Helen’s Visit to Google

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of a visit to Google London HQ, for an agency event. I’ve been invited to previous events but been unable to attend, so I was glad to finally be able to make it there! To get the best train fares I somewhat rashly booked myself onto the 5:24 train! Bleary-eyed, I arrived in the big smoke at 7:13 in the morning, giving me ample time to travel 3 tube stops by 9am… After a rather nice Marks & Spencers granola in the glamorous Euston Station food court, I passed the time by taking a walk past my old office in Shaftesbury Avenue – where I worked for a while at NFU headquarters, many years ago. No sign of the NFU now; what used to be the staff canteen window was full of metal fish sculptures! After hanging around for what seemed like hours it was finally time to head down to Google. The agency event was held in a room known as the ‘Town Hall’ – which didn’t really look that much like a town hall, with black shagpile carpet and black velvet curtains combined with industrial-type exposed pipework. Not a look that’s been adopted by any town halls near me, at least. After the shagpile carpet I had high expectations of some kind of Google wackiness in the toilets, but sadly they looked very much like anyone else’s conveniences. After a brief welcome, we kicked off with a presentation on…

Understanding Enhanced Campaigns

Enhanced campaigns, for the uninitiated, are the latest big development in Google AdWords. They’re designed to help advertisers target visitors at the ‘moments that matter’. We’re increasingly surfing the web across multiple devices, and what we do, on what device, at what time, and in what geographical location, can help advertisers to target us more effectively. The example given at the agency day was that if I’m out on the town 7:30pm searching for pizza on my phone (unlikely – but I can dream!), I’m very different to someone who’s searching from home on their laptop at 11:14am. Understanding the context of a search (location / time / device) can produce better, more targeted search results – and enhanced campaigns allow you to vary your bids, for example, or display the right ads and extensions, based on a person’s context and device capabilities – without having to create thousands of different campaigns. It’s the biggest change to AdWords that we can remember for quite a while, so we’d already converted a number of our campaigns to enhanced campaigns and tried out a few of the new features – but at the agency day I was glad to learn a few additional points. I was particularly delighted to hear that coming very soon are a number of enhanced reporting features – reporting on individual sitelinks (we’ve been wanting this for years – there was a big ‘yessss’ heard in the room when they announced it!) and also better reporting of more conversion types – eg digital downloads & instore offers. Interestingly, sitelinks are being reduced to 25 characters- apparently because ‘tidier sitelinks get a better clickthrough rate’. And what happens if you don’t migrate to Enhanced campaigns before the deadline? Google will migrate you! And it seems they are still undecided as to how to set your new bid levels – so the advice is to migrate before the deadline so you can decide for yourself how you want your bids set! Lastly, we heard that Google is looking beyond cookie-based tracking to identify users across devices. If you’re using your phone on the move and your laptop around the house, Google want to be able to identify you as being the same person. How can they do this? By your being logged in across those multiple devices. [In fact since my visit to Google I’ve now realised that the new Universal Analytics code they’ve released is also designed for this purpose – to better track users across devices]

Looking into YouTube

This was a session about advertising on YouTube – which is, of course, owned by Google and is the second biggest search engine after Google! We heard about Gen C – Generation C – who are the ‘content creators and curators’, uploading and making videos. Youtube isn’t just about funny videos of dogs on skateboards (though those are on there!) and we looked at the range of different types of content on Youtube. The BBC, we heard, make a lot of money from putting their archive onto Youtube. We heard about the different ways you can advertise on YouTube. Prime packs are hand picked collections of channels, for example the ‘fashionista pack’. A Roadblock is where you sponsor a YouTube channel.

Best Practices for Mobile

Being called ‘best practices’, I was expecting this to be a presentation about what we, as marketers, can do better when targeting users on mobile devices. Did you know that tablet devices are expected to outsell desktop computers in 2014? The growth of mobile and tablet devices is clearly not something we can ignore. However, at times this session was more like a showcase of ‘here’s some cool things you can do on an Android phone’. Quite fun, but not perhaps what I was expecting. We looked at the knowledge graph, which is Google’s attempt to understand real world ‘stuff’ – for example, when you search for a place, you may see facts & pictures about that place, not just listings of websites. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try searching Google for ‘fish species in Lake Tahoe’ or ‘things to do in London’. We watched a demo of search history being tracked across multiple devices (by using Chrome & being logged into your Google account). You could search for something on one device and then see the same search come up in your history on the other device. We also saw a demo of hand writing your Google search phrase on a mobile device. We weren’t convinced on our table though, it looked harder than typing! Google Goggles for barcodes was also featured – doing a product search by scanning a barcode with your phone – and we saw a demo of the translate app- the demonstrator held his phone over a menu in Russian and it translated it for him. Handily, there was a Russian speaker in the audience who could confirm that it was a good translation – though having worked as a translator myself, I’d be surprised if the app gave you a good translation of anything beyond a simple document like a menu. Google Now has been described as an ‘intelligent personal assistant’ for Android phones. Based on what Google knows about you, it gives you information that it predicts you might need without you asking for it… for example, if it knows you have an appointment in a certain place in two hours’ time, it will proactively give you traffic information, and remind you when you need to leave – spooky! Of course, for a lot of these innovations to work, you need to be signed in to Google and to give them a lot of information about yourself – putting all your appointments on Google calendar and so on. One of the agency representatives in the audience asked what percentage of users search Google while signed in, but they wouldn’t reveal the answer – it’s secret!

The free stuff!

Of course, the highlight of any such event is the goody bag. A Nexus 7 would be nice, given all the business we’ve sent Google’s way over the last 10 years, but hey, a mug’s good too! Here’s my Google swag bag – bag, mug, pen, pad, jelly beans. And the food was pretty good as well – nice breakfast on arrival (my third breakfast of the day, one at 4:30, one at 7:30 and one at 9:30! Not good when I’m meant to be on a diet, but I’m not one to turn down free food) and a delicious looking lunch. I didn’t actually eat the lunch though, as I was off to meet my Uni friend Rosemary for a bite to eat at Wagamama. All in all, a pretty good morning. In the afternoon I was off to the Society of Genealogists to get some family history research done – found some good stuff, you’ll be glad to hear – and then back to Shropshire in the evening. It was about 11pm when I finally got home. What a day!


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