What is Google Marketing Live?
Once a year Google holds an annual jamboree for marketing professionals and agencies. It has now evolved into a global hybrid online/offline event. You can still watch all the keynotes and breakout sessions at your leisure.
Why it’s important
There are product announcements galore to excite any digital marketing geek, but for me it’s a must watch event as it gives an important insight into not only what is new but also the likely future direction of travel. For this reason we always forensically digest each session whilst reading the tea leaves so we can advise clients on what they need to be investing in.
What were the key themes?
Privacy (aka measurement and personalised advertising in a post-cookie world), Ad Automation (both of targeting and creative) and search becoming a more visual and sticky experience.
What should we be investing in as a result?
As ever you are probably already thinking about or doing all the below to some extent. This is simply a rallying cry to prioritise these investments.
Lifestyle to label imagery
Outstanding imagery is going to pay dividends both in organic and paid search and auto-generated display ads.
Google showcased a much more visual search results page – something that one of the Attacat team described as Pinterest-esque. This is a huge departure from the ten blue link text only experience of old and is part of Google’s move to keep searchers on Google for longer by providing a much fuller experience.
Paid shopping results will feature prominently and for the first time it looks as if organic shopping results will also get regular results page billing. Images from your pages may also be included in the standard organic listings.
Automatically generated creative
With respect to ads, there is a lot coming in terms of the automatic generation of display ads. Whilst this has been occurring for a while, big steps are being taken to make these autogenerated creatives attractive and onbrand. At the same time it is increasingly unrealistic to manually create all the formats and variations of ads needed to create tailored experiences at the different stages of the customer journey
So having unique and high quality images will be key to performing well. What can you do to visually showcase your products in a way that outperforms your competitors? We think having lifestyle imagery and images of every angle and detail right down to the label is now a must. Video, 360s and augmented reality capability in addition would be ideal.
(Side note – Ensuring the health of all other aspects of your product feed continues to become increasingly important.)
Be prepared to retool your measurement infrastructure
Getting ready for a post cookie world was a core theme. Accuracy of measurement will suffer without investment in new cookie-free technology. Google has been doubling down on providing this and for the first time I came away from a Google event thinking there is now an increasingly clear strategy for dealing with GDPR as opposed to the shoulder shrugs of a few years ago.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is obviously a key plank in the strategy. We’ve spent a lot of time lately focusing on the move to GA4 and it isn’t a straightforward process. Google Marketing Live confirmed that as well as highlighting that the required move is also bigger than just GA4. There is a whole raft of products (including server-side tagging and consent mode) that Google are investing in that are going to become pre-requisites for success.
These are deeply technical products that require technical, marketing, advertising and privacy heads to come together to deploy effectively. Making it work is much more complex and therefore a bigger investment than the measurement tools we’ve relied on to date.
For many it will be a forced reluctant investment as there is no choice but to do it. In the long run, I’m confident that it will bring some serious advantages and capabilities that we haven’t previously had. Either way I’m afraid a significant portion of budget over the next 12 months needs to be put aside for this move.
Invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
You can’t have missed the “first party data” chat of the last year or two. Everyone knows that owning data about your customers is becoming increasingly important as cookies continue to crumble. A highly simplified way to conceptualise it, when Google talks about first party data, is “Google Analytics 4 plus a CRM”.
I came away feeling that a CRM should now be viewed as a principal part of the Google Advertisers toolset in the same way that we used to see conversion tracking as a non-negotiable part of Google Ads/PPC management.
The geeky bit that made me think that:
- There was huge emphasis on Customer Match throughout the event.
- Enhanced Conversions are also being seen as a key part of robust post-cookie measurement as well as for ad automation.
- HubSpot have been working with Google on a native integration which I’m sure will save our clients a lot of time.
The benefits of utilising a standardised rather than a custom ecommerce system continue to increase. Many of Google’s products are increasingly available first to businesses on platforms like Shopify, usually with tick box integration as opposed to requiring custom coding.
Google is also clearly eyeing up Amazon’s product search market share and thinking about keeping shoppers on Google for longer. It may not be all that long before your customers will purchase from you without ever leaving Google as they do today on Amazon. In the meantime they showcased deeper linking into the shopping journey (e.g. add to basket buttons). Having an ecommerce platform that will keep up with these changes will be increasingly important.
Whilst on ecommerce platforms, Google wants you to think in terms of a “One shop” mentality i.e. fully connecting your offline and online shops in relation to stock, customer data and experience
Google offering searches the chance to message you directly from the results page is a wake up call to any company whose customer service is still in the email-only paradigm. Realtime messaging is now the expected norm.
An additional present Google is giving us is automated insight generation. Their hope of course is we use these insights to provide better assets for their algorithms to digest and create better ad experiences with. However the insights will no doubt be applicable to other channels and business strategy in general. “Break down the silos” was a repeated mantra of this years event – yes PPC and organic teams need to work together but it shouldn’t stop there, management, product designers, buyers and merchandisers all stand to benefit from the insights.