The Adoption of Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSPs)

The Adoption of Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSPs)

28th January 2016

Gmail Sponsored Promotions (AKA GSPs) came out of BETA at the tail end of 2015 but advertisers haven’t seemed to jump all over these yet and the competition levels appear to still be relatively low in comparison to other PPC channels.

To kick start this post, I want to ask you a couple of questions related to Gmail Ads. I promise I will share the results once I have collated the entries. It will only take you a minute to complete. What I hope to get from this is an understanding of whether or not you have adopted this feature and if so what results you are seeing.

Create your own user feedback survey

Google Trends highlights the low adoption rates

If we take two of Googles more recent product launches, one of which is GSP and the other being Product Listing Ads (PLAs) we can see just how much volume PLAs has in terms of searches compared to GSPs. I really expected this to be much higher.

Gmail Ads and PLAs

What is Gmails Reach?

The low trends surprise me as I really believe that Gmail Ads have got a real advantage for advertisers if they are used in the correct way and coupled with the right strategy for the brand. The reason I think they offer this advantage is based on the sheer volume of active users Gmail has across the globe. According to a recent study on TechCrunch, as of 28th May 2015, Gmail had more than 900 million users. Comparing 2015 to 2012 the number of users increased by over 111%!

425 Million Users (2012) >>>> 900 Million Users (2015)

What are the costs?

I can only speak from my own experience of accounts that we manage at Koozai, but the average CPCs are ridiculously cheap in comparison to standard search ads. Just taking one of the accounts that we manage as an example, the average CPC on one of the search campaigns last month was £19.02. For one of the GSP campaigns, the average CPC was just £0.30!

Once I have the results back from the survey I will share the data with you to show how other advertisers are finding the cost differentiators between the two channels.

What does a Gmail Ad look like?

Essentially there is only one ad format but it is viewed in two ways.

Collapsed Ads

 Collapsed Ad

These sit at the top of your emails in the Promotions Tab in Gmail. As you can see, I have two ads in view which include an image/logo on the left hand side and then an ad title and description.

Expanded Ads

When I click through on one of the ads, it expands and shows me the entire message which looks like an email from the company advertising.

Expanded Ad
You then have four options of where to go from here. You can either:

  • Click through on the ad and go to the website
  • Forward the email ad to a friend
  • Save the email ad to your main inbox to view later
  • Close the ad

Gmail Sponsored Promotion Strategies?

There are many ways that you can use Gmail Sponsored Promotions but I wanted to share with you my top three that when discussed, have caught the attention of our clients.

Competitor Bidding

My number one favourite strategy that companies are often not aware of is the fact that you can get your ads showing in Gmail when someone receives an email from one of your competitors!

Whether you are a large multi-national brand or a local business, this strategy can work for you. You simply plug in all your competitors domains into the keywords targeting in AdWords and then your ads will start appearing (subject to audience size) if a user gets an email from one of competitors you have listed.

If you are a local business you can aim high with your competitors and try and capture some of their customers by showing adverts that have a clear CTA on why they should be interested in your product or service offering.

For the bigger brands, this could be a real opportunity for you to target very carefully and have ad groups for one big competitor and target the competitor plus product. If you know you can compete on price, you can get adverts that pull people in with a lower price.

Customer Match

When Google announced the arrival of Customer Match I think that has to have been one of my favourite marketing moments of 2015. Sounds OTT but having the ability to market to specific audiences is like a dream come true for any marketer. I have written a post that looks at ways you could be using Customer Match within your overall paid marketing strategy here if you are interested in knowing a little more.

Bringing it back to Gmail Ads though, if you have a big enough email list that can be segmented to still have more than 1,000 email addresses in each sub-group you can get really creative.

Let’s take an insurance brand as an example. A lot of people will go to a website and get a quote but not convert straight away, people like to shop around. If the insurance brand segmented their email list in the following ways:

  • Existing car insurance customers
  • Existing home insurance customers
  • Car insurance quotes
  • Home insurance quotes

For existing customers for either product, they could show ads promoting the other product to try and cross sell. For non-customers, they could show ads reinforcing their brand message for the product to try and encourage them to come in and convert.

Industry Related Domains

Taking the Competitor bidding model I have mentioned above but applying it to websites that you believe your target audience may be receiving emails from is another clever way of using Gmail Ads.

One good place to start with this is within Google Analytics. As long as you have enabled the demographic data, you will be able to see what categories of sites your website audience frequent. Sorting this by the conversion column, you can see which categories drive the most business for you. If you are an ecommerce site, then I would suggest sorting this information by the revenue column.

Taking this data, you can then do some further research into sites that would fall into the most valuable categories and target those domains in the same way as you would competitor domains.

My main takeaway for today

As the number of advertisers taking advantage of GSPs are still relatively low in comparison to some of the other more well established AdWords channels, it means that the level of competition is low in a lot of cases. With this brings lower CPCs but this will not last forever. Just take into consideration how much average CPCs have risen over the years for the standard search network campaigns. The more the demand for the product increases the more the average CPCs tend to rise.

If you get on board as an early adopter and at least give GSPs a try for your brand, you can reap the benefits of the lower costs.

Google Sponsored Promotions may not be right for your brand or business but the barrier to entry is low so my recommendation would be to give one or more of the strategies listed above a try to see if it works for you. What’s the worst that could happen??!!

There are a few policies that you should be aware of before you get started so I would urge you to have a look at this link and check that your product or service offering sits outside of the prohibited content:


Written By
Samantha Noble is the founder of Biddable Moments and a former editor and contributor to State of Digital.
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