Google Brings Machine Learning to its Display Network

GoogleGoogle announced earlier this week that it is launching its new ‘Smart display campaigns’, utilising machine learning on its display network. Basically, this means better targeting, more targeted creative and in theory, better results in terms of acquisition, without the need to purchase expensive automation software.

According to Google’s blog from April 20th, the Smart display campaigns began rolling out to all advertisers on its display network. Google’s display network advertising is the option through Google Adwords that allows advertisers to bid for clicks on banners, buttons and text adverts that are displayed on other websites (rather than search ads.)

These are the adverts that you see on various websites across the internet. The network now reaches 3 million apps and websites including news sites, gaming sites, and many, many more. The display network can be utilised for regular display advertising as well as remarketing.

Display advertising is more interruptive than search advertising: relevant search advertising is shown to people when they are searching for something, whereas even if display advertising is relevant, it is often shown at various times, so it has historically been difficult to target users who are ready to purchase. This has always made it more tricky for small businesses and large businesses to get a good ROI from display.

There are other machine learning automation tools on the market already, but it appears Google is now integrating that capability into its own service.

Machine learning tools look at what people typically do at certain times, taking into account demographics, location, language and various other variables. Using data, it can see what sort of people are more likely to purchase a certain service or product at a specific time, based on their actions.

Perhaps the most famous example of big data and automation success was run by the American store, Target. This case wasn’t an online case, but happened through in-store activity, tracked by loyalty schemes. Based on buying patterns and demographics, Target knew who was going to be a parent, and would attempt to hook them in early. Target would collect information on their customers, and compare them to other customers who had gone onto purchase baby-related products.

So, based on how likely customers were to be pregnant, Target sent out pregnancy product coupons. One day, an angry father came to the shop, yelling “My daughter got this in the mail!”… “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?” (Source: Forbes) The man later apologised as it turned out his daughter was actually pregnant.

The above story took place over 5 years ago, and by now the ‘creepiness’ factor has died down slightly, especially online.

Google’s new Smart display campaigns can help you to better:

  • Target customers who are likely to be ready to purchase what you can offer
  • Present suitable ad copy, images and layout for that customer
  • Show the advert at the best possible bid value

According to Google’s blog “advertisers who use Smart display campaigns are seeing an average 20% increase in conversions at the same CPA, compared to their other display campaigns.” The campaigns have been run already by Trivago, Hulu and Credit Karma.

About the Author

Patrick is a digital marketing consultant with around 10 years' experience, covering SEO, PPC, social media, email and user experience.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *