October 2008 - Cover Story: Google Puts Metrics in Motion

Brett Goffin, industry development manager, retail, says utilizing analytics tools across online and offline platforms enables marketers to understand their customers better and get the right message in front of them.

By Vitisia Paynich

“I Googled it” is common jargon used in everyday conversation, ranking right up there with “I’ll have a Coke”; “Please hand me a Kleenex” and “TiVo my show.” Google not only has become a part of our lexicon, but it also has helped to change the face of marketing. And as this Internet giant celebrates 10 years in business, it will continue to push the technological boundaries to offer marketers more options-both online and offline.

Electronic Retailer spoke with Brett Goffin, industry development manager, retail at Google, along with a few of his colleagues to learn how using Google’s online and offline products together with analytics tools can aid marketers’ and retailers’ multichannel initiatives.

“In the direct marketing world, what’s really important is to get the right message in front of the right user at the right time and Google does that in a variety of ways,” says Goffin.
“Clearly, the most renowned way is through search.” According to eMarketer, search ad spending will reach nearly $13.7 billion by 2009.

The company’s Google AdWords is a paid search offering that allows marketers and advertisers to display their ads on the Google site and select search keywords or phrases they would like to bid on.

A recent study conducted by ComScore qSearch revealed that Google sites accounted for 61.9 percent of total U.S. web searches in July 2008, while Yahoo sites and Microsoft sites followed with 20.5 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively.

Goffin contends that traditional marketers can enhance their DR campaigns through the use of the Google search engine to expand their customer base. Search is a very significant way to reach the appropriate customer during the buying process, he notes.
What’s more, Google’s ad network acts as a tool that lets advertisers home in on specific clients based on their search activity.

For example, if you’re reading an article about Hip-Hop Abs, says Goffin, “there is the opportunity for the distributor of that DR product to place an ad directly next to that article.” He also points out that the search engine results are not restricted to just the Google site. The company partners with other search engines like AOL, thereby expanding the product’s visibility.

In 2007, Goffin was selected to serve on ERA’s Board of Directors. After spending over a year as an active member of ERA, Goffin believes that he has a good understanding of the value that can be extracted by the organization at large through interactive DR.
“I’m still trying to push that agenda by showing [traditional DRTV marketers] that utilizing data can help them make informed decisions around what works and what doesn’t in the media landscape,” he says.

Goffin says that when he first began at Google in 2004, the majority of pure-play retailers-like Amazon-really understood that a pertinent customer who types in a specific query into search is clearly apropos to their business.

These retailers also realized that search presented scalable, efficient marketing opportunities for sales distribution. As years progressed, says Goffin, both traditional marketers and brick-and-mortar retailers became more technologically savvy about paid search and how it contributes to their overall ROI.

Goffin says Google is concentrating on connecting the dots between the online and offline world. “We’re certainly working on ways to isolate variables and test how the Internet plays a role in the overall consumer-buying funnel and not just the e-commerce-buying funnel,” he explains.

One key point that Goffin emphasizes is the value of using web analytics tools to pinpoint certain target areas. For instance, marketers and retailers could use geo-targeting, which means segmenting a specific city or region within their search ad results. Using Google’s Trends tool, marketers can click the drop-down menu, select a geographic location and see how their ad performed. Based on the data, the marketer or retailer can thenmake any necessary adjustments to the campaign on the fly.

He adds that the Trends tool provides a true metric for determining whether customers in specific regions are more interested in purchasing your product. Again, using Hip Hop Abs as an example, “if more people, let’s say in Utah, Oregon or Kentucky are more interested in Hip Hop Abs, then clearly those visitors to its site are more [likely] theoretically to buy that product,” notes Goffin.

Given this type of geo-targeting data, marketers can use coupons in those specific regions, track them and test their response. Google is also working to provide more analytics tools across traditional media platforms.

“In my conversations with ERA, I’ve definitely seen a lot of momentum and interest by both marketers and service providers with Google’s traditional platforms,” notes Goffin. This includes television, radio and print products.

Leading off the company’s traditional platform offerings is Google TV Ads. Using the AdWords interface, marketers can launch a TV advertising campaign within minutes. How does it work? Once the marketer has created an account, he or she simply chooses the desired networks, dayparts and programs. Next, the marketer can upload the ad to the site, set a budget and bid the maximum CPM that he or she is willing to pay.

“The overall premise of Google TV Ads and the reason why we are into it is that we believe television is becoming like the web,” says Keval Desai, product manager at Google. “If you look at the world of the Internet in the early to mid-’90s, there was a tremendous amount of content exposure through millions of websites.” Today, of course, the amount of websites that exist is in the billions.

