Google wants a bigger piece of the online advertising pie—and that means competing with Amazon and Instagram for shoppers.
The internet company generates billions in ad revenue annually, but recent skittishness from investors over revenue growth has forced Google to aggressively pursue new channels. Now the company is adding more mobile ads to its portfolio and searching for ways to offer shopping integrations to compete with Instagram and Amazon.
The new ad offerings emphasize visual content, and Google promises to offer new tools, including artificial intelligence, to help marketers reach bigger audiences and sell more products. However, some marketers say the new ads are hurting organic search results and diluting the experience for consumers on Google’s internet search engine.
What opportunities will be available for marketers and PR pros to get a message in front of new audiences?
If you’re one of the few people who wish for more advertisements across Google platforms, you’re in luck. The search giant announced this week a whole heap of new ads that will be served up across a number of its mobile services. The personalized Discover feed in the Google app will be getting ads for the first time, while more promotional posts will be inserted within Google Images search results, YouTube feeds and Gmail inbox tabs.
The new advertisements will come primarily in two formats: “gallery” ads, which include multiple images that users can swipe through, and “discovery” ads that place sponsored posts in places where people are typically looking for content tailored for them. Discover ads will appear within the Google Discover feed among other places, appearing alongside suggested news stories and other content geared toward a user’s interests. Gallery ads, which are set to roll out later this year, will crop up in search results. Google claims the format has produced 25 percent more interactions than more static ads.
Google asserts that the new offerings are being driven not by a need to compete, but rather by a desire to provide better experiences for consumers.
Google executives told reporters on Monday the latest features were a response to how users behave, not competition.
The company wants to make it easier for users to discover and buy new products because they shop in brief spurts while watching TV or sitting in the bathroom, said Oliver Heckmann, vice president of engineering for Travel and Shopping.
“It actually changed with mobiles and what users expect from an online service like Google,” he said.
One challenge Google hopes to address with new formats is making the ads more visible to viewers who might otherwise scroll on by.
Google searches on mobile will soon include “gallery” ads that allow advertisers to display multiple images for users to swipe through. You’ll also begin to see ads in Google’s discover feed — the feed of news stories that you find built into many Android home screens, inside the Google app, and on Google’s mobile homepage — though they’ll only appear in select locations for now.
The new ad formats are meant to make ads a lot more noticeable. In a blog post, Google ad chief Prabhakar Raghavan says that, in tests, gallery ads resulted in “up to 25 percent more interactions” than traditional search ads.
Gallery ads will only be launching on mobile, not the desktop. Discover ads will appear in Google’s mobile app, as well as on the discover feed on Android phones. Google tells us those ads won’t appear in the discover feed that’s built into the google.com mobile homepage.
The new ad formats mirror a trend in online content emphasizing strong visuals and video. Users should also expect to see advertising innovations on Google’s YouTube.
The Verge continued:
More and more visuals have been making their way onto Google’s mobile search page in recent years. A search for a movie, for instance, will already pull up images of its poster and leading actors, as well as the photos used in top articles about the film. That’s in addition to quite a few other breakout pieces of information, like showtimes, review snippets, and video clips.
Amid all that extra information, adding visuals to ads makes a lot of sense from Google’s perspective. They’ll draw more attention to advertisers’ content, and since Google is paid per click, they could be particularly valuable.
The discover feed — a personalized feed of recommended news stories that Google displays on mobile — will also be getting ads for the first time. They’ll appear just like any other story, with an image on top, a headline, and a subject field with more information. But they’ll have a small badge that says “ad” to let users know it’s sponsored.
Those ads will extend to YouTube as well, where they’ll slot in alongside recommended videos. Discover ads will also roll out later this year.
The changes aren’t welcome for some marketers and SEO pros, who note that organic results will continue to suffer. Many shared their frustration online:
Some argue that Google is changing features that helped it become the dominant search giant it is today:
Others predict that more and more Google products will see advertising:
However, Google is focused on the results it can offer marketers—and the company remains optimistic about what it can do in the future with new AI technology.
Smart Shopping campaigns, announced last year at Google Marketing Live, use machine learning to optimize not only performance based on your goals, but also where your Shopping ads show—on Google.com, Image Search, YouTube and millions of sites and apps across the web. In addition to optimizing for online conversions, Smart Shopping campaigns will soon help you drive more shoppers in-store by allowing you to optimize for store visits and by displaying your local inventory information.
Customers have seen great results in the year since Smart Shopping campaigns launched. For example, Magazines.com worked with Rakuten Marketing to drive a 180% increase in revenue with Smart Shopping campaigns over Black Friday. And other customers see success with Smart Shopping campaigns, too: 80% of advertisers who have tried both Standard and Smart Shopping campaigns, now use Smart Shopping campaigns for the majority of their Shopping ad investment in the last year.
What do you think of Google’s new ads?