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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.

5 Tips to Fine-Tune Your Holiday Advertising Strategy

By October 11th, 2016

We recently published our 2016 Cross-Channel Marketing Report, which looked at the current state of shopping ads, and examined advertiser and consumer behavior over the past year. Now, with the shopping season even closer, advertisers are quickly making sure their budgets and ad campaigns are ready and flawless.

Based on the data, what are our top tips for retailers looking to get the most value out of their digital advertising campaigns this holiday season? Read on.

1. Plan and time large increases in budget to account for      holiday spikes.

We predict that 40% of all shopping ad dollars will be on a mobile device. Similarly, around 37% of search clicks will be on a shopping ad on either Bing or Google. Be sure to budget ad campaigns accordingly to match up with consumer attention during critical holiday spikes.

Research shows that spend peaks in November, with overall ad spend reaching almost 90% above what it was in January. Smartphone behavior was the most pronounced—smartphone ad spend spiked to almost 400% above baseline in November when compared to the year’s beginning.

2. Account for mobile-desktop differences for shoppers.

Smartphones now make up the majority of clicks and spend for all shopping ads. With 55% of all shopping ad clicks originating on a smartphone, the importance of properly optimizing ad spend can’t be overstated.

Research shows that shoppers are utilizing mobile devices in-store more than ever, to conduct product research and price-shop. Being able to capture this audience while they’re in the middle of a purchase decision may be crucial this holiday season to ensure an offline conversion.

3. Spread shopping ad budget across publishers.

While Google remains the largest search publisher for shopping campaigns, Bing is no slouch, either. Adoption of Bing Shopping Campaigns (BSC) has been accelerating and Marin has seen over 20% of clients on Google Shopping already using BSC. While Google Shopping has more viewership and use, BSCs are competitive in price and performance, and may be a good option for some retailers.

4. Go beyond shopping ads.

Shopping ad spend has been taking up a larger portion of retailer ad spend every year, reaching almost 30% of all search ad dollars this year. However, this doesn’t mean this is the only ad format retailers should consider.

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are a relatively new ad format that have seen strong early returns for many advertisers. Early data has shown an almost 300% ROAS for ETAs, meaning they’re highly competitive with both conventional search ads and shopping ads.

5. Social shopping is great for mobile retailers.

While social networks have always been a highly mobile device oriented channel, this is especially true for retail. Almost 95% of clicks on retail ads on social are on a mobile device, and mobile also accounts for 90% of all social spend for retail advertisers. Research shows that consumers interact differently with social ads than they do with search. Rather than research, social ads are better used for awareness and to start conversations with target audiences.

Each holiday season has been bigger than the last, and the trend is positioned to continue this year. Retailers have more choices than ever when it comes to ad campaigns. However, with this increased choice comes increased difficulty, as effectively managing spend across multiple devices and channels isn’t easy. A little planning, knowledge, and foresight will go a long way.

Ready or Not, Here Come the Holiday Shoppers

By October 4th, 2016

If you’re a retail advertiser, you have one, overarching goal each holiday season—drive sales. Every ad campaign launched, tracked, and optimized works holistically toward this goal.

Now that fall’s here, it’s time to gear your social campaigns to the rigors of Q4 and this quarter’s particular idiosyncrasies. The October to December timeframe is your most important business period of the year. You have your work cut out for you leveraging insights and audiences from your pre-holiday preparation to maximize sales. For optimal efficiency, retargeting users who’ve demonstrated interest is a key tactic.

Here are some tips to drive sales during the soon-to-be busiest, most competitive time of the year. To sum it all up in a single directive—focus on people familiar with your brand.

