Conventional wisdom within ad tech is that search is boring. In the display ecosystem, life is exciting: in the last decade alone, thousands of niche companies have emerged, nearly as many have folded, and major new technologies have come and gone. In contrast, search seems dull: it’s still the best-performing and highest-spending channel by far, but the makeup of the industry and the basic way in which ads get delivered haven’t changed much. So despite its massive importance to marketers, search is never the sexy topic at conferences or a frequent mention in industry articles.
As a result, the industry has missed one of the most powerful changes in the last decade of ad tech: the rise of people-based search. In the last year, with little fanfare, Google has launched two features that dramatically expand the power of search marketing: “Customer Match” and “In Store Conversions.”
Customer Match is a tool that allows marketers to use first-party data to optimize their bids and creatives for search campaigns. For example, consider a search for the term “credit card.” Before Customer Match, the same set of ads would show up for everyone making that search — most likely meaning that the ad that showed up was not particularly relevant for most searchers. Now, for the “credit card” keyword, every bank can use its CRM data to decide whether it should bid for a particular searcher, how much it should bid, and whether it should show an ad for a “Platinum” or regular card. Searchers receive an ad that’s relevant to them, and click-through rates and conversion rates skyrocket as a result.
People-based search is a powerful use case — and marketers seem to be flocking to it. For the last decade, as display targeting has radically improved, marketers have been forced to make a choice: run ads that are contextually relevant (like search), or run ads that are targeted to the right person (like display). Customer Match has eliminated the need for that choice. This has big implications for the retail, financial services, telco, travel, auto and entertainment verticals, where marketers have rich data in their CRMs and love the contextual relevance of search.
The second feature that has silently revolutionized search is the introduction of closed-loop measurement. Through Google’s “In-Store Conversions” program, retailers can now close the loop to see if ads drive in-store purchases. If someone searches for “New TV,” clicks an ad and visits a store to buy the TV in person, marketers can now close the loop by tying search ads to loyalty card data. For companies with a big offline presence, this allows much more direct measurement of the value of search ads.
Between these two launches, search is dramatically more powerful than it was just a year ago. The results are compelling: early anecdotes show marketers more than doubling their return on ad spend for search by using these programs. As a result, the most boring part of ad tech is now squarely in the center of the people-based marketing revolution.
To learn more about people-based search, we invite you to register for LiveRamp’s webinar on June 15!