It’s Always Black Friday

It’s Always Black Friday

Marketing

If the holiday shopping season seems to be starting earlier, you are not imagining things. When I look at our digital advertising spend for retail clients, I see an larger-than-usual uptick going back to the first full week of November – more so than we expect to see for that time period. It’s not just that we are spending more. Consumer search volume for holiday-related content is spiking by as much as 30 percent higher than normal for early November. Why?

I see two factors at play:

  • Consumers remain confident in the economy. According to Deloitte, “With disposable personal income climbing and consumer confidence staying elevated across the U.S., the holiday shopping season could bring healthier sales for retailers to cap off a tumultuous year.” Deloitte made this prediction in September. The reasoning is sound, and so far consumer behavior is bearing out the prediction.
  • Thanksgiving is happening earlier. We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Day Thursday, November 23, the earliest since 2012, when Thanksgiving was celebrated on November 22. An earlier Thanksgiving means an earlier start to the holiday shopping season. Retailers launch their pre-Black Friday promotions earlier, putting consumers in shopping mode earlier.

As a result, we’re busier than ever as we manage holiday-related online advertising for our clients. But there’s a catch: the season is going to end sooner, too. Here’s why: Christmas lands on a Monday. Consequently, carriers will not deliver on Christmas Eve (Sunday), and they’ll charge a premium for a Saturday delivery December 23.

As a result, we’re prepared to decrease our digital advertising spend sooner than we might do so normally. Why? Because we don’t want to create a spike in demand for retailers’ products too close to Christmas Day, when a retailer is unable to fulfill the order by December 25.

If you manage digital advertising for a business that caters to holiday shoppers, make sure that you:

  • Do a gut check on search traffic now. Are you seeing a spike in demand as we did for our clients? If so, is your budget set up to handle the increase?
  • Be ready to decrease your holiday ad spend sooner than you normally would to avoid putting too much stress on your fulfillment services with Christmas deliveries being complicated by December 25 landing on a Monday as noted.
  • Monitor your Google AdWords account very closely. As my colleague Mark Smith recently wrote, Google has empowered itself to increase your AdWords budget by twice the amount you had planned. Consequently, if you experience unusual spikes in demand (as might be happening already), your monthly budget could be spent much sooner in the month than you had planned – which could jeopardize Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising. As Mark notes in his blog post, for shorter-term campaigns, you may need to set your spend levels lower to have some level of protection, especially if you know you’re going to get high-volume traffic within that time period.

How is your holiday spend going? Are you seeing an unexpected spike, and how are you responding? If you need help managing digital advertising (during the holidays or otherwise), contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://static.pexels.com/photos/291762/

Advertiser Q&A: Local Services by Google

Advertiser Q&A: Local Services by Google

Marketing

In 2015, Google began testing Home Service Ads, a digital advertising platform aimed at providers of on-location services such as plumbing, heating, and painting. The program is live in 17 U.S. cities. Google has now rebranded Home Service Ads as Local Services by Google and will expand it to 30 cities by the end of 2017.

The idea behind Local Services is to boost the presence of service providers with a dedicated advertising platform beyond paid search. As more businesses have gotten onboard with Local Services (under its old name), I’ve fielded many questions from clients and colleague in the industry who want to learn more about the platform. In the following Q&A, I’ve answered some of the more common ones. Check it out – especially if you provide an on-location service.

What exactly is Local Services by Google?

Local Services is a platform dedicated to providers of on-location services such as plumbing. Businesses that participate in the program have their ads appear above search results (even paid search results). For example, a Google search for “Plumbers in Los Angeles” reveals the following three sponsored placements for Ninja Plumber, United Plumbing Heating Air & Electric LA, and Expert Plumbing & Roofer – each of which is a Local Services ad:

Notice how the Local Services ads appear above paid search results for rooterhero.com, allsuburbanplumbing.com, and teamrooter.com. They also appear above the 3-pack results and organic listings.

Notice also the “Google Guaranteed” seal in each inset box. As Google notes, “Google Guaranteed” means that providers are pre-screened and meet relevant insurance and licensing requirements. When users book an eligible Local Services provider on Google, they are protected by the guarantee.

