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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s sophisticated advertisers know the importance of investing in Bing Ads – they’re a great way to reach over 150 million unique searchers. But even the best advertisers have room to improve. That’s why we’re excited to reveal 5 key tactics to unlock missed opportunities on Bing! Let’s get started…
You already have successful campaigns on other publishers, so why not take advantage of these on Bing as well? Consider replicating campaigns that are hitting or exceeding profitability targets, campaigns that are reaching your budget limit, or campaigns that are on the cusp of profitability and could benefit from a reasonable decrease in CPC. If you’re a Marin customer, use the copy tool to quickly and easily clone your campaigns from one publisher to another.
Often the keywords you have on Bing do not match up with the keywords you have on other publishers, so it’s worth taking a look at this discrepancy. Moving profitable keywords is a great way to get additional volume in a way that improves overall performance. To do this, identify your top-performing keywords on other publishers and check to see if they’re also on Bing. In Marin, you can again use the copy tool to launch those keywords on Bing.
Take a look at the Bing campaigns that are hitting your KPIs, and see which of those are also hitting your budget caps. Consider changing your daily budget on those campaigns to expand volume. In Marin, filters make it easy to identify good campaigns for this tactic, and from there you can opt to boost budgets by a dollar amount of percentage increase.
If you’re not already using them, sitelinks are a great way to maximize performance on Bing. They take up more real estate in the search engine results so you can push competitors farther down the page, plus they provide a more relevant experience for searchers through deep linking. Finally, sitelinks are known to boost CTR by 10-20%. If you’re using Marin, manage in bulk and use the copy tool to clone sitelinks between campaigns as an easy way to save time and get sitelinks live quickly.
Retailers should try Bing Product Ads as a way to increase visibility, and reach up to 31 million unique consumers who don’t use other search engines. Featuring images of the products you offer, this rich ad type takes consumers directly to a page where they can make a purchase. Additionally, they make it possible to take up more real estate on the search engine results page – even allowing for multiple listings in the form of text ads and Product Ads. Marin’s workflow allows you to manage both ad types in our platform for valuable time-savings.
Google rocked the search world this August with the announcement that they were changing the definition of Exact Match and Phrase Match to include close variants of their keywords, such as misspellings or plural variants. This caused a huge uproar from search marketers over the potential effect this could have on their search performance. Almost two months later, were their fears founded? I took a look at our Marin Global Online Advertising Index to see how performance has, or has not, changed over the last month and a half for Google Exact and Phrase Match search.
To start, I looked at click-through rates between August and October for both 2013 and 2014 for Google Exact and Phrase Search. While these searches make up only about 3% of all Google searches, this still means billions of impressions daily. Surprisingly, I found no real change in CTR trends between 2013 and 2014. While there is a small drop the week of the change, this is also mirrored in CTR behavior in 2013 on the same dates.
On the cost-per-click side, we also see very similar trends to 2013. While there is a jump in CPC during mid-September, we see a similar jump in 2013. This coincides with both the beginning of the holiday season sales and back-to-school sales so this is not unexpected. While the jumps were less pronounced this year than last, overall, trends show that this change to Google Exact and Phrase Match search have not affected CTR and CPC significantly, at least not yet.
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.
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:
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.
Google recently released some early holiday goodies for retailers across a number of verticals. While dynamic remarketing (a.k.a. dynamic retargeting) on the Google Display Network (GDN) has been available since June, it had been mainly limited to retailers with a Google Merchant Center Account, notwithstanding some beta tests within the travel and education verticals. However, last week, Google rolled out further vertical support, enabling dynamic retargeting across the hotel, flight, real estate, classified, job, auto, finance, and education verticals.
Retargeting is proven to be a very effective conversion driver. However dynamic retargeting (or as Google refers to it, dynamic “remarketing”) is tailor made for retailers. Dynamic retargeting dynamically serves product-specific ads to potential customers based on the products they’ve previously viewed. This gives retailers a powerful tool to tailor creative to customers in ways that are more likely to grab their interest and drive conversions and purchases.
