A look at Google's new formats, such as Sitelinks, Search Funnels, Remarketing, and Click-to-Call. Second in a two-part series.
In part one, "Google Gives Agencies Some Love," I focused on Google's commitment to working with agencies. As stated previously, I am willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt based on some of its internal changes. In this column, let's focus on some new formats we learned about while attending Google's Think Agency event in New York.
While my team has found varied levels of utility for many of these formats, one thing is becoming clear: Google seems to prefer testing formats in the organic space before pushing them into paid search. While a sensible approach, it signals a greater focus on monetization.
Clients can sometimes be skittish about sending people to their sites if they believe that their properties aren't working effectively. The logical move would be a site redesign, but if that's not an option, Google Sitelinks can help.
Imagine picking the top few pages of your site and linking to them off of one branded search. Search for Victoria's Secret or Tylenol, and you will see samples of Sitelinks. While a site must meet certain performance criteria to gain them, qualified sites can run up to 10 links, of which Google will then select the four most relevant.
Through polling our search team, we found that Sitelinks are usually effective. However, there is a dark side. As performance increases, so does your spend for a brand term. So why doesn't Google limit this to organic search?
Google launched organic Sitelinks first to prove its efficacy. Once the marketing community understood the power of Sitelinks as an entry point, then Google was in a position to monetize it through paid search.
The Search Funnels reports have some great applications to help solve a complex problem. Despite the ocean of data and analytics we regularly swim in, marketers still have a difficult time looking past the last click. This is Google's attempt to help.
In a nutshell, Google Search Funnels ties the click and conversion to the user behavior leading up to said conversion. As advertisers focus on converting words, they forget about the upper funnel words, which may cost more but can lead to or assist in conversion.
We worked with a client that believed their CPC (define) should never go higher than $2. They were in a category, however, that required lots of broad research. We worked with them to create a model that showed the true value of all the keywords. This made the conversion keywords above their target CPC easier to buy.
But what if you don't have a strong digital agency to build this model? Search Funnels can help with this. It also shows the value of all words for the thousands of advertisers that are underspending in their categories.
My challenge for Google is to provide this to advertisers using Google Analytics to tie in organic performance. This will help us tell a better story.
Google Remarketing enables you to understand and measure the integration of search and display. At its core, it's pretty simple.
Someone visits your site's page on sun care products. You can now tag that person and serve them text or a display ad in Google's network. This will be the next generation of targeting, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.
The real impact of Remarketing will come when you can change search copy based on previous searches. For example, let's say you search for "green vehicles" and at some point make your way to Mercedes.com. After doing your research, you then search for "Mercedes." Mercedes should be able to switch the creative out to speaking directly to my previous research, driving me to the Green cars section (no pun intended).
This is, however, one area where Google may be veering off of its original mission statement. Google once stated that its goal was to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." Though we've traditionally been a bit skeptical about such an altruistic vision, more often than not, Google lived this statement.
In the past few years, we've seen many of Google's decisions depart from the mission. With Ad Exchange, Google Content Network, and now Remarketing, we can finally say that the mission is dead. While it's not necessarily a bad thing, Google will never admit to it. It may have started by organizing the world's information, but at some point it became a media company. Embrace it, and let's move on.
The worlds of search and display are not isolated territories. Good marketers understand search and display but approach them separately. World-class marketers understand that it's all marketing and should be integrated. Remarketing will make this easier.
Google Click-to-Call is a feature we've been testing for a bit, but it doesn't seem to be widely used among advertisers. With the majority of mobile searchers looking to find a business, Click-to-Call capability was a bit of a missing piece.
And it's a win for both users and advertisers alike. For users there are several areas of increased functionality. What happens when I want to know if a store has a certain item or will be open the next day? Who really wants to look this up on their phone while trying to walk through the busy streets of a major city? Click-to-Call eliminates the headache.
For advertisers, the CPC on the phone number is the same as what it would be on the text ad, only with greater functionality. Google provides you with this number, and it can be easily reused with other Google services.
If this truly is the year of mobile, Click-to-Call will be something that marketers embrace.
Test, Optimize, Repeat
Google is also pushing out some additional innovations that will make managing campaigns and integrating search into your business easier. Some will provide value to users and advertisers, and some will be ways for Google to increase revenue. Not that that's a bad thing, we just need to all recognize this.
If you're making use of organic Sitelinks, you should test out how paid steals from that. If you're selling a product and you're not using Click-to-Call, that's a problem.
My advice is that you continue to test and optimize on these innovations so you can know what works and what's useless.
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Joshua Palau is the vice president of Search for Razorfish. In this role he is responsible for the global strategy, product development and operations of their paid, organic, and feeds offerings.
He helps clients to understand how search fits into the overall marketing plan and constantly researches the rapidly changing industry to help clients anticipate, and respond to, changes in the landscape.
Joshua is an active writer who has authored several Razorfish POVs on topics such as managing paid and organic search, reputation management, and social search optimization. In addition to writing his SEW column, he serves as the editor of Razorfish's weekly newsletter, Search Marketing Trends.
Joshua began his digital career in 1996 and has a diverse background working on the publisher, client, and agency side. Prior to joining Razorfish, he has worked for Hearst Magazines, About.com, and Johnson & Johnson.
His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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