Categories
Digital Marketing

The Google Discovery Feed and Advertising

Word on the street is that the Google Discovery feed will become its new advertising cash flow in 2020.  It hasn’t attracted much attention since its beta launch last year, but Google is certainly excited about it. In 2020, it is expected that ads in the personalized mobile news feed will reach 800,000 users. The company paid attention to Facebook’s news feed ads growing as Google+ faded away. Tests have been conducted in the mobile feed and they are excited by the current results. We do not know what exactly is impressive but it’s certainly something to watch. Not everyone has seen ads yet, even though testing initially began in late 2018. Google officially introduced the Discovery campaigns at their Google Marketing Live last May.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is a personalized service that shows news articles, stories, and topics that are based on the individual user’s search history. Browsing, app behaviors, location history and settings, and stated interests come into play as well. Discovery ads are centered around images and are similar to social creatives.

Visibility is Still a Concern

The biggest downfall we can see is that advertisers cannot target ads to only the feed. The campaigns are a part of Google’s electronic-powered campaign types that are run across multiple platforms automatically. Discovery ads will serve users on Gmail and the homepage on YouTube. With the combination, these ads can reach hundreds of millions of users. While the ads cannot be targeted solely to the news feed, the campaign results do compensate for lack of control and visibility.  Many advertisers are willing to accept Discovery campaigns as they are for the sake of improved sales.

Which Advertisers Should Test Discovery?

Advertisers are starting to test Discovery campaigns with clients who represent a variety of businesses. It isn’t so much the product or service that is important, the goals are what matter. Brand awareness, increased sales, and acquisitions are some goals that have been reached with major success. Even something as simple as increased site traffic will notice new activity after a Discovery campaign. The point is, Discovery is a high volume and low CPC channel that will have the extra benefit of boosting brand awareness.

Targeting the Right Audience

Remarketing is an important step for businesses who want to attract previous clients and sales back to their website for the sake of brand loyalty. Brand loyalty is perfect for building stability and maintaining relationships with the target audience. It will eventually lead to new connections as users talk about the business.  Can it be possible with Discovery campaigns? One would initially think not since there is little control over visibility. Yet many advertisers have been using Discovery campaigns for remarketing and have found them to be successful.

The reason for this is that Google Analytics allows one to target tag-based audiences that become a part of the Discovery campaign. It does create a sense of control over who is seeing your ads. The best part is that tag-based audiences are more targeted and result in a lower CPA. The downside is that the volume is lower than general audiences, but that is to be expected with tag-based audiences.

Repurpose Your Creatives

You may have noticed carousel and single image ads on Facebook. These are so successful on Facebook that Discovery campaigns are designed to support the same things. This gives you more flexibility with your past and current creatives while designing new creatives. One thing about this support is that you can reuse your old creatives in new ways. Many advertisers have tested the carousel and single image ads on Discovery that were originally used on Facebook. Having the ability to take creatives from other social channels and repurpose them for Discovery campaigns adds freedom to the creative process. The repurposing also helps maintain a consistent brand all over the internet.  It is recommended that you use multiple images in landscape and square settings. Your ad should look organic to the Discovery feed.

Want To See How Successful It Is?

The only way to truly see how successful your Discovery campaign is, is by reviewing key performance indicators (KPI’s). They should be tied to your client’s goals but you can also look at the impact of the Discovery campaigns on your broader customer base.

If you are an advertiser doing a remarketing campaign, CPA and ROAS will be the most reliable numbers to review. If the focus is on top of funnel, impression vs sales and the customers path in Google Analytics will be more helpful. Increased sales and traffic numbers will have a focus on numbers visiting, lurkers, purchases completed, and interaction with consumers on social media platforms.

What Does the Future Hold?

For now, those with a Google account manager can get into the beta run. You can start small, think $50 per day, and scale from there to see it’s effectiveness. Setup can be tricky since it is still in beta and there are some frustrations with having to re-upload assets.

We are still waiting to see if Discover will be another successful path for the Google corporation. This time around, they are working slowly. We know this because of the relatively little chatter since the ads were launched. Until numbers are released, we really don’t know the weight the news feed is pulling. We have heard success stories with many advertisers and yet it can still vary. Advertisers do have the ability to see channel data in Google Analytics source/medium reporting. Some advertisers have done this and see situations where half the campaign traffic shifted to another platform, like Youtube. On Youtube, there is volume and success awaiting.

For some of you, it may be better to wait a little longer before doing a test run. Allow Google to take the time to work out some kinks and improve the system. Be mindful that cost could rise with improvements to the site and once it is released to the advertising public. Now is a good time to set aside some budget money to use when it is released.

Categories
Digital Marketing

Lessons About Branding from IHOB and Mr. Peanut

Unless you’ve been unplugged or hiding under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the death of Mr. Peanut. And chances are you probably didn’t care about him while he was alive, but you have thoughts about his death. If that’s the case, you’re definitely not alone.

Mr. Peanut, the 104-year-old Planters company mascot, has died after a traumatic road accident. Ads started running ahead of the Superbowl, but were paused in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death in January. The announcement was made in news release as well as a series of tweets. The company confirmed his death is related to a commercial that aired during the Superbowl. That’s not the point….the point is that within an hour of the announcement on Twitter, #RIPPeanut was trending, and the buzz continued to grow.

