Ad Muting: 7 Ways to Optimize Your Ads in the New ‘Opt-Out’ Google Network

March 9, 2019

For advertisers, remarketing is an essential strategy for re-engaging with past visitors, and nowadays, we are getting better at being able to track people both on and offline.

Despite these capabilities, it’s the negative ad experiences that people continue to find themselves dealing with that are causing the increased need for ad blockers. Saw a pair of shoes you liked, but weren’t ready to purchase? Maybe a week goes by and you’re still seeing those ads. Unwanted experiences like these cause the number of ad block users to increase every year and even cause some users to turn away from search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo altogether.

While some of the web’s top publishers were still busy developing anti-ad-blocker technology, Google decided to stop fighting ad blockers and allowed users to opt-out of unwanted ads within its search and display networks. On January 25th, Google announced the following additions to Ads Settings (previously Ads Preferences Manager) and “mute this ad”: 1) In Ads Settings, consumers will be able to see which advertisers are targeting them and personalize the ads based on their preferences. 2) With the new additions to “mute this ad,” consumers will not see the ads they have muted on any devices when logged in to the same account.

With the use of ad blockers growing every year, it’s apparent that people don’t want the pair of shoes they viewed a week ago following them around as an ad as they read the news. In 2017, DuckDuckGo saw its highest query count to date with 5.9 billion searches last year. As ad blockers become more popular and engines like DuckDuckGo see query volume growing every month, it’s understandable as to why Google would try to join the fight as opposed to fighting the current.

Possible Reasons Behind the Move

  1. Ad blocking software has been growing rapidly in the past few years. According to a survey of over 1000 US internet users, nearly 40 percent of them had used an ad blocker in the last month.
  2. Google had been trying to eliminate ad blockers, but could not have done so successfully. According to PageFair, ad blocking cost Google AdWords $887 million in just one quarter (Q2 2013).
  3. To meet the needs of consumers. Consumers will always buy the products that they need. If ad blockers can satisfy their need for getting out of the emotion of anger from seeing annoying ads, then users will continue to use ad blockers. By only showing preferred ads, Google is trying to give consumers that same satisfaction of using ad blockers.
  4. To fit Google’s long-term vision to provide a better user experience. This doesn’t just transform the current online advertising environment to a cleaner and more preference-based ecosystem, but it also helps increase Google’s profits in the process. Facebook did a test in 2016, in which they blocked ad blockers and gave users the option to hide ads. Resultedly, they saw a boost in revenue.

Benefits to Advertisers

The benefits to Google are very clear, but what do advertisers have to gain from this new change?

Here are some of the possible benefits to advertisers, once more users begin to switch from ad-block software to Google’s new ad muting option:

  1. We could see a decrease in the number of “unknown” users. Although it’s not very clear how Google defines “unknown,” there’s a possibility that when users remove their ad blockers, Google will be more likely to identify the demographics (age and gender) of these users.
  2. Increased headcount of males in demographic targeting. Because we’re seeing that a greater percentage of men are using ad blockers (58 percent male vs. 42 percent female), Google’s new muting feature might attract more male users.
  3. Increased ad spend on desktop. Because there are more ad-blocker users on PCs (51% PC/Desktop users vs. 22% mobile users), if they remove ad blockers, there will be some lift in desktop spend. Desktop is also the main platform where major purchases ($200+ price range) are more likely to happen, so this will help retailers who sell higher-price point products online.
  4. Increase of CTR and cost efficiency on remarketing. Advertisers won’t have to try so hard to reach the audiences they want because Google already negates the “unwanted” audience for them.

Steps Advertisers Can Take Within Google’s New Personalized Ad Experience

1. Rethink Your Marketing Strategy

As Google shifts to serving preference-based ads, it will become more difficult for advertisers to remarket at a granular level. As the segmentation of remarketing lists becomes more ambiguous, the size of these remarketing lists will get smaller. Unless Google provides the list of audiences who mute your ads, it probably won’t make a difference if you set up your remarketing lists by too many segmentations, because it will all come down to two lists of audiences: Those who’re interested in your ads and those who aren’t. And, at the end of the day, you’re only serving your ads to consumers in the first category. So, the question is – what is going to be the new strategy for remarketing?

