Archive for ‘Trends’

2014 Year in Review: Greatest Hits & Highlights

By December 18th, 2014

In our recent study of over 300 digital marketers, 75% said their job has become more complicated over the last year… and what a year it’s been! We’ve seen big publisher changes, new ad types, shifting buying behaviors, and growing mountains of data. Add that to the proliferation of channels and devices, and it’s clear that digital marketing has become undeniably complex.

However, it’s also been exciting! Just consider how digital marketing has increasingly aligned with so many aspects of daily life - when we use a second screen while watching a big sporting event, when we hop onto Twitter to join a conversation, or when we are pleasantly surprised by a spot-on retargeting ad during our last-minute holiday shopping.

These are the kinds of things that have led marketers to rise to the challenge armed with data, tech, and smart people who innovate at all levels. Marin has been there throughout, with ongoing support and new features to help marketers achieve their goals. We hope you’ve had a happy and successful year, and invite you to take a quick trip down memory lane with the greatest hits and highlights from both Marin and the larger ad tech industry…

2014 Digital Marketing Highlights - Search, Social, & Display

  click to enlarge

Now what about 2015? Drop us a line in the comments to share your predictions!

The SERP In Review

By December 17th, 2014

We all know Google is constantly toying with the SERP. Sorting out what new tweaks Google is testing can be difficult at times, but I thought it’d be fun to do a side-by-side comparison of what the SERP looked like a year ago compared to what it looks like now for the same search term, “Razor Scooter.” Here’s what I noticed:

1) More PLAs! Google was toying with adding more PLAs at the end of 2013 and it appears they’ve settled on more. In 2013, a total of four PLAs appeared. The SERP for 2014 delivered twice as many. The location has changed too.

2) More Text in Text Ads. The number of lines appearing with text ads has increased. Last year the largest text ad on the page consisted of four lines. This year, the largest (position 1) features up to seven lines. There isn’t an ad on the 2014 SERP with fewer than four lines.  The addition of the review stars as well as the inclusion of physical addresses has created “longer” ads. This essentially means fewer text ads on the side are able to fit above the fold. In 2013, four text ads appeared on the side above the fold. In 2014, two and half appeared. The lost real-estate is compounded on smaller monitors – on a laptop just a single side bar text ad appeared.

3) The “Ad” Icon. Google started testing the “Ad” icon just over a year ago. It’s now the standard.  Gone is the ad box with the title “Ad Related To [search query].” Instead, ads are identified by the little yellow “Ad” icon and ad organic search results are delineated by a grey bar or divider.

4) More Text Ads Above Organic Results. Last year, one text ad was served above the organic results. We now have three. With PLAs moving to the right side bar and the company description disappearing (this still appears on some, less retail focused results), room was freed up to serve two additional text ads. Organic results are pushed down. The same “Razor Scooter” search query today on a 13” laptop screen produces just a single organic result. 

In short, the SERP is much more ad dominated, with the focus going towards PLAs and positions 1 – 3.

Peak Seasons and the Power of Timing

By December 11th, 2014

Determining the best time to hit audiences with ads – and on which channels – is always a challenge. This process becomes even more complicated during peak seasons, such as in November in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday rush.

Last November, we noticed that the best time for advertisers to reach customers on Facebook happened to be two weeks prior to Thanksgiving. To see if the same trend held true for November 2014, we took a look at impressions, clicks, and conversions on the channel.

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This year we happened to see spikes in activity around Thanksgiving week, which contradicts our findings from last year where we saw the spike in user engagement in the few weeks prior to Thanksgiving. But why the change?

We anticipate this may be due to some of the modifications Facebook has made in the last year to their ad offerings. Taking a look at where the major spikes in engagement are seen in impressions, clicks, and conversions at the start of Thanksgiving week, customers were more apt to engage and convert right after the holiday, presumably for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If you take a look at mobile conversions on Google, we also see a spike on November 28th for Black Friday that is 250% above what we see for the rest of November.

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Did this trend hold true for you as well? Share any developments you may have noticed in your own campaigns in the comments section below.

Winter is Coming! Prepare Your Strategy for the Arctic Blast

By November 11th, 2014

Remember the Polar Vortex that hit in January? Well grab your warmest coat, because forecasters are predicting another bout of frigid temperatures across much of the United States later this week. As the mercury drops and the arctic blast sweeps the country, consumers will be cozying up inside… which has some very real implications for digital marketers.

Let’s take a look at the data from the last Polar Vortex. Marin found that search impression volumes were 1500% higher than historic trends, whereas click volume and spend only increased 268% and 79% respectively. This indicates that consumers weathered out the storm by shopping online, but it also shows that advertisers missed out on a captive audience and failed to fully optimize for the dramatic shift in purchase behavior.

So as people across the country brace for the cold, marketers should be busy preparing too. This is an excellent opportunity to reach holiday shoppers who will be staying indoors. To make sure your online marketing strategy is ready, consider boosting bids for retail and seasonal items. And if you’re using Marin, we recommend leveraging Dynamic Actions or Context Connect to adjust audiences, creative, and bidding across relevant campaigns.