How quickly the internet erupted is quite reminiscent of the 2018 IHOP campaign to change their name to IHOb, as it was also announced in a tweet. Initially, there was a great deal of speculation about what the “b” would stand for – with many people thinking “breakfast.” However, when they announced that it would stand for the International House of Burgers, social commentary started flying again.

Though the IHOb approach didn’t go over well on the ad awards circuit, it was a definite home run in terms of PR and marketing. Simply changing the P to a B had everyone, even late-night talk shows, discussing the brand.

Two Different Agencies – Similar Campaigns

The IHOb campaign was handled by Droga5, and the #RIPeanut was developed by VaynerMedia, but the reaction the campaigns received is highly similar. The major reason for this is the fact that both of them are iconic brands that are being disrupted. Doing so brings passion to the surface – a passion for the brands that most people don’t even realize they had.

What Can You Take From This?

Avoid Temptation to Speak About the Permanence

It’s crucial to remain quiet about how permanent your decision is – like renaming your restaurant or killing off the mascot you’ve had for more than 100 years. That silence is one of the most important parts of letting your audience start the conversation and let it go viral. If you try too hard to dictate the conversation, you won’t get the positive results you’re hoping for.

It’s not an easy thing to do. You will watch people debate the campaign, tear into pieces, make fun of it, and ultimately, misunderstanding it. While it’s tempting to jump in and defend it, you can’t. You want to make sure the world knows you were aware of the risk, but that you also knew what you were doing.

As we saw with the #RIPeanut, Kool-Aid man’s tears caused the peanut plant to grow, and now Mr. Peanut is alive again as a baby peanut, with #babynut.

Create Engaging Stories While Watching the Metrics

During an era where topics can trend only for a matter of minutes before they fall again, it can be quite difficult to maintain that high level of conversation. That’s why you need to pay close attention to your social analytics to determine when the conversation starts to get quiet. Then, look for ways to get it back in the spotlight.

By monitoring your social analytics, it’s easier to see when the conversation peaks and when it’s starting to come down. If you wait another day, the conversation is done. Actively listening on social is a large part of a successful viral social campaign.

The biggest lesson, however, is that brands and agencies must be willing to take risks and look for fun ways to put their names and products into everyday conversation – even it if means letting things get a little funky.

Many people treat major brand mascots as something sacred. You’ll have more room than you might realize to play with that stuff and have fun doing it, so long as you’re working to service the greater good. It’s more important now than ever before to have a story that makes people want to talk about it. Doing things people are talking about makes your brand feel more innovative and current.

Categories
Digital Marketing

Ugly Sites and Conversions

Nearly two decades ago, affiliate marketers generally understood that ugly sites that look like they were built by a child tended to convert well. Major websites were using exceedingly plain designs. Though it may seem counterintuitive to purposely create an ugly site, it might be worth the time to revisit that old affiliate marketing strategy of ugly sites sell.

Today, the ugly sites sell paradigm isn’t well-known. But, it was a well-tested marketing strategy that affiliate marketers used in the early days. Many major websites today use a variation of those ideas discovered nearly 20 years ago. Revisiting this strategy helps to understand how it came to be and how you might be able to adapt it today.

Affiliate marketers gathered around drinks and appetizers at PubCon Boston 2003. They had each independently discovered that making their sites usable but ugly increased sales. One of the most well-known affiliate marketers, Mike Mackin, posted a discussion titled “Ugly Sites Sell”, on WebmasterWorld in June 2003.

The post became one of the most influential discussions from that platform whose influence continues to be felt today. That discussion inspired marketers to split test different designs, including ugly websites that were built for speed, conversions, and usability.

One participant in that discussion from 2003 objected to the ugly site paradigm and suggested that maybe nobody is making ugly sites on purpose. Another legendary affiliate marketer indicated that he was very much purposely making sites that were ugly.

You can still find this discussion online at WebmasterWorld today, but it is hidden behind a paywall.

The Huge Buy Button

Making the “buy” button huge was a critical part of the ugly sites sell approach.

Split testing of the ugly sites strategy discovered that making the buy button large, sometimes to the point of dominating what was visible on the website increased sales. Making the buy button huge increased conversions.

“Ugly” Sites Today

It may sound ridiculous but we still see the strategy in different forms today.

For instance, take a look at this large buy button area on Amazon. This huge call to action wouldn’t be in use if it weren’t effective.

And look at Walmart’s approach. It makes the buy button stand out. The idea of making the buy buttons stand out from the rest of the site may have had roots in magazine advertising, but the strategy was tested and independently discovered by online marketers.

Major Corporations Use Plain Websites

The appearance of a site is just one of many factors to consider when it comes to conversions. However, major corporations such as Wal-Mart and Walgreens, Operate with plain-looking web pages that some may even describe as ugly. We can bet that those companies wouldn’t use that design if it weren’t converting for them.

Looking at the screenshots you can see that their web presence can be described as playing at best and ugly at worst. But we know the sites are successful and because if they weren’t, we could expect them to be updated to use a flashier design.

