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Summary of Changes

Starting on June 30th, 2022, Google will begin their sunset of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) in favor of their dynamic offering, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs).  Existing ETAs in advertiser’s accounts will continue to serve, but will no longer be editable and new ad units won’t be allowed to be created. 

Google continues to roll out  changes to their platform with a big focus on automation, and this update is no different.  Google cites 15% of search queries every day are new searches never seen before.  The response to this consumer behavior is to leverage machine learning; to reach searchers with the most relevant ad at the right moment.

 

Challenges Advertisers Will Face

As with any update Google makes, the biggest thing us as advertisers need to keep in mind is how it affects us and our clients. Listed below are a few things I believe need to be kept in mind as we approach June 30th:

 

Lack of Control:

As a standard with changes related to automation, the largest impact seen from the sunset of ETAs is the lack of control offered by their RSA counterparts. While advertisers still have control over the headline and description line inputs, the order in which these appear are left to Google to decide (there are options to pin headlines and description lines to certain slots, but this is recommended to be done in moderation). This can be detrimental to multiple advertisers, such as ones who have proven having a price point in their ads improves performance.  With this change, the price point is harder to guarantee to show.

 

Lack of Transparent Reporting:

Reporting for RSAs still leaves a lot to be desired.  Google does offer suggestions on how to improve your ad strength and even offers you ideas (although in my experience, the ideas offered are relatively weak). However, the big piece of the puzzle that’s missing is the lack of insight into what combinations of headlines and description lines perform the best. This can often make copywriting feel a bit like a shot in the dark, where we generate headlines and description lines we think work well but ultimately can’t prove out their efficiency.

Example of some of the ideas Google offers to improve ad strength

 

Difficulty With A/B Testing:

Finally, the ease of ad copy A/B tests will ultimately take a hit.  With ETAs, ad copy tests were arguably the easiest and quickest tests to set up. We take two ads, tweak an input, and then compare the results after reaching statistical significance. With RSAs, this is still possible, but a bit more cumbersome. A/B testing RSAs will require all inputs to be pinned (more on this later), which can lead to poor ad strength labels from Google. We know ad strength is a factor in Quality Score, so testing like this could ultimately lead to detrimental performance.



Potential Workarounds

Google leaving in the ability to pin headlines and description lines to certain slots is ultimately a lifeline to folks who still want control of placement in their ads.  A few things that can be done to back some control with RSAs:

 

Pinning All Headlines and Description Lines: 

Utilize all headlines and description lines, but pin each input to a specific slot. Imagine an ad with all 15 headlines and 4 description lines being utilized; we pin 5 to each headline slot and 2 to each description slot. What we’re left with is essentially a hybrid between an ETA and an RSA. 

 

Pinning 3 Headlines and 2 Description Lines:

Create an RSA with exactly 3 headlines and 2 description lines, pinning each input to a unique slot. This is essentially an ETA with extra steps.

However, both workarounds have their drawbacks. Keep in mind that a few factors that go into ad strength are the number of headlines and description lines used, and the number of pinned headlines used. So while the above scenarios might be effective in keeping some element of control when generating ad copy, it might not be worth the hit to Quality Score potentially seen.

 

What’s Next?

From Smart Shopping in 2018 to the phrase/BMM match type change in 2021 to the ETA sunset in 2022, Google has shown that they’re marching forward towards an advertising landscape that fully embraces automation.  I don’t think this is an inherently bad thing; as Google mentions, we live in an ever-evolving digital landscape that’s very difficult to keep up with.  Automation simply makes different facets of our industry easier to manage.

It’s difficult to speculate what the next big thing on the docket is for automation, but my gut feeling is telling me that extensions could be the next feature to be impacted.  We already have automated extensions, which I almost universally disable, but I envision a world where manual inputs for extensions are sunset.  The ETA sunset has shown that Google believes ad copy to be an area where automation is important, so why not embrace it with ad extensions?

Dynamic extensions settings are already hidden within the Google Ads UI; could they become mandatory to opt into in the future?

In the short term, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google completely does away with pins in RSAs, or at least limits the number of pins allowed per RSA.  Ultimately, the ability to pin headlines and description lines makes the RSA change a sort of moot point, as us advertisers have the ability to make a static ad unit.

Automation isn’t an inherently bad thing.  It may be frustrating as an advertiser to lose a grip over things we’re accustomed to having full control over, but ultimately these changes are made to make our jobs easier and to make our ads more relevant to our audience.   