For more ways to capitalize on external information such as weather data, download your copy of The Hidden Power of Optimizing for Competitive Spend, Weather, and the Second Screen Effect. And stay warm out there!

Now Trending: Consumers Browse Bing for B2B Services

By October 21st, 2014

Historically, Bing has always been the primary contender when it comes to search engine share in the US. However, this Q3 we saw a significant benchmark for Bing where it had overtaken Google in impression share. In the B2B services vertical, Bing edged past Google, capturing 52% to Google’s 48% in the US.

Bing’s impression share for the B2B services vertical has always hovered closer to parity than other verticals, with 44% of all impressions last quarter, but this is the first quarter we’ve seen it overtake Google.

What does this mean for advertisers?

While it could be a fluke, it also signals a change in consumer behavior. The target audience of B2B advertisers has begun searching slightly more on Bing than Google, at least in Q3. This could be due to a few different factors:

  1. 1. The demographic of people searching for B2B services skews more towards Bing, which has always had an older audience, and are perhaps further along in their careers than the average Google user.
  2. 2. The amount of research needed before a purchase decision is made is high for the B2B services industry. It makes sense that the consumer would weigh his or her options and do their homework before any decisions are made. All this adds up to a lot of impressions, and particularly, Bing impressions.

What we don’t see is a corresponding percentage of spend and clicks on Bing. Advertisers have yet to adjust for this slow shift away from Google towards Bing and there is an opportunity for a B2B marketer to capture cheap clicks by shifting some share of ad budget away from Google towards Bing.

Do you have any additional thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment below to continue the conversation.

Cross-Channel Advertising: Focus on the Consumer, Not the Channel

By October 17th, 2014

As buyers, when we set out to make a purchase, we often use 2, 3 maybe even 10 different sources of information over the course of 20-30 days that span across multiple digital channels and devices. In fact, according to Google, more than 65% of revenue comes from purchases that involve multiple touch points and 47% of revenue comes from purchases that span across several days.

What does all this prove? Well, as online advertisers it’s important to target consumers across channels. Not a ground-breaking statement in itself. However, as we’ve been thinking about a cross-channel strategy in terms of advertising within channels, we’ve been getting it all wrong. As the consumer’s purchase journey has become increasingly fragmented across channels we shouldn’t have been looking to optimize our ad spend across channels, we should have been looking to optimize our ad spend and messaging to individual consumers across these different channels.

To understand what I mean by this, we need to take a look back over the history of online advertising across channels and consider the evolution.

In the beginning there was individual channel optimization

As we look back on online advertising’s evolution, it started out quite simply. In the beginning the consumers path-to-conversion wasn’t so fragmented, as they didn’t have as many options as they do today online. Meanwhile, advertisers were just getting to grips with channels such as search marketing, online display advertising, email marketing, affiliate marketing etc. These channels were so new and under optimized that we didn’t think across channels, we just thought how we could squeeze more out of our individual siloed online advertising channels.

Then there was cross-channel attribution

The internet moved on. Consumers had an array of online advertising channels, social networks ballooned enabling more peer-to-peer purchase recommendations. At the same time advertisers were getting to grips with individual channels, and maximizing the potential of their individual siloed channels. This led them to begin looking across channels and optimizing online advertising holistically deciding if they could invest dollars from one channel more effectively in another channel based on a portfolio approach.

Now there is individually tailored advertising across channels

The world has moved on again. A more open and connected digital world has delivered consumers even more devices and channels to the point where an individual consumer path-to-conversion across channels and devices is close to unique. As advertisers we’re also increasingly seeing the application of first- and third-party audience data to online advertising optimization. This helps you identify a consumer and their key demographic info, then apply that knowledge to firstly identify if it’s the right kind of prospect for your brand and then target them across online channels with a more personalized message. In this era of online advertising we as marketers need to think more about targeting the consumer as oppose to the channel with our advertising dollars and messaging, considering how we can apply audience data to our cross-channel online advertising strategies.

Back-to-School Jumpstarts Click-Through Rates

By September 4th, 2014

Summer is winding down and school is just about ready to start again. Back-to-school supplies and events are already on the minds of students everywhere and this is the perfect time for companies in the retail and education vertical to double down on their products for students. Back-to-school behavior is similar to the holidays, in that retailers begin marketing to consumers earlier and earlier every year – and this year is no different.

Historically, back-to-school begins in mid-August and it’s easy to tell when consumers and advertisers begin searching for back-to-school related topics. We took a look at our clients in the education and retail verticals across 2012 and 2013 to understand just how much this change in consumer behavior affected search. For users in the retail vertical, search clicks grew an average of 6% in August and September, when compared to July and search click-through rates grew 2% during the same period. The effect was even more pronounced in our education vertical, where search clicks jumped an average of 28% and search click-through rates jumped 22% across the same period, signaling the effect of back-to-school hitting consumer awareness. Based on this historical data, we predict we’ll see similar behavior across the back-to-school season this year and have already begun seeing the start of this in the past few weeks.

