Google has launched Google Ad Planner as an invite-only beta. It’s designed to allow advertisers to identify sites with demographics they’re interested in — even sites that aren’t part of Google’s advertising network.
The tool provides a greater depth of information about sites than Google Trends For Websites that came out last week. In fact, that’s more a "light" version that Google told Search Engine Land was spun off from Google Ad Planner:
Initially, we were going to launch only Google Ad Planner. However, when Google management looked at the product, they wanted to make sure that we also provide the same data to our non-advertising users – i.e., consumers - in a format that was accessible and comprehensive. Based on this decision, we created and launched Trends for Websites prior to the launch of Google Ad Planner.
The screenshot below gives a glimpse of how much further the new tool goes (click on it to see a larger image):
You can see how for ESPN, Google reports the sex, age, education, and household income of visitors, in addition to information you can get from Google Trends.
Using the research filtering tool, advertisers can set demographic criteria they’re after, push a button, then get a list of sites.
There’s also a media planning tool. How does that automatically flow into Google’s ad offerings? Not very well, it seems from the help information so far.
You can filter sites to find those that carry Google AdSense. From the help pages:
You can filter Google Ad Planner search results to display sites in the Google content network only. If you’re a Google AdWords advertiser, you may then target these sites from your AdWords account.
But to do that — or to implement your media plan with anyone, you have to log into your AdWords account or other media buying platform and separately target these sites. From help:
Can I buy ad placements on sites through Google Ad Planner?
Not at this time. However, you can export your media plan to other media planning and buying tools, such as DoubleClick MediaVisor.
Where’s the data coming from? As with the Google Trends release, Google says from a variety of sources. Here’s a compilation of key statements from the Ad Planner help area:
Google Ad Planner combines information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in external consumer panel data, and other third-party market research. The data is aggregated over millions of users and powered by computer algorithms; it doesn’t contain personally-identifiable information.
Google Ad Planner demographic information is provided by third-party market research data, opt-in consumer user panel data, and algorithms that improve the demographic estimates. Demographic data is available for the United States only.
The Google Analytics data in Google Ad Planner comes from website owners who have opted to share their data in an anonymous form. (Learn more about Google Analytics data sharing.)
Google Ad Planner doesn’t use individual site-level information from Google Analytics. Instead, Google Ad Planner uses Google Analytics data in an anonymous and aggregate fashion. Google Analytics data is combined with other data sources to calibrate macro-level insights into website traffic patterns, site visitation across geographies, and related websites and searches.
The site data displayed in Google Ad Planner is updated regularly, and reflects a 30-day period.
As part of a follow-up to Google Trends that I’ve been doing, I’d previously asked Google for more about the panel being used. Sadly, they weren’t forthcoming:
We do not disclose the elements of our secret sauce as these elements are subject to change. Similar to Google search, disclosing our data sources could also encourage people to game the system. You can imagine some websites would want to make their numbers look more attractive and would try to find ways to game Google Trends for Websites estimates. In addition, it takes time to determine which of these data sources will end up being useful, and it turns out that combining various sources of data ensures higher quality.
Sigh. Another Google black box, then. It’s noteworthy the Google Toolbar isn’t being mentioned. I specifically asked to have confirmation that the toolbar is NOT in the mix, and the "secret sauce" reply above is all I got.
That makes me think that toolbar data IS being used. In particular, the focus on Google Analytics data feels like a sideshow. Google can’t rely on Google Analytics as a core data source for this information, because of the simple reason that not every site runs it. In contrast, using Google Toolbar data would give them a nearly complete sample of all sites out there.
Google Analytics data can be used as a "correcting" metric, however. For example, Google might estimate how much traffic flows to a particular web site based on toolbar visits that it logs. It might then compare those estimates to how much traffic the sites themselves report through Google Analytics. The difference could then be used to adjust traffic for sites not running Google Analytics.
News of the new tool had already leaked out before the announcement. The Wall Street Journal has a nice pre-reaction piece quoting ad execs and citing fears some may have. See also more from Techmeme here and here.