As 2023 draws near a close, marketers have to admit this about Google: they’ve been busy.
Between Bard/SGE headlines and antitrust lawsuit admissions of auction gaming, Google has produced its usual share of releases.
Sadly for B2B, most are either aimed at ecommerce/B2C or represent minor improvements that don’t make up for the advertising controls Google has stripped or the glaring lack of transparency behind auctions and pricing.
With that as the backdrop, I’ll review some of Google’s bigger releases in 2023 before adding a plea for a few updates I think could actually help B2B marketing performance going forward.
What’s new in 2023
Bard and SGE
They’re not the same thing (as explained here).
At this point, Bard and SGE are of more immediate interest for SEOs, but wholesale user adoption (including conversations/chat) will almost certainly come with options for monetization.
What that looks like won’t be clear in 2023, but we’re all paying attention to the paid side of the house.
Google has added more AI functionality within the platform, with much of that centered on Performance Max.
That’s much more impactful for ecommerce as we don’t see a lot of lead gen quality from Performance Max campaigns.
The silver lining is that Google isn’t forcing B2B marketers to use Performance Max campaigns, which is significant.
Dig deeper: Performance Max for B2B: 4 best practices
Demand Gen campaigns
B2B marketers aren’t going to mourn legacy Discovery campaigns going away, but I don’t see Demand Gen campaigns as a game-changer.
While these campaign types offer unique placements like Gmail and Discover, the new lookalike segment functionality will need to be pretty powerful (and absorb non-Gmail contact variables) to make this a meaningful campaign type for B2B.
Google also rolled out additional measurement options like brand lift and search lift to help see the impact of these campaigns, which is a step forward.
This is a good one: YouTube added automated creation tools that make it easier for advertisers to use video in their campaigns. This lowers the barrier of video production for advertisers and ultimately gives them more media options to test.
Streamlined attribution options
Google recently sunsetted four attribution models – first-touch, linear, time decay, and position-based.
I’m neutral on this because while I agree that those were philosophically outdated, there is a (minor) loss in that some CRM systems use first-touch attribution, which complicates some data structures.
But, as Google said, those models all had fairly low adoption rates, so fallout is minimal.
Ads Transparency Center
It’s a fairly new product, but I think Ads Transparency Center has potential by:
- Supporting Google’s efforts to weed out spam, which could have a significant impact on display placements.
- Giving advertisers some insight into competitor behavior.
It’s reminiscent of Facebook’s Ad Library, a good resource for competitor research and information.
New AI-powered search tools
One of the tools Google packaged into this release – the conversational ad experience – could be interesting since it’s a fundamentally new way for brands to interact with users.
I like the idea of asset generation, but it would be better if it came with visibility into how assets (headlines, videos, etc.) perform instead of giving them a blanket rating.
We used to get better data into how specific pieces of ad combinations performed, and I’d love to see Google bring it back.
Google Analytics 4
I buried this one because reams have been written about it already – though I do have some related pleas for Google to address in the next section.
X (at least pre-Elon) had built a strong tech influencer audience but wasn’t effective in helping advertisers reach the right people.
If it turns out that this partnership combines an isolated X placement with Google’s ability to upload audience lists to target people, it could be more interesting and probably more fruitful for awareness than display.
X was, and could again be, a platform where people stop and pay attention to content, so if the ad looks native and has good targeting, it could work. The effectiveness will depend on how the partnership is rolled out, so stay tuned.
I don’t think this is a huge development, but Google is giving people a way to conduct research in an easy/native way.
If you’re watching a video and you’re interested in something, clicking on hyperlinked keywords will send you to wherever Google wants if you stay on YouTube.
It keeps everything native and connected, leading to seamless activity tracking for advertisers and giving users a nice option for rabbit-holing.
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What I’d love to see in 2024
Other than more transparency into auction bidding and CPM/CPC pricing (I know I’m not alone there), I have four big items on my 2024 Google wish list.
Clarity on keyword match types
Google has made a lot of updates to match types over the last few years, and many of those have led marketers away from exact match.
All the changes mean that match types don’t mean what they meant a few years ago, yet Google hasn’t provided us with clear, updated definitions. This is frustrating. Match types exist, and each is doing something different – but what?
Enhanced B2B targeting
Anything Google (or Microsoft, for that matter) can do to provide more LinkedIn-type targeting (e.g., letting search marketers direct their campaigns to decision-makers, would be extremely helpful).
There’s been a baby step in this direction with demographic targeting, but there’s much room for refinement.
I’m not saying anything you won’t find in most advertising forums here. GA4, though pointing us in the right direction attribution-wise, simply wasn’t ready for launch. As I write, it’s still buggy with poor UX.
I’ve had difficulty figuring out how to recreate UA reports, and even when I get the mechanics down, there are issues with event/conversion data consistency from report to report.
Consistency and better UX should be imperatives, not just from a B2B perspective.
Better ad copy reporting
While we’ve all adjusted to the ETA to RSA rollout last year, there is still a limited amount of insight advertisers can learn about what messaging is working best to drive desired outcomes.
Headline/description-level reporting beyond impressions would be a big win for 2024, although I’m not holding my breath.
Better partnership from reps
Google (like many other tech giants) had massive layoffs earlier in 2023, and there appear to be some downstream effects for marketers: reps are harder to engage and less consistent with the quality of information they’re giving us.
They’re also withholding data they used to provide without issue, which, given auction and bidding transparency issues, strikes me as sketchy – which is not something I want to feel about a key partner.
Unpacking Google’s busy year and what’s ahead
Any entity that becomes “too big to fail,” as Google has in dominating search, will have more space to act in its own best interests. But that also means they’re sowing some pretty fertile seeds of discontent.
If Bing can leverage its AI lead into something that works for marketers, or if Meta’s AI targeting keeps improving from a lead gen standpoint, or if the antitrust lawsuit removes some of Google’s current advantages, Google might soon be forced to give B2B marketers more.
Google has proven it can be a great partner. It almost feels nostalgic thinking of those days. On behalf of my clients, here’s hoping Google starts making stronger moves in that direction.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.