Gmail Sponsored Promotions: Everything You Need To Know To Succeed At Direct Response With GSP, Part 2
As interest surrounding GSP grows, columnist Susan Waldes shares some tips on how you can take this new ad platform to the next level.
In mid-January, Google opened Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP), a new type of ad format that appears in Gmail, to all U.S. advertisers. There was no big announcement from Google, yet word has been spreading among the digital marketing community about how effective the channel can be.
Given the growing interest in GSP I’ve been seeing, I’m sharing what I’ve learned after working in the beta platform since it was first rolled out in 2013. In Part 1 of my series, I laid out the GSP basics, from targeting to reporting.
With some initial trial and error, I’ve been able to get “PPC-like” direct response results for more than a dozen advertisers within GSP. The following are more advanced targeting and creative strategies that drive PPC-like performance.
Creative Is Half The Battle
Paid search professionals tend not to devote a tremendous amount of strategic time on the creative. The limited formats and size of text ads allow you to come up with dozens of creative possibilities in minutes. To thrive with GSP, you need to break out of that mentality.
With any impression-based medium such as display or GSP, creative is very important. It can make or break your campaign. Remember, unlike search, these customers have not “declared” that they are interested in your vertical. Your creative has to be compelling enough to make them become interested.
The majority of advertisers that I see in my Gmail box GSP ads have sub-par creative. This can be an advantage to the savvy marketer, as you can get a serious edge on the competition by spending some time and putting real strategic thought into your creative.
Tackling The Teaser Ad
The “out of the box” implementation for the teaser ad is to use your logo as the image. Unless you are targeting your own current customers with offers, don’t use your logo for the teaser.
Your logo means nothing (yet) to a person who you’re trying to acquire as a customer. If your goal is a direct response one and you want to drive clicks, use a little image that is graphical and representative of what you provide. This is way more likely to catch the eye of an interested person and clearly communicate your offerings to a potential new customer who’s not yet familiar with your brand.
Your click-through rate (CTR) will be much higher, and your potential customers will have a much better idea of what they’re getting into.
In terms of your teaser text, you have a bit more space then with an AdWords ad, exactly the same as a LinkedIn ad, and about the same as a Facebook promoted post. Don’t reinvent the ad text here. If possible, begin with messaging taken from tested ad texts that have proven successful in other channels.
Go Native For Your Expanded GSP Ad
The majority of advertisers I see in GSP use an expanded ad that is a “Big Old Banner.” Don’t be a BOB! The expanded ad unit of GSP is incredibly flexible in terms of what you can do with it. The formula I’ve seen work almost every time is to take advantage of this ad type’s native environment.
“Native ads” have been quite the buzzword over the last couple of years, but they’re nothing new. All that means is that the ad is in the format of the platform’s other content. Native ads tend to perform better than other ad types, and this goes for GSP. How do make your GSP ad native? Make your expanded ad look like an email!
If you have tested successful HTML promotional email creative assets already, they may be usable with a couple of tweaks. This is a great opportunity for the paid search department to go have a pow-wow with the email department.
If you’re developing an ad from scratch, don’t limit your creative to a single image and click out. Funnel users to the main messaging within the body of the creative, but also have surrounding options that give the feel of a promo email — have a top navigation, links within your text, examples of product, and other elements that you’d typically place in a promotional email.
Other Creative Best Practices
GSP ads allow you to embed videos, use click-to-call phone numbers, and have form fields in your ad beyond all the other flexibility provided by a “blank HTML” ad unit.
If you can move any of your goals into the ad itself — such as form fields or embedded videos — take the development time to do so. Remember that you pay for the teaser click, so if you can get people to “execute” your goal without another subsequent click, you’ll pay less per conversion.
Also, for the same reason, be very clear, even “exclusive” in your teaser ad text if possible. There isn’t (yet) quality score in this platform. If ad-serving preference is based on CTR at all, it is still very loose and not something to focus on. At this point, to keep Cost Per Action (CPA) low, try to eliminate people from clicking your teaser ad if they’re not committed to everything you’re asking them to do.
So now that you have the perfect creative, how do you get it in front of the right people?
The domain targeting in GSP is the functionality that I’ve found most unique and useful. You can target, by domain, the companies that a user receives email from. Some similar targeting types are in other channels, but nothing else that so directly allows you to advertise to the specific behavior of your personas. Most advertisers can successfully use this domain targeting in one of a few ways:
• Targeting your own domain – You can target your own domain as a not-quite-remarketing strategy that supplements your email content and reaches users who may not open your actual emails.