Desai says that television is experiencing the same thing with the influx of cable channels that have evolved over the past 15 years, thereby causing audience fragmentation. “The average TV household in the U.S. gets about 100 channels through cable or satellite service,” he says. “Audience fragmentation is typically a good thing for an advertiser because you can find a niche audience that’s relevant to your specific message.”

How do you actually measure the effectiveness of that message across a broad spectrum of networks and content providers? The answer, according to Desai, lies within the set-top box. Recognizing that the set-top box is the equivalent of a computer, Google decided to track viewership through the TV remote control.

“Most TV households today in the U.S. have a set-top box of some sort that is used to deliver TV service. When people use their remote controls to switch networks or to skip an ad, they are indicating a preference through that [device],” Desai explains.

Google partners with EchoStar DISH Network to gather data from ads served on 96 networks, including ESPN, MTV and the Weather Channel. EchoStar collects the data and then provides it to Google. According to Desai, the company collects several billion remote control clicks per week. The information is then shared with Google advertisers within a 24-hour period. Desai says the advertiser benefits greatly because it’s granular, second-by-second information.

Advertisers learn the number of impressions they receive from their ads, the number of set-top boxes that viewed the ad, whether somebody skipped the ad-and when.

Desai notes that this type of data is particularly valuable to a direct marketer. Let’s say, for instance, you have a 30-second ad and you have a phone number that appears at the very end of the ad, in the 26th second. “If most people are skipping your ad in the first 25 seconds, you know that ad is not being very effective. So, you can now start measuring the effectiveness of television advertising in a very similar way to the Internet,” he says.

Goffin says the TV platform also allows marketers to test different creative simultaneously. “Let’s say you’re a direct marketer and you ran three commercials: Creative A ran for an average of 26 seconds; Creative B ran for an average of 21 seconds; and Creative C ran for an average of 13 seconds. Clearly, Creative A is a better performing creative,” he points out.

Some companies test their ads’ effectiveness by using a unique or vanity URL on a specific campaign. For example, Lenova inserted a vanity URL into a single ad. As a result, the company noticed an immediate lift in traffic going to that unique website, as well as conversions from that traffic.

In trying to grow its online purchaser audience, Lenova discovered that 68 percent of the traffic to Experience Lenova.com was direct, meaning users were typing the URL directly into their browsers. The only way they could have gotten there was if they remembered the URL from the television spots Lenova ran with Google.

Google expanded its traditional media offerings to include radio and print. With Google Audio Ads, marketers can purchase airtime on over 1,600 terrestrial radio stations across the U.S. And like the TV platform, it is an auction-based system. Call reporting and integrated Google Analytics tools help marketers track customer calls, website conversions, revenue and other metrics to measure ad efficacy.

Another traditional platform offering is Google Print Ads. Marketers and retailers can bid on ad space from a network of more than 800 newspapers. Furthermore, they can schedule and create ads, track and analyze their ad’s success, and compare all their newspaper campaigns side-by-side.

In October 2006, Google added a viral marketing platform to its product line when it purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion. “The YouTube marketing platform is a really innovative and engaging vehicle for marketers to reach their target audiences,” says Aaron Zamost, director of communications at YouTube. “It allows marketers and advertisers to create new ways of actually relating to their fan base by offering them much more engaging opportunities than what they could gain elsewhere.”

There are a number of ways in which marketers can determine whether or not their ads are successful on YouTube. One is through InVideo Ads, which are transparent overlays that cover the bottom 20 percent of the video. These 10-second ads have been quite successful and have shown strong results with click-through rates as high as eight to 10 times higher than those standard click-to-play ads anywhere else online, notes Zamost.

In terms of metrics, YouTube Insight is a free tool available to marketers who want to access detailed statistics about videos they uploaded to the site.

Zamost says, “For instance, let’s imagine that a marketer puts their creative on the site and they learn that 45 percent of all traffic to their videos is coming from Google search. YouTube breaks down those Google search queries so that they might see that 30 percent of them are coming in from search query: baseball video, 10 percent are coming in from homerun video and 5 percent are coming in from homerun baseball. They can use this information to optimize their keyword bids on Google.”

Zamost adds that this platform teaches marketers how to think about their campaigns in a multi-faceted way.

Although today’s struggling economy has forced most marketers and retailers to be much more cautious about which platforms to invest their marketing dollars in, Google remains quite optimistic. John McAteer, director of retail, says, “Given the tightening of marketing budgets in the U.S., e-tailers and marketers are looking for advertising solutions that are addressable, measurable and cost-effective. Who would have ever thought that going offline to complement their online businesses could provide the same types of benefits to these companies?”

No matter if you choose to focus your attention on online or offline marketing, Goffin stresses that “the more data available to advertisers, the more effective their advertising campaigns are going to be. And, I think Google has done a very good job of understanding and trying to support marketers in that fashion.”

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