Ginny Marvin, Author at Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Thu, 03 Mar 2022 20:44:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mobile shopping is gaining share this holiday season /mobile-shopping-is-gaining-share-this-holiday-season-344713 Fri, 11 Dec 2020 21:24:52 +0000 /?p=344713 More digital retail conversions are happening on mobile in 2020.

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It wasn’t that long ago that mobile was primarily considered just the first stop in a conversion journey that, nine times out of ten, ended on desktop. Mobile accounted for just 13% of digital sales at the end of 2014. The numbers look very different this year as digital and mobile commerce habits and experiences have shifted rapidly.

Mobile is no longer just top of funnel

In an October Instart Logic survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers ages 21-45, 62% said they used their mobile phones for their entire shopper’s journey — from discovery, to research, to the purchasing of an item.

Adobe data showed that in the days following Cyber Monday this year (Dec 1 to Dec 9), mobile accounted for 39% of consumers’ online spending during that period, up 47% year-over-year. Overall, online shopping in the U.S. increased by 48.8% year-over-year, Adobe said.

Mobile’s share was even higher among the more than one million Shopify sites at 69% between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

In the UK, affiliate marketing platform Digidip reported a “gradual and ongoing shift towards mobile shopping, with mobile devices accounting for 60.1% of total transactions in 2020, compared to 57.47% in 2019.”

Average order values on mobile are still lower than desktop, indicating big ticket purchases tend to happen more often on desktop. That suggests opportunity for mobile, however.

There have been a number of contributing factors to the growth in mobile commerce that have enabled mobile shopping to surge right along with desktop shopping amid the pandemic this year. The ease of retail apps as well as improved mobile website speeds and streamlined checkout experiences are chief among them.

Retailers that had a jump on mobile ordering for local curbside pickup had a distinct edge over those who had to play catch up. Target, for example, had been investing in infrastructure to support online-to-offline transactions. The retailer reported same-day services (Order Pick Up, Drive Up and Shipt) sales grew 217% in the third quarter. Overall, Target’s digital sales increased by 155%, while in-store sales grew 9.9% year-over-year for the quarter.

Store foot traffic was off by 50%, but over the Black Friday weekend, curbside pick-up grew 67% year-over-year, and the share of orders at retailers who offer it is hovering around 23% vs. 15% last year, said Adobe.

Mobile-driven commerce trends in paid search and social

Mobile accounts for the large majority of paid social conversions, with Facebook desktop ad impressions hovering around 5%, according to data from performance marketing agency Tinuiti. Facebook, has invested heavily in products and features such as  Facebook and Instagram ShopsCheckout on Instagram and the Facebook Shop tab to support mobile commerce on its platforms. Online commerce represents Facebook’s largest advertising vertical, the company announced with its third-quarter financial results.

Interestingly, paid search campaigns didn’t necessarily see mobile conversion share increase, instead it grew in line with desktop. “For Google retail paid search, 46% of our ad-driven sales were attributed to phones from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, which is identical to the share we saw last year for the same time frame,” said Andy Taylor, head of research at Tinuiti, “with desktop sales share ticking up from 48% to 50%, and tablet going from 6% to 3%. Phone sales grew 36% YoY for the five-day period, compared to desktop sales growth of 41%.” The data is based on client data representing more than $2 billion in annual ad spend under management.

Looking at the omnichannel impact for paid search ads, Taylor said, Google Local Inventory Ads clicks were down 47% year-over-year, “so while there was certainly an increase in curbside pickup, it didn’t make up for the overall dip in brick-and-mortar interest from consumers. We also saw a big drop in ‘Get location details’ clicks.”

Google added and tested curbside and in-store pickup badges in local Shopping ads beginning in May to help support local retail.