• Targeting competitors by domain – This a great strategy for many. For instance, if you are Carnival Cruises, you could target people that get emails from ncl.com, princess.com and royalcaribbean.com and have an audience of people that are highly likely to purchase cruise vacations online.
• Targeting with companion products – For other advertisers, the domain targeting may be more useful not with direct competitors, but with “companion” products. For instance, if you are offering a small business loan product and want to reach small business owners, targeting quickbooks.com or sba.gov would allow you to hone in on small business owners and decision makers.
• Targeting personas by domain – If you’ve figured out your customer is a busy working mom who shops at Target and has her groceries delivered by PeaPod you can use peapod.com and target.com to form the foundation of a target audience to expose your offer.
Purchase History And Job Title Targeting
Purchase History targeting reaches people who have purchased certain products online as reflected by the receipts in their email. Offering very granular categories like “hot chocolate” and “fanny pack” purchasers, you can imagine that it’s easy to narrow your audience to basically nobody with this targeting.
However, by using the higher-level tiers and combining them, you can create good audiences. For instance, if you are a luxury retail women’s handbag brand, targeting purchasers of all kinds of jewelry, accessories, watches, shoes and bags can create a meaningful and highly targeted audience.
Job Title targeting has the smallest scale in my experience. Remember, these are only personal Gmail accounts (not Google apps accounts). So reaching professionals in a certain industry at scale is difficult. That said, for certain advertisers, such as those offering a software product only applicable to a few niche professions, Job Title targeting (and matching your creative) to it, can be a viable strategy.
All of these “user attribute” targets as first presented in the UI are based on “OR” targeting, meaning you’re targeting people who have any one of the attributes that you assign. However, over on the top left you can select “AND attributes” which allows you to layer your targeting.
AND Targets can be very powerful. For instance, I worked with a client that had a monthly subscription box product for parents. At first, we tried targeting interest categories that aligned with being parents. We also tried targeting people who had purchased from other subscription box sites. Neither worked.
Then, we used AND targeting to layer categories indicating people were parents on top of domain targeting for any subscription box or other “alternative ecommerce start-up” — birchbox.com, renttherunway.com, zulily.com, dollarshaveclub.com — and it worked beautifully! When we reached people who were game to shop with these new e-commerce models AND who were parents, they purchased my client’s product in great numbers.
The GSP platform does allow for excluding targets.
To exclude geographies, precede the target with a minus sign in the geo-targeting section.
You can also exclude on “user attributes.” Many companies would want to exclude their own domain, to avoid targeting people who are already getting their promotional emails if the spend is dedicated to new user acquisition.
Aside from that, there are limited smart use cases for exclusions. If you want to target all the people in the “News” interest target except for those in the “Weather” category, you should pro-actively target the 10 subcategories rather than the broader “News” category and excluding “Weather.” This will allow you to get reporting on each subcategory performance in your criteria report and optimize toward the metrics you see there.
In part 1 of this series, we discussed the fundamentals of GSP, the basics of targeting, the reporting, and how to approach campaign goals. Here we’ve gone over creative best practices and the unique targeting capabilities. I leave you with a few final tips to help you succeed in this new ad platform.
Creating the ads for this platform can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s worth running at least two variations, even if they just differ in the teaser ad. Like with AdWords, you can set the campaign to serve ads “evenly” or to prefer the better converting option. Having multiple ads allows the algorithm to work toward higher conversions for you or for you to get 50/50 data on what creative works better and iterate from there.
Once you have some data in the system, you can start bidding to a CPA rather than on a click — in this system it’s called “Conversion Cost Optimization.” This works very much like “Conversion Optimizer” or CPA bidding in AdWords. Within the GSP system, though, the cost-per-click (CPC) you set in the “Max Cost Per Click” field is still adhered to as your maximum CPC.
If you get to the point where performance is great, you’re bidding to a CPA, and you want to expand your reach, you can also use the “Targeting Optimization” setting. This is equivalent to Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO) within AdWords. But be cautious — as with DCO, the targets within this setting are “black box.” Though you may be driving performance, you will not get data on what’s working, so your ability to learn and optimize toward data is limited.Finally, don’t feel alone if the “Audience Estimate” isn’t working for you.
It rarely works for anybody. Know that I (and the other GSP evangelists) have the same issue.