Google Improves Smart Bidding; Facebook Updates Political Ad Policy

Hey, everyone! Welcome back to another edition of the online advertising news round-up. Today, we’ll talk about Google’s debut of smart bidding seasonality adjustments, Facebook’s decision to update their political ad policies, and more!

Google debuts smart bidding seasonality adjustments

In an effort to give you more control when you anticipate a temporary increase in conversion rates, Google has decided to roll out smart bidding seasonality adjustments for search and display campaigns. Once you’ve submitted to Google an estimate of how much, on average, your conversion rates will increase, they’ll adjust their smart bidding algorithms to help you make the most of your opportunities while still honoring your target cost per action (CPA).

For those who don’t know, “smart bidding” is an umbrella term that Google uses to refer to their suite of fully automated bidding strategies—Target CPA, Target ROAS, Maximize Conversions, and Enhanced CPC (eCPC). When you elect to use one of these strategies, you forfeit your control over individual keyword bids. Rather than manually settings bids yourself, you hand the reins to Google’s algorithms and let them optimize your bids at the outset of each auction according to a range of contextual factors (e.g., the type of device the prospect is using).

Now, as this update rolls out, you can tell Google to consider an additional factor as they’re automatically setting your bids—i.e., the fact that your conversion rates are going to be higher than usual for an extended period of time.

For example, let’s say you sell women’s apparel and you’re running a week-long flash sale to clear out some inventory before the summer ends. By telling Google that you expect your conversion rates to increase by an average of 33% over the course of that week, you give their algorithms a key piece of information that they can use to better optimize your bids. Because a sweater that typically converts at a rate of 3% is now expected to convert at a rate of 4%, your individual bids will likely increase in kind.

Facebook updates political advertising policies

In preparation for the upcoming election cycle in the US, Facebook has announced a number of updates to their political advertising policies. Most notably, any individual or organization that’s using Facebook to run ads related to politics or social issues must provide additional information (for the sake of more thorough authorization) by mid-October. Any advertiser that fails to meet this deadline will have their ads paused.

Because there are several ways to authorize the legitimacy of a politician or interest group, political advertisers have five different options when it comes to providing “additional information”—three of them being ways to prove registration with the US government:

  1. A tax-registered organization identification number
  2. A government website domain that matches an email ending in .gov or .mil
  3. A Federal Election Commission (FEC) identification number

Because small-scale organizations and local politicians seldom have credentials like these, Facebook will also allow political advertisers to verify their legitimacy in the following two ways:

  1. Submit an organization name by providing a phone number, an email address, a mail-deliverable address, and a website that matches the email.
  2. Rely solely on the Page Admin’s legal name on their personal identification document. Note that advertisers who select this option will not be allowed to use their registered organization names in their ad disclaimers.

Again, failure to give Facebook more information about the politician or organization you work for using one of these options by mid-October will result in your ads getting paused. (Facebook hasn’t provided a specific date.)

Additionally, Facebook has decided to give users a more in-depth look at the political ads they see on the platform. Starting next month, when a user clicks on the informational tab appended to an ad, they’ll learn more about the contents of the ad itself as well as the organization that’s running it. Once Facebook has collected the additional information discussed earlier, they’ll pass it along to users in order to help them judge the legitimacy of political advertisers for themselves.

Facebook unveils new ad buying process for certain advertisers

Following up on their settlement with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Facebook has officially announced a new ad buying process for US advertisers in the housing, credit, and employment industries. As of now, if you use Facebook to promote things like housing opportunities or job openings, you must flag your campaigns under the new “Special Ad Category.” If, in an attempt to evade the new ad buying process, you don’t flag your campaigns, Facebook will deactivate your ads.

Once you’ve flagged your campaign with the new category, Facebook will disable certain targeting settings at the ad set level. Specifically, you won’t be allowed to target users based on age, gender, ZIP code, multicultural affinity, or any other protected characteristic. The idea, of course, is that disabling these targeting parameters ensures that no advertiser in the housing, credit, or employment industry can discriminate against marginalized groups of people.

