Friday, February 12, 2016

Eight 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.

It’s a bumper week full of search data, stats on mobile shopping use and a rollercoaster-ride of social channel improvements. Some good, some bad.

Actually a rollercoaster is a terrible analogy, it’s all good on a rollercoaster. I’ll rephrase… some improvements are like being stuck for ages at the top of a rollercoaster due to a mechanical fault, with neither getting off or going backwards a possible option. Boom, hashtag analogy!

82% of Super Bowl ad searches happened on mobile

According to Google, there was a 12% rise in Super Bowl TV ad related searches on mobile during last weekend’s big game. 11% percent of searches happened on desktop and seven% on tablets.

super bowl second screening

Overall, Super Bowl ads drove more than 7.5 million incremental searches for advertisers with big pockets, which 40% higher than during last year’s game.

The biggest winning brand being Audi, with Acura second and the new Jason Bourne film coming third. Note for advertisers next year: more Matt Damon beating the holy heck out of people.

the most searched for brands 2016

There’s more information on the Super Bowl winners and losers in search here.

70% of mobile shoppers say the website/app experience can be improved

Facebook IQ and GfK conducted a study of more than 2,400 adult “omni-channel shoppers” (or multichannel if you prefer) and found that 56% had made a purchase on a mobile device because they were already using it, and 55% said they used mobile because they can shop anywhere, anytime.

60% of shoppers said they’ll either start purchasing or purchase more on their smartphones in 2016, and 64% anticipate doing more shopping research on their smartphones.

But the report goes on to suggest that mobile needs to work harder to emulate the desktop and in-store experience. Shoppers cited a preference to desktop because of its bigger screens, and that they also prefer to touch items in-store and would rather not wait for purchases to be shipped. So remember that next time you go into a store, you’ll be surrounded by impatient, far-sighted people who can’t keep their hands to themselves.

facebook mobile insghts

The weekly Twitter death spiral

This one will not have failed to get your attention… Twitter is rolling (or rolled for some of you already) out a new algorithm-based timeline.

“We want to make it even easier and faster for people to discover and catch up on what’s happening right now,” a Twitter death knell blog post states.

Upon opening Twitter, tweets you’re “most likely to care about” will appear at the top of the timeline. The rest of the Tweets will then be displayed directly underneath in reverse chronological order.

You can choose to turn this option on or off in your iOS, Android and web settings, before we all totally lose our minds with blind rage. Oh too late.

Digital place-based (DPB) surpassed $1.2 billion revenue in 2015

DPB ads are the ones you find on screens outside your home, on the high street, shopping malls, airports etc. According to AdExchanger these are expected to grow at a rate of 10-12% annually.

The DPAA and Prohaska Consulting also estimates that 30-40% of DPB ad sales will be conducted programmatically within the next three years, generating $15-$20 million in incremental revenue yearly for DPB networks.

Yet another nail in the Flash coffin

Google will officially drop support for Flash-based ads in January 2017. Instead it will favour HTML5 ads.

Although that might still be a year away, bear in mind that on 30 June 2016 Flash ads can no longer be uploaded on the Google Display Network.

Included purely so I could use some old Flash comic covers…

death of flash comic


Loyalty schemes find their home on mobile

According to Juniper Research’s new Mobile & Online Coupons report (pay to download), 3 billion loyalty cards will operate as mobile-only or be integrated into mobile apps by 2020, up from 1.4 billion in 2015.

Also by 2020, beacon technology woill be used to send 1.6 billion coupons to smartphones. The current figure is 11 million.

There’s also some interesting examples of retailer loyalty app adoption on both sides of the pond…

In the UK, 40% of Nectar Card holders had downloaded its loyalty app by the end of 2015, but less than 4% of Tesco Clubcard holders had done the same.

In the US, 61% of Walgreens card holders had linked their card to its app, but just 27% of Target cardholders.

Fashionistas, food bloggers and narcissists rejoice!

