Apple Event Underscores Popularity of Emoji

Apple Event Underscores Popularity of Emoji

Branding

One of the more interesting announcements from Apple’s September 12 special event was the unveiling of the animoji. The animoji is a new type of emoji in which your facial expressions animate an emoji. The iPhone X, when available in November, will track your facial expressions and make your favorite emoji, whether unicorns or aliens, become even more dynamic through your personality.

According to Apple Vice President of Software Craig Federighi, who demonstrated animoji onstage, animoji will make it possible for you to record an audio message, resulting in your animoji becoming synced with sound. He said that with animoji, users can “breathe our own personality” into your favorite emoji, which evoked reactions such as “fun and maybe a little creepy” from Anthony Ha at TechCrunch.

My take: the unveiling of animoji is another sign of how emoji have rapidly taken hold as a legitimate way for people and businesses to communicate. Consider these usage statistics, aggregated by DMR:

  • Nearly eight out of ten women online consider themselves frequent emoji users, and 60 percent of men online do as well.
  • About half of Instagram comments contain emoji.
  • Nearly six out of 10 of the top 500 brands have tweeted an emoji.

The popularity of emoji has certainly increased since the data was reported in 2015. In fact, according to a report published by platform provider Emogi, in 2016 people sent to each other 2.3 trillion mobile messages that incorporate emoji.

Brands have taken notice and are incorporating emoji into their digital marketing. For example, Toyota recently launched an ad campaign that incorporates users’ tweeted emoji into short-form video content. General Electric famously created an #EmojiScience campaign consisting of a website, emojiscience.com, which contains emoji as a periodic table of the elements. By clicking on each emoji, site visitors learn more about science, a topic that is at the core of the GE brand.

Meanwhile, Emogi is among the companies developing tools to help businesses incorporate emoji into their branding. For instance, Emogi introduced a way for businesses to embed branded emoji into text messages, which is important because texting is a huge vehicle for emoji sharing.

Our advice to you is to first know how emoji-centric your audience is. Use tools such as social monitoring to understand how your audience uses emoji, when, and why. Then start experimenting with emoji. Test ads and organic content with and without emoji and determine which are most effective. But don’t ignore emoji. As the Apple special event demonstrated, emoji are not going away. They’re becoming more and more sophisticated and common. Contact KeywordFirst to understand how to incorporate content such as emoji into your marketing. 😀

Lead image source: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Get Your Data Ready Before You Launch Your Advertising

Get Your Data Ready Before You Launch Your Advertising

Marketing

Here is an all-too-familiar scenario for businesses such as retailers and restaurants that operate brick-and-mortar locations: you carefully plan a digital advertising campaign, say to promote a back-to-school sale . . . you’ve done your homework on your audience, and you’ve developed a killer keyword strategy . . . your campaign launches, creating a spike in traffic to your location pages, your listings on Yelp, and to your brick-and-mortar storefronts . . . resulting in angry customers. Why? Because your location data is wrong in search results or your content is out of date.

Faulty data and bad content can sabotage the best-laid digital advertising plans. And a recent Forrester study suggests that bad data is a big problem. Forrester surveyed digital marketers to understand their challenges delivering mobile ads. As reported in eMarketer, the survey respondents said that inaccurate location data is a big problem undermining their efforts.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the results of poorly managed location data when you Yelp or Google a store or restaurant after seeing an ad or hearing a social media conversation. A new restaurant offers specials to lure new customers! But, when you search for the location, its address is wrong (or perhaps nonexistent) and its hours are not posted. What happened in that situation is that the business forgot to prepare for the uptick of traffic to its location pages that would result from a well-executed ad. To avoid becoming one of those businesses, we recommend you get your organic house in order. Here are steps you should take now:

  • Audit the state of our location data. Make sure all your locations have claimed Google My Business pages and are showing up in searches on search engines, Yelp, and all the places where people look for brick-and-mortar locations near them. Then review the accuracy of your location data, including elements such as your name, address, phone number, hours, and web URL (if your data appears on a third-party site), among other elements. If your business operates hundreds and thousands of locations, managing the accuracy of your data can be daunting task – so make sure you’ve assigned someone the job of doing so.
  • Update your data as needed to reflect any seasonal or event-based information that will change temporarily. This issue is especially crucial during holiday seasons when retailers keep expanded hours. Before you promote a seasonal event, have you updated your listings to reflect the change? And after the event is over, did you update your store hours again? The need to constantly update data as in this example is one reason why businesses work with automated software platforms – there’s just too much heavy lifting involved.
  • Make sure your deep content reflects the searches people are making as a result of the advertising you are running. We’ve talked about the need to align content with searches on blog posts such as Taylor Murphy’s post on adapting your pay-per-click strategies for voice search. Similarly, it’s important to be ready for an uptick in searches (voice and text-based) resulting from your advertising. If you are a retailer running a sale Star Wars merchandise this fall to coincide with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, have you updated your online inventory to prominently feature this merchandise for people conducting these searches, especially on mobile devices?

