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.
In search marketing, the bidding and optimization are fairly standardized across different marketers and agencies. Most search engines and bidding platforms enable users to conduct sophisticated optimizations. But for traffic forecasting, there isn’t an industry standard process. During my 7 years in search, this is the one subject no two marketers can consistently agree on.
Traffic forecasting is important, because accurately assessing the investment and performance potential could help set the appropriate expectation between different stakeholders. Secondly, it almost always needs to be determined weeks if not months ahead of the activity, in order for the clients or other budget providers to procure. Lastly, in a large agency environment with multi-channel campaigns, having an accurate SEM budget forecast allows different media teams to allocate the right relative investment and create the most optimal media mix.
In addition, most marketers have the resources to do it. But sometimes, important factors are left out of the process. In a large multi-million dollar per quarter campaign, missing a key factor during forecasting could lead to a large absolute deviation.
For me, the forecasting process should include two steps. The first is to project what you could spend, by estimating the full market capacity. The second is to define what you should spend.
To estimate market capacity, you need three factors: historical performance, historical Share of Impressions, and the projected change in search volume.
Now we have estimated the 2014 traffic at full capacity, we move onto the question of how much we should spend. In this step, we need two new factors: Internal KPI/goal.
Using this methodology, you’ll be able to forecast accurately and set the appropriate expectations across all stakeholders!
Cong is a Paid Search & Paid Social Director at GroupM, leading the efforts across multiple clients and publishers. She’s responsible for driving market and performance analysis, SEM strategy, digital best practices and processes. Her industry experience spans across consumer electronics, pharmaceutical, consumer logistics, B2B technology, auto, finance, travel, and education.
Cong graduated from Swarthmore College, where she studied economics, statistics, and philosophy, after a short stint in Engineering. Before SEM took over her life, she sang in an Acapella group and enjoyed flamenco dancing. In August 2013 she climbed Indonesia’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, and fortunately, it did not erupt that day.
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.
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.
Today Marin released its Global Online Advertising Trends Quarterly Report for the fourth quarter of 2012. As with previous quarters, we built this report using the Marin Global Online Advertising Index— for this release, we refreshed our client index data pool to ensure more representative analysis and findings.
The fourth quarter has always proven to be the busiest for marketers—retailers in particular—because of the holiday season. On a quarter-over-quarter basis, advertisers faced increased competition resulting in higher costs per click versus Q3 2012.
As predicted earlier this year, we saw mobile traffic peak at nearly 22% of all paid search clicks on Google in the US; we saw similar mobile traffic levels in the UK and Australia. Most noteworthy in the US was the share of spend on tablets eclipsing that of smartphones at 9% and 8%, respectively.
As Marin’s customer base continues to expand globally, we have committed to expanding our analysis into new verticals and geographies to help provide more granular insights for marketers. In this quarterly report we included insights on paid search performance in Australia as well as industry-specific metrics for the Finance, Retail and Travel verticals in the UK.
At a geographic level, here are some other key findings from the US, UK, Eurozone and Australia:
Read the full report with additional data and trends here.
Marin Software just released our latest global online advertising trends report for Q3 2012. As with previous quarters, we built this report using the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, which includes over 1,800 advertisers and agencies that invest over $4.0 billion annually in biddable media through the Marin platform.
As noted in our mobile report earlier this year, we are seeing staggering growth around the adoption of smartphones and tablets for search advertising. We are well on our way to hitting our prediction that mobile devices will account for 25% of all paid search clicks on Google by December of this year.
There have also been a number of headlines around Facebook enhancing its advertising offerings, including: new ad formats, view-through metrics, mobile-specific targeting and a number of other features. We continue to see a focus on Facebook as marketers begin to explore this social channel further.
In the US, Google continued its search dominance by garnering 81% of US spend share and 79% of US click share while controlling 66.4% of overall US search volumes (according to Comscore). Despite falling behind in overall click share, Yahoo! and Bing are continuing to show solid growth in aggregate click volume.
At a geographic level, here are some other key findings from the US, UK and Eurozone:
Read the full report with additional data and trends here.