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5 Mind-Blowing Takeaways from the Covario-Google Executive Summit

July 29, 2013


Covario’s Executive Summit took place this month at Google’s Mountain View campus. Other than feeling like a kid in a candy store (I seriously just wanted to stay there, and be like Milton from Office Space), there was a ton of interesting information being shared from the folks at Google. Here are my main takeaways from the summit.

1.  It’s time to take the “Year of Mobile” seriously

Google are taking mobile VERY seriously so it is time we did too. The signs are clear:

  • At SMX Advanced last month, Matt Cutts stated that companies without mobile-friendly sites will get penalized in the SERPs.
  • The YouTube one channel design was rolled out in June to provide a better experience across devices, particularly mobile.
  • Last week, enhanced campaigns were rolled out, forcing search managers to separate PC, tablet and mobile bidding under the the same campaigns.

Sameer Rakheja, Google’s Global Search and Planning Lead, reaffirmed this. According to Sameer, the PC era is coming to an end. There have been five consecutive quarters of declining PC sales. In fact, mobiles and tablets have finally surpassed PCs. Multiple sources say that more searches will come from mobile than desktop in 2015. If that is true, then we only have one year, six months to get our ship in order.

However, with all of the mobile mayhem going on, it is important to take a step back and not make the mistake of looking at mobile in a silo – This isn’t just about being better in the mobile channel, it’s about being better across multiple channels.

2. Use SEM and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) together to better target intent

Shopping is a complex journey that involves moving searchers from demand to intent to conversion. It is no longer about one single moment of truth, but multiple moments that are equally important (or as Google calls it, the Zero Moment of Truth – ZMoT).

Just like there is interplay between SEO, PPC and social media, there is also much interplay between online and offline shopping behavior. Perhaps not surprisingly, 78% of all purchase decisions are made before arriving at the store.

Sameer shared some pretty compelling stats around online shopping:

  • Multi-screening: 65% of people move between screens when shopping online
  • Online purchases: 19% of online shopping is carried out between 8pm-12am
  • Repeat visits: 55% of online purchases occur on the second or subsequent visit
  • Complex journeys: 52% of online customer journeys take over 19 days (ZMoT)

Jon Venverloh, Google’s Head of Sales and Channel Intelligence, stated that there are now 1.3 billion products on Google Shopping; this is quite possibly the largest catalog on the web.

Successful Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) rely heavily on good retailer data and product markup. According to John, if you get the data right, then your conversion will be 3X higher compared to standard (text) PPC ads. However, with that being said, don’t dismiss standard PPC ads altogether. Just like SEO and PPC, you get better performance by using PLAs and standard PPC ads in a complementary way.

When building your campaigns, always bring it back to searcher intent. Whilst standard PPC ads work best for broader searches (EG: baseball cap), PLAs should be used to focus on long-tail, specific searches (EG: Dallas Stars ’47 Brand NHL Yosemite Cap). These people know exactly what they are looking for, so make it easy for them to buy and for you to convert them.

In addition, it seems that Product Listing Ads are lending themselves more to omni-channel retailing where it is no longer about the channel, but more about the consumer’s experience, and providing them with a seamless approach through all available shopping channels. For example, PLAs can now be linked to local stores, giving searchers the option to buy at brick and mortar, not just online.

In instances like this, attribution tracking will be vitally important for search marketers. This leads us nicely into…

3. If you haven’t already, go check out the new conversion path and assisted conversion reports in Google Analytics

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Google Analytics any more than I do… until I saw the conversion path and assisted conversion data in GA. I’ve been struggling for a while now with the whole attribution question. We all know that search delivers way more than what our “last-click” tracking tells us, but how do you show it? And what about all of the assist activity that search is not getting credit for?

Now we can get visibility into this in GA… So beautiful.


Here are some of my favorite points from Neil Hoyne, Google’s Marketing Attribution expert (who, by the way, I could have happily sat and listened to all day long):

  • Most marketers just focus on conversion. It’s important not to neglect the dormant audience – you need to feed the future funnel.
  • Display does not have immediate impact on conversion but it does have significant impact on the early consumer deliberation process.
  • Sometimes it isn’t the keyword that’s ineffective, it’s the customer. Is there a more effective way to support them through free channels?
  • It’s not just about the data, it’s about actually using the data to make smarter decisions.

I have a feeling that I will get more into this topic in a future blog post.

4. Be prepared for a Google product takeover

Creating a seamless experience across all Google products seems to be a huge focus for Google right now.

According to Lauren Kelley, Google’s Social Product Expert, Googlers have been told by Larry that everything they do must integrate with Google+. So the next time someone rolls their eyes at you when you mention Google+, slap them. This is just one more reason why we need to take Google+ seriously.

An example of where this is already happening is that somewhat annoying pop up you get when you go into your YouTube channel and it asks you to link your YouTube channel with your G+ profile. The goal is to help companies amplify content across Google products.

Lauren also showed a pretty seamless demo where she conducted a music search in Google. The Google Play result lets you listen to and buy the song. You can also share this on Google+ where people within your Google+ network can also listen to the song, share it, and buy it on Google Play.

It is true. Google is set to take over the world.

5. Keep an eye on what’s new and things to look out for in the future

Throughout the day, the Google crew covered a bunch of betas and gave one or two clues as to what to expect in the future:

The number of searches just keep growing, and over time the long tail will continue to get longer. Sameer reported that currently there are 100 billion searches being made a month and 16% of searches every day are new. That is just mind-blowing.  And in winning the moments that matter, “How to…” searches are becoming critically important – these searches have doubled over the past five years.

With the increasing integration of Google+, everyone is wondering if profile targeting will be coming any time soon. Whilst there are no current plans for ad units in G+, Google are testing promoted Google+ posts and follower remarketing (Facebook anyone?). In addition, we saw “buy” buttons on Google+ posts, which I had never come across before.

Finally, the Google maps search advertising beta looked pretty darn cool for all you local search marketing folks out there. Keep an eye out for this one.

There is no doubt that consumer expectations are rapidly changing. Most of us own two to three devices and we go to bed with our mobile phones (don’t deny it!). To sum things up, Google seem focused on providing answers in the moments that matter, providing a better multi-channel (and multi-Google product) experience and moving beyond keywords towards a more personalized, relevant search experience through richer targeting options.

Thank you to Covario and Google for hosting this most excellent event.

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