Search, Meet Display. Display, Meet Search.

By July 28th, 2014

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the display world become increasingly programmatic and biddable, whilst search marketers have been looking for new ways to optimize campaigns. This has created a crossbreeding of skills and minds in the two areas, resulting in the search world using display tactics, and the display world using search tactics.

Here are four ways we’ve seen tactics crossover in search and display:

  1. 1) Search Marketers Target Using Audience Data – For years keyword targeting has been bread and butter for search marketers, as they targeted keywords relevant to their products or services. This was the beauty of search, as consumers are hit with your advertising at the time at which they demonstrate purchase intent. Meanwhile, display has been purchased based on targeting an audience that is most likely to click and convert. However, search marketers have recently been adding this audience layer to search targeting through integration of data from Data Management Platforms (DMPs) to their search targeting. This enables the targeting of consumers who are searching for particular products or services and are most likely to convert. For example, the team over at MoneySuperMarket have been adding audience targeting to their search optimization by integrating BlueKai with Marin Software.
  2. 2) Search Marketers Using Images in Creative – Search marketers have typically worked with just text in their creative, whilst display advertisers have used a combination of images and text. However, the growth of Google Shopping campaigns has generated an increasing number of images on search engine results pages in the retail industry. This means search marketers are now learning from their display colleagues how to optimize image-based creative. Search Meet Display
  3. 3) Display Advertisers Using Search Intent Data – With search marketers learning how to use audience data to better target search ads, display advertisers have taken search intent data the other way. It’s now possible to take purchase intent consumers show by searching for products and services on search engines like Google and Bing, and use that data to retarget consumers who didn’t purchase through display. For me, this bi-directional shift of data has been the most valuable thing to come out of search and display crossbreeding.
  4. 4) Display Advertisers Using a CPC / Auction-Based Buying Model – Search marketers have grown up buying advertising on a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) basis, whilst display advertisers have predominantly purchased ads on a Cost-Per-Impression (CPM) basis. However, the IAB estimate programmatic trading accounted for £500m of display advertising spend in the UK last year. This means display advertising is increasingly purchased using CPCs in an auction model. This has led to display advertisers having to learn how to purchase media through an auction model on a per-click basis, and it has led to a huge demand for more mathematical skills from search in display advertising.

Overall, this crossbreeding has created huge opportunities for search and display advertising but there are still two challenges this lays down for advertisers. Firstly, how do you structure your search, display and digital teams in this new, more integrated world? Secondly, how do you create the workflows and decide on your technology setup to most efficiently manage across the two merging channels?

Search & Social Score Big at World Cup

By June 30th, 2014

If your office is anything like ours, you’ve been tuning in for some very exciting World Cup games. We’ve seen crazy fans, incredible level of play, and even an unfortunate chomp to the shoulder. Through all this, hopefully you’ve been paying attention to your digital strategy, because it turns out that the World Cup has had a huge impact on consumer behavior. Let’s take a closer look…

SOCIAL:

  • There are already more social media posts about the 2014 World Cup than the 2010 World Cup. Pretty crazy, considering this milestone was achieved even before the group stage actually began.
  • Facebook CTR increased over 300% when compared to the same period last year, signaling increased engagement and targeted ads.
  • Facebook CPC has also been trending upwards, growing 11% since the beginning of the month when compared to May 2014. During the same period last year, CPC actually fell between May and June.

Twitter hashtag flags

SEARCH:

  • Search CTR has increased by 22% since the World Cup started. This is in stark contrast to May and June of 2013, when CTR actually dropped.
  • CPC has also gone up 9.5%, with increased competition to capture consumer interest during event. CPC remained constant in May and June of last year.

Google World Cup doodle

Once the tournament moves to the single-elimination stage, there’s no doubt that more and more eyes will be on the screen. We’ll all be searching and posting as we wait to see who will become the next world champion!

Mom or Dad, Who Do We Love More? Paid Search Confirms

By June 20th, 2014

Here’s a fun little analysis we did.

Now that Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are behind us, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the paid search activity around each of these holidays. While it wasn’t surprising Mother’s Day came out ahead, the disparity was.

Let’s start with ad spend. Advertisers doubled down on Mother’s Day. Literally. During the week leading up to Mother’s Day, ad spend for search was 110% higher than spend for Father’s Day. The story was similar with impressions and clicks. Ad impressions were twice as high for Mother’s Day and clicks were 86% higher. Advertisers clearly put more wood behind the arrow when it came to Mother’s Day.

But not all was hopeless for Father’s Day. Click-through rate (CTR) and cost-per click (CPC) were both better for Father’s Day. The CTR for Father’s Day was 6% higher than Mother’s Day and CPC was 11% lower for Father’s Day. Advertisers got slightly more bang for their buck with Father’s Day.

On a social context, the data does seem to confirm people favor Mother’s Day over Father’s Day. Sorry Dads.

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