The answer, regardless of your retargeting plan, is that you’ll need to have a solid strategy to target your overall audience:

  1. Make sure your ads are not “annoying.”
  2. Offer consumers a seamless and great experience – from the first touch point, all the way to post-purchase customer service.
  3. Google sets the end date of the cycle of muting ads to be 90 days – maybe 90 days should be the new benchmark in your consideration when creating a remarketing list.

2. Think Like a Consumer

90 days is actually a long period of time to be followed when you think like a consumer. Especially one who has already purchased, or ultimately decided they weren’t interested.

You’ve been there. Maybe you’ve decided to check out what your favorite site is offering, only to find out you’d rather see an item in person. Or you’ve comparison shopped and found out it’s cheaper on Amazon and already purchased it. Then that product is following you at work, on your home desktop computer… even on your phone when you’re scrolling through Facebook in bed!

As an advertiser and a user, ad muting is a welcomed option for people who aren’t opposed to ads, but opposed to obnoxious or highly irrelevant ads. What if you’re potentially reaching an audience who isn’t interested in your service or product? Muting ads allows for a more relevant and tailored ad feed by eliminating wasteful or irrelevant advertising.

This is an opportunity for advertisers to save their impressions for users who are interested in their product instead of flooding every visitor from your site regardless of intent. As a user, if I’m going to purchase an item or am really interested in it, I most likely won’t mind seeing ads – especially if you’re offering me something in return. If I’m not, I’ll just find a way to tune it out via ad blockers or by muting them. This is even more reason to be sophisticated with your audience building and increase your relevancy through ad copy testing and landing page optimizations.

3. Increase Relevance by Adding Exclusions

If you have a lead generation client looking to acquire new customers, try negating users who have visited your log-in page. If you want to be more exclusive, try negating users who have visited the site and immediately bounced or spent fewer than 10 seconds on the site through a GTM timer event (you may want to check your site speed to ensure you are giving users the most optimal experience). This should improve your engagement KPIs and reduce the number of users in your remarketing list.

4. Create Unique Experiences

As advertisers, we should be striving to put forth the best content and most relevant information for our users, not bombard them with information they already know. It is also important to craft your message to the stage of their engagement. If they’ve interacted with your website within the past 24 hours, chances are you don’t want to give them the same message later on. Study the latency of your conversions, identify the time of conversion (conversion lag) and use that time to reach your customers with a more direct response offer or something that reinforces your brand. This should also be reinforced with your landing page strategy, as well.

5. Eliminate Overlap

Make sure to be exclusive in your audiences by excluding users who may also be included in another audience. For example, make sure you are excluding users who have visited the site in the last seven days from a “Last 30 Days” list, if you have both audiences applied to a campaign. This helps eliminate overlap and lowers the amount of users experiencing high frequencies.

6. Lower Frequency Caps and Improve Quality

Want to reduce the probability of your display ads being muted? Lower the frequency caps on your display campaigns and work with your vendors to avoid fraud and poor-quality placements. Be sure to sort through your placements regularly to ensure you are appearing on highly relevant sites.

7. Save Dollars

If you create content worthy of being seen or shared, you won’t have much to worry about when it comes to ad blocking. Continue to prevent overlap and make sure you aren’t reaching the same users repeatedly — unless you have something unique to offer each time. Save your dollars for potential customers who are interested in your brand.

Looking Forward

Looking to the future, it’s possible that Google believes providing options to remove ads may reduce the likeliness that a user would install an ad blocker. There is also potential for Google to share this data with advertisers for use as an exclusion list for their campaigns. This would be extremely beneficial for user suppression in RLSA and remarketing campaigns.

With the added function of being able to mute ads, what does this mean for a company that raked in $27 billion just in the last quarter? As mentioned above, Google is seeing that people don’t want to be followed by annoying ads. For Google, this initiative seems to be about creating good customer experiences with the hope of staying ahead of the curve. Ads, for the most part, are muted or blocked because they are intrusive and/or irrelevant to a user. As marketing continues to evolve, we need to make it our mission to be as relevant and targeted as possible.

The capabilities for remarketing continue to evolve, which allows marketers to create more refined audiences and less obnoxious ads. In the future, personalization and content creation will be even more important, as well as making information relevant and useful to customers. For marketers, this might mean creating a higher value for these potential customers, which could possibly translate to higher media costs. In the coming months, as Google continues to add features like the ability to mute search ads, it will be up to us as marketers to rethink our remarketing strategies and think of audiences and their values differently.

Mariah Madera
And Stefanie Sizemore
Follow ForwardPMX

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