3 Ways Google Can Grow In Search

jared-belsky“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Jared Belsky, president at 360i.

Google recently launched a display test on its coveted search results page. It was done quietly, with only a few test partners and little fanfare. Despite its limited nature, the story quickly spread in the media, with many writers expressing surprise at the development.

But there is nothing surprising about this move. Google has for years hinted that this development was in the works. Such an advance will provide Google with great opportunity to ensure its desktop search offering continues to thrive.

While much of marketers’ attention has been on mobile, the vast majority of searches –and certainly revenue – still come from desktop. There are three fundamental things Google can do to continue growing its desktop offering and bring in dollars currently sitting on the sidelines. All are tied to reaching its visual potential, and thus providing more utility for both the marketer and consumer.

1. Use Its Tech Stack To Its Fullest Ability

Ad-tech specialists appreciate that the DoubleClick stack now brings together DART, Adwords, Doubleclick Bid Manager, Google Analytics and tons of other horsepower. In the past, these components were treated as separate stars, but now have greater potential to come together as a constellation.

Digital marketers recently began seeing more cross-pollination in the form of remarketing segments, or the ways in which the graphical user interface allows marketers to optimize more of the Google Display Network. Consumers have seen little of this behind-the-scenes progress until now. The recent testing hints that Google may be providing more “clues of value” to the searcher that will improve their search experience and help determine if a product is right for them. These “value clues” might include price, pictures, logos, products and other dynamic images.

In the near future, it is easy to see that if a consumer searches for “tax service help,” for example, they may see a large H&R Block ad that’s more informative and possibly expandable. Google’s tech stack, specifically its DBM and demand-side platform product, can ensure that marketers bid the right amount for the right searcher, for an opportunity to get a larger canvass unit as the query return, instead of a typical text ad. This would allow the market – advertiser, agency and consumer – to decide what it wants to see, along with its value.

2. Get Hold-Out Verticals To Go ‘All-In’

Verticals with clear actions and ecommerce goals, such as retail, finance and travel, have always reaped the benefits of search.

There will now, however, be huge opportunity for brands in other verticals that haven’t taken maximum advantage of search before to jump in with both feet. Blue links will no longer rule over years of brand building.

In 2012, CPG, healthcare, auto and entertainment brands were not in the top five verticals for spending with Google. Yet, when you look at the top 10 advertisers nationally overall in all mediums, you see a list dominated by CPG and auto brands. It’s not a stretch to believe that Google recognized this discrepancy and naturally wants to participate. Google’s way in is to simply allow advertisers in those categories to trade on their best currency: their vaunted brands and the visual imagery that inspires consumers to recall their feelings about those brands.


With opportunities to leverage visual assets on the search engine results pages (SERP) increasing, we are likely to see an influx of dollars into search from verticals like CPG. This is good news for advertisers, but also good news for consumers. Right now, a search for blue jeans triggers a SERP full of sponsored content, while a search for toothpaste yields few ads. This is because CPG brands haven’t historically invested as much in paid search, given their more brand-oriented goals. But soon, with an appropriate canvass where they can bring alive their brand cues, they will be able to.

3. Create An Even Playing Field

Right now, a search for kids’ vitamins generates two relatively less known brands in the top two paid positions. There are also product listing ads (PLAs) for vitamin brands based on what is sold online. These images catch the eyes of consumers. But why limit this CPG category to just PLAs that are actually ads for intermediaries, which are the channels for those products, vs. from the actual CPG companies themselves?

With the impending developments, an even playing field will be within reach for brands, creating a true democracy on the search page. Google will be better structured to allow consumers to make the most informed choices, presenting all variables to the marketer including brand marks and logos. The display-ification of search will not just benefit Google, it will also benefit the consumer who has years of practice in making choices based on visual stimuli.

These changes, if deployed, will present both consumers and marketers with greater opportunities and utility. Consumers will have more information at hand to make the most informed purchasing decisions. Marketers will gain an even playing field, one that welcomes brands without direct-response or ecommerce goals but haven’t been able to take full advantage of search previously.

Bring on more images, ads and creative, and let’s let the market determine the value of those new opportunities. Brands will vote with their wallets, and consumers with their mouse.

Follow Jared Belsky (@jabelsky), 360i (@360i) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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