Google Marketing Live: a brief history
In 2019, we learned about Discovery Ads, Gallery Ads, and Max Conversion Value.
In 2020, we learned that even Google couldn’t withstand a pandemic.
In 2021, we learned that Alicia Keys hates being marketed to.
All kidding aside, many would agree that the key takeaways from this year’s event are pretty ambiguous and confusing. We’ve been taking some time to digest everything so we can share the information with you as clearly as we can, and from a small business standpoint.
And here it is, our comprehensive overview of Google Marketing LiveStream 2021—the 17 most important announcements and what you really need to know about them. These will be categorized by:
- Reporting accuracy
- Local advertising
- Google Shopping
- Out of beta
We’ve got the short and long versions of them, with expert input, and one announcement that was made just days ago!
But first, the top 8 announcements from Google Live 2021 in a nutshell
Before we go into detail for all 17 announcements we’ll be covering in this post, here’s a quick snapshot of what we consider to be the top eight.
- Cross-network attribution reporting.
- Performance Max campaign reports.
- Shopify + Google.
- Image extensions in text ads.
- Black-owned attribute in Google Shopping.
- More accurate reporting in Ads and Analytics
- Price competitiveness report.
- Customer Match threshold was not really lowered.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, we can dive into the deets.
Cookieless reporting announcements
Between cross-device behavior already being difficult to track and cookie restrictions on browsers, it’s harder than ever to obtain accurate reports to measure and improve your ad campaigns. Google announced three features that will help advertisers to get the data they need in this privacy-first world.
1. Enhanced conversions
Short version: This tracking feature uses hashed first-party data to produce more accurate, but privacy-friendly, reports.
More: Traditionally, third-party data has allowed advertisers to both show a user’s path to the ad that got them to the landing page (for proper attribution), and to track their behavior after they leave that landing page (for remarketing).
But without cookies, each visit to your website/landing pages will be treated as a new session, even if the user has been there before doing other conversion activities.
With enhanced conversions, your GTM tags will send consented, but hashed, first-party data about your website visitors to Google, which it will then match to users in its first-party database, and then sends back aggregated and anonymous conversion information. This way you can more accurately report on conversions and optimize your campaigns while honoring privacy and security regulations.
Brett McHale, founder of Empiric Marketing, LLC, feels good about this new reporting feature.
“Anything that can help make conversion tracking more accurate is always a plus for advertisers, particularly if they are trying to match the first-party data they are receiving on their end. Enhanced Conversions will be beneficial to advertisers who are capturing information like phone number, first/last name, email address, or home address.”
2. Consent mode
Short version: Tags dynamically adjust to specific cookie preferences a user makes, so you don’t need a complicated tag setup.
More: Consent mode is another way to get more accurate conversion data in a private and secure way. With this feature, your global site tags or GTM tags will default to ‘denied’ for values like ‘ad_storage’ and ‘analytics_ storage’ unless granted by the user in a granular consent banner, like this one:
If a user gives no consent, Google will use conversion modeling to fill in the gaps. Consent mode reduces the need for complicated tag setups and, according to Google, “recovers 70% of conversion journeys lost due to user consent choices.”
In the same article, Google presents eligibility requirements for consent mode. Advertisers need to:
- Have an advertising presence in the European Economic Area (EEA) or the UK.
- Be implementing the IAB Transparency & Consent Framework (TCF v2.0) on your site.
- Meet a daily ad click threshold of 100 clicks per day, per country and domain grouping.
3. Behavioral reporting in Google Analytics
Short version: Machine learning will help to fill in the gaps in Google Analytics Behavior reports to enable more visibility into the customer journey.
More: Just as Google is using machine learning to assist with conversion tracking in Google Ads, it is also using it to assist with behavioral reporting in Google Analytics. The loss of cookies will throw off a wide range of metrics, like bounce rate, sessions, events, and more.
Many marketers have created new tags in Google Tag Manager and separate dashboards to view hidden data that standard GA reporting does not catch. With machine learning and modeling technology, Google hopes to fill in these gaps.
Google hopes to minimize behavioral reporting discrepancies in Analytics with modeling technology. Image source
“We are already seeing the ramifications to advertising (iOS changes). Users opting out of in-app tracking has fudged with conversion tracking and campaign optimization at varying levels.
There is the potential, in the near future, that the marketer’s ability to track and remarket via cookies will be greatly diminished as users are given greater control over their data at both the browser and website levels.
We recommend getting Google Analytics 4 set up as soon as possible. At the ad level, all we can do is hope that Google and Facebook can innovate their products to continue to give advertisers the level of targeting they need to run effective campaigns.”
Many of Google’s announcements over the past year—like the new default to the responsive ad type, limitations in the search terms report and modified broad match going away—have been received by advertisers as a series of incremental shifts inGoogle’s overall push for automation. We’re not happy about it, but we may as well learn how to use them to our highest benefit. Here are two new automation-related announcements by Google.
4. tROAS for Video action and Discovery campaigns
Short version: Value-based bidding is now available for Video action and Discovery campaigns.
More: With tROAS, you can concentrate on metrics that are aligned with your goals, and calculate ROI even if you have multiple offerings with different price points. tROAS is currently available globally in beta for Discovery campaigns, and fully rolled out for Video action campaigns.
YouTube Video action campaigns appear across YouTube Home feed, watch page, watch next feed, and Google video partners. (Image source)
Susie Marino, PPC consultant and WordStream Content Marketing Specialist, has mixed emotions about this feature.
“It’s interesting Google is introducing tROAS as an option for these two campaign types because it feels as though it’s contradictory to the platform’s previous stance on the bid strategy for Search and Display campaigns. We know tROAS for Search and Display is now being considered a legacy strategy as Max Conversion Value with the option for tROAS is the new standard.
Additionally, while Google encourages all account types to leverage this value-based bidding strategy even now with Discovery and Video action campaigns, I still think they have a long way to go to make this a small business-friendly option. This is because not all small businesses have the settings in place for a tROAS strategy to make sense, especially if they’re offering a service or a product without concrete price points.”
5. Video action campaigns are replacing TrueView for action
Short version: By early 2022, TrueView for action campaigns will be upgraded to Video action campaigns, which use responsive ad groups and appear across more Google properties.
More: Google announced on June 11 that TrueView for action campaigns will eventually be replaced with Video action campaigns. Video action campaigns, which came out in June of 2020, are an automated campaign type that gets served across multiple Google properties: YouTube’s home feed, watch page, watch next feed, and Google video partners.
They differ from TrueView for action campaigns because they use responsive ad groups rather than standard ad groups.
Here’s what you need to know:
- You can create Video action campaigns now (for the Website Traffic, Sales, and Leads goal types).
- Starting July 31, 2021, you’ll be able to convert Trueview for action campaigns into Video action campaigns.
- After September 30, 2021 you will no longer be able to create new TrueView for action campaigns.
- In early 2022 all TrueView for action campaigns will be automatically converted to Video action campaigns.
After September 30, 2021, you will not have the option to choose the standard ad group option.
6. More transparency for Performance Max campaign reporting
Short version: You will soon be able to get the essential information you need on this new campaign type, like top-performing creations and their previews on each channel.
More: Performance Max campaigns were introduced in October of 2020. Like Smart campaigns, these campaigns are automated. But unlike Smart campaigns, you can create one campaign to run across all of Google’s platforms: Search, Display, Discover, Maps, Gmail, and YouTube.
Reminder! As of July 1, you cannot create new Gmail ads, but existing campaigns will still run!
Performance Max campaigns are created similarly to Responsive display ads, where you provide the assets and Google will rotate them to find the best combination.
Previously, there was no way of viewing how assets were performing and what properties they were appearing on. To answer this call for more visibility, Google is planning to roll out reports on top performing creations, auction info, trending search categories; as well as the ability to preview your best ads on each channel.
Francine Rodriguez, Senior Manager of Customer Success at WordStream (also one of PPC Hero’s 2019 Top 5 Rising Stars & 2020 Top 50 Most Influential PPC Experts), feels positive about this upgrade.
“This is a gamechanger for anyone who has been afraid of trying this type of campaign for lack of insight into performance. It is no longer a black box and you can get insights that could be added to the distinct campaign.
Also, this change provides SMBs who are afraid to dive into paid search an outlet to experiment on how their business would perform across all options that Google has to offer. After trying Performance Max campaigns, they might be more willing to invest time and education in trying more specific campaign types.”
Local advertising announcements
While you can (and should) follow these free methods to organically rank higher on Google Maps, there are also Google Maps advertising options that can further enhance your visibility. Included in the Google Marketing Livestream product announcements were three new Maps ad types that can benefit businesses with a physical location.
7. Auto suggest ads
When you start entering a query in a Google Maps search, ads will now appear in those suggestions for a nearby business that provides the product or service you’re searching for. They’re marked with a very discrete “Ad” label.
Image adapted from Google
8. Navigational ads
With this ad type, ads will appear for businesses that are on the route to a user’s destination. Google ensures us that these are safe for the driver, but I’d certainly want to check out Bob’s Burgers before adding that stop to my route.
9. Similar places ads
These ads will show businesses nearby that are similar to the one you have searched for, if that business is closed—whether temporarily or permanently due to the pandemic, or just according to their operating hours.
10. New attributes for local inventory ads
Even though we’re in the post-COVID chapter, the curbside pickup option that we came to know and love during the pandemic is still popular. For businesses using local inventory ads, your available products will now appear with “Pick up today” or “Curbside” labels. “Pickup later” is in beta.
To create local inventory ads, you need to set up a Merchant Center account, a Google My Business Locations account, and a Google Ads account.
Google Shopping announcements
Francine Rodriguez, mentioned earlier, thinks the Google Shopping announcements are the most exciting changes that can help impact small to medium-sized accounts.
“This is a clear indication that ecomm in 2020 was driving the paid search space,” says Rodriguez. “It is imperative that small businesses treat setting up their Google Merchant Center and learning feeds as important as they consider PPC to be.”
11. Shopify integration
Short version: Users of Shopify will now be able to display products across Google entities like Maps, Images, Lens, and Youtube in just a few easy clicks.
More: Google and Shopify have upgraded to a more enhanced partnership between one another so that Shopify users can more easily take advantage of Google entities when it comes time to display their products to consumers.
While it has yet to be announced exactly when this will roll out, what we do know is that by using Shopify’s Google Channel directly in Shopify, it will be much easier for Shopify users to reach consumers beyond the SERP shopping results, regardless of their Merchant Center set up in Google Ads.
They’re calling this new collaboration project the “Shopping Graph” where online shoppers will now receive more information than ever about what products they can select as well as where to find them across a plethora of Google products.
12. Black-owned attribute tags in shopping ads
Short version: Google Ads has added an additional identity attribute within the Merchant Center for black-owned and women-owned businesses.
More: In the shopping feed, we’re used to the old-school product attributes like product ID, title, and description. These will show on the item’s shopping placement, but now when advertisers navigate into the Business Information section of their Merchant Center, they can opt in to self-identify as a black-owned business. They will then be included in any black-owned shopping promotions Google runs on its entities.
Also, any products displayed by a business that self-identifies as black-owned will have a sticker so that consumers who would like to support these businesses have the opportunity to do so.
This is similar to how women-owned businesses have been able to self-identify as such on Google My Business. These additions to Google’s products are in line with the push for more inclusivity across the marketing landscape.
13. Price competitiveness report in Google Merchant Center
Short version: By using an average price for all products that meet “minimum thresholds for traffic and Retailer aggregation,” this new reporting feature in Google Merchant Center will allow sellers to see the prices competitors are posting for the same products.
More: Think of this one the Google Shopping version of Auction Insights, where you can get an edge on how you stack up against competition. On top of adjusting price based on what is shown in this new report, this will also help sellers get a better idea of what they should be bidding as well.
This too will help if you ever feel a top product has suddenly gone downhill in terms of ROAS or general traction you can double-check this report to see if competitors are suddenly amping up their ammo.
Susie Marino, mentioned earlier in this post, is excited about this report.
“The price competitiveness report is the first time Google Shopping advertisers get in-depth competitive insights right from within Google Merchant Center. I think this feature has been long-awaited and will make it easier for sellers to know where first to look when it comes time for optimization. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the ecomm space, as we (as consumers) may now see fluctuations in product prices based on how sellers react to their own reports.”
14. Shopify sites can use Shop Pay across Google products
Short version: Google Merchant Center advertisers with Shopify websites can now leverage Shop Pay on Google products to further increase sales.
More: Shop Pay is Shopify’s completely electronic payment app that allows consumers to quickly and efficiently input their shopping information via a security code. This saves time at checkout, making it easier for shoppers to follow through with those purchases that make advertisers money.
Along with the integration of the “Shopping Graph” we mentioned above, this addition will allow shoppers to quickly make purchases directly from Google products. So, even if you’re already leveraging Shop Pay on your Shopify site, having another route of purchase via direct shopping placements across Google products will help to increase sales even further.