By managing your data and content to prepare for a major digital advertising roll-out, you drive the right traffic to your online storefronts and brick-and-mortar locations – people who are responding to your call. Failing to get your data and content in order will create frustrated customers. The choice is yours. Contact KeywordFirst to discuss maximizing the value of your performance media. We’re happy to help.

Image source: New Old Stock (http://nos.twnsnd.co)

How to Put Google to Work for You

How to Put Google to Work for You

Search

Too often, businesses treat the Google algorithm as a necessary evil (“What do I need to do to deal with the latest algorithm change?”). But you can put the Google algorithm to work for you if you’re willing to exercise some creativity. A recent KeywordFirst client experience is a case in point.

The Backstory

Optimum provides cable service to millions of subscribers in the northeast United States. In the New York tri-state area, the company offers digital cable television, high-speed Internet, voice services and Optimum WiFi.

Not long ago, Optimum wanted to improve the effectiveness of its paid search. Through merger/acquisition, the company had become part of a larger family of brands along with cable provider Suddenlink, a KeywordFirst client that provides service throughout the south and west U.S.

The company noticed that KeywordFirst was getting better results from paid search for Suddenlink than Optimum was getting from its own agency. So Optimum decided to do an A/B test: both KeywordFirst and Optimum’s legacy agency were challenged to test paid search campaigns over a three-month period.

Optimum assigned half the zip codes in one market to KeywordFirst. Our charge was to build from the ground up a paid search campaign including keyword management, creation of ad copy, and all other elements of paid search. The competing agency was given a market of similar size.

KeywordFirst was at a disadvantage because we needed to start a campaign from scratch whereas the legacy agency simply needed to continue performing in an already-established market.

How We Put the Google Algorithm to Work

We knew that Optimum was the dominant cable company in the area, especially in Google’s eyes. Optimum was competing against several smaller third-party firms and dish providers that do not capture as much attention from Google in the cable provider category — because unlike Optimum, they are not cable specialists.

Here’s where thinking out of the box came into play. It was tempting to play catchup by trying to bid for the top search position – and, to be sure, conventional wisdom often results in such a tactic. But we needed to think differently to show the client we understand the nuances of paid search.

We understood that Optimum dominates its the category in the New York area. We knew that Optimum’s market ownership made the company name more relevant than any other player in the eyes of Google. So, in fact, we avoided overbidding in Google search results. There simply was no need to outbid other companies when the Google algorithm was already rewarding Optimum with high-quality scores and higher positions in search results. In other words, we knew how to put the Google algorithm to work in our favor.

Rather than waste money overbidding, we actually lowered our bid for keywords and focused on driving qualified traffic to the Optimum website with effective ad copy and bidding smartly. Meanwhile, Optimum’s legacy agency pursued a strategy of bidding to achieve the highest possible position in search results. The strategy resulted in the agency paying more per click than KeywordFirst to attract customers.

Results

Within 60 days, KeywordFirst had attracted 40 percent more customers for 60 percent less money. Optimum halted the three-month test and awarded KeywordFirst its business.

The secret to our success was putting the Google algorithm to work for our client. We knew Google was going to favor Optimum in search results for non-branded words such as “cable provider” because the name held such strong authority with Google relative to the dish and aggregators in the area. We captured more clicks at a much lower CPC by simply allowing the algorithm to work in our favor.

Because KeywordFirst ran a cost-effective campaign focused on reducing CPC’s while retaining strong positions, rather than a “top position at all cost” strategy, we won the business.

Now, what if Optimum had been competing in an undifferentiated market saturated with other cable providers? Well, our approach would not have been so successful. We knew our approach would work because in the eyes of Google, there were few choices in our client’s market.

The lesson here is to understand your clients, their competitive market, and how the Google algorithm works. How have you put Google to work for you?

New Research Report Underscores Importance of Partnering

New Research Report Underscores Importance of Partnering

Marketing

The Chicago area is a fast growing and vibrant source of digital marketing agencies beyond some of the well-known giant firms. A new report by research firm Clutch sheds a spotlight on the diversity and excitement of the Chicago-based digital marketing agency industry. And I’m pleased to announce that KeywordFirst is ranked as a market leader in the report.

