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Archive for ‘Campaign Management’

Holiday Retargeting Techniques for Marketers and Brands

By November 22nd, 2016

Holiday shopping’s in full swing. If you’re running retargeting campaigns, make sure they’re as prepared for the season as you are. Online sales are forecast to increase between seven and 10 percent over last year to as much as $117 billion.

We made your list, so check it twice, and take these steps to boost campaign performance during the holiday season.

Increase your budgets to win more impressions

You’re likely going to see a boost in site traffic (especially if you sell anything that can be given as a gift), which means you’ll see a boost in impressions served and in advertising funds spent. Make sure your campaigns have a proper budget set to guarantee you have enough ad money available for the day, so that you don’t miss out on these potential new customers.

We recommend a 25 to 50% budget increase for the holidays, but you know your site traffic best. Whatever percentage of traffic increase you’re expecting, boost your budget about that same percentage.

Raise your campaign bids

Almost all advertisers will increase their spend for the holidays, so you’re going to have serious competition.

With so many advertisers fighting for ad space, it’s not uncommon to see your CPM costs rise during this time of year. To prepare for this surge, make sure you increase your CPM bids across your campaigns. Bidding higher will make your campaigns more competitive and will give you a better chance of serving more ads by winning more impressions. We suggest increasing your CPM bid by 50-100% of the current average CPM cost for the campaign.

Use holiday-themed ads and landing pages

Holiday-themed advertising only gets people’s attention during one time of the year, and you should join the conversation your customers are having. Using ads that mention specific events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any of the major holidays can grab a visitor’s attention.

Send a happy holiday message, mention that there are only X number of shopping days left, and give them a reason to click your ads. Use the holidays as a chance to create urgency and you could see a boost in clicks and conversions.

Two Quick Steps You Can Take Right Now

  • Create landing pages and content on your site for these holiday events, then create audiences that capture visitors of these pages.
  • Run campaigns to serve your holiday ads to your holiday page visitors. If they’re coming to your site looking for seasonal deals, they’re more likely to respond to holiday-themed ads.

We hope these suggestions are helpful and lead to a profitable holiday season for you and your business. As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

From our team to yours—happy holidays!

What Marketers Should Do Every Day Through Peak Shopping Season

By November 21st, 2016

We’re headed into another peak retail season, which runs from now through Christmas Day. Considering not-so-recent trends in Shopping and mobile, many marketers are hedging their bets on this being the biggest online retail season yet. Preparation is key, and understanding what went well and what didn’t last year—and when it did and didn’t—will help guide decision-making in the coming weeks.

When the volume is so high, each day could make or break the quarter. Here are three things you should be doing on a day-to-day basis to increase the likelihood of favorable outcomes.

1. Monitor Top SKUs

Your buyers should have a list of products they expect will be major sellers this season. These could be products where inventory is so deep no one can compete, or buyers purchased at a bulk rate and can offer the best pricing.

Work with your buyers to understand what these products are, and optimize them on a per-item basis with SKU-level product groups in a High Priority campaign. Monitor these daily and keep an eye on inventory—when they start to sell out, pull back so that you don’t end up aggressively pushing nearly sold-out products.

2. Segmentation

In addition to the proactive management of products you’re bullish about, the high volume is going to yield insights of its own. Monitor your broader product groups—defined by Category, Brand, Custom Labels, etc.—for segmentation opportunities.

You’ll start the season with a single bid for a Brand product group. But, as volume dictates, some products or sets of products within the group will warrant segmenting and assigning a new bid based on how they’ve performed to date. This is a crucial step to optimizing and hitting performance goals on an ongoing basis.

3. Bidding

As you structured your campaigns, you established the levers and switches you’re going to use to effectively manage your product mix and hit performance goals.

The most important pieces of all this will be to understand how you want to bid these levers and how to stay on top of everything. Be considerate of sales, key dates, top products, and inventory / stock levels. A combination of proactive strategies (e.g., Brand X is 20% off next week) and reactive strategies (e.g., Brand Y is selling amazingly well over the past week) will be necessary to generate the best results.

Be aggressive where you expect the best returns and don’t hesitate to pull back on things that aren’t producing. Good luck!