  • Audience: Build your campaigns around high-intent customer segments such as recent purchasers, loyalty members, and past holiday purchasers—and try to plan for a specific conversion path for each of them.
  • Targeting: Use Custom and Website Custom Audiences of people who’ve visited your website recently or purchased from you before.
  • Ad formats: Focus on ad formats that’ll allow you to showcase your products and services, such as Video Link Ads, Carousel Ads, and Canvas Ads.
  • Creative: Showcase your best-selling products to your audience segments and highlight USPs. Create urgency with limited-time offers, shipping deadlines, or discounts, and timely promotions such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday %-off.
  • Optimization: Optimize for conversions to maximize the delivery of your ads to people likely to purchase. Once again, make sure your conversion volume is enough for Facebook’s algorithm to be effective (especially if you’re selling high-value products with costs above $200).

For more tips to stay ahead this holiday season—plus extra guidance designed specifically for Marin Software customers—download our Social Advertiser’s Holiday Guide.

Bidding Optimization with Marin and Google Analytics

By September 29th, 2016

This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
3Q Digital.

One of the reasons advertisers choose the Marin platform is for the flexibility it provides. It grants advertisers the ability to track conversions through the standard publishers (Google, Bing, Gemini), via Marin’s own platform tracking, or by importing conversion goals from Google Analytics. Each method of counting conversions has benefits and should be considered when you’re first setting up on the account.

If you have multiple conversion actions, one method I believe is very powerful and should be considered is integrating Google Analytics and Marin.

Who Should Consider This?

While this type of account setup could benefit most advertisers, those who judge performance based on the revenue or goal completions reported in Google Analytics—over publisher metrics—will find this setup most useful. The reason is that Google Analytics aligns publisher performance metrics (clicks, impressions, etc.) with the goals that impact your business the most.

I personally manage an ecommerce client that likes to monitor publisher conversions and reported revenue, but primarily cares about driving transactions and revenue as reported in Analytics. So, setting up my Marin account to import this data from Analytics allows me to look at total performance as it matters to my client and build a strategy based on the bottom-line numbers.


As you may have guessed, the biggest benefit to importing this data is in bidding. Revenue and conversions can be tracked from Google Analytics back to the keyword level from each publisher platform. With this data now imported into Marin, any bidding folders you have in place are now able to execute bid adjustments based on the data that’s most valuable to your business. This makes their adjustments more accurate than if they were based on the reported revenue data from any publisher platform alone.


To make Marin integration with Google Analytics simple, a Setup Wizard guides you through the process. To set up the wizard, go to the Admin tab, and click the Revenue sub-tab.


From the Revenue Tracking setting, select Google Analytics.


If you’d like to use the imported goal to be added to the platform, select the Bidding Eligible box. Before moving forward with this option, be sure the Google Analytics goals are reporting correctly.


Granularity and accuracy are key for all advertisers and particularly critical in high season. If you’re an ecommerce advertiser heading into Q4, put this strategy into play ASAP, test, and refine as needed. Good luck!

How to Increase Your Odds of a Successful Online Gambling Strategy

By September 15th, 2016

Online gambling is one of the most profitable digital industries, and it’s constantly expanding. Yet, it’s also one of the most challenging markets for digital advertisers. As technologies improve and strategies develop, the competition grows fiercer each day.

At the same time, the rise of social media forms a perfect marriage between a gaming industry that’s exploded and an advertising channel perfectly suited to what online gambling providers want to achieve—an even larger market and more players.

Advertising strategy for online gambling depends on many factors, differs according to specific brand requirements and goals, and requires a lot of testing to determine what works best. The key to success is to have a clear strategy and apply a few general best practices.

In this article, we look at an example of a robust gambling strategy, discuss challenges, and offer recommendations for campaign optimization.

A Four-Pronged Strategy for Online Gambling Providers

You should include four essential phases in your strategy:

  • Branding
  • Acquisition
  • Retargeting
  • Retention


To make sure you’re staying ahead of the competition, it’s important your strategy covers all phases of the typical online gambler journey, from the branding to retention, and that you use ads and targeting tactics that are the most useful in each phase. Any tweaks to the strategy will depend on your budget and resources, but having a clear structure makes planning easier and your ad campaigns more successful.