Now look at the rich level of detail that a user finds when clicking on one of the Local Services ads (for Ninja Plumber) – everything from customer reviews to information about services provided and location data:

A Local Services ad is more than a banner ad. It’s a mini website with clickable information to encourage a customer to do business with the provider. The content is drawn from a provider’s Google My Business page.

What is new and different about Local Services Ads?

The two most crucial content attributes of Local Services ads are the Google Guarantee and the prominence of customer reviews.

As noted, the Google Guarantee literally gives the provider Google’s stamp of approval. Per Google, here is what a Google Guarantee covers:

  • “If you’re not satisfied with the work quality, we’ll cover claims up to the job invoice amount, with a lifetime cap of $2,000. Your job must be booked through Home Services. Add-on or future projects, damages to property, dissatisfaction with price or provider responsiveness, and cancellations aren’t covered.
  • Claims must be submitted within 30 days of the job completion date.
  • You can identify an eligible pro because they have the Google guaranteed symbol by their name and on their profile page.”

Meanwhile, the prominently placed customer reviews are intended to give users more confidence in their choice of a provider. In featuring a Local Services ad, Google gives preference to providers that have the highest volume of reviews. So it behooves providers to encourage their customers to review them.

What is the compensation model?

The compensation model is pay per lead, meaning that the advertiser pay only for leads resulting from the ad as opposed to clicks. Google charges $25-$30 per lead.

Is a Local Services ad a substitute for paid search?

No. Local Services ads complement paid search. But your paid search strategy may change depending on how effectively your Local Services ad is.

Local Services ads are very similar to Google Shopping ads for retail advertisers, the difference being that Local Services ads are for services, not physical products.

For retail advertisers, Shopping ads complement paid search (and vice versa) by doing a few things:

  • The ad takes up more space on the search results page.
  • The ad acts like a display branding ad by placing your brand name in multiple spots on the search results page, thereby making you more legitimate.
  • The ad drives orders.

Local Services ads act in the same manner by:

  • Placing your brand in more than one spot.
  • Boosting your legitimacy.
  • Allowing users to find and hire you via multiple tactics.

Local Services ads also result in your brand taking up more space in the search results page, thereby driving your competitors below the fold.

How do I participate in Local Services Ads?

You’ll need to undergo an extensive security and verification check that includes submitting background checks on your employees to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Note that the program is restricted to certain markets but is growing rapidly. To learn more, check out this Google page.

From our experience working with clients, you’ll want to prepare yourself by making sure your Google My Business page is up to date and that you are getting a steady stream of customer reviews.

What’s in it for me to advertise with Local Services Ads?

Local Services ads are especially appealing if your business has received a high volume of favorable customer reviews and your Google My Business Listings are rich with useful content. In a sense, a Local Services ad complements your website if the cost of the program is right for you.

The lead-based compensation model is especially appealing if your cost per lead is higher than $25-$30 because Google charges $25-$30 per lead delivered.

What should I do next?

  • Closely examine your cost per lead to determine whether the compensation model is worthwhile.
  • Audit your Google My Business page and make sure all its content and data are accurate and complete. Remember, your GMB page feeds your Local Services ad.
  • Make sure you are actively encouraging your customers to review you.
  • Be ready for an onboarding process, which can take weeks to complete. You may need outside help to complete the process.
  • Monitor your paid search activity. If you see a decline in click and impression volume, your Local Services ad might be the reason. Determine whether your market is included in Local Services ads by reaching out to Google (or doing a search on your own). Then check to see if the decline in click and impression volume is due to a sudden drop in average position, which could be a sign of three factors:
    • Local Services ads are in your market.
    • Competition is heating up among established companies in your market, especially during the October-January months.
    • A new entrant to your market is driving up the level of competition.

The Local Services ads end up limiting the number of paid search ads that are served — so your own Local Services ad could be the cause of the drop in click/impression activity. But keep in mind that Google will never show just a single Local Services ad to a user; rather, Google will show all available. So, it isn’t necessarily your own Local Services ad that causes the drop but rather the introduction of the new ad type as a whole.

