Friday, April 29, 2016

Five of the most interesting SEM news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week we have loads of paid search stats and research and news on the latest madcap tinkering by Google.

Paid search: John Lewis and Amazon spend the most on UK home décor

They must have lovely homes. If you can get round all the boxes and fork-lifts.

AdGooroo has published data on paid search advertising for the home décor category in the United Kingdom, examining 500 top, non-branded home décor keywords on Google between January 2015-January 2016.

Here are the stats:

  • 4,892 advertisers spent £45.5 million during the period.
  • Department store chain John Lewis led all advertisers with £920,000 spent, followed by Argos (£884,000) and Amazon (£867,000)
  • Amazon led all advertisers in clicks with 2 million during the period, just edging out John Lewis’s 1.99 million clicks
  • An average of 93 advertisers sponsored each of the top 20 keywords and 83 advertisers sponsored each of the 500 home décor keywords studied

UK-Home-Decor-Top-Advertisers

Summer vacation/Mother’s Day search stats from Yahoo

The last time I mentioned Mother’s Day coming soon, it brought about a panic on one side of the Atlantic. And now it’s time to do the same for the other side…

  • Mother’s Day is coming soon! And to celebrate Yahoo has released a report on consumer search insights revealing important trends about Mother’s Day shopping and summer travel plans. Let’s hope they also ordered some nice flowers too.
  • 1 in 6 shoppers plan to spend more money on this year’s gift, and they are open to trying new brands in order to find the perfect gift.
  • 52% of shoppers surveyed said that they will likely compare prices from multiple retailers on the same products before making a purchase.
  • DIY presents are becoming more popular. More than 15 million searches about Mother’s Day showed that consumers search search for “images,” “quotes,” “poems,” “cards,” and other creative ideas.
  • Online advertising was the top source for influencing family vacations and online ads are more influential than TV ads. When asked what motivated their travel decisions, more than 50% of family travellers said that online ads influenced them, while only 28% cited TV ads.
  • The most commonly used phrases searched in conjunction with summer vacation were beach, lake, park, island, and water. Specific destinations that were commonly searched include Colorado, France, Alaska, Maine, and Tahoe.
  • So far this year, the highest concentration of people searching “summer vacation” on Yahoo came from Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

50% of adults are unable to recognise ads in Google search results

As Graham Charlton reported this week, according to Ofcom half of all search engine using adults do not recognise ads.

For the study, the respondents were shown a picture of the SERPs for ‘walking boots’ (please note this study took place in 2015)…

walking boots

The 1,328 survey respondents then had to select the results they thought were ‘paid for’. 60% identified them as paid links, while 49% identified them only as paid ads

ofcom 1

Ofcom also split the results out between newer and more established internet user and found that newer users were less likely to identify that the results with the yellow ad label were indeed paid results.

Google paid search positions #1 and #4 may lead to the highest CTR

As reported in MediaPost this week, Adobe has discovered that the cost per click for paid search ads served in the fourth position may produce the best outcome, with low cost-per-clicks but high click-through-rates.

CPCs rose slightly for the first and second paid search positions (6% and 7% up respectively) but fell for third and fourth (10% and 8%).

CTRs rose for all except the second position. First position was up 13%. Third: 2% and fourth: 18%.

So… how you going to optimise PPC ads for fourth position? Bearing in mind Google doesn’t always show a fourth paid search ad. Well I’ll leave you to that quandary and go put the kettle on.

Google’s In-Depth Articles disappeared, and are now back again

You may not have been aware of this but there’s an in-depth articles feature in Google that helps you surface longer more evergreen articles.

in-depth articles

Well there was until a couple of weeks ago when it mysteriously vanished, leading to much speculation as to whether it had been axed or not.

Only that’s all for nothing now, as it’s suddenly back again. Leading to new speculation that the whole thing was just a bug/glitch/mistake.

Now although this reads as a total non-event, your takeaway from this should be NEVER EVER take anything in search for granted, because Google will not only manually change an algorithm on purpose but occasionally lean on a keyboard and delete something vital by accident.

Dennis Publishing’s Paul Lomax on adblocking and ‘anti-ad zealots’

The growth of adblocker usage is one of the major problems affecting publishers today, as it has the potential to cut into ad revenues which many rely on. 

