Last week, the Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference wheeled its way into London. Marin was heavily involved across the three-day conference with Clive Morris, Matt Ackley and Jon Myers speaking in multiple sessions. I just wanted to wrap up three key trends from across the show:
1) The Rise of PLAs
As our white paper The State of Google Shopping found, there is no stopping the growth of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in the e-commerce industry. Chris Howard, Head of Digital at Shop Direct Group, said that PLAs are one reason why paid search is interesting again. He also mentioned that they generate better ROI for retailers than traditional PPC.
Brendan Almack and Alan Coleman at Wolfgang Digital ran a great session, diving into detail on PLAs. They shared these useful insights:
2) Audience Data in Search
With SERPs becoming more personalized and advertisers increasingly targeting people – not keywords or positions – we talked a lot about how audiences and audience data can be integrated into both paid and organic search.
Ian Carrington, Director of Performance, Northern and Central Europe at Google introduced Retargeting Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) into the conversation during the very first session on day one of SES London. Ian recommended using RLSA remarketing if you want cheaper CPAs and increased conversions, which is a no-brainer for most advertisers.
Marin Software’s Matt Ackley and Jon Myers both suggested that audience data is the next frontier in search. In reference to our recent integration with BlueKai, both said it’s essential to understand and utilize audience data, because it will make your PPC more strategic. Matt also speculated that Google could eventually use its own user data to bring audience targeting and analytics even further into paid search. For example, you might have the ability to adjust bids for searchers with different incomes and family sizes.
3) Context Increasingly Plays a Role in Search
With recent algorithm updates across paid and natural search, the impact of context on search was a also hot topic. Matt Ackley talked about how context is going to become more integrated with search, for example by integrating weather forecasts to adjust your bidding strategy.
Allistair Dent, Director of Paid Media at Periscopix, agreed saying that Google AdWords new features will use the enhanced campaigns structure, where context is just as important as keywords and other targeting. He suggested blending contextual items together to make decisions about your audience. For example, if a user is searching for your brand near your store, then you can send them to a special local-focused landing page.
Were you at SES London? If so, let us know what you thought in the comments!
All eyes were on the gridiron this Sunday for Super Bowl XLVIII, although the stiffest competition this weekend wasn’t between the Seahawks and the Broncos, but between auto advertisers.
Even with every 30 seconds of ad-time costing $4 million, car advertisers were lining up to compete for consumer attention during the Super Bowl. Chrysler even spent about $16 million for a two-minute ad!
So how did this translate into the digital advertising arena?
To understand this, we took a look at clicks and paid-search for the auto industry on Super Bowl Sunday and compared it across our US clients. Our findings were pretty incredible. When looking at paid search trends across the auto industry on Super Bowl Sunday versus the previous Sunday, we saw a staggering 35% jump in impressions and a 39% jump in clicks. In addition, auto advertisers spent 79% more on paid search during Super Bowl Sunday. This translated to a CPC increase of 29% for auto advertisers.
In contrast, across all our US clients from various verticals and industries, we saw 2% growth in ad spend and a 7% increase in cost-per-click on Super Bowl Sunday.
For auto advertisers, this jump in impressions and clicks on Super Bowl Sunday means that they were successful in capturing the minds of the Super Bowl audience, resulting in top-of-mind awareness and increased interest across viewers. Predictably, many auto advertisers also increased ad spend online in conjunction with their TV ads, in order to capture as much view share as possible within the highly-competitive window of time during the Super Bowl.
So even though the Seattle-Denver matchup was quite a blowout, the auto companies came ready to compete!
Your day is already busy, but it pays to stay in the loop on what’s happening in ad tech and digital marketing. What industry advancements should we expect? Is that a new ad type? Google is doing what?! Thankfully there are a lot of great resources out there for digital marketers. Here are some of our favorites:
Digital Marketing Blogs and Websites
1) Bruce Clay - Head over to the Bruce Clay blog for best practices, including non-obvious ones that can help you go the extra mile. (@BruceClayInc).
2) Econsultancy - Check out Econsultancy for lots of great examples and best practices (@Econsultancy).
3) eMarketer - Visit eMarketer for articles with big data and a global view (@eMarketer).
4) Inside Facebook - Keep up with everything Facebook (@InsideFB).
5) MediaPost SearchMarketing Daily - A great place to find search news, trends, and big announcements (@mediapost).
6) Mobile Marketing Watch - Mobile marketing continues to grow, making this a good site to bookmark (@mobileMW).
7) Search Engine Journal - Learn something new from the real in-house and independent internet marketers that post here. Like the Upworthy of search blogs (@sejournal).
