Almost 15 years ago, Google launched its AdWords business, revolutionizing the world of Web advertising and liberating users from the uninformed digital Stone Age.
AdWords gave advertisers the power of context by offering them the opportunity to respond instantly to users’ search intent.
Last week, the search giant launched arguably the most powerful update to Google advertising since AdWords was introduced. Thanks to the company’s new “Customer Match” technology, advertisers can now target specific lists of individuals based on their hashed email addresses, reaching specific people across Google.com, YouTube and Gmail. They can also create expanded lists of individuals based on their Customer Match lists using a new “Similar Audiences” tool.
The introduction of this CRM integration, allowing brands to bring their own first-party data to the business of Google advertising, marks a major step toward the kind of customer context that social advertisers are already making hay with.
In short, digital advertising relevance just shifted into warp speed. It’s good for advertisers and consumers alike, and it’s in line with best-in-class capabilities available elsewhere.
Facebook and Twitter both offer CRM-based ad targeting, called Custom Audiences and Tailored Audiences, respectively. These have become fundamental building blocks for digital campaigns over the last few years, because Twitter and Facebook have massive datasets of individual user identities. They use these datasets to target ads across browsers and devices, eliminating the need for browser cookies and connecting the dots between each user and his backpack full of devices.
Google, which you’re probably logged into on both your iPhone and your Macbook Air right now, has a similar data set of individual, cross-device identities. And it still has the original game changer, too: search intent.
Search intent became a key driver of ROI for online advertisers because it didn’t require any previous knowledge about users before the search was performed. The data required for targeting arrived instantly with the search query. Instant relevance. But by combining search intent with targeting on an individual identity level, Google has unlocked a powerful new set of insight-driven capabilities for today’s digital advertisers.
In its blog post announcing Customer Match, Google highlights the powerful potential combination of search and individual relationships, writing: “Let's say you’re a travel brand. You can now reach people who have joined your rewards program as they plan their next trip. For example, when these rewards members search for ‘non-stop flights to new york’ on Google.com, you can show relevant ads at the top of their search results on any device right when they’re looking to fly to New York.”
Of course there’s more. Looking to the future, Google can surely go beyond just matching search queries with relevant ads.
When individuals are logged in to Google, their Google.com search histories and the videos they’ve viewed on YouTube are tracked and recorded by Google, too. This currently powers an interest-based ad targeting system that can already be leveraged in Google Display Network and TrueView video campaigns — again, similar to the interest-based targeting popular on Facebook and Twitter.
As a result, the targeting Google can supply at an individual user level isn’t just a list of names. It’s a colorful history of activity and interests associated with those names, too.
The recent media frenzy over ad blocking touched a nerve. As a result, I foresee a more relevant future on the horizon in digital advertising.
Google’s latest bid to drive this relevance is both meaningful and exciting. If you’re an advertiser in the process of planning your 2016 budget, you can no longer afford to push digital aside. The reach and precision available from digital’s best channels simply cannot be ignored.
If you don’t believe me, go ahead and Google it.