If you see a drop in click and impression volume for paid search, the other option available to help increase paid search volume (impressions/clicks) is to improve your average position so that you show in the top 2-3 spots. But, an advertiser is going to have to be willing to accept higher average CPCs and spend more to get the same amount of volume as pre-Local Services launch.

Once you set up a Local Services ad, you can basically take a set-and-forget-it approach. You don’t need to worry about doing bid adjustments or other tactical tweaks.

If you need assistance figuring out whether Local Services ads are right for you, contact KeywordFirst. We’re happy to help. We can provide both counsel and management.

Lead image source: https://pixabay.com/en/building-glazurkarz-ceramic-tiles-1080597/

 

Google Delivers an October Surprise to Advertisers

Google Delivers an October Surprise to Advertisers

Marketing

Managing your AdWords budget has gotten a lot more complicated.

Recently, Google announced that AdWords campaigns can spend as much as twice their average daily budget – a steep increase from when Google allotted itself only a 20-percent leeway to increase a campaign’s budget.

As a result, as Google noted, “On days with lots of high quality traffic, your costs could be up to 2 times your daily budget. This spending is balanced by days when your spend is below your daily budget.”

That’s right: Google has empowered itself to exceed your allotted AdWords budget by twice the amount you had planned. So, let’s say your campaign budget is $300 a day for the month. Conceivably, during spikes in search volume, Google could lift the ceiling on your spend to $600.

Google assured its customers that “you won’t be charged more than your monthly charging limit: the average number of days in a month (30.4) multiplied by your average daily budget.”

But even with Google’s assurance that monthly charging limits would not be exceeded, customers were angry.  Here are three reasons why:

  • Large advertisers running hundreds or thousands of campaigns rely on the ability to constantly adjust their keyword spends daily depending on spikes or drops in demand. They might lower their budgets when spikes in demand occur to protect themselves from their budgets skyrocketing. Now along comes Google disrupting their finely calibrated campaigns and potentially doing the exact opposite of what they intend.
  • Businesses running shorter (less than 30 day) campaigns, such as event-based campaigns, could have their budgets blown within the first few days of their spend. To be sure, Google would cap their budgets, but a spike in demand could cause these customers to essentially end their campaigns sooner than planned if Google were to increase their spend by as much as twice the amount budgeted.
  • The wide budget variance could also hamper anyone performing campaign, keyword or ad copy tests by disrupting their allotted spend levels.

On the other hand, smaller businesses that do not change their budgets often are likely unaffected. In fact, having Google recalibrate its budget could make the business’s spend more consistent throughout the month.

So, what should you do? I suggest three course of action:

  • Pay more attention to the results of your spend on a daily basis (which we do already for our clients). Be ready to adjust spend sooner than you might have planned.
  • For shorter-term campaigns, set your spend levels lower to have some level of protection, especially if you know you’re going to get high volume traffic within that time period. You might want to pull back from the get-go.
  • For existing campaigns, study your performance data carefully to set your budgets more carefully. Many companies that have been actively involved with paid search for years have a lot of data to draw upon in order to calibrate their budgets.

In any case, this change is permanent. It’s not going away. If you are not doing so already, watch your AdWords campaigns more closely and be ready to change them. KeywordFirst can help you. Contact us – managing your online advertising is our business and passion.

How to Use Your Google AdWords Account to Compete with Amazon

How to Use Your Google AdWords Account to Compete with Amazon

Marketing

Amazon is so popular for product searches that retailers who rely on Google AdWords to drive online sales may be wondering how to compete with the $136 billion giant. For some, the answer is to start selling on Amazon themselves. For others, advertising on Amazon might not be the right fit. Although many people search and shop on Amazon exclusively, many others continue to search first on Google. And comparison shoppers are loyal to no site. In a previous blog post, I discussed why Amazon devotees head there first: they like the large variety of products, reviews, the amount of deals, and free shipping opportunities. With an understanding of why people like Amazon, a retailer can use different functionalities in AdWords to attract similarly minded customers.

Google Shopping Ads

Reasons people like Amazon include reading customer ratings and reviews and learning about products and promotions. Using Google Shopping ads is a great way retailers can capitalize on those reasons.