8) Search Engine Land - Check out their handy guides and regular topical news updates (@sengineland).
9) Search Engine Roundtable – This blog delves into topics from SEM forums, giving you expert views and in-depth coverage (@seroundtable).
10) Search Engine Watch - This easy-to-navigate site has very informative PPC and Social tabs (@sewatch).
11) PPC Hero – Great PPC blog with a cheeky super-hero theme (@ppchero). What more could you ask for?
12) PPC Ian - Ian Lopuch is an industry online marketing professional. His blog is fun to read, and features real-world insights and video content (@ianlopuch).
The Big Publisher Blogs
13) Bing Ads Blog
15) PPC Chat – Join marketing professionals across the Twittersphere as they discuss a new PPC topic each week (Tuesday, 9am EST). Use and follow the #PPCchat hashtag.
16) Thought leaders – Spice up your Twitter feed with smart (and often entertaining!) industry professionals and journalists. Try @mattcutts, @larrykim, @dannysullivan, @TheGrok, @RolfeWinkler, @LaurieSullivan, and @Matt_Umbro to start.
17) Looks like you already found our Marin Marketing Insights blog! Subscribe to our RSS feed to get regular updates as we push out great new content in 2014. Also find us on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
Do you have any favorite resources you’d like to share with our readers? Drop us a line in the comments!
Online shoppers spent over $42 billion last year in November and December, a 14% increase over 2011. Undoubtedly, the next month and a half will represent the busiest and most profitable period for online retailers. To capitalize on this growing revenue opportunity, advertisers must identify the most critical days throughout the 2013 holiday season and prepare their campaigns in advance. To help, Marin released the annual search marketers’ guide to holiday preparedness last week, highlighting the key dates for retailers to mark on their campaign calendar and providing best practices for a successful holiday season. The key dates are summarized below:
Early Shopping – November, with the help of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, will continue to represent a critical time period for retailers to engage and convert shoppers turning out early for “site-busting” deals and promotions.
Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) – Thanksgiving drove one of the five biggest days during the 2012 holiday season in terms of search volume with spend increasing 59% and CPC increasing 22% compared to 2011.
Black Friday (Nov. 29) – Search interest was at its highest on Black Friday 2012. Expect Black Friday to continue driving a significant share of clicks and revenue during this holiday season.
Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) – Cyber Monday continues to drive significant click volume with impressive revenue per click (RPC). Undoubtedly, Cyber Monday will represent a significant share of online revenue for retailers this year.
December Sundays – In 2012, and similarly in 2011, retail search interest peaked on Sundays. The only exception was the Saturday before Christmas, which saw more search activity than Sunday.
(Click to view larger.)
Now that you have a general understanding of the key dates, be sure to set up your holiday campaigns and ad creative in advance. That means aligning your promotional calendar with keywords and ad creative, and avoiding editorial review by pushing out campaigns prior to launch. Once the holiday season begins, you won’t have much time. For additional best practices on holiday preparedness, read The Search Marketers’ 10-Minute Optimization Guide for the Holidays.
We were delighted to welcome 130 of our European clients to No. 5 Cavendish Square last week for our Marin Masters London event. The event was sponsored by Yahoo, Bing and ResponseTap with speakers from Econsultancy, lastminute.com, American Express, iProspect, Mediacom and MoneySupermarket. We were also energized by polar explorer Alan Chambers, who shared stories from the Arctic to inspire the audience in their everyday work.
For those who couldn’t be there, I wanted to quickly round-up some of the key themes from the day:
Data’s great, but do something with it.
The term “big data” has been bandied around the industry a lot lately. However, the overwhelming theme of this day was, “Big Data is all well and good, but how do you turn that into actions which optimise revenue outcomes?” Along this theme, Mike Shaw kicked things off by sharing comScore’s latest 2013 data. For instance, 86% of 25-34 year olds no longer rely on computer-based internet access exclusively. Later, we heard great case studies from ResponseTap and MoneySupermarket, showing how advertisers are taking all sorts of interesting on- and offline data and turning it into actions which optimise revenue through the Marin Software platform.
Multi-platform strategies are a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
ResponseTap, comScore and the Yahoo Bing Network all drew attention to the importance of a multi-platform strategy by highlighting images similar to the one below courtesy of comScore. Each company also brought their own data emphasizing how the use of smartphones dominates in the morning, computers during the day, and tablets in the evening. Three separate data sources showing the same story underscore the reality of this trend, and the fact advertisers must react with a strategy encompassing every device.
Audience and contextual data are the future of optimisation.
