Google Ads – responsible for turning the search engine into one of the most profitable businesses the tech industry has ever seen – turned 20 this year. While it has remained a state-of-the-art advertising tool every step of the way, the last five years have seen a leap forward in terms of its utility for marketers.
In this article, I’ll outline how Google Ad’s rebrand just five years ago has resulted in doubled revenue. In 2019 alone, the service brought in north of $130 billion. Here’s why:
Google had always been in the business of retargeting, but in 2015 Google revealed Customer Match. This new method of targeting allowed advertisers to utilize more wide-reaching audiences by taking affinities and interest targeting into account for the first time ever.
Using machine learning and other various forms of A.I., businesses who advertised on Google could now show ads to users who haven’t visited their websites, but might be interested in the products of services they offer.
2. YouTube Enters the Picture
When you look at the milestones in the 20-year history of Google Ads, the decision to open up user data for YouTube ads has to be in the conversation. In 2017, Google announced that both its demographic data, as well as search history, could now be used for YouTube advertisers.
Not only did this provide an immediate boost to YouTube’s a revenue (which is owned by Google), it also ushered in a new environment where data from both platforms (YouTube and Google), could be combined to further develop accurate audiences based on user interests.
One of the major improvements that has allowed Google’s advertisers to operate with more efficiency is the rise of automation. In 2018, Google announced that automation would no longer be limited to certain areas of campaigns such as bidding or dynamic headlines. This meant that marketers could no input a very limited amount of information into the system, and the machines would do the heavy lifting. Campaign components such as bidding, targeting, and even creative, all could be complied by Google’s A.I.
Another aspect of the major shift to automation was that ads would now be shown across the vast network of Google’s digital properties. Without question, this opened up the possibility of advertising to exponentially more users with ease.
4. Online to Offline
Understandably, one of the biggest challenges to small businesses is that it’s difficult (at best) to judge the effectiveness of digital marketing campaigns when the majority of sales take place in-store. Google has made strides over the past decade in this space, and through their Local Inventory Ad offerings, is continuing to expand and improve the technology.
Local Campaigns, which focus on driving customers into physical business locations, have improved significantly in terms of both targeting and attribution, as well as automation. Google’s network of services can now be optimized to deliver, and track, foot traffic from users who have viewed a business’s ad on its platforms.
While this might seem like a deviation from the trend of capitalizing on ecommerce – something that has increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic – it’s clearly that Google sees a real advantage to becoming a leader in what can only be described as an underserved market.
5. Google Shopping
This feature, while in the works for some time, got boosted to a top priority in April 2020 as the pandemic began taking over. Google Shopping had existed as an advertising service for more than a decade, but has now shifted to become a primarily free service (yes, you read that correctly).
If you’re unfamiliar with Google Shopping, it’s essentially a search engine that shows users products they might be interested in buying based on their data history or search query. It bears some semblance to Amazon, but the user experience is slightly more retailer-based, whereas Amazon is more platform-based.
The main takeaway for the sake of this article is that the results, which have long-been made up of “sponsored” listings, are now mostly organic. This continues the trend of Google investing in businesses, local in particular, and hoping to see a return on the other end.
6. Expansion of Platforms
I touched on this briefly in the section regarding automation, but it bears repeating.
Once upon a time, Google’s ads were relegated to search results and display banners. Now, it’s possible to advertise in more spaces than ever before. Google Ads are currently being served on platforms such as: search, maps, YouTube, Google Play, Google Shopping, Gmail, the display network, and even the Google newsfeed.
When looking over the vast array of options, it can be overwhelming to determine which is best for your individual goals. The good news is that the systems in place do most of the work for you via advanced algorithms that identify where your ad is most likely to be successful. And for that, we are thankful.
7. Keyword Changes
Keywords have always been at the forefront of the conversation when it comes to search marketing. However, as machine learning has steadily improved, advertisers have been forced to revisit their previous strategies.
Google has recently (October 2020) limited the search terms that it reports back to its advertisers. In fact, only the data on the most popular queries (classified by Google as a “significant number of users”) are now being reported.
Negative keyword management has now become the primary approach to optimization, but it’s too early to say the type of impact the changes will have moving forward.
Google is quite possibly the greatest case study for examining the evolution of digital advertising on a global scale. As the push for increased privacy continues on, marketers wait in anticipation for the search giant’s solutions that will benefit both advertisers and consumers.
If your business needs assistance in establishing a digital marketing strategy, get in touch today to discuss building campaigns that align with your goals.