Archive for ‘Trends’

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…


  • 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 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.

Paid Search Worthless? The Other Side of the Coin.

By June 17th, 2014

There’s been some new stories recently about a report eBay did last year claiming that paid search for large brands was pretty much worthless. Many of these stories are focused on the fact that online advertising is not living up to its promise. Obviously this caught my eye because I oversaw digital marketing for eBay – a team of over 300 people back in the day when we built our own systems. This was a question we constantly studied in a number of different ways during my 5 year tenure in the role. We even tested it more explicitly by completing turning off Google for over 10 days during eBay live back in 2007. :)

This quote stood out from the study: “We find that SEM accounted for a statistically significant increase in new registered users and purchases made by users who bought only one or two items the year before. For consumers who bought more frequently, SEM does not have a significant effect on their purchasing behavior. We calculate that the short-term returns on investment for SEM were negative because more frequent eBay shoppers are accountable for most of paid search sales.”

It is important to keep in mind every advertiser on paid search is not like eBay. In fact, very few businesses in the world enjoy the brand awareness and penetration eBay does. However, there are two other factors to keep in mind when looking at this data.
1) The importance of understanding user acquisition and CLV? Too often search marketers get the value of the transaction and not on the value of the acquired user. Notice the part of the statement above that discusses new users. It is important to understand that paid search is a great acquisition channel. When considering the ROI of your advertising spend it is important to attribute some percentage of the Customer Lifetime Value to the acquisition channel. We did that very early on at eBay and it had a large impact on our ROI. This was the right move. However, a company the size of eBay has less Americans to acquire and more of the paid search activity becomes retention related. It is at this point that pure transaction value may not meet certain ROI hurdles when compared to other channels.

2) Search now has a way to solve the retention vs. acquisition problem? With the recent introduction of Audience buying in search through Google’s RLSA feature, this problem can now be solved. Google and companies like Marin allow you to create audience segments for search and adjust bidding and creative appropriately. In the case mentioned above, create a segment for “frequent ebay shoppers” and bid appropriately. We have customers at Marin who create segments for loyal users and choose to bid them down in search knowing that they will find their site directly or through some other organic channel like SEO. This approach can be applied rather simply to brand terms and then you can expand it from there. I know eBay has the capability to identify these users very easily. If you don’t want to risk abandoning your brand terms for fear of competition, you might want to change the creative to take advantage of an upsell opportunity. In the case of eBay, I know the CLV of an eBay user increases when they buy in more than one category. You could go so far as segment frequent users per category and only show them ads when they are looking for something outside of their normal category of purchase. There are many ways to break down this challenge to drive more efficiency in your advertising spend.

Back to the promise of online advertising. It’s alive and well. The same tools and techniques that made search advertising such a promising medium have been transferred to other channels. Advertisers now have the ability to combine the intent data of search with the audience data from various sources to move us closer to the goal of true personalization in advertising. While we don’t quite have the ability to fully solve Wannamaker’s conundrum, I feel we are getting closer every day.

Ramping Up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup

By June 10th, 2014

Since Friday, World Cup fever has been in full swing as the qualifier matches kicked off. Football fans around the world are watching as their favorite teams win and lose on the path to Brazil. However, for marketers and advertisers, it’s a race to see who can leverage this massive opportunity to reach their target audience.

Excitement and online conversation about the World Cup has been continually increasing since last year. That interest has peaked in the last month. The number of World Cup social media posts has already surpassed the 2010 World Cup (check out Twitter hashflags and Facebook’s Trending World Cup page), and the second-screen effect is being felt strongly as consumers watch games and advertising. It is evident that there is a large audience just waiting to be tapped through digital marketing channels during this worldwide event.

Google Trends World Cup

Retailers should pay special attention to the World Cup. When studying our retail clients across the European market for the first week June, we saw CTR over double that of the same period last year. And on June 7th alone, CTR spiked dramatically over the rest of the month while CPCs jumped over 500%, signaling increased competition from retailers vying for consumer attention.