Further, there are a few things to note in order to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns:

  • Facebook provides plenty of options for each step of the user journey. Determine what would be suitable for your core strategy, and consider others as appropriate. Make sure each option has a clear rationale.
  • Prepare the creative assets in advance for each ad type you’re launching and align it to the right steps in the user journey.
  • Define your preparation plan in great detail and always have a plan B. Build your targeting audiences and have a few additional ones built in case the core ones aren’t performing. Your preparation plan should include testing, and that plan should easily and efficiently allow you to determine the best performing demographics, ad types, placements, etc.

What are the Benefits of This Strategy?

Here are several great advantages from using this strategy, plus a few more tips for how to get the most out of it.


  • Facebook video ads: Facebook video ads are approximately 7x cheaper compared to YouTube, and open up an opportunity to reengage users who viewed your video.
  • Reach and frequency: Reach a significant number of people and control message frequency through reach and frequency campaigns, ideal for brand awareness.


  • Ad types and segmentation: Test different ad types to make sure you’re covering all available opportunities, and segment your audience to make sure you’re targeting high-value users. Audience segmentation and exclusion can significantly improve delivery and performance.
  • Instagram ads: Because of the image-driven nature of Instagram and the fact that users are more likely to connect with interactive content, these ads maximize the value of your creative and increase user engagement. This is a great option to leverage your content and increase the number of conversions.
  • Video reengagement: Use this to reengage with users who are familiar with and have shown interest in your brand. This is a good option for increasing the number of conversions and driving more high-value players.


  • Custom audiences: Make use of all ad types and optimize accordingly. Target audiences using Website Custom Audiences. Also create custom audiences of people who’ve registered but haven’t made a purchase, and target with an alternative offer.
  • Search intent retargeting: This allows you to improve audience targeting and lower the CPA on your retargeting campaigns. Cross-channel retargeting ensures you’re reaching all of the most relevant, high-value users.
  • Dynamic Ads (DAs): Use Facebook DAs on different games to automate retargeting, and to show the most relevant game to your engaged users, driving them to convert.


  • Segmentation: Segment your custom audience and make use of ad types and messaging accordingly. Apply a “softer” method of engagement with these users by leveraging blog content, different offers, upgrades, and photo albums from user events. Also use Facebook’s immersive Canvas ads to get users more involved in the life of your brand.


Once your strategy’s clear and your campaigns are live, you’ll likely run into a few challenges. Here are a few common ones and how to handle them.

  • Your ad images, text, and targeting affects CTR—the lower the CTR, the higher the CPC: Stop any ads that aren’t meeting targets and have very low CTR.
  • Targeting or product affect CVR—the lower the CVR, the higher the CPA: Review your targeting strategy, your website, and your user funnel.
  • Campaigns have poor delivery: Check audience overlap and make sure to use exclusions. Also make sure you’ve allocated sufficient budget.

For a real-life example of how an online gambling site hit the jackpot with their CTR and saved big on CPAs, read our Leo Vegas case study.

Mobile Display Goes Up, but Tablet’s on the Decline

By September 6th, 2016

Between the distant frenzy of the Q4 shopping season and the rising calm of midyear, Q2 tends to be the quietest quarter. However, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing happening. Among other things we found in our research, mobile display played a larger role this Q2—but overall, the ubiquitous move to mobile is actually slowing down. And, tablet usage continues to drop.

To create our quarterly benchmark reports, we sample the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, composed of advertisers who invest more than $7 billion in annualized ad spend on the Marin platform. We analyze data from around the world to create our report. For Q2 2016, key findings include:

  • The move to mobile is slowing down. Across search and social, the shift away from desktop has been slowing for the last two quarters. Device share is decelerating and seems to be approaching a stability point. Display is the only channel that’s still seeing strong shifts toward mobile over the past quarter for both advertisers and users.
  • Smartphone and desktop are the devices of choice. The tablet revolution never took off and continues to shrink. Instead, it was co-opted by its sibling device, the smartphone. For the foreseeable future, smartphone and desktop are the two largest winners.
  • Advertisers should continue to prioritize cross-channel, cross-device targeting. In order for advertisers to employ a robust cross-channel, cross-device marketing approach, they should continue to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these channels and devices.