Clutch evaluated and ranked Chicago-based digital marketing agencies using a proprietary research methodology that incorporated factors such as client reviews. The reviews covered agency attributes such as quality of work performed and project management skills. KeywordFirst was ranked in the top-tier Market Leaders category in the Clutch digital agency matrix.

Naturally we were excited to be ranked so strongly especially because client feedback figured large in the ranking criterion. As one client told Clutch, “It’s hard to argue with what the numbers tell us. Last year, KeywordFirst helped us to nearly double the amount of leads which we were able to acquire.”

Another client said, “Their work has been successful. We always want results to be better, but KeywordFirst are knowledgeable and are very easy to work with. Unlike the people in many other agencies, they’re humble.”

To be cited for our humility is important. On our website, we talk about the importance of being honest, uncomplicated, and transparent. We believe that agencies need to do more that provide great advice and do successful work. They need to be partners that companies like to work with.

I urge you to take time to review the Clutch report here. And use it to vet your agency as you decide whom to work with. You’ll find a nice variety of options in the report. We’re pleased to be one of the leading choices.

Mobile Advertising: Let Your Customer Be Your Guide

Mobile Advertising: Let Your Customer Be Your Guide

Mobile

Mobile is a shining star of performance marketing. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), for the first time, mobile ads account for the majority of digital ad spend. The IAB 2016 Internet Advertising Revenue report says that mobile ad revenues increased 77 percent to $36.6 billion in 2016, or 51 percent of total digital ad spend. Desktop search, the next biggest category, accounted for 24 percent of the total.

The IAB also says that the $36.6 billion spent on mobile ads included $17.2 billion for mobile search and $18.1 billion for mobile display.

I’m not surprised by the growth in mobile ad revenue. The ad spend reflects changing consumer behavior and the power of major publishers such as Google. The number of mobile searches on Google surpassed desktop searches two years ago. And Google has been changing its algorithms to force brands to respect the power of mobile. For instance, Google’s 2015 “mobilegeddon” algorithm rewarded mobile-friendly web pages with higher rankings for searches done on Google.

And yet, as important as mobile has become, mobile is still a contextual experience. To me, the real excitement and long-lasting value for advertisers comes from creating meaningful online advertising that appeals to omnichannel consumers.

Omnichannel consumers interact with brands through a variety of devices and channels, including social media, your website, display ads on other sites, and search results – on mobile phones, desktops, tablets, in games, on television, and through voice-activated assistants, to cite just a few of the proliferating channels and devices that shape the consumer-brand experience.

You get a better picture of how complex the advertising landscape really is when you dig into the IAB report and sift through the variety of ad formats that account for digital spend. (The report’s appendix alone, which details the pricing models and ad formats, is instructive.)

It’s important that businesses understand the nuances of advertising through different channels and devices. For instance, Tim Colucci at KeywordFirst has been blogging lately about the distinct challenges and opportunities of video advertising. (Here is an example.) At the same time, I believe it’s more important to coordinate mobile in context of the understanding your consumers’ journeys from awareness to purchase to loyalty. Yes, mobile advertising is probably going to be important to just about any brand, but how and when you spend on mobile advertising may differ dramatically by channel (e.g., Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) and device depending factors such as what stage a customer is in the buying decision and the time of day they’re interacting with your brand.

So let’s celebrate and appreciate the rise of mobile ad spending. But even more importantly, let’s keep our focus on the broader consumer journey and invest into experiences that create and retain customer relationships throughout the journey, one impression, channel, and device at a time.

Image source: Startup Stock Photos

KeywordFirst Predicts the Future of Performance Media

KeywordFirst Predicts the Future of Performance Media

Uncategorized

How is performance media changing in 2017? At KeywordFirst, we consider questions like that all the time. We have to. Our own performance depends partly on our ability to stay on top of the changing performance media landscape in order to be trusted partners to our clients. We surveyed our own team to find out what’s on their minds as we examine the changing nature of performance media. We’ve summed up our thinking below.