Everyone is looking for new ways to optimise, and there was a lot of talk about what new data sources could be integrated into online advertising for better effectiveness. Two of the big data sources discussed were audience data and contextual data. We’ve already considered in a blog post how audience data is helping advertisers better optimise Facebook ads through Custom Audiences. But to take things a step further, conversation also focused on how offline contextual data, such as weather or stock price fluctuations, is helping advertisers further optimise their online advertising.
Facebook advertising is working!
Finally, our own Rebecca Muir shared how Facebook’s post-IPO ad innovation is helping advertisers drive incremental revenue. Mobile innovation, News Feed ads, and Custom Audiences are great opportunities for advertisers to achieve good ROI through the Marin Software platform.
Thanks to all our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making Marin Masters London a great event with lots of insight and conversation. As for the biggest takeaway – it’s simply not enough to have loads of data sitting around and collecting dust. You must use that data to optimise revenue.
It’s hard to believe that, when compared to other media like print and TV, the World Wide Web is still the new kid on the block. I still remember laughing at my Dad, a software engineer, some 20+ years ago when he told us one day we’d all be watching television through our computers. How short-sighted of me…
Like any other form of mass media, stoking the fire of growth are a whole lot of ad dollars – $503 billion of them if you believe ZenithOptimedia’s forecast. Much of what we enjoy doing on the Internet carries a price tag, which providers have to fund through fees or advertising. Since people like “free” things, advertising often gets the call. Television and radio followed a similar model, and print was the first to pioneer it nearly 200 years ago.
In 1993, right about the same time my dad predicted we’d all be crowded around a computer watching our favorite shows, Tim O’Reilly and Global Network Navigator sold the first clickable Web ad. Banner ads made their debut a year later followed GoTo.com’s (acquired by Yahoo) first search advertising keyword auction in 1998. Google and Adwords arrived a few years later.
We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years, and while what the Internet may bring next remains a mystery, we can be sure advertising will play a role. In fact, by 2015 ZenithOptimedia predicts Internet ad spend will rank second only to television. In the US alone, advertisers will spend over $130 billion.
The initial response to the rise of digital advertising is to cast bets on the doom of print and radio. Fortunately, as TechCrunch points out, the mediums appear to be surviving. Remember, a print publication typically has an online version funded largely by advertising – it’s where a lot of those retargeting ads pop up.
It’s important to remember that the rise of digital marketing is accompanied by the rise of the Ad Tech industry. Unlike print and radio ads, digital advertising can be measured with a solid degree of accuracy, and if it can be measured it can be optimized. Enter the Ad Tech industry and management platforms like Marin Software.
I’m sure buying a television ad is a lot easier today than it was 50 years ago, but for the most part the process still requires a lot of human interaction. There’s a good chance someone from Fox is playing golf with someone from Coca Cola this week in anticipation of Super Bowl XLVIII. The Internet, though, moves too fast for golf-course deals. Hence the rise of ad exchanges, retargeting, and programmatic buying and accompanying Ad Tech companies like Criteo and RocketFuel.
And, the only hope an advertiser has of placing an ad on one of those mobile devices we carry with us wherever we go is through some form of digital advertising, whether that’s an in-app or browser based ad. As mobile continues its meteoric rise, Ad Tech will be right there capturing all the impressions, clicks, and conversions.
Further down the road, I suspect we’ll see the Ad Tech industry start tying television viewership to digital marketing revenue. At which point, Ad Tech won’t be connected just to Internet advertising. Already we’re seeing signs of this, with CRM data, call tracking, and offline conversion data being pumped into ad management platforms, expanding the platforms’ roles from simple bid management duties to determining customer life-time value and more. Given the rate of innovation, it’s only a matter of time till Ad Tech plays a central role across all advertising channels.
The 90-minute discussion covered four topics: SERP changes, verticalization, data and encryption, and mobile. Panelists were Joseph Kerschbaum – Senior Client Strategist at 3Q Digital, Frank Kochenash – VP Products & Services at Mercent, and Gagan Kanwar – Director of Partnerships & Research at Marin Software. Here are the highlights:
SERP Will Continue to Change
Search engine giants like Google and Bing will continue their focus on improving user experience by rolling out new features that are responsive to consumers’ needs. Some of the interesting predictions include: 1) product listing ads and local targeting ads will continue to grow and evolve, 2) paid search listings will become more prominent in the SERP, and 3) listings are likely to become shorter. Search engine marketers should get prepared to change course as we go along and adapt to the changes in real time.