For detailed information on Q2 2016 search, social, and display mobile performance and strategy recommendations, download our Performance Marketer’s Benchmark Report Q3 2016 – Vital Search, Social, and Display Performance Data by Device.

What Makes a “Good” Video for Social?

By August 24th, 2016

This is a guest post from Daniel Rohsler, Digital Marketing Account Manager at 3Q Digital.

Brands are finally investing heavily in videos for social platforms. Although the attention is now there, clients often ask about best practices for making a “good” video for social.

Facebook has been making a slow but steady switch to showing more videos in users’ News Feeds—I just did a quick count on my personal page, and 10 out of the first 18 posts (55.5%) were videos. With this switch, it‘s essential to incorporate video into your brand’s creative strategy. And, it’s even more important to make sure your videos are “right” for the platform they’ll be served on.

For this post, I’ll stick to Facebook best practices, but most of these guidelines will work nicely for Twitter, too. Here are common questions clients often ask regarding video—and some answers.

How long should it be?

The ideal length of a video ad should be somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute. Ideally, the video should provide the necessary context to the user with or without sound—taking advantage of the auto-play feature in Facebook’s News Feed.

If the message or purpose can’t be shown with a 1-minute video, it’s okay to make it a bit longer. Just make sure the message is still concise and engaging enough to keep users interested (short attention spans and all).

Can we use our TV commercial?

You can, but you shouldn’t. If your TV commercial has run its course, it likely won’t be well-received on social platforms. Diversity is often as important as frequency when it comes to reaching your audience, so try not to serve the exact same asset across different channels.

However, a social video that shares the same theme or feel as your commercial can be incredibly beneficial. Building familiarity across channels by using the same actors, music, or visuals is a good way to grab attention, but be sure that the videos are differentiated enough to keep users engaged and interested.

Does it need actors? A voiceover?

Your video doesn’t “need” actors or a voiceover—but if you’re going to have either one, it’s important to caption the video or use large image text throughout. Remember, videos will auto-play in users’ News Feeds, so the first few seconds will likely be seen but not heard. This is where image text and captioning are essential.

It’s always recommended that the video have lots of large image text, taking up a good portion of the screen so that the text is easily readable regardless of whether the user is viewing the video on mobile or desktop. Image text is particularly important in the first 3-5 seconds of the video—good text can make users more inclined to click for sound or expand the video.

Can you show us some examples?

Here are a couple videos I often share with clients when they ask for some good examples…

Facebook Tips: When Facebook unveils a new feature, they’ll often promote how-to videos like this one for Facebook Stickers.

While the subject matter itself isn’t particularly exciting, it does execute on the essentials well—image text that matches the voiceover, branded logos throughout, and artistic visuals. This is just one video in a series of how-tos that all have the same look and feel. You can view the series here.

Dear Sophie: A personal favorite for what makes a great social video is Google’s Dear Sophie. It’s a little bit longer than the recommended 30 seconds to a minute, but it does a great job of providing all the necessary context with and without sound, by using large image text and visually engaging imagery throughout.

WARNING: You might cry, even with the sound off!

Have fun creating your videos, and may you discover more best practices that work for you.

Yahoo! Japan Advanced URLs—What You Need to Know

By August 23rd, 2016

Last year, Marin partnered closely with our customers to transition over two billion URLs to Google’s new Upgraded URLs format. With Yahoo! Japan’s support following suit this year with Advanced URLs, we’ve created best practices to ensure our clients have a seamless upgrade.

Yahoo! Japan Tracking Considerations

As our clients prepare for their upgrades, we wanted to highlight some important tracking considerations to keep in mind. For Ad Groups with upgraded keywords and legacy creative, Yahoo! Japan will serve the creative-level URL over the keyword-level URL. This means clients who use keyword-level tracking should migrate their ads before migrating their keywords.