Three key themes emerge from our internal survey: the evolution of mobile, the increasingly sophisticated nature of attribution, and the rise of voice search. We see performance media strategies going through a mobile-first phase before ultimately entering a post-mobile phase. Meanwhile, attribution is getting more precise thanks to the development of better tools in discipline like paid search, and advances in voice search are challenging businesses to refine their paid and organic content for voice queries, which are much different from text-based queries. Read on for more detail:

  • “We’re entering a post-mobile world. With mobile now accounting for 60 percent of all searches in the United States, marketers are becoming more comfortable with integrating mobile into their media planning and implementation rather than calling out mobile as its own emerging channel requiring a standalone paid media strategy. Maximizing the value of mobile certainly requires an understanding of mobile’s distinct attributes, but in 2017 our industry will continue to shed a fixation with ‘mobile first’ thinking.”
  •  

  • “No More John Doe. It was not long ago that targeting focused primarily on finding the best keywords and honing in on the most optimal geo locations when trying to reach customers. Now through both SEM and social channels, advertisers can further narrow their customer search based on demographics including age, gender, education, and income, as well as interests, topics, purchasing behaviors, and device preferences, to touch on just a few. Based on data collected about your customers, there is also the option to target lookalike or similar audiences – potential customers who share characteristics similar to those individuals currently targeted. Testing various targeting options can help paint a picture of the ideal customer and make advertising spend more efficient. These refined targeting options have opened the door for smaller businesses with limited budgets to engage in online advertising as they are able to focus spend on a tighter subset of potential customers and stretch their advertising dollars.”
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  • “With the continued growth of mobile on search and social channels advertisers will need to begin evaluating the appropriate metrics for a mobile first world. Click through rates though vital to the industry will need to be reengineered with mobile users not having the same motivation behind clicks. The continued study of interaction will be weighed heavily in 2017 as advertisers will need to understand what ad formats and text will work best for users at all times of day, whether it be shorter for the work day when users glance at their phone for a quick break or creating a longer story that will carry the user throughout the day and eventually lead to a conversion. With this interaction rate and attribution will need to be viewed alongside click through rate to determine a brands true returns from mobile advertising efforts.”
  •  

  • 2017 will be the year that digital marketers embrace audience targeting. I’m not just talking about social platforms and remarketing, but also for search. In 2016, we continued to refine strategies around Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) and Similar Audiences for Search. Both tactics give the opportunity to either exclude irrelevant audiences or to increase bids for more qualified leads. I believe keywords will still play a critical role for search marketers, but with CPC’s increasing, advertisers are looking for cheaper ways to reach relevant user types. Last year, audience targeting was something new that many people were just testing, but with the growing trend of a personalized ad experience, we can expect to see a dramatic increase this year.
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  • “The marketers that outperform their peers in 2017 will be focused upon utilizing analytics to optimize targeting. The publishers have altered the game so that by default ads will show to as broad a target as possible. Therefore, the skilled marketer will adjust and strive to narrow targeting layers in order to retain the most relevant audience. Efficiency is the goal and analytics will be the tool used to properly identify that refinement of targeting.”
  •  

  • “The evolution of artificial intelligence is changing the way people search online. Voice searches are increasing due to a growing popularity of personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa. When consumers are speaking to these assistants, they are using a more natural language, thus altering their search behavior. As of right now, Google and Bing do not provide a way to track voice searches. Voice searches are translated into text and listed as regular search queries. At times you might see, ‘Siri, can you . . . ‘ or ‘OK Google’ before a search term, but that’s not always the case. Jumping into 2017, I predict that we will see more to come focused around artificial intelligence and voice-technology.”

We invite our readers to have a conversation with us about the direction of performance media. What trends do you see in the marketplace?

Want to Raise Your Google Quality Score? Shun the “Set It & Forget It” Mindset

Quality Score Spotlights

DONT FORGETTweak, tweak, tweak, tweak. If you want optimal results from your paid search program, that’s what you must do. Tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak.

You can build a successful paid-search advertising campaign using sound fundamentals, but you need to be willing to monitor closely and make adjustments continually – if you want success to last or increase. Tweaking for success will cause the Google Gods to smile down upon your ads and lead to better placements. We talk about this approach in “Want to Raise Your Google Quality Score? Shut the ‘Set It and Forget It’ Mindset,” which was originally published on The Social Media Monthly (January 21, 2015.)

The Social Media MonthlyIn that post, we explain the five factors that greatly influence your ad’s Quality Score:

  1. Click-through Rate (CTR)
  2. Ad Relevancy
  3. Keyword Relevancy / Campaign Structure
  4. Landing Page Relevancy
  5. Account History

In a recent workshop, we further described each of these factors and covered the three powerful ways you can influence higher Quality Scores.

  • Improve CTR
  • Improve Landing Pages
  • Build Quality History

 

While the algorithms that drive search results change frequently, these factors and techniques continue to be important in helping you achieve optimal success with your paid search program … as long as you don’t “Set It and Forget It.”

Always be tweaking.