Mobile commerce in 2021

2020 fast-tracked the need for digital and mobile investment from retailers. Looking ahead to 2021, mobile commerce will continue to grow and platforms will continue to invest in driving mobile conversions. Additionally, Google’s Page Experience update will roll out in May and impact mobile rankings. Retailers must invest in mobile web and app experiences, their online-to-store services and in optimizing their mobile ad campaigns in order to capture their own market share.

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Google Web Stories ads now available via Display Network /google-web-stories-ads-now-available-via-display-network-344635 Thu, 10 Dec 2020 21:00:05 +0000 /?p=344635 In an open beta, publishers can sell ads into their Google Web Stories programmatically.

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Google is launching programmatic ad buying for Web Stories in open beta. Until now, Story Ads could only be sold directly by publishers via Google Ad Manager.

Story Ads can be sold programmatically by all publishers using Ad Manager and AdSense. Publishers will just need to add the <amp-story-auto-ads> tag in their Web Stories. Ad serving within Web Stories is handled dynamically “to optimize both user experience and monetization potential,” says Google, meaning publishers can’t control where the ad slots appear in their Stories.

Initially called AMP Stories, Web Stories are full-screen mobile experiences for publishers to deliver content. They can appear on in Google Search, Google Images and the Discover feed.

Why we care. For advertisers, Story Ads inventory will be available via the Display Network. Google says more demand sources for Web Stories will be coming soon.

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Google, YouTube add user controls to limit alcohol, gambling ads /google-youtube-add-user-controls-to-limit-alcohol-gambling-ads-344611 Thu, 10 Dec 2020 17:00:36 +0000 /?p=344611 The new feature will launch on YouTube in the U.S. first.

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Google is adding new user controls for alcohol and gambling ads. The new feature, announced Thursday, will launch first on YouTube in the U.S. It will then roll out to Google ads and other countries next year, the company says.

“We’ve heard feedback that some people would prefer to limit ads in certain categories like alcohol, so today, we’re launching a new control in Ad Settings, enabling people to see fewer alcohol ads, with gambling as an additional option,” Elijah Lawal of Google global communications and public affairs in a blog post.

The control, available in users’ Google Ad Settings, will not affect countries that have legal restrictions on gambling and alcohol ads.

Google worked with the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), who’s members include beer, wine and spirits producers, on the imitative.

“IARD’s engagement with Google means users of the platform, starting with YouTube, will have the option to see fewer alcohol ads.,” said IARD President and CEO Henry Ashworth. “Our members are determined to give people greater control over whether they see alcohol-related marketing online. Respecting these personal preferences and recognizing differences in culture requires sensitivity and action, that’s why we hope this partnership is the start of a bigger movement.” 

Why we care. It’s unclear what the overall impact will be — users will need to know about and proactively seek out these controls. But this is a good move for users, Google, and the alcohol and gambling industries. For marketers in these sectors, the business impact is likely to be minimal and may even improve performance by limiting exposure to users who expressly opt out.

Note that Google says users who enable the feature will see “fewer” of these ads rather than zero alcohol or gambling ads. In lieu of an ad ban, it would be nearly impossible to guarantee users won’t be exposed at all to ads in these categories. The new controls do not impact Google’s existing policies around alcohol and gambling advertising.

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How to compete with Google in the SERPs, make the jump to agency or in-house, and support ‘the doers’ in your organization /how-to-compete-with-google-in-the-serps-make-the-jump-to-agency-or-in-house-and-support-the-doers-in-your-organization-344532 Wed, 09 Dec 2020 19:10:13 +0000 /?p=344532 Areej AbuAli discussed a wide range of topics affecting the SEO industry at SMX.

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“Don’t wait to see if Google makes moves into your vertical,” says Areej AbuAli, “It’s one thing to be optimizing for your own website, but then it’s another to be thinking, ‘Well, how do I compete with the SERPs? Maybe it’s not enough that I rank in the first three positions when there’s a lot of other stuff that can show up above me.’”

