Google Creates a Mobile-First World with Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google Creates a Mobile-First World with Accelerated Mobile Pages

Mobile

Google continues to create a mobile-first future. The company’s 2015 algorithm update known as Mobilegeddon resulted in mobile-optimized websites ranking higher in search results. And recently Google announced it will extend Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to all AdWords advertisers globally.

AMP is an open-sourced project that Google designed and rolled out in 2016 to make mobile web pages load faster. Recently Google analyzed landing page performance of 900,000 mobile landing pages. As page load time increases from one second to seven seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing more than doubles. For every one second delay in page load time, conversions can fall by up to 20 percent.

With AMP, Google decided to improve engagement in a mobile world. According to Google, by May 2017,  brands had published more than 2 billion pages with AMP, cutting their page times to less than 1 second. Advertisers such as Johnson & Johnson reported increased engagement to AMP pages.

What Google is doing now is supporting AMP landing pages in AdWords search campaigns globally. Consequently, all advertisers will be able to point mobile search ads to Accelerated Mobile Pages. Eventually AMPs will rank higher in search results as more businesses point to them with their ads.

The spread of AMP is significant because:

  • Google is responding to consumer behavior. More people do mobile searches than desktop searches, and people using mobile devices expect content delivered faster and simpler.
  • AMP demonstrates Google’s influence on advertisers. Google has the scale and reach to enact changes that influence how advertisers act. And Google is willing to do so by making a better user experience: pages that load faster.

I suggest that advertisers get familiar with the Google toolkit for using AMP for AdWords a tactical measure. As a strategic move, understand how your own customers are using mobile – not just with text searches but with voice searches. Optimize your site experience accordingly. Mobile is a behavior influencing how all brands and people interact. Google is responding to that behavior, and so should you. Contact KeywordFirst to ensure that your digital experience is mobile. We can help.

Image source: stateofdigital.com

Tips to Make Your Landing Page Mobile Friendly

Tips to Make Your Landing Page Mobile Friendly

Mobile

When Google announced in 2015 that more Google searches were taking place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries (including Japan and the United States), marketers experienced the beginning of a major shift in the way they reach their target audiences.

Since 2015, mobile has become an even larger piece of the search puzzle. (According to Hitwise, mobile searches account for 58 percent of all search activity in the United States.) Businesses (including KeywordFirst) continue to refine our digital strategies, including search campaigns, to better align with an increasingly on-the-go search audience. Meanwhile, Google has made great strides sharing features that that allow businesses to better target the mobile search segment. Those features include mobile bid modifiers, mobile preferred ad copy, the ability to show ads in mobile apps, and location extensions, among others.

In addition, Google continues to change its algorithms to reward content that is optimized for mobile – which means businesses need to make it a higher priority to ensure that their landing pages are mobile friendly.

Optimizing the Content of Your Landing Page

Optimizing your landing page for mobile means understanding first that behind every mobile device is a person. People using their mobile phones for search purposes are often literally on the go. The mobile audience is composed of busy, multi-tasking, need-it-done-now people. It is important to respect their limited time and attention.

This insight has an impact on how you view your landing page. For example, instead of directing customers to a home page containing a wide variety of products or services, look to more closely align keywords and ad copy. This strategy helps better define the searcher’s intent and will ensure they are directed to a landing page that most closely fits their search query.

For example, if someone searches for “women’s Nike cross-training shoes,” the best experience for the searcher would be to land on a page specifically displaying women’s Nike cross-training shoes versus a page displaying all women’s cross-training shoes or all Nike shoes.

You might be tempted to simply drive ads to a general landing page and have users drill down to specific pages, which is certainly the quickest and easiest way to integrate your digital ads with your landing page content. But doing so will hurt your conversion rates. Searchers typically find it more difficult to navigate sites using small mobile screens instead of larger desktop/laptop monitors. If your ad drives traffic to a landing page that requires multiple clicks before the searcher reaches their ultimate destination, the likelihood of the interaction ending in a conversion decreases with each subsequent click.

A Client Example

For example, for one of our clients, a hotel, we performed a test with searchers who were looking for “hotel discounts.” First, we drove those searchers to a home page that contained general information about the hotel, as well as a link to the “special offers” page. Then we tested an alternative landing page that sent searchers directly to a special offers page – resulting in a marked improvement in conversion rates.

It seems obvious that people searching for hotel discounts are most interested in seeing current deals offered by the hotel. By sending people searching for hotel discounts directly to the special offers page, we eliminated the risk of them leaving the website before checking out the special offers page.  We also saved searchers the effort of locating the link to the special offers page and a few extra clicks as well – a big plus for people looking to complete a transaction quickly and easily on their mobile devices.

Not all keywords are specific enough to truly understand a searcher’s intent, but for those keywords that contain more modifiers, make sure you are taking full advantage and directing searchers to the most appropriate landing page. Remember, for the on-the-go, mobile audience, time is money. A few modifications to landing pages will save your customers time, and help boost your bottom line. Contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help you build your brand.

Image source: Brodie Vissers

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.

