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It’s safe to say that Google Marketing Livestream 2021 wasn’t particularly eventful. But who can be surprised? This year has been challenging for us all both professionally and personally. Things have changed so dramatically, so quickly, Google has needed to adapt to help advertisers navigate this new normal. In doing so, they have had to keep advertisers more up to date than ever, and to be fair they have done a pretty good job. It’s no surprise that there wasn’t anything particularly new from what was announced at the keynote. What this year’s event did allow us to do was take stock of where we are today, and where we need to get to tomorrow.

If you are looking for a full list of new features launched, Google has outlined all of these here. Today we’ll take you through some of the key themes from Google Marketing Livestream and give you some insight into what we need to be doing to prepare for the tomorrow. By using the knowledge we have of the future, Google can invest in the present across the 3 following areas:

    1. Privacy – Google gave us a glimpse at the Ads product roadmap; a focus on aggregation, protecting people, giving them choice.
    2. Measurement – New ways to future proof your business with a focus on 1st party data.
    3. Automation – Be forward looking & predictive.

How did Google Marketing Livestream 2021 begin?

Google showcased how it has helped people to find things safer and easier this year. It has helped us to keep pace and support advertisers in the step change with digital adoption; pivoting, innovating & persevering.

It isn’t over yet, despite there being glimpses of hope we’ll still see challenges. We are living through a time of extremes which is having a deeper impact than ever. To effectively navigate this moment, Google recognises that it needs to be even more helpful to people, businesses & partners.

A few examples of how Google has helped us to get ready for what’s next;

  • Travel: Google helped new ways for hotel advertisers to shift the risk e.g. Hotel no longer have to pay if someone cancels.
  • Retail: Google wanted to share more information on wild swings in demand e.g. rising retail categories allows you to spot opportunities. 
  • New Features: Google sprinted to build tools eg. Insights tool in Google Ads, Curbside Pickup (better & more safely connect users)

PPC hubbub - LightbulbNew Campaigns (beta): Google discussed its plans for Performance Max – originally launched back in October 2020, this new campaign complements your search campaigns by helping to find more converting customers without having to manage multiple campaigns. In theory, it finds the best performance against your goals and delivers rich insights into automation. They have increased transparency with reporting here and starting today, they are expanding Performance Max beta globally. Look out for the full launch later this year.


A new era of Privacy

All of our jobs have become more difficult this year. However it’s possible to tackle todays challenges and get ready for tomorrows opportunities. Google believes that this is the 3rd Transformative event to shit offline to online. Looking deeper into user searches this year, “ideas for beginners” grew 100% , “how to invest” increased by over +70%. All of this has created more moments to connect with consumers than ever via Google. 

With this increased opportunity to connect with consumers, Google’s focus has shifted onto Privacy. Users trust Google with their data and as such needs to prioritise privacy more than ever before. For years, we existed with a relationship where you had access to free things in exchange for user data – this is shifting. People are no longer satisfied with the old way of doing things; they value their privacy more and Google is losing their trust. They want to take bold action to build that trust back; building a free & open internet whilst respecting user privacy. 

Google has “danced” quite a lot around solutions for advertisers on this topic, but have now confirmed that they will not build alternative identifiers to track users across the web. Equally, Google believes that other solutions who claim to be able to do this cannot be relied on in the long term; reaffirming the idea that Google is increasingly becoming a “black box”, squeezing out other tech solutions. To be fair, Google have said they wont be building a backdoor for themselves and will be as open as possible. How open they can be in this new era is up for debate.  

So how do we continue to deliver business results whilst respecting privacy?

  • Build relationships with consumers using properly contented 1st party data.
  • Automation & Machine learning – be forward-looking and predictive.
  • Commit to new technologies that prioritise privacy (Google options obviously preferred).

Having solutions for your business and clients in these areas will allow you to build a future for what’s coming next.


The next generation of Measurement

This journey starts with giving users a choice about their data and Google giving advertisers the right insights. From this, it’s clear that we wont get the same access/level of data we currently get with cookies. This shift to other identifiers is going to be tough, but we’ve slowly been moving towards this anyway through Google’s solutions (with the launch of ITP by Apple, we’ve relied on modelling to plug some of the gaps left by these changes). So how do we preserve the future of measurement?

  • Build your foundations on 1st Party data.
  • Allow consumers to make choices.
  • Fill in the gaps with modelled data.

Building foundations on 1st Party data

We should be focused on collecting & using 1st party data responsibly. These relationships between consumers and advertisers should be the foundations for this next generation of measurement. Google went into depth here on ‘Sitewide tagging‘ as well as new ways to observe more conversions and modelling, this included ‘Enhanced Conversions‘ which would give you a more complete view of user behaviour.

During the keynote, Google also stressed the importance of Customer Match and how it can help deepen the connection with your brand. We should continue to use Customer Match.

PPC hubbub - LightbulbTo make it easier, Google announced that Customer Match will now be available for all advertisers to use after meeting a few simple steps. By expanding the availability of Customer Match within the Google ecosystem, you can still have that 1-2-1 connection with your consumers.

