Author Archives: Matt Brittin

New EU political ads law is a step in the right direction

Having access to the right information matters. During a democratic election, it matters more than ever. High-quality information helps people make informed decisions when voting and counteracts abuse by bad actors. Through programs like security training for campaigns, information about polling places and transparency for political ads, Google is committed to helping support the integrity of democratic processes around the world.

Political advertising is an important component of democratic elections — candidates use ads to raise awareness, share information and engage potential voters. Over the last few years, Google has proactively increased transparency around election advertising: we updated our ads policies to require election advertisers to verify their identities and show who’s paying for an ad. We also introduced transparency reporting for online election ads in Europe as well as in the US and other countries around the world, providing a range of data that goes well beyond what’s typically available for TV, radio or print ads.

We have also made real changes to how election advertising works. In 2020, we implemented industry-leading restrictions to limit election ads’ audience targeting to age, gender and general location (at the postal code level), similar to categories candidates would use in deciding where to run ads on TV shows or in print. That same year, we started rolling out identity verification and disclosures for all advertisers, providing even wider transparency about ad sponsors. These improvements, and more, are part of a larger focus on political advertising that helped us navigate elections in the European Union, the United States, India (the largest democratic election in history) and other leading countries.

Google was one of the original signatories of the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation, which has led to constructive actions and change between the industry, policymakers and the expert community on the challenges of addressing disinformation. The Code laid out a model for voluntary action, facilitating work with policymakers on new transparency reporting on political advertising and helping users, governments and academics better understand how online election ads work.

We share the Commission's goal of increasing the harmonization of Europe’s transparency rules for political advertising and we support today’s introduction of legislation. As we expand our own efforts, we look forward to engaging with the Commission on how best to meet the goals laid out by the Democracy Action Plan and Digital Services Act. This is a complex field, requiring a balance between minimizing misinformation while protecting legitimate political expression. The Commission’s proposal is an important and welcome step and as the European Council and Parliament review it, we offer a few observations based on our experiences over recent election cycles.

  • Clear definitions for ‘political’ ads: It’s critical that the law clarifies which actors and what types of content are subject to the obligations regarding political advertising, giving clear examples of what would or would not be in scope. Without clear definitions, different companies will adopt inconsistent and conflicting policies, making for confusion for advertisers and undermining transparency for citizens. The current text could also inadvertently impact a wider range of ads than intended — for example, sweeping in ads from NGOs on issues of public concern or from private citizens speaking out about social questions.
  • Clear responsibilities for platforms and advertisers: Protecting elections is a shared responsibility and we all need to play our part to be more transparent. Advertisers are in the best position to validate their identity and best understand the nature and context of their ads. They play a critical role in providing accurate information and (as they do with other media like television) ensuring that their content complies with applicable laws. Advertiser “self-declaration” — whereby political advertisers verify their identities and declare when they are running political ads — would have advertisers due their share to contribute to transparency, making the law work better in practice.
  • Flexibility and dialogue: This is a dynamic and fast moving environment and we have seen a lot of changes to both political ads and governing regulations. Continuing discussions with stakeholders will help regulation react to changing contexts or emerging trends that might affect definitions, regulatory provisions or enforcement.

Elections are a fundamental part of democracy, and new regulations can help keep elections open, transparent and accountable. Legal certainty in those regulations will help candidates, campaigns, advertisers, publishers and platforms understand the precise scope of covered advertising and the specific obligations of each actor. In the coming months we look forward to sharing our experiences with the different institutions and bodies working to advance these important topics.

Helping European small businesses grow and succeed

Today marks the beginning of the European SME week, a time to recognize the contribution that millions of small and medium-sized businesses make to Europe’s economy, as well as an opportunity to explore how they can be supported to continue to grow and thrive.

This time of year is especially critical for small businesses. Shoppers really care about supporting their local communities, with 56% of holiday shoppers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa saying they will intentionally shop more at local small businesses this festive season.

Small businesses are the key to recovery from the pandemic, and our digital tools have helped them sustain their business through lockdowns and enable new jobs, growth and exports. That’s why we rapidly adapted products to improve support and provided training to help them make the most of digital technology. Supporting small businesses is a group effort, though — and the right skills and tools need to be underpinned by the right policies.


Providing helpful tools to connect with customers

The past year and a half has underlined the importance of technology in all parts of life — and small businesses are no exception. Research has found that small businesses in Europe with a sophisticated use of digital tools were able to build a ‘digital safety net’ during the pandemic, resulting in 80% better sales and 60% better revenue.

