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GML: My Three Key Takeaways from the Google Updates

Digital marketers from across the country descended on Mountain View, California last week for Google’s annual event, Google Marketing Live (GML). There were a lot of important topics covered, from the future of video to investing in privacy-safe measurement. Rather than summarize what’s already been shared across the web, I’d like to offer my three takeaways from this year’s event.

1)  Google is bringing more visibility to the black box.

Automation is a huge area of focus for marketers right now, and rightfully so. Google’s changes to search in recent years, from the transition to RSA-only text ads and removal of the broad match modifier match type to the introduction of Performance Max campaigns, point toward a future for SEM that relies heavily on machine learning and automation.

One reason marketers may struggle to embrace automation is the limited visibility into performance and insights that can be translated into learnings for other channels. When things are going well, they want to know why so it can be replicated; when things aren’t going well, they want to understand what can be tweaked to right the ship.

Several updates Google shared during Google Marketing Live will provide new levels of insights for marketers using automation. The first set of announcements center around Performance Max. Advertisers can now use experiment tools to A/B test and measure the incremental impact of Performance Max campaigns. This is an important feature for advertisers to feel more comfortable and confident when transitioning to the relatively new campaign format. Optimization scores and new recommendations will also roll out to Performance Max to give marketers targeted recommendations for improving their campaigns.

Marketers will also get more performance visibility from the Insights page. Audience insights will soon support first-party data to help advertisers understand which customer segments are performing best. With impending privacy changes and the deprecation of the third-party cookie, this level of insight will be valuable for search marketers to understand what type of audience segmentation is most meaningful for their business.

There is certainly still an element of trust that needs to happen when leveraging automation, but seeing Google’s interest in providing more information to marketers was encouraging and, I thought, notable.

2) Measurement is taking a more prominent role in digital marketing conversations.

We believe that accurate, robust data and measurement are truly critical for any organization to market successfully. Measurement is a high priority for many brands now, whether that’s because of the upcoming migration to Google Analytics 4 or the challenges presented by ongoing privacy changes.

Google made several announcements at Google Marketing Live that will improve measurement capabilities, especially across the Google Marketing Platform (GMP). One notable callout is lift measurement, which will allow advertisers to understand the incremental impact of Google marketing campaigns. Conversion Lift will do exactly what it sounds like it will, while Search Lift will evaluate the incremental impact of YouTube campaigns on organic searches across Google and YouTube. These tools will also be available directly in the Google UI, removing the need to work with your Google teams for implementation and providing more flexibility to advertisers and agencies themselves.

Enhanced conversions, currently in alpha, are opening up to a broader set of advertisers. Using enhanced conversions is a great actionable step for advertisers to take right now to future-proof their measurement. Leveraging enhanced conversions helps improve the accuracy of measurement and reduce the reliance on modeled conversions. While the lift might be small, true deterministic data will be a key opportunity in a cookieless world.

Google also highlighted some existing capabilities around measurement, including its modeling practices and benefits of Google Analytics 4. While not net new, the fact that these items received valuable GML coverage signals that Google recognizes the importance of measurement for marketers, especially as we move into a privacy-focused world.

3) Testing will be important for success moving forward.

Testing has always been important in marketing, but there was particular emphasis on it this year at GML. As new products and features roll out in coming months, advertisers should test them to prove their value before going all-in on a new format or offering. Google is investing in new tools to make testing better and easier – including one-click split testing for broad match and the previously mentioned Performance Max campaign A/B testing. Figuring out the right mix of formats, creative, ad copy, etc. will set brands apart in an age when automation helps level the playing field. One of the many benefits of automation is that is frees up time for testing – marketers should take advantage.

Visibility, measurement, and testing were the big takeaways for me from GML. There were many other important topics discussed at this year’s event, like more visual and engaging Shopping experiences, so I encourage you to check out the on-demand recordings from the event for a full download. I’m excited to see these new features come available in the coming year!