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Takeaways from Google Marketing Live 2021

Published: June 2, 2021

Author: Joe Kerschbaum

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Joseph Kerschbaum, VP Growth Labs, and Shawn Grenald, Senior Search Strategist, contributed to this post.

Last week, Google held its annual Marketing Live event, which gathers key players from across the digital marketing world together to discuss the latest industry trends and best practices. This is also the time when Google typically announces its new and upcoming products in the advertising space, so it always garners quite a bit of attention.

While Google Marketing Live is no longer an in-person event, we were still excited to join in on the conversation with one of our largest industry partners. The topics discussed at this event will impact digital marketers all over the globe in some way or another, so we wanted to share our perspective on a few of the things that interested us most.

Introduction of Performance Max Campaigns

Google continues its push towards automation, and Performance Max is a big step in that direction. This represents yet another “black box” product release from Google, which is in the same vein as Google Discovery and App Campaigns. Performance Max is an automated campaign type that runs across all Google inventory, leverages smart bidding capabilities, and serves ads that do a better job of driving toward advertisers’ goals.

It’s clear that Google recognizes that cookie deprecation will disrupt current attribution models, and they need to proactively provide advertisers with a resolution. That resolution may feel like a black box, but Google is trying to mitigate some of this unease. They are reminding us not to count out “awareness” mediums from our performance approach and asking us to trust that all of Google’s surfaces are part of the consumer experience.

We believe that this is a sign of things to come – automation is likely to continue, and Google will remove more and more decisions made by actual human beings. We anticipate more tools to help with the unpredictability of the future, including demand forecasting and predictive search trends.

Balancing the Move to Automation

Speaking of automation, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) are now the default ad setting and we predict they will become the only ad format in the future. Brands that make an effort to use RSA’s, broad match types, and smart bidding will be able to maximize their performance.

However, even though automation is increasing, advertisers still need to blend human insights with machine learning and algorithm management. They still have levers to pull with creative elements within these automated ads, including determining bidding strategies and setting data priorities with offline conversion tracking (OCT). Modeled conversions are still being pulled in here, but advertisers can gain even more clarity by importing their own data via OCT. That’s because by utilizing OCT, you can build a more comprehensive overview of the factors that drive performance, such as specific keywords and audiences. And done in combination with automated bidding, this enables the algorithm to optimize events further down the funnel and better align conversions with client business objectives.

Privacy Prioritizations

Google also spoke about enhanced conversions and utilization of site-wide tagging to help fill the gaps created by the removal of cookies. Google understands the increasing sense of consumer fear about their privacy and how their personal data is used, and announced they are not building a cookie replacement. Going forward, they will instead be leaning into modeled conversions which use historical data to estimate customer conversions that cannot be observed directly.

The Importance of First-Party Customer Data

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – brands MUST begin building better relationships with their customers. Google’s Customer Match tool, which the company announced is now widely available to advertisers everywhere, leverages a brand’s first-party customer data to optimize marketing efforts and drive improved results.

Again, with cookies going away, brands must explore every avenue possible to closely engage with their customers. Building larger first-party audience pools will allow for increased audience expansion with similar/lookalike audiences, and enhancing your existing customer relationships is a way to achieve that.

eCommerce – An Undeniable Opportunity

The pandemic caused major waves in the world of eCommerce and forced consumers to reevaluate their buying behaviors and the brands they had been purchasing from. Google has recognized this and seems to be ramping up efforts in this area to compete with other online marketplaces.

This event showed us Google’s commitment to be more hospitable to vendors than they have been in the past. They made it a point to highlight the fact that their platforms are easily accessible to brands of all sizes, and announced a partnership with Shopify across all Google surfaces to help promote a more open shopping ecosystem.

This is a major move by Google and will go a long way to democratize eCommerce for the future, leveling the playing field for smaller merchants that may have struggled to attract customers through search in the past. And with so many consumers nowadays preferring to shop with businesses aligned with their values, it’s even more important to make those brands more accessible to everyone.

Whenever Google comes out with new updates, you need to understand the impact on your brand. Set up some time with one of our experts to learn what these changes mean for you.

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