One example of this is the German company, das schöne leben. Opened in 2016, the store specializes in exceptional food and designer products for everyday living. When the pandemic hit, the founders of the store started advertising online alongside their in-store sales, and set up a Business Profile on Google Search and Maps to help existing and potential customers find them. Das schöne leben now has customers of all ages throughout Germany and has tripled their direct online orders with their first in-house search campaign.

A smiling picture of Manon Weßels, the owner of das schöne leben

Manon Weßels, owner of das schöne leben

Particularly for smaller businesses, Google Ads is the key for visibility and findability online. We would never have reached so many suitable new customers without the advertisements. Manon Weßels
Owner, das schöne leben

The example of das schöne leben and countless others show that online ads help businesses of all sizes find audiences they otherwise may lack access to, help them enter new markets and help build brand awareness.

At Google, we continue to innovate and invest in making all our products and tools more helpful — launching more than 200 features since March 2020 to help businesses connect with their customers in this shifting landscape.

We're also making it even easier for small businesses to manage their presence and connect with customers online. Businesses in Europe can now easily claim and verify their Business Profile directly on Google Search or the Google Maps app, and respond to messages directly from Search. Having more complete information online can have a huge impact for businesses: in Germany, for example, complete Business Profiles receive an average of over five times more calls compared to an incomplete profile. Moving forward, we recommend small businesses manage their profiles directly on Search or Maps. To keep things simple, “Google My Business” is being renamed “Google Business Profile.”


Ensuring that SMBs have the skills to get ahead

We know that providing the right tools is only helpful if businesses are able to use them. To make the most of the digital opportunities available to them, business owners need the right skills. Research has found that 22% of small business owners feel they lack the skills and knowledge to increase their use of digital tools.

Today, we are delighted to kick off our first-ever ‘Google.org Skills Week’ to help support select nonprofits mentoring thousands of underserved small business owners in Europe through scaled tech solutions. As a recent study highlights, medium, small and micro-enterprises — especially those led by women, young people, ethnic minorities, and migrants — were significantly impacted by COVID-19 with 70-80% facing major financial difficulties.

During this week, Google volunteers and product experts will share their skills and best practices through workshops, design sprints and 1:1 mentorship, to help educate select nonprofits that provide mentorship to underserved SMB owners. This week of training touches on many different skills including product management, design, marketing and AdGrants, Artificial Intelligence, YouTube, impact measurement, and aims to better equip the nonprofits to help small businesses improve their online presence.

We have seen how powerful these skills can be in helping to grow and scale businesses across Europe.

For Andrea Li Puma, the owner of the food truck Pastammore based in Bucharest, access to digital skills was essential to reach new customers and grow his business. The pandemic meant that Andrea had to take his food business online and pivot to deliver Pastammore’s homemade pasta directly to consumers at home. With support from Google.org-funded nonprofit Digital Nation, Andrea was able to develop an online marketing strategy, optimize his website, and launch new advertising campaigns that helped Pastammore survive through the tough period and even grow with sales increase by 15%.

A picture of Andrea Li Puma, the owner of the food truck Pastammore based in Bucharest, in a white coat in front of his truck

Andrea Li Puma, owner of food truck Pastammore in Bucharest

Since 2015, over 18 million people across Europe, the Middle East and Africa have participated in our Grow with Google training, resulting in more than four million people getting a new job, growing their career or growing their business*.

To make sure our programs best help tackle the barriers to digital success, we developed partnerships with training experts, public agencies and policy makers. For example, in France we collaborate with FFAC — French Association of Local Stores — in supporting 30,000 local shop owners everywhere in France in their digital transition.


A more inclusive economic recovery

The pandemic has been disruptive and small businesses have been at the sharp end of this change. While challenging, this past year and a half has also underlined how resilient small businesses can thrive through partnership, openness and innovation. Europe has a great opportunity to build a digital, inclusive, and sustainable recovery that works for everyone. We are excited to play our part in this.


*Analysis by Google based on internal data and a survey by Ipsos from Sep 2016 to Sep 2021 amongst EMEA residents trained via Digital Workshop.

Fighting misinformation online, together

Over the past 18 months, we have all used digital services more than ever before. Over half the world is now online, with our use of technology leaping forward five to ten years in as many months. The web has been a lifeline for many. But digital acceleration hasn’t been without challenges. Amongst them, misinformation is a stubborn problem both online and offline.