Advanced PPC with Transparent Automated Bidding

By November 17th, 2016

In PPC, there are two main approaches when it comes to bidding workflow—manual and automated. Over the years, there’s been debate among search marketers on the pros and cons of each approach. Search marketers have differing opinions on which yields the best outcomes.

The Great Manual Versus Automated Debate

One of the main arguments in favor of manual bidding focuses on the control that it affords the search marketer, in contrast to the hands-off nature of automated bidding inherent with publisher bidding—like AdWords “Smart” bidding and most (but not all) 3rd party proprietary bidding algorithms.

In nearly all automated bidding approaches, the search marketer sets a goal and the bidding algorithm reviews historical performance, and then calculates a bid with limited transparency from start to finish.

The apprehension some search marketers feel towards automated bidding derives from the opaque nature inherent in most approaches. This fear is realized when a campaign is underperforming, and the search marketer becomes at a loss for what’s amiss, or how to improve it.

Putting that fear aside, let’s reflect on the many benefits of automated bidding, which is the reason for its proliferation.

Here are just a few.

Efficiency

Automated bid management is a huge time saver. Think about it—how long would it take you to manually change a million keyword bids? How confident would you be that each bid is optimized to maximize your return?

If you’re being honest with yourself, the answers to those questions should naturally steer you towards automation as the optimal solution. Automation augments the search marketer by executing repetitive tasks, serving as an ‘enabler’ for the search marketer to focus on growth opportunities or account strategy while keeping tabs on daily performance.

Accuracy

Automated bid management platforms produce accurate bids through regression modeling that looks backwards to predict future outcomes. With millions of dollars at stake, these algorithms are typically built with risk aversion at their core to produce low error rates. By their very nature, they make changes at scale that’s quite literally impossible for any individual, or even team, to compete with.

The reality is, sophisticated marketers with material budget use an algorithm to bid on their media today. If you aren’t, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Flexibility

Automated bid management platforms allow advertisers to define the goals and milestones for the algorithm to work towards. The marketer remains the operator and the brains of the operation, with the bidding algorithm working as his proxy.

Machine Learning

Learning from massive datasets to create better future outcomes is at the heart of bidding algorithms. Today, this type of mathematical analysis is popularly called “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence.” Most ad tech companies have years of experience with these techniques, but largely fly under the radar in popular press, with newfangled applications like self-driving cars getting the headline coverage.

So, how do you get the best of both worlds? Simple—employ automated bidding with full transparency. That’s not an oxymoron. That’s a real thing offered by a few leading independent marketing partners (not to toot our own horn, but Marin Software is one such example).

What’s in a Fully Transparent Bidding Solution?

Fully transparent bidding solutions (i.e., the bidding system shows you the step-by-step logic of the bidding algorithm) allow users to see all the details behind their bid calculations for each keyword. This includes the bidding model(s) employed, the details of the dataset used, performance bumpers activated, and any other pertinent details behind the decision-making. If automated bidding is fully transparent, many of the arguments opposed to automated bidding lose their heft.

Information Available in a “Fully Transparent” Bidding Solution

The level of information available for each keyword in a “fully transparent” bidding solution varies. That said, at Marin Software, we show the logic of our algorithms “line by line,” which allows users to see a full breakdown of bidding decisions, including:

  • Date ranges and data sets used
  • Metrics used
  • Predicted metrics
  • Auction and volume models
  • Data blending
  • Bid headroom
  • Learning models
  • How the optimized bids are calculated
  • External rules applied
  • Excluded dates and thresholds
  • Existing bid
  • Final calculated bid
  • Constraints on the algorithm

Contrast this to the information displayed in a “black box” bidding solution:

  • Existing bid
  • Final calculated bid (sometimes this is obscured, too)
  • User-defined bid rules

Clarity and Confidence in Transparent Automated Bidding

Fully transparent bidding solutions allow PPC managers to review the logic used to reach a bidding conclusion. In addition, the search manager has the option to overlay bidding rules to ensure the algorithm behavior is consistent with their risk tolerance and strategy to hit certain goals and milestones.