Allow consumers to make choices

Consent mode was introduced last year as a way for advertisers to properly adjust how Google tags behave based on the consent status of users. These Accept/Deny options can obviously creates gaps in your measurement. This is why they have introduced modelling.

Fill in the gaps with modelled data

Coming late 2021, we’ll see more machine learning behavioural reporting in Google Analytics e.g. Automated Marketing Insights. It’s important to note that you can still get Google Analytics insights when cookies aren’t available. 

Also coming soon to Google Analytics is a new advertiser experience which gives deeper insights in Advertising with this modelled data.

Google Analytics New Advertiser Experience

Credit: Google Marketing Livestream, 2021

In addition to the new interface, Google has added new touch points via DDA for Youtube and Display. This should allow you to have a greater understanding of how these campaign types are performing in this new world.


Be forward looking & predictive with Automation

So what we have learned so far is that the future is 1st party, consented and modelled. Great measurement leads to great performance, especially when you turn insights to automation. What we also know is that the journey for a consumer has got the point of so much complexity, that is requires automation to work effectively. 

Google Is More Than Direct

Credit: Google Marketing Livestream 2021

Automation can only work effectively if you feed the machine the right information. Google used the example from Responsive Search Ads in combination with the new and improved Broad Match Type. All of this in combination with Smart Bidding (which Google said 80% of advertisers are now using) delivers around 20% more conversions at a similar cost per action, on average.

Google Ads Responsive Search Ads Benefits

Credit: Google Marketing Livestream 2021

What this example shows is that its super important to feed the machine the right components to find the right person at the right time. Google discussed how Data Exclusions & Negative Keywords can be a way for advertisers to control the information being used by the machine. In addition to this, they also discussed how they allow advertisers to pin assets within Responsive Search Ads to give advertisers greater control (1RSA and 4 Ad Extensions gives Google the flexibility it needs to drive better automation).

PPC hubbub - LightbulbImage Extensions are now out of beta and will be rolled out to help complement your ads with rich visuals. We are also seeing these appear on Desktop now for a small percentage of traffic, so keep your eyes peeled and remember you have the option of static or dynamic image extensions!

Google Ads Image Extensions

Credit: Google Ads Announcements, 2021

With increased automation, comes great responsibility and a greater need for transparency

Of course, one of the issues advertisers have with so much automation is being able to have deep insights to better understand some of the decisions the machine is making. From Google’s perspective, it needs to have consumer privacy in mind, as well as its own interests to make decisions on behalf of advertisers. From an advertiser perspective, they are screaming out for greater transparency whilst wanting to adopt more automation to deliver better results. It’s a bit of a catch 22 kinda situation at times However, Google announced some new features which should increase transparency.

Competitive Visibility Merchant Centre

Credit: Google Marketing Livestream 2021

In an effort to be more transparent, Google announced a Competitive Visibility Report in the Merchant Center. We already have the price competitiveness report available, but this new report will allow us to stack up our activity against competitors directly in the Merchant Centre.

PPC hubbub - LightbulbIn addition to Opportunity Score, Google discussed Automated Insights which contains deeper insights since 2020. It looks like they will be continuing to invest in this interface, adding additional data points such as rising categories, Google Trends etc. 

Performance Max reporting should also be improving with more insights for advertisers to take control over what needs your attention. According to Google, they will be introducing insights such as rising search trends to help inform wider business strategy and more.

Demand forecasts in the new Insights page via Google Ads will also help advertisers predict upcoming changes to search behaviour.

Google Ads Demand Forecasts

Credit: Google Marketing Livestream 2021


Final Thoughts

There wasn’t anything announced at Google Marketing Livestream 2021 that I would class as brand new information for the vast majority of us. What was clear is that Google wanted to make sure that all viewers were aligned with the way that they saw the future. The future can be scary, particularly for the PPC community who are naturally sceptical beasts! For me, this event was a way for Google to lay the foundations for what’s coming next; even more modelling (less precision measurement), more automation (less direct control for advertisers), more privacy for users (less insight into user data). By doing this, it has set the precedent for Google to go full-steam ahead with these changes. By warning us, the future should be less scary.

All in all, I’m more optimistic about this future. As both a consumer and advertiser, I want Google to take more responsibility over data, but not at the cost of less transparency. By no means should this future be an excuse for Google to take full control. It needs to be an open dialogue between all stakeholders.

If this year has taught us anything it’s that the battle for advertisers online has got fiercer than ever and we need all the help we can get to get ahead. My only concern is that this new future sounds more aggregated, less precise, less actionable for the advertiser to have control over optimisations. If everyone is doing the same thing, using the same features, then how does the advertiser get ahead in the future? Access to this data has unlocked so much creativity in the past to find ways to “hack the system” and get your business ahead of competitors. If everyone is placed on a level playing field with less levers to push & pull for advertisers, the only differentiator between us will be budget; great for Google, expensive for the advertiser.

What’s clear is that Google is committed to a future of using automation & building a future for measurement in a privacy safe way. But ironically does creating a more equal and fairer playing field for privacy, measurement & automation create even more inequality? Another debate for another day…

Dan Roberts
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