We know that Google and YouTube have a responsibility in this fight and we are determined to be part of the solution. Today, along with the European University Institute and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, we hosted a summit called Fighting Misinformation Online to bring together those working to tackle mis- and disinformation from across governments, educators, nonprofits, technologists, and news organisations. Speakers included EU Commissioner Jourová, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and fact checking experts like Maldita.es in Spain and the German Press Agency DPA in Germany.

What did we learn?

Every day, people around the world use Google to access high quality information, verify things they’ve heard elsewhere and learn more about the world. But what’s also true is that fighting disinformation and misinformation isn’t something we can do alone. Collaboration between academics, policymakers, publishers, and technology companies is key.

Professor Alexander Stubb, Director of the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute, urged for a common sense of responsibility:”It’s the responsibility of the media, it’s the responsibility of companies and entrepreneurs, it’s the responsibility of NGOs and civil society, it’s the responsibility of academics and professors and researchers” to fight misinformation.

We also heard from experts in fact checking and media literacy who are helping people sort facts from fiction. Stefan Voss from the DPA spoke about Faktencheck21, a unique partnership which equipped journalists with the tools to debunk German election misinformation, as well as Mevan Babakar of Full Fact and Mélanie Jalans of Play Bac Presse

To support further work in fact checking and media literacy, Google contributed €25 million to launch the European News and Information Fund, set up by the European University Institute and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, under the supervision of the European Digital Media Observatory, earlier this year to strengthen fact checking, media literacy and research on disinformation. We encourage participants from the event and other experts to register interest here.

What is Google doing?

Speakers from Google including Sundar Pichai, Neal Mohan and Amanda Storey spoke about how Google is addressing the challenge.

It starts with raising up authoritative sources across our products. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve pointed to authoritative information from 170 public health organizations around the world. On Search, we make it easy to learn more about your results and provide key context about a website before you visit and we’re expanding these features into more languages.

When information doesn’t meet our guidelines, we block and remove it, in a consistent way. Every day, we take down 8 million deceptive ads to protect people from scams and we scan 100 billion apps to make sure they are safe.

And every day on YouTube, we follow the 4 Rs to: Remove content that violates our policies, Reduce the spread of harmful misinformation and borderline material, Raise up authoritative sources for news and information, and Reward trusted creators.

In 2018, we signed the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation. Now we’re working hard with other signatories on updating the Code to make it more robust, impactful and ready to address the current challenges, because we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but we believe we can go further.

This investment is complemented by investments like our Google News Initiative, which has provided verification training to more than 90,000 journalists. And across our products, every day, Google surfaces independent fact checks six million times, helping you spot misinformation online.

And recently, we launched the Safety engineering centre for content responsibility in Dublin, our regional hub for experts to tackle illegal and harmful content and engage with regulators, emphasising openness, transparency and our shared mission.

The challenge we face is significant. But by using reputable research, best practices and working together with experts, we’re finding new and innovative ways to fight mis- and disinformation. And we hope today’s summit leads to even more collaboration. Building trust means building together.

You can watch the Summit back here.

Supporting inclusive recovery in Central & Eastern Europe

In January, we opened the call for applications for the Google.org Impact Challenge for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

Thankfully, the region is in a different place now than it was then. As vaccine rollout progresses across Europe, people are thinking about how to reopen businesses and develop careers. But there’s still a long journey ahead, particularly when it comes to building a sustainable, inclusive economic recovery for the region.

We need to make sure no one is left behind as we build back the economy. To help, today we’re announcing 13 brilliant organizations across Central and Eastern Europe that will receive Google.org funding to support their work on digital inclusion across the region.

Together with our partner INCO and our panel of experts, we’ve selected ambitious and wide-ranging projects from organizations working in each of the 11 countries of the CEE region that put digital innovation and inclusion at the heart of economic recovery. Each organization will receive between €50,000-€250,000 in funding from Google.org and mentoring from Google to help make their project proposals a reality. You can read more about the projects here.  

Supporting these incredible organizations is just one way that we plan to help Central and Eastern European economies on their path to a digital-led recovery. Last year alone, through our Grow with Google programs, we helped 250,000 people in the region grow their digital skills or transition to a digital-focused career — and we look forward to doing even more in the coming months.

  • Listen Up Foundation (Bulgaria) is helping infants, children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing achieve equality through improved educational systems and empowerment practices.

