when the user often seeks coffee. But here again, Apple is achieving status quo instead of leading. As Kevin C. Tofel wrote on Stacey on IoT, “If you open the same exercise tracking app at roughly the same time and location — say at the gym at 5pm — Siri will eventually pop up a suggestion to open the app at the same time and place for you. This is similar to Google Assistant, which I love, but it’s just Siri starting to catch up since Google’s product  has done this for nearly five years now. In fact, I get my contextual alerts on the Apple Watch from the Google Assistant app today, although I’ll test Siri in this capacity once watchOS 5 arrives.”

Amazon is leading the marketplace for voice-based products and experiences and possesses a formidable platform with which to integrate voice to search, discover, and buy. Google and Microsoft are strong challengers. Apple is still catching up. But don’t count out Apple. The company has the money, talent, and patience to get where it needs to be.

 

 

Mobile, Voice, Amazon, and Personalization: Four Big Themes from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

Mobile, Voice, Amazon, and Personalization: Four Big Themes from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

Marketing

The Internet Trends 2018 report from Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins is a must read for any advertiser. This sprawling report – a presentation, really – provides pithy insights into the state of digital and offers clues for how advertisers should invest their time and money. Mary Meeker released the report on May 30 and delivered its findings at the annual Code Conference. We reviewed all 300 pages and came up with the following key observations from just some of the content:

  • We’re increasingly online and mobile. U.S. adults are online 5.9 hours per day, and 3.3 of those hours – or more than half of our time — were spent on mobile. Both these numbers represent steady increases year over year. In 2010, adults were online a total of 3.2 hours per day, which doesn’t even match how many hours we’re on our mobile devices today. With more of consumers’ time going online, it follows that more brands need to be, as well.

  • Voice has reached a tipping point. The Amazon Echo now has more than 30 million users, which is astonishing for a product that launched only a few years ago. In addition, thanks to artificial intelligence, voice assistants are accurate enough to achieve widespread adoption. Businesses need to be thinking of how they express their brands through voice. And with the advent of tools such as Alexa Blueprints that make creating voice-based experiences easier, businesses need to start understanding how voice-first interfaces change the way their customers interact with them in industries such as retail.

  • Large technology companies are converging around advertising and commerce. Amazon, traditionally a commerce platform, is expanding its advertising services as more and more people rely on Amazon as their primary search engine. Meanwhile, Google, which built a robust online advertising business, is expanding into commerce with services such as Google Home Ordering, which makes Google Home a vessel for doing business with Walmart. Amazon is an advertising destination even for businesses that don’t have any products on Amazon. Just capturing a share of eyeballs on Amazon is motivation enough to advertise on Amazon.

  • Despite concerns about user privacy, people are willing to give up personal data if they can get a personal experience. As Meeker pointed out at the Recode conference where she delivered the report, “With personalization, data improves engagement in experiences and drives growth and scrutiny. Personal collective data provides better experiences for consumers. They’re 2.2 billion Facebooks, 200 million Pinterests, 170 million Spotifies and 125 million Netflixes . . . People putting their data into these products to make their experiences better and then there’s the collective data of many other users that effect a lot of real time products, whether it’s Waze or SnapMap or NextDoor, or Uber Pool.” What this finding tells us is that despite all the bad press that Facebook has received for the way it manages our personal data, everyday consumers are going to remain receptive to businesses asking them to share personal data because the overall value delivered exceeds the occasional negative headline.

We believe that advertising will continue to become more mobile – and, as artificial intelligence adoption ramps up, even more personal. Meanwhile, Mary Meeker’s report offers a useful snapshot for what the near-term future holds. Contact us for more insight into how to grow your brand in the digital world.

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.