What small businesses need to know about Google Ads in 2022

You know what I didn't want to write? A “here’s what happened at Google Marketing Live 2022” article.

No shade at all to the amazing folks putting out this content right now, but because you already have that covered, I wanted to add something different to the conversation.

Here are the 4 Google Ads product updates that will actually impact small businesses like YOU this year.

1. Video is the new video

We’ve known for years how important video creative is, and the power of video to drive both awareness and action. 

Google Ads is expanding video ad inventory to 3 new places: YouTube Shorts, Discover, Display (vertical).

YouTube Shorts is Google’s short-form vertical video product (aka TikTok clone), which boasts billions of monthly views but, to date, has been ad-free. Following in Reels’ footsteps, you can now start showing ads in the Shorts feed. I’m not yet clear on how the placement and reporting will work - can you explicitly choose to advertise in Shorts? does it need different creative? Will it be reported differently? - but I’m actually running a small YouTube campaign for my Google Ads course right now that uses vertical creative, so I’ll update you as soon as I know more.

Discover is Google’s owned inventory across Gmail, YouTube and the Discovery feed. I love Discovery campaigns, and had predicted that they would be deprecated soon. I was so glad to be wrong! Instead, just like with a Display campaign, you can now add video assets to a Discovery campaign. This brings the Display and Discovery formats even closer in-line with each other, with the only real differences left being the placements (Google inventory vs the Google Display Network) and objectives (Discovery must have a conversion objective, Display can have any campaign objective).

Speaking of Display, you’ve always been able to include video assets in your Responsive Display Ads, but now there’s a new vertical full-screen format for your videos. Once you’re making your YouTube Shorts creative, it’s a good opportunity to repurpose it on the Display network.


2. Automated creative has arrived

This was one of my major Google Marketing Live predictions (okay, one of everybody's predictions) that with advances in automated bidding and automated targeting, the third big pillar left for automation to conquer is ad creative.

As I had already noticed when setting up a new Search campaign last week, Responsive Search Ads will now use your landing page and other ad content in your account to write your text ads for you. This actually isn't as gigantic a change as you would think; when creating an RSA, the interface already recommended headlines and descriptions to you. Now, that's a stronger recommendation, as your headline and description fields come "pre-populated" with those recommendations.

In this next step, you'll be able to opt in (yes, it is going to be opt in, for now) to let Google Ads create your RSAs for you.

But that's not all. Along with new Video placements on Display, Google Ads will started automatically creating videos from your Google Merchant Center product feed. While this may sound cringe-y given what the current Performance Max auto-generated videos look like, we've also seen that Google will be giving us more control over those by allowing the advertiser to select which images to include in the video.

Again, I think this is a win for small business owners; large advertisers have the teams and resources to create video ads, but small businesses do not. These tools that take a few inputs from you, then use AI to build out the rest, will save time and - through learning and optimization - drive results.

3. "Intuitive Shopping"

Google doubled down on commerce this year, but rather than taking aim at Amazon, many of the new "immersive search features" we're seeing look inspired by that clock app.

As I also predicted, shopping features are being layered across every single ad product, format and placement, rather than staying segregated in their own campaign type. The search page is being "reimagined" to include more image and video content, encouraging browsing, impulse buying, and more "engaging experiences."

Cutting through the corporate mumbo jumbo (you know I still love and adore you, Google!), the actual commerce features I'm most excited about for small businesses are:

Checkout on Merchant: from a Shopping ad or a free product listing, the option to add to cart and go straight to checkout with one button click. Integrates with Shopify and a few other major ecommerce platforms. Amazing for conversion, especially for your warmest audiences.

Shopping extensions: while this was not explicitly called out as a feature launch, we saw in some of the screenshots that Shopping product cards will be shown underneath your Search ads, where your sitelinks, callouts and other extensions currently show. We also saw Shopping cards included as an overlay on YouTube Shorts ads.

Fix your feed within Google Ads: Google Merchant Center is not a friendly place for outsiders. Google showed us some new features coming that will let you identify and fix issues in your product feed without leaving Google Ads. This is a little feature that will probably be ignored in a lot of the news, but it's also one of the ones that I predict will have the most positive impact for casual users.

4. Continuing data shifts, more work for you 

The Data Foundation of your account is changing. We knew it when Google announced Enhanced Conversions, and now Enhanced Conversions for Leads. We knew it when Google announced that UA is going away, and GA4 is here to stay. And now, we heard that there's a new Google tag that we'll need to use, Customer Match lists will always be included as a bidding signal in the account (even if not applied to a campaign), Google users will have the option to opt out of ad personalization via the My Ad Center... what does it all mean?!

Expect the next year to get MESSY. As much as Google's speakers insisted that this is going to be a smooth and easy transition, it will not be. Roll with it, my friends.

If you're someone who offers services helping small business owners with their conversion tracking and audience implementation, this is your year to shine.

If you're a small business owner who's been faking your way along with half-installed gTags, this is your year to hire someone to get things working properly.

First party data - meaning, data that you own about your customers - is more important than ever, and if you do not start collecting and using this data, you will lose the advertising game.

As Julie Bacchini astutely points out, this puts a lot more responsibility on you, the business owner, than you're used to. Don't try to figure this out yourself. Don't expect Google to figure it out for you. We're all going to be a lost together, but I'm confident we'll also all figure it out together.


And anything else?

I managed to make it this far into the summary by barely mentioning Performance Max. While there were a handful of new feature announcements for PMax, nothing immensely noteworthy or game changing for small business owners.

Start testing it now, especially if you're an ecommerce business. 

If you have physical locations, keep an ear out for something called "burst campaigns," while will give you “the ability ... to help meet in-store goals during shorter seasonal events.”

And without further adieu, of course my most popular tweet from the entire event was this one:


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