Google: The Ad Innovator Trying to Fend Off Amazon

June 14, 2019

Google earns the majority of its revenue from advertisements. The search engine giant is always searching for new ways to improve its users’ and customers’ service, especially for those who line its profit margins. The Media Online shares how Google has improved its advertising features: “Five New Google Features That Will Change The Digital Marketing Landscape.” All of these new features could change how advertisers approach digital marketing.

Google is releasing new types of ads respectfully called Discovery Ads and Galley Ads. Discovery will allow advertisers to promote brands through attractive native ads that change based on its target audience. The advertiser creates variations of an ad with images and copy, then based on the audience’s feed Google’s algorithm will deliver original ads. Galley ads are Google’s first ads that include a graphic element. The galley ads will feature images that can expand into a full-page experience and allow potential customers to interact with the products.

Google will also make four changes to its conversion and ad bidding process. Advertisers will be able to make seasonal adjustments to their bidding campaigns, set conversions at a campaign level, and there will be a new smart bidding strategy to maximize conversion values and their rules. There will be brand new video ads called “bumper ads” that will automatically generate six-second bides from longer videos.

Sentimental analysis comes into play for targeting audiences:

“The search giant is developing a more enhanced automatic targeting function in their display advertising and will publish it as a new tool on the audience side. Rather than just being able to choose between conservative and aggressive, Audience Expansion allows you to select degrees of specificity. There is even a special forecasting mechanism that predicts the change in ad spend, clicks, and conversions. This allows brands to focus on audience segments that work for the brand and incrementally increase the reach while still being able to control campaign performance.”

Google shopping is about to become smarter too. No longer with Google Shopping solely focus on searching for products. It will instead curate a personalized page based on past shopping history, similar to Amazon. Also there is more support for Google Shopping Ads, where brands can share budgets based on local retailers. This means shoppers can purchase directly from their search results using payment options stored in Google. It eliminates a step in shopping.

Will these ad innovations prevent Amazon from encroaching? Privacy? Regulators? Interesting questions.

Whitney Grace, June 14, 2019

Bing and Ad Revenue: Fake News or Cash Money?

June 13, 2019

No one ever thought it would happen, but Bing is actually making more money via ads than Google. Cue the double take and head scratching. How is this possible? Bloomberg explores how in the article, “Bing’s Not The Laughing Stock Of Technology Anymore.”

Microsoft’s search engine is ten years old and was build upon the company’s first effort to rival Google. Bing was advertised as a “decision engine” compared to Google that only found things. Bing has been a joke for the past decade, but under current CEO Satya Nadella’s guidance Bing makes Microsoft a tidy profit.

CEO Nadella’s approach to Microsoft has been less about taking on giants, but rather being pragmatic about products and their purpose. Bing stopped hemorrhaging money when Nadella stopped tossing funds at it and cut down on costs. Bing was placed at the forefront of Microsoft products, where users would see and be persuaded to use it. Bing’s ad revenue grew twelve percent last year, which did not trail far behind Google’s seventeen percent growth.

Microsoft does not concentrate all of its energy on Bing, instead its search engine is more of a side hustle that brings in money that is directly injected into other areas. Bing has also forced Google and Microsoft to stop bullying one another for ad revenues. Apparently the two companies accept that they each exist and work around one another. Bing meanwhile continues on:

“Bing may remain a side gig for Microsoft, and certainly it failed as the strategic counter strike to Google. But birthdays are best if you don’t think about what might have been and instead appreciate what you have. So happy birthday, Bing. You’re not the laughingstock of technology anymore.”

Bing might be doing well, but Google continues to pull more accurate results. Has Bing’s results accuracy improved? Not really.

Whitney Grace, June 12, 2019

Amazon Reviews: Factual or Fakey?

May 15, 2019

Here’s a handy set of tips for the online shopper—LifeHacker tells us “How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon.” Writer Brendan Hesse grants there are innocent reasons for incorrect reviews at Amazon, like a user accidentally posting their review in the wrong place, or a software snafu inserting the wrong reviews into a product’s description. However, he writes:

“There are, of course, more suspicious motives for unrelated reviews to appear on the wrong products, such as attempting to artificially inflate (or deflate) a product or to dissuade buyers from a competitor. And even if the review is for the correct listing, there’s no shortage of reasons as to why it may be fake or misleading—whether that’s as part of a review-for-pay racket; ‘review bombing’ campaigns to change a product’s rating; ads masquerading as reviews; or those curious positive reviews with a one-star rating because the reviewer wants to send a message about shipping taking too long, or some other aspect of the transaction that doesn’t apply to the product itself. Whatever the case, these are easy to spot and deal with.”

First, he advises, don’t just skim the reviews—fake ones may be over-the-top (positive or negative), or they may spend a lot of words discussing a competing product. Also, many 1-star or five-star reviews with very little text in the description are probably fakes. Other tips include checking for the “verified purchase” badge next to a reviewers name and seeking reviews outside Amazon itself. We wonder—can software pick out the legit reviews for us? Unlikely.