According to a 2016 PowerReviews study, of the people who start their product searches on Google, 52 percent said they’d click on Google Shopping ads next, followed by Amazon or a retailer site, at 41 percent each. To use Google Shopping ads, a business should link its Merchant Center to AdWords. Once linked, the product data dictates how and where ads will show. Management of the shopping ads is done in AdWords, where organization and promotion of items is done using ad groups or campaigns. Unique ads do not need to be created manually. Rather, Google pulls information such as an image, title, price, and store or business name from the feed into an ad. In the new AdWords experience, advertisers can even use Showcase Shopping Ads, which is an ad format that shares information about several related products.

Shopping ads come with their own set of enhancements, which are similar to ad extensions for text ads. Opting into these enhancements is where there’s the opportunity to showcase many of the features that make Amazon attractive to online shoppers. Currently, these are the available enhancements:

  • “Special Offers” with Merchant Promotions – uses a promotions data feed, promotions shown as “special offer” links alongside the Product Ads.
  • Product Ratings – provide critical information to shoppers using a 5-star rating system and count of total reviews. Reviews are specific to the individual products and not reflective of the store or business and they are based on aggregated ratings from multiple sources.
  • Google Customer Reviews Badge – A badge available to those who’ve opted into the Google Customer Reviews service. The badge associates the retailer website with the Google brand, can be placed on any page of the site, and displays a seller rating using the 5-star system.
  • Seller Ratings – A score that can appear on shopping ads. An automated enhancement that utilizes consumer reviews on post-purchase feedback to generate an “XX% Positive” Rating.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are another great way to share information about a company or products, and also make text ads stand out against the competitors in the search engine results. Using them is also a way to showcase detailed product information, which people look for while shopping on Amazon. In addition to the basic extensions like sitelinks and callout extensions, there are also a few other extensions every retailer should be using:

  • Structured Snippets – show a preview of the advertised products before a searchers clicks to the website, using a predefined header and the retailer’s choice of supporting details. Some of the relevant headers for retail are Brands, Models, Styles, and Types.
  • Price Extensions – display up to eight cards that people can view to see different products or brands and prices. From the price menu, people can click directly to their area of interest. This feature includes a header and small description, similar to sitelinks. Pricing qualifiers include from, up to, and average, allowing for flexibility in the offering.
  • Promotion Extensions – highlight sales and promotions, catching the eye of those people who are looking for the best deals. They include the option to emphasize holidays, special events, coupons and offer codes. Scheduling guarantees the promotions will only show up during the designated time frame.
  • Review Extensions – share positive third-party reviews or awards with potential customers, giving them a good impression of the business even before they click on the ads.
  • Seller Ratings Extensions – an automated extension that uses the 5-star rating system. Google displays a rating after gathering enough information from reputable sources that aggregate business reviews. Ratings normally reflect the overall consumer experience with the business and show if a business has 150 unique reviews with a rating of 3.5 or better.

Custom Ads for Specific Audience Lists

Audience lists that are layered into search campaigns bring another opportunity to capture competition from Amazon. With IF Functions, it’s possible to write customized ads for different audience lists. For example, if an advertiser wanted to use a text ad and highlight a percent off offer on all items, they could choose to have a separate offer for people who haven’t been to the website before. Using the IF Function for audiences, the current customer list could be shown a 20% off text ad while people not on the audience lists could be shown 30% off. Or if the products being sold are considered commodities and buyers commonly jump around from site to site looking for the best offer, the opposite can be done and current customers can receive the larger discount.

By using Google Shopping Ads, Ad Extensions for text ads, or writing custom ads using IF Functions for specific audience lists, a retailer can provide a shopping experience that can appeal to an Amazon shopper. And regardless of where a searcher starts out, most people want the same thing: a good customer experience. Showcasing as much relevant information as possible before someone clicks on an ad helps create a good customer experience because it tells the searcher what to expect and if the product matches their need. Highlighting the amount and type of products available, relevant reviews, discounts, savings, and promotions encourages people to choose your products even before getting to your website. If you need help setting these features up, contact us at KeywordFirst.