Paul Lomax is CTO and Head of Product Development at Dennis Publishing (founded by the great Felix Dennis), an independent group which publishes many different titles, online and offline.

We caught up with Paul to ask his views on the growth of adblocking and how Dennis Publishing will look to deal with this issue.

How much of an issue is adblocking for Dennis Publishing? 

Not insignificant but still very much in the minority. It varies hugely by market, with tech and younger brands affected more than say our automotive brands.

We have a fairly diverse portfolio, thankfully. Obviously we’re concerned the numbers may grow, so we’re not resting on our laurels. 

Will adblocking force some publishers to abandon ad revenue models in favour of other revenue streams, such as ecommerce? 

I think if other revenue models were viable enough to be a primary revenue stream, they’d already be in wider use. Ecommerce is far from being a new thing. There’s clearly opportunity to further diversify revenue steams, but that doesn’t mean abandoning ad revenue models which are still very strong.

Also, ecommerce (in the publishing sense, usually affiliate based) is not immune from ad-blocking in so far as many ad blockers stop affiliate cookies being dropped, which means the publisher won’t get paid for referrals.

Some publishers may diversify more drastically into real ecommerce, ie shipping products themselves rather than via partners. Dennis, for example, now sells cars and finance online having acquired buyacar.co.uk in November 2014.

buy car

It could be argued that poor usability (intrusive ads etc) from publishers has driven the rise of adblocking. Is it too late now to change tack on ad formats?

There’s an argument that Pandora’s Box has been opened and can never be closed – even if publishers clean up their sites, there will be enough bad sites out there for users to leave ad blockers on, and there are other concerns too (malware, privacy). There’ll always be an element of ‘I ad block because I can’.

Remember though that publishers don’t create the adverts – advertisers, agencies and ad-tech companies have all played their part in this. There’s a drive towards good ‘acceptable ad’ formats, although the fact it sometimes requires payment is of course controversial, but there’s an element of user backlash about ad blockers letting any ads through. Some blockers that allow no ads are springing up. There will always be anti-ad zealots, but they’re in the minority.

The problem is when this filters over to mainstream users who have more legitimate concerns and would be happy for some value exchange to take place. At the moment ad blockers are mostly indiscriminate. I think we need to improve ad formats, but that alone isn’t enough. 

You have been experimenting with ways to deal with adblocking. What do those experiments look like?

Like other publishers, we want to see whether our readers are happy to white list our sites, or if they’re more aggressively anti-advertising. There are also many questions about ad blockers’ ability to circumvent measures. And we want to look at discrepancies between various tracking and measurement methods.

We think solutions may vary depending on the brand and its market – for example a B2B IT website with pretty unique content might be in a better position to block users than say a news or more mass-market website.

And some of our brands may do a ‘data wall’, where we could ask for their contact details rather than require them to view advertising. More mass-market brands such as Coach might have more of a soft message, or an ad recovery solution. We’re open minded. 

What have you learnt from other publishers’ attempts at combating the negative impact of adblocking? Did you use them as a reference when designing your experiments?

I don’t think we’ve seen studies long enough to draw any conclusions. For example, the much publicised Forbes trial data ends the day before the Adblock Plus community added rules to circumvent their message.

This resulted in ad block users seeing the ‘thank you for whitelisting’ message but not actually seeing any ads. If you have an absolute ‘whitelist to view this site’ wall, then ad block developers are going to try and circumvent it – it becomes, to quote Sourcepoint, a knife fight. 

forbes adblock

Do you think that adblocking could be a blessing in disguise for publishers, who will be encouraged to consider their sites’ user experiences?

For users, maybe, for publishers, no, because of the largely indiscriminate nature of ad blockers. Let’s be clear, ad blockers aren’t all about users either – there are companies involved in ad blocking who are and will be making millions from the protection racket of pay to display.

It’s also a massive threat to net neutrality, if ISPs and mobile networks starting using technology like Shine, as has happened in Trinidad.  

I’ve heard of examples where mobile and other adblockers are blocking even native posts. Many imagine that adblockers target only popups and banners, but are there other consequences? 

People also think they only block third party content, eg ad-served, but they can block anything that can be pinned down via it’s HTML pattern (eg a CSS class name). All it takes is a user to right click on something they think is an ad for it to be reported to the community developers, who then figure out how to block it. And those creating the block lists tend to be anti-ad zealots.