Cynthia Murrell, May 15, 2019

Google: Travel Planning

April 22, 2019

Google wants to become the one stop shop for most information needs which generate advertising revenue. Google can already track flight information, has an incredibly accurate map system, and can track down hotel and tourist sight locations. Google now wants to help people book their travel plans and earn profit from the travel industry. PYMNTS shares the news about Google’s new travel endeavors in the article, “Google Debuts Travel Bookings Feature.” Google’s new endeavor is a travel insight tool.

Google’s new travel insight tool helps people decide where to visit for vacation, including information on trending vacation destinations. Other new features include a Google Flights that allows users to search for travel destinations based on budget. At first glance, Google Flights appears to be another flight search engine like Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz. Google Flights is more intuitive than a regular travel tool and offers more interaction along with price comparisons:

“Google enables users to explore the world map on Google Flights to see where you can fly on the cheap. If you live in, say, San Francisco and want to spend under $150 on flight, you search by setting a price limit and seeing only the destinations that will be in your price range to fly. For users who have decided on where they want to travel and are starting to search for flights, Google will provide price insight for most trips, which was previously only available for holiday dates. It shows whether the price of the flight is high, typical or cheap compared to what the airline typically charges. Google will also alert you if the price won’t decline more or if it will increase soon.”

And hotels? Why not? Using the new “Deals” feature, users can search and find hotels that offer cheaper rates for a specific hotel or area. Hotel review pages have also expanded with machine learning to include more photos and reviews.

Google Flights is an interesting intuitive tool, especially for the budget traveler. Other travel Web sites offer the same service, but you have to scour to find the deals and conduct numerous searches at once. Google makes it easy for advertisers? For users? Not an issue.

Whitney Grace, April 23, 2019

Alphabet Google: The Wing Clipping Accelerates

December 9, 2018

It is not a great time to be a tech titan. Facebook and Google and their peers seem to be embroiled in daily dilemmas. These kings of the internet are taking it on the chin regarding privacy, fake news, and more. And, yet, we are still surprised when their names pop up in the news feed. Such was the case with a recent Vulture piece, “Google Accused of GDPR Privacy Violations By Seven Countries.”

According to the article:

“The complaints, which each group has issued to their national data protection authorities in keeping with GDPR rules, come in the wake of the discovery that Google is able to track user’s location even when the “Location History” option is turned off. A second setting, “Web and App Activity,” which is enabled by default, must be turned off to fully prevent GPS tracking.”

As detailed in the New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy of “Deflect, Deny, Delay” has been keeping them out of any serious legal hot water. Google’s challenge may rip headlines from the Zuckerberg connection machine.

The reason? Information is now becoming available about Google’s malicious ad network flaws.  Since Google found inspiration in GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo’s pay to play system, Google is now talking about ad abuse; for example, “Tackling Ads Abuse in Apps and SDKs.”

What worse? Siphoning data or failing to identify issues which undermine the Madison Avenue way?

Ad fraud? Facebook and Google alike but different except to regulators in Europe.

Stephen E Arnold, December 9, 2018

Patrick Roland, November 30, 2018

AdWords Adds Feefo Power

November 19, 2018

What the heck is Feefo? Is sounds like the name for the newest and cutest Internet star or some sort of product for the furry community. The Drum shares that it is actually an online review company (huh?) in the article, “Google To Strengthen Adwords Intelligence With Feefo Partnership.” Feefo has now partnered with Google AdWords. Feefo will use its sentiment analysis technology, it works with companies Next, Vauxhall, Expedia, and Thomas Cook, to discover advertising keywords from brand reviews. These keywords will then be pumped into digital ads to increase click-through-rates.

Google is proud of the new partnership:

“Adrian Blockus, head of channel sales for the UK and Ireland at Google, explained: ‘We’re pleased to have Feefo on board as a Google partner. Feefo has the product knowledge, advanced technology and insight needed, to create and optimize Google AdWords campaigns for their customers.’”

AdWords users will be able to use Feefo insights to spruce up their brand copy and landing pages to reflect the language and sentiment customers use in their reviews. In other words, Web sites will be rewritten to use customer-based language to make it sound more consumer friendly.

It is an ingenious strategy, because consumer feedback is being directed funneled into a company’s Web site. The language on a Web site will sound more natural and fluid to directly reflect consumer experiences with the product or service. Feefo says it will help consumers make confident and informed decisions, but actually the consumers are providing the keywords.

Whitney Grace, November 19, 2018

Has Alexa Become Unstoppable?

August 8, 2018

But for 98 percent of Alexa users’ failure to buy stuff by talking to Alexa, the device looks like a successful one.

Some at Beyond Search believe that digital home assistants are basically spying on us. Perhaps conversations and requests are being cataloged, and in some cases used against some in court. Is it possible that Amazon’s intelligence services have access to the Alexified content.

