DEEP DIVE: The Future of Ad Personalization

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously said, “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.”

In the past year, Google has taken a page from that playbook, forcing advertisers to move beyond segmentation to true personalization. Not only does Google change the content and position of ads from search to search – they now customize the very SHAPE of their ads to fit any given customer’s propensity to click.

Time-out. What’s the difference between personalization and segmentation?

Good question. Through segmentation, we can serve groups of similar users an optimized experience – based on data we’ve collected from their interactions with our site (think: the type of device they’re using, their web browser, location, or how many times they’ve visited previously).

Personalization is, well, more personal. It allows us to create a one-of-a-kind, ongoing experience for each individual user – based on a repository of facts we know about them (their interests, their goals, or tasks they’re trying to accomplish).

When you’re thinking about chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream with rainbow sprinkles and get an ad for chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

In order to keep up, we must future-proof our ad portfolios.

I’ve conveniently built a fool-proof, 3-step framework for improving ad performance in this increasingly dynamic environment. You can thank me later.

1. Center on the consumer

First things first: get to know the nuanced customer groups – or, personas – within your account. A persona is a customer group with similar preferences and decision-making considerations.

Time to get up close & persona.

Use tools like Google Analytics to determine who’s visiting your site – and more importantly, who’s converting. Look for patterns in terms of demographics, locations, and site behavior. For an even deeper dive, analyze components of your existing ad champion. What resonates most with your largest customer groups?

2. Make use of all available assets

In other words, expand the types of ads you leverage AND add diversity to each of your extensions. Think of responsive text ads as ‘broad match’ ads that allow you to find new ad combinations and capture extra ad impressions that wouldn’t have gone to one of your existing ads. They might not be the main players in your ad portfolio, but they help ensure you’re maximizing value from each ad group.

Though they’re not the first feature most advertisers look to, ad extensions have actually been part of Google’s personalization suite for a long time. Pro tip: you’re able to show a dozen call-outs, so provide as many unique, standalone value-adds as possible.

Quick word of caution: Third headlines are displayed inconsistently. So, if you’re trying to differentiate ads exclusively with the third headline… don’t. Instead, use the third headline to reinforce the message you’re building into the rest of the ad.

3. Improve on the margin

Lastly, improve your margin by using ad variation tests to ensure you’re getting all the small decisions exactly right. For every ad you create, channel your inner thesaurus and write different versions of the same message. (For example: “Best Customer Service” versus “Greatest Customer Service” versus “Top Customer Service.”) Use what you learn from these tests to establish basic copywriting best practices.

Let me introduce you to my little friend…

That way, you can rest assured knowing that you’re using the best (or should we say greatest) possible building blocks in each of your ads.

One more time for the people in the back:

If we take Google’s not-so-subtle hints to heart, it’s clear that ad personalization isn’t going away anytime soon. My advice? Embrace the uncertainty of the future, stay nimble, and build adaptability into your responsive ads.


CAUTION: More mind-blowing marketing content ahead. Read up on 3 content marketing trends we’re embracing in 2019. Then check out one analyst’s defense of data visualization dashboards. (Yes, we know they’re trendy.)

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About the Author:

Sean Murphy | Director, Paid Media

Sean is Director of Paid Media at Red Ventures and frequent speaker at PPC conferences in the US & abroad. Sean is responsible for driving the paid media performance for Bankrate.com, one of RV's largest brands, and developing his team to excel technically and professionally. At home, he has three pre-schoolers, so he spends his nights and weekends reading Dr. Seuss and watching Paw Patrol.

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