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Approximately 95 million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram everyday. Could you sort the edited from the non-edited? The staged from the candid? These days, not many can, which is why anti-Instagram social platforms such as BeReal, Poparazzi, and Locket are dominating the social media space as users, especially Gen Z’ers, seek ways to authentically stay connected with their friends. The purpose of these apps is to break away from the edited photos and faux lifestyles and give a more authentic view of users’ day-to-day life. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these up-and-coming social media apps.  BeReal encourages users to keep it real. Once a day, all BeRealers get a notification from the app at the same time to post their photo of the day. The app gives users two minutes to take a photo with both the front and back-facing camera at the same time. It’s currently ranked #1 in the social networking category on the App Store, and approximately 6.8 million people have downloaded BeReal and downloads have grown by 315% in 2022.  Poparazzi is deemed the “anti-selfie” app. It has no likes, no followers, and only your friends can post photos on your feed. It performed incredibly well in its first year of launch as it quickly skyrocketed to the top of the App Store, even ahead of TikTok as the number one social media platform. Although this unseating was temporary, the app remains successful and popular. Since its 2021 launch, it has been downloaded more than 5 million times, with over 100 million photos and videos shared.    Locket is for your closest friends only– 20 of them to be exact. When a friend sends their photo, it instantly appears in your Locket widget and displays directly on your home screen. Unlike a regular app, widgets are continuously running and you don’t need to click on it to start the program. You can respond to friends with your own photo that will appear on the Locket widget of their phone’s home screen. As you use Locket, you’ll build a history of photos that you’ll be able to look back on. Locket is also quickly rising in popularity, currently ranked 11th in the social networking category on the App Store.   Why is it becoming popular to be candid and unfiltered on social media? Social media has been linked to everything from depression and sleep deprivation to anxiety and feelings of loneliness, especially among younger users. “Likes” specifically have become a measure users equate to status and how well you’re actually liked in the real world.  However, Millennials and Gen Z have more access to mental health education than previous generations, and it has become an increasingly important topic amongst younger audiences. Their knowledge about mental health has helped them understand the negative impacts of social media, and in fact, Gen Z has shown a major decline in social media use on every social media platform besides TikTok. They are simply not willing to succumb to the pressure of traditional social media and want to be part of safer, less toxic environments online.  While many younger users have attempted to make their own accounts on Instagram more realistic and less filtered (e.g. photo dumps), platform updates that flood users’ feeds with unwanted ads and posts from users they don’t follow has pushed them off the app even quicker. They are worn out and losing trust in these big name apps, which is leading developers to create new apps with more authentic purposes, and let me tell you, Gen Z loves them.    What does this mean for brands? Takeaway 1: Users are seeking relatability and authenticity. They no longer want to see glossy, branded content from brands on social media– they want to see content that looks real, even on Instagram. It’s important that brands keep this at the center of their content strategy and when they consider who they partner with (other brands, influencers, etc).  Takeaway 2: While the way brands can get involved in the conversation will certainly vary from app to app, the best way we’ve seen brand utilize anti-Instagram apps like BeReal so far is by offering its consumers some type of exclusive offer or look at some behind the scenes with the brand or its products. For example, Chipotle’s first Bereal post offered a promo code to the first 100 users who used it at checkout on the Chipotle app.  Takeaway 3: If a brand is looking to be a part of the conversation on one of the anti-Instagram apps, they must recognize the fine line between being relatable and being cringey. Trying too hard will drive users away, which is especially important to remember when getting involved in an emerging platform or even just jumping on trends to create culturally-relevant content. One thing we're asking ourselves: do these apps represent the next wave of social media? That may be the case. We are tracking the latest and greatest closely (while using the apps ourselves). Time will tell and we can't wait to see what's next.

     The upcoming Google chrome changes have been a buzzing topic in the programmatic advertising industry for almost over two years now, pushing brands and vendors to build alternative solutions to audience behavior tracking and targeting. Many businesses have been successful in finding ways to target without using cookies. Samantha Weiss, VP of Data Strategy and Programmatic, recently sat down with Venture Beat to talk about how our client, Stop & Stop, has been using Artificial Intelligence to target audiences.      “AMP began testing cookie-less solutions in the back half of 2021 to prepare for the eventual deprecation of third-party cookies. We believed it was critical to test new targeting while we had long standing targeting and measurement capabilities to benchmark against. We knew it would be incredibly important to hit the ground running, rather than begin testing once third party-cookies were no longer available. Google’s recent announcement delaying the removal of third party-cookies to the back half of 2024 anchors our position on preparing for the cookie less world.  We are excited for the additional time as capabilities & betas continue to be introduced and opened. We will use the extension to focus not on what we are losing with the deprecation of cookies, but rather how we create optimized and efficient media plans with the targeting that is available.      One partner we have seen great success with is Dstillery. We partnered with Dstillery in Q4 of 2021 to test their ID free Custom AI Solution.  We saw strong results in our e-commerce campaigns, outperforming cookie-based audiences by 72%.  With Google’s first extension, we have iterated on the models and data utilized for the ID Free segments.  With the added time, we are excited to continue to optimize the segments and move these audiences from testing budgets to always on targeting capabilities.” - Samantha Weiss (VP, Data Strategy & Programmatic) Read the full Venture Beat article here.