It’s obvious that some of the factors from the ugly sites sell movement such as the highly visible by button remain as relevant today as they were nearly 20 years ago. Examples of sites like Walgreens and Walmart provide evidence that there is a place for plain-looking websites.

What do you think?

Categories
Digital Marketing

How to Use Multicultural Marketing in Your Digital Advertising

Imagine for a moment that you’ve decided to purchase a new bed. What determines your first steps in the buying journey? Where do you go to get the information you’re looking for? How do you determine your budget? What website would you visit to purchase your new bed? How would you prefer to shop? In the past, visiting a brick-and-mortar business was the only way to purchase a mattress. However, there are several online-only brands that offer in-home trials and free returns, so now you have the option to shop online even if you don’t opt for major mattress brands websites.

These are just a handful of questions that normally come up when you make the decision to buy something. As a marketer, it’s important to remember that for each of these questions, consumers will provide different answers. A lot of our decision-making depends on individual experiences and our cultural background.

Successful international advertising and marketing require an understanding of how customers make decisions. It is also crucial to realize that people in different areas may not have equal access to Internet sources because they face different life challenges and prioritize their goods and services differently.

Research indicates that social media preferences vary by race and ethnicity. Hispanic Americans and African-Americans are among the most active users of mobile devices, radio, and TV. Multicultural millennials are the highest content consumers, with the top four being blogs, radio, TV, and smartphones. It’s because of this marketers have started to develop multicultural content personalization. With it, brands are able to address people of various cultures and ethnicities more effectively.

Aim to Empower

Ideally, you should create a sense of empowerment. Go beyond your brand. Recognize the strength of a group and involved the culture to do more than just purchase a product. Using empowering campaigns not only encourages people to be proud of your brain that helps to establish a positive relationship with your potential customers.

Nike ran a Black History Month ad, “Be Bold. Be True.” it was released for Black History Month in 2019 and features a spoken word piece by Joekenneth Museau paired with images of people being bold. It is subtle in that the connection to Black History Month comes only briefly with the hashtag #BHM. Which allows the message to become more about empowerment.

Be Inclusive

Include Variety in your campaigns representing the backgrounds and experiences of everyone in your target market, not just one particular cultural subgroup. Looks to Coca-Cola’s America is Beautiful advertisement for inspiration here. This ad in particular highlights The melting pot of cultures that exist in America, representing America the Beautiful being sung by different people in many languages. Though there are arguments for and against using the total market trends, inclusivity works when done well.

Tread Carefully

Culturally-focused topics are often sensitive. It can be easy to make mistakes and get negative reactions as a result. As such, you must be able to predict potential ripples of impact for the campaigns and be able to address any negative feedback.

You must research, evaluate, and evaluate everything before executing cultural campaigns of any kind.

Tug on the Heart Strings

As humans, we are fairly emotional. Audiences can be moved even by a slight tug on the heartstrings. This is especially true when you add in cultural factors. Our culture identifies humans as individuals, nations, families, and more. Therefore, people are strongly and sentimentally linked to their culture.

Recognizing a particular culture’s quirk and bringing it to light in a humorous and kind way can give you better customer engagement. Campaigns of this nature tend to focus on a particular cultural trait that if the cultural group was hanging out together, they would poke fun at gently. When it’s done well, meaning that it avoids stereotypes, it usually gives you higher responses, views, and purchases.

Want an example? Take a look at It’s a Southern Thing. Any southerner will tell you how accurate these videos are. A friend of mine who was born and raised in western North Carolina, currently living in Clemson, South Carolina, personally attests to the accuracy of this video on bad weather and this video on how to tell if a southern woman is mad at you.

Understand Cultural Intricacies

Inside multicultural segments, and you’ll run into a variety of changes and varieties that will affect your campaign. Being aware of these can save face, resources, and time.

Take time to carefully study all of your cultural targets for each campaign and adapt your campaign accordingly. If for instance, you want to create a campaign around the Chinese New Year, look at recent census information. It tells us that Asian markets are the fastest and largest growing populations with concentrated geographic locations. Thoughtful marketing campaigns generally find success during each Lunar New Year because they focus their campaigns around that Year’s Chinese zodiac symbol.

2015, for instance, was the year of the Sheep. If in creating a campaign for the 2015 Lunar New Year, you weren’t sure what it meant, it is crucial to learn the cultural intricacies of that audience. The year of the sheep, unlike other lunar year symbols such as the dragon, is generally looked upon with less enthusiasm. Chinese birth rates declined severely in the year of the sheep because it carries a multitude of unflattering issues, one of which suggesting that women born in the year of the sheep don’t live long. Because of these attitudes and the general disposition of the Sheep, it’s not a year that’s often good for marketing.

See how not understanding that cultural intricacy could have made your campaign bomb? The year of the Rat begins on Saturday, January 25th. The rat is the first of all zodiac animals and in Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of surplus and wealth. Because of their reproduction rate, married couples also prayed to them for children.

Presenting your brand as all-inclusive and suitable for everyone regardless of culture and background can be great for sales and customer relationships, but must be done with care and precision.

Categories
Digital Marketing

Want to Win Over the Search Engines? Focus on Topics, Not Keywords

If you’ve been in search engine optimization for any length of time, you know how important keywords are when it comes to ranking content. That’s why you hear so much about keyword research and selecting the right keywords based on user intent.