The best fully transparent bidding solutions also allow you to preview bidding calculations before they’re pushed to publishers, and manually override bids on specific keywords if needed. This gives PPC managers the full control of manual bidding with all the time saving, efficiency, and data processing power of automated algorithms.

If automated bidding isn’t currently part of your strategy, we hope this post helps break down the nuances of different approaches. Although it also explains the pros and cons, it advances the argument that if you aren’t using a transparent bidding algorithm in today’s environment, you’re hamstringing yourself, because it’s near-certain that your competitors are employing an automated method of bidding to try and out-compete you. If you’d like to learn more about Marin Software’s approach to bidding, click here.

The Post-Christmas Buying Rush: Are Your Social Campaigns Prepared?

By November 9th, 2016

Shopping doesn’t end after the holidays—according to a National Retail Federation survey, 65% of shoppers plan to keep shopping after Christmas. Use this time of year to convert them to loyal customers with new demand generation and cross-sell opportunities.

Demand Generation and Cross-Sell

Don’t let your holiday campaigns go to waste—keep aiming for more purchases. Post-holidays is a great time to re-engage to drive demand.

  • Audience: Identify recent purchasers to showcase new collections to them. You can achieve this by using Website Custom Audiences (or Tailored Audiences on Twitter) with an appropriate retention window.
  • Ad formats: Use Dynamic Ads to automatically cross-sell complementary products or upsell higher value products from your catalog.
  • Creative: Focus on creative that defines your brand beyond the holidays to avoid ad fatigue and expand into the New Year. Your brand message should seamlessly transition from the holidays to the post-holiday period to maintain interest and create new opportunities, such as additional gear and add-ons for holiday presents (video games, DSLR bag, etc.), post-holiday flash promotions, etc.
  • Optimization: Optimize for product sales or conversions to maximize the delivery of your ad campaigns to people likely to convert, once again making sure that your pixel is capturing enough conversions per week.

For more tips on winning the holiday shopping game, download our Social Advertiser’s Holiday Guide.

How to Put Custom Labels to the Best Use in Your Product Feed

By November 3rd, 2016

You’ve got your product feed set and sending to Merchant Center. You’ve created campaigns mapped from the attributes that make the most sense for your style of management. And, you’re pretty familiar with the set attributes you can use to define product groups:

Item ID Brand Category Product Type
       
Condition Channel Channel Exclusivity Custom Labels

 

What about those custom labels, though?

Google allows for up to five custom labels per feed. Here are some effective and creative ways you can use them.

SKU Grouping

One clever way to use a custom label is to group SKUs together under a Parent ID. Think of this as a “Parent” and “Child” relationship where we group the Child SKUs under a Parent label.

For example, suppose you offer a coffee mug in different colors. Each variety has its own unique Item ID. You could assign the same “Parent” identification number to each of the variations, and then set a product group to define the set of the products—as opposed to having to map these individually by Item ID.

01-sku

Product groups:
Custom_Label 0: 1234
Custom_Label 0: 1111
Custom_Label 0: 1213

Average Order Value

Another interesting way to apply a custom label is to group products by their price point, or average order value. For example, you could apply values of “High,” “Medium,” or “Low” to products based on where they belong in the overall product mix. In your campaign, you could then segment out Product Groups based on these values, and utilize these levers to bid more or less aggressively on products based on their anticipated return and volume.

Seasonality

Categorizing products by how (or whether or not) they sell according to time of year can be a wise consideration depending on the nature of your business. Indicating these designations in the product feed allows you to increase or decrease bids across a range of products classified by time of year.

So, in the final days of summer, you could increase bids across all seasonal products and then, right after, immediately bid down on those after the heat breaks.

02-seasonality

Product groups:
Custom_Label 1: Winter
Custom_Label 1: Summer
Custom_Label 1: Fall

These are just a few ways to apply custom labels—and give your campaigns levers to bid and segment on—that are completely specific to your account. The main takeaway is to use them.

Brainstorm what makes sense to be able to dictate volume by (whether or not a product is in peak season, whether or not it brings a high yield per order, etc.), then apply the values in the feed and create the defined product group in AdWords. Custom labels are the most flexible of the attributes available, so test them out and see what helps shift the needle in your overall Shopping performance.

