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Google Apps And Utilities: Merkle's Search Campaign Alternatives

It appears that internet utilities will take search into the future, whether organic or paid. 

Google-owned maps app Waze already allows small businesses to buy advertising through branded pins, paid-search results and pop ups. The feature was introduced more than a year ago. Now, with the help of artificial intelligence, these utility apps can begin to offer sponsored ads based on location and historical searches on google.com.

Let's say you are on a long drive. Through Google’s connected apps and location services, the technology could identify when a driver might need to stop and take a rest, based on data that included the time of day.

“Hey, it’s getting late, try the Choice Hotels [at 111 Main Street,] which is five minutes from your location,” said Matthew Mierzejewski, senior vice president, search capability lead at Merkle. “It’s a way to take in new contextual data to offer opportunities in a helpful way -- not in a way that’s annoying, but subtle and helpful.”

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Perhaps the driver searched for McDonald's in the past. Now it’s around 6 p.m., the dinner hour for many people. Waze notices the driver hasn’t stopped the car for hours, so it might suggest a place to stop, eat and rest.  

There are even more utility apps that Google could use to generate revenue. Earlier this month, a Bloomberg article reported that more than 1 billion people use Google Maps. The service has been mostly free from ads since it launched 14 years ago. If it were tied to Waze and google.com, that could change quickly.

“Last summer, voice-based directions from the Maps app started mentioning well-known brand names from companies that are already big buyers of Google’s search ads,” per Bloomberg.

Rather than "turn right on Schindler Avenue," the driver heard "turn right at the Starbucks" or the Dunkin' Donuts. Google told Bloomberg these were not ads -- just helpful landmarks. 

It’s another way to think about how to use search data. Mierzejewski has a many ways for marketers to think about how to use search data.

Take custom intent audiences that leverage YouTube as an example. Mierzejewski said the campaign would serve YouTube video ads targeted to individuals who perform searches on google.com, for keyword searches such as “composite decking.”

If a person wants to build a new deck or patio, after they build the deck, they likely want to buy some new outdoor furniture. So Merkle is buying YouTube pre-roll video ads for customers who have shown interest in similar products through keywords. It applies to any product vertical, and Mierzejewski said more than a dozen brands use the strategy.

He calls it prospecting video or performance video. “It’s a strategy that marketers have found it very difficult to crack in the past.”

Search in 2019 doesn’t look like it did years ago.

Brands need to take another perspective. Mierzejewski said it is important to look for the search traffic that doesn’t necessarily have consumer intent, but rather interest. Something that might have been created by a negative and unexpected occurrence.  

In another example, Merkle has been working with keywords related to television shows like “Sharp Objects” — an American psychological thriller on HBO, based on Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name. As the show aired, and even prior to the show airing, marketers bought keywords that people might search while watching, based on what the agency identified on social sites:  Words like “incorrigible” or “the acid.”

Queries including keywords like “watch” spiked significantly during the premiere week.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, will report first-quarter 2019 earnings April 29 after the market close. Based on 13 analyst forecasts, Zacks Investment Research estimates EPS forecast for the quarter is $10.37. The reported EPS for the same quarter last year was $9.93.

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