Of course, keywords are important for measuring how successful your site is, but it’s time to move away from the keyword-focused mindset to shifting toward a topic-focused mindset to get even better results.

Topics vs. Keywords

What’s the difference between a topic and a keyword? Topics offer a more holistic approach to keyword research.

A topic consists of several relevant terms and searches queries that can fall into various areas of the buyer’s journey. The types of content you create around any given topic is a bit dependent on the vertical your site falls into.

For instance, you may need content that covers early stages where clients and potential customers need to learn more about a topic. You may also need content from the business point of view on a subject. You may also need content that covers your product offering that solves a problem.

Smaller sites, however, may only require a small piece of the early funnel content that also points to content that outlines products or services offered to solve problems for consumers.

Begin with a Topic Strategy

The most crucial thing you can do for your site when building it from the beginning or rethinking its structure is to strategize the topics you must focus on. By examining the broader aspects of your offerings and identifying a top-level topic, you’ll have a better understanding of what you need.

Once you have an idea of what your main topic focuses need to be, you can go through the standard keyword research process.

The main idea is that you want to expand your keyword research to encompass more semantically relevant terms related to the topic itself rather than just the main keyword. Answer the Public is a great place to start with this.

By looking at the areas surrounding the topic that need to be covered to satisfy a searcher’s various needs, you can provide a better experience. Ask yourself what questions someone may ask about the topic and then do research on those terms.

If you can, talk to people within your target demographic to learn more about them and what they may search for or questions they may have.

Research Your Competition

After you have a basic understanding of what content you will need, start looking into who is already ranking well in those areas. If they are ranking high in the space already, it’s safe to assume they are doing something correctly. As such, it’s important to make sure you continue monitoring your competition in the spaces that you are targeting.

Once you identify your competitors, run their site through tools to see how they have performed for relevant terms over an extended period of time. This helps you see if the results are long-term or if it is a recent jump to let you know whether it’s worth researching them further. Once you know what your competitors in the space are targeting, pay closer attention to how they structure their content.

Look at how they are delivering their content and what their site structure looks like surrounding they’re topics. This gives you a baseline structure when working on building your site.

That doesn’t mean to copy your competitor’s content. You can use it as a guide but plagiarizing doesn’t do anything but hurt you. You want to see what your competition is doing well and find ways to do it better.

Focus on Matching User Intent

Search engines continue to grow smarter, it’s important to go beyond the keywords themselves to understand the intent behind the queries so you can create content that matches the intent. This is what will serve your prospects best and keep the search engines happy.

Take some time to search your keywords in an incognito window. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find the intent around a particular keyword or phrase. Based on what the search results are returning, you can determine what content you need to create or edit to fit the needs of the search.

Site Structure Matters, Too

The content creation isn’t the only thing that matters. For the best results and usability, you must organize your content in such a way that it makes sense to the robots that are crawling and indexing your site. It must also indicate that you are an authority on the subject. If the search engine see you create more relevant content around any particular subject, you should see better results around those terms.

One of these easiest ways to demonstrate authority is to use breadcrumbs to show the information flow across your website. This provides an additional layer of navigation for users and also help crawlers understand how you get from one point to another on your website. Breadcrumbs also allow you to change the structure of your site without having to make major changes to URLs which can be dangerous when it comes to search engine optimization.

Domination Begins

Once you have identified your topics and built your road map, it’s time to get started implementing your plan. Sit down with the team that will create the content and review the strategy with them. This keeps your writers in line with your end goal and makes it easier for them to produce high impact content fit your website visitors’ needs.

Long gone are the days where you can focus on hitting a particular word count because today’s search engines want to deliver content that ultimately helps users regardless of word count. Answer questions efficiently and keep the focus on quality over quantity.

I’ve been in the SEO business for a long time, and know how frustrating it can be for businesses who don’t understand the intricacies. That’s why my agency exists. We’ve got everything you need to be successful online, and we’ll help you develop a strategy to reach search engine results page domination.

Contact me today to learn more about how we can work together.

Categories
Digital Marketing

When to Use Google vs. Facebook PPC Ads

Both Google pay-per-click ads (PPC) and Facebook Ads are powerful advertising platforms. When executed well, they can cater to nearly every type of business. In terms of paid channels, these two are the main contenders. Whether one platform is better than the other in delivering a solid return on investment continues to be a question many people are asking.

The reality is choosing between the two tools depends on your business goals. So, let’s take a closer look at when to use Google’s PPC ads and when to use Facebook Ads.

Paid Search vs. Paid Social

Google Ads, or paid search, is basically paying to have your listing featured on a search engine results page to get found more easily. The end goal is to create conversions and earn revenue for your business.

Using paid search, your ad is placed based on a keyword phrase or a natural long-tailed keyword phrase instead of targeting a certain audience. That said however, I advise you to adjust the settings of any paid search campaign to target specific audiences based on location and other factors.

Paid social, or Facebook Ads, is advertising your product or service on Facebook and/or Instagram. Because of Facebook algorithm changes, it has become increasingly difficult for brands to be seen by their potential customers organically. Since the company went public, it’s pay to play for most businesses.

