MTM Ep#16: The Golden Goose of Google Ads: Geo Customizers With Nick Brown

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Welcome back to another episode of More Than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah. I’m so excited to be with my main man, Nick Brown. He’s an account director, and I have so much respect for Nick because he straddles the line of marketing and technology so well. He can translate what marketing’s trying to do to the development team. He’s a renaissance man. He does a little bit of everything. In this case, what he does really well, and what we’re talking about today, is Google Ads Geo Customizers.


– [Nick] The more specific you can get to what they’re looking for, the higher click the rate, the higher conversion rate, the better the user experience, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to give is the best user experience overall, right?

– Hey, hey, welcome back. Another episode of More than Marketing. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah. I’m so excited to be with my main man Nick Brown today. Nick, I don’t even know what to say. He’s an account director here, marketing manager. Title doesn’t matter. I think you know this, but let me just say it. I have so much respect for Nick because he straddles the line of marketing and technology so well. He can translate what marketing’s trying to do to the development team. Hey, we need to track this this way, because I need to report on it this way, or I need this system integrated with that, and I just respect that you understand the underlying technology and how it works, and I don’t know where that came from. You tell me, where did that come from?

– My background in tinkering and breaking things and fixing them and having to understand how they work. That’s like kind of, I don’t know, something that I’ve always learned. I come from a construction background with my family and that’s where that–

– He’s a tinkerer.

– Yeah, comes from. I like to break things, figure out how they work, and then try and fix them.

– He’s a renaissance man. He does a little bit of each. He does a little bit of everything. Some things better than others.

– Oh, absolutely.

– In this case, what you do really well, and what we’re talking about today, is Google Ads, and in particular, getting pretty technical with it, but you’re not technical. You tell me.

– I don’t think it’s necessarily technical. I think this is something that your everyday ads manager can definitely take. There is a little bit of tech language to it, but Google’s made it so simple that you can get the bases and the starting points right off the bat from them, and then there’s a lot of people out there that have done this type of thing.

– A lot of daily imitation.

– Not necessarily what we’re gonna talk about today, but there’s a lot of other ways you can utilize what we’re about to talk about in a more global sense, so it’s definitely more for the everyday person that’s an ads manager instead of just someone that has a ton of tech and scripting background.

– Okay, and so we’re talking about Google Ads customizers. Right? And so tell me what is Google Ads customizers. What is that?

– Google allows you to pull in information that’s different for every user that searches for an ad. There’s some great examples about these, but before we talk about that, I’m sure some ads managers are immediately like, oh, this is probably gonna be scripting in the backend.

– No, not scripting.

– No, this is all done right in-platform, and it’s super simple to do, and we’ll use the example of countdowns. Right inside of Google Ads Manager, you can actually set up a countdown to countdown to a specific date, so every time you use their searches, each day, the ad is actually going to update to 30 days, 29 days, 28 days, really start counting down, and that’s kind of what we’re talking about, the ability to customize and change the ad.

– Customize the ad.

– Based off of time, location, any sort of number of variables.

– That’s so cool. So great, so in the countdown example, we’re invoking FOMO, right? Fear of missing out. Unfortunately, it’s the fear emotion, but, hey, it works, so we can use it when appropriate.

– Absolutely.

– So, these customizers, they allow you to… I mean, what’s the benefit, I guess? Let’s talk about that. Right, Nick? Why should I use a customizer?

– Yeah, great question. I think the thing that we understand as marketers is that the more specific we’re able to get with our ads and the more unique to the individual user, essentially saying, hey, I have exactly what you need, here is all of the parameters around it, you don’t have to go anywhere else, there’s no additional searching. The more specific you can get to what they’re looking for, the higher click the rate, the higher conversion rate, the better the user experience, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to give is the best user experience overall, right?

– Very well said, my friend. Very well said. There’s no way I could have done it better. Yes, ultimately trying to get the best user experience, and backtracking out of that, just to kind of review what you said, is like, specificity in that ad to that user’s search term, for example, or query, and then you tie that back to congruency onto the landing page or what have you. Everyone’s gonna win that way, right? Everyone’s gonna win that way. I love the benefit. We want to be specific. We want to help the user, at the end of the day. So then, examples?

– Probably one of the best example that everyone can latch onto or think about is definitely countdown ads. Another one that you’ll frequently see is dynamic keyword insertion, so based off of what the user searches, we’re pulling through a specific keyword into our ad. That’s another one that is real easy to kind of wrap your head around. I search for red shoes, then says red shoes in the ad. That makes a lot of sense.

– We have red shoes.

– Yeah, we have the red shoes you need. All of that stuff is done easily inside of platform. There’s not really anything else you need to do, but me being the tinkerer, the breaker that I am, that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to take it to the next level.

– Had to go deeper.

– Yeah, right? So, one of the big ones, like, a use case, or another example, is locations. This is something that depending on the client, or depending on the who you’re doing this for, that’s a big thing. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, people want to know, hey, I mean, it’s the Amazon world, right? You get anything in two days, so people want to be able to say do you have this right now and can I get it? Where are you located? All of those things. If you’re able to represent that in the ad, saying, hey, not only do I have red shoes, but I’m two seconds away from you. You can pick your red shoes up right now and walk out of the store wearing them. That’s what everyone wants, right?

– Sure, yeah, yeah, and like, for instance, I don’t know if you’re a lawyer or a real estate agent that’s able to operate in certain counties or states or whatever, right? Then what you can do, presumably, is your campaign geo-fences around the area that you can operate in, then you write an ad that has a dynamic element in it, which is location. So, basically, you don’t have to go and create campaigns for every single location that you can operate in. You create one campaign, big geo-fence, and then the customizer puts in the location that the user’s searching in, right? So, if they’re real estate broker, Columbia, Maryland, then it’s like, yes, we are your Columbia, Maryland’s top broker, whatever the ad might say. Is that fair?

– Yes.

– So, the benefit to the ad manager there is, what, efficiency?

– Yeah, it’s extremely more efficient. We’ll talk a little bit about the backend component of what you need to do, but as long as you’re capturing that area, and as long as Google’s able to understand where the user is and they’re able to pull that information through, it’s relatively, not necessarily simple, but it’s easy to get set up and done. And then going forward in the future, you have to do that one time, where if you do campaigns or ad groups locally, every time you’re changing, you also have to make sure you have the right ad in the right ad group or the right campaign. There’s a much bigger opportunity for potential errors to occur, and also it’s going to take you that much longer to upload all of those ads.

– So, scale.

– Yeah, absolutely. Scale is a big one.

– Yeah, lets you scale in that sense, right? What’s the cost, right? Because I’m wondering can I have reports still? Like, I have all those campaigns and I can do campaign reporting and I know the geo’s different between them, for example, right? But is reporting a cost?

– I do think when you’re talking about location, Google Ads still presents you with the ability to report by user location, by state, DMA, you know, whatever you want to work toward.

– You can always break those dimensions down.

– There’s always another way to get the data or the information that you’re looking for. If you do have them broken out by campaigns or ad groups, it is gonna be, yes, a little bit more clearcut if that’s what you’re trying to do, but I would argue, you can go into Google Data Studio and pull a report that pulls, you know–

– Maybe location wasn’t the best example. Or maybe reporting wasn’t the best potential con. Is there a con?

– The setup. It definitely takes a lot longer to get this set up and running because there’s a little bit more that you need to do to make sure–

– You have to think about it.

– Yeah, you have to think about it.

– Think about what’s happening and what your user is going to see. So, that’s a deeper level of thought that way.

– Another good example that you can use this for is promotions, right? Because you have your customizer in there, you can now insert new promotions, but it then becomes harder to report on promotion performance, so your reporting is definitely something you’re gonna need to think about, but in any sort of efficiency or any new technology that you’re kind of utilizing, there’s always gonna be those costs. So, it’s a matter of, in my opinion, is the juice worth the squeeze?

– Yeah, so it’s being aware of the down-the-line consequences, right? So, reporting is one that, it’s the one I’m thinking of. Reporting, not just because you have to report to your boss and to your client, but also reporting because insights, right? You need to do some analysis and some insights, like, hey, how is this performing? And if you weren’t using a customizer, maybe you’re not able to scale as much because there’s a lot more inputs. You gotta use Google Ads Editor. Is it Ads Editor or AdWords Editor still?