The London-based SEO manager of property listings site Zoopla and founder of Women In Tech SEO discussed the affects of Google moving into new verticals, SERP changes, agency and in-house roles, and diversity in search marketing during our keynote conversation at SMX Tuesday,

Take note, advised AbuAli, from travel and other industries where Google has become an effective competitor in the search results. “It’s quite important to kind of think, well, what potentially could Google put out?” AbuAli added.

Embed to get SEO buy-in

With that constant “what if” mindset, AbuAli said, it’s critical to keep brand value, authority and differentiation in mind in all aspects of of SEO and content development. “I like to speak to our content team and embed them in all the work that we’re doing because it doesn’t matter how much stuff Google comes out with. Why would consumers and why would users still go ahead and click through your website? Get that content and get that authority through.”

Asked about how to get buy-in from designers and developers, she said “At the end of the day, they’re going to be your closest allies and friends. You need to be really embedded in their teams.” She takes the approach of acting like “our own SEO product managers, because even if you work with a product leader on the tech side, they’re not going to understand the scope of work more than you do.” You’ll assess things from an SEO impact and they can assess the technical effort involved. The collaboration should happen from the brainstorming phase of a project or change — right from the start — and the SEO team should be embedded in those discussions. “I’d say that probably 80% of our time is spent working with the product and technology team,” she said.

On agency vs. in-house life

AbuAli had agency experience before going in-house. We discussed the differences between the two and the value of having been on both sides of the relationship. In-house, she noted in response to an audience question, you’re likely to have greater access to stakeholders and data and be able to communicate directly to the executive team more easily. And client expectations of agencies are often outsized. In the context of core updates negatively impacting a client site, for example, the December 2020 core update having just rolled out, AbuAli said, “There’s always a lot of tie into [the work the agency has done], whereas when you’re in-house, it’s more as one team, this is what happened. . . . How can we move forward from that? So a lot of the time is actually spent on communicating and educating across the different stakeholders than the feeling of ‘Oh, this is tied to specific work that I’ve produced.'”

If you’re considering the move from in-house to agency, on the other hand, be prepared to embrace breadth rather than depth, advises AbuAli. You’ll typically find yourself working on multiple clients, perhaps across multiple industries. For those making the jump, “I’d say, take a deep breath. Don’t try to go into a lot of detail across everything. Make sure you have a good understanding on what are the main KPIs across different clients. . . . Try your best to have as much access to the data as you can to help evaluate what are the upcoming steps. It can definitely be overwhelming at first. So it’s just really important for you to get a good understanding on how they measure success.”

Look for the doers and support them

Women In Tech SEO now has more than 3,000 members globally. We discussed Nicole DeLeon’s North Star Inbound research on gender and diversity in SEO. “When you have it on paper and when you have actual data backed up behind it and you get more people to speak about it, you know that is a really good starting point in terms of [saying] these are challenges and issues we have right now in our industry.”

AbuAli noted that people reach out to her with job listings to share with Women in Tech SEO. “But they’re always junior and mid-level roles. You never see the director, CMO type roles,” she says.

“Women tend to be your doers, and they tend to do tons of work, excellent quality work, but they tend to get kept within that role, and there’s very little training and development,” said AbuAli. “There’s very little leadership training as well.” Too often, women see little reward or advancement for being the doers in their organizations.

Further, she encourages more people to speak up about the value of diversity, and not leave the conversation to women or those who are considered diverse. If you’re a regular voice in the industry, consider giving up your seat for others: “It makes a massive difference,” she said. Other tips: Mentor. Establish leadership training. Promote from within. Go outside of your own network to ensure have a diverse pool of candidates.

You can register to watch the full discussion with Areej AbuAli on-demand here.

More on diversity in search marketing:

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Google rolls out App campaign type to re-engage existing users /google-rolls-out-app-campaign-type-to-re-engage-existing-users-344528 Wed, 09 Dec 2020 13:33:59 +0000 /?p=344528 Starting next year, App campaigns for engagement may also include a custom prompt for users in Search.

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Google has rolled out App campaigns for engagement globally. The ads run across Google Search, Play, YouTube and the mobile app Display Network. Google first introduced the campaign type more than a year ago.

Why we care. App campaigns for engagement are aimed at targeting an app’s existing users, to bring them back to the app and foster loyalty and engagement.

How they work. The retargeting ads can feature new offers or content to bring users back who may not have used the app for awhile, have products in their cart, are likely to make in-app purchases, promote an event or sale, or installed but haven’t used the app yet. Like other Google Ads automated campaign types, you submit ad copy, images, videos, starting bid and a budget. The ads are served dynamically across properties.

App campaigns for engagement can also link to business data feeds or product feeds in Google Merchant Center.

App campaigns for engagement target existing users and can run in Search, mobile Display Network, YouTube and Play. Image: Google.

New custom prompt coming. At some point early next year, those feeds will be used to show a “custom prompt” on that notify users they can complete an action in the app.

To be eligible. Apps need to have an audience size of at least 250,000 installs to be eligible for App campaigns for engagement. Among other requirements, these campaigns also must be set up under separate account from App install campaigns “to ensure you’re optimizing for your defined campaign objectives,” Google explains.

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Social Shorts: Twitter adds frequency caps, Reddit’s audience grows, Facebook buys Kustomer /social-shorts-twitter-adds-frequency-caps-reddits-audience-grows-facebook-buys-kustomer-344424 Mon, 07 Dec 2020 14:30:45 +0000 /?p=344424 The social media marketing week in review: A round up of news and announcements you may have missed.

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Twitter enables frequency capping for all campaign types

Advertisers can now control the number of times ads are shown to users with campaign frequency caps. The feature is available in ad group details for Reach, Engagement, Video Views, and Pre-Roll Views objectives by default.

Why we care. Frequency capping will allow advertisers to tailor their ad exposures based on their campaign goals. Twitter says its testing shows better performance for driving upper-funnel metrics like ad recall and brand awareness when weekly exposures are relatively light — impact tapers after the first two impressions per week — and higher frequency as users move down the funnel.

Reddit claims audience size of 52 million daily users

Reddit has shared its daily users for the first time, claiming an averaged 52 million daily active users in October, an increase of 44% year-over-year. The social networks’ Chief Operating Officer Jen Wong, told the Wall Street Journal, “We’re focused on daily usership and increasing this number as we continue to grow our community and scale our advertising business” Wong also said Reddit’s ad revenue topped $100 million in 2019 and is expected to increase by 70% in 2020.

Why we care. In comparison to the other major social media networks, Reddit remains minor. Twitter claims 187 million daily users, for example. We’ve talked about Reddit for years as seeming to be just on the cusp of scaling its ad business. That time may finally be here. Wong told the WSJ it is looking to expand its business internationally and build its sales team. If you’re looking for new channels or ways to diversify, it might be time to look at Reddit for 2021.

Facebook to buy customer service platform Kustomer

Facebook said it intends to buy Kustomer, a five year-old startup that specializes in customer relationship management and has a platform that unifies customer conversations across channels, including messaging, into one view. The deal is valued at roughly $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, reported.

“Our goal with Kustomer is simple: to give businesses access to best-in-class tools that deliver excellent service and support.” wrote Dan Levy, VP of Ads and Business Products, and Matt Idema, COO, WhatsApp in a post Monday. 

Why we care. Messaging has continued to grow as a significant customer service channel. The acquisition will help bolster Facebook’s business operations and social commerce offerings through its messaging services. Kustomer already integrates with Facebook Messenger and is working on an integration with Instagram messaging. Facebook said it plans to help Kustomer scale but also signaled to the antitrust watchers that it will “continue to support the numerous options that businesses have to integrate their CRM platform of choice with our messaging services.” 

Media buyers continue to struggle with Facebook reporting glitches

Many media buyers and advertisers are continuing to experience problems with Facebook Ads reporting. Ad approvals have been a challenge since COVID due to ad review being done nearly entirely via automation, but the glitchy reporting problems could cause advertisers to pause ads that are actually performing well and vice versa, as media buyer David Herrmann noted on Twitter yesterday. 

Why we care. Reporting glitches are nothing new for Facebook Ads. as we reported last month, but the persistence of the problems through Black Friday, Cyber Monday and beyond are particularly problematic for advertisers. That said, will these challenges actually make a dent in Facebook’s business. Its scale and targeting capabilities keep advertisers coming back in spite of the ad platform’s bugs and unpredictability, and it’s ad business has benefited from the shift to digital during the pandemic.

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Google Discovery ads can now use your 4:5 social image assets /google-discovery-ads-can-now-use-your-45-social-image-assets-344238 Tue, 01 Dec 2020 18:21:48 +0000 /?p=344238 Discovery campaigns can also be paired with lead form extensions.

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Google announced updates for Discovery ads Tuesday. There is now a 4:5 portrait aspect ratio layout that showcases Discovery ad images more prominently in feeds. Google is also rolling out updates to audience selection workflow for Discovery campaigns, which run across YouTube, Gmail and the Discover Feed.

4:5 images. If you’re running social campaigns, you may already have 4:5 assets for Facebook and Instagram feed and Stories ads. Now you can use those assets in Discovery campaigns.

The recommended specs for portrait images are 960 x 1200 with a minimum requirement of 480 x 600. Note that you’ll still need to have at least one landscape and one square image available for Discovery ads. Google automatically selects the image format based on a number of factors.

Discovery ads audience workflows. Google will soon show the estimated conversion volume lift estimates when “Audience expansion” is enabled during campaign set up. Google says it’s internal data shows audience expansion for Discovery ads on average yields a 52% lift in conversions at a comparable CPA. It’s designed for new customer acquisition.

There is also now some reporting for audience expansion. You’ll find it in a new “Total: Expansion” row at the bottom of the report on the Audiences tab in the Google Ads UI. That shows performance metrics from audience expansion above the audiences already applied. It’s available at the ad group, campaign and account levels.

Additionally, advertisers will be able to exclude audiences, such as existing customers, during campaign set-up rather than having to exclude them after the campaign is created.

Discovery ads for lead gen. Google extended lead form extensions to Discovery and YouTube campaigns in August. Below is an example of a Discovery ad with a lead form extension showing in Gmail. Google says the BF Goodrich lead gen campaign repurposed social campaign assets and saw 30X more leads at a similar conversion rate compared to its Search campaigns.

Discovery ads tips. Discovery ads are powered by machine learning, which means they need time and data to optimize performance. Google suggests setting the daily budget “at least 10 times the value of your target cost-per-action (CPA) bid and wait for at least 40 conversions before making changes.” That typically means waiting two to three weeks before making changes to Discovery campaigns.

Update 12/4/20: This article has been updated to reflect that there is now line reporting for audience expansion performance.

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Discovery-ads-audiences-panel Google-Discovery-Ads-Lead_BF-Goodrich-_loop
Adthena launches granular local search insights solution /adthena-launches-granular-local-search-insights-solution-344223 Tue, 01 Dec 2020 13:08:12 +0000 /?p=344223 Local View offers brands and advertisers local search trend and market share data to inform bidding, targeting, ad copy and more.

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Search intelligence platform Adthena is out with a new solution called Local View. It’s designed to give marketers granular data on how people search locally as well as competitive insights on ad copy and spend in local markets.

Local View can highlight local search intent at the DMA, state, city or other local level as well as competitor ad copy, CPC and CTR insights at the local level.

Why we care. The launch comes at a time when Google is making less search query data available to advertisers due to privacy concerns and consumer behavior has changed substantially due to the pandemic, with local behaviors impacted by changing restrictions.