Additionally, you’ll no longer be allowed to create lookalike audiences—audiences of users whose online activities indicate that they may (or may not) have an interest in the offer you’re promoting. Because lookalike audiences enable you to exclude certain users from seeing your ads, allowing advertisers in housing, credit, and employment to use this tool could lead to the discrimination that Facebook is trying to minimize. As such, you’ll instead have to opt for a “special ad audience”—a variation of the lookalike audience that doesn’t take into account characteristics like age, gender, ZIP code, and so on.

Instagram experiments with additional Stories ads

Responding to recent reports that the platform has become more saturated with ads, Instagram has confirmed that they’re experimenting with more frequent ad delivery in Stories, according to Marketing Land. When asked about the noticeable uptick in Stories ads, a spokesperson from Facebook (which owns Instagram) had this to say: “We’re always testing new ad experiences on Instagram and want to learn how people and advertisers respond to this small test.”

“The small test,” for those who don’t know, involves serving back-to-back Stories ads from two different advertisers to the same user. Prior to the launch of this test—which only affects a small number of users for now—Stories ads weren’t served in immediate succession of one another.

As an advertiser, this isn’t a matter of opting in or opting out; if you’re running Stories ads, you’re eligible to take part in the test.

The reasoning behind this decision isn’t really up for debate: Instagram is running this test to see if users will tolerate back-to-back Stories ads—that is, if users are cool with Instagram (and, by extension, Facebook) opening up another channel for monetization. The saturation of the news feed has been obvious for a while now; it’s no surprise that Facebook is turning to one of the most popular features across their entire family of apps—Instagram Stories—to bring in some additional revenue.

The concern, of course, is that an increase in Stories ads will lead to the same ad fatigue that’s pushing advertisers away from the News Feed as we speak. If Instagram decides to fully roll out this test, it’ll be more important than ever that your creative is unique and engaging. For some help, check out this comprehensive guide to Instagram Stories ads.

Facebook rolls out lead gen for Messenger globally

As we discussed in a previous news round-up, Facebook announced in May that Messenger lead gen templates would be rolling out to all advertisers later this year. The time has come!

With a Messenger lead gen template, you can create a news feed ad that directs your prospects to an automated question-and-answer flow within the Messenger interface.

As you can see, the tool is built to help you collect basic lead information before connecting prospects with live customer support representatives. Thanks to the lack of friction involved in the process, you can deliver a seamless user experience—and, thus, make a great first impression—while simultaneously building out your pool of high-funnel prospects. Win-win!

If you’re marketing a hair salon, for instance, a Messenger lead gen template is a great way to interact with prospective customers before they walk through your doors. Though not all of them will book appointments right away, at least you’ve gathered some key information that you can subsequently use to retarget leads with personalized ads.

Several changes coming to Google Shopping

Heads up, ecommerce advertisers: Google has recently announced a number of changes coming to Shopping that you should be aware of.

First up: As Google initially announced back in February, September 1 marked the end of the XML Datafeed format. As of now, the Content API for Shopping will only support data feed requests using the JSON format; any requests using XML will fail. If you’ve been using XML up until this point, you’ll have to convert your requests now to make sure your Shopping campaigns continue to run correctly.

Secondly: As of September 30, items without unique product identifiers (UPIs) will be eligible for promotion with Shopping ads. Up until now, items without UPIs—such as global trade item numbers (GTINs) or manufacturer part numbers (MPNs)—have been disqualified from Shopping ad auctions. It’s important to note, however, that Google will prioritize similar products that have correct UPIs. To get the most out of your Shopping campaigns, do your best to make sure each product in your catalog has a correct UPI.

Finally: As the good people over at Sales & Orders reported on their blog, item ID subdivision has arrived in Smart Shopping campaigns. With this new functionality, you can select individual items when building out product groups—thus giving you an additional lever of control when using the highly automated Smart Shopping campaign type.

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