– I think it’s Ads Editor.

– It’s Ads Editor now. There’s just pros and cons. I think there’s pros and cons, but the major pro for the person managing is that scale and that efficiency once you have it set up and thought through it, and then, the pro to the user is, yes, this is what you’re looking for. Your search has ended. You have found your solution, right? Which also, then, becomes a pro for the business, because now you’re getting that higher conversion rate.

– Yeah, and that’s one we have a whole bunch of different data points on, how these have functioned profitably for our clients. You know, the countdown ads have worked for some higher ed clients to push enrollment dates.

– If you have an enrollment deadline, tell the person right there in the ad. Why should they have to click through, right?

– And then not only in the ad, make it apparent in the landing page. If you’re going to be pushing that, like, in terms of user experience, this is something that, yes, it’s encouraging, and we talked a little bit about that fear base, but if you don’t have it in by this date, you’re gonna end up waiting longer, so…

– Ultimately, you’re helping them.

– Yeah, letting them know that upfront is really the benefit.

– Yeah, I would agree. I would agree. Give me some other examples. This is fun.

– We have another client that is more of like a B2B, B2C, location-based business, and a big component of their business is shipping products, ’cause they’re more on the construction side.

– They’re more B2B than they are B2C. They’re definitely B2B, but they ship products, you know, a physical product, to the–

– Yeah.

– Right.

– And like a big component of that, a lot of times, is do you have what I need? And how long, or how much is it gonna cost me to get it there? So, in that way, we’re able to work around where they have yards or locations, and we’re able to say, hey, yes we do have this right near you, and because we’re pulling in that user’s location, we’re able to actually represent, you know, hey, we have a yard in Columbia, Maryland, or near Columbia, Maryland.

– Near, right.

– There is definitely a way of how you present yourself that’s a critical component.

– Very critical, I would say. Because you don’t want to be misleading.

– Yes.

– That’s a potential thing you need to think about. A potential downfall of this is you could, if you don’t think about how your ad will be presented, it could be misleading in that way, so like near makes sense. This also, Nick, brings up another point, which is alignment between marketing department who’s running the ads to other departments that may be impacted.

– Mm-hmm, absolutely.

– In this case, if we’re saying, yes, shipping is gonna cost this or approximately that, or we have a yard here, so your lead-time is a day or two, or whatever, you know, we gotta make sure that if someone calls, sales knows that we’re running that ad, our logistics, our supply chain is true, like, we can’t be lying, so this requires some deeper alignment between the different functional areas of the business.

– Oh, absolutely, and all that goes back to user experience. That’s what you want to have. You want everyone to have a positive or a good user experience. If you’re misrepresenting your business and saying we have a location in Columbia, Maryland and then, really, it’s like, it’s like, oh, well, actually, we’re really in Anne Arundel County and it’s like 25 minutes away. That user’s gonna be like, all right, well, never mind. That kind of stinks. There’s definitely a misrepresentation that can be facilitated in the ad. Saying instead of location in, you can say location near or something along those lines. The other big component of doing this type of customizer is we only have 30 characters in our headline, 90 in the description. If our location eats up 27 of those characters, you have nothing before it or what’s gonna happen is Google’s gonna use the default, and there’s something you have to specify as a default. So, you know, we’re talking about this location example. Near you is what we typically default to, meaning, yes, it’s near your location, but it’s not as specific or as good as the individual–

– You’re giving up a little bit of that when you do that, right. That makes sense.

– I definitely want to get into the backend of how this all functions a little bit, but there’s a way thinking forward and understanding the amount of characters you have or the amount of characters on average that you’re gonna be using, you can then make sure 90% of my locations fall under that 10-character limit that I have to have, and then the additional 10%.

– And how do you get that? Now, here you go getting technical. It’s funny, you said it’s kind of like a giant if-then statement, and so here’s the technical side. He’s a marketer first, but he also understands as developers, developers use if-then statements all the time. Every single programming language has them, right?

– Really, what we’re talking about, two columns. If it says this, then output this. So, we’ll continue with the user location example. If user is located in this location or this city, this zip code, output this.