  • Tuk-Tam (Bulgaria) provides a network of social, educational and career opportunities to disadvantaged students, connecting them with Bulgarians living around the world who serve as role models. 

  • Green Energy Cooperative (Croatia) is building an application to educate 10,000 people on photovoltaic panels and prepare them for green jobs in Croatia.

  • Lean Startup (Czechia) is setting up a program to help create equal opportunities for rural startup founders.

  • Startup Wise Guys Foundation (Estonia) is creating a social and digital startup incubation program to create 1000+ jobs in 11 countries in CEE.

  • Maker’s Red Box (Hungary) is providing hands-on digital skills learning methodologies for children from disadvantaged families and in foster care.

  • Riga TechGirls (Latvia) is promoting digital skills among female artists, healthcare professionals and teachers.

  • Lithuanian Gay League (Lithuania) promotes an inclusive social environment for all within the LGBTQ+ community through education and support. The organization offers digital marketing and programming courses to a diverse group of underprivileged individuals.

  • Fundacja Studio M6 (Poland) is rehabilitating disadvantaged areas in Poland through joint housing and employment support via an internet-based platform. 

  • Digital Nation (Romania) is creating a job matchmaking program that connects young people with digital skills in need of employment with small and medium-sized businesses that need hands-on expertise to grow their business.

  • Touch&Speech n.o. (Slovakia) is developing a more effective approach to navigating touch smartphones for people who are blind — regardless of their digital skills or access to assistive services.

  • AmCham(Slovenia) is creating a program to raise the profile of the teaching profession, recognise teachers’ work and support peer-to-peer skills development.

  • University of Primorska, Faculty of Tourism Studies - Turistica (Slovenia) is designing a platform to support local entrepreneurs and enhance rural tourism.

The new WWW: Helping accelerate the retail recovery

The web has been a lifeline during lockdown. Digital tools have helped us stay connected — families with each other, teachers with students and businesses with customers. There has never been a time when technology could be more helpful to people, communities and countries.

Unsurprisingly, as a result of the pandemic, our use of technology has leapt forward five to ten years in as many months — accelerating trends that we were already experiencing in the retail sector and beyond.

Trends: the new WWW

When browsing in a store became impossible, people didn’t stop looking for inspiration. Instead, window shopping went virtual. Searches for “ideas” surged on both Google Search and Google Images, with shoppers seeking inspiration when they didn’t have a specific product in mind. For retailers to capture those customers, visibility is crucial: More than 60% of shoppers we surveyed said they ordered from a brand after seeing it on YouTube.

The increased need for online shopping has led to a final convergence of online and offline shopping. Customers like to have the same inspiration and advice that they could get in store — but now, they want it from home. And those same customers are demanding more when they do shop. Searches for terms like “best” and “promo code” continue to rise, and customers expect doorstep delivery service across more and more categories. “WWW” no longer only stands for the worldwide web: it’s now what we want, when and where we want it. 

Finally, we know that today’s shoppers value their privacy. They want to have control of their data, they need to give permission for it, and they deserve to know how it is being used.

At Google, we’re working with retailers to ensure that every online interaction is an opportunity. Online can be just as valuable as in-person for building direct relationships with customers, strengthening trust and building loyalty. Retailers just need to use the right insights and tools to get them there.

Trainings: Using digital tools and skills to weather the pandemic 

Even before the pandemic, many retailers — large and small — had been embracing digital to find new opportunities. Those who went into the pandemic behind found themselves quickly learning new skills — so much so that the Connected Commerce Council found that 75% of European small businesses in the retail industry increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic, building a “digital safety net” for their businesses.

Take Maison des Sœurs Macarons, a famed dessert shop in Nancy, France. The owner Nicolas saw store sales drop by 90%, and decided to attend our Google Digital Workshop training program. After learning how to reach customers online with Google Ads and e-commerce, he saw the volume of online orders and customers double.

Since the start of the pandemic, our Grow with Google programme has trained more than three million individuals and businesses like Nicolas’ across Europe, equipping them with the digital skills they need to recover from the pandemic. And to help turn those newfound skills into action, we’ve launched more than 200 features since March 2020, helping businesses connect with their customers in this shifting landscape. With the holiday season ahead, we now have the pleasure of announcing a few more.

This was a group effort and digital tools made it all so much easier and more affordable than any of us were expecting. Ahmet Taskan, Honingwinkel. Utrecht, Netherlands.

