Search Updates: January 2021

Search Updates: January 2021

Google Temporarily Bans Political Ads

2020 was a big year for politics – one that had determined the state of the nation for years to come. Due to a highly competitive environment, political leaders had to find a versatile platform where they could voice their opinions, address their plan of action, and unite their followers. That platform was digital channels because of its usability and mass reach. However, as the year unfolded, headlines and ads were designed and served in a way that had manipulated groups of communities, inciting violence and hate crimes. Digital channels like Google, felt responsible and had initiated a temporary ban on political ads from being displayed within the Google ecosystem, which took effect after the polls closed and had lasted until mid-December of 2020.

Though we all hoped the political unrest could be laid to rest, misinformation and false claims via digital channels were publicly shared again, resulting in a violent uprising at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. This led Google to pause and block all political ads starting on January 14th, 2021 that exploited the event or amplified misleading information. This temporary ban remains in effect for the time being. It applies to any political ads, even those run by news organizations and merchandisers.

There are different opinions on this matter. Some believe it is the right move as it creates fewer opportunities for widespread manipulation, which will keep the nation from being even more fragmented. For others, they consider this initiative a violation of free speech and it restricts the opportunity to spread truths. Google's ultimate strategy is to prevent confusion around sensitive events.

Google says it will carefully examine several factors before deciding to lift this policy for advertisers but that the current plan is to keep this policy in place for now.

Uprising of DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that primarily focuses on protecting its users’ privacy. They pride themselves on the fact that they do not track nor collect any personal information that Google, or other search engines, do. The ads that are shown to its users are solely based on their search queries. The company was founded in 2008 but has recently seen exponential growth for search queries in the recent years. On January 11th, 2021 the search engine finally reached its “100 million query per day” milestone.

Unsurprisingly, this growth is aligned with the increasing concerns about data privacy in digital marketing. DuckDuckGo had an estimated market share of 2.3% in December 2020, nearly a third of Bing’s market share. If digital marketing does not lay down concrete privacy laws and regain consumer trust, DuckDuckGo may continue to rise in popularity at exponential growth. DuckDuckGo may reach 1 billion searches per day by 2027 if it maintains this level of growth according to Search Engine Land.

Despite it all, it will be ages until DuckDuckGo can be comparable to Google. Google has and will continue to have the technology and the numbers to continue dominating the search engine industry. However, it is not far off from Bing or Yahoo. If it reaches those search engines’ levels, advertisers should give serious thought to testing ads on DuckDuckGo.

Changes to Gmail Campaigns

Google Ads recently sent an email to advertisers informing them that there will be major changes happening to Gmail campaigns. Starting July 1st, 2021, advertisers will not be able to create new or edit existing standalone Gmail campaigns, which is something advertisers can currently do. If advertisers would like to display their ads via the Gmail platform, they must create a Discovery campaign.

A Discovery campaign is a visual ad format that runs ads across the YouTube Home and Watch feed, Gmail’s Social and Promotions tabs, and the Google Discover feed. This change can be beneficial to advertisers but can also have its implications. The most obvious implication would be that the existing Gmail data would not be housed under the same campaign anymore when Discovery absorbs Gmail. Additionally, parts of Discovery campaigns are automated. Advertisers likely will need to change their current process of running and optimizing Gmail campaigns since the below features will no longer be available manually once Gmail campaigns are rolled into Discovery campaigns:

  • Manual bid strategies
  • Delivery method
  • Device targeting
  • Placement targeting (including exclusions)
  • Frequency capping
  • Ad rotation
  • Contextual targeting

On the contrary, creating a Google Discovery campaign can be beneficial for advertisers. According to Google, this type of ad format can help advertisers reach up to 3 billion customers, allowing them to drive more conversions, reach new users, and remarket to current or past users. It focuses on visually-rich experiences, a feature that Search campaigns are lacking. Another unique aspect of this ad format is that the customers reached via these properties are usually those who are browsing, not looking for anything specific. This allows advertisers to reach new customers.