The State of Digital

If you’re familiar with the digital world, then you know that the advertising landscape is constantly evolving. It may be daunting to stay abreast of the latest and greatest, but I’m here to assure you that the fundamentals have generally stayed the same—our arsenal has just gotten better. As advertising platforms start to incorporate more machine learning (pattern recognition, custom signals, etc.) into their tools, marketers can pull far more levers in their campaigns to optimize their accounts. Below are just a couple of things I’m excited about for the state of digital marketing in 2019.

Custom intent audiences

What I enjoy about custom intent audiences is that they can be as general or as targeted as I want, depending on what the end goal is. Custom intent audiences are a more granular form of targeting that allows you to show your ad on the Google Display Network to people who are in the market for the specific products and services you are offering. On the Display Network, advertisers can place image ads across a network of sites throughout the internet, as opposed to the Google Search Network where ads are placed in the search engine’s results page. This makes it a little tricky to hone in on your end user’s intent. But with custom intent audiences, marketers have the choice to use audience segments that are automatically created by Google or to define their own audiences by entering keywords, URLs, and apps that are related to products and services their ideal customer is searching for. I lean toward the latter.

I find that custom intent audiences perform more efficiently when I incorporate top-performing keywords from previous search campaigns with a mix of relevant sites. For instance, if I owned a shoe company, I might plug in keywords like “comfortable shoes”, “practical work shoes”, and “business casual shoes”, along with websites such as and, to capture those who are in the market for a pair for their job.

Remember to get creative with the URLs and keywords you use. Think about what your target audience members are browsing on the internet—what they’re reading, what they’re researching, and what they’re interested in.

custom intent audiences perform more efficiently when I incorporate top-performing keywords from previous search campaigns with a mix of relevant sites.

Responsive ads

Whether it’s search or display, responsive ads are a great way to present your end users with a message that’s relevant to them. Unlike traditional ads where you create one static ad, responsive ads allow you to write up to 15 different headlines and up to four different descriptions, plus upload up to 15 marketing images. Google then automatically tests different combinations and learns which variations perform best. Over time, your ads can serve the best message to different searchers, depending on the keywords they use, their devices, their past browsing behaviors, and other signals.

For example, a dog owner searching for a new dog food brand that’s grain-free might be shown an ad with the headline “Top Grain-Free Dog Food.” But someone who’s looking for a dog food brand for their new puppy might see that same ad with a headline like “Grain-Free Puppy Food” instead.

I like to use responsive ads to test any product values, calls to action, or search terms that may be of importance to my audience. I then break out high-serving components of the ad into different expanded text ads to conduct traditional ad testing.

Custom intent audiences and responsive ads, however, are just a small sampling of the ways in which the advertising world is reinventing how we market to our audiences. I look forward to seeing what the digital landscape will become by 2020, when more advanced targeting capabilities are readily available across different platforms, and to seeing how the advertising space adapts to voice search. All I can say is that it’s definitely exciting times for marketers!