How to Build an Effective Retargeting Program with Dynamic Ads

By November 2nd, 2016

Dynamic Ads enable you to automatically promote your entire catalog across devices. With Dynamic Ads, you have full control over the products you advertise, ensuring you’re reaching audiences who’ve expressed high intent to purchase with the most relevant products. Advanced tactics are also available—cross-sell, upsell, and even prospecting.

  • Audience: Segment audiences based on past browsing behavior. For example, you can create audiences of people who viewed or added products to their cart but didn’t purchase, then retarget them with the same products to increase their purchase intent.
  • Targeting: Upload your product catalog to Facebook and make sure it’s regularly updated. Build product sets by category, best sellers, or high-margin products.
  • Ad formats: It’s best practice to use Carousel Ads rather than static image link ads.
  • Creative: Test different variations with macros such as price, brand, and description in your ad text and Carousel titles.
  • Optimization: Always bid your maximum value for one-day post-click conversions, and make sure bid values match with audience behavior. For instance, “add to cart” is a higher intent than a simple “product view” and may justify a higher bid. Make sure your audience pools are broad enough to get sufficient delivery.

For more tips to make the most of your holiday ad campaigns across social media, download our Social Advertiser’s Holiday Guide.

5 Strong DR-Focused Facebook Features for Q4

By October 27th, 2016

SEM has long been considered bottom-funnel advertising, but Facebook’s new and improved direct-response features mean you can turn the platform into a revenue machine over the coming weeks. Here are five essential direct response (DR) features available on Facebook—and how to use them to your advantage.

Carousel Ads

With Q4 bringing a high saturation of ad demand—especially ecommerce and retail for the holiday season—carousel ads are a great way to stand out. With these ads, you have the ability to tell a story about your brand or product. You can also showcase the different benefits of a signature product, or a range of products or product lines. More real estate means more opportunity to grab attention and gain potential new customers.

01-carousel

Lead Gen Ads

If your focus is on lead gen, you should be using lead gen ads. The benefit here is that the user doesn’t need to leave Facebook to fill out your form. There are tons of fields to choose from—Facebook will try to fill them in automatically based on information from the user’s Facebook profile (which makes it a lot easier for someone to complete the form). You also have the option of putting up to three custom questions on the form that are specific to your company.

Wondering what creative works well? You can use carousel ads with this campaign objective to help tell your company’s story, list different benefits or services, etc. (Yes, we’re fond of carousel ads.)

02-leadgen

If you’re worried about spending a ton during a highly competitive season (remember, with Facebook ads, you’re competing for space, not keywords), we recommend establishing a test budget to figure out which messaging works, then open the budget spigot in Q1.

App Install Ads

If your focus is on app installs, Facebook now has a great new type of bidding to use for app install ads. You can now bid on in-app events such as a registration or purchase. Your cost per install may rise with this, but you’ll be targeting people who are more likely to complete the in-app event that’s most important to you.

03-appinstall

Lookalike Audiences

Trying to figure out who to target this season? Lookalike audiences should definitely be in the plan. With lookalike audiences, you can target from a 1% lookalike all the way to a 10% lookalike. A 1% lookalike will be the percentage most closely like your original seed audience, but once you find a seed audience that works, you can expand the percentage in order to scale more. Fee seed lists we see work well on Facebook are:

  • Top LTV users
  • Converters from Facebook
  • Most recent converters

04-howitworks

To go even deeper into lookalike audiences, make sure you caught Marin’s detailed article.

Pixel Implementation

Last but not least, make sure you’re confident in your pixel implementation! Once the pixel is placed, make sure you go through the user flow on your site a few times and test the pixel. You can use the Facebook Pixel Helper Tool extension on Google Chrome. With this tool, you’re able to see if the right event is firing on the page you want it to. Since you’re likely bidding oCPM for conversions (in order to maximize the number of conversions you can get), you want to ensure you’re optimizing on a conversion that’s firing correctly.

05-facebookpixel

Make sure you use all of the above features throughout the year, not just in Q4. But, to compete on Facebook and show some return for your dollar from now through mid-December, it’s imperative to use what’s available to you. These five features are a great start.

