For many digital marketers, the fall of 2011 might be remembered for bringing dynamic advertising to paid search. Google's newest offering, said to flip "the search engine on its head," does away with the traditional keyword advertising approach in lieu of matching landing pages with the right user search.
Dynamic Search Ads is just one of dozens of innovations Google has made to its AdWords product over the past few years. Google paid search has evolved to include everything from video to coupons and a call feature, all in the name of improving advertiser results. Not every Google product is a good fit for every advertiser - in fact, some of its offerings aren't even available to the masses yet. But Google is nothing if not progressive, and for this reason many of them warrant a closer look.
Google Image Search. Instead of advertising exclusively on Google's web results page, this product allows brands to place their listings next to Google Images. Typically, this approach is best suited to those who've noted a distinct benefit to presenting consumers with a product image up front. The campaign is set up through AdWords, except that instead of uploading ad copy alone, the advertiser also submits an image that will precede the organic image search results on the page.
Google Media Ads. Previously known as Google Video Plus Box, this program was initially tested in beta with advertisers ranging from automotive to CPG. A box beneath a standard search ad would display a web-only video such as an instructional product clip, and advertisers would pay the equivalent of their cost-per-click text ad bid when the video hit the 10-second mark. The unit has since morphed into Google Media Ads and is open only to the entertainment vertical (at least, so far).
Google Product Ads/Extensions. Similar to the video extension, this unit allows brands to include additional promotional material in their text ads. The ad pulls information from an advertiser's existing Google Merchant Center account and can include anything from images to business center maps, product titles, detailed descriptions, and prices. Brands can promote their entire product inventory through paid search and, in theory, generate more qualified clicks because they're providing the user with more product information up front.
Google Redemption Ads/Offer Extensions. Through this program, brands can deliver a coupon directly to search engine users from their paid search ads. Several user options exist, including having the coupon emailed to a desktop or texted to a mobile phone - they can even be saved to a user's Google Wallet. Redemption options, too, are varied: depending on what the brand is looking for, consumers can redeem in store, online, or by mail.
Google Call Extensions/Metrics. When generating phone calls is a campaign priority, Google's call feature can help. Advertisers include in their paid search ad a unique toll-free number provided by Google that links to the marketing client's existing phone number. Advertisers can then track which AdWords campaigns their calls are coming from, along with the duration of the calls and the caller's area code, through their existing Google account.
Google Sitelinks. One of the most useful of Google's newer products, Sitelinks affords the ability to include up to six additional links in your AdWords text ad. This gives brands complete and immediate control over the pages, products, and messaging they wish to promote.
Considering the length of time it can take for Google to re-index a site, and the urgency of updating ad copy and Sitelinks for such events as new product line launches, this can be a critical advantage. "You're giving the user seven links to choose from and letting them select exactly where they want to go," says Nathan Lewalski, one of Enlighten's senior interactive media planners, "but you're also gaining a competitive advantage by owning more real estate on the results page." Click-through rates on these ads tend to be higher because users instantly know what to expect from a site. "Without paid search," Nathan says, "it's unlikely the user would see a brand's newest messaging or get sent directly to new pages in time."
Google is infamous for experimenting with its AdWords products (not to mention giving them countless different names). The advantage for advertisers is a glut of program options and a fresh take on how to supercharge those two little lines of text. Take some time to learn what's new in Google Ad Innovations. The company's next unit could be the one you've been waiting for.
Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.