The smart alec everyone wants on their team: Google’s automated display campaign

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If you haven’t been using Google’s Smart display campaigns in your marketing efforts, you’ve been missing out.
The Google Display Network links popular news websites, gaming apps and every other platform under the sun with advertisers so that vendors can target the spaces online where prospective customers might be playing, reading, watching and eventually buying.

And with the introduction of machine learning, and Google’s Smart display campaigns, it’s been a game changer ever since. This new world order put machine learning to work on display campaigns by finding relevant audiences, helping with the creative content and setting the right bids to meet your performance guides. All on its own.

This kind of automation is unique to Google and claims to deliver “richer experiences to consumers” and “better results for your brand”. Google claims that advertisers who use Smart display campaigns see on average a 20% increase in conversions at the same Cost Per Action compared with other display campaigns that they use.

Hotel search platform trivago’s use of the technology is cited as a case study. The brand used the programme for creative assets, putting together headlines, descriptions, images of desirable locations with its logo. Adwords did the rest of the work, and the combined efforts led to trivago driving 36% more conversions at the same CPA. It’s now in use for campaigns in trivago’s European, Asian and North American markets.

Essentially we’re talking across-the-board automation for display campaigns: handling bidding, targeting, and creatives so that you don’t have to draw up extensive audience lists or tweak, re-size and re-format your creative content for each display.

The targeting is driven by a combination of display keywords, remarketing, placements,  topics, in-market audiences and similar audiences. The algorithm examines unique data signals in order to shift bids on your behalf, depending on how well each targeting type is performing.

And you’ll also still receive the kind of reports you’ve come to expect, ranking your creative assets based on the conversions they drive compared to each other. Bear in mind that some may take a little time to ‘learn’ where to position themselves for decent ratings.

So we’re sorted, right? Machine learning has taken over and we can kick back, watch as Smart display handles business and possibly book some time off?

Not quite…

Although Smart display campaigns will help save time, money and energy, we’ll still need our old friend ‘regular’. It remains possible that you’ll want to manually control elements of your campaign, so in these instances don’t be afraid to stand down the robot and do it yourself.

Closer control of creatives

It’s all very well having Google handle things for you, but it’s entirely possible that you want to tweak and finesse layouts, colours and fonts yourself. Regular display campaigns give you that agency.

The turn of the seasons

If there are stretches of time (holidays, for example, or ‘summer sales’ and so on) where you want to alter your budget quickly, manual bidding is the one for you.

AdWord tracking

Smart display campaigns won’t measure conversions through AdWords. You need at least 50 display conversions or 100 search conversions in the last 30 days.

High art audience curation

If you want to build very finely segmented lists of audiences, you can do that manually with regular campaigns. Admittedly, though, you can maintain campaigns targeting your existing lists while also trying out Smart campaigns at the same time.

And our top tips for maximising the impact of Smart campaigns as and when you do use them?

  • Always experiment. Play around with drafts and CPA targets (but keep them at 20% or less to allow the algorithm to adjust).
  • Give your account time to adjust to new goals more measuring success.
  • Provide as many assets as you can to facilitate ad copy testing at scale.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Smart display campaigns have changed our approach to digital marketing. And there’s definitely still room for the charms of regular campaigns, but you’ll want to use the two options in combination – that’s when you’ll hit new productivity highs.