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personalisation supplement

This time, it’s personal

There have never been more opportunities to connect with your audience in a meaningful and memorable way: personalisation has come of age. Our new guide, produced in partnership with The Drum, explains how search marketing provides the opportunity to create the kind of perfectly timed, emotionally-engaging moments of truth that truly capture the hearts and minds of customers. To give you a taster of what’s inside, here’s a post by Dave Karellen, our Head of Paid Search (PPC), who’s passionate about paid search and the opportunities for true personalisation using location customisation


Paid search. This time, it’s personal

Paid search has always championed targeting and relevancy as core components of its offering. After all, targeting keywords based on a user’s search terms can result in a highly focused and relevant ad, as you know what that person is interested in at that exact moment. Lately though, these two pillars have evolved into something different. It’s no longer just keywords that narrow down which ad is used for each person.

Mobile specific ad copy was one of Google’s first forays into directly allowing ads to be targeted by something other than just the search term being used. Not long after, this was followed by search remarketing (RLSA), giving advertisers the ability to tailor ads for previous site visitors. Even more than this, it allowed ads to be made more relevant based on exactly what parts of the site had been previously visited, and how long it had been since the last visit.

Getting to know you

The next expansion to this came with search remarketing audience lists extending to accept Google Analytics audiences. This hugely increased the capabilities beyond just audiences based on URLs visited and time since last visit, allowing for audiences crafted from any possible combination of Analytics segment.

If your business sold high end phones, then you could create an Analytics segment for visitors using mobile devices released more than two years ago and then use relevant ad copy such as

“Don’t you think it’s about time you upgraded your phone?”

While this is clearly quite powerful targeting, it has its limitations:

  • It only works for returning (something inherent to search marketing).
  • It isn’t truly dynamic. Unless you manually create an audience list for each phone then you can’t use ads such as:

“Time to upgrade your Galaxy S4?”

  • You start to run into data dilution issues both in terms of audience size in Analytics, and low search volume in AdWords.

As RLSA evolved, these limitations have become more prevalent, and so very advanced segmentation is normally just confined to bid optimisation strategies, such as setting negative bid adjustments for visitors returning on low converting screen resolution devices. The lack of a dynamic solution here is very restricting for the advanced ad copy strategies we crave.

So the closest we’ve got so far to tailoring ads by more than just keyword, without running into the above issues that cause you to split out campaigns and hence dilute your data, is mobile specific ad copy. Not too impressive seeing as it is just a binary choice, and so doesn’t lend itself to advance targeting strategies. This was until October 2015 when Google launched what was one of the biggest game-changers that passed everyone by.

Location, location, location

Few noticed when Google introduced a location field to the ad customisers template within the Business Data section, and the majority of those that did failed to realise the importance. This allows you to dynamically adjust your ad copy based on a visitor’s location. This is without having to split campaigns out by location. This is all done in one campaign. No low search volume issues. No data dilution.

So why is this so important? Because it is the first real step out of the domain of ‘targeting’ and ‘relevancy’. This is the realm of personalisation.

Location may not sound like the most exciting personalisation variable to start with, but it is extremely powerful. For an eCommerce business, text such as ‘Free Delivery to YOUR TOWN’ immediately stands out against standard ‘Free Delivery’ messaging. For brick and mortar businesses, messaging such as ‘Award Winning Agency Only XX Miles Away’ is sure to catch the eye much more than a small location extension.

The sheer presence of this personalisation is enough to get noticed, but you can get much more advanced than this. If you sell burglar alarms, then you will be able to get hold of publically available information such as number of burglaries and number of alarms you’ve already fitted per area. There’s no reason you couldn’t have highly personalised ads such as:

“With 15 burglaries in CH66 last year, join the 47 neighbours we’ve already help protect”

The introduction of expanded ad copy has left many questioning what to do with all the extra ad space.

The answer for me is simple. Personalisation.

I hope this is just the start of things to come. An audience field in the ad customiser template would unlock huge opportunities. Even better would be if these lists were Analytics segments, which allowed for targeting new as well as returning visitors in these ways. The future of paid search is about to get personal.


We’ve produced this in-depth guide to using personalisation effectively in your digital marketing strategy. It’s available exclusively to Drum magazine subscribers – and downloadable for free below:

personalising search marketing supplement



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