Over the past few years, Google has become increasingly automated, leaving advertisers and marketers with less control to influence lead quality in Google Ads.
As we head closer to 2024, we have considered how Google will continue to evolve, and any valuable strategies that lead gen businesses should adopt in light of these changes. Read on to learn about the predicted future of lead gen from four digital marketing experts, with suggestions of how you can get ahead for the new year.
Prediction 1: Google will prioritise visual search creatives
Andy Blewden, a co-founder of DemandMore, notes the progressively more visual, image-based future of Google, advising lead generation businesses to consider producing, testing and optimising creative assets.
He predicts that Google Ads lead generation will have to get a lot more “creative” in 2024.
Google has continually been pushing search into its so-called “visual future” – there’s going to be many more pictures and videos to look at on the SERPs. This is only going to accelerate in the new year.
It’ll be a relatively easy path to navigate for retail advertisers, with physical products ready and waiting to be photographed and filmed, and indeed a wealth of historical optimised visual assets to draw on.
Many lead gen businesses, on the contrary, don’t have a product that naturally translates into the visual medium, like ones in the insurance and finance sectors.
You should get ahead of your competitors by producing some creative assets, and starting to test and learn with them, if you’re in areas like this.
And if you’re in retail, approach visual search creative with a fresh mind, as your tried and tested creative strategies may perform very differently at the bottom of the funnel compared to how they do on social prospecting!
Prediction 2: Google will launch more AI tools
Over recent years, Google’s gradual introduction of automated features has led to both reduced data visibility and control for marketers and advertisers alike. Anna Bermel, Head of Paid Media at DemandMore, comments on this automation, speculating on the new features that we will see in 2024.
From RSAs to broad match and smart shopping to PMax, Google has been rolling out more and more automated features over the past few years. Whilst they claim ‘you can’t argue with performance’, the lack of data visibility and control has made some marketers uneasy.
As these products have evolved, so too has the visibility on the back end data, such as algorithm signals for broad match and search terms for PMax, as well as more safety features such as account level negatives and broad match brand controls. So it will be interesting to see what new control features will be brought in next year in line with the continued roll out of AI!
Prediction 3: Media spend will contract
The IPA is reporting that ad spend is set to drop [in real terms] next year, so it comes as no surprise that marketers are still feeling gloomy about their financial prospects. Matt McGillicuddy, Head of Growth at call-tracking platform Infinity believes that budget scrutiny will become a top challenge for marketers to overcome in 2024, and lead generation is going to be a red-hot priority.
55% of CFOs have tilted towards defensive strategies, and most marketers are feeling the pressure to demonstrate ROI. With confidence levels low, retaining budget and justifying future spend will be a tall order.
Gartner has already warned marketers against falling foul of cross-department strategic initiatives drawing funding away from their advertising budgets. Reductions would no doubt make it more difficult for marketers to perform well against critical goals.
Those who want to protect their budgets and hit their revenue targets need to evidence growth and deliver packed pipelines. After all, tangible results are the best way to demonstrate you’re a worthy custodian of budget to ensure continued investment.
Marketers need to focus on forming a complete view of performance and what’s driving lead generation. In turn, that’ll mean they can make smarter decisions about investing and get credit for all of the ROI they drive. That means filling in their attribution blind spots is an absolute must.
Prediction 4: Google will require a larger view of performance data
Lead quality is a concern for many lead generation businesses: many advertisers fail to send offline data back to Google about their lead quality, by linking their CRM with Google Ads. Wes Parker, a co-founder of DemandMore, emphasises the importance of this data, and suggests the steps that Google might take in 2024 to assist in this linking process.
He thinks 2024 will be the ‘year of data’ when it comes to using Google Ads for lead generation, especially for advertisers who are looking to improve the quality of their leads.
Until recently, only the most advanced advertisers would have their CRM and Google Ads platforms linked together sending data back to the platform about the lead quality.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen big pushes from the platforms for advertisers to start getting this in place and as we move into 2024 I’m sure this will become a higher priority as marketers try to do more with less budget.
We’re seeing Google roll out more data features to help advertisers manage their first-party data and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google will roll out more CRM integrations to make it easier for advertisers to link their CRM to Google.
The advertisers that win at lead generation in 2024 will be tracking online interactions with value. By this I mean they will be tracking conversions like lead forums submitted as well as micro conversions as they move through multi-step forms, along with an estimated lead value, based on how the user completed the form.
Enterprise-class advertisers will be able to do this with SA360, allowing them to change the value of the enquiry depending on how it was filled out, and smaller advertisers can do this by having different thank you pages depending on how the lead form was completed to indicate lead quality.
Advertisers should also be importing all of their CRM stages, to allow Google to determine when a lead has moved through the pipeline, starting out as an enquiry and moving through the funnel to become an MQL, SQL and finally to be closed. (Appreciate different types of businesses have different steps but this illustrates the movement).
All of these should be sent back with value, if the deal is worth £30k and you’ve got a 50% change of winning it from SQL to closed then send back 15k. By moving towards a value-based approach these advertisers will win when it comes to generating high volumes of leads in a cost-effective way, as well as improving lead quality over time.
Similarly, Matt observes the necessity of feeding Google your offline data, considering it to be one of the aforementioned ‘blind spots’ of many marketers.
One of the biggest blind spots they need to tackle is the one that happens when online ad clickers move offline by picking up the phone. Every time this happens, the lack of visibility over what is and isn’t working leads to waste. This is especially true when automated bidding tools like Google’s Performance Max are in play. Regardless of how intelligent an optimisation tool is, if it’s not being fed a complete set of quality data, its performance will always be lacklustre.
Fortunately, the tech needed to plug critical gaps and optimise against online and offline conversions is readily available, so there really are no excuses. Call conversions can be piped into Google with call tracking software. Once in there, it helps you form a robust feedback loop capable of boosting campaign performance automatically.
In other words, when you start feeding your automated bidding tools data on the leads who’ve converted, it’ll know to show your ads to a similar audience. Result? You’re showing up in the searches of potential customers who’ve got a higher chance of converting, meaning you’re getting much more bang for your buck.
With pressure only set to increase, marketers need to start working smarter. Fortunately, there are tons of tools and technologies out there – like call intelligence solutions – that will help marketers make smart investment decisions that drive quality lead generation.