The beginner’s guide to Google Marketing Platform

The MarTech and AdTech landscape is complex to say the least. And in a world of walled gardens and increasingly complicated data regulations, a single-stack approach is the way to go.

That’s where Google Marketing Platform comes in. It’s a suite of advertising and analytics solutions with cross-channel audience data integration and reporting features to form a holistic understanding of user behaviour.

As a Google Marketing Platform Sales Partner, we think what makes Google Marketing Platform so powerful is the audience and conversion data collected by pixels, called Floodlights, that can be shared between platforms. Because you can use the same tags to track all activity across channels, your measurement is much more accurate.

The continuous flow of of this data is at the heart of the platform’s interconnectivity. By leveraging it to the fullest and owning it all in one place, marketers can achieve ambitious objectives over the long term, such as online-offline conversion tracking, maximising modified audience depth, integrating CRM data and Google data, and optimising for life-time value customers.

Here’s how the major solutions fit in the ecosystem:

Campaign Manager

Campaign Manager provides control over data with ad serving, targeting, trafficking, and reporting features. It allows advertisers to report on activity across all media channels, deduplicate conversions, set up audiences, create ad trackers, and host creatives. It has full reach across the entire Google Marketing Platform stack and other channels. It collects data via Floodlight tags and custom variables called u-variables. These can be turned into highly specific conversion actions and audiences, which are pushed to Search Ads 360 and Display & Video 360 so you can decide how to bid on them. By repeating these steps continuously, you can optimise towards higher quality conversions and customers. Impression data can also be fed into Analytics 360 for attribution modelling.

Search Ads 360

Search Ads 360, formerly known as DoubleClick Search, is a search management platform built for campaign management and reporting for Google Ads, Bing Ads, Yahoo! Japan, Yahoo! Gemini, and Baidu in one interface. It lets you make large-scale changes across multiple platforms to campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and ads across accounts using Search Ads 360’s sophisticated bidding strategies and customisable reporting metrics.

This enhanced bidding complexity allows for cross-account bid strategies focusing on conversions with specific characteristics using historic data and millions of signals. Auction-time bidding, for example, is a more recent addition that uses contextual signals to bid in real time based on likelihood of conversion and is therefore better for optimising to business goals.

Display & Video 360

Previously known as DoubleClick Bid Manager, Display & Video 360 is a demand-side platform that lets advertisers plan Display, Native, Video, and Audio campaigns (including YouTube), manage creatives, apply audience data, and buy high-value inventory directly from PMPs and Programmatic Guaranteed, and exchanges outside of Google’s own network programmatically on an impression-by-impression basis in real time. It allows for cross-channel planning, measuring and optimising with advanced targeting using first-and third party data, superior bidding technology, and granular reporting.

Analytics 360

Analytics 360 is a measurement and attribution tool that helps advertisers understand how digital marketing influences user behaviour. The platform allows for audience management across Google Marketing Platform properties, giving a comprehensive view of customers to monitor performance and effectiveness with advanced funnel reporting, attribution modelling, and BigQuery integration for further analysis. You can push audiences into Search Ads 360 and Display & Video 360, and take account attribution data to do attribution analysis which is unavailable in Google Analytics.

Optimize 360

If you’re interested in conversion rate optimisation (CRO), Optimize 360 lets you test variations of your sites and apps to personalise user experience. You can simultaneously run a variety of tests, including A/B, multivariate and redirect tests. It has native integration with Analytics 360, enabling you to quickly understand where to improve your site, and putting those changes to the test.

And beyond: the full stack

These can also work together with Tag Manager 360 for tag management, Surveys 360 for running custom surveys for insight-gathering, Data Studio for data visualisation, and Studio for dynamic creatives. Finally, there’s also Google Cloud and BigQuery, which allow you to pull in first-party data sets from all touchpoints, including your CRM. Combined with Ads Data Hub, which lets you match online and offline activities, these allow you to perform advanced predictive analytics.

Floodlight tags and u-variables

Floodlight tags are Google Marketing Platform’s version of conversion tags. They are applied across a website to track a user’s activity following a click from a paid search ad. There are two versions: a Standard Tag counts the number of times a user has completed a particular action, such as visiting a site, and a Sales Tag tracks the number and value of sales or items purchased. The tags are grouped into activity groups based on action or transaction, and linked to advertisers.

The advantage of Floodlight is that it works across the entire Google Marketing Platform stack. You can use a single set of tags to track conversions from search and display advertising, and they are deduplicated across Google Marketing Platform so conversions won’t be counted multiple times.

You can also set up Custom Floodlight Variables (u-variables) in Campaign Manager to capture more information with each conversion, such as product type, destination booked, or whether a user is already a newsletter subscriber. This allows for an even better understanding of brand engagement and user journey. For example, for a client in travel, we were able to use these to create conversions for particular destinations and give them a higher value in order to optimise towards underperforming locations.

You can also make audience lists based on the information users supply on your website. Not only do you get more information on how they behave, but you can target them as well as lookalike audiences. For a hotel chain, that could mean creating separate audiences of users who book for business or for pleasure. Another example could be a B2B business collecting information on company size in order to create audiences to bid higher on larger companies.

All in all, Google Marketing Platform boosts performance by making buying and executing media more efficient in a unified system that makes data measurement more accurate.

To find out more about how Google Marketing Platform can help you get the most out of your marketing, get in touch using the form below.