While many retailers have already been including dynamic retargeting as part of their marketing mix, Google’s support for some non-traditional verticals including jobs and educations, gives companies in those verticals an opportunity to dip their toes into the retargeting waters.
Although Google’s dynamic retargeting product may be a good first step for retailers wading into retargeting, sophisticated marketers are likely to find some Google’s new offering lacking in a number of ways.
Google’s remarketing product is limited to only displaying ads on sites that the Google Display Network reaches. The display world is much more fragmented than the search world, and GDN is just one of the many ad exchanges that serve display ads across the Web. GDN only accounts for a plurality of the display inventory available on the web which means advertisers advertising on GDN alone would be missing out on a majority of display impressions across the Web. The missed opportunity is significant. Essentially, retargeting on GDN alone is akin to only running search ads on Bing.
Equally important to note is AdWords lack of reach on Facebook. Study after study has shown the incremental value of marketing across multiple channels. In fact, Marin recently released a white paper on retargeting, which found that advertisers using the Perfect Audience retargeting platform to retarget on both Display and Facebook enjoyed better returns than advertisers who were only retargeting within a single channel. Dynamic retargeting through AdWords means missing out on retargeting on Facebook, the most popular social network in the world. With over 1 billion regular users, dynamic ads via the Facebook Newsfeed and Sidebar should be a cornerstone of any retargeting strategy.
Finally, going beyond the Google walled garden is essential for savvy marketers looking to leverage tactics such as look-alike modeling to try to build new business. Currently, Google lacks a smart prospecting product rivaling Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences. Additionally, tactics such as partner retargeting with second-party data, or audience targeting using third-party data can further help marketers increase their potential customer base.
Google’s dynamic remarketing product is a good starter offering for retailers who want to test how dynamic retargeting can help their business. However, its basic capabilities combined with its lack of access to channels like Facebook and non-GDN display ad exchanges limits its usefulness as businesses grow and become more sophisticated with their marketing efforts. Even for marketers new to retargeting, using a cross-channel retargeting platform like Perfect Audience can help you get started with dynamic retargeting, but still reap the benefits that come with retargeting across channels.
While Google has long been (and still remains) the dominant search engine in the US market, there are signs that Bing is becoming more of a contender – at least in a few key verticals. Due to our curious nature, we decided to examine Google vs Bing US data over the last five quarters to see how much headway Bing has made in capturing click and spend share.
From our data gathering, we were able to see three verticals that have seen significant gains in click share since Q2 2013: B2B services, healthcare, and travel. While other verticals have seen minor fluctuations, we saw click share grow by at least 10% for these three verticals, compared to an average of 4%. In addition, we saw at least 12% spend share growth for these three industries, versus an overall spend share growth of 4% year over year.
It could be for a variety of reasons. One, Bing’s users have always skewed older than Google’s, favoring 35 and up, and especially 55-64 year olds. From this, we can infer that these users would show more interest in these three verticals than Google’s. As the economy picks up, it also makes sense that Bing’s user-base would be searching and clicking more often on ads within these verticals than on Google. People searching for B2B services would exclude a large audience of students and junior employees, who are more likely Google users. With the Affordable Care Act in play, we can surmise that the large jump in healthcare clicks is, again, an older user-base searching for information and signing up in the middle of this period, causing a sharp increase in Bing healthcare click-share. Similarly, travel may be more affordable to those with disposable income further in their careers, or heads of households, who are more likely to use Bing. In addition, these three verticals cover topics that require extensive research before a purchase decision is made, which may show that online searchers are going across multiple search platforms to do thorough research before any decisions.
What do YOU think? Feel free to leave a comment below to continue the Google vs Bing conversation.
In the US, more than 166 million people – 53% of the population – own a smartphone. We carry them with us wherever we go. So, it’s no surprise smartphones are a key target of advertisers and e-commerce providers. The vision of smartphones replacing wallets is just too good to pass up. Case in point, Apple just announced Apple Pay payment solution in conjunction with the iPhone 6 launch.
But just how likely are consumers to use their phones to make purchases outside of a new app or scheduling an Uber pickup? To gauge consumer interest in using smartphones to complete transactions, we thought we’d take a look at the performance of Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) on smartphones and desktops.
