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Automate (almost) everything with Google’s Universal App Campaigns


Innovations / January 16, 2017

Google introduces machine learning optimization to Universal App Campaigns

Launched in May 2015, Google’s Universal App Campaigns has made it easy for developers to promote their wares to install-hungry masses on Google search, YouTube, the Google Play store and the Google Display Network.

Initially the ad product was only available Android apps. This summer, Universal App Campaigns upped its game by expanding to iOS and using machine learning to improve its bidding and optimization capabilities.

Rejoice! These features are officially available in all Adwords campaigns. Here’s the lowdown on how they work, and how to set up your Universal App Campaign.

Optimized thanks to machine learning

Thanks to Google’s increasingly omnipotent machine learning smarts, Universal App Campaigns now optimize themselves based on user behaviour, conversion data and demographics to show app ads to users who are more likely to convert. The same applies for ad creative and placements: Google’s algorithms will learn and predict to show the right ad creative to the right audience at the right time.

Considering this is stuff we’re used to doing all on our own, we’re pretty happy about this development, provided the optimizations will work to our (and our client’s) favour as opposed to being in Google’s favour. We’ll let you know…

Bid and optimize for in app auctions and installs

In its earlier incarnation, Universal App Campaigns only allowed advertisers to bid based on installs. Now advertisers can bid based on which in-app actions a user is likely to carry out.

It works like this: If you are tracking in-app actions as conversions, you can ask AdWords to target your ads and optimize them based on which users are more likely to carry out those actions. Again, we’re talking about Google’s clever algorithms doing the legwork for you. Ultimately, your bid is still based on what an app install is worth to you, but Google will optimize based on the likelihood of in-app actions, instead of the likelihood of installs.

How to launch your Universal App Campaigns

Google’s Universal App Campaigns are accessible via your AdWords interface. Sign in and select Universal app campaign in the +Campaigns drop down menu.

Campaign setup and configuration is similar to how you would build an AdWords search campaign, with some exceptions.

  1. Exception one: There are no AdGroups and you do not need to select placements or keywords. As mentioned above, Google will apply machine learning to decide how, where and when your ads are displayed.
  2. Exception two: AdWords will auto-generate your ad creative and target your ads based on its own metrics and demographics. Advertisers can enter and upload ad creative, but AdWords will create your ads on the fly based on the ad format, device and past performance. The system may use your dedicated ad creative, but it may also incorporate app details from the Play store.

In other words, Google is automating the work you normally have to do to keep things performing the way you would like. We’re wondering: Are they rolling out Universal Ap Campaigns this way because they believe (or have noticed) that app developers are not super adept at optimizing their own campaigns? Or is this a sign of things to come, with algorithm-based automation around the corner for all Google advertising products. All signals point to the latter.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Are you excited about having the burden of optimization lifted from your day to day? Or are you A-OK with optimizing your ad campaigns your own way (thank you very much).

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Jeff Johnson

Director of Paid Media @ Bloom


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