Google Next 2017: The Key Takeaways


Our Head of Digital, Pete Metcalfe, gives us his insight from the recent Google Next conference.

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As I headed to 'Google Next' 2017 I was hopeful of an inspiring few days. I was armed with questions and looking for answers!

How does mobile continue to dominate the Google product landscape? What is the impact of Voice Search given the release of Google home?

With the significant developments in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality - what does Google predict are the big bankers over the coming year and beyond?

Given this evolving consumer landscape, what would Google's role be in advancing the measurement debate? How will they help to establish Data Driven Attribution as the norm and not the aspiration? Tackling the question of true Omni- Channel measurement that doesn't put 'Online' and 'Offline' measurement in silos.

How will they incorporate new workflows into AdWords and Doubleclick to improve the day to day optimisations? Will they make it easier to integrate across audiences, bidding and data? How are they going to tackle poor application of feeds in order to push the Google Shopping performance further? How will they enhance the capabilities of their data driven execution further?

 Here I will seek to outline the key themes from the conference and how they will impact the digital advertising world.

"Transitioning into an AI first world”

 The opening keynote speech, delivered by Matt Lawson, Managing Director of Ads Marketing, set the tone for what would be a key theme across the conference: ‘Transitioning into an AI first world - the latest evolution in computing’.

  •  "Intent, Data and Machine Learning based on two decades of Google Search data signals to create a friction-less experiences."
  • "20% of searches are now voice search on the Google App in US."

Dominant themes from the conference

It was then left to a raft of engaging product heads to deliver the themes and big revels to set the tone of the whole conference:

  •  One Step or One Second: This was the main message on mobile, improvements in mobile landing page speed equals better conversion. A big theme from the event; with Mobile improvements being cited consistently, and mobile landing page experiences being factored into Quality Score, including historical performance.
  • Machine Learning and Automation: The 'arc of bidding sophistication' has been set, with automation unlocking opportunities to simplify optimisations and set targets across CPA, ROAS, Margin and now LTV.
  • Non-line Assistance: This was a new way of articulating that consumers no longer distinguish between online and offline. There are 'no lines' between channels. The customer is the channel and an 'assistive' experience dictates their own personal customer journey. They announced that they would be extending the store sales measurement into AdWords later this year and increasing the depth of the product to overlay at device and campaign level. 
  • Enhancing Audiences: Google outlined the extension of 'in-market' audiences to search. They also outlined plans to extend audience data with 'consumer patterns' and 'life events'. The expansion of Customer match lists was later outlined during the event, with the file upload soon to be unlimited and to include additional data signals (in the US first). 
  • Advancing Measurement: This was the first, and hardest hitting, reveal of the whole conference. A free version of Attribution to be added to Google Analytics and a new and improved Attribution 360 enterprise solution. As well as being able to compare and contrast various models, including DDA vs last click, they also outlined the roll out of Unique Reach tool in Adwords and coming soon to Doubleclick, which will be essential to understand the frequency of users being exposed to ads.
  • The new AdWords Interface: It was time for our colleagues over in iProspect North to get a shout-out! We were one of the first agencies in the world to get access to the new interface, with Rebecca Lamb’s writing the first blog in the world on the new features. The feedback that we gave to Google is helping to shape further releases and they were quick to credit us for this during the event.

 Top 5 Product Updates

The conference was then split into a number of different product takeovers. From interactive sessions, product round tables and individual sessions with some senior influences across Google.

Some of the discussion was partly a validation of how much Carat and iProspect across the North are at the sharp edge of the Betas that are in place, but others were exciting new developments that will enhance our outcomes immediately.

Here are the top 5:

  1. Universal Shopping Campaigns: The next generation of Google Shopping, combining business goals, marketing objectives, creative assets and user data with user experiences on retailer sites, Google and 3rd parties to give the best possible performance metrics. Not a lot more information is available on this, but given the impact that previous versions of Shopping have had on the industry this gets us very excited!
  2. Personal Assistants: Will have an order management API allowing transactional capabilities for websites by Q1 2018 e.g. ‘Hello Google, buy me those classic Nike sneakers’.
  3. Asset Ads: We will be able to submit creative assets such as the various component of text ads, ad extensions etc. via the Google interface and Google will use machine learning to find the optimum combination.
  4. New audiences: We will be able to target 2 new audiences for Search: 1. In-Market audiences (consumers that have shown propensity to be interested in a product through based on the sites that they have visited and the keywords searched for. The Alpha already shows a 10% increase in conversion rates where this audience segment is actively targeted. 2. Household income is being added to demographic targeting.
  5. DoubleClick Social: Integrating DoubleClick with various Paid Social management tools such as Smartly and Sprinklr to allow automatic trafficking of placements, shared retargeting lists, full cross channel attribution etc. We have been Alpha testing this since last year and helping to build the product and select suppliers for DoubleClick to work with.

In Summary

The most important theme coming out of the event is Google’s march towards Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. This will only gain more traction, with the ability to automate around bidding, creative, targeting, scheduling and measurement - it seems to be where they are focusing.

Interestingly, the overwhelming sentiment was that this should create a greater need for specialist human intervention with 'ML only being as good as the rules and inputs that a human creates'. It also placed more focus on creating the right strategies and business outcomes for advertisers, rather than getting lost in the 'hygiene and number crunching'. Anthony Chavez, Director of Product Management, estimated that planned developments in machine learning could take an extra 20% out of the time spent optimising media performance, leaving more time to focus strategy and creating new optimisation frameworks.

Overall, the event was rich in insight and provided a window into the direction of travel of Google's product roadmap. It was also a great experience to spend some time with the 'brains' that are evolving the Google offering. 

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