PLAs are unique in that they are predominantly used by retailers to showcase a product; so, we aren’t seeing consumers react to ads for services or information. Also, unless you’re in the market for a new Razor Scooter, odds are you aren’t going to search and click on an ad for one. Consequently, PLAs are a good barometer for getting a pulse on consumer online shopping behavior.
First off, the click-through rate (CTR) of PLAs on smartphones is higher. The gap varies, but more recently in June, 2014 the CTR of smartphones was 33% higher than desktops. This would indicate consumers seem to favor their smartphones for browsing and researching products. Makes sense. For the last few years, the story has been that smartphones are used to research but when it comes time to pulling the trigger, the transaction either takes place on a desktop or in a store. A smartphone is rarely used to complete the transaction.
To answer that question, we looked at the conversion rate of PLAs for smartphones versus desktops. Since these are ads for specific products, the likelihood of a conversion rate for a PLA being a transaction is very high. Desktops still rein king when it comes to completing transactions with a conversion rate 135% higher than smartphones in June; however, what’s interesting is the growth in conversion rate on smartphones.
Year over year, the conversion rate for PLAs on smartphones has increased 120%. But what does this mean? It means consumers are completing more transactions on their smartphones. This is likely due to not only familiarity and comfort with doing so but also retailers and technology providers like Google making the transaction process easier and much more mobile friendly.
Get ready to ditch your wallets.
As summer winds down and the upcoming school year looms, it looks like parents get back to Facebooking. Looking at the seasonality of clicks across Facebook, Google, and Bing it appears Facebook experiences a huge surge in clicks as summer comes to a close, more than likely brought on by back-to-school-itis.
In July, as we become fixated with fun in the sun, Facebook experiences its second lowest volume of ad clicks at a level 25% below the baseline (January). Makes sense. There are road trips and barbecues to get to. But as summer starts to give into fall and we begin to accept the onslaught of responsibilities that come with the change in season, ad clicks on Facebook climb. In fact it’s a 38 point swing from July to August. From there on out it is pretty much up and to the right for Facebook the remainder of the year as back-to-school gives way to the holiday season.
On the other hand, Search (Google and Bing) remain fairly consistent throughout the year with the typical rise in the fourth quarter due to the holiday frenzy. It appears Facebook is influenced much more by seasonality throughout the year. I suspect it has to do with the social nature of the site. Search benefits from being a more utilitarian medium that become an integral part of our lives even when on vacation. Also, Google and Bing have been at the game a little longer while Facebook is still figuring out how best to monetize its user base. Likewise, advertisers have a solid decade and a half of experience with search under their belts; tweaking campaigns to fit the seasons is a known exercise.
Will be interesting to see how soon the seasonality of Facebook clicks start to mirror search.
Have some thoughts you’d like to ad? Be sure to post them in the comments section below!
Last Thursday, Google announced that exact keyword match will now include close variant keywords as well. Many of you may be wondering what this means for your campaigns and what action is required on your part. We’re here to assure that there is no reason to panic!
For some background, advertisers currently have two options when it comes to matching ads to search queries: 1.) Only show the ad when the query exactly matched the keywords they set up in AdWords, or 2.) Allow Google to also match the ad to keywords and phrases that are very similar to the original one, including variations like plurals or misspellings. Starting in late September, the first option is going away and Google will always automatically include all of these close variants when it tries to match an ad to a search query. Today’s announcement only applies to what Google calls the “phrase match” and “exact match” options. As the name implies, exact match only shows the ad when the query exactly matched the keyword (e.g. “women’s hats”), while phrase match also shows it when the query includes other words (e.g. “buy women’s hats”).
While this change may initially be perceived as burdensome to Google advertisers who prefer tight control over their exact and phrase matched keywords, it does offer some benefit to advertisers. Namely, following the September update, Google advertisers will no longer have to build long lists of misspelled, abbreviated, and other close variations of keywords to get the coverage they want. Therefore, this update can help Google advertisers better manage keyword complexity across large Search programs.
Although Google is marketing this change as a benefit to advertisers, Marin recommends that our advertisers closely monitor their campaigns to determine how the September changes will impact their overall performance.