Key Dates

  • The deadline for creating destination URLs within the Yahoo! Japan interface is September 1, 2016.
  • Marin will continue to support legacy destination URLs creation through October 24, 2016.
  • URLs must be transitioned to the Advanced format
    by October 24, 2016.

Marin Destination URL Screen Grab

Best Practice Approach

As with Google’s upgrade last year, Marin’s Customer Support and service teams will be on hand to assist with questions that arise during your upgrade process for fast response and inquiry resolution. This experience is specifically designed with our customers in mind!

Marin’s step-by step self-migration guide, and our close-knit partnership with Yahoo! Japan, enables our customers to complete their upgrades in accordance with Yahoo! Japan’s best practices approach. This approach uses shared tracking templates at the ad group, campaign, or account levels to reduce website load when creating new ads or keywords and allow for future URL changes with no interruption to ad serving.

At Marin, we understand our client needs are unique and we have you covered. We published comprehensive campaign management and self-migration documentation to Marin’s Enhanced Support Center. If you’re a Marin client be sure to check this out.

4 Underutilized Functions and Features of Google Shopping

By August 22nd, 2016

Shopping has been a hot-button topic for some time now. While many customers have launched successful Shopping campaigns, there are some lesser-known features that may provide a quick additional boost or improvement to your current efforts.

Four such features are:

  • SKU-level reporting (Marin)
  • Campaign priority settings (Marin)
  • Automatic item updates (Google Merchant Center)
  • Promotions (Google Merchant Center)

SKU-level Reporting

Marin fully supports performance reporting at the SKU level. With this extremely valuable data, advertisers can review products on a regular basis to see where individual SKUs prove to be candidates for segmentation or exclusion. If the SKU data warrants it, you can indicate a more aggressive or conservative bid.

01. SKU-level reporting

To see SKU-level reporting enabled in Marin, work with your platform representative to append the appropriate parameter to the product groups, and to have the new feature enabled and backfilled. 

Campaign Priority Settings

Priority settings are extremely useful for advertisers who invest the time in building out multiple Shopping campaigns and want to maximize their effectiveness.

As Google describes the setting, “When you have the same product in multiple Shopping campaigns, you can determine which campaign should participate in the auction for that product with campaign priority. Your campaigns already have a priority: Low. But you can change this priority to Medium or High. These priorities determine the bid for any product that the campaigns share.”

  • The highest priority campaign will bid
  • If the highest priority campaign runs out of budget, the lower priority campaign bids
  • When multiple campaigns have the same priority, the highest bid is used

02. Campaign priority

The right mix of priority assignments and bid strategies by campaign solve the tricky issue of being able to control products that exist across multiple campaigns.

Automatic Item Updates

If you have metadata enabled on your site, it may be prudent to enable Google’s Automatic Item Updates feature. This allows Google to crawl your site and update Shopping based on the site’s inherent microdata information. This is mostly valuable in reconciling price discrepancies and/or availability.

Advertisers can choose from Google’s attributes for automatic updates:

  • Price only
  • Availability only
  • Price and availability

03. Automatic item updates

Merchant Promotions

Enabled in Google Merchant Center, a Promotion is an excellent way to differentiate your product from the competition and advertise your sale. You can assign Promotions to a subset of products or across all products in the feed, as applicable.

04. Merchant promotions

05. New promotion

Google manually reviews all promotions for accuracy, so be sure to schedule these well in advance of the actual promotion launch so that the approval process won’t cause any delay. Also be sure you know Google’s Merchant Promotions Program Policies.

Get ahead of the competition by testing out some of this readily available advanced functionality! If you’re interested in speaking with a Shopping Consultant from Marin, get in touch with your platform representative.

How to Use Search to Enhance Your Facebook Dynamic Ads

By August 17th, 2016

When Google released product listing ads, it dramatically changed the way retailers advertise online. Because of their huge success, retailers are constantly on the lookout for the next game-changing ad format.

