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

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?

Amazon Takes a Bite Out of Search

Amazon Takes a Bite Out of Search

Search

If you haven’t incorporated Amazon into your search strategy, it’s time to reconsider your strategy. Over the last three years, Amazon has surpassed search engines as the place to start shopping online for products. According to a PowerReviews survey from 2016, 38 percent of people start their product searches on Amazon versus 35 percent who start on Google. A more recent survey from financial services firm Raymond James states a larger variance, with 52 percent starting at Amazon and only 26 percent starting on a search engine. No wonder Eric Schmidt of Google famously called out Amazon as its biggest search competitor in 2014.

I was surprised the first time I heard this information about search behavior on Amazon because Googling things has become second nature to me as a search marketing professional. Then I thought of my experiences as a new mom with an Amazon Prime account, and the numbers started to make more sense. Every time my son suddenly grows, or we’re almost out of some baby toiletries, or I don’t feel like making that third (or fourth) trip to the store, I go directly to Amazon. I can’t remember the last time I started shopping for a product on Google first.

Why are more people heading directly to Amazon? As it turns out, the main reasons most people start their searches on Amazon are:

  • The large variety of products.
  • Free shipping.
  • Better deals.
  • The number of product reviews available.

Another factor to consider is how many people who have an Amazon Prime account. According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, 60 percent of Amazon customers are Prime members, and Prime members make up about 80 million people from the United States. Why would a person paying for a Prime account look somewhere other than Amazon first when online shopping?

So what does this information mean for companies that rely on paid search and SEO as the main drivers of online sales? Shoppers who start their search on Amazon may very well stay on Amazon if they find what they want when they want it.  For those shoppers, it does not matter how greatly organized and efficient a brand’s AdWords account is or how high the organic results are. People who start a search on Amazon and stay on Amazon will never see the ads and are very unlikely to purchase products from these companies. Brands that rely on e-commerce should continue to advertise on search engines. But it is also important for advertisers to take a serious look at their marketing strategy to see if incorporating Amazon into the mix makes sense.

Need help in figuring out if adding Amazon to your plan is the right strategy for you? KeywordFirst can help. Contact us for more information.

How Well Do You Know Your Negative Keywords?

How Well Do You Know Your Negative Keywords?

Search

Google has made great strides developing tools that help advertisers find their target market. Using some of those tools is important. But make sure you don’t forget some of the fundamental best practices to ensure campaign success. A good example is the use of negative keywords in your paid search campaigns – a tried-and-true tactic that can improve your ability to target your paid media considerably.

To refresh you: Google defines a negative keyword as a type of keyword that prevents certain words or phrases from triggering your ad. When you identify negative keywords in your campaign, you lessen the likelihood that your ad will appear for irrelevant searches. When I audit paid search campaigns, one of the most common mistakes I find is the failure to add a robust list of negative keywords.

Finding Ideas for Negative Keywords

Reviewing search query reports will almost always result in negative keyword ideas. In the higher education space, I often see searches around student log-in information, campus living options, and school sports teams. All those searches are fodder for negative keywords. In the retail space, I often see searches including “How to,” “How do I,” or “Can I use.” In many cases, these types of searches result in ad clicks, but not conversions. So such searches are potential sources for negative keywords to add to your campaign.

Some searches are easy to identify as irrelevant. But other negative keywords may not be as obvious to discern.  If you are questioning whether you should add a new negative keyword, I recommend reviewing 12 months of AdWords data if available. Using a Search Term Report, you can filter for searches containing the search term or phrase in question. If you are tracking conversions, you can see how many times those types of searches resulted in conversions, how much spend was accrued, and the cost/per conversion

That data should make it easier to decide to add a negative keyword to block specific searches from triggering your ads. While you are reviewing the Search Term Report and looking for potential negative keywords, take some time to review the search queries for new keyword ideas as well.

Uncovering New Terms

Of course, it’s important to form your negative keyword strategy in context of a general keyword strategy. The Search Term Report is a great tool for doing so. I like using the Search Term Report to do complementary analyses for keywords and negative keywords. I might use the report to find general keywords as follows: often, I uncover new terms that searchers are using to find my product. For example, they might use my modified keyword along with some other descriptive words that might be good keyword additions to my campaign. For example:

  • I might have “+product +x” as my keyword, but I see a repeated pattern of people searching for “lowest cost product x,” “best product x,” “product x for women,” etc.
  • Or, perhaps your product is being used for a purpose not previously known. For example, “Using product x in a garage,” “product x for boats.”

It may be beneficial to add some additional keywords based on your search query results and test performance.

Finally, with the increased popularity of voice searches, you will most likely be seeing longer search queries in your reports, which could offer you valuable insight into ways to better tailor your current set of keywords.  By eliminating spend on irrelevant traffic with a robust negative keyword list, you should see an improvement in paid search performance. And that’s how you turn a negative into a positive!

Image source: Wilfred Iven, https://stocksnap.io/author/775

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Search

The war to dominate voice technology is heating up – and getting more interesting. Both Amazon and Google have recently announced important enhancements to make their voice assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, smarter and more useful. And to increase the level of competition, on June 5 Apple announced its HomePod smart speaker, powered by Siri, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The ability of a consumer to search from multiple devices anywhere they are makes it clear that brands’ strategies need to adapt for voice searches.

Apple Plays Catch-Up

 The launch of HomePod represents Apple’s attempt to gain a stake in the market for smart speakers activated by voice. Apple has been late to the playing field before, but when it enters, Apple creates hardware that leaves competitors in the dust. Think of the iPhone and how it changed people’s lives, and, even more so, the way people search.

Having access to another voice-activated device no matter where you are, whether it’s the HomePod, Apple Watch or iPhone, will only increase the use of voice search. Apple’s sneak peak of the HomePod mainly focused on its abilities for music in the home, but it also touched on similar smart speaker features such as weather, directions, messages, and reminders.

Additional Siri-related announcements included a new voice that is more conversational, which will match with the way consumers speak to Siri. Apple also announced a new Siri-powered watch face for the Apple Watch. Apple is enhancing Siri on the Apple Watch by using machine learning to gather data on how you utilize your device. Siri will use this data to then show you relative and interesting content.

Apple’s release of HomePod occurred on the heels of Google’s and Amazon’s own announcements related to voice technology. It’s instructive to review how Amazon and Google built off their already established products to differentiate themselves.

 Amazon Integrates Voice and Search with Echo

On May 9, Amazon – which dominates 70 percent of the market for voice controlled speakers – announced that its Echo voice-activated home speaker is getting more visual. The new Echo Show product includes a touch screen that integrates visual features with voice. According to Amazon, “Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.”

In addition, Echo Show users can make video calls, thus making Echo Show a competitor to Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s Hangouts, and Microsoft’s Skype.

What Echo Show does for brands and consumers is create a more integrated way for them to share content with each other. For instance, consumers can ask Alexa to make their dining reservations at a restaurant and also call up a menu, display available movie times at different theaters, and watch movie trailers, among many other possibilities.

According to Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff, “The Amazon Echo Show is a quantum leap beyond any Alexa-infused product we’ve seen before” because of the new interface with the touch screen. He also noted that Echo Show will always communicate with you, while other devices wait for you to initiate.

It’s obvious Amazon is becoming a stronger platform for amplifying your brand through paid and organic content, both visual and voice-related. If you do not have an Amazon strategy yet, KeywordFirst highly recommends experimenting with advertising on their platform.

Google Gets Smarter

Meanwhile, at its annual I/O event, Google introduced a slew of features to make Google Home  and Google Assistant more useful.

As if to answer Amazon Echo, Google launched Visual Responses, which also integrates visual content with voice. As Google noted on its blog, “You’ll be able to see Assistant answers on the biggest screen in your house, whether you’re asking ‘what’s on YouTube TV right now?’ or ‘what’s on my calendar today?’”

In other words, Google provides the same functionality as Amazon but with the power of the Google search and discovery ecosystem more closely integrated into the experience.

Google made many other enhancements to Google Assistant and Google Home. For instance, with Proactive Assistance, Google Home sends people information without being asked. So if you have an appointment with your doctor entered on your Google calendar, Google Home will remind you of the date and time, suggest a driving route, or provide other useful information such as helpful stops on the way to the doctor.