How to Use Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences to Scale Your Campaigns

By October 26th, 2016

Lookalike audiences are thee Facebook feature when it comes to audience targeting. If you’re looking to scale your campaigns and more, it’s a must-consider option.

The Basics: What Is It and How Does It Work?

You can use lookalike targeting to find similar users to your core audience based on interests, click behavior, and conversion habits. The smaller the percentage of your core audience, the more similar your lookalike audience will be.

You have several options from which to generate lookalike audiences:

  • Your custom audience (email lists, phone numbers, etc.)
  • Conversion pixel data
  • Website Custom Audience
  • Page fans
  • Campaign data (API-only feature)

As you can see, you have a lot of choices to test different audience types and associated performance. The key challenge is to segment and structure the audiences to avoid overlaps and achieve the best delivery.

Something to note: Since frequency caps limit the daily number of times you can deliver an ad to a user, lookalike audiences won’t increase your overall reach. And, you’ll have less predictability when it comes to which ad wins each auction.

There’s a way to overcome these challenges, however. Make sure your strategy includes nested lookalikes and smart exclusions. Let’s go into more detail.

Using Nested Lookalikes and Smart Exclusions

Let’s start with an example, where we exclude the next-highest percentage audience from our targeted lookalike audience. So, if you’re targeting lookalike 3% and lookalike 5%, then exclude the 3% audience from the campaign that’s targeting the 5% one.

Nested lookalikes:

Smart exclusions:

With smart exclusions, we exclude the targeted audiences that we’re already using in other live campaigns. For example, if you’re running campaigns with 1% lookalike and 3% lookalike and want to launch a broader targeting campaign, then exclude the 3% lookalike.

Avoiding Campaign Redundancies and Fine-Tuning

When you’re planning your targeting strategy, make sure you’re segmenting your lookalike thresholds according to the value of the user, and excluding the targeted audiences from campaigns to avoid overlap. This’ll allow you to use lookalike audiences from different sources, increasing the overall reach and scalability of your campaigns.

For example, if you’re running a retargeting campaign based on a Website Custom Audience of all your site visitors, exclude this campaign from all of your acquisition initiatives, along with the associated lookalike audiences.

Here’s another scenario. Suppose you’re a travel website and the user funnel includes two conversions—registration and booking. You would segment the audiences based on your goals—perhaps based on the custom audience of the previous month’s bookers, conversion pixel data, and Website Custom Audience of people who registered but didn’t book. Your segmentation would look like this:

Custom audience segmentation:

You can use all of these audiences for your acquisition campaigns, along with interest-based and other targeting options.

Here’s the final campaign planning structure for this example. This takes into account that retargeting campaigns are running based on your Website Custom Audiences.

Fine-tuned campaign planning structure:

Putting It All Together

Creating effective lookalike audiences takes a bit of cunning and patience, but it’s not rocket science. With continued practice, refinement, and measurement, you can scale your campaigns to ensure you’re targeting audiences with the most relevant ads at the most relevant time, in a way that works the best for your business. If you haven’t yet implemented this feature, we strongly recommend you get started today!

Far Away, So Close: Current Insights into Travel Search Advertising

By October 18th, 2016

With school out and warm weather in, we traditionally think of the summer months as the best time to take a vacation. However, is it actually prime time for search advertisers to ramp up their ad campaigns?

To answer this question and others, we took a look at travel advertisers on Google and Bing. We examined 2014 and 2015 to locate any trends in advertiser spend and performance for the travel vertical across quarters, and to assess the state of consumer behavior. Google and Bing dominate the global search market, which made them ideal for our study—other search publishers have regional presence at best, so they were excluded.

We found a few interesting things:

  • Summer searches, but fall clicks. Although, on average, consumers searched for travel terms (flights, lodging, auto rentals, etc.) almost 20% more during summer than winter, clicks on travel-related searches didn’t peak in summer as expected. Instead, their highest point was in autumn, right after the summer months.
  • The great smartphone migration. Over the past two years, travel advertisers have steadily shifted spend away from desktop and tablet towards smartphone. While smartphone made up under 10% of search spend in early 2014, by end of 2015, that number grew to almost 30% of all search budgets.
  • Native is restless. The travel ad format that’s seen significant growth is native advertising via channels such as Yahoo! Gemini. Starting in late 2014, investment growth in native ads by travel companies grew almost 5x by mid to late 2015. While this format is one of the newer ones, it’s been growing consistently in both advertiser and consumer adoption over the past year.