The company says marketers are seeing greater variance in search activity at every local level. “Your location-specific ads need to adapt and be there, and they need to be informed by these changes,” said Ashley Fletcher, VP of marketing at Adthena. “With Local View, we can show you what your audiences are searching for by geography, which ad copy performs best and who you are really competing with, bringing much-needed transparency to location-based search.”

That also includes day-parting views of when you and your competitors are bidding on key terms, as shown in the screenshot below. That data can be used to inform your own bidding as well as that of partners or affiliates.

Advertisers can see the activity on their own terms by device, or as shown here “whole market” activity across the competitor landscape. Click to enlarge. Source: Adthena

How it works. Adthena’s systems create a map of the relevant terms for a brand by scanning its website and competitors’ keywords. It then scans Google search pages for those terms at the local market level via local IP addresses and pulls in the organic and text ad listings daily (there is an option to update data hourly). The AI determines the frequency with which to scrape based on a query’s popularity.

Marketers can create custom regions — airport cities or sales areas for example. Local View can also identify opportunities that the company calls “Lone Rangers” — results where now ads are currently showing.

The screenshot below (click to enlarge) shows the desktop performance for top ad copy phrases used by a brand, followed by the top phrases used in competitors’ ads in a particular locality.

Local View shows top phrases in your own ad copy and in that of your competitors at the local level. Click to enlarge. Source: Adthena

Use cases. Adthena highlights six different areas of use cases for Local View insights: search terms, ad copy and local language nuances, competitor threats, partner opportunities, and strategic insights such as local weather and event systems. Local search term data, for example, can be used to understand brand penetration at the local level, seeing local search trends as well as the volume of near me searches for local store opportunities.

“One of the most interesting use cases for me is using paid search to validate radio and television advertising,” said Adthena’s Global Product Marketing Manager Daniel Shepherd during a product demo last week. “As you know, television and radio is notoriously hard to attribute to real conversions and traffic. So what we can do if there are certain terms that are mentioned in your television adverts, in your radio adverts, we can see users searching those terms, clicking on your ads that also mention those terms to help you validate how effective television and radio advertising is.

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AdthenaLocalView_SmartMonitor adthena-local-view-top-phrases
Social Shorts: Snapchat’s TikTok rival is here, Facebook teams with BBB for ad reviews /social-shorts-snapchats-tiktok-rival-is-here-facebook-teams-with-bbb-for-ad-reviews-344203 Mon, 30 Nov 2020 14:00:35 +0000 /?p=344203 The social media marketing week in review: A round up of news and announcements you may have missed.

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Snapchat puts the “Spotlight” on top Snaps, will pay creators

Snapchat has launched Spotlight to feature the best Snaps in a new feed aimed squarely at countering rival TikTok. Creators whose videos are selected can “earn a share of more than $1 million that we’re distributing to creators every day!,” said the company. 

Creators can submit their videos to Spotlight. They must be at least 16 years old to be eligible for revenue sharing. Spotlight is first rolling out in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France.

Why we care. Spotlight’s launch came as TikTok announced Charli D’amelio became the first creator to gain 100 million followers on the platform. Unlike TikTok, creator discovery has never been an integral feature of Snapchat. Spotlight presents a big shift in Snapchat’s approach. Spotlight has a very TikTok feel, with the ability to swipe up through videos in the feed. Paying users to make and promote their content on the app could help Snapchat attract and keep creators investing their time on the platform rather. 

Facebook partners with BBB and BBB National Programs on retail ads policing

Facebook has established a new partnership with the BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD), the investigative division tasked with addressing disputes regarding truth and accuracy in advertising. NAD will now be able “to directly share with Facebook the outcomes of cases related to specific ad campaigns faster.”

The BBB and Facebook have also launched a “Shop Safe, Shop Smart” campaign that will run through December on Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels. The campaign is aimed at helping consumers spot, avoid and report online scams. 