– So, you can rewrite it, then.

– Yes, and that’s where I’m talking. Getting under that character limit. You have some things to play with.

– So, could you do like, okay, it’s Ellicott City, now output 21042, the zip code.

– Or you could do, not that Howard County’s any shorter, but there’s a way you can play around with this. Recognize this one’s too long. I’m trying to think of a great example.

– Howard County, shorten it to HoCo.

– Yeah, or if you understand that, or maybe there’s–

– The user will understand. If that’s your target audience.

– Yeah, abbreviation’s another thing we’ve done. You know, maybe you don’t need to say city and you can abbreviate it. The user gets the idea. Springs is another one that we quite frequently will run across that the user’s able to understand what that really means if you abbreviate it. So, that’s where, you know, you have that list of locations as to hey, this is what it’s gonna appear like in Ad Words. Here’s what I want the ad to say. And understanding that character length and minimizing it or doing things to zoom out to a bigger geography or go a little bit more specific to try and skirt the character limits.

– I’ve got ideas, Nick.

– Yeah?

– Here’s an idea. Well, not an idea. Here’s a question. Can you also, then, input that into your destination URL? Or do some customization in the destination URL?

– So, I’ve done in the display URL, I have not done in the destination URL, but I would–

– I want to use A UTM tag, sorry, let me tell you why, right? Because now what I want to do is, okay my ad is specific. I want to push that dude to my landing page. Nothing is better than that congruency of the landing page. Super specific ad to super specific landing page. Yes, I clicked on that ad and I landed here, and this is what I was looking for. They know what I want, right? So, I’m thinking if we can push that through into the destination URL, it’s like a UTM content field, and then we can have a landing page pick that up and then do like a text-swap for example. Even an image swap to like show the state or whatever.

– I think we have done the UTM portion of it.

– We’ve done that, definitely. What I’m asking is can we–

– Just not passing through.

– What I’m asking is can we put the output of the customizer per the query, right? Dynamically into the destination URL.

– I don’t know if you can tell, the smoke coming out of my ears?

– He’s like, give me my laptop.

– And I can do this right now.

– Figure this out. Because if so, we’re gonna do it.

– Yeah, right? Well, I mean, now I’ve got homework, which is good with me, but I think that’s definitely something I haven’t done yet but we could try and see whether or not it comes through. To let you know, we were playing around with this yesterday, and something else we noticed is when you type in, so if we’re using a specific example of red shoes, right? When you type in red shoes Columbia, whether or not you’re located in Columbia, Maryland–

– That’s gonna trigger–

– Quite frequently it does trigger the customizer, because I was able to, and we’re going a little bit down a rabbit hole here, but I was able to utilize a Chrome extension to spoof my IP so that I was in a different location, but then I’d search for something using a new location, and it was very interesting to me that user-specified location was more important than actual geo-location.

– The perils of Google’s AI, or Google’s semantic search, right? The perils of that. The perils, also, of the customizer. Again, this is not to be used in every single ad account. Right? This is to help you become more efficient and scale, and also performance, right? But again, you have to think through all the potential… Going back to my introduction of you, if the audience knows or not, I’m classically trained bioinfomatics and computer science, right? Now I’m in marketing. Well, as a computer scientist, you have to think about every single scenario that can possibly happen else your program’s gonna break. So, this is what he’s doing as a tinkerer. He’s like, okay, let me get a Chrome extension so I can spoof my IP, change my user agent, and if we’re getting too technical, we’ve lost our entire class. CMOs are like, what the heck are you talking about at this point. But, look, this is stuff that goes into effectively managing ads and driving CPAs down.

– And I think to your point, ultimately, if the user’s specifying that I’m more interested in a location that I’m ultimately in, and it shows the ad, it shows a location variation for what the user specified, that’s still a win, because that user is saying, like, hey, I’m interesting in red shoes in Columbia, although I’m located in Phoenix, Arizona.

– Yeah, and I get that, but at the same time, like, how smart is Google? Very smart, very smart. Google, you’re very smart. No, but, like, Columbia, is that the apparel brand?

– Yeah.

