July 22, 2021

What’s Happening With Google Ad Changes?

Image of multicolored Google sign letters

This past May — where does the time go? — Google held its first Marketing Livestream in two years, showcasing the latest features for Google Ads. As with past years, the event promoted new elements for all advertisers; here, we highlight what will have a direct impact on our life-sciences clients. Many features were announced that we’ve confirmed won’t be relevant or available for our industry (Customer Match, Product Feeds, or Image Extensions, for example). So: here’s what pharma marketers need to know, including an update from Google just announced today.

Increasing Automation
Automated products have been a big push for Google in recent years and the company will continue these investments in 2021. And while previous changes surrounded the management of account elements like keyword match types and the addition of responsive search ads, upcoming changes will tackle the account success metrics and KPIs. Soon, Google will be expanding advertisers’ ability to target return on ad spend (ROAS) through all channels, including YouTube, Search, and Display.

Before jumping into automated strategies, it’s vital to be crystal clear on business objectives, goals, and KPIs. Automated tactics also require patience and a commitment to the end result: It takes time for Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) system to learn how and where to show ads, experimenting along the way to achieve the end targeted results.

Performance Max campaigns are a new type of automated campaign that runs across *all* Google ad inventory: YouTube, Search, Display, etc. Advertisers provide the copy, images, or videos, and Google’s AI/ML serves ads using Smart Bidding — i.e., Google Ads’ implementation of machine learning to optimize bids for conversions or conversion value — based on the advertisers’ goals. They are currently expanding the beta (which requires Google Reps to nominate individual accounts) and are looking at a full launch later this year.

Just today, Google announced that, “In the next few weeks, you’ll no longer have the option of using the old Target CPA or Target ROAS bid strategies for standard campaigns. Instead, use the updated bid strategies by setting optional targets. This update only applies to campaign-level strategies; portfolio bid strategies will be updated next year. There will be no impact to bidding behavior due to this update. Using Maximize conversions with a target CPA will have the same bidding behavior as Target CPA. Likewise, using Maximize conversion value with a target ROAS will have the same bidding behavior as Target ROAS. “

Refinements to Measurement and Reporting
YouTube and Google Display Network (GDN) touch points will be included in attribution models. Search and shopping campaigns already were, but YouTube and GDN used “last click” attribution, meaning that they were only counted as a conversion if they were the very last click of a user before converting. Expanding the attribution model to include YouTube and GDN begins to close the circle that is the Google advertising landscape. Google hopes this will allow for the better planning and execution of full-funnel advertising efforts.

Demand Forecasts will also be rolled out, building upon the Google Ads insights page. Demand Forecasts display metrics based on predicted changes in search behavior in the 90 days ahead, helping advertisers to prepare their budget flighting or conversion expectations.

Demand Forecasts in the Insights page, taken from Google.
Demand Forecasts in the Insights page. Image from Google.

Going Cookieless, Though Again Delayed, Remains a Priority
At the May event, Google was eager to emphasize that it is looking to prioritize privacy, insisting they will not build alternative identifiers to track users. As we move toward a cookieless future (for more about that, check out our recent POV) Google recommended strategies such as including the use of properly “consented” first-party data. Note: Just because Google announced another delay in rolling this out, don’t assume it’s not coming. This is, of course, an issue for our industry and the regulations and guidelines under which we operate. But enhancements to attribution modeling, as noted above, will be available, as will some new Google Analytics features that include modeled behavior reporting when cookies are not available.

For the latest ideas on how our brand can refine its Google Ad strategy, talk to your Intouch team!

Keith Spisak is Group Media Director, Paid Search, for Intouch Media, a full-service media agency in the Intouch Group network.