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)

Tips for Incorporating Amazon into Your E-Commerce Strategy

Tips for Incorporating Amazon into Your E-Commerce Strategy

Marketing

Sears gave its investors reason to smile July 20 when the iconic and embattled brand announced that it would sell Kenmore appliances on Amazon. The value of the company’s stock rose 19 percent in the wake of the announcement. It’s easy to see why: as I discussed in a recent blog post, many consumers start searching for products on Amazon first. Sometimes they may visit a search engine after perusing Amazon. In other cases they might stay on Amazon and never see products sold by advertisers who rely solely on paid and organic search to attract traffic to their sites. If you are experiencing flat or declining online sales, now may be the time to incorporate Amazon into your e-commerce strategy.

According to Amazon, there are more than 95 million unique visitors a month on the site. Listing your products there gives you ample opportunity to attract new customers. Selling on Amazon also allows you to capitalize on Amazon’s brand. Amazon is a well-known and trusted brand — in fact, Amazon ranked Number 1 in reputation for 2016 according to a Nielson survey. People trust Amazon to have good products and sellers. Some of that trust will automatically be given to you when you sell your products on Amazon.

Getting Started

The first step in competing with other companies selling products on Amazon is to list your products there. A Professional Account is for those who plan on selling 40 or more items a month, and costs $39 per month in addition to some other selling fees. Once you have an account, you can list your products and start selling quickly. The set-up process is easy, and Amazon has many resources to help answer any set up or implementation questions.

Advertising on Amazon

Once you are all set up with a Professional Account, you can start advertising on Amazon. Amazon has an advertising platform that utilizes many similar features as Google AdWords, including keyword-, product-, and interest-based targeting methods. Running additional advertisements on Amazon puts you in front of more new customers and differentiates you from other sellers not using these features. As a seller, you can use Sponsored Products, Headline Search Ads, or Product Display Ads to increase your product sales and brand awareness. Here is a breakdown of how the ad types are different from each other:

Sponsored Products

  • Promotes a single product.
  • Keyword-based campaign structure using broad, phrase, and exact terms.
  • Ads drive shoppers to the product detail page.
  • Sponsored Products show above, alongside, and below the search results and product detail pages.
  • Utilizes daily budgets similar Google AdWords.

Headline Search Ads

  • Promotes three or more products.
  • Keyword-based campaign structure.
  • Ads drive to a brand or custom landing page on Amazon.
  • Headline Search Ads appear above search results.
  • Utilizes daily budgets and “All-campaign” budgets.

Product Display Ads

  • Promotes a product through a display ad.
  • Product or interest-based targeting options.
  • Ads drive to the product detail page.
  • Ads show on the product detail, search results, review, and offer listing pages as well as Amazon-generated marketing emails.
  • Costs based on a cost-per-click model.

All these ad types are similar to ad options on Google AdWords. So if you are already doing search or display on Google, you should have an idea of what keywords or interest targeting works best for your products. Taking your top-performing, product-related keywords from AdWords and trying them out on Amazon would be a good way to gauge performance on the Sponsored Products or Headline Search Ads. While the costs across the platforms will be different, Amazon lists many case studies where sales and revenue have increased substantially.

Product Fulfillment

Listing on Amazon gives you access to the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) services. With this service, you can store your products in Amazon’s fulfilment centers. Amazon takes care of picking the product out, packing, shipping, and handling any customer service requests. Using FBA opens up access to Amazon Prime customers, which make up nearly 60 percent of Amazon users. Doing so also places the work of managing orders to a specialized team of people, freeing up your time and allowing you to focus on other business needs.

While selling products and getting advertising set up on any new platform can seem overwhelming, it’s hard to ignore the benefits that come with adding Amazon into your online e-commerce strategy. Being on Amazon places your products in front of more customers on a trusted website. And because many people who shop on Amazon stay on Amazon, you also are less likely to compete against yourself in other channels.

If selling and advertising on Amazon sounds like something you would like to try out, we at KeywordFirst would love to help you manage your seller account and advertisements. Contact us to learn more.

Image source: Waste360.com

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.