For more great information on search advertising in the travel industry—including cross-device performance data and campaign recommendations—download The State of Travel Search Advertising: Trends, Formats, and Paths to Success.

Dynamic Ads for Travel: a New Solution for Hotel, Flight, and Airline Companies

By October 17th, 2016

Dynamic Ads For Travel 

About a year ago, Facebook launched Dynamic Product Ads to attract mostly e-commerce advertisers looking for a more efficient way to launch remarketing campaigns, without having to manually create hundreds of link ads and custom audiences per SKU. For a travel business, however, the definition of a “product” is very different than it is for a retail/e-commerce advertiser.

Fast-forward to today. Facebook now just refers to this solution as Dynamic Ads, with a unique offering available to travel advertisers called Dynamic Ads for Travel (DAT). With DAT, you can automatically deliver ads at a product level from your hotel and destination catalogs with unique creative based on a person’s click events on your website.

For example, you could dynamically deliver ads across all hotel destinations with imagery specific to the location that people are searching for. People who searched for hotels in Maui on your website and didn’t convert would be delivered a very unique offer, compared to those who searched for, say, hotels in Minneapolis.

Dynamic Ads For Travel

Thousands of Relevant Ads in Seconds

As you can imagine, it’d be near-impossible to create all of the possible permutations of audience segments paired with unique creatives for each destination or hotel that people are searching for manually. DAT improves campaign performance in several ways:

  • Relevancy: More intelligent ads that capture details such as price, check-in date, and destination relevant to what people are searching for and where they want to go. You can personalize landing pages with redirect URLs specific to these details.  
  • Automated delivery: Ad creative is deployed automatically from your catalog feed, meaning you don’t have to manually create each individual ad.
  • Improved targeting for optimal ROI: Target people who are searching for a hotel in a certain place or flight on a specific date. Cross-sell people who’ve booked a flight with a complementary offer on a hotel.
  • Scale: Remarket to people across all placements including mobile news feed, the Audience Network, and Instagram.

So How Does it Work?

Dynamic-Ads-For-Travel-How-It-Works

There are two key components that enable DAT to work:

  • The Facebook Pixel to enable “Website Custom Audiences” and track click events on your website
  • A feed that includes details on all items you sell, as well as creative (description, price, availability, etc.)

The click events that the Facebook Pixel captures allow travel advertisers to deliver more personalized ads to audiences based on a variety of user signals such as search activity, browsing history, and purchase behavior on your website. You can further enhance these audiences with a few parameters in both your exclusion and inclusion targeting:

Pixel Parameters For Travel Companies

Hotels Flights Destinations
Content Type Content Type Content Type
Destination Origin and Destination Airport Suggested Destinations
Check In and Out Date Departure and Return Date Travel Start and End Date
Currency Currency Region, City, and Country

 

To determine which ad creative to trigger when a pixel event is fired, you need a travel feed with information from a catalog. You can either upload the catalog manually with a .CSV file or have the data retrieved programmatically from a feed in .XML format.

The good news is that many travel advertisers already have a feed that they use to deploy campaigns on Google, where the practice of retrieving this information for Facebook is very similar. Facebook currently supports the following catalogs with plans to roll out a flight specific-solution in the near future.

  • Hotel: A list of details specific to each hotel such as room availability, pricing, star rating, guest rating, and image URL with support for up to 20 images
  • Destination: A list of details specific to each destination such as longitude location, neighborhood, price, price change, and image URL with support for up to 20 images

If it seems a little hairy, not to worry—DAT is one of the most advanced Facebook advertising features available on the platform today, so mastering it takes a bit of practice. The opportunities are truly endless, however, with all of the possible configurations that are available with this ad type.

Just note that some of these variables such as price and availability need to be updated in real-time, meaning to get your campaigns ahead of the curve, you should use a Facebook Marketing Partner platform—such as Marin Social—that’s developed this capability into its offering.

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