Why Google’s Ad Problem Won’t Go Away

Why Google’s Ad Problem Won’t Go Away

Video

A few years ago, right when I was starting out, I built keywords and wrote ad copy for a big agency. During this time, I learned about “brand protection negatives,” or the phrases that the agency’s client did not want the brand associated with — hence the “brand protection” name. That list of negative keywords was outrageous and would make many people blush. Whenever I need a good laugh, I took a look at this list and wondered about the person who had to sit down and think of these completely inappropriate, NSFW phrases.

I thought about those brand protection negatives earlier this year when Google found itself in hot water as businesses discovered that their advertisements were appearing alongside inappropriate content in the Google Display Network, most notably on YouTube. Big brands such as Starbucks and Walmart pulled their advertising. Reportedly the boycott has cooled off. But the problem of ads appearing alongside inappropriate content on YouTube is not going away. The risk remains real: YouTube is vulnerable.

Context

For context, let’s look at a few revealing statistics:

  1. YouTube reaches over 1 billion users (1/3 of all people on the internet)
  2. YouTube can be navigated in more than 76 different languages (95 percent of the internet population)
  3. There are 300 hours of video uploaded every minute.

The staggering 300 hours of video uploaded every minute results in lot of content flooding YouTube (432,000 hours per day or 157,680,000 hours per year). When one of these videos is uploaded to YouTube, it is put through an editorial process that labels it as G, PG, Teen, or Mature as well as a variety of other groupings (Police/Crime, Acts of Warfare or Violence, Social Issues, Religion, etc.). But it can take some time for Google’s reviewers to complete that process.

Google Has a Problem

The sheer volume of videos that posted on YouTube is reason alone why Google’s problems are far from over. Google reviewers can’t keep up with the number of hours of videos uploaded. As a result, the review process is, to a degree, automated — which results in videos being mislabeled or missing a label. In addition, reviewing and approving a video also makes it possible for the video to qualify for monetization (via the YouTube Partner Program), meaning that the video may accept advertising. Currently, YouTube requires a YouTuber to have 10,000 lifetime views to monetize their YouTube channel. Now, that may seem like a lot of views, but it’s a lifetime view count, which means I can create 10 videos that each get 1,000 views, 20 videos that get 500 views apiece, 50 videos that get 200 views apiece, and so on. Once that 10,000-view count is hit, all channel videos begin to be monetized.

The lax reviewing standards coupled with a fairly easy monetization process can lead to some unfortunate situations, as the following example shows. In March, James Dean of The Times tweeted a troubling image:

In this example, an Oracle image ad was placed over a video for an extremist group. Obviously, as part of the brand safety process I mentioned at the beginning, Oracle would want this type of video excluded. But why did this video specifically qualify as part of the monetization process? The answer: tough to say. In some instances, videos are uploaded and disapproved because of a single word in the video title (e.g. “dead” or “death”) but in other cases, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, a video may have a racial slur in the title or description and still get approved. What’s ironic — and probably should have been expected — is that once these stories began to pop up back in March, YouTube went to the extreme and began demonetizing large amounts of content without any warning — and in some cases prematurely.

A Flawed Process

Clearly, if YouTube is going to monetize a video, they need to be more vigilant as to where those dollars originate. Essentially, in the example from James Dean, YouTube made money off a video that supports terrorism. How did that video get monetized? How did the reviewers not catch that? When there are so many hours of video and so much money involved, not to mention YouTube’s belief in free speech, it’s easy to understand why videos such as these slip through the cracks.

Google Goes to Extremes

YouTube went to the extreme when it came to demonetizing videos. For example, consider the case of Real Women, Real Stories, created by Matan Uziel. The goal of his channel is to give women the opportunity to give voice to their stories of survival from trauma; ranging from physical abuse to sex trafficking. This channel is a noble endeavor of survival and resolve, if ever there was one. Uziel uses the funds from ads on the channel to direct and produce future videos. But, one day, out of nowhere, all funds ceased because his videos got caught up in the demonetization process that YouTube began. His videos don’t support hate speech (just the opposite in fact). But nonetheless, the content addressed a subject that Google didn’t want on YouTube. Uziel has seen ad revenue slowly come back as the YouTube algorithm “learns where they should show ads, and where they should not” says Jamie Byrne, a director of enterprise at YouTube.

The examples I have cited represent just two instances out of thousands, maybe even millions that occur daily. We have given YouTube (and Display networks in general) the benefit of the doubt over the years because “it’s a new product,” “it’s not a science,” or “it’s difficult to monitor.” But, if Google is rolling out a product that can track brick-and-mortar purchases at your nearest Wendy’s back to your double-bacon cheeseburger search, then Google needs to find a consistent and responsible way to protect brands from advertising on videos that push violence, hate speech, or any other topic that goes against a company’s corporate belief.

But, we need to remember that YouTube would have to hire more than 75,000 employees to watch video for 40 hours a week to manually review every minute of every video uploaded. That scenario is unrealistic. So, advertisers, as well as consumers, need to be aware that Google’s ad problem will never go away.

Image source: videoadvertisingnews.com

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.