What Is Machine Learning?: Advertiser Q&A

What Is Machine Learning?: Advertiser Q&A

Artificial Intelligence

Machine learning is affecting the way businesses operate – including how they advertise. Google, for instance, uses machine learning to help businesses optimize the performance of their search ads. But not everyone understands exactly what machine learning is. We thought we’d take a moment to break the topic down and answer some common questions.

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) in which computers literally have the ability to learn, and subsequently make increasingly more intelligent decisions. The learning happens when a computer program accesses and analyzes data — data in amounts generally too vast for humans to read through quickly or accurately. The computer looks for patterns in the data and learns automatically, without human assistance. Spotify, for instance, uses machine learning to understand the musical tastes of its subscribers in order to recommend songs that are more likely to match their interests.

Is machine learning the same as AI?

Machine learning is one aspect of AI. AI in fact encompasses many things, including:

  • Natural language processing, or NLP, a technology that equips machines to interpret what people say in words or text. Advanced NLP not only deciphers speech, it teases out context and detects nuances like sarcasm.
  • Chatbots, the programs operating inside messaging apps or on websites, which allow consumers to accomplish simple tasks like e-commerce transactions.
  • Neural networks, which are AI programs that use the human brain as a model. Neural networks incorporate aspects of AI like NLP in order to perform duties such as recognizing handwriting.
  • Dynamic pricing, in which programs use consumer data to set prices that are most likely to ensure a sale given various factors.
  • Content Curation, an aspect of AI that can be used to figure out what specific goods to recommend to consumers based on data about that consumer.

In short, AI is a supercategory describing and encompassing the many ways computers emulate the way people think and act. In the vast universe of AI, machine learning is one subcategory.

How are businesses using machine learning in online advertising?

Machine learning can help businesses test the effectiveness of different forms of advertising. Not only can it prioritize ads that are doing better, machine learning can even pinpoint what ads are performing best at certain times.

Google’s efforts to stay competitive in a field shared by powerhouses such as Amazon and Facebook exemplify an effective use of machine learning. As we recently discussed, Google’s responsive search ads and responsive display ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines, descriptions, and logos. Machine learning figures in by automatically testing various combinations of these factors and highlighting the ads that perform best.

What are some tips for succeeding with machine learning?

Like any tool, machine learning can be used wisely—or abused. To glean the best results, keep in mind that:

  • Machine learning is not a replacement for humans. Use it as a complement to human judgment.
  • Machine learning is a dynamic field. This is not a topic you can learn once and then consider it mastered. Machine learning tools evolve quickly, with new ones coming along seemingly on a weekly basis. Stay on top of the changes.

Contact True Interactive

Curious as to how machine learning can help you with your digital advertising? Contact us.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

Social media

Instagram recently made its algorithm smarter and explained to TechCrunch how the algorithm works. The headline: Instagram uses machine learning to make its feed more personal to its users. This change is good news for brands on Instagram that enjoy high levels of engagement and inspire passion. The news is bad for brands that rely on one-way messages.

By applying machine learning, the Instagram algorithm literally learns from the behavior of its users to serve up more relevant content on their feeds instead of sharing content in chronological order. If you tend to like posts about cats from the cat lovers in your Instagram universe, Instagram shares more cats. If you tend to like posts from country music star Chris Stapleton’s account, you’re going to get more Chris Stapleton posts higher up in your feed. Meanwhile, accounts you follow passively without liking very much appear lower in your feed.

Here’s how Josh Constine of TechCrunch summarized the three main factors that determine what appears more prominently in your Instagram feed:

“Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”

This change is especially great news for media/entertainment brands, such as accounts that support musicians and movie releases, which tend to create stronger, more loyal fan followings than brands in other businesses. Selena Gomez, who enjoys 138 million followers, is going to become an even more dominant force. Media brands such as National Geographic, and sports brands such as FC Barcelona and the NBA, which also enjoy millions of followers, are also likely enjoying an uptick in popularity.

But you don’t have to be a sports or media brand to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithm. The key is to create engagement by posting great visual content and by getting fans involved with your page. It’s also important to post often, for as TechCrunch noted, Instagram is placing a higher priority on more timely content.

The algorithm change may also convince more brands to work through personal influencers with large followings given the increased focus on content from accounts where Instagram perceives a closer relationship with followers.

It’s absolutely a bad idea to post content just to keep the lights on. Instagram is pushing less interesting content out of the way in favor of brands and people who work harder to make Instagram more interesting, including the use of tools such as looping Boomerangs and engaging written calls to action to go with your visuals.

For more insight on how to succeed on Instagram, contact us. We’re here to help.