How Google’s Brain is Making Marketing More Personal

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If there’s one marketing trend that’s likely to become more relevant to webmasters and ad agencies in 2016, it’s Google’s desire to make the Internet less intrusive and more personal. Following a host of changes towards the close of 2016, Google now takes a much more negative view on the humble interstitial.

Admittedly something of an annoyance for online and mobile browsers, these ads that sit over the top of a page’s content until you either dismiss them or acquiesce to their offer are now a negative in Google’s eyes.

Interstitials are Bad

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As outlined by Maile Ohye at SMX Advanced in 2015, “interstitials are bad for users” and it’s something Google is looking to tackle in a big way. Following the warning by Ohye in early 2015, things gradually started to shift towards the end of the year.

However, according to Greenlight Digital’s Matt Hawes, when Google takes action against app install interstitials that negatively impact user experience the issue isn’t as black and white as it may seem.

While it’s clear that removing these intrusive ads will improve a user’s overall experience, Hawes has suggested that two different sites can use interstitials in very different ways.

Comparing NME and Yelp, Hawes found that the former would flash up interstitials with no relevance to the page content or user, while the latter would actually offer something of value. However, under Google’s new policy, both sites would be deemed not mobile-friendly because they use interstitials.

Not All Ads are Bad

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Google’s track record with tackling intrusive ads has actually caused problems in the past as webmasters can struggled to keep up with changes. Indeed, back in 2014 Peter Ogtanyan of Pubshare sued Google for $1 million in lost ad revenue after he was refused an expected payout because Google altered its stance on “accidental clicks”.

This ambiguity isn’t helped when Google has been known to tell industry insiders, such as Hawes, that there are “other ways” for sites to run ads.

Fortunately, Google does seem to have some preference when it comes to adverts and one it appears to be favouring as we head further into 2016 is the use of personal PPC. While many webmasters will know that paid advertising can be expensive if it’s not used correctly (Hochman Consultants estimated the average conversion cost per customer using PPC in 2015 was $44.50), tech geeks will also appreciate that Google knows more about us than almost anyone else.

To that end, Google launched its Customer Match service in September 2015. Designed to make advertising much more personal, the premise is simple: those with an email list and ads to push upload their contacts to Google and it will then show each user specific adverts each time they’re logged into their Google account.

Whether they’re conducting a Google search, reading their Gmail or watching videos on YouTube, Customer Match will allow companies to target individual users with ads that may be relevant to them.

Using Tech to Create a More Personal World

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Essentially, what appears to be happening is that Google is continuing to evolve into a purveyor of specificity. However, as has been noted by tech experts such as Hawes, the negative implications for all interstitials might actually go against this principle.

While it’s true that most interstitials are general and unrelated to the page content they’re blocking, it’s also true that some ads are relevant and, therefore, appealing to users. According to a Venture Beat study in 2013, well placed interstitials resulted in a 25X increase in video vide, a 7X increase in conversions and a 9X increase in Effective Cost Per Mille (eCPMs).

However, as with all major changes, it’s likely that Google is taking a broad approach with a mind to refine things later.

It’s clear from the 2015 launch of initiatives such as Customer Match that Google wants companies to use its search brain to be more specific in their marketing efforts. This could mean that personalised interstitials could be exempt from Google’s negative ranking stick in the near future.

However things play out in 2016, what is clear is that marketing will continue to become less general and more specific thanks to the power of Google’s matrix of personal data.

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I'm an eternal optimist, follow a Buddhist philosophy, geek of many areas, entrepreneur, learning the Chinese language, a die-hard sports fan, love politics and nuclear submarines.

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