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Google Ads announce more changes to match types – Challenges and opportunities

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Google Ads has recently announced that it now allows ads to be served for queries that it understands to share the same meaning on broad modified and phrase match keywords.

For bigger advertisers, this is probably not a huge concern, as they are not limited by budget. Being visible for a wider range of search terms without having to add thousands of keyword variations can only be a good thing.

But what about those with limited budgets, and those in niche industries that need to target very specific keywords?

While there will undoubtedly be challenges to overcome in light of these changes, there are also likely to be opportunities.

Challenges

1. Spend may increase

An increase in impressions is likely to equate to more clicks, which is fine if these clicks go on to convert. But with Google determining how relevant a search term is to the keywords in your campaigns, just how much could spend skyrocket if left unchecked?

Neil Andrew from AdTech startup PPC Protect, says:

“These changes are definitely going to result in a massive increase in irrelevant and even invalid traffic on Google Ads accounts that aren’t actively managed/monitored. Our internal analysis on this shows up to 20% increases in budget usage from the change in broad/phrase match keywords, the vast majority of which isn’t relevant to a conversion action. As a SaaS platform provider, we are in a unique position to analyse this.

We have over 35,000 Google Ads accounts connected to our system currently, and we have had a number of users notice an uptick in both wasted spend and irrelevant traffic. We’ve also seen a large share of this traffic be invalid – mostly from bot activity and competitor clicking activity. It seems like narrow niche targeting is getting tougher to achieve by the day.”

2. Impressions may be wasted on irrelevant search terms

If you’re using a target impression share bid strategy, now might be the time to review it as this might impact impression share metrics.

Impressions may now include ads triggered by keywords that Google determines to have the same meaning (unless they are added as negatives). Just how much impression share is Google going to give to variants, rather than the keywords actually in the campaign?

3. Irrelevant terms/keywords would need to be revisited and reviewed

Ads showing for irrelevant terms/keywords that are already in the account that were tested earlier and paused due to poor performance are a major bugbear of mine.

I’ve noticed keywords that have been tested previously, and paused, can still be shown as a close match. So if you have keywords that you’ve paused because they historically haven’t worked well, you’ll now need to check if Google is still serving ads for the keyword and exclude it.

This means you’ll end up with keywords that state both added and excluded.

4. More time will need to be spent on analyzing search term reports and building negative keyword lists

Yes, analyzing search term reports is absolutely something that all PPC managers should be doing on a regular basis. However, having to check search term reports daily to exclude the keywords an advertiser doesn’t want to serve ads for is going to be time-consuming, especially on large accounts, taking time away from managing and optimizing other aspects of a campaign.

Sam Kessenich, Chief Digital Officer, RyTech, is already noticing impressions ramp up.

“Regarding the most recent changes to keyword targeting, without a doubt, these changes will increase impressions and clicks across almost every campaign. We’re noticing an increase across all search campaigns due to this change, and are being forced to do daily or weekly negative keyword additions when keywords don’t match goals. Proper negative keyword research and search term monitoring is the most effective strategy we can do before accounts launch and as accounts are running.”

5. Building ad groups with single keywords just got a lot more difficult

A great way to have control over a campaign at a very granular level is to build single keyword ad groups (SKAG). This strategy allows for highly focused ad copy and landing pages, and as a result, quality scores for this type of campaign are high.

Carolina Jaramillo, Paid Media Manager at POLARIS explains why this strategy will no longer be as effective.

“I’m a big fan of creating SKAG structured campaigns, and this new change might make it more difficult to protect the single keyword ad group structure. Consequently, due to this new change, how will we be able to optimise ad copy for a single keyword when this keyword is liable to match a wide range of different queries? Although I am interested to see how Google will look for opportunities to expand our reach to serve ads for relevant queries as they say in their update, and as they state 15% of searches we see every day are new, we will have to wait and see how this change will affect our clients’ Google Ads campaigns.”

So, can any good come of these changes?