They can and do block logos from sponsored blocks, any content or links labelled sponsored or similar (which given the ASA are starting to crack down on native labelling in the UK will become easier), anything they consider ‘annoying’.

Also things like related content blocks (if some of the items are paid-for), or newsletter sign up promos, or paywall notices. Ironically some even block cookie privacy notices. Many also have privacy options, which can stop affiliate or attribution tracking, retargeting, personalisation, ad effectiveness measurement, analytics (eg GA), A/B testing. The latter could have an impact on web professionals being able to optimise user experience or improve conversion rates. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Taking your analytics practice to the next level

As both a Googler and ClickZ team member, I recently attended and participated in the always-inspirational ClickZ Live New York event.

Along with Katie Morse, Vice President, Social and Search at Nielsen and Pierce Crosby, business development and experienced data analyst at StockTwits, we had a panel discussion on how brands can take their analytics practice to the next level.

First, a quick description of the panel:

Data has become everyone’s domain, in all aspects of your marketing and business. Most companies do a good job at collecting and reporting data and have a basic process in place. But many are stuck as to what to do next to elevate value of data in their company.

As our conversation, and those questions the audience asked, were so good, I wanted to pull out some of the best questions and summary of answers we shared with attendees.

ClickZ NY analytics

Pierce, Katie, and Adam presenting at ClickZ Live NYC. Photo by Search Engine Watch columnist Thom Craver (used w/permission).

1. Most companies have varying groups that need access to analytics insights. How do you efficiently get them all what they need and how do you ensure it’s most useful for them?

The answer is process. Ensure that you have the right metrics delivered to the right people at an anticipated frequency. Also ensure that you have conducted proper resource allocation in order to allow time not just to share dashboards, but flesh out insights for your teams to take action on.

If you are just delivering dashboards without context, you’re not doing your job. Actually, you’re performing the job a script can do – which isn’t a good place to be.

The more formalized you can be with your processes, the better, as this will make you incredibly efficient and free up time for the creative, valuable (and fun!) analyst projects.

2. How do you see a breakdown of time spent on analytics between data capture, reporting, and analysis? What are the best ways to help get organizations to move up the value chain?

The more time you can spend on analysis, the better. But if you’re not capturing the right data and reporting it in an articulate way, your analysis won’t be accurate or defensible. That’s why it’s important to spend time up front on ensuring your data quality is excellent and you’re effortlessly generating beautiful reports.

Need some hard numbers to serve as a guideline? Aim for 10% of time spent on data capture, 20% on reporting, and 70% on analysis and delivering insights to your team (my previous ClickZ column goes over the reporting part in more detail).

The way to get an organization to move up the value chain is easy: trend down the time you spend on capture and reporting. It’ll happen organically.

3. Can you talk about how you are using data across tactics — such as how does search inform social, email or other areas of marketing?

Data should not exist in a silo. You should be using it to inform everything you do, and you should be using it to understand your users, not simply to fill in dashboards.

For example: if you notice visitors to your ecommerce site are frequently querying a product name or type you don’t have in site search, you should share this data with your product team and persuade them to offer it. Marketing isn’t just about promoting products anymore.

Marketing now needs to be involved in the actual strategic decisions companies make, and data is how we get a seat here. Our user data should be informing what we do next, not just showing successes of our sites and apps. This all starts with breaking down silos and using insights cross functionally – beyond marketing.

4. Let’s talk about goal setting: how you can quantify success outside of just ROI? What are some other metrics that we might want to take a look at?

ROI in dollar terms is great. Everyone can understand this, especially your CFO. But generating revenue is just one outcome from your marketing and content, and just one thing to optimize.

For example, if your call center or social CRM team notices a recurring question about your company’s product they have to answer repeatedly, that’s a huge opportunity. What you need to do in this type of situation is measure what your user’s problems are and use this information to power answers in an automated / self-service fashion such as an FAQ page on your site or chatbot.

Creating this type of content in a data-driven manner can help trend down easily answered questions, freeing up your customer service team to focus on tougher problems which require a human touch and making your customers happier by simply getting the information they need immediately. That’s a win-win: and very measurable!

5. What are some actionable ways or things we could all do to become better at analyzing the “what happened” and “why” at our metrics?

