FREE PREVIEW: "The Future of Google Ads: No Keywords?!"

Huge changes ahead for your Google Ad campaigns… Twitter pulls a popular marketing research tool… Google Analytics drops support for YouTube… and the clever QR code campaign that doesn't use QR codes.

Thanks for checking out this preview of the daily Today in Digital Marketing newsletter!

Here’s a preview of what you can expect — this is the issue that went out to subscribers on February 4th 2021.

Google Ads to Phase Out Modified Broad Match

Heads up if you run Google Ads for your brand:

A potentially huge change is coming in the way you set your targeted keywords. 

In an announcement ironically titled: “Making it easier to reach the right customers on Search,” Google today announced it will begin making it harder to reach people — phasing out the “broad match modifier” keyword option.

Let’s back up for a moment.

Broad Match Modifiers are those keywords that use a + sign to force that keyword. 

In other words, to indicate that the word marked with a + sign MUST be in the search term for that ad set to fire.

Now, Google says Phrase Match will expand and cover the previous broad match modified setups.

They’ll start rolling this out in a couple of weeks, and by July the door will be closed and you will no longer be able to add broad match modified keywords to your campaigns.

Google says they’re doing this to help digital marketers save time in managing campaigns.

(Side note: I’m just going to go out on a limb here and speak on behalf of all digital marketers when I say our top priority is not saving time, it’s having better tools to more precisely define our perfect market audience. What we want is smarter campaigns, not dumbed-down platforms.)

Here’s SearchEngineJournal’s take on it: [their article]

“When taken in larger context, Google has been moving for years to get advertisers away from fixating on the keyword level of search. 

While it might seem counterintuitive given the history of search, persona-driven targeting and search themes are where Google wants advertisers to focus. 

In the past, Google’s automation features were lacking. It was hard to justify taking your hands off those controls.

However, many advertisers have found things like Dynamic Search Ads and broad match coupled with Smart Bidding to perform light years ahead of where they used to.

Brands have wondered for years if Google will achieve a “no keyword needed” environment. While that is still up for debate, they are certainly trying to consolidate and streamline that part of their platform.”


Google May Suspend Stores That Change Prices On Checkout Page

Call me naive, but I didn’t even realize this was a thing.

Google announced todayit will soon start suspending stores that sneakily change the price once customers land on the checkout page. 

It will look at the price you give it in your Merchant Centre feed and make sure that’s the same price displayed at checkout.

  • If there’s a mismatch, you’ll be put in the timeout corner for 28 days while you get that fixed.

  • If, after that period, you’re still doing this, Google says it may just kick you off entirely.

To be clear, this is not a new rule. This has been around forever. 

In fact, this past summer we covered reports that Google’s bot was going around adding things into carts then abandoning them. Now we know why.

What’s new is the enforcement of this rule — enforcement that will start April 6th.

Google Analytics Stops Collecting Data From YouTube Channels

While we’re on Google for a moment, the company has stopped showing data from YouTube channels in Google Analytics.

This is nothing to freak out about.

Nearly everybody who runs their brand’s YouTube pages uses analytics on YouTube, not in Google Analytics. 

Those analytics available in your YouTube channel aren’t going anywhere. It’s just this connection to Google that’s stopped. 

They actually removed the ability to connect your YouTube to GA back in November:

You’ll still be able to see your historical data there, but they stopped collecting data this past Monday.

Like I say, this isn’t a big deal for most brand marketers, but there are still some who preferred to see all their video stuff with the rest of their numbers. For those people, you may need to explore a third-party analytics tool.

Twitter Quietly Removes its Ads Transparency Center

One of the best kept secrets among people who run ads on Facebook is their Ads Library. With it, you can look at almost any page and see the ads they’re running. 

For instance, I searched for Nike and found all the ads they’re running — the body copy, the image or video. You can even see how many admins they have and what country they’re in.

I probably don’t have to tell you this is fantastic for competitive research.

Twitter had this too for political and issue-based advertisers, until just recently. Late last month, Twitter quietly pulled it offline.

Twitter says:

"We launched the Twitter Ads Transparency Center... to provide greater insight around Political and Issue ads on the platform. With the official prohibition of both Political and Issue Ads on Twitter in November 2019… [it] no longer provides its original intended value….

To replace [it] and maintain the same levels of transparency, Twitter is now providing an archived version of data from Political ads… You can download this information by clicking on Your Account in the Settings & Privacy tab."

Quoting [link to their story]:

“Which is a shame, because the Ads Transparency Center was helpful in getting a better understanding of Twitter campaigns being run, and how the platform was being used, not just in terms of political campaigns, but also more generally, in working to understand how different brands were looking to use their tweet campaigns to best effect.”

Cheetos' Super Bowl Ad Will Have Hidden Snapchat Codes

A clever digital ad campaign will run this Sunday during the Superbowl.

It’s from Cheetos, and what they’ve done is to somehow embed hidden Snapchat codes into every frame of their ad.

When you scan your screen with Snapchat, you’ll get a coupon for a new snack product they’re launching. [Cheetos news release]

You won’t have to pause the show or find a hidden QR code and aim your phone there — you literally just point your camera at the screen.

This is the first time a brand has used this tech from Snapchat.

And lest you think there’s a mismatch between diehard football fans and the demographics of Snapchat’s user base: 61% of Snapchat users recently polled said they plan to watch the game. Of those, about 2/3rds plan to be on Snapchat that day.

This is, of course, a big improvement over the QR code.

Pringles, for instance, ran a livestream in 2019 that let people scan a QR code to be launched over to Kellogg’s Amazon store.


“Removing a layer of user friction and the visual obtrusiveness of actual codes on screen could lead more mobile consumers to adopt the scannable technology. Access to Cheetos' snapcodes will be limited to when the commercial airs live during the game's third quarter and all day Sunday on the YouTube version of the spot.”

As for fans not on Snapchat, Cheetos plans to tweet every time there’s a turnover — people can reply to that and maybe win some branded merch.

Walmart Acquires Ad-Tech Firm Thunder

More moves from Walmart to dive deeply into the digital marketing space, today announcing it has acquired the technology and IP of Thunder, an ad-tech firm that worked mostly in the creative automation space.

It’s all part of their self-serve ad portal they’re working on, and plan to launch later this year. 

(Yes, one more platform to learn.)

As we reported here earlier, Walmart recently partnered with The Trade Desk to develop the demand-side platform.

The company’s Chief Customer Officer said "Thunder will also increase ad effectiveness over time with creative versioning, testing and optimization — unlocking advertiser-specific insights for higher return on ad spend." 

(Though, let’s face it, the thing that provides ROI is the quality of your audience and creative, not how cool any back-end tech is. But whatever.)

Most of Thunder’s employees are crossing the floor to Walmart as part of the deal. 

If you currently do business with Thunder, that business is not part of the deal, and they’ll be sunsetting those relationships soon.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Everyone, it seems, is building out this kind of automation tech. Just last month, Pinterest launched a customizable ad format that lets digital marketers automate the building of personalized creative to target specific audiences.

Forrester Research expects that within two years, 11% of creative and agency tasks will be fully automated.

[Wall Street Journal coverage]
Original photo [CC by 2.0]


Today’s newsletter exclusive is a great tool we’ve used here at my agency. lets you put in any Twitter handle, then download their entire list of followers and that account’s tweet history in a CSV or Excel file.

Here’s all the data they provide:

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow!