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.

How Livestreaming Makes a Brand More Authentic

How Livestreaming Makes a Brand More Authentic

Marketing

In an age where establishing a reputable brand means maintaining a tightly controlled online presence, livestreaming offers a more authentic look into a company’s operations.  Livestreaming attracts customers and strengthens customer relationships as well.  A majority of customers say product videos are helpful in the decision-making process, and companies are responding. However, heavily edited photos and videos can sometimes distance a brand from its audience by making content look inauthentic. Livestreaming works best when it is authentic.

A multitude of platforms offer livestreaming, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope (Twitter’s own version).  Given the influence of Facebook and Instagram alone, the potential reach that livestreaming offers is significant.

The Key to Livestreaming Success

Being genuine is the key to livestreaming success. There is a fine balance to be achieved: preparation for a livestream, including rehearsal, is essential. But on the other hand, it is important to shy away from being so over prepared that your livestream looks like a slick sales pitch. No customer will be won with a video of a script-reading salesmen, and so achieving a creative, engaging, and possibly interactive video is paramount.

Livestreamed content offers an exciting range of choices. They include:

  • Behind-the-scenes tours.
  • New product reveals.
  • Company events.

Brands that have used livestreaming video include:

  • Dunkin’ Donuts, who used it to promote its sweets for Valentine’s Day last year. The video included how they use their test kitchen to create new products and showed customers how they created a large donut-shaped wedding cake.

  • EA Sports Madden NFL broadcast live from the NFL draft, which enabled them to connect with their customers watching one of the biggest NFL events of the year.

Perhaps the most outlandish livestreaming stunt (in the works) is Taco Bell’s “Love and Tacos” campaign.  On Valentine’s Day, Taco Bell announced renovations to its flagship Las Vegas location—more specifically, a wedding chapel on the second floor where they will hold ceremonies for those unique couples who opt for the $600 Taco Bell wedding packages.  In celebration of the renovations, Taco Bell also revealed a contest for the most obsessed couples already thinking about getting married.  The couple with the best love story, and most obvious love for Taco Bell won a wedding at the Las Vegas location, all expenses covered.  The wedding will be livestreamed for the world to see in June.

Challenges

Livestreaming presents its share of challenges, such as:

  • Quality. One of the biggest challenges to livestreaming is ensuring a high-quality livestreaming session. As anyone who has ever tuned into a sports game, political debate, or any other popularly shared live event knows, buffering can be an issue. If a video is pausing every other second to load, you can lose viewers quickly and annoy them.
  • Timing. Choosing an effective time to stream is another challenge. The ability to analyze a customer base and when the majority of them are most likely to tune into watch is essential.  However, most platforms have remedied this problem by offering the chance to save livestreams to watch at a different time.  While viewers lose out on that special “in the moment feel” unique to livestreaming, the opportunity to still tune into a unique video is certainly a great feature that can help expand viewership.

An effective livestreamed video allows a company to strengthen the relationship it has with its customers in an authentic way. Livestreaming can offer the feeling of a candid, unscripted look into how well-loved products are made, or give faces to the people who work at a given company.  While some technical issues have yet to be overcome, livestreaming can be a potent way to reach out to a customer base.

Great Visual Storytelling in the Automotive Industry

Great Visual Storytelling in the Automotive Industry

Marketing

At a time when people upload 1.8 billion images a day, visual storytelling is table stakes for most businesses to be relevant to consumers. But sharing one’s brand through images and video content is not always easy. Just as developing Web copy and blog content requires effective writing skills, visual storytelling demands close attention to how images create an emotional connection like no other communication medium.

Fortunately, businesses can learn from each other by example, and not necessarily from inside their own industries. For instance, it does not matter whether you sell bathroom fixtures or books: you can learn a lot from the automotive industry about visual storytelling. Automotive companies, ranging from dealers to aftermarket businesses, need to express themselves visually to succeed. (When was the last time you considered a new car purchase just by reading about the latest models?) Here are some automotive brands that are dialed in and know how to employ visual storytelling:

Humanizing a Brand

Subaru consistently uses video and imagery to inspire consumers to think of the human dimension of owning a car. For instance, to launch the 2017 Impreza model, Subaru rolled out video ads (offline and online) that tell the story of a little boy packing his bags and leaving home. Under the watchful eye of his parents, he packs the back of the family Subaru with his beloved personal possessions, including a sleeping bag and baseball bat. The end of the ad, though, reveals a heart-rending plot twist: the little boy is a young man leaving home in his Subaru. His parents are watching him through the lens of nostalgia. The ad tells a dramatic story of growing up and leaving home, with the Subaru playing a supporting role. As an old guy with a daughter graduating college, I think this ad particularly hits home. Here is a smart way to introduce a product — without saying a word about features and functionality. Subaru does it better than most and kudos to their marketing team and agency for brilliant work.

Connecting a Brand to a Lifestyle

On the other hand, NAPA Auto Parts builds its own brand by connecting its name to the excitement of automobile racing. NAPA does an exceptional job creating brand buzz through its sponsorship of drivers with popular racing bodies such as INDYCAR and NASCAR. And NAPA employs plenty of visual storytelling on its blog and social spaces to keep fans abreast of the performance of its sponsored drivers,  such as Alexander Rossi:

Of course, automobile racing lends itself to the excitement of video, and NAPA is happy to accommodate. For example, on its YouTube channel, NAPA shares video content that celebrates its drivers while building awareness for the brand value of “NAPA Know How.” The following video, for instance, effectively uses visual content plus narration to celebrate the way that Know How, skill, speed, and teamwork come together to create success with its professional drivers:

NAPA knows that sponsoring professional racers associates its brand with the distinct elements of automobile racing and uses visual storytelling to maximize the value of its sponsorships.

Providing Insight

J&P Cycles Parts & Service, the world’s largest aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories provider, does an exceptional job using visual storytelling to provide practical “how to” knowledge.  For instance, on its YouTube channel, J&P Cycles shows visitors how to install bike accessories such as seats and brake pads. A recently posted video takes you into a cycle shop to show you how to upgrade a cycle for less than $2,000, and if you want to learn how to install mirrors on a Harley-Davidson, J&P Cycles will show you how:

Those are just some of the videos available on the J&P Cycles DIY Motorcycle Upgrades and How-To Videos Channel on YouTube.  You can also find more how-to videos on the J&P Cycles website, including tips on battery installation.

By providing how-to videos, J&P Cycles is really demonstrating customer empathy. J&P Cycles knows that the purchase of an aftermarket product is hardly the end of the experience. The real moment of truth arrives when a customer installs the product.

What You Can Learn

These examples of visual storytelling apply to any brand. For instance, businesses that provide any kind of professional service can emulate the J&P Cycles example by using video to share thought leadership. A good way to get started with visual storytelling is to first map out your paid, earned, and owned media strategy, and figure out where visual storytelling can play a role. Subaru clearly understands how to apply visual storytelling to evoke emotion for paid media. J&P Cycles has done a nice job of integrating video to enhance customer service as part of an owned media approach.

How do you apply visual storytelling? What lessons have you learned?

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Tips for Promoting Higher Education on Instagram

Marketing

Some recently published statistics demonstrate the rising influence of Instagram. For instance:

These statistics are surely music to the ears of higher education institutions looking to reach their target markets.  Most colleges have Instagram accounts, which help them gain an organic following with visual content. In addition, Instagram offers a paid ad format to target people based on a number of factors, such as whether someone has shown previous interest in a school through a website visit. With Instagram advertising, institutes of higher learning can also target an audience based on interests, behaviors, age, gender, and education level as well as a variety of other socio-economic factors.  Let’s take a closer look at Instagram advertising.

Available Formats

There are currently four available ad formats:

  • Photo ads (Single photos available in square or landscape format).
  • Video ads (Up to 60 seconds in length).
  • Carousel ads (users can swipe to view additional photos or videos).
  • Stories ads (complement your feed content with ads on Instagram Stories).

Canvas ads (A full-screen ad experience) are currently available in Facebook and should be offered in Instagram in the future.

Instagram continues to revise its targeting options. We recommend ongoing testing of audience performance as a best practice.

Advertising Tips

While it is important that the ads/videos used on Instagram remain generally consistent with the design and feel of other marketing campaigns to maintain brand identity, keep in mind that Instagram is a social platform. So tailor your ads to align with the more laid back lifestyle feel of Instagram. Be sure to include a logo. And use images that are interesting and visually appealing, as many users view Instagram as an inspirational platform.

Instagram can be an effective outlet for showcasing the best features of your institution to potential students.  Well-conceived imagery can help students easily visualize what it would be like to attend your place of learning. Here are some tips for getting the most out of Instagram ads:

  • Promote your faculty by using images along with a personal quote or an endorsement from a current student. If a quote is pulled from a relevant article, it can be linked through the post itself or via the Instagram bio.
  • Feature campus sponsored-activities throughout the year – for example, images from move-in day, picnics, concerts, prominent speakers.
  • Highlight your campus community by including promotions about clubs, intramural sports, Greek life, and so forth.
  • Reach out to sports enthusiasts with ads promoting your various collegiate teams and information about upcoming games or highlights from key wins.
  • Consider testing a story ad that follows a day in the life of a current student to profile the student experience.
  • Put the beauty of your campus on full display through a video or series of images. Highlight those features that would be most appealing to potential students – high-tech classrooms; well-appointed dorms; favorite gathering areas such as the student union and campus quad; or a sports arena that’s filled with students supporting school teams.

The key to successfully engaging with a target audience is to help them envision themselves being a part of your school, whether it’s sitting in a classroom, walking across the quad, cheering in the stands at a sporting event, or being a part of a fraternity or sorority. And, don’t forget to include a call to action button in your ads such as “Learn More,” or “Contact Us” to ease the communication process.  A picture is worth a thousand words — so incorporate Instagram and create a visual marketing punch. Contact KeywordFirst for more insight into using Instagram to reach your audience.