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One Small Test for Google, One Giant Peek at What’s to Come

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Recently, Google launched a display test on their coveted Search Results Page. It was done quietly, with only a few test partners, and with little fanfare. Despite the limited nature of the test, the story quickly spread in the media, with many writers expressing surprise at the development. But there is nothing surprising about this move, as Google has been providing hints for years now that this development was in the works.

Such an advance will provide Google with great opportunity to ensure their desktop search offering continues to thrive. While much of marketers’ attention has been on mobile, the vast majority of searches (and certainly revenue) are still coming from desktop. There are three fundamental things Google can do to continue to grow their desktop offering—all of which are tied to reaching their visual potential and thus providing more utility for both the marketer and consumer alike.

  1. Make use of its Tech-Stack in its fullest ability. Ad-tech specialists appreciate the fact that the DoubleClick stack (one of the many names it has been referenced as) is now bringing together DART, Adwords, DBM (DSP), Google Analytics and tons of other horse-power. In the past, these components have been treated as separate stars, but now they have yet greater potential to come together as a constellation. Recently, digital marketers have begun to see more cross-pollination in the form of remarketing segments, or with the ways that the GUI is allowing marketers to optimize more of GDN. Consumers have seen little of this behind the scenes progress until now. The recent testing hints that Google may be providing more “clues of value” to the searcher that will better their search experience and help them determine if a product is right for them. These “value clues” might include: price, pictures, logos, products, etc. If a consumer searches for “Tax Service Help,” for example, they may see a larger H&R Block ad that’s more informative and possibly expandable in the future. Google’s Tech-Stack, specifically its DBM/DSP product, can ensure that marketers bid the right amount for the right searcher, for an opportunity to get a larger canvass unit as the query return, instead of a typical text ad.  This would allow the market (advertiser, agency and consumer) to decide what they want to see, and what the value of that is.
  2. Get CPG, Healthcare, Entertainment, Automotive and other hold-out verticals “all in.” Verticals with clear actions and ecommerce goals like retail, finance and travel, have always reaped the benefits of Search. However, there will now be huge opportunity for brands in other verticals that may not have taken maximum advantage of the search world before, to jump in with both feet—as blue links will no longer rule over years of brand building. In 2012, CPG, Healthcare, Auto, nor Entertainment brands were in the top five verticals in terms of spend with Google. Yet, when you look at the top 10 advertisers nationally overall (all mediums), you see a list dominated by CPG and Auto brands. It’s not a stretch to believe that Google recognized this discrepancy and naturally wants to participate. The way in for Google is simply to allow advertisers in those categories to trade on their best currency: their vaunted brands and the visual imagery that signal consumers to recall their feelings about those brands.
    Image via Ad Age
    With opportunities to leverage visual assets on the SERP increasing, we are likely to see an influx of dollars into Search. This is good news for advertisers, but also good news for consumers as well. Right now, a search for “blue jeans” triggers a SERP full of sponsored content, while a search for “toothpaste” yields few ads. This is because Colgate and Crest haven’t been able to make paid-search work. But soon, with an ad, they will be able to. (Sources: Business Insider and Ad Age)
  3. Create an even playing field. Right now, a search for “kids vitamins” generates two relatively less known brands in the top two paid positions. There are also PLA’s for vitamin brands based on what is sold online. These images catch the eye of consumers. But why limit this CPG category to just PLA’s? With the impending developments, an even playing field will be within reach for brands, creating a true democracy on the Search page. Google will be better structured to allow consumers to make the most informed choices, presenting all variables to the marketer including brand marks and logos. The display-ification of Search is not just to benefit Google, it will also benefit the consumer who has years of practice in making choices based on visual stimuli.

Once deployed, the impending changes Google was testing out this October will present both consumers and marketers with great opportunities and more utility in Search. Consumers will have more information at-hand to make the most informed purchasing decisions and marketers will gain an even playing field, one that is welcome to brands without clear action and ecommerce goals that haven’t been able to take full advantage of Search before. Google likewise will benefit from the changes, as they are in line with helping Google to reach its visual potential, providing more utility for marketers and consumers and opening open a new avenue for Google to grow their desktop offering.

Read more in AdExchanger.

Cover photo via ThingM