One hopes Google and Amazon and the like aren’t aiming to be big brother, Perhaps a different objective is in play. The CNBC story, “Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home: Advertisers Weigh In.”

We learned:

“The most expensive ad space in the future will be Alexa…hey are really just integrated in the shopping platform…. This has also opened up the door for marketers to sell items through Alexa apps. VaynerMedia worked on converting popular mobile game “Heads Up!” for Alexa, and was the first to integrate a voice-activated one time payment functionality to buy add-ons.

This story is not alone in predicting this. The Wall Street Journal called your home assistant “the new battleground” for ad dollars. If that is the case, we predict the advertisers are right and Amazon will have the advantage. While it might be projecting, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is already the end of Google Home. Money talks and Amazon has a giant window into that world. But the intelligence angle continues to capture our attention.

Patrick Roland, August 8, 2018

Google DoubleClick Lowers Ad Revenue

June 2, 2018

Power outages happen, so you wait for them to be fixed. In the digital age, however, when there is a power outage a day’s entire profits can be lost. ZDNet shares a story about a recent outage with Google’s ad stack: “Google’s DoubleClick Outage Should Force Marketers To Ask Some Hard Questions.”

DoubleClick went dark in March 2018 and it demonstrated how much publishers rely on Google. The search giant did not really care, though. Google simply shrugged its shoulders and said to limit tracking and change over to text ads. As a result, publishers are probably going to depend on more transparency. Here are the reasons why, according to the write up:

  1. DoubleClick is the dominant display ad serving platform and there aren’t other options.
  2. Google is a near monopoly with DoubleClick and already struggling Web publishers get punched in the head again.
  3. The ad stack on the Web is integrated so DoubleClick’s reliability woes are enough to make sites crawl.
  4. Google has rightly been focused on mobile and its core search ad business. That reality makes you wonder how much Google has invested in DoubleClick over the years.

The bug was eventually fixed, but it does not offer much of a resolution for future problems. DoubleClick advertises itself as a reliable company that runs on Google Cloud, but it was not reliable in March. Google can takes its sweet time to fix the bug, but what are publishers supposed to do when they are not making a profit?

Next up for Google DoubleClick?

GDPR.

Whitney Grace, June 2, 2018

Google Bans Bail Bond Ads

May 28, 2018

Google is moving forward with its efforts to manage certain types of advertisements.

Google has placed bail-bond companies in the same category as payday lenders, ArsTechnica reports, “Google Slams ‘For-Profit Bail-Bond Providers,’ Won’t Let Them Advertise.” The brief write-up points to Google’s announcement that it will no longer allow these companies to advertise on its platform. The post also supplies a link refreshing us on the 2016 ban placed on payday lenders. Writer Cyrus Farivar tells us:

“In a blog post, the company suggested that such ads constitute a ‘deceptive or harmful product,’ citing a 2016 study concluding that minority and low-income communities are typically most affected by such services. ‘For-profit bail-bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low-income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years,’ Google wrote….“Also in 2016, another study found that ‘there are 646,000 people locked up in more than 3,000 local jails throughout the US,’ simply for their inability to pay a bond, which is what drives many people to the services of a bondsman.”

The post cites advocacy group Color of Change, which had called for this ban. The group’s director believes it is high time corporations are held accountable for enabling what he considers the predatory for-profit bail business, and encourages other corporations to follow Google’s lead. In the meantime, Google’s ban is scheduled to take effect in July 2018.

Progress?

Cynthia Murrell, May 28, 2018

Google: Excellence Evolves to Good Enough

May 25, 2018

I read “YouTube’s Infamous Algorithm Is Now Breaking the Subscription Feed.” I assume the write up is accurate. I believe everything I read on the Internet.

The main point of the write up seems to me to be that good enough is the high water mark.

I noted this passage, allegedly output by a real, thinking Googler:

Just to clarify. We are currently experimenting with how to show content in the subs feed. We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first.

I also found this statement interesting:

With chronological view thrown out, it’s going to become even more difficult to find new videos you haven’t seen — especially if you follow someone who uploads at a regular time each day.

I would like to mention that Google, along wit In-Q-Tel, invested in Recorded Future. That company has some pretty solid date and time stamping capabilities. Furthermore, my hunch is that the founders of the company know the importance of time metadata to some of the Recorded Future customers.

What would happen if Google integrated some of Recorded Future’s time capabilities into YouTube and into good old Google search results.

From my point of view, good enough means “sells ads.” But I am usually incorrect, and I expect to learn just how off base I am when I explain how one eCommerce giant is about to modify the landscape for industrial strength content analysis. Oh, that company’s technology does the date and time metadata pretty well.

More on this mythical “revolution” on June 5th and June 6th. In the meantime, try and find live feeds of the Hawaii volcano event using YouTube search. Helpful, no?

Stephen E Arnold, May 25, 2018

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