Instagram makes it easier to switch between accounts.

No longer do you have to sign out of your personal account, then spend ages trying to remember your username and password for your anonymous Potatoes that look like Taylor Swift account.

Starting this week, you can quickly switch between up to five accounts on Instagram.

Go to options, scroll to the bottom, click Add Acccount, then you’re all set. Whenever you want to switch, just hold down on your little profile picture on the bottom right of the screen and it will bring up your other profiles.

methods unsound instagrammethods unsound instagram

At last, a victor in the age-old battle between fruits and flowers

AdGooroo examined paid search advertising on 2,140 flower and mail-order gift keywords on Google, on the run-up to Valentine’s Day between 1-9 February. It found that fruit-bouquet(!?) retailers Edible Arrangements and came at the top of the pack, with nearly 21% of all clicks on the keyword group.

The research also shows:

  • Flower retailers (6.52%), (6.12%) and (5.10%) rounded out the top five in click share
  • ‘Flowers’ and ‘flower delivery’ topped the keyword rankings in spend, with $779,000 and $442,000 generated on desktop, respectively
  • Fruit is well-represented in the top 10 – two variations each of ‘edible arrangements’ and ‘chocolate covered strawberries’ collectively generated
    $413,000 and $250,000 in spend

There you go, fruits are better than flowers. Presumably because you can eat them.

Although I’ve been wrong before.

homer eating flowers

Introducing Shift, our brand new London event, 24-25 May

All the experts, analysts and geeks here at Search Engine Watch and ClickZ are very proud to present Shift, a new two-day event taking place at 155 Broadgate, London on 24 – 25 May 2016.

Shift is all about altering the minds and business models disrupted by digital, and recognising the imperative need to transform.

At the event, 500+ senior business and digital marketing strategists from a huge array of global brands will meet to compare notes, source suppliers, get quick answers, sharpen their strategies, help each other and discuss the impact of digital on the future shape of business. Your business!

What can you expect from Shift?

Two days jam-packed with best practice advice, new research, challenging opinions and relevant, up-to-the-minute case studies. The idea is simple: Shift is all about turning the tables to take disruption head-on.

There’ll be 50+ speakers, all in top echelons of the C-suite from brands as diverse as BBC, Travelex, Etsy, Heathrow, Vodafone, Nissan. They’ll be delivering guidance and insight across our three concurrent streams – Customer Acquisition, Customer Experience and Retention, Digital Transformation – covering the following topics:

Shift London topics

The Industrial Revolution lasted 100 years. By that measure, the Digital Revolution has 85 more years of fast and furious disruption coming our way, but the opportunities are limitless if you are ready to step up and face transformation head on.

Come meet the drivers of digital change. Book your place today.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fixing 404 Error Pages with Google Analytics

There have been multiple blog posts written over the years on how to use Google Analytics to identify and fix 404 Error Pages.

I have even written one myself and it’s a common slide in many of my talks. But with the newest features that are available within Google Analytics, these blog posts are due an update.

Custom Variables vs Events

The first question is whether to capture details of the 404 Error Page within page level customisations or as an event. My approach is to capture more information about the page using page level customisation. Since viewing a 404 Error Page is not an event, it should not be treated as one.

Google Analytics tracking

Step one in the GA tracking for Error Pages is to rename the page name to /error-page/404-error. This means all views of this page are grouped together, making them easier to identify and analysis becomes significantly easier.

There are two key pieces of information to capture on each 404 Error Page. The first is the URL of the page and the second is the referrer to the page.

Both are available as default Variables within GTM and so no developer support is required to capture them. The L3 Analytics approach is to capture the Page URL as a Content Grouping and the Referrer as either a Content Grouping or a Hit scoped Custom Dimension.

enabled built in variables

Previously I would have stopped at that tracking, but an Error Page view should now also be captured as a Custom Metric. It will provide an easy way to see the total number of Error Page views for the website or broken down by any session/user dimension.