Facebook offers a variety of options as to where your ads will be placed. In addition to your Facebook news feed, you can use Facebook ads to advertise on Instagram, the Audience Network, and Facebook Messenger.

It’s worth mentioning that paid social also includes running ads on other social media networks such as Pinterest or Twitter.

Benefits of Using Google Ads

Google has now become a verb for the act of searching for something on the Internet. Because of this, it’s no real surprise that Google is the world’s most popular search engine. Google fields more than 3.5 billion search queries everyday which offers advertisers access to an unprecedented potential audience of users who are actively searching for goods and services.

One of the largest misconceptions is that whoever has the biggest advertising budget will somehow automatically win when it comes to Google Ads. Fortunately for those of us with smaller marketing budgets, this is not the case. The focus is primarily on the relevance and quality of ads rather than how much advertisers spend.

Google is about user experience. The more relevant an ad is to the user, the better experience that user is likely to have. When Google’s users are happy, Google is happy. Because of that good user experience, it is more likely that the user will continue to use Google as their primary search engine. Part of Google’s algorithm has these factors come into play to determine and ads quality score. The higher your ads quality score, the more they will serve your ad to users. Quality score is determined by a mixture of keywords, relevance, ad, and URL. You can check your quality score at any time while running a campaign.

Benefits of Using Facebook Ads

Both Google and Facebook ads give you options for targeting and retargeting specific audiences. Both platforms allow you to Target by age, location, gender, income level, and other things. However, Facebook is the winner when it comes to advanced targeting options, especially in the B2C space.

Beyond the variety of targeting options, Facebook enables you to create audiences based on a list of interests, behaviors, and demographics. Facebook will remember these lists if you ever want to target the same audience in the future.

You can target parents, parents of children between the ages of 9 and 11, and even vegan parents with children between the ages of 9 and 11. You can take it one step further to Target those vegan parents with children between the ages of 9 and 11 and a household income ranging between $50,000 and $75,000 and to follow health and fitness pages. You can get highly specific and granular with your targeting here.

A big misconception about Facebook ads is that they will generate immediate conversions. Facebook ads are less effective for getting leads to convert quickly. The reality is people typically go to Facebook to socialize and relax not shop. However, this isn’t a downside if you have other goals in mind with a bit of patience.

The Facebook platform is incredibly useful for building your audience. It’s unique retargeting capabilities are designed to create conversions from interested people who may have clicked on an ad and not brought or added to a card or even who spend time and read the ad or watch the video. Facebook’s algorithms are great for getting results. If you can create recognition with a sense of community around your brand on social media, people will be more likely to buy when they need your service or product. If this is part of your business is Kohl’s, then Facebook is your best choice.

Which Should You Use?

If you’re new to the word of PPC, it can be intimidating to get started. Both Google Ads and Facebook Ads promote themselves as being easy to get started with, but the variety of targeting options and advanced features are a bit difficult to digest at first. It takes a lot of time and energy to reach expert status for either platform.

That means when it comes to choosing the right platform it is important to match your goals with the unique features from each platform.

Facebook ads gives you deeper demographic targeting to match ads to the interest and progress of different audiences across your funnel. You’ll also get better conversions for a B2C company or brand. You’ll get better branding opportunities with creatives on Facebook to help build awareness over the long-term. You’ll have a platform to run your campaigns when looking for a long-term conversions and the opportunity to build a relationship with your customers since you’re interacting with them as they perform other actions on Facebook. You also have the ability to retarget an existing customer with messaging that directly matches their interests and shopping habits.

Google Ads provides text contextual targeting to reach your customers closer to the end of the sales funnel when they are looking for your products or services. You’ll get a faster return on investment, especially within the B2B space. A lot of people will convert with their first interaction with a PPC ad because they have a stronger purchase intent. You’ll also get better coordination with your SEO efforts and drive increased visibility of your organization and its offerings.

If all of this makes sense to you but sounds too complicated, the team here at Sachs Marketing Group can help. We work with both Google and Facebook ads on a regular basis and can help build the right campaign for you.

Categories
Digital Marketing

Annotations to Add Context to Google Analytics

Taking a periodic look at data inside Google Analytics is vital to understanding how well you are meeting your goals and objectives. However, as you look at the data, it can be challenging to remember exactly what was going on on certain days.

You may see a spike in traffic related to a specific campaign, or a decrease in traffic as a result of a local holiday or even a temporary server outage. Though it may be possible to open your calendar and match various dates to activity, it’s not very likely you have all of the dates of every single campaign stored in a central location that it’s easy to access and review.

When you see something happening right now, you can quickly determine why it’s happening and what’s going on. As time passes, however, it’s easy to lose track of what was going on, and when it comes to analyzing your website, not readily having this information can present quite a problem. If we want to measure the impact of a circumstance on our site, we have to know what happened and when to make the proper analysis.

That’s where using annotations inside Google Analytics offers a wonderful benefit. Creating annotations will provide the context you need when it comes to data analysis. Over time, the annotations become more valuable because, as the data gets older, you are less likely to remember the circumstances of that particular campaign.

What are Annotations in Google Analytics?