Vertical search engine type of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Amazon have entered the mix of search investment. Marketers who advertised there reported decent ROI despite relatively low volume. Diversification of search efforts and investment beyond just Google will become the norm as the consumer shopping journey is now more fragmented. More complex media planning involving more engines/sites will also emerge. Advanced 3rd-party platforms like Marin can provide a simple and seamless experience for agencies and advertisers to consolidate search activities across different engines/sites.
Data and Encryption
Data strategy and DMP will become a key piece for digital agencies and marketers. Demographic multiplier that works like mobile multiplier in Google enhanced campaigns is an interesting prediction made by one panelist. Target audience persona needs to be thought through when we get away from keywords and think about the people behind the searches.
Google recently announced that it will begin encrypting search queries from organic listings regardless of whether a user is signed into their Google account. By doing this, Google is one step closer to building a self-contained ecosystem. For marketers, it means that SEO and SEM teams need to work together more closely. While user behavior varies between clicks on organic and paid listings, paid search query data still provide valuable insights for SEO.
Mobile is now at a place where Social was a year ago. People are still trying to understand its value. Marketers need to define clear goals and KPIs before they invest in mobile. Not only are mobile optimized sites necessary, but mobile optimized content is also crucial for conversion rate. In most cases, consumers are probably looking for different information on their mobile devices than on desktops.
Cross-device tracking and retargeting is a hot topic. Google recently rolled out estimated total conversions that aim to address the conversion attribution among devices and between offline/online channels. Companies like Facebook and Amazon, where users usually sign in to their unique accounts on different devices, have advantages in terms of mobile retargeting.
No matter what changes will eventually come along in 2014, the magic bullets in SEM remain the same: Employ effective search strategies and tactics to drive traffic to your sites/landing pages. Build compelling creatives that differentiate your brand in the marketplace. Invest in landing page conversion optimization to improve conversion rate, which will ultimately impact the bottom line.
With the amount of data now available to digital marketers, they’re in danger of becoming data squirrels that hoard data but do nothing with it. There aren’t enough analysts in the world or hours in the day to manually analyse all the available data, and crucially, turn it into actions which optimise revenue outcomes.
The modern day digital marketer needs to consider how to turn all the data they have into actions which optimise revenue outcomes through advertising technology. To do this they need to understand the three layers of advertising technology:
What you don’t measure, you can’t manage. Analytics platforms gave marketers the tools they needed to finally end the age-old problem of not knowing which half of their advertising is working and which half isn’t. Measurement is crucial, and it’s exactly why digital marketing has had the sensational growth rate it has.
However, whilst analytics is vital, when in a silo it can’t help marketers understand how and when customers interact with multiple channels. Furthermore, it doesn’t interpret the data into campaign adjustments which optimise revenue outcomes.
Whilst analytics platforms have gathered data for marketers, the attribution technology layer is what helps them make sense of that data. Attribution has been a hot topic for marketers over the last few years as they’ve looked to understand their consumers’ path-to-conversion, and how to better allocate marketing budget and tailor messaging as a result.
However, whilst attribution platforms make recommendations on how to better allocate spend, they don’t implement these changes. For example, attribution platforms do not translate their output into bid recommendations for particular keywords on search engines or banners on display networks.
The final layer of digital marketing technology is the optimisation layer. These technologies take the data from the previous two layers and turn them into actions that optimise revenue outcomes for the marketer. They drive incremental performance gains and time savings.
However, these platforms would struggle to do anything without the data provided by the previous two layers of digital marketing technology. Data is the lifeblood of the marketing technology architecture, and without it the key final layer of optimisation couldn’t happen.
It’s worth considering that not every layer in digital marketing technology needs the same label on it. It’s a bit like choosing shampoo and conditioner; just because you prefer shampoo from Brand A doesn’t mean you can’t buy conditioner from Brand B if you prefer. The same applies to marketing technology, focus on finding the best technology in each layer. Today’s enterprise technology world is open and connected, best-of-breed technologies can facilitate data flow between themselves seamlessly.
After several days of rumors, Facebook announced today it will be adding video sharing capabilities to its growing photo sharing application Instagram.
This news should prove to be exciting to Instagram’s growing, loyal user base. Since purchasing Instagram last year, the Facebook-owned app has flourished. According to a recent SimplyMeasured study, user adoption has jumped 600% in just a year, growing from 22 million active monthly users to nearly 130 million monthly active users. This data shows users value an easy-to-use channel for sharing and viewing personal “moments” within their social network. It is likely that users will show the same desire and affinity towards sharing video clips ranging from their vacations, travel, sporting events within their social network.