Google Analytics configuration Previously, we always recommended creating a Goal for View Error Page. It is useful to know if visitors are seeing 404 Error Pages and if this metric ever exceeds a certain value (e.g. 2%) for this to trigger an immediate action.

This should be set up as a Custom Alert within Google Analytics to notify you when visitors are experiencing an excessive number of 404 Error Pages.

excessive error pages

To investigate the cause of 404 Error Pages, a Custom Report is required. It’s fairly simple, the report is filtered to only include data from 404 Error Pages and the dimensions are the Page URL and the Referrer.

The metrics in this example are Pageviews and Unique Pageviews (basically error counts) although you can now use the Custom Metric of Error Page Views.

There are two tabs within this Custom Report with the dimensions simply reversed in the second tab. When the report is run, it displays URLs which trigger the 404 Error Page, allowing you to click through to see the referrer to this page.

edit custom report

Switching to the second tab flips these two dimensions, displaying the referrers that trigger 404 Errors and allowing you to click through to view the URLs of the error pages. While this doesn’t solve everything, it allows you to identify the source of 404 Error Pages and where they are sending traffic to in error.

You could search the page source for these URLs or it might be obvious from their structure why there is a problem. There was one occasion on which we really had to dig deep into the data to identify the cause of a 404 Error Page; have a look at our real-life example here.

How LEGO’s #Kronkiwongi campaign drove customer engagement

Last week the SEW team were at Connect, our two-day search event in Miami. Here’s the third in a series of posts summarising a few of our sessions, covering either organic engagement or paid search innovation.

Here we’ll be taking a brief look at an excellent presentation from The LEGO Group’s Head of Global Search Marketing Luis Navarrete, covering how LEGO used the power of social, search and old-school PR to make a success of its Kronkiwongi campaign.

Let’s start with an insight into your childhood:

Start feeling both bad and good about yourselves, 98% of you reading this right now were creative geniuses at the age of three years old, “Our brains were constantly looking for different opportunities and solutions,” stated Luis.

What happened people? Only 2% of us now have retained these levels of creativity.

Here’s another insight:

Some parents perceive LEGO products as a “collection of predefined sets with prescriptive instructions” rather than “stimulating free creativity, imagination and endless possibilities to play”.

Ah, it’s a tale as old as The LEGO Movie.

the lego movie will ferrell

To challenge this attitude, LEGO set out to “reveal and celebrate the universal potential of children’s creative play.” To show parents that LEGO bricks can help inspire the builders of tomorrow; to increase the 2%.

This is where Kronkiwongi came in

To demonstrate the power of children’s imagination, LEGO asked children from around the world to build something that doesn’t exist.

kronkiwongi doesn't exist

LEGO’s first choice of channel to embark on this project was Facebook, a key network for mums in particular as it’s the place where they connect to things they care about the most.

It’s worthwhile noting that LEGO achieved all of the following in-house, it didn’t use a media or creative agency, instead it used a strong sense of co-creation from all levels of the organisation from strategy to execution.

Voice of the consumer

LEGO used its own young users to speak for the brand in a three part series of videos covering ‘What is a Kronkiwongi?’, ‘What is its story?’ and ‘How can a Kronkiwongi help?’

These assets were then adapted and used for the website and social networks, with landing pages pulling in children’s own Kronkiwongi creations.

Journalists (yes, those grumpy old curmudgeons) and bloggers were then invited to build their own Kronkiwongis with their own specially delivered kits.

lego journalist packs

The results

  • Reached 80% of mums on Facebook in targeted markets (24 million) plus 3.3 million organic reach (total reach 27 million).
  • One of the lowest CPV’s in Europe for the mum market.
  • Significant uplifts in all markets in brand connection to imagination and creativity for consumers who viewed >10 sec (average of 8-points uplift).
  • 92% of video views on mobile phones.
  • Engagement rate (likes, clicks, comments and shares) was up by 61% across the LEGO Facebook page.