This is an area of practice makes perfect. The answer is to hire skilled leaders for your team that can inspire and grow your team’s analyst skills. But personal growth helps too: so attending events like ClickZ Live, trainings and courses (such as our Analytics Academy) and reading blogs and books (like Avinash’s definitive book, Web Analytics 2.0).

Although, there is simply no substitute for hands on experience at making data-drive decisions and becoming fluent in the world of digital measurement.

Working at an agency and on hundreds of clients across industries helped me get to where I am, so that’s a path I can personally recommend. Although there’s no reason you can’t build your skills in-house too.

To learn more about the changing face of digital marketing, come to our two-day Shift London event in May.

How to achieve face-melting content marketing ROI

Jason Miller knows a thing or two about content. He’s the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Linkedin, who presented a session titled “How to Achieve Face-Melting Content Marketing ROI” at ClickZ Live NY last week.

With that title, the session immediately piqued my interest and Jason did not disappoint.

In case you were wondering, face melting is:

“The condition in which, due to an extreme exposure to an event of epic awesomeness, horror or any other emotion on the more extreme end of the spectrum of emotions, one loses all perception of space and time including (but not limited to) a brief lapse in physical awareness. Such an emotional rush can even override Pain, which in some cases may be the cause of the rush.”

Source: The Urban Dictionary

To put this in context, you don’t need more content; you need more EPIC and AWESOME content – aka more relevant content.

According to Jason, in a recent survey, 44% of overall respondents say they would consider ending a brand relationship because of irrelevant promotions. An additional 22%, say they would definitely defect from the brand.

Rage against irrelevance

Developing relevant content doesn’t need to be a difficult exercise. It doesn’t require any special tools or secret sauce. It all begins with having empathy with your prospects and customers. The formula looks like this:

Useful x Enjoyable x Inspired = Innovative Content ~ Ann Handley

The process begins with the creation of a piece of “Big Rock Content” Not a 2,000 word evergreen piece, but something closer to a 50 or 100 page ebook. Something Awesome. Something Epic. Something like The Sophisticated Marketers Guide to LinkedIn

Big, thick, juicy content is the gift that keeps on giving. A single piece of Big Rock content can be repurposed to attract links, generate traffic and build brand awareness for a year or more. Jason suggests thinking of it as something akin to Leftover Turkey.

leftover-turkey

If distracted by the turkey, this may be a better visual for you:

repurpose

Once your content is published, blast the news EVERYWHERE: Company pages, email, blog, sponsored updates, Display ads, SlideShare, PPC, Twitter, etc. Use turkey slices to fuel your content hubs.

Execution

It’s easy to develop a set of goals, but a plan is specific, time phased and measurable. After determining what constitutes your Big Rock & turkey slices, Jason gave an example of a five week rollout

  • Week 1: Publish Big Rock Content, Influencer Outreach, Sponsored Updates
  • Week 2: Big Rock Webinar, Influencer Outreach, Sponsored Updates
  • Week 3: Big Rock Webinar, Influencer Outreach, Sponsored Updates, Turkey Slice 1, Turkey Slice 2
  • Weeks 4 & 5: Big Rock Webinar, Influencer Outreach, Sponsored Updates, Turkey Slice 1, Turkey Slice 2, Turkey Slice 3, Turkey Slice 4

Your blog ties it all together

Sticking with his food analogy, Jason developed some Blogging Food Groups:

Blogging Food Groups

To be served up on the following schedule (with the associated time commitment)

  • Monday: Vegetables (35% time spent in development)
  • Tuesday: Meats (20% time spent in development)
  • Wednesday : Whole wheat & grains (25% time spent in development)
  • Thursday: Condiments (5% time spent in development)
  • Friday: Desserts (15% time spent in development)

The marketing team of the future

Jason may like his food, but he really loves Kiss.

He used the band as an analogy of how digital marketing symmetry works:

  • SEO – Lays the groundwork
  • Social – Fuels the content
  • Content – Fuels the demand

In the case of the band:

  • They consistently deliver content that their fans want to consume and share
  • Their PR efforts guide their vision as one of the hottest bands in the world
  • They deliver amazing experiences on tour (Event Marketing)
  • They built a thriving community

The Takeaway

Big Rock content isn’t something that would be nice to have. It’s something that you need. As Hummingbird, RankBrain and other algorithms get better; you need to become a smarter marketer. Following this approach to content marketing is sure to give you an edge over most competitors.

