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Google Home, Assistant, Allo and changes for AdWords and Search Console – Google had a busy May

Google, the world’s most popular search engine, has its fingers in so many pies these days it can be hard to keep track of everything it’s doing.

But if you’re a content marketer staying up to speed on the latest news from Mountain View is pretty important if you want to maximise the impact of your campaigns.

Google has a virtual monopoly over search in Australia and New Zealand, so much so that when we talk about search in this part of the world we’re really just talking about Google.

But even by Google’s standards, May was a busy month. With two major conferences prompting announcements on new offerings as well as changes to existing products.

The big theme from this flurry of activity was very clearly ‘mobile first’. Google knows the billions of dollars it makes from advertising rides largely on its ability to stay relevant as people shift from using desktop devices to tablets and smartphones.

As a result, the company has thrown its considerable weight behind mobile compatibility. Sites that work better on mobile devices now get better search rankings courtesy of a series of mobile-friendly updates. Google has also launched its own platform, Google AMP, to help site owners provider a snappier mobile experience.

Mobile first now runs through everything Google does, as you’ll see in this round-up of May’s updates…

Google AdWords gets more local

Google’s senior vice president for ads and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, announced four major updates to be rolled out for AdWords at the Google Performance Summit in San Francisco, an event that addresses the product direction for AdWords and Google Analytics for the coming year.

The changes are bound to have a noticeable impact on brand visibility and consumer engagement as they affect important aspects of Google advertising: local search, text ads, visual ads and bid adjustments. In regards to local search, Google Maps will experience two primary changes: local search ads and promoted pins.

New local search ads, which will also be seen across Google.com, are designed to increase foot traffic to physical stores. Businesses will soon be able to pay to show up in location-related searches for a product or service.

For example, if someone performs a search for “coffee shops”, a cafe that has paid for the advertising will show up in their search results as well as on their maps, so the customer knows exactly how to get there and therefore increases their likelihood of visiting in store.

In addition, promoted pins offer brands the opportunity to personalise their pin on Google Maps with their company logo, making it easier for customers to find them. Google is experimenting with other options such as including In-Store Promotions on the pop-up page for the business in Google Maps, but has not yet confirmed when this will be available.

Update to Google maps: Promoted pins

Both visual and text ads will also undergo changes, to enhance the user experience as well as adjust for mobile device use. Text ads will be changing primarily to increase the character limit to maximise visibility of content in search result pages, whereas the visual ads, now known as responsive ads, will shift focus to how the user is presented with the content.

Originally, headlines for text ads were capped at 25 characters and the description (the body of the ad) allowed for two lines of 35 characters each. Brands purchasing the text ads now that they have been expanded have a 30-character limit for two headlines and 80 characters total for the description. In line with Google’s mobile-friendly aims, the ads will be optimised for the screen sizes of most smartphones and other mobile devices.

Visual ads will be adapted to encourage a more seamless user experience, by adjusting them to the type of content the user is browsing. The look and feel of the ads will change according to the site that they appear on so as to engage with audiences in a less obtrusive way, hence the term “responsive ads”. Brands need only provide the details of their ad to Google, from which point it will create and optimise them accordingly.

Update to Google Adwords: Responsive ads

Perhaps the most anticipated update to Google AdWords is the bid adjustments. Historically Google AdWords has only allowed for one base bid across all forms, embedded into ad campaigns.

Now, rather than allocating one budget to all advertisements, brands will have the option of having separate bids according to which device the ads are viewed on, such as mobile, tablet or desktop.

Advertisers can ‘anchor’ a base keyword bid to the device most valuable to their business, which means that if your brand finds mobile advertising is the most valuable for business, the new bid adjustments will allow you to increase funds to these ads, while keeping other bids static.

All of these AdWords updates provide brands with more flexibility in their ad campaigns and an improved reach to their audiences. They have the potential to directly impact customer interaction and conversion rates.

Google’s new artificial intelligence, however, does not necessarily have the same focus on conversion metrics but its potential to change the manner in which people conduct their search queries could bring brands even closer to their audiences, without actually having to change their strategy.

Google Home, assistant and Allo

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, announced the launch of Google assistant at the company’s annual developer conference, Google I/O. This innovation is not a device or an app, but rather a platform designed to apply Google’s intelligence to other areas of your life, not just online search queries.

Traditionally, Google has performed in a sphere of one-way conversations: users enter their query into the search bar and Google provides a range of responses to answer them. The ‘assistant’ is designed to engage in two-way conversations – clarifying queries, providing a range of options, and acting upon decisions made by the user.

Google assistant is designed to bring the smart thinking of Google into daily life, to make tasks easier. Pichai told the Google I/O audience: “It’s not enough to give them links. We really need to help them get things done in the real world. This is why we’re evolving search to be more assistive.”

The platform will be available to operate through two new products: Google Home and Allo. Google Home (pictured below) is a voice-activated device that can interact with other devices throughout the household, such as your music player, your lights or your fridge. Users will engage with Google Home in the aforementioned conversational tone, to manage daily tasks, book appointments, and of course, perform search queries.

“With a simple voice command, you can ask Google Home to play a song, set a timer for the oven, check your flight, or turn on your lights. It’s designed to fit your home with customisable bases in different colours and materials,” Pichai said in a recent post on Google’s blog.

Google home: a voice activated device that uses Google assistant

Google Allo is a smart messaging app used on mobile devices and based on your phone number, allowing you to contact anyone in your phonebook. The app functions on two different levels – you can either engage with Allo directly by asking it questions, or use ‘Smart Reply’, where Allo provides suggested responses to other people you are communicating with through the app.

It could be compared to Apple’s Siri due to its voice interaction and ability to engage with the user. However, Allo is designed to “get to know you”, so that it can understand the user and their personality, therefore tailoring the experience to suit every individual.

The main effect this product could have for your brand is through its recommendations. As you can see in the example below, Allo provides assistance in a message conversation between two people by offering a choice of Italian restaurants through a local search. The intelligence understands what the users want and uses Google search to assist them with their query. If your brand is optimised for ‘near me’ searches then this now provides another avenue for getting in front of your audience.

Allo will be available within the next few months whereas Google Home is set to be released later this year.

Google Allo: A smart messaging app that uses Google assistant

Search Console and mobile apps

Just as AdWords and Google assistant will impact the way content is searched and shared, updates to the Search Console will affect how these interactions are monitored.

Search Console is a free online service for businesses, allowing them to track and analyse traffic and interactions with their website. Brands are able to measure and compare data such as the amount of clicks on their landing pages and time spent on their site, as well as discover where their page ranks in Google searches and how many impressions they receive from these results. Essentially, Search Console serves to help businesses get found on the web.

Google has recently updated elements of this tool that affects the way clicks and impressions appear in the data and graphs that it produces for your site. On Google’s data anomalies page it was explained that the standards for calculating clicks and impressions had been refined, and as a result some users may see changes in the click, impression and CTR values in their reports.

John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst, noted that for most users the change would be minimal, but sites that have associated mobile app properties would see a discrepancy in clicks and impressions. If your website has a mobile app attached to it you may notice that clicks and impressions are attributed to the mobile app instead of the website.

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Amber Denny About the author