So get building your own Kronkiwongi!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Voice search: the death of the keyboard?

Once upon a time, search engines took marketers by storm, as many of the top brands struggled to stay ahead of the digital world, first came search engines, then came social media, now we have a mobile and voice search experience.

As of 2014 we know 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis. Now with virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and voice recognition technology from Shazam and SoundHound, the number of users adopting voice search is only increasing, and the technology for understanding humans is advancing as well.

What is Voice Search?

Before we get too deep into the implications of voice search, let’s go through a quick run through on what it is and how it works.


Google’s Voice Search uses a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Text-to-Speech (TTS) to understand a user’s voice search request. This is then processed in a powerful database which aims to match the question with an answer which is then returned to the user, rather than a list of search results as you see with Google & Bing.

NLP technology’s role is to determine the intent behind the user’s voice request based on searchers query history and context behind the phrase. The more customers use voice search, the more powerful the technology will become.

Apple’s Siri, Window’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa and other up and coming voice-activated search technology are following a similar technology, which will return a direct result rather than a search result page.

Four ways to capitalize on the growth of Voice Search through your website

In order for your brand to benefit from Voice Search, various SEO techniques should be employed so as to enable search engines or other app technologies to easily extract ‘answers’ from your brand’s ecosystem.

Below are four ways to set up your digital ecosystem for success:

1) Maximize Schema markup opportunities

Schema is a markup language – an add-on to the HTML coding onto a webpage that provides further information to the search engine’s to help them understand the contents behind a web page. The more context being presented to the search engines, the better they’ll be able to understand the content.

2) Readable feeds (location data, prices, etc)

XML Sitemaps, location data and other micro-data are vital components that the search engines use to provide quick answers to the searchers requests. 40% of adults use voice search to get directions, making location specific data readable on the webpage absolutely critical in order to be found through voice-activated search.

3) Humanize content; use conversational phrases

As NLP technology advances, it will fall in line with the users search query focusing on the meaning behind the query rather than a set of query keywords. Re-evaluating the content and changing the tone to be more conversational by focusing on natural phrases and sentence structures, rather than keyword, will help the visibility in voice-activated search.

Using adverbs such as “Who”, “What’, “Where” and “Why”, which are common terms used at the beginning of voice search queries will help humanize the tone of the content.

4) Making the search experience quicker

Voice-activated search users are looking for direct answers to trivia questions. This makes FAQ content crucial, in helping the search engines identify quick answers for popular requests or questions.

What media opportunities exist for brands?

Right now, there’s isn’t a huge paid opportunity that exists around Voice Search. Google has been trying to figure out a way to monetize and Jerry Dishler, VP of Adwords Product Management said that voice search is an emerging platform that Google continues to work on:

“I have long-term plans for advertising,” he says, adding that voice search volumes continue to rise, and Google has ideas for the future when the queries become “pure voice dialog.”

Outside of Google, Shazam and SoundHound are leading the monetization of Voice Search by serving display ads within their apps. It’s estimated that Shazam has over 100 million monthly users (+34% YoY) and SoundHound with around 15 million. Both currently allow the purchase of various display, video & text ad units within their apps.

The future of Voice Search?

Unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball that can foresee the future for us, but no need to fear, we have something better, it’s called… speculation.

We know from the Northstar Research study that 45% of teenagers that use voice search wish this technology would be able to order their pizza. Domino’s has reported $4 Billion in global digital sales, which is attributed to both their website and mobile app, which features hands-free ordering through voice search.

Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Shazam, SoundHound, Google, and most, if not all, major TV manufacturers are all heavily investing in voice recognition technology. It’s only a matter of time before voice input starts catching up with keyboard entry, especially on mobile devices.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Only you can control your future”. Sadly, in the world of digital, it’s the search engines and machine-learning technology that controls ours.

Jos Smyth, VP, SEO, National Lead, contributed to this story.