To learn more about the changing face of digital marketing, come to our two-day Shift London event in May.

Chuck Price is the founder of Measurable SEO and contributor to Search Engine Watch.

11 extraordinary uses of Augmented Reality (AR)

Jess Butcher, the director and co-founder of augmented reality app Blippar, is speaking at our Shift London event in May, so to prepare for this occasion, we thought we’d get fully immersed in the world of AR.

Put simply, AR is the technology that superimposes computer generated imagery onto the real world when looked at through a portable device. But, as marketers have discovered, AR can be so much more.

AR has not only succeeded where QR codes failed, but it has quickly shut down any opinion that its technology is gimmicky. No longer is AR the stuff of ‘oh look at this funny animation protruding out of a cola can’. Now genuinely useful experiences can be achieved to help your customers, clients and service providers in a real-life practical way.

Let’s take a look at some of these experiences…

The first three examples are taken from Blippar’s own case studies:

Maybelline, L’Oreal

To promote a new line of nail polish, Maybelline ran print ads in several US magazines giving readers the unique opportunity to virtually try on the new range of colors.

maybelline

The average reader engaged for more than four minutes, and more than 10% of users shared the campaign on social media. The campaign also helped Maybelline predict which colors were trending each week.

Argos

Argos made its holiday catalogue shoppable with the Blippar app by letting readers ‘blipp’ the pages to instantly buy items. This led to 21,000 customers sharing the campaign on social media, and more than 929,000 interactions were recorded over 10 weeks.

argos

Coca-Cola & Spotify

Coca-Cola, turned its 250ml cans into portable interactive Spotify jukeboxes. Users could use their smartphone to listen to the top 50 UK songs at that moment on Spotify by holding a can up to the screen.

coke-540.jpg__450x0_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale

Healthcare

As TechRepublic reported in 2o15, AR is making itself incredibly useful in the healthcare industry. The following examples are taken from Brian Wassom’s talk at last year’s Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara:

ARnatomy

To replace the giant, unwieldy anatomy text books that all medical students have to leanr, ARnatomy uses AR to pinpoint exactly the type of bone being studied, revealing all of its information on screen and lets allows users the ability to manipulate a tangible skeletal model.

Vipaar

Vipaar is a video support solution whereby a remote surgeon could project his hands onto the display of a surgeon on site wearing AR enabled glases and point and guide the hands of the surgeon.

AccuVein

AccuVein’s Vinny Luciano states that 40% of IVs miss on the first attempt at finding a vein, so they invented a scanner that projects over skin and shows nurses and doctors where various veins, valves and bifurcations are in a patient’s body. This has been used on more than 10 million patients so far, and made finding a vein on the first attempt 3.5x more likely.

VA-ST Visor

The winner of the 2014 Google Impact Challenge was the VA-ST visor. These ‘smart specs’ are intended for use by people who are legally blind or partially sighted to help with every day tasks.

The software can be taught to recognise 3D objects and then identify them within a scene, this can help with finding lost items, navigating environments or mapping out familiar faces to aid recognition.

Current Studios’ MRI game

Getting a child to remain still for the length of an MRI can be very difficult, so Current Studios developed a tablet game for kids to play before the procedure, that measures their ability to lay still for extended periods of time. Doctors can see the child’s stats, and then determine whether they would need a general anesthetic.

The British Museum

Ben Davis covered five AR lessons from The British Museum in 2013, and it still stands as an excellent use-case.

A Gift for Athena helps Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11) children engage with the museum’s Parthenon gallery. It’s a simple uncluttered experience, that nevertheless provides deep learning opportunities thanks to a focus on narrative and puzzle-solving.

American Apparel

The in-store experience can be brought to digital life with AR. Here American Apparel uses it app to reveal tonnes of information on its products as well as showing customer reviews and providing the ability to buy the product online if it’s out of stock and to see it in ever available colour.

Pepsi

Pepsi brought some magic (and terror) to the streets of London in 2014 with its AR enabled billboard. While waiting for a bus, unwitting people would be able to see flying saucers, tigers and asteroids approaching them through the advert. Proving that AR doesn’t just have to be contained on a wearable or smartphone.

With 7.5 million views, this video is one of YouTube’s most watched advertising campaigns.

For lots more information on the changing realities of marketing, come to Shift London in May.