Tools: What you need to give your customers the experience they deserve

More than ever, businesses need to be discoverable in more places than the high street. To help retailers stand out, we’re launching tailored recommendations for every business with our new tool, Local Opportunity Finder. Retailers can simply enter the name of their business into the easy-to-use tool, and we’ll provide customised solutions on how to improve their presence on Google Search and Maps — all in under five minutes. The impact can be huge: in Germany, for example, complete Business Profiles receive an average of over five times more calls compared to an incomplete profile.

In June, we’ll be rolling this tool out in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain with more countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to follow in the coming months. 

To make it even easier for retailers to manage their online presence, we’re also simplifying the process, allowing businesses to directly manage their contact information, opening hours and updates from Search and Maps.

Local opportunity finder screenshot

In addition, we help retailers with their existing e-commerce providers. We’ve built new, simplified integrations with Shopify and WooCommerce, helping retailers quickly get their product inventory live on Google — making sure more customers know what they sell and where to reach them.

Doing our part

We know that the tech-celeration we’ve seen can be tricky to keep up with. None of us know exactly how the next six months will unfold, but the resilience and creativity of small and medium-sized businesses over the last year deserves celebrating.

We’ll work hard  to help support the retail industry recover in the region — delivering the digital tools and skills you need, the insights you want, and the partnership you deserve.

Everyone needs a holiday – but when and where?

Every day, millions of people around the world turn to Google to search for travel related information. These searches help connect businesses and customers — but they also help us understand people’s enthusiasm when it comes to their travel and holiday plans.

The message we’re seeing is clear: people are eager to travel, so long as they can do so safely.

Trending questions people ask about travel in January vs. May 2021

Trending questions people ask about travel in January vs. May 2021

For the travel industry — an industry that is made up of millions of small and medium businesses that supports many millions of jobs — this will of course be welcome news. But it comes with unique challenges.

Getting online to be in line - for bookings, customers and reviews

Over the past year, we’ve all spent a lot of time online — more time than ever before. So the travel industry, like many others, will need to get online in order to be in line for bookings, customers and reviews.

Anew report by the Connected Commerce Council, funded by Google, shows that digital tools created a "safety net" for small and medium travel businesses in Europe during the pandemic:  86% increased digital tool use during the pandemic and over half of these businesses said they are planning to increase their use of digital tools post-pandemic.

We’re proud to have built tools to help. Since last year, Google has been collaborating with individual businesses, tourism ministries and experts all over the world to build the digital skills needed for a more digital post-pandemic travel sector.

Our partnership with the UN World Tourism Organisation has built acceleration programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe — helping participants from across the travel industry to understand trends and plan ahead at a very unpredictable time.

We recently announced our plans to take this regional partnership global — helping tourism officials and destination marketers all over the world make strategic decisions for better tourism planning.

We’re also working with the industry at a local level. In France, our partnership with Atout France, the French tourism agency, has helped create a platform for industry professionals to monitor travel trends. In Spain, our Travel Analytics Center — available to Google’s commercial partners in the travel sector — helped Spanish airline Vueling to get a clear picture of the changing demand for flights during the pandemic, adapting their digital market strategy to reach customers who were likely to buy airline tickets. Using the tool, they managed to increase their flight sales and build a 31% return on their advertising investment.

Pull-quote from Caroline Leboucher on Google Hotel and Destination Insights tool

Finally, our work with Ministries of Tourism, Tourism Boards and cultural institutions has helped to promote travel to cultural destinations, including a virtual exploration of Lagos' Afrobeats and Alte music scene and seven places not to miss when visiting the city.

Google Arts & Culture: Eko for Show: Explore Lagos

Google Arts & Culture - Eko for Show: Explore Lagos

Predicting the future of travel

While tourist destinations and travelers are beginning to regain confidence after months of standstill from the pandemic, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to predict what future demand will look like.

Traditionally, tourist destinations would use historical data — but no former seasons can accurately predict when and where people will want to travel now, and what the ‘new normal’ that businesses will be operating in will look like.

That’s why we launched Travel Insights with Google, a website that features real time local data insights, helping the travel industry to understand demand and make better-informed decisions.

The website has two powerful tools. The first — the Destination Insights tool — helps governments and travel organisations better understand the destinations people are searching for, whether abroad or within their own countries. For example, we might see that German or Austrian travelers are most interested in visiting Croatia, and particularly places like Zagreb or larger coastal destinations. This insight helps businesses, destination marketers and Governments to map the return of travel — and make clear, informed choices about where to communicate with potential future visitors.