An often-overlooked feature of Google Analytics is the ability to annotate your reports by date. You can click the arrow tab below the overtime graph on any reports to display the annotations panel.

Annotations are small notes that allow you to record information about what was going on on a particular day and your Google Analytics dashboard.

You can create private annotations that are only visible to you when you log into your Google Analytics account. However, if you have collaborate access to Google Analytics for other accounts, you can create shared annotations that can be seen by anyone with access to the reporting view.

If you have annotations that you consider crucial or of higher importance, it is possible to star them, so they stand out a bit more. It is easy to keep up with who created what annotations as each annotation is associated with the email address that was used to create it. It is also possible to edit and delete annotations.

All you need to create annotations in a Google Analytics view is basic read and analyze access. Anyone who can access a view can annotate it.

The default visibility setting for annotations is shared. If you do not want anyone else to be able to see The annotation you are creating, select private.

Annotations are replicated among reports with the same view to help save time. For instance, if you create an annotation in the landing pages report, you’ll see the caption icon appear in the all referrals report.

Annotations, however, are not replicated among views. If you and your team work with multiple views for the same Google Analytics property or website, make sure you’re clear about which view will house all of the shared annotations.

How to Add Annotations

  1. Look for the tab below the time graph on the report you wish to annotate.
  2.  Click “+ Create new annotation”
  3.  Select the date for the annotation.
  4.  Enter your note.
  5. Choose the visibility of the annotation. If you only have “Read and Analyze” access, you will only be able to create private annotations.
  6. Click “Save.”

Once the annotation has been saved, you will see a small icon on the timeline. This allows you to see that there is a note attached to that date.

How You Can Use Annotations

You can, and should, use annotations to keep track of anything that could influence website activity – either positively or negatively, including:

  • Marketing campaigns
  • Major website design and content changes
  • Industry developments such as Google algorithm updates
  • Website outages
  • Competitor activity
  • Weather
  • General news
  • Other time-specific factors that may affect website behavior

What Google Analytics Annotations Can’t Do (Yet!)

It’s worth noting that Google Analytics annotations could use a few improvements. We hope to see them come at some point in the future.

Annotations are not included when you export your reports. If you select the PDF export option, you can see the icon, but you do not see the details of the annotation.

It is only possible to create annotations for specific dates. There is not an option to include a time or create an annotation for a month, week, or custom date range.

There is no option to import annotations from a Google Calendar automatically; however, this would be an excellent option for those of us who are keeping an external timeline of all of our website and marketing activities.

Beyond creating a timeline directly within your Google Analytics, you may want to record events in a separate spreadsheet or calendar so you can color code and categorize and add additional notes about status and follow-up.

For instance, you may want to know that two months after you have modified your website’s navigation bar, you will check specifically for changes to the conversion rate and page visits along with other relevant metrics.

The advantage of keeping annotations within Google Analytics is that they provide context with the caption icons appearing directly in the reports. It may be easier for you to connect your data with the occurrences that you have recorded.

To make your Google Analytics even more powerful, set up custom Intelligence Alerts by email when a metric threshold is reached for a specific period.

For instance, after you feature a product on your homepage, you can create an intelligence alert that will generate an email if your traffic to your product page increases by more than 10% compared to the previous week.

If you choose to use intelligence alerts to complement your annotations, the alert will remain active until you delete it, so any factor may trigger it, rather than the one you annotated. They aim to work independently of annotations to provide a quick and easy way to monitor key metrics on your website actively.

Categories
Digital Marketing

How to Survive Algorithm Changes – Straight from Google

In case you aren’t aware, Google makes changes to its algorithm on a regular basis. In fact, in just one year’s time, Google recently made 3,200 changes to its search algorithm. People often sweat the major announcements regarding algorithm changes, such as the August 2019 one about Google core updates. However, there’s really no need to stress out. With so many changes being made in general, keeping some common sense advice in mind will help you to organically achieve better rankings over time. Follow these tips for surviving algorithm changes, straight from Google’s own recommendations.

Quality of Content

As the saying goes, “Content is king.” This remains true. One rule that has always applied when it comes to SEO is that you should write for people, not search engines. There is some advice beyond this fundamental rule. Let’s take a look at some of the company’s suggestions.

First, they emphasize the need to provide original information, reporting and research. Google looks for new and original content, not just a rewrite of what’s already out there. That means their search engine is looking for you to go further. In fact, Google official recommendation is that webmasters work to provide “a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic.” When you take the time to provide users with a thorough answer to your question, they’re less likely to bounce to other pages. This will reflect positively in your favor when it comes to rankings.

Along these lines, it’s also important that you go above and beyond the competition. Google encourages users to provide information that is beyond the obvious. They want detailed research, along with an analysis of that information. Share data and insight from your own experience. This will set you apart. Be sure not to simply cut and paste data you come across, though. Take time to delve deeper into the content and to share your own original thoughts on the information.

Not only is your content important in Google’s algorithm; headlines matter, too. Your headline should be accurate and descriptive. If they don’t, your reader won’t stay on the page. You also want to avoid the temptation to write sensational or outlandish headlines for this reason.  A high bounce rate will hurt your rank.

