Local Campaigns: Google Automating Ads for SMBs and Everyone Else

At its Google Marketing Live event (formerly Google Next) yesterday the company announced a number of new ad units, tools and analytics. Among them are:

  • Responsive Search Ads
  • Local Campaigns
  • Maximize lift/smart bidding on YouTube
  • Smart Shopping campaigns

All these categories have in common that they’re highly automated and some of them are goal-based. You indicate the goal, provide creative options and Google will optimize the combinations that are performing. For Responsive Search Ads:

Simply provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines, and Google will do the rest. By testing different combinations, Google learns which ad creative performs best for any search query. So people searching for the same thing might see different ads based on context.

Facebook does something similar with objective-based ads and is headed in the same direction: seeking to automate and simplify ads for marketers — especially small businesses. Indeed, Facebook has seen great success with SMB advertiser adoption because of its objective-based approach.

A couple of weeks ago Google announced Smart Campaigns for small businesses. It came at the same time the company announced a rebranding of AdWords as Google Ads.

Smart Campaigns use the AdWords Express technology infrastructure, which has been steadily improving with machine learning advancements. They appear across Google properties (not unlike Universal App Campaigns). Optimization is fully automated.

The newly announced Local Campaigns are similarly automated but exclusively intended to drive offline store visits:

Today we’re introducing Local campaigns: a new campaign type designed to drive store visits exclusively. Provide a few simple things—like your business locations and ad creative—and Google automatically optimizes your ads across properties to bring more customers into your store.

The company said that Local Campaigns will roll out globally “over the coming months.” I wrote on Monday about Store Visits measurement being rolled out globally and now becoming accessible to SMBs. So now you have the combination of simplified campaign set-up and offline measurement.

At LSA’s Tech Adoption Summit last year, representatives from iPromote, Google and Facebook discussed how machine learning will increasingly automate campaign tasks historically performed by humans. These and other announcements validate those predictions.

The good news for SMBs (and some of their agency partners) is that automated ads are simpler to create and should outperform manually optimized campaigns. Yet most small businesses still want help and don’t want to DIY their own marketing, even as these new units and capabilities make that more possible than ever before.

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