But brands have just as much of a reason to be excited. Since the Facebook acquisition, brand adoption on Instagram has also skyrocketed, according to SimplyMeasured’s study of 100 leading brands. According to the study, 67% of the top 100 brands now on Instagram as of May 1, 2013. This number jumped an impressive 14% from February 1, making it the fastest growing social network for brands this quarter. As user engagement and photo sharing increases on Instagram, marketers will be keeping a close eye on engagement with video. As video has proven to be the most engaging form of media, brands may take an advantage of an opportunity to share videos on Instagram as well.
Even more interesting is how adding video sharing to Instagram could fit into Facebook’s broader business strategy. Facebook has long discussed the importance of video sharing and is likely to formally introduce to its advertisers this fall. But what could video on Instagram mean for marketers? While Facebook has held off on introducing ads on Instagram, today’s product launch suggests it may be heading in this direction in the future. Video is likely to increase engagement and sharing amongst brands and Instagram users, a key component of advertising today on Facebook. And, if Facebook does provide advertisers with access to Instagram user data, what ad formats would they make available? Could videos eventually serve pre or post-roll ad units? Could Facebook allow brands to suggest videos to Instagram users based on audience data provided through Facebook? Could Instagram be another publisher added to Facebook’s Ad Exchange? Only the future can tell.
With video sharing, Instagram may also capture user market share from YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine. It will be interesting to see how app user and visitor trends fluctuate with both Vine and YouTube due to this new capability on Instagram.
Earlier this week, I started to take a look at the top 10 biggest changes to happen in the paid search industry over the last decade plus. From ad rotation settings to device targeting, search marketers have certainly seen our fair share of new features and innovations. Today, I’ll reveal the top five biggest changes in paid search history:
5. Google enhanced campaigns
Some might argue this should be higher on the list. But before we bump it higher on the list, let’s wait and see how it all plays out after July. Google is fundamentally changing the way search marketers manage and optimize their AdWords campaigns. The migration to Google enhanced campaigns will place all device targeting capabilities under the roof of a single campaign, along with the ability to set mobile bid adjustments at the campaign and group level.
Theories differ on what the long term impact of enhanced campaigns will be on paid search performance, but what all search marketers can agree upon is the importance of a successful migration where enhanced campaigns are optimized to ensure post-migration success. We’ve invested too much time structuring and optimizing our campaigns to meet our business needs to dismiss enhanced campaigns as a minor change that will have minimal impact on paid search performance. If I recreated this list a year from now, I wouldn’t be surprised if enhanced campaigns were much higher on this list, but until we know more, I’m happy keeping it at number five.
4. Google Product Listing Ads
Google PLAs have been a game-changer for those in the online retail space. Managing listings are now easier, the listings are more accurate and up-to-date, and the ads themselves stand out and are more engaging. Though you still need to optimize to get your listings to show, one can argue PLAs are much more effective than traditional text ads, especially when attempting to advertiser your entire product catalog.
3. AdWords Desktop Editor
Though not as vital as it was when it was first introduced some eight years ago, the AdWords Desktop Editor paved the way for the next generation of platforms and tools for managing paid search campaigns at scale. Those of you who managed paid search in 2004 or earlier understand how much more difficult it was back then using just the AdWords interface and spreadsheets—plenty of manual toggling between campaigns, and much more time-consuming workflows for creating or editing keywords and ads. When Google introduced the offline desktop editor, it transformed the way search marketers managed and made changes within our search accounts. Now publishers like Bing and Facebook have their own offline desktop editors.
Would you like to add multiple, deeper links to your search ads? Yes, please! Though they don’t show up for all keywords, ad sitelinks creates a big incentive for search marketers to get relevant and push ads to the top of the search engine results page. The ability to include additional links within a search ad enables search marketers to not only increase the ads’ real estate, but also provide users with more relevant, deep-linked landing pages. The combination of the two has enabled sitelinks to increase ad CTRs for the keywords they are eligible to show for.
1. Quality Score visibility
Finally, the secret formula was revealed! Well, not really. One of the biggest mysteries and challenges for search marketers was understanding the relevancy of our keywords and what exactly determined their competitiveness and cost. Once Google revealed the concept of Quality Score and the variables that influence it, search marketers became obsessed. All management and optimizing strategies from that moment on was predicated around improving Quality Score. Gone is the guess-work in figuring out what keyword, ad, or landing page changes will have the greatest impact. Now we know the factors of relevancy that Google deems most important, and we’re able to better manage and optimize our accounts to improve and maximize long-term performance.
There you have it, my list of the top 10 biggest paid search changes. Chances are your list, if you choose to create one, will vary from mine. If that’s the case, please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below and let me know why you’d rank one change higher than another.