For the past few years, Google has been increasingly heading towards automated marketing solutions, but for whose benefit?
Basically, Google has been automating more and more of its digital marketing products to make its solutions more accessible to users and, presumably, to increase its profits.
Google Ads has evolved a lot since its creation in 2000. In recent years, a number of products have made the transition to a smart (automated) format, in which advertisers and clients have lost many control options and must entirely trust the algorithms to generate results. While some of these smart campaigns, like smart shopping, usually generate good results, fewer and fewer options are available for analyzing the data and controlling publication in order to optimize results.
Since the advent of smart campaigns, Google has performed two updates aimed at greatly reducing the amount of control advertisers formerly had. One update affected reports on search terms and the other control over keyword matching.
The update to search term reports was made in September of 2020, and now it’s basic targeting’s turn. Major modifications will be progressively made to keyword matching starting on February 18, and the migration will end in July of 2021.
In September 2020, using its concern over privacy as a justification, Google Ads considerably reduced transparency on its purchase platform with a major reduction in access to campaign source data from its search network: the search terms.
“In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.” – Source
Search terms are the most important data for any campaign managed on the search network. This report shows users’ searches for which we’ve received impressions and clicks and made investments in our budget.
This reduction in transparency has caused so much turmoil that a petition was launched to demand the update be abolished, but it’s impossible to fight against a giant like Google. It was a lost cause from the very start.
Since the September 2020 update, around 50% of search term data has been affected, which has caused huge opacity with regard to delivery of results and investments. Possibilities for optimization and control of delivery have been greatly reduced, which has had a direct impact on the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, particularly with regard to the Quality Score. The Quality Score is composed of three elements: the engagement rate (CTR), which composes 75% of the Score; the correlation of the ad with the query, which constitutes 25% of the Score; and the quality of the landing page. Considering that, on average, 30% of search terms are available, users of the platform have lost 50% of their optimization capacity and must now put their trust in the “system,” which, evidently, serves the interests of Google.
*Google Search represents 60% of Alphabet’s revenues for 2020! Source: Forbes
Here is a recent example of available and unavailable data (“Other” queries) in the search term report. The “other” queries are also known as the “blindfold,” a subject we already covered in another article.
We tried to see if the queries that were unavailable in the user interface (the front end) were in the database (the back end) by using tools that connect directly to Google data through the API, such as SuperMetric and BigQuery. Unsurprisingly, the query was completely hidden, even for advanced users connecting directly to source data through API connections.
As you can see, while we can narrow our targeting to Phrase, we can still display on undesirable queries, such as, for example, queries linked to fraud. So it’s essential to properly manage your library of negative keywords in order to control display. And yet since September of 2020, this has become a much more complicated task!
Each type of match receives a different efficiency rate due to its basic functioning. Here, for example, is a distribution of investments by cost per acquisition (CPA) and by type of match. This is a typical situation (a badly optimized account) where the larger the targeting, the higher the CPA. The goal therefore is to target as narrowly as possible in order to reduce the CPA.
As you can see, Broad (including BMM) has a CPA 1,877% higher than Exact, with 509% more investment. That’s why we always recommend saturating Exact and Phrase before even thinking about Broad or BMM (Broad Match Modifier).
Here is the same account after the marketing activities have been taken over by Adviso. We can see here a well-structured, optimized account. Exact is saturated, thereby maximizing performance, and has a CPA that is 80% lower than Phrase.
That being said, Google has taken another step towards data opacity by fundamentally changing the way Match Type BMM and Phrase work.
February 18 will mark the start of a transition for BMM towards an enlarged Phrase, leaving more room for Phrase to be admissible to user queries.
As Google’s press release on the subject emphasized, Phrase will gradually take more and more impressions by positioning itself on queries that we can’t necessarily verify in the search term report . Meanwhile, BMM will get fewer and fewer impressions until it is retired in July of 2021.
This change will definitely have an impact on account performance. For accounts relying a lot on Broad (which we don’t recommend, though not for the reasons outlined above), performance should gradually increase. However, for already optimized accounts that rely on Exact and Phrase, we should see for Phrase:
For our part, we’re good and ready thanks to a media activation cycle that’s already well optimized. Here are a few points to consider in order to limit the impact of these changes:
In light of these recent changes, we expect less control in Google Ads campaigns, to the benefit of Google, which will gradually reduce transparency and control to increase its own profits.
Our experts are closely following the evolution of the industry and understand how to fulfill your different needs, ensuring a transition that will have fewer possible repercussions on your business results.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for an account audit. We will evaluate the impact of these major changes and will work with you to plan your marketing acquisition strategy over the next few years.