Are you ready for the 'Year Of The Audience'?

Are you ready for the 'Year Of The Audience'?
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Every year the digital industry has its hot topic or buzz word that flies around and is dropped into every meeting by someone attempting to appear knowledgeable, often not actually knowing what it is or whether it is really relevant to the conversation…

We have had many ‘year of the mobiles’, which I believe I first heard way back in 2005-06, although, admittedly, the last 12-18 months have seen key movements in this space – it is no longer an area you can ignore, although many businesses in Australia still seem to be doing exactly that. But that’s a topic for another day.

2013 was the year for throwing around the term ‘big-data’, this years hot phrase is shaping up to be ‘inbound-marketing’ which is having a renaissance after a couple of years in the wilderness.

However, there is something else very interesting happening in digital, and in particular, Paid Search, that you may have missed.

We are dubbing it, the “Year Of The Audience.”

(Remember where you heard it first!)

Google’s targeting advancements in 2014 have been astonishing, and although they have been long expected, this makes it no less impressive.  They have real potential to make seismic changes to audience targeting and optimisation, especially when combined with the record growth in smart phones and tablets.

With all this in mind, we are about to witness a perfect storm for those companies that are prepared and know their audience. An audience, who through their interactions, will benefit from a new level of targeting as they go about their daily lives reaping benefits for consumers as well as businesses.

Whether it is buying the right sized clothes or looking for an emergency glazer, that’s local within a particular radius and more importantly, working on Boxing Day.

Targeting has often been seen as insidious by many punters but this largely relates to the more ‘invasive’ strains of digital, such as ads for all kinds of nebulous crap you find in your Facebook feed.

As agencies and their clients alike are all too aware, paid search has grown increasingly competitive, with core generic CPCs rising consistently year on year. Advertisers in moderately competitive markets are struggling to achieve profitability even closely matching levels from years gone by, and for some, driving a profitable return at all from Adwords on head generics alone, is nigh on impossible.

Many companies have been forced to accept generics as a loss leader and purely a way of building market share, aligning to long-term customer value in order to justify spend.

As advertisers and custodians of advertising budgets are all too aware, this can’t continue. We will have to look at other channels and routes to market. Google knows this, (Google knows a lot of things) and as always they deliver some smart solutions to the problem. It’s not just about understanding your business anymore in terms of margin and geo targeting to areas you deliver to, the game has moved and you need to as well. It is now about being smarter than ever by understanding your audience, then calibrating your PPC activity to them.

Although being able to segment users by device, by location and time is relatively old hat in search terms, it is this flexibility to bid higher for a user if we know that, at any given time or place, they are more likely to convert. This alone has driven some of the greatest efficiencies for our clients.

It doesn’t stop there, it is continuing to get smarter, much smarter, through RLSA (remarketing list for search ads), we can now serve messages based on whether a user has been on a site, and even segment it dependent on where they dropped off or by the action that they took. Immediately we know that if someone converted before, their propensity to purchase is higher, so we’ll bid more, or less, if the time since the purchase dictates. It’s all about using the data to inform our decisions.

In the latest development Betas right now, it gets even better – with demographic (yes, old school media metrics) entering the fray. Now this is still early days, we are only able to glean age and gender information, but it’s a solid start and it will only continue to improve.

But even now, I can decide to bid double for a user who is in Coffs Harbour for example, female and under 40, on a mobile, who’s visited my site in the past, arrived at the checkout but didn’t convert, and serve her a promotional message based on the product she previously browsed. In the Paid Search Landscape, you can see it’s powerful stuff!

This really is just the beginning, imagine when Google starts overlaying the types of sites people have been on, products they have previously purchased and so on.

Suddenly advertising against core generics searches just became very interesting again, we are sharpening our tools to make the most of this new armoury for our clients.

Welcome to the “Year Of The Audience” – are you ready?

Jon Roberts, managing director of Croud Australia

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