Another interesting improvement consists of making Google Assistant more conversational and more contextual. As Google noted on its blog, we often want to have follow-up conversations with Google Assistant. So Google has made it possible to see the history of your conversation with Google Assistant as you would a text thread, thus making it easier for you to re-engage with a conversation – say, managing a shopping list at the store after you’ve started one and then had your trip to Target interrupted by something else.

Bottom Line

Google, Amazon and Apple understand that people and brands find each other in more sophisticated, multi-dimensional ways. All of these companies have evolved to incorporate voice search tools and now multi-media discovery platforms.

Brands need to think of themselves as multi-media advertisers in the world that Amazon, Google and Apple are shaping. Performance media is not an either/or choice between voice, text-based, and visual platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. These three leading brands are forcing businesses to think of their media as overlapping, integrated platforms.

Virtual assistants are using machine learning to understand the consumer’s voice, interests, behaviors and intent to give them a better search experience. And with voice-activated devices advancing, consumer’s search behavior is shifting. We’ve mentioned before that voice searches are more conversational and natural. Advertisers now need to focus their content strategy not only around conversational language, but also visuals and the context of the search including the type of device and location.

Image source: PC Magazine

 

 

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

Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Analytics

I always found AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE) to be a slightly cumbersome way to test different variables with online advertising campaigns. Reporting, particularly at the keyword level, took some effort, and the setup of the test itself could be time-consuming. So, when Google announced it was going to replace ACE with “campaign drafts and experiments,” I was rather giddy. Now that I’ve had some time to work with campaign drafts and experiments (aka Google experiments) option, I urge you to try it.

With experiments, Google allows advertisers to create a draft campaign (a replica) of a real campaign they are running. By doing so, the advertiser can make adjustments to advertising campaigns in a number of ways, such as changing keyword bids, ad group setup, ad copy, ad scheduling, and geo-targeting.

And how can an advertiser run the 50/50 split properly? Well, Google now asks advertisers how much traffic (budget) they want to spend on the new experiment campaign and how much they want to spend on the control (current) campaign. And with Google experiments, if an advertiser wants to run a test with 90 percent of traffic being piped through the control and 10 percent through the test, they can do so. Having the option to test traffic in this manner gives advertisers the capability to test even if they might be wary to spend more on a true 50/50 test.

Unfortunately (there’s always an unfortunately, amirite?) there are limits to what an advertiser can test, but those limits are not nearly the same as with ACE. For instance:

  • Some reporting isn’t available such as ad scheduling, auction insights, display placement reports.
  • The Dimensions tab is not available. Dimensions reports on search terms, by-day results, paid versus organic, and other deep-dive report.
  • Some automated bid strategies (e.g., “target search page location,” “target outranking share,” and “target return on ad spend) and ad customizers (e.g., “target campaign,” “target ad group”) are not available, either.

But, how many advertisers are looking to test these settings? Not many (other than me, that is). Rather, most advertisers will be using experiments for testing many of the basic questions, such as:

  • What messaging performs best in my ad copy?
  • Do increased keyword bids improve conversion rates?
  • What landing page leads to higher conversion rates?

For those with more advanced tests in mind, advertisers are able to dive deep into each campaign and try testing a number of variables, such as:

  • Excluding a search partner (e.g., another engine powered by Google, such as Ask.com) from the test campaign and keeping a search partner in the control campaign.
  • Targeting a city/state differently in the test campaign then in the control campaign.
  • Bidding differently on gender, age, device, or income.
  • Testing a different ad schedule.

The best new feature of the experiments is easier reporting. Instead of pulling segments, subtracting test totals from the overall totals, or having to run a crazy formula to confirm all of the test keywords were pulled correctly, Google breaks out campaign experiment results simply as “Experiment” and “Original” in the experiments tab. The totals are easy to see and couldn’t be easier to pull. Even better, these numbers are reported on in Analytics! The Analytics feature wasn’t possible through ACE.

After an advertiser does the tedious work of building out an account’s keywords, ad copy, and extensions, experiments allows the advertiser to test, and testing is the fun part of the job. Experiments allows us to get actionable data that can lead to better decision-making, not just for display or paid search, but in some cases across multiple tactics. Those results may give senior marketers another view of their marketing campaign effectiveness and rethink their approaches.