Out of beta announcements
Google had some good news for two features in the Google Ads platform.
15. Cross-network attribution reports
Short version: Welcome, Display and YouTube ads, to the attribution club! You can now see how they work in conjunction with Search campaigns to drive conversions.
More: As you know, attribution reports have helped advertisers to see how their different advertising strategies work together to create conversions for Search campaigns—since there’s often much more to the story than the last click. But even though Display and YouTube ads can play a role in the path to purchase, they have always been limited to last-click attribution—until now.
Google announced that “YouTube and Google Display Network ad engagements are now integrated into the attribution reports and non-last-click attribution models” (which includes data-driven models).
With this more holistic view, you can now see how all of your Google ad types are working together to drive conversions.
16. Image extensions in text ads
Short version: The ad extension some may already be familiar with, in which images dynamically appear underneath a conjoined search ad on the SERP, is now out of beta and here to stay, so all accounts will now be able to use it!
More: While this isn’t groundbreaking, many accounts have already seen success with image ad extensions and, therefore, Google has announced it’s officially going to stick as an option among the many ad extensions available to Search ads. Image ad extensions help to compliment as well as amplify text-only ads on the SERP with an image to catch your searcher’s attention.
This may have been one of the most confusing Google Marketing Live events. This is somewhat understandable as we are all entering into uncharted, cookieless territory. But the confusion around Customer Match was pretty disappointing.
17. Customer Match threshold [not really] lowered
Short version: Starting in the fall of 2021, accounts below the $50,000 lifetime spend will have access to Customer Match but with limitations that render it useless for small businesses with lower budgets.
More: With Customer Match, advertisers can upload first-party data (like email addresses from subscription sign-ups, content downloads, etc.) and target those users across all networks—Search, Shopping, and YouTube.
In a post published early on the day of the event, Google writes “We’re now expanding the availability of Customer Match to nearly all advertisers to reach and re-engage customers across ad types.”
BUT the $50,000 spend threshold has not changed. The only change is that accounts that have not met this threshold (i.e., most small and medium sized businesses) can use Customer Match BUT only in Observation Mode and without the ability to set bid adjustments or target users directly.
Instant match ratees
If you are in the $50,000 club, we just want to remind you that as of April 2021, Google will now show instant match rates for customer lists to help you identify right away that you’ve uploaded your data correctly.
Final 2021 Google Marketing LiveStream takeaways
In terms of the positive takeaways from the 2021 Google Marketing LiveStream, we would say that Google helping to facilitate the following for marketers and advertisers:
- Adaptability: The Insights page and soon-to-be demand forecast page will help advertisers adapt more easily to rapid shifts in consumer behavior, which were rampant during the pandemic but will inevitably continue as other world events unfold.
- Inclusivity: This, of course, refers to the new black-owned and woman-owned attributes in shopping ads. On a similar note, the plethora of Google Shopping enhancements will help small businesses to stay competitive in the ecommerce world.
- Accuracy: Enhanced conversions, behavioral modeling, and other machine learning-based features indicate Google’s efforts to help advertisers get the most out of their first-party data as well as the accurate reporting they need These features, combined with the addition of YouTube and Display to attribution reporting, are all aimed at giving advertisers better insights into their buyers’ journeys so they can optimize and grow.
- Visibility: Performance Max campaigns, Video action campaigns, and the Shopify integration all allow advertisers the ability to easily appear across multiple Google properties with a single campaign. Google Maps ads will also help to surface physical businesses to consumers in a real-time manner.
And we’ll leave off with a full list of the announcements we covered:
- Enhanced conversions to improve Google Ads reports.
- Consent mode that makes tagging set up easier.
- Behavioral modeling to improve Google Analytics reports.
- tROAS available for Video action and Discovery campaigns.
- Video action campaigns to replace TrueView for action campaigns
- More reporting for Performance Max campaigns.
- Google Maps auto suggest ads.
- Google Maps navigational ads.
- Google Maps similar business ads.
- New attributes for local inventory ads.
- Shopify x Google integration.
- Black-owned attribute tags in shopping ads
- Price competitiveness report in Google Merchant Center
- Shop Pay available across Google products.
- YouTube and Display ads now included in attribution reports.
- Image extensions in text ads
- Customer match threshold not really lowered.