Enhancements to Google’s Ad Offerings: Targeting

People often say Google never changes. Because it’s number one, they contend that Google has less incentive to improve or innovate. But Google does innovate; in fact, it is constantly testing new algorithms and technologies. Historically, however, it hasn’t placed emphasis on surfacing its innovation and actively promoting it. That said, over the past year or so, Google has made great strides to be more transparent about its changes and promote participation in beta programs for its new technologies. Google even created a website called “Google Ad Innovations” to showcase these developments and promote uptake.

Google has made many changes, not just in its ad formats, but in its buying models, targeting/delivery mechanisms, and advertiser tools as well. I thought I’d provide a high level overview of these new offerings, how they compare to what Google had previously, and what this means for advertisers and the industry.

I’ll examine these changes in two parts. This column will explore some new ad delivery/targeting mechanisms; part two will focus on the new ad formats and buying models.

Ad Targeting/Delivery Mechanisms

What it had before:

With the Google AdWords interface, advertisers were able to opt in to show their ads on the Search Network, the Content Network, or both. The Content Network essentially enabled you to target ads to users when they were reading content that was contextually relevant to your keywords. Google also enabled advertisers to identify specific “placements” in their network and bid exclusively on placement within those websites or sections.

You also had the option in the Content Network to layer on some demographic targeting to your selections. For example, if you were targeting women interested in health information, you could create a list of placements that included sites like MayoClinic.com, WrongDiagnosis.com, and EverydayHealth.com, and in some instances specify that you would want the ads served to females only.

While the reach of the Google Content Network (GCN) was strong, the offering was limited compared to other ad networks, because it really only offered one form of targeting – contextual.

What it has now:

Google recently launched two types of targeting to its AdWords offering, which can both be leveraged via the GCN:

  • Interest-based advertising: Enables advertisers to reach users based on their interests (based on both Web content they’ve visited and defined preferences). Advertisers can select multiple interest areas (e.g., home and garden) and reach users who have demonstrated a propensity to view this type of content.
  • Remarketing: Enables advertisers to reach users who previously visited your website (this is also known as “retargeting” or “leadback”). These users are tagged or “cookied” once they hit the advertisers’ website and then when they appear on the GCN in the future, they can serve up a relevant ad to them.

Google has also bolstered its contextual advertising offering by leveraging its YouTube site. It now offers advertisers the ability to include a video targeting campaign as part of the search or display campaigns. Advertisers can search the YouTube video repository and select channels or specific videos relevant to their offering. They can then bid to have their ads show on these videos when users watch them. There are two options for in-video ad display:

  • Overlay (a text ad that appears “overlaid” on top of the video while it is running)
  • In-stream (a “pre-roll” video ad that appears for 10 to 15 seconds before the video runs)

What it means:

These additions put Google in a position to take a much larger share of the online advertising market. The vast array of tools and targeting methodologies now available make Google the logical choice for media planners looking for an end-to-end online marketing solution.

Search marketers will no doubt begin to leverage these tools to enhance their paid search efforts. Google provides an example of how remarketing this can be used in practice: “If you have keywords that you don’t use because you haven’t seen conversions in the past, you can use these keywords to drive traffic to your site, then use remarketing on the Google Content Network to capture incremental conversions from a more qualified set of potential customers.”

The real advantage however, comes for those looking to create synergy among their SEM (define), banner, and video advertising programs. Google now offers the opportunity to create an integrated campaign and provides a “one-stop destination” to reach users at all stages in the funnel – whether they are casually browsing, actively seeking, or known prospects. And the ability for advertisers to “self-serve” and manage all campaigns through one interface will add to the appeal.

The Bottom Line

Google will continue to innovate and release better and better technologies. You should test out some of these tools to see if you can take your search marketing efforts to the next level!

Watch out for Part 2 of this column, which will focus on the new ad formats and buying models.

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