20 Years of Google Ads: Top 5 Changes and Trends of the Last 5 Years

20 Years of Google Ads

Farfetched Studios takes a look back on some of the largest changes in Google Ads over the last 5 years to prepare for the future of search.

20 years has now passed since the release of Google Ads (AdWords). By its 15th birthday Google Ads had turned into a $60 billion dollar business and their enhanced campaigns were making mobile ads a marketing standard. Back then Google Shopping was barely 3 years old and Yahoo was still a key player in the search advertising market.

Now at 20, after a rebranding, ad revenue has almost doubled for Google Ads. Yahoo has handed over the search reigns to Microsoft, mobile ads are now everywhere and free listings are back with Google Shopping. Finally, the new AI of Google and its machine learning has changed the way advertisers work with it to provide results.

Farfetched Studios takes a look at Google Ads most significant changes they have made in the past 5 years and what it may tell us about its future.

Introducing Audiences

Facebook and Twitter developed their first-party targeting ad products and were running successful campaigns for almost 2 years before Google launched its “Customer Match.” This was Google’s official step into the audience market aside from its website retargeting.

This was our first introduction to affinity, in-market, interest and similar audience targeting within the Google Ads platform. In 2020 they introduced predictive audiences that are based on purchase probability that is directly powered by the all-new Google Analytics 4.

Another one of the biggest changes that came with the introduction of audiences was giving advertisers the ability to target YouTube based on users’ Google Account data. This included demographic and search behaviors of those users signed into Google. The all-new audience targeting boosted YouTube’s ad revenue and created the opportunity to combine targeting from Search and YouTube.

Keyword Match Types on the Way Out

Google has changed the way it defines close variants of search queries in the last few years and its effects have been significant. Machine learning has evolved to match users’ searches to the keywords advertisers have bought. This has forced full restructures of most advertisers accounts from the campaign level down to its ad groups and keyword development.

Then, they adopted new privacy changes and regulations to further complicate the keyword management process. In September, Google started to limit the search terms in its reports to advertisers. Only specific search queries that reach “a significant number of users” are shown.

With this expansion of close variants, advertisers have been forced to develop a negative keyword management approach to their campaigns in terms of keyword optimization. Making search term reports an even more critical tool since most advertisers have reported up to 20% or more of lost visibility on what is driving clicks in their campaigns.

Surfaces Across Google

“Surfaces Across Google” is an option limited to Google Shopping. It allows retailers to show their products organically for free on Google Images, Shopping, Lens and Search.

While pure Search campaigns in Google ads still remain, almost every other type of campaign can now automatically run ads on multiple channels. Google continues to expand where its ads can appear in and on its properties.

Take a look at the different types of campaigns Google Ads has available and the channels and surfaces they run on:

  • App Campaigns run on YouTube’s main feed and in-stream video. As well as Google Search, Display, AdMob and Google Play.
  • Smart Campaigns run on Search, Display and Maps.
  • Local Campaigns run on Search, Display, YouTube and Maps.
  • Discovery Campaigns run on YouTube’s main feed, Gmail Promotions and Social Tabs and the Discover feed.
  • Smart Shopping Campaigns run on Search, Display, YouTube, Shopping and Gmail.
  • Showcase Shopping Ads are multi-image Shopping ads that show on Search Images, Discover and YouTube.
  • Shopping Campaigns will show in Search, Images, YouTube and Discover but only when opted into Google’s Search Network.
  • Buy on Google/Google Shopping enables users to buy products via Google’s Universal Checkout on Search and Shopping.

Going From Online to Offline

Online buying has skyrocketed this year with the pandemic. This increase has had a significant impact on in-store visits and sales. Local Inventory Ads have become increasingly popular among advertisers looking to promote their products in “nearby searches.”

In an attempt to combat this new consumer behavior pattern, Google added multiple new features to local campaign and inventory ads. These changes brought emphasis to “buy online and pickup in-store” options and curb-side pickup. We expect Google to continue to invest heavily in the Online to Offline market capabilities.

Farfetched Studios has been a part of the Google Partners program for over 10 years and we have evolved along with the platform. Our partnership has built a foundation with Google to which we have been given access to beta test some great new ad tools. With each new change Google challenges us to stay up to date on the latest updates and innovate for our clients. Reach out today for a comprehensive consultation on what Farfetched Studios LLC can do for you and your business.