Gmail ads – should you be using them?
Paid Media Strategies series #3: Gmail Advertising.
For no.3 in the paid media series, we take a look at Gmail Advertising, we explain what it is and why you should be considering it for your next digital marketing campaign.
Over one-third of the world’s population, or 2.9 billion people, will use email by the end of 2019. We don’t use it just to stay in touch with friends and family, but also to communicate with brands we like and to be alerted to offers, sales and new products that are of relevance to us. Naturally, Google wants to serve users with the ads that best represent their interests. One way it does this, besides methods such as harvesting search-and-click data, is by automatically scanning the content of emails sent through its Gmail platform for keywords and topics that can be of use to brands which can then advertise directly to individual users through the Gmail ads platform. That’s a vast opportunity by the way – as of 2014 there were some 500 million Gmail users around the world – one-sixth of the current market. Gmail Ads Explained
Gmail ads are a form of native advertising and were formerly known as Gmail Sponsored Promotions until the service was rebranded in early 2015, then relaunched the following September as Gmail Ads. Previously a Beta product, it is now available to all AdWords clients on a Cost Per Click basis, which gives a sense of familiarity to Search Engine Marketers (SEMs) when targeting audiences, executing campaigns and reporting. Campaign functionality has been enhanced since the earlier version, such as allowing SEMs to schedule ads and optimise campaigns. The ads appear to Gmail users at the top of the Promotions tab in their Priority inbox, separate from marketing emails that have been sent from brands to which the user has subscribed and clearly marked as ads. Formatting and Targeting
Google’s research into user preferences has resulted in there being several different customisable formats for Gmail ads that aim to integrate seamlessly with the ‘inbox experience.’ These range from single promotion ads that feature one image and some descriptive text to multi-product promotion templates, and custom HTML uploads that allow advertisers to embed videos, forms and multiple links, and introduce functionalities such as click-to-call. Display targeting, to narrow an audience down and assist with campaign scalability, is done through standard AdWords options such as type of device, demographics, keyword/contextual, topic and affinity. So a car brand using Gmail ads can easily target men in their 30s to 50s with an interest in sports cars with messages tailored to their smartphones.
Benefits of Gmail Ads
The ads themselves take the form of a Collapsed Ad, or teaser, which replicates the look of regular emails. Clicking into them takes users through to an Expanded Unit which visually resembles a landing page. Any further clicks, either from the ad through a CTA or to forward it on to a friend, for instance, cost the advertiser nothing. Gmail ads are a valuable tool for the content marketer. While comparatively not as effective in boosting sales as other forms of marketing, they are particularly useful in developing leads, raising awareness, ‘soft’ conversions such as free trial offers and building incremental value through existing customers. Best Practise for Brands in Using Gmail Ads
Design – Brands using Gmail ads must keep in mind that as opposed to search, where a user is telling advertisers that they are interested in something at that precise moment, with this process the advertiser is essentially asking the user to take an action when they may not be actively considering it. This should drive creative efforts and targeting segmentation. Vary your ad design and subject line messages to prevent ad fatigue. As with any form of marketing, experimentation at the start can pay off in the long-run. As the types of template which can be used are currently limited to just four, the most successful brands are those using rich visuals and video content to drive up user engagement. Follow standard best-practise guidelines for the creation of your ad, being sure to include clear CTAs and if appropriate, phone numbers.
Targeting – An important rule to remember is as follows: Greater Relevancy = Better CTR = Higher Quality Score = Lower CPC = Lower Cost Per Conversion. Ensuring that your ads are useful, and placed in front of the right people, is vital. Single Keyword Ad Groups help improve message-matching. Targeting with multiple keywords can bring your CTR down. Another factor to consider is ensuring you target by device, to avoid poor UX through content not loading properly. Targeting competitors’ domains, i.e. displaying your ads to users who receive promotional emails from your competitors, is viewed as a high-performing tactic and placement is generally worth aggressive bidding. Remember that due to Gmail users’ privacy, certain targeting options such as Remarketing (except through Customer Match) are not available. Unless you’re offering vastly reduced promotions that customers will find it difficult to resist buying immediately, Gmail ads should be used in conjunction with other methods, as this approach is unlikely to significantly drive up revenue on its own. Think of it as top-funnel marketing, where you’re meeting goals such as collecting email addresses or finding out who would have a potential interest in learning more about your products.
Lastly, it’s vital to keep in mind that users can control the ads they see, either by blocking unwanted advertisers or by opting out of Gmail ads altogether, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to create ads that people want to see, that aren’t inappropriate, and that don’t irritate with their ubiquity. Gmail ads are a handy addition to the content marketer’s toolbox.
The conversion rate may not be as high as with more targeted forms of advertising, but the CPC can be low, meaning it potentially offers good value. It’s a relatively new form of advertising, so the time to experiment with it and understand how it can work for your brand is now.
Success will come to those that take a strategic approach and get most creative with the format.