Our second tool, Hotel Insights with Google helps hotels of all sizes to understand where demand for their property may be coming from, so that they can better target and attract new guests. It also provides valuable tips on creating a strong digital presence — helping travel businesses to get online and attract bookings, customers and reviews.

Both tools are available globally for free in English with local versions in Europe in Spain, Greece, France, Italy and Croatia — with more languages to come very soon.

Search trends show that as vaccines roll out, travel interest appears to be on the rebound. People want to travel as they feel more confident to book a trip. Since mid-May, search interest has grown over 50% for flights across Europe with Spain, Italy and France topping the list of desirable destinations.

Top 10 trending vacation destinations in Europe

Top 10 trending vacation destinations in Europe

Search trends also show us that outdoor trips are still in style. In the summer of 2020, searches for outdoor recreation reached a 10-year high point, and this trend continues, with theme parks and RV rentals proving particularly popular.

Our commitment to the travel industry

There’s no denying that operating a business in a post-pandemic world can be a little uncertain. But at Google, we want to do our bit — delivering the insights and tools that the industry needs to give customers the travel experience they deserve.

We’ll be working even more closely with the industry as borders begin to open up, domestic travel increases, and international travel restarts.

No matter how quickly or slowly that recovery takes place, we’re committed to supporting travel and tourism - and the many people and businesses that depend on it.

Searching for the way forward

I can’t think of a time when technology has been able to be more helpful to more people, families, communities, companies and countries than today. At the same time, the ways that people are using technology are more dynamic than ever. Technology has been a lifeline in lockdown, and it will be an important catalyst in a sustainable and accelerated recovery that works for everyone.

As we strive to emerge from the narrow canyon of restrictions on our lives into a more familiar world of wider horizons, we’re all keen to understand which changes in habits and behaviors will stay with us. What will stick and what will fade? For businesses, the impact of this crisis has varied enormously. Some have seen acceleration, more have had to fight for survival as physical channels to customers were impacted. Whatever the situation, we’re all searching through a fog of uncertainty for the way forward.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw how changes were driving businesses to innovate — with many, like Lynsey Pollard’s Little Box of Books, using digital tools to quickly identify and respond to rising consumer demand — in her case for home education resources, tripling website visits in the very first month of the pandemic.

Now, a year later, we can see three big trends emerging that businesses should address to accelerate recovery.

Three lasting consumer trends, as
companies get ready for what’s next

The pandemic has accelerated existing shifts in behavior.

Firstly, we’ve seen that the pandemic has accelerated behaviors which were already underway. Consumers went digital across all aspects of their lives — searches for "delivery," "discount codes" and even "how to" grew significantly compared to the previous years. However, it’s worth noting that some behavior changes remain unpredictable. For example, people’s preference for shopping online over shopping in-store has fluctuated fast and often since May of last year.   

People need more help than ever navigating choice complexity.

Secondly, we’ve seen the value of being fast and helpful for customers. Consumer decision-making is increasingly complex, with more options and considerations than ever. So consumers need more help than ever in making those decisions, giving businesses a huge opportunity to introduce themselves and be helpful at the right moment. 

People want an open and affordable digital world, and that requires relevant ads that respect their privacy.

The increasing importance of technology in our lives has heightened expectations for an open and affordable digital world, underpinned by safety and privacy online. People understand the value of advertising to support that experience and they want to see relevant, timely ads that respect their privacy. 

A Google/Euroconsumers study found that nearly 70% of respondents believe the amount of personal data collected online makes it difficult for them to protect their privacy. Search interest for "online privacy" has grown globally by more than 50% year over year. 

We all have to build trust every time there’s an interaction. People deserve to know how their data is being used so that they can choose to give informed permission.  

More insights and tools for companies to help recovery

So what can we do to help companies face the uncertainty and such dynamic consumer trends? At Google, we’re developing new tools to help businesses understand and respond better to shifting needs. 

Firstly, we’re launching the new Insights Page within Google Ads. It is a new destination in Google Ads where marketers can see contextual and automated insights to help them adapt their business faster in a more dynamic world.

For instance, Body&Fit, an Irish company offering sports nutrition, food supplements and dietary products, was affected by a decline in in-store sales and international shipment delays during local lockdowns. By using health and fitness insights across a number of countries, the brand was able to find new opportunities for growth and even expanded into new markets. As a result, by the end of last year, it saw a 90% year-over-year increase in revenue.

