The Vast Opportunity Of Audience-Based Search Marketing

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Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on a new service Google is rumored to be developing that would allow advertisers to better leverage customer data in their search advertising. According to the article, the people-based marketing system would operate along the same lines as Facebook Custom Audiences and Twitter’s Tailored Audiences.

Essentially, advertisers would upload email addresses to Google with corresponding audience tags. Google would use the email addresses to connect the devices associated with each customer to the advertiser-specified audience tags.

The advertiser could then customize search ads to individual audience segments — presumably using different ad copy, landing pages, and applying different bids for searches from those audiences — based on their own online and offline customer data. No more relying only on the constricted view provided by online browser behavior.

It is easy to see the enormous advantages of applying our insights about customers to their Google search experience. Advertisers and agencies that possess deep expertise in analytics and testing would have a significant competitive advantage over companies that do not. Experience with online and offline marketing channels will create testing hypotheses that can be validated by strong test methodology.

A Few Use Cases

  • A segment of your customer base chooses to speak to your Spanish-speaking representatives when they call: might they prefer to see ads written in Spanish, and to be taken to the Spanish language version of the site, even when they search in English?
  • Some customers never buy online but are terrific in-store customers; perhaps the Local Inventory Ads would be more valuable to that group than the generic Google Shopping Campaign ads?
  • Many home insurance policies were purchased years ago offline: would an offer of bundled pricing be more relevant and attractive to that group of customers when they shop for auto insurance than generic auto insurance offers?
  • Home computers are often shared by different members of a family. Does it make sense for us to treat them all as the same browser even though Google knows from their Gmail login which of them is your customer and which isn’t?
  • Auto dealerships may offer special repair service deals for their past customers. Wouldn’t it be more helpful and relevant to the customers if the dealership’s ad for repair work could reflect that fact?

Audiences + The Intent Of Search

Search advertising is incredibly powerful for the very simple reason that the ads actually help users find what they’re looking for right in the moment. Allowing advertisers to apply insights to make the ads even more relevant and helpful would be a win for the customer that translates to better results for the advertiser and more revenue for the search engines.

The WSJ article suggested that Google might also offer look-alike targeting, allowing this mechanism to be used for prospecting as well as wallet-share marketing. The look-alike functionality on Facebook is a key driver of scale for that program, and certainly Google’s understanding of similar behavior patterns would be an exciting opportunity.

Leveraging Google’s knowledge of consumers through this vehicle would turn what would be a major enhancement in remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) into a truly revolutionary prospecting tool as well.

Allowing advertisers to customize messages and offers to non-customers based on Google’s knowledge that they are active in the category — and perhaps even customers of this advertiser’s competitors — would expose users to the most relevant and compelling opportunities to satisfy their current desires. What could be better for the consumer?

A Win-Win-Win

Allowing advertisers to customize messages and offers to non-customers based on Google’s knowledge that they are active in the category — and perhaps even customers of this advertiser’s competitors — would expose users to the most relevant and compelling opportunities to satisfy their current desires. What could be better for the consumer?

Whatever the future holds, my hope is that Google decides to offer advertisers this flexibility; it is functionality that would benefit all parties.

More relevant ads, served only in a context in which the consumer has expressly asked Google to show them the best options available, seems like an obvious win.

It would be a win for Google because it would be a win for advertisers, who would spend more money if the return on advertising supported it. It would be a win for advertisers because it would be a win for consumers, who respond better to ads that are more relevant to their needs and to user experiences that are personalized to them.

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