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for June 2022. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+ (sometimes 100,000+). After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Lazy, Hazy Days of June 2022 As we collected the top three queries from Google’s Daily Search Trends, we noticed that the aggregated sum for June was not as large as the first 5 months of the year.  We know what we collect is only a sample of the total number of Google searches conducted in a day, but we had the pleasant feeling that maybe people were spending more time outside, in real life, and less time using devices.  Hey, it could be true. Looking through the data, we can see that the Supreme Court overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision was the biggest news story of the month. In Entertainment news, the conclusion of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard court case and the disorder affecting Justin Bieber drove people to search. The NBA and NHL had their Finals in the month of June and we’ll examine the phrases attached to both of those league’s playoff and championship series. We’ll delve into Doodles, holidays, TV shows, film trailers, award shows, and the latest economic woes.  Lastly, we will analyze the curious case of June 6th.   All right - let’s go.   Google Holiday Doodles Those clicks on Google’s altered logo get counted as queries. Check out the top Doodle driven queries for June 2022: Father's day - 6/18/2022 - 10,000,000+ queries Juneteenth - 6/19/2022 - 10,000,000+ queries Juneteenth gets a Doodle this year as it did last year.  This national holiday occurred on the Monday after Father’s Day in 2022, which also got its own Doodle.    More Holiday Queries Continuing the theme of holiday queries, we present the rest of the non-Doodle driven phrases here: When is Father's Day - 6/3/2022 - 100,000+ queries Is Juneteenth a federal holiday - 6/19/2022 - 200,000+ queries Happy Father's Day - 6/19/2022 - 100,000+ queries Summer solstice 2022 - 6/20/2022 - 500,000+ queries Father’s Day gets 2 appearances in the Daily Top 3 outside of the Doodle-attached query.  It’s interesting to see people asking when the holiday was happening. What we have seen over the past 3 years of data collection is that the search volume attached to Mother’s Day is more than the search volume attached to Father’s Day. We looked into the charts over the last 5 years and we found something interesting:   The search interest gap seems to be closing. The two peaks appear to be closer in 2022 as compared to previous years. We’re not sure why this trend is happening but the two holidays are becoming more equitable in terms of search interest.   A question about Juneteenth’s federal holiday status, which it became in 2021, and the first official day of summer round out our list for this keyword category.   All The Entertainment Here are the shows and films people were excited about in June 2022: The Boys - 6/2/2022 - 200,000+ queries Ms Marvel - 6/7/2022 - 200,000+ queries Hustle - 6/8/2022 - 200,000+ queries Spiderhead - 6/17/2022 - 200,000+ queries Hocus Pocus 2 - 6/28/2022 - 200,000+ queries Stranger Things' Season 4 - 6/30/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Season 3 of The Boys and the miniseries Ms. Marvel debuted last month. June was a big month for Netflix. Two films distributed by the streaming service spurred strong search interest -  Adam Sandler’s film Hustle and the science fiction psychological thriller film, Spiderhead. At the end of the month, part 2 of Stranger Things’ Season 4 was made available. Finally, the trailer of the Hocus Pocus sequel made the daily top 3 on June 28th. People still like awards shows enough to use Google to learn more about them.   Tony Awards 2022 - 6/12/2022 - 500,000+ queries BET Awards 2022 - 6/26/2022 - 200,000+ queries Although the search volumes are not what they were before the pandemic, both these award shows had a search resurgence in 2022.     We may not ever see the pre-pandemic search volume come back for award shows but they are showing signs of life.   To wrap up our entertainment-related phrase examination, both of these phrases were queried over five million times within a 24 hour period in June. Johnny Depp - 6/1/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries Ramsay Hunt syndrome - 6/10/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries The first of the month had the verdict of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial and Justin Bieber explained that he is suffering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome and needs to postpone dates.  We hope he gets back on the road soon.  His concert tour was named as a top entertainment topic for this summer in our Top Trends for Summer 2022 report.   Roe vs. Wade We discussed it in our May report that we would be monitoring the search volume for this Supreme Court decision and here’s what we collected: Supreme Court decisions today - 6/21/2022 - 200,000+ queries Roe vs Wade - 6/23/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries Roe vs Wade - 6/24/2022 - 10,000,000+ queries This topic dominated the search trends report for 3 days as people were trying to learn more about the court’s decision.  We will keep tracking other key SCOTUS decisions as the year continues. Stephen Breyer - 6/29/2022 - 500,000+ queries Stephen Breyer retired as a Supreme Court Justice and Ketanji Brown Jackson filled his seat on the bench.    The January 6th hearings continued in June 2022 and this witness drove people to search. Cassidy Hutchinson - 6/27/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Cassidy’s testimony was held on the 27th which drove people to learn more about her and what she had to say under oath.   Sports The NBA finals were held in June and here’s the timeline of the queries related to the championship series: NBA Finals - 6/2/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Warriors - 6/5/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Golden State Warriors - 6/5/2022 - 500,000+ queries NBA - 6/8/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries NBA - 6/10/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Celtics - 6/10/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Draymond Green - 6/11/2022 - 100,000+ queries Klay Thompson - 6/16/2022 - 200,000+ queries Draymond Green - 6/17/2022 - 200,000+ queries We were rooting for a different outcome here in the AMP Boston office but we look forward to next year.   The Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals also occurred last month. Check out this timeline of queries leading up to the eventual winner. Rangers - 6/4/2022 - 200,000+ queries Rangers - 6/8/2022 - 200,000+ queries Colorado Avalanche - 6/15/2022 - 500,000+ queries Colorado Avalanche - 6/24/2022 - 500,000+ queries NHL - 6/25/2022 - 500,000+ queries Tampa Bay Lightning - 6/25/2022 - 200,000+ queries Colorado Avalanche - 6/26/2022 - 200,000+ queries Congrats to the Colorado Avalanche for their win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The NHL may not be as popular as the NBA from a search volume perspective, but the post-pandemic search timeline was nice to see.   Economic Woes With inflation, cryptocurrency values tanking, and the stock market dropping, what else could happen. Oh yeah, mortgage rates are rising. Bitcoin price - 6/12/2022 - 500,000+ queries Stock market - 6/13/2022 - 500,000+ queries Mortgage rates - 6/15/2022 - 500,000+ queries   None of these three phrases were queried over a million times in a day so we guess people weren’t that concerned or only a certain percentage of the population was concerned.   Weather Warnings Beyond Doodles, Google’s daily trends report can get skewed by user clicks on weather warnings.  We present the top queries related to weather in June 2022: Yellowstone National Park - 6/13/2022 - 500,000+ queries Excessive heat warning - 6/13/2022 - 500,000+ queries Severe thunderstorm warning - 6/14/2022 - 500,000+ queries The Yellowstone keyword is related to a flood that happened on the 13th. The other two phrases are related to mobile phone alerts that become queries when clicked on.  Weather-related keywords are making the daily top 3 more often.  There may be an idea of a 2022 retrospective in the works.   What Was Up With June 6th? The daily top three was made up of phrases related to popular tech companies. Apple - 6/6/2022 - 500,000+ queries Google Docs - 6/6/2022 - 500,000+ queries LinkedIn - 6/6/2022 - 500,000+ queries Apple had their 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC22) on the 6th, which does drive searches from people seeking the latest from the company. The other two queries, we believe, were related to outages.  LinkedIn was reportedly down on the 6th.  We don’t see any evidence of Google Docs not being available on the 6th, but that’s our guess based on the history of this phrase. Did the Apple conference cause outages?  One may never know.   Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, we utilize search trends data for all of our clients and we invite you to learn more about our SEO services. Until next month.