Conversational PPC, Hidden Gems, In-Store AI Assistants

Conversational PPC, Hidden Gems, In-Store AI Assistants

Gemini Comes to Search Campaigns

Google's path toward full automation of ad campaign creation and optimization took another step forward with the announcement that Google's Gemini and "conversational experience" was going live for paid-search campaigns in the US and UK. It will soon will be available to all English language advertisers and eventually go global. The idea is that a chat-driven experience will help search marketers create better performing ads with reduced effort. You only need to provide a URL to start and AI will generate "relevant ad content, including creatives and keywords," Google explained. Beta testers have reportedly been able to build better campaigns more quickly. Marketers may still edit campaigns after they're built. One of the promises of AI is simplification. And the conversational experience is substantially directed at reducing friction for smaller advertisers. However, agencies will likely use this as well. We don't yet have any independent performance data.

Chat-Based Search Campaign Creation
Google Ads Conversation Experience To Create New Ads & Automatically  Created Assets
Source: Google

Our take:

  • If paid-search ads are easier to create and perform better that's a good thing – right?
  • Google clearly believes reducing friction and helping marketers create better ads will generate more ad revenue. That's the real driver here.
  • Google has been on this ads-automation path for at least a decade and recent advances in AI are helping accelerate the shift to full automation.

Hidden Gems: Authenticity and Fragmentation

Part of Google's strategy to combat TikTok flight, spam and criticism of search quality in general is to surface more forum and "hidden" social content (e.g., public forums). This is on top of short form video. Joy Hawkins of SterlingSky recently discussed this in the context of a 144% spike in traffic to the Local Search Forum. Yet it's going on in multiple places, especially Reddit and, unfortunately, Quora. This is part of Google's "hidden gems" strategy, which kicked in around Q3 last year, and is technically part of the Helpful Content Update. The idea is to surface content by actual humans with personal expertise, insights or first-hand knowledge and experience – bloggers, creators, credible experts and relevant others. This is often what people are seeking when they go to TikTok instead of Google ("authenticity"), for recipes, fashion or beauty advice for example. At the same time, "big social" (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) has seen a decline in user engagement and organic reach. Google's ranking of alternatives to the usual social suspects may further fragment social media strategies. As we discuss in upcoming episode 143 of the Near Memo, a content strategy rethink may be in order.

Our take:

  • Absent strong moderation, spam may become a bigger problem for these hidden gems sites. What Google rewards people always do.
  • Participation in top industry forums is an important quasi-barnacle SEO tactic. But there's no one-size fits all social/community/content strategy.
  • Responding to reviews is arguably part of a larger community or social strategy. Most businesses don't respond to reviews consistently, if at all.

In-Store AI Assistants Coming

AI assistants could be a boon for both consumers and marketers in retail environments. To date, conversational assistants have been tested at fast food kiosks. Now, a new pilot program from Samsung and partners could mark a new phase of AI integration into IRL hospitality and retail environments. Samsung is installing AI-powered digital screens in three Chevron gas station convenience stores in California and Washington. In one way they're not significantly different from previous digital displays in retail stores. They'll be located in high-traffic areas and provide brand and retailer advertising and merchandising opportunities. They'll also display other types of information, such as weather. More interesting is the inclusion of photo-realistic avatars ("digital humans") who can interact with customers: "Sam the Sommelier is a hyper-realistic generative AI-powered virtual being that can interact with customers via voice or live chat through an app and provide recommendations for wine pairings with their food purchases." The image below is an in-aisle screen featuring Sam. If well designed, these avatars could improve customer experiences and boost spending.

Wine aisle with Samsung's Sam the Sommelier
Source: Samsung-Chevron

Our take:

  • Many people leave retail stores because they either can't find what they're looking for or can't get someone to help them.
  • Well designed conversational AI could help locate products and provide information and advice, which would lead to greater spending.
  • Service is a reason to shop in store. However, in-store experiences are inconsistent. This could partly remedy that and address employee shortages – or justify reduced hiring as well.

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