What’s Next for Google in 2016?
Over the last quarter there has been a lot of excitement generated by our friends over at Google with Google’s I/O 2016 developer conference (showcasing all things up and coming) held May 18-20, followed up by their Performance Summit Keynote (showcasing the latest and greatest in AdWords and Analytics) on May 24th. Here are a few of the highlights:
“A Mobile-First Future”
Over 50% of Google’s search queries now come from mobile platforms, with share continuing to increase. As a result, much of Google’s focus has been on innovation in the mobile space. Some of the more imminent features coming to AdWords include mobile adapted AdWords features and exciting new new mobile ad formats.
New Ad Formats Designed for Mobile First
Expanded Text Ads have been introduced, and are optimized for the most popular mobile screen sizes so that more information can be provided before the ad click. While the current text ad format gives advertisers one 25-character headline and two 35-character description lines, the new expanded text ads will have a more prominent headline comprising two lines of 30-characters, and one longer, consolidated 80-character description line. In early testing, this new format was found to be more effective driving a 20% higher clickthrough rate on mobile devices.
Responsive Ads for Display are also in the process of being introduced, allowing advertisers to create fully responsive ads that work on every mobile screen size. You simply provide a headline, description, image, and a destination URL and Google will automatically create the ads. The new display ads will resize and adjust automatically to many ad sizes across the diverse publisher sites in Google’s Display Network, creating a consistent look and feel regardless of the inventory (i.e. site, app, video or native).
Precision Bid Adjustments
Advertisers can will soon be able to set individual bid adjustments for each device type (desktop, mobile or tablet), or by specific demographic features like age group or gender. This allows more precision and flexibility, and allows you to optimize to the devices or audience characteristics that are most relevant and valuable for your business.
Advanced Targeting for Search
The ‘Similar Audiences’ feature is being added to Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. Remarketing lists allow advertisers to target ads to a select group who have visited the site on a previous occasion. Remarketing lists typically create high engagement and high conversion rates, however the audience is limited to those who have previously visited the site. With ‘Similar Audiences’, a list is created of people who are similar in characteristics and interests to your remarketing list, however, without the condition of having visited the site previously. As a result, you get a much larger target group of potential customers who are likely interested in your product/service. This feature was previously only available on the Google Display Network, is now available on search as well.
Location, Location, Location!
Nearly 1/3 of all mobile searches are location related – that translates into 1.5 billion visits to destinations per month. And of those many searches, 75% of local, mobile searches visit a store within a day of conducting the search and 28% make a purchase. Local search ads, and promoted pins are two new ways for advertisers to showcase their business locations.
Local Search Ads appear in the both the search results list and in Google Maps. Users can click on the icon in the ad to expand and show details. The mobile version of the ad may also include directions and click to call extensions as well.
Promoted Pins show nearby promoted locations and special offers in Google Maps, based your current location. A future opportunity is to add a contextual layer to promoted pins, for example exclusive offers for app users, offers based on fitness tracker information, or offers or time of day. For example, if you have the Starbucks app on your phone, when you open Google Maps, you may be shown a promoted pin for a Starbucks location 2 blocks away with a special offer for 2-for-1 drinks.
Mobile Web and Apps
The AMP project (Accelerated Mobile Pages) was launched in partnership with publishers to create better mobile-optimized content to improve load speeds even on slow connections. AMP pages use 1/10th of the data and load 4 times faster than equivalent non-AMP pages, which Google claims will save users a combined 6.5 million hours of load time this year!
Progressive Web Apps (PWA), are a hybrid mobile web page/app experience. They have app like properties such as notifications, app look and feel, and shortcut from the home screen, but run from a mobile web browser (i.e. Chrome), and do not require a download from an app store. These PWA’s bring the mobile web experience closer to parity with native installed apps, and can create a more streamlined development process for businesses looking to create great mobile experiences.
Similarly, Android Instant Apps allows users of the android platform to use apps from a mobile browser without having to download the app. When a link is clicked, Google Play fetches pieces of the app that are needed on demand. It allows a user to access single use apps without installing them permanently on the device, or to utilize multiple apps sequentially as in a store shopping cart checkout and payment process (e.g. website > store app > payment app).
App Development and Analytics
Firebase is a new cross platform app development and analytics tool that allows users to develop, grow and monetize high quality apps from a single platform. Firebase is integrated with AdWords, Analytics and Google Tag Manager to help integrate marketing and analysis of app usage seamlessly with other mobile web properties. The Firebase Analytics tool also provides detailed app-specific data in addition to what’s available in Analytics, so that you are able to track and understand your app users within the app specific context.
A Deviceless Future
Google is looking forward to a future where devices are everywhere, but their form factor is irrelevant. Sundar Pichai, Google Chief Executive Officer, spoke about this and said, “Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the “device” to fade away. Over time, the computer itself—whatever its form factor—will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world.”
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
A significant proportion of Google’s product development investment is currently in the area of AI and Machine Learning. At this point machine learning is baked into most of Google’s products, from their core search algorithm (Rank Brain), to the Google Cloud platform (Image Search, Voice Search, Translate, and Inbox), to Google Assistant. The aim is to ‘make products smarter and more assistive via machine learning and AI’. This means that in the not too distant future, using the Google search platform will no longer be about keywords, links and websites, it will be about questions, answers and solutions; performed in the form of conversations and dialogue. This will all take place within a fully integrated and continuously connected context, within your home (Google Home, Nest devices), on your person (Android Wear, Project Jaquard), on the go (Android Auto, Google Car), as you consume media (Chromecast, Android TV, tablets, mobile phones), and maybe even on a good old fashioned computer.
As marketers we’ve always thought in terms of who (audience), what (product), why (value proposition) and how (tactical/media strategy). Our challenge and opportunity in reaching people in this new ‘contextual’ world, is to start thinking in terms of the where and the when.