Reach People, Not Just Keywords: Google Unveils “Customer Match”

Google Customer Match


Google recently announced its much anticipated Customer Match — which enables marketers to sync customer email data with signed-in Google users and to target those customers in Google search, YouTube and Gmail ads — will be rolled out for all advertisers in the next few weeks. Customer Match, Google’s equivalent of Facebook’s Custom Audiences, was previously available only to select advertisers in a pilot program.

How it Works

Much like Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Twitter’s Tailored Audiences, Google Customer Match brings CRM data to AdWords. Advertisers upload their first-party data (emails) into AdWords to create remarketing lists, and these emails are then matched to the primary emails of users’ Google accounts (not just Gmail addresses). When a signed-in Google user performs a search, advertisers can remarket to them in highly personalized ways across Google Search, YouTube and Gmail ads.

A key feature of Customer Match is “Similar Audiences,” which allows advertisers to target “prospective customers who have similar interests and characteristics” to the email lists that they’ve uploaded to AdWords. Similar Audiences is currently only available for YouTube and Gmail ads.

Privacy Considerations

To tackle the privacy concerns that surfaced after Facebook rolled out Custom Audiences nearly three years ago, Google has taken several proactive measures with Customer Match:

  • Email addresses uploaded to AdWords can be hashed; Email addresses shared with Google will be deleted seven days after a match and compliance check is completed. That means that Google IDs will remain in the remarketing lists, but the email addresses that were uploaded will be deleted.
  • Membership in remarketing lists cannot exceed 180 days.
  • Advertisers must include an email opt-out link to a page on the advertiser’s site where users can update their email preferences.
  • Opted-out email addresses will be removed from the remarketing lists weekly.

Please note: Using Customer Match does not require advertisers to place Google remarketing pixels on their sites; the audiences are built strictly from emails (or, hashed emails).

Resolution POV:

Advertisers have been eagerly awaiting Google Customer Match to bring even more intelligence to their search targeting and analysis. Why? Undoubtedly, the success of Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Twitter’s Tailored Audiences has made the case even stronger for the use of CRM data in search — which lets advertisers have very strategic, relevant and personalized conversations with customers by focusing on individual data rather than demo or intent signals. For example, Customer Match can fine-tune targeting within search to know whether someone searching on a term that’s core to their business is also a current customer. That level of intelligence adds an entirely new context layer to the way that marketers can approach search, video and email ad campaigns within Google.

For search specifically, Customer Match represents a major step forward in how marketers can employ remarketing. Previously, Google’s Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) campaigns were limited to site or site behavioral remarketing – such as building lists of customers who had visited a certain page or made a purchase. While site remarketing will continue to be a valuable part of RLSA strategy, it is limiting in terms of the intelligence it provides, as well as in the scale it offers for segmented audience lists. Similar Audiences has the potential to take audience-based advertising in search to greater levels and will also serve as an extra incentive to bring email lists into Google in the first place. This shift also marks another step in the evolution of ID-based targeting, away from the reliance on cookies and toward power targeting capabilities – a trend that will continue to grow within Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft ecosystems. For example, advertisers can now remarket to a signed-in user across multiple devices in ways that weren’t previously possible. In particular, Customer Match gives advertisers a key targeting mechanism for connecting with people as they move between Google search, YouTube and other key platforms.

All of this means that marketers now have an incredibly rich new targeting and analysis layer to leverage for search, video and Gmail ads. As a result, many advertisers are fundamentally re-thinking how search will be planned, structured and optimized. Search planners, for instance, not only have to consider the applications for their first-party data, but will have to work closely with CRM and database teams to sync on email acquisition, segmentation and message strategy moving forward.

A sophisticated search program must now require its managers, at least in verticals where this data is available, to account not just for a singular keyword/ad/landing page experience, but how that experience can and often should be unique to each person.

For example, a company that neglects to recognize that a person searching on “hotel deals in Chicago” is a current loyalty program member misses the opportunity to bring additional value to that person in their messaging. Meanwhile, a competitor may recognize that same person as a potential new customer and entice them with a compelling offer. This and other applications for CRM-based audiences are many: showing in the top search results position for a current auto insurance customer when they search for life insurance options; displaying local offers for a store or market that the customer prefers: highlighting a specific brand of appliance that a customer has previously purchased when they search for “refrigerators,” and so on.

Ultimately, Google Customer Match unlocks an opportunity for advertisers to reach people and not just keywords, providing increasingly relevant and appealing experiences across all Google properties. Resolution sees this as an opportunity to further expand its audience-centric approach that begins with ClearTarget™ and comes to life most precisely in the experiences we deliver across a growing number of CRM-enabled platforms such as Facebook and now Google. Resolution has been excited to collaborate with Google on early testing of Customer Match and looks forward to continuing to push the evolution of a more personalized digital marketing approach.