Paid Search: this time, it's personal

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Paid search has always championed targeting and relevancy as core components of its offering. After all, targeting keywords based on a user’s search terms can result in a highly focused and relevant ad, as you know what that person is interested in at that exact moment. Lately though, these two pillars have evolved into something different. It’s no longer just keywords that narrow down which ad is used for each person.

Mobile specific ad copy was one of Google’s first forays into directly allowing ads to be targeted by something other than just the search term being used. Not long after, this was followed by search remarketing (RLSA), giving advertisers the ability to tailor ads for previous site visitors. Even more than this, it allowed ads to be made more relevant based on exactly what parts of the site had been previously visited, and how long it had been since the last visit.

Getting to know you

The next expansion to this came with search remarketing audience lists extending to accept Google Analytics audiences. This hugely increased the capabilities beyond just audiences based on URLs visited and time since last visit, allowing for audiences crafted from any possible combination of Analytics segment.

If your business sold high end phones, then you could create an Analytics segment for visitors using mobile devices released more than two years ago and then use relevant ad copy such as “Don’t you think it’s about time you upgraded your phone?”. While this is clearly quite powerful targeting, it has its limitations:

• It only works for returning (something inherent to search marketing)

• It isn’t truly dynamic. Unless you manually create an audience list for each phone then you can’t use ads such as ‘Time to upgrade your Galaxy S4?’

• You start to run into data dilution issues both in terms of audience size in Analytics, and low search volume in AdWords.

As RLSA evolved, these limitations have become more prevalent, and so very advanced segmentation is normally just confined to bid optimisation strategies, such as setting negative bid adjustments for visitors returning on low converting screen resolution devices. The lack of a dynamic solution here is very restricting for the advanced ad copy strategies we crave.

So the closest we’ve got so far to tailoring ads by more than just keyword, without running into the above issues that cause you to split out campaigns and hence dilute your data, is mobile specific ad copy. Not too impressive seeing as it is just a binary choice, and so doesn’t lend itself to advance targeting strategies. This was until October 2015 when Google launched what was one of the biggest game-changers that passed everyone by.

Location, location, location

Few noticed when Google introduced a location field to the ad customisers template within the Business Data section, and the majority of those that did failed to realise the importance. This allows you to dynamically adjust your ad copy based on a visitor’s location. This is without having to split campaigns out by location. This is all done in one campaign. No low search volume issues. No data dilution.

Why is this so important? Because it is the first real step out of the domain of ‘targeting’ and ‘relevancy’. This is the realm of personalisation.

This is an excerpt of an article from Click Consult’s latest search supplement ‘Personalising Search Marketing’. The remainder of the article can be can downloaded with the full supplement for free here.

Dave Karellen is head of paid search at Click Consult.

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