Secondly, we’ve been looking at ways for businesses to move faster — by quickly taking action based on recommendations from our real-time insights, powered by machine learning. To achieve this, we’re taking automation one step further, giving marketers an option to "opt-in" to automatically apply certain campaign and performance recommendations. This means that every time our algorithms detect an opportunity to improve a campaign, brands can implement these recommendations instantly, enabling them to be fast and helpful for their consumers and save time. 

The Netherlands-based agency Dept has been automatically applying recommendations across its client portfolio, and it’s worked — the agency has saved 20% of the time it previously spent on repetitive tasks, while increasing Google ads optimization scores by 18 points on average. Dept has also seen a positive impact on their clients’ performance — construction company BAM saw a 10% increase in conversion volume and a 20% increase in conversion rate.

Finally, as we have seen a decline in trust in online advertising, we’ve been working with the advertising ecosystem on new privacy-preserving proposals open to the industry within the Privacy Sandbox. We’ve also confirmed that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products. Now is the time for marketers to focus on building strong first-party relationships and the expertise they need to build trust sustainably.

The insights businesses want, the tools they need, the partnership they deserve

As we search for the way forward, businesses need to be even closer to their consumers and respond to their needs faster than ever before. 

Google is here to help turn this challenge into a new opportunity for future growth, by providing the insights businesses want, the tools they need, and the partnership they deserve to help them find the way.

These 11 organizations are building a greener Europe

The science is clear: the world must act now to avert the worst consequences of climate change. In September we laid out what our next decade of climate action will look like. It’s clear that the scale and complexity of the battle to combat climate change will require everybody to work together, that’s why we continue to advocate for strong climate action.  

We launched a €10m Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate to fund bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future. Together with our partners at Climate-KIC, we’ve uncovered impactful and ambitious projects.

Here are the 11 organizations working on urgent climate-related issues across Europe that will receive Google.org funding. 

Meet the funding recipients

What’s ahead

Starting this week, the funding recipients of the Google Impact Challenge on Climate will receive mentoring and workshops from Google and external experts on topics like technology, growth, product, design, people, and more. 

Image that says Planet Progress

You can learn more about these organizations in a new podcast series called Planet Progress. In each 25-minute episode our host, mathematician and broadcaster Dr Hannah Fry, talks to organizations about their big ideas and the challenges they’re attempting to solve. 

These incredible organizations are paving the way for sustainable changes at the local and global level. We’re proud to do our part in helping them move the world closer to a carbon-free future. 

Google’s €25 million contribution to media literacy

While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last year, it has proven more important than ever for people to access accurate information, and sort facts from fiction. That’s why Google is contributing €25 million to help launch the European Media and Information Fund to strengthen media literacy skills, fight misinformation and support fact checking. Our goal is to ensure that you and your family get the information you want, the answers you need and the accuracy you deserve.

Our five-year commitment will support the work of the European University Institute, the European Digital Media Observatory and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to fund organizations seeking to address key challenges:

  • Help adults and young people strengthen their media literacy skills
  • Support and scale the critical work of fact-checkers 
  • Strengthen the expertise, research and resources to help fight misinformation

As the first to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund, we welcome and encourage other organizations to follow our lead and support this important work. It is clear there is an unmet demand for funding and research, with fewer than one in 10 Europeans having participated in any form of online media literacy training, according to a recent report.  

In the coming weeks, the Fund will open for proposals from academics, nonprofits and publishers based in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Independent committees made up of industry experts will select the winning ideas and Google won't be involved in any decision making related to the Fund. 

Our commitment today builds on our previous grants to fact checkers and nonprofits, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, and our work to tackle misinformation in the run up to other major events, such as elections. Since 2015, we’ve provided funding and technical support to organizations focused on misinformation, including innovative new models like CrossCheck in France, and provided digital verification training to 90,000 European journalists, receiving over 400,000 visits to our training website

And we’re of course continuing our other efforts to support media literacy for young people, with Be Internet Legends and Be Internet Citizens providing digital skills to help schoolchildren and teenagers verify and fact-check. Through our philanthropic arm, Google.org, we’ve provided €3.2 million in funding since 2018 to programs like Newswise, The Student View and Weitklick, and through the Google News Initiative additional funding to support Students for President and Zeit für Lehrer.

If you represent an organization with an idea, you can learn more about the Fund and find out when applications open by registering on this website.

Digital tools create a safety net for European businesses

Alongside the public health crisis, the economic impact of the pandemic is being felt heavily around the world. As entrepreneurs, business leaders and Governments work to protect jobs and accelerate a return to prosperity in the long term, it's clear that digital tools and skills are going to be more important than ever. That’s why Google is investing in new tools and training to ensure all businesses can build resilience and recover quickly. These are helping companies such as handmade accessories retailer MoonDot in Poland who used digital tools to improve online sales by 70%, and La Maison Des Soeurs Macarons in France who gained 200 new customers after its team took online training courses in digital skills. 

A new report released today by the Connected Commerce Council, funded by Google, shows how a “digital safety net” can serve as a support system for small businesses. The survey of more than 5,000 small businesses across Europe found that businesses that used digital tools to rapidly change how they find customers, sell products and operate reported 80 percent better sales during COVID-19 than those who didn’t, and hired three times as many people. And without such tools, many would have gone out of business.


Digital drives jobs and sales for small businesses

Whilst almost all (80 percent) of European small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic, the report identified three different types of small businesses based on their adoption of digital tools, and how this impacts their business:

  • Digitally Advanced small businesses (42 percent of small businesses in Europe) use more than 10 digital tools and prioritize their importance, leading to better business outcomes such as higher revenue and jobs 

  • Digitally Evolving small businesses (40 percent) viewed tools as supporting or essential for their business, but were deploying an average of six 

  • Digitally Uncertain small businesses (18 percent) use less digital tools and don’t prioritize their importance, leading to worse business outcomes

Digital drives jobs and sales for small businesses

There is clear untapped potential for European businesses to benefit from digital tools 

From consulting with small businesses, the researchers identified a “stack” of digital tools —  e-commerce, data analytics and talent management, cloud services and collaboration tools — that created significant revenue advantages for small businesses if they were being used prior to the pandemic. This ultimately showed that not only is digital driving revenue and jobs for these businesses, but also that Europe is missing out on significant untapped growth from businesses who are not yet convinced about the usefulness of digital tools. 

The pandemic had a dramatic, and uneven, impact on small businesses

The impact on small businesses was, and continues to be, extreme, with 90 percent saying they were negatively impacted and 44 percent having to adjust their business models. And certain industries and groups faced greater challenges than others, particularly female, older and solo-operator business owners. 

Impact of digital tools on different business owners

What’s next 

It’s clear from this research that there is an opportunity to drive jobs and revenue for European small businesses. However, the research shows that governments and companies need to narrow the gap between the digitally advanced and uncertain, particularly for underrepresented groups. As new digital habits like online shopping and remote working are here to stay even after the pandemic, the research also highlights the risk of some small businesses falling further behind their competitors if they don’t increase their use of digital tools. The barriers those businesses face include being unsure of the return on investment and also a lack of skills and knowledge about digital tools. 

This is why new skills are such an important part of economic recovery efforts across Europe. It’s also why we are committed to investing in research like this to inform and build on the tools and training we already provide. Google is joining policy makers, public agencies, training partners and others to develop products and partnerships to help tackle these barriers, like ourZukunftHandel program, in partnership with HDE, the German Retail Association, to help German retail businesses or Ma Vitrine En Ligne, in partnership with the French Federation of Trade Associations, to connect artisans and traders with digital experts for remote support courses, and providing personalized product recommendations for small business owners on our Google for Small Business hub

By removing these barriers, we can achieve an accelerated, sustainable recovery which works for everyone. 

Read the full report and methodology from the Connected Commerce Council.


Key stats at a glance:

  • Key stats at a glance:

    • The impact: 

      • 80% of small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic

      • 44% had to to adjust their business models

      • Small businesses with a sophisticated use of digital tools fared nearly twice as better financially (80% better sales; 60% better revenue) during COVID-19, and hired over three times as many people

    • The challenge: 

      • 90% of small businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic 

      • Digitally advanced small businesses are about 2.5X more likely to be led by someone under 45 years old versus a leader over 45. 

      • Female small business leaders face more than 10% greater revenue challenges than men if they don’t use digital tools, but conversely these tools help women more when deployed successfully

    • The future

      • 62% of small businesses believe they will fully recover to pre-pandemic levels during the next year

      • 50% of small businesses plan to increase their use of digital tools