– Or is it, like, if you go to Maryland, it’s definitely Maryland. There’s also Columbia, South Carolina, so this is the thought patterns that go on here. It’s a very iterative approach to problem-solving.

– The other thing is we talk about these today. In six months from now, what are they rolling out on the ad platform that we’re–

– One month from now.

– Yeah, well, yes, very much. What is Google Ads going to be called? God only knows. I think to your point, these are what we’re utilizing right now and as Google rolls out new customizers or new ways for us to pull in information and give the user a better ad experience, like, that’s what we need to be doing and I think that’s more of what we’re talking about. It’s like, currently, this works. As Google changes their algorithm, becomes more smarter, we’re going to need to make sure we’re applying our then-knowledge of what we’ve learned right now, but, expanding on it further and growing to continue to improve that.

– Yeah, and we’ll have the learnings and perspective of today to apply that. So, Nick, let me do this, man. Let’s say to the audience, we can talk about it for days, give a lot more examples, but I think let’s cut it off here. Let’s have you come back on the show in couple of months or whatever. We’ll talk about more examples here, but also we’ll talk about the next new feature that Google’s has rolled out and we’re testing.

– Yeah, I’d love to.

– But if anyone has questions about this stuff, can they reach out to you?

– Yeah, absolutely.

– Reach out to us. We’re happy to play. Don’t let me speak for you. We’re kind of like, nerds, geeks, and I use those terms in the best light possible. We love this stuff. Take a break. You gave me an idea, like, we’ll put the customizer output in the URL because then we can do it on the landing page and now you’re really giving a great experience.

– The big thing I can tell you, countdowns have driven a lot of… I have some numbers in terms of metrics. We’ve seen a lot of improvements there. Location insertion has also provided a large boost for a variety of different clients. So, at very least, I challenge everyone out there. Get out there, test this. Go through the process of seeing if this is gonna work for one or two of your clients, your business, whatever, because I’ve seen a lot of value in it and a lot of success there.

– And tell us your results. I love to hear someone be like, I heard about this. I tried it, here’s what I found. They’re awesome, or it stunk. I don’t know. One more question. How do big modifiers and the customizer work together? For instance, I want to bid higher when it’s this state.

– It’s the same principle and it works the same that it would normally without the customizer. The benefit is–

– That’s a good point.

– If you know you’re targeting those locations and you have the customizer built out for that, focus more on that. I think we do this a lot. I would say nine times out of 10, if you’re gonna use the location-specific stuff, you have brick-and-mortar locations, so you’re likely going to be trying to geo-fence for some of the campaigns that you’re building around that, and those are gonna be the campaigns that are gonna see the most effect there.

– Yeah, I hear you. You say brick-and-mortar, but again, there are other examples. Those lawyers, accountants, the real estate people who can operate only in certain locations or a siding company, a roofing company, that can operate and has insurance and proper qualifications to operate. So, it could work in different industries.

– Oh, absolutely, and I think the more you’re out there tinkering, testing–

– The more you’re gonna improve.

– Yeah, the more you’re gonna improve, and we’re talking 20% improvements and click-through rates on what we’ve seen, a 25% drop in cost per lead when we’re running these versus when we’re not. So, we’re talking about tangible improvements. The countdown ones, we’ve been running for the last two years. We started in 2017, so we have a decent amount of data to back up those improvements when we are running them.

– I’ll throw one more stat out there. The first time I used GeoIP, this isn’t Google Ads anymore. This is GeoIP on a landing page. So, the landing page used to say, get a loan, and I forget the headline, but get a VA loan, right? And then that was the headline. The variant was get a VA loan in, and then we used the IP of the… 4% conversion rate to 16% conversion rate. Four times, 400% improvement in conversion rate on that particular landing page. So, specificity works. TLDR.

– It’s what users want. They want to know that you have what they want where they want it.

– We’ll see you back in a couple months.

– Thank you.

– For all y’all out there, hopefully this was helpful. I know this was kind of deep-dive technical and all that, but Nick Brown, he’ll be back. Subscribe, share. Give us your questions. Talk to us. We want to hear from you. Thank you all. Cheers.

– Thank you.

Nick Brown

Nick BrownMarketing Director, Pod Leader

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

Podcasts Info:
Data + Tech
News + Business

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