This is only the beginning of World Cup fever, so we expect more and more interest as we draw closer to the main event. If you haven’t already, you should begin adjusting your marketing strategy for the World Cup before it passes you by.

4 Tips to Reach the Dual-Screening World Cup Consumer on Facebook

By June 2nd, 2014

As the world discusses the inclusion or non-inclusion of different highly paid footballing superstars in their country’s World Cup squads, marketers and advertisers globally are focused on exploiting one of the biggest advertising opportunities of the year.

In the 4 years since the last World Cup, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has come a long way.  During the last World Cup in 2010, for example, UK smartphone penetration was 20%, whilst this year it has more than tripled to 66.7%. Similarly, UK tablet penetration has grown from 2.8% in 2010 to 37.9% in 2014. In combination with the rise of mobile devices, eBay research found 61% of Brits admit to dual screening – watching TV whilst browsing tablets and smartphones at the same time – and 77% of Brits admit to being influenced by trends they see on TV.

This dual-screening trend, the big boost in TV viewership during the World Cup, and the fact that over 74% of Facebook users are now using the mobile app all adds up to a significant football-fueled opportunity for advertisers on Facebook. Expect Facebook feeds to be awash with World Cup conversations and discussions during the tournament, and as a marketer you need to consider how you’re going to be a part of that conversation.

Here are 4 tips to consider when setting up your Facebook campaigns for the World Cup:

1) Focus on in-feed Facebook Ads

With lots of eyes on the Facebook News Feed, this is the place to be seen during the World Cup. This is backed up by Marin Software research, which found that News Feed ads on Facebook generate a 44x higher CTR and a 5x higher conversion rate than right-side display ads. This ad format also adds mobile reach, helping to address the dual-screening challenge.

2) Think about the consumer behind the click

There’s an article making the rounds on social media at the moment called “How Football Sounds To People That Don’t Care. This Guy Nails It.” This is a timely reminder to all marketers that some people will be fed up of hearing about football, and won’t want your World Cup advertising message thrown down their throat. As such, think about the audience for your message. The beauty of Facebook targeting is it allows you to target based on interests and demographics so you can focus the message on those people who care. Also, consumers are more likely to engage with brands they already know, so consider using Custom Audiences to retarget consumers who have already engaged with your brand. Our research found that Custom Audiences delivered a 64% lower cost per conversion than standard targeting, so it is worth serious consideration during a busy period like the World Cup.

3) Keep creative fresh

As the number of marketers using Facebook quickly grows, so does the competition for high-value ad placements particularly during a period like the World Cup. As a result, it is critical that advertisers ensure their ads are as compelling and engaging as possible, especially since Facebook does not promote ads in the News Feed unless the ad maintains a high CTR. To maintain a high CTR, marketers must continually optimise, test, and improve ad creative. In particular, advertisers must pay careful attention to frequency, rotating ads to ensure they are not shown too often. When the same ads are shown to the same targets over and over, “ad fatigue” can occur – causing consumers to not only ignore your ads but become irritated by your brand. Create a rotation strategy and consider using automated creative rotation in a platform like Marin to ensure you maintain a high CTR.

4) React quickly to major events to keep creative relevant

Whilst on the theme of creative, it’s also worth considering ad relevancy during the World Cup. Being nimble and having the ability to react quickly to major events during the World Cup tournament will increase ad relevancy, engagement, and ultimately the likelihood of it going viral. Learning from the success of Oreo’s reactive marketing on social media during the Super Bowl blackout in the US in 2013, it’s important to be able to react rapidly. To execute on this strategy it’s important to either have rapid approval processes in place with your brand team or pre-load humorous creative for when the expected events happen such as England getting knocked out on penalties by Germany.

All-in-all, Facebook’s dual-screening potential during the World Cup is huge for brands. If you as a brand want to exploit it focus on the News Feed, targeting the right audience and keeping your creative both fresh and relevant.

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