If the results our retail clients have been seeing are any indication, the next frontier for product ads is harmonizing Google Shopping and Facebook Dynamic Ads (DA). Even though there’s been steady growth in the number of advertisers using Facebook DAs since their launch in 2015, many retailers are still managing their search and social channels in silo.

In this post, you’ll learn how to supercharge your shopping ads by combining the best of search and social. Using these techniques, our customers have seen a 68% higher revenue per conversion from their campaigns, when managed together with social advertising campaigns.

Seed Facebook with your best Google Shopping campaigns.

Savvy advertisers take advantage of their existing Google Shopping campaigns to optimize—or simply test—DAs for the first time. By identifying your best-performing products from Google Shopping campaigns, you can export high-ROI products to advertise using DAs.

Through Facebook’s new Google Shopping to DA product (available to Marin Software customers), advertisers using Google Shopping can take their best-performing campaigns and easily create Facebook DAs in a few easy steps, without the need for lengthy setup and extensive IT resources.

01. Workflow

Build out the right types of campaigns.

To easily increase your average order value and/or customer lifetime value, be sure to offer products related to what a customer’s ordered. As you’re building out DA campaigns, you can create upsell, cross-sell, and prospecting campaigns using the same process.

  • Upsell and cross-sell: With these types of campaigns, you can increase the chances of selling complimentary, relevant products to your customers via upsell (higher profitability items) or cross-sell (similar product sets).
  • Prospecting: Take shopping on Facebook beyond retargeting through Facebook’s DA prospecting campaigns. Advertisers can now reach new customers within the Facebook universe who haven’t visited your website. Facebook allows you to automatically create the best ads and find the best users for prospecting, giving you an efficient, effective way to find new audiences for your products.

Use search intent data to power DA creative.

Search intent retargeting is the smartest way to maximize the ROAS of your search budget. As cross-channel marketing strategies become commonplace, digital advertisers have started using search intent data to power their social campaigns. This strategy can be extended to Facebook DAs.

One example: using search intent to optimize DA creative templates. If the right users see them, these dynamic changes to creative can lead to significant lifts in CTR, conversion rates, and ROI.

Let’s say you have three users who’ve reached your website using different levels of search intent.

Example keywords:

  • Discount-driven (keyword: discount shoes)
  • Product brand (keyword: Buffalo Shoes)
  • Store name (keyword: PowPow Shoe Shop)

Through DA creative templates and search intent data, you can dynamically tailor your Facebook creatives based not only on the products users have seen on your website, but also on the keyword they used to get there in the first place. This allows you to show hyper-targeted ads, resulting in higher click-through and conversion rates.

02. Creative

In the above example, our users see different things depending on their keyword group:

  • Sales-driven user (keyword: discount shoes) sees an ad with a sales message.
  • The user who’s shown product brand infinity (keyword: Buffalo Shoes) sees a creative with a large product brand logo.
  • The user who’s shown brand affinity for the shop/advertiser (keyword: Marin Shoe Shop) sees a large advertiser logo.

Use cross-channel product reporting and optimization.

Once you start running Google Shopping and Facebook DAs, you should look at product performance and optimization in a more holistic way. The challenge with cross-channel tracking is normalizing conversions across multiple devices, ad buys, and other variables. However, with a third-party platform like Marin Software, the problem’s solved, so you can focus on the most important task—making sense of all that rich data and finding synergies.

With consistent third-party conversion tracking, you can also deduplicate conversions across search and social. And, through attribution modeling, you can gain deeper insights into how your Google Shopping and Facebook DAs are affecting the overall path to conversion.

Your future shoppers are spending an ever-increasing amount of time on Facebook and Google. In fact, 78% of all new ads were on either Facebook or Google last quarter. Now’s the time to think smarter about how you can cost-effectively engage and convert these users.

By combining search and social shopping strategies, not only do you break down channel silos—you gain a holistic view of product performance, and the ability to optimize across channels and improve overall product performance.