What the Google Marketing Live 2018 Keynote means for Search

Like most areas in digital, the search space is evolving at a pace that makes it difficult to keep up. Perhaps this is because the way people use search is also constantly changing. In 2018, search helps people find what they want to do, know, see, buy, even eat and drink, exactly when they’re looking for it. And users are always seeking quicker, more relevant results with increasingly minimal effort.

As a Google Premier Partner, we were offered direct access to watch Google Marketing Live 2018 in real time from the comfort of the Equator office, here are the most important developments we took from the keynote and we think they will mean for the search marketing landscape going forward.

Responsive Search Ads

When it comes to ad copy, relevance is key. Google wants to ensure that when a user wants or needs something, Google remains the go-to guy for information. And the more relevant an ad is, the more likely a user is to click on it and ultimately convert.

Harnessing this performance information to create more relevant ads will make a brand’s PPC budget go further but comparing performance metrics across search terms and ad copy makes for a laborious task. Not anymore says Google, thanks to responsive search ads.

With this new functionality, Google learns which combinations of keywords and ad copy perform best together, and optimises your ads accordingly. All you need to do is provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines.

The main benefit here is that ads should become more relevant to the user’s search, increasing CTR, conversions and ultimately, return on the advertiser’s investment. Google claims using the new feature will increase clicks by up to 15%.

The ads themselves will be slightly different, with the potential for three headlines and two descriptions. This increased flexibility also offers more potential for ads to reach new customers. Plus, from a campaign perspective, responsive ads take a lot of manual work out of reviewing ad copy and keyword performance, particularly for large campaigns with many different ad groups.

Responsive search ads are currently in beta and will be rolled out over the next few months.

Cross-Device Reporting and Remarketing

As smartphone usage continues to grow, so too does mobile’s dominance of the search landscape. Getting a view of the user journey across devices has never been more important for marketers looking to capture and retain customers. Cross-device reporting and remarketing claims to do just that.

Whereas before Google Analytics would provide session metrics separately for mobile and desktop, advertisers can now see the data consolidated across devices. There are 3 new cross-device reports in Google Analytics:

  1. The Device Overlap Reportorganises data across devices into one analysis, offering a better view of users’ behaviour.
  2. The Device Paths Report provides data allowing marketers a better view of how users go from one device to the other within their journey, allowing for better optimisation of device-specific experiences.
  3. The Acquisition Device Report shows how many users acquired on a device convert on that device, versus those who convert on another device, versus those who don’t convert at all. This provides a fuller picture on the role each device plays in attracting and converting customers.

All of this allows advertisers to provide better experiences depending on what device their audience is using. Jesse Savage, Director of Product Management at Google Analytics gives the example of a travel advertiser: “With the new Acquisition Device report, you may find that a lot of your customers first come to your website on mobile to do their initial research before booking a trip later on desktop. Based on that insight, you might choose to prioritise mobile ad campaigns to reach people as they start to plan their trip.”

Local Campaigns

According to Google, customers still make most of their purchases in physical stores, meaning driving customers to a physical location remains a key imperative for many businesses. As such, Google have announced new Local campaigns.

With Local campaigns, advertisers provide their business location, ad creative and budget, and Google optimises ads across Search, Display, YouTube, Maps and Place Pages to drive traffic to a physical store location. As Google’s mapping capabilities continue to improve, Local campaigns can report on physical store visits using anonymous data from Google users who have turned on location history.

As well as this, advertisers using Smart Shopping Campaigns, which optimises ad placement according to goals such as revenue and return on ad spend (ROAS), will also benefit from Google’s announcement that it has added 2 new goals to the mix – store visits and new customers.

Tracking physical conversions adds another measurable goal to a marketer’s tool kit, providing even more opportunity to grow their customer base and ultimately, their business.

Local campaigns will be rolled out over the next few months.

Other Announcements

Smart Campaigns

A few weeks ago, Google also announced Smart campaigns. This is an (almost) fully automated campaign type which can be set up in minutes across the Search and Display networks. Google allows you to set goals such as driving calls, and Smart campaigns will automatically optimise your ad for when people are searching for your business and include, for example, a call extension, allowing them to call straight from the ad.

Smart campaigns are designed for smaller and local business who may not have the resources to set up and manage fuller campaigns. Machine learning allows Smart campaigns to show ads based on things like behavioural signals, location and device type. This means businesses can reach new customers, even with little time and resources. However, there are some drawbacks. Campaign type delivers ads across channels, but users won’t have the option to turn channels off. As well as this, reporting will be offered at a high level only.

Smart campaigns will be rolled out globally by the end of the year.

Hotel Campaigns

Hotel ads have been running since 2010 and, according to Google, partners experienced year on year lead growth of 65% in 2018. This growth has led Google to integrate hotel ads into the new Google Ads platform within the new Hotel campaign type, allowing advertisers to manage hotel ads from the same place as everything else.

Google also announced a redesigned Hotel Center, replacing the Hotel Ads Center, and claims their new platform will offer a simpler way to manage and optimise hotel price feeds.

Landing Page Speed Score

Finally, Google announced a new performance metric in Analytics: landing page speed score. This gives advertisers insight into the length of time it takes their pages to load and how this affects campaign performance. Speed scores are based on a 10-point scale and are updated daily. This new feature should allow advertisers to easily identify the specific pages that need optimised, freeing up time to focus on more important aspects of campaign management.

Final Thoughts

Amongst a variety of new developments, cross-device reporting and remarketing got the biggest wow in the audience at Google’s Marketing Live keynote, as it offers marketers a deeper and more comprehensive overview of the user journey. Responsive search ads were another big hitter, using machine learning to enhance audience reach. A final key announcement was that advertisers can now track physical conversions such as store visits, thanks to local and smart shopping campaigns.

So, whether you’re a small, local business looking to grow your customer base, or an online travel agency searching for efficiencies to drive your strategic goals, there’s plenty to be excited about from Search in 2018. If you want to discuss implementing any of the updates from Google Marketing Live into your project, please don't hesistate to get in touch.