Opportunities

1. May reveal new keywords that were not previously targeted which actually convert

Not everyone searches the same. So coming up with a comprehensive keyword list that captures every single potential search term a user might enter to find your products and services is nigh-on impossible. Keyword research can only take you so far.

With this in mind, showing ads for searches that share the same intent may provide a great opportunity to track down some high converting keywords, which may have otherwise been overlooked.

KC Cotton, PPC Manager at Clean Origin thinks there are benefits of Google showing not only for close variants but also conceptually related keywords.

“I have already seen some very smart close variants triggering existing keywords. Whether these keywords can be left alone, included within an existing ad group or a new ad group created around those keywords for highly targeted ad copy; all offer a great way to expand your campaign reach and performance. The greater the awareness of a consumer’s journey to conversion, and how that journey functions within the search funnel, allows for a highly tactical approach when reaching consumers. With more data at our fingertips, we can enhance campaign optimization strategy and expand reach through relevant searches.”

2. Will save time creating granular ad groups

As Google is capable of understanding when search terms mean the same thing, and will serve ads as a result, you no longer need to worry about including the keywords within that ad group in the ad copy. While it’s not yet clear how showing ads for close match and intent-based variations of your keywords will impact metrics like ad relevancy, this catch-all approach could save time when it comes to creating granular ad groups containing just a couple of keywords for every campaign.

Coupled with a feature like keyword insertion, this could be a powerful way of increasing reach on low impression campaigns while making the ads more relevant to the user’s search term with minimal effort.

3. Top tips and advice from PPC managers

Rather than panic, you should be proactive in preparing for this change and keep a very close eye on your accounts as it begins to roll out.

“Broad and phrase match CPCs are increasing because there are more campaigns competing for the same keywords now. A good tactic is to allocate a portion of the daily budget to the new phrase match and broad match parameters and see which keywords are resulting in low CPCs and high CTRs. Those keywords can then be optimized into ‘exact matches.’ Overall, this change makes keyword research much more important now because a higher value will lie in ‘exact match’ keywords.”

Haris Karim, Lead Digital Strategist at MAB.agency.

“To avoid the negative effects of unwanted reach, skew towards more specific match types like exact match, although exact match already allows same-meaning close variant targeting so that is not as specific as it once was, too. In addition to this, make sure you are using a robust negative keyword strategy to avoid showing for unwanted queries. Lastly, review your search term reports regularly to ensure your impressions are relevant to your ad group keywords, ads, and landing pages.”

Timothy Johnson, SMB Solutions and PPC Lead at Portent Digital Agency.

“I would say that if you still have some ad groups built around different match types, you should consolidate those ad groups into one. For instance, if you have an ad group dedicated to exact match keywords, and another ad group dedicated to phrase match, the phrase match keywords (which now are showing for more phrases) will cannibalize all of that exact-match traffic unless the exact-match keywords have higher bids and ad rank.”

Adam Gingery, Digital Strategy and Paid Search Manager at Majux Marketing.

“I feel like Google is trying to make our lives easier with this latest change, but it’s actually just making them harder. Yes, there will be opportunities for the big spenders to get more exposure from the lower volume terms that they may not have thought of or come across yet, but for the smaller players that need to spend their limited budget very wisely, it means more time needs to be spent constantly monitoring search term reports and adding more and more negatives. So my tip for those smaller advertisers would be to focus on negative keywords. Regularly check search term reports and add negative phrases straight from there, but also take the single terms within the longer phrases that are wrong, and add those as broad match negatives to stop Google showing ads for another phrase containing that term, if it will always be wrong.”

Ashleigh Davison, Head of Biddable Media, Browser Media.

“The obvious suggestion here to minimize impact is to focus on negative keywords, especially if you can do this preemptively before they start costing you money. So instead of just thinking of all the most obvious negatives that a business would want to avoid, you will now need to start thinking about close variations of your products or services that you may want to add.”

Ryan Scollon, PPC freelance consultant.

What do you think the impact will be? We’d love to know your thoughts.

Victoria is Account Director at Browser Media. She can be found on Twitter @VikingWagon.

Search Engine Watch – PPC

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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