Why you should switch your focus from keywords to audiences

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We’ve seen a great deal of change in Google Ads in the last few years. In fact, within that statement is one significant change; AdWords was rebranded into Google Ads in 2018, along with a full facelift. 

Since then, Google has been redirecting the future of paid marketing from customisation to automation, introducing new campaign types that take control away from advertisers, such as Smart Shopping and Smart Display.

Although many agencies still use manual bidding alongside more customisable third-party automation software, these Smart campaigns are only getting smarter (and being used more often). 

What makes a Smart campaign ‘smart’?

Google has introduced Smart bidding and Smart campaigns to give advertisers more time to focus elsewhere.

A Smart campaign is ‘smart’ because it uses Google’s massive data resources and machine learning capabilities to help advertisers target the most likely converting users at the most likely converting opportunities. And, by taking away manual controls like keywords, they also reduce the risk of human error leading to wasted spend.

Google are obviously secretive about this qualification process of high converting users. As you’d expect, this has led to some frustration from advertisers who now receive less reporting capability to act on these segments.

History has shown, however, that fighting these changes is a pointless battle. Instead, we should change our focus and adapt our strategies.

What can you customise in Smart bidding? 

The short answer is ‘not a lot’. Smart campaigns, Shopping, and Display do not allow you to control keywords, bidding, audiences, and placements.

With some of Google’s Smart bidding strategies, however, you can still add custom bid adjustments to different demographics, ad schedules, and devices. You can also set different goals for Smart campaigns to focus on different ROAS and CPA levels, depending on your needs. 

Although Smart Shopping is entering its prime in terms of value, standard Smart campaigns and Smart Display are still in their infancy. In time, with powerful data and machine learning, these will catch up.

So what can you do in the meantime to align your digital strategy with Google?

Observation audiences, a refresher

Observation audiences aren’t new. In fact, they have been an option in Google Ads for a long time. It was in 2018 when AdWords rebranded that Google put this option front and centre of their Display campaigns.

In terms of audiences, you have two options for how these are assigned.

  1. You can ‘target’ audiences, where you filter your campaign by groups of users.
  2. You can ‘observe’, where you allow audiences to be recorded in your Google Ads data without being used as a filter in your targeting.

Observation audiences, as well as devices and ad scheduling, can have positive and negative bid adjustments; this means you can adjust your output to the highest converting users based on the data.

Audiences are more traditionally set in Display and Video; however, the observation functionality is becoming a surprisingly valuable asset to Search. 

Keywords vs audiences

Google Ads very much started with the focus on keyword targeting. The whole USP was the ability to target people for your products and services based on what they search for.

If someone searches for ‘Nike trainers’, they are probably looking to buy Nike trainers. Because of this, keyword research used to be a fundamental process of any successful campaign; it ensured you covered every possible variation of how someone could search for Nike trainers. 

Dynamic Search and Smart campaigns then arrived and took away the need to spend endless hours trawling through clients’ websites and keyword research. Smart bidding came in and took away the need to monitor CPCs.

For easier management, you can even let Dynamic Search do your keyword research for longtail search terms (and focus on the most popular keywords for your regular Search campaign by using the SKAG structure). This is where observation audiences come in handy.

Paid marketing is all about reaching the right person, at the right place, at the right time. Search presents a crucial part of the customer journey where they are ready or researching to purchase.

The possibilities with observation audiences are enormous. It means you can have a more simplistic account structure and instead focus on putting more inventory in converting audiences and less on poor performers. One of the main benefits of observation audiences is that you don’t have to research the audiences you select because you can add in every possible audience and then adjust your bids accordingly.

Why you should switch your focus

  • Save time. Keyword research as a cost saver can take hours, and it’s never finished. If you create a more straightforward Search campaign structure and use audience bid adjustments, you can save much time focusing on the more creative elements of your campaigns.
  • Capitalise on returning customers. As well as Google’s pre-determined in-market and affinity audiences, you can also import audiences from your website tags. For the best customisation, Analytics can help you define audiences based on their behaviour on your website and varying levels of engagement, e.g. shopping cart abandoners and product page viewers.
  • Swim downstream. As Google move away from customisation to automation, rather than trying to fight this change and swim against the current, you can take advantage of their vast data and machine learning and elevate your marketing strategy.

If you want your eCommerce store to stay ahead of the competition on Google Ads changes, Pivotal’s team of certified paid marketing specialists can help you grow your business online.

Book a call with one of our dedicated account strategists to discover how Pivotal take you and your business to the next level.

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