You want to strive for content that people love. Google recommends making it so that folks will want to bookmark, share and recommend. In fact, they go a step beyond that and suggest that you write material that could be seen in a print publication such as a book or magazine. It can be tempting to dash off less than stellar content simply because online information is so readily available and easy to access. Shoot for professional, quality content and you’ll never go wrong.

Display of Expertise

Clearly, we can’t all be experts in everything. However, you should at the very least be knowledgeable about the subject you’re presenting. While it’s true that you’re writing for humans, search engines like Google also look for content that reflects a certain level of expertise. Your audience should at least have a modicum of trust in what you’re offering on the page. This will be reflected in the amount of time they remain there.

Google’s new recommendations involve providing your audience with evidence as to why they should trust you. Be sure you create an About Page that tells of your credentials and link to it throughout your site. Provide information about your background, linking out to works you’ve provided elsewhere. When you’re citing information that isn’t yours, be sure to list or link your source. You want to present yourself as an authority on the subject. You can do that with evidence of your knowledge and credentials, along with the fact that you are aware of other current and relevant sources.

Another issue that falls under the realm of expertise is the presentation of factual information. Be sure to fact check what you’re putting out there. You don’t want to unknowingly spread disinformation from questionable sources. It’s even worse if you are intentionally spreading “fake news.” Google will penalize you for this.

Comparative Information

Some of your ranking will be with regard to how your site compares to others. Google’s newest recommendations regarding algorithm advise webmasters to be sure they are providing substantial value in comparison to other similar pages within the search results. So, it’s a good idea to take some time to research the top several results on the first page for your search term prior to writing your content. This will help to guide your own content in a way that ensures your content stands out and offers a new angle.

Google also wants you to write in ways that are useful for the folks who are visiting your site, rather than trying to guess what will rank better. Remember the very first rule of content creation is to write for real people, not for the search engines. Pay attention to what visitors respond well to on your site already. Give them more of that or expand upon what you’ve already offered. Over time, as you continue providing content of value, Google will reward your efforts with higher rankings.

Presentation

Finally, the way your site looks and how it functions also matters to Google. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. In addition, your content should be easily readable. That means clear fonts and colors that make things easy to see are essential. Your graphics and videos should also look professional. Avoid just throwing things together or grabbing a free stock image. Avoid sharing too many ads, as this will make your page look cluttered and distract from the content. You also want to be certain your page looks good on mobile devices, as this is the preferred viewing method for much of the population. Consider the quality of your presentation in order to give yourself an advantage with regard to rank.

Keep these tips in mind as you move forward. These Google recommendations will help you to survive algorithm changes and maintain high rankings in searches.

Categories
Digital Marketing

Amazon Ads 101

Any savvy marketer knows that a digital presence is necessary in today’s overcrowded marketplace. Your business simply can’t survive if you’re not promoting your product online. In order to reach potential customers, you must target the types of media they frequent most. Amazon is definitely one of those places. In fact, there are currently more than 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers in the US alone. Amazon advertising is gaining in popularity. It comes in third behind Google and Facebook for ad sales.

If you’re not currently running Amazon ads, you’re already behind the curve. Don’t worry. There’s still time to get in on the game. With so many people using Amazon to find the products they need, it makes sense to highlight your company’s offerings with ad placements on the platform. Keep reading to get the scoop on all things Amazon ads.

Why Amazon Ads?

As noted, the sheer volume of users and Amazon’s top-three online advertiser position are quite compelling reasons to consider placing Amazon ads. In addition, we’re seeing a recent shift in the ways that people conduct their online searches. Amazon is becoming a go-to location for many buyers when it comes to finding what they want. According to Social Media Examiner, Amazon is catching up to Google in number of product searches. It’s estimated that 52% of product searches begin on Amazon, with only 30% being conducted through search engines. Younger people, ages 18 to 29, report even higher use of Amazon for finding products.

Because of their sheer inventory volume and the record number of searches being performed, Amazon has access to a wealth of consumer-related data. This type of insight offers unique advantages, both on and off site, that other platforms don’t have. Information such as past purchases, current shopping interests and times shopped can help you a great deal with finding just the right target demographic for your offerings.

Types of Amazon Ads

There are two traditional types of Amazon ads. These are sponsored products and sponsored brands. The ads are meant exclusively for retailers that are selling on Amazon. Their purpose is to drive immediate sales and to provide a high return on your advertising dollars. These types of ads show up in a timely manner when someone is shopping for or ready to purchase a similar item. The majority of advertisers choose to invest in sponsored products, with sponsored brands coming in close behind.

Sponsored products appear in an Amazon search much like organic results, but they’re clearly marked as “sponsored.” They work a lot like Google ads. Because they’re set up to run as cost-per-click (CPC) ads, you pay only when a shopper clicks your ad. Sponsored brands also run on a CPC model. They show up  a bit differently, though. When you invest in this type of Amazon ad, users will see a banner at the top of the page that features three similar products from your brand for each search query they perform. It’s a great way for your company to be seen by Amazon customers. You can customize the look of these banners and direct where users land upon clicking.