Why we care. Trust and safety will be particularly crucial for Facebook to continue to grow its social commerce business. The NAD agreement should help bolster Facebook’s efforts to police advertising on its platforms. “This will allow our enforcement teams to take action on ads reported to us that violate our policies, while helping to encourage more ethical practices among advertisers and across the digital advertising industry.

Snapchat launches ad campaign for its TikTok rival Spotlight

Along with the announcement last week, Snapchat began promoting its new Spotlight feed on Twitter. Aimed squarely at TikTok, Snapchat’s Spotlight promoted posts highlight the curation of “the best of Snapchat” for users and the potential monetary reward for creators whose videos are chosen. TikTok also is no stranger to advertising on Twitter. 

Snapchat Spotlight ad on Twitter

Why we care. Snapchat is investing heavily in Spotlight to draw creator and user engagement in the face of TikTok’s rapid growth. The strategy is to pay creators whose Spotlight videos catch on. Any user can submit videos for Spotlight consideration, regardless of following, for a chance at a share of the $1 million daily lottery.    

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Take a peek into PPC routines during Cyber Five week /a-peek-into-ppc-routines-during-cyber-five-week-344103 Tue, 24 Nov 2020 18:17:58 +0000 /?p=344103 After all the preparation, here's what paid search and social marketers will be doing this week to manage their holiday campaigns and promotions.

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The so-called Cyber Five days — Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday — are nearly upon us. In a year unlike any other, we wondered what marketers have planned for their PPC routines this week through Cyber Monday.

What will paid search and paid social marketers be looking for, monitoring, launching, adjusting this week? What have they learned from past years about how to manage their time and successful campaigns? Are they planning to do anything differently this year? Here’s what we heard.

Not everyone will be trying to manage multiple holiday promotions. “I don’t have many clients that are doing significant discounting this year, so my routine will be the opposite of most people,” said paid media consultant Pamela Lund. “I’ll be monitoring conversion rate and CPA daily and reducing spend or pausing campaigns altogether if we see a decline in performance while people are deal-seeking. Other than that, my schedule isn’t changing much this week.”

Lund says her clients do MAP pricing and have resellers that they allow to discount, “so there’s no market reasons that they aren’t discounting.” For other brands, the pandemic has changed their approach to sales this holiday.

Feeling the effects of supply chain disruption

Shipping and warehouse challenges have led many retailers to start holiday promotions earlier than in past years. Many Black Friday sales are now well underway, which means holiday management routines have kicked in, too.

“Most of our retailers have pulled promotions forward to help with constraints on distribution centers, so we pulled all of our holiday monitoring forward to start last week. This includes our hourly campaign capping reports, promo messaging, and competitive monitoring cycles,” said Keri Boerner, associate SEM director at digital agency PMG.

“The biggest difference this year is brands launching promos earlier than last year or in years past. We used to launch on Thursday/Black Friday and now this year some brands we work with launched Sunday or Monday,” said Duane Brown, founder of performance agency Take Some Risk. “We are in the accounts and looking at sales, revenue and performance. How is our targeting going, can we spend more money on X, etc?”

Ongoing supply chain challenges from the pandemic mean there is less inventory to sell this season and more stock-outs are expected. “Some clients are not doing any BFCM sales and we support that move,” said Brown.

For those brands, there may not be daily flash sale campaigns to manage this week, but there are other considerations.

“Due to COVID this year, stock is definitely a piece we will be monitoring more closely,” said Shannon Cross, senior manager of eCommerce at Nestlé Purina North America. “We’re also focusing solely on larger pack sizes to ensure higher returns [on investment] and catering to the stock-up behaviours of consumers.”