About Amazon Demand-Side Platform (DSP) Ads

Amazon DSP ads are meant for advertisers who don’t sell on Amazon. That’s right. You can still target Amazon users even if you don’t have a storefront or sell through the platform. It’s a fantastic way to create awareness for your brand with a wide audience. You can choose from various ad formats, including mobile banner, mobile web display, mobile interstitial, desktop and video. The primary goal of this type of strategy is to promote your company and gain brand recognition. You can even use the ad app to gain users’ demographics and shopping habits to better target your ads. This ad format allows you to direct users away from Amazon and to your own site, as well.

Locations of Amazon Display Ads

Amazon ads can be displayed in several different ways, in different areas of the page. It’s possible for an ad to show up on a category page through a completely unrelated search simply because a user was looking at a particular item in an earlier session. This is a strategic way to redirect a shopper based on prior search behavior. You can also target your ads to appear on pages for similar or related products. This makes sense as a means to help consumers discover your brand when searching for products like yours. These ads may be displayed at either the top or bottom of the page.

It’s also possible for Amazon display ads to end up on other sites such as CNN or ESPN. That’s because such sites are part of the Google display network, and Google’s AdX exchange is offered through Amazon DSP. Using Amazon DSP lets you choose from seven open ad exchanges, providing your ads  tremendous variety and reach.

How to Access Amazon Ad Services

You can access Amazon’s ad services in a number of ways. If you’re an Amazon seller, it’s easy to use the Amazon Marketing Group to set up your ads. Those who wish to gain access to Amazon users but who don’t sell on the platform can go through Amazon DSP. It is important to know that Amazon has rather high monthly advertising minimums. Therefore, you’ll need a large budget set aside for this purpose. Currently, you can expect to need to allot between $15,000 and $35,000 per month in order to have access to their services.

If your ad spend budget is much smaller, you still have options. It’s possible to hire an outside agency to run ads for your company’s products or services. The way this works is that such agencies pool the resources of several clients in order to meet Amazon’s monthly spending quotas. The agency works with each client in order to be sure they receive their desired campaign spending.

There you have it, an Amazon ads 101 primer. Hopefully, you now understand the basics and benefits of running ads on Amazon and are ready to give it a try for your company.

 

Categories
Digital Marketing

Changes to the Wayback Machine

If you’ve ever wanted to see what a website used to look like or what a domain used to have on it before you buy, you can use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

What is the Wayback Machine?

The Wayback Machine, first launched in 2001, is a highly useful archive of the World Wide Web. It works by frequently crawling and caching pages for the archive. As of June 2016, it had gathered more than 330 billion web pages, 20 million books and texts (some of which are available for borrowing from the Open Library, 200,000 software programs, 4.5 million audio recordings, 3 million images, and 4 million videos. The audio recordings include live concerts, and the videos include millions of television news programs. It is a project of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco based non-profit organization. Anyone can create a free account and upload media Internet Archive.

Recently, the Wayback Machine added a new feature. The Changes feature is currently in beta so while the experience isn’t perfect, it’s easy to see its potential. It’s worth noting that some queries won’t display as intended, and you may need to try multiple times over a period of days or weeks to be able to compare two screenshots side by side.

Before the introduction of this feature, the only way to look back on when and how a page was changed was to manually click through all the screenshots available on the Wayback Machine. This feature now makes it possible to enter a URL and the Wayback machine analyzes every screenshot it has taken since the page was published.

From there the Wayback Machine displays a color-coded calendar to demonstrate the degree of relative change from one archived photo to another. It ranges from gray which is a low degree of change to Blue to indicate a high degree of change.

At that point you can select two different dates to compare the changes with screenshots that are highlighted in blue and yellow.

When I went to test this tool, I couldn’t get the most recent screenshots of my agency website, Sachs Marketing Group, to load in the side by side view. I suspect that’s because of the beta, but you can open each screenshot you want to compare in a new window.

Wayback Machine has 215 screenshots for my website, dating back to the launch in 2011 and running through July 2019. Here is the first one and the most recent one.

Looking at these screenshots, you can definitely see how much we’ve changed over the years to keep up with the latest technology and trends, along with our branding in general.

Though you can’t see it in my example because of the tool’s malfunction, in the side-by-side view yellow content indicates content deletion and blue indicates the addition of content.

The tool indicates changes in written content as well as changes in visual elements such as the header and navigation buttons.

For SEOs, there’s a great deal of potential to diagnose any number of issues. For instance, if you notice a gradual decline or gradual rise in rankings or traffic for a page, you can see how it’s changed over a period of time.

On the other hand, if the page has never changed since publication, you can find out immediately rather than having to manually compare various screenshots.

Other Helpful Ways to Use the Changes Tool

Aside from seeing how a website has changed for SEO purposes, here are some other ways you can make use of the tool.

  • Track changes in privacy policies over time, as shown here with Facebook. Comparing the two from two years apart shows the privacy policy has undergone some rather significant changes. Or comparing the changes in Apple’s privacy policy, as shown here. (Note that one person was able to get the Facebook privacy policy changes to show, but couldn’t get Apple’s to show. I had the opposite experience.)
  • Track changes to a news story, to see if it has been updated with new information over time, as shown here.
  • Track changes to a company’s About Us information, or staff pages to keep apprised of major changes in the board or new hires.

Are you excited about the potential of this tool? Have you been able to successfully use it for SEO purposes? Share your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!