Cross’ attention will largely be on Purina’s Amazon search campaigns this year. “Our focus this week and going into Cyber Five will be Amazon search. We are glued to our screens monitoring stock status for both our products as well as competitors, monitoring CPCs for priority keywords, ROAS above 100% and share of search to ensure we are the dominant share of voice in our category. We will be busy making agile adjustments, swapping ASINs in and out throughout the weekend as competition and stock status changes.”

For the company’s Google search campaigns, said Cross, “I don’t anticipate needing to make too many adjustments to our strategy, however we will be monitoring CPCs, impression share and top performing brand campaigns.” 

Ready for the payoff after weeks of audience build up

“Our strategy was to build reach in the weeks leading up to the sales to maximize the audience that we can address with the sale message directly: broadening audiences in display, social and search, spending more on DABA [Facebook Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences], discovery and video formats, and allowing for a lower ROAS on search and shopping campaigns,” said Nathalie Bojkow, global team head performance marketing for shoe brand PUMA SE. (Bojkow will be speaking on “Aligning Brand And Performance For Full Funnel Success” at SMX on Dec. 9.) The team also launched “lead gen campaigns for early sale access to provide additional direct reach for direct targeting, as well as similar audiences and lookalikes.”

“Now with the sales going on,” said Bojkow, “we are able to make up for the ROI impact of the previous weeks and for higher CPCs by prioritizing our spend by audiences first, tightening and accelerating our retargeting cycles. Optimization routines focus on audiences as well, budgets are monitored more closely and we also need to keep an extra eye on stock levels and adjust spend dynamically as options sell out at a very fast rate.”

Ad features, alerts, bidding prep are done

Early preparation for successful Cyber Five search campaigns is detail-oriented. That includes having “everything needed to set up automated rules, Shopping promotions, Promotion extensions, ads with dedicated landing pages set to go live, etc. before this week even gets here,” said Kirk Williams, founder of search agency ZATO Marketing.

Earlier this year, Google rolled out more badges and annotations for curbside pickup and in-store availability. “Depending on client availability, we ensured that all relevant badges and call outs were applied to our campaigns,” said Keri Boerner. The team also launched more dynamic search ad (DSA) campaigns ahead of this week “due to the increase in variation of searches and decreased visibility of search queries that could limit our ability to mine keywords,” and more clients are using auction-time bidding solutions this year than last.

Additionally, Boerner said, some client brands “have also focused on diversifying inventory through partnerships such as Narrativ and Yelp to expand search footprints and efficiencies into additional avenues.” That means the teams are managing more channels, making clear processes even more important.

Accounting for last-minute scrambles and problem solving

When all the prep is done, “this week is preserved for the inevitable changes or last-minute troubleshooting, and you really do magically have the time for those things without overworking yourself,” said Williams. “Overall, we have found with earlier preparation, creating space, and focusing on only what actually needs to be done, this week is one filled with excitement and not unnecessary stress.”

It seems no matter how early you try to prep, marketers who are running display and paid social campaigns face the perennial challenge of getting last-minute ad creative set up and approved.

Monday and Tuesday “are really making sure everything is ready/scheduled as a lot of our clients haven’t launched yet, so it’s hectic briefing and reviewing final creative and copy and building out the campaigns, which is a lot more work than I think clients realize (or they wouldn’t send creative at the last minute!),” said Gil David, founder of Run DMG, an agency specializing in Facebook advertising. “Then as every sale launches it’s like sending your kids off for their first day at school.”

“The key really is that for our accounts running bigger sales, the prep actually started months ago and now is where we reap the benefits of investing in building large warm audiences in Q3 and early Q4. So it’s very satisfying seeing that pay off,” said David.

Be flexible, have back up plans

The build up to this point has often been months in the making, but we know about the best laid plans. One of the key lessons David said he has learned from prior years “is the need to be flexible and adapt quickly to performance, no matter how much you predict and plan, things won’t always go that way and you have to roll with it,” he said.

Not every Facebook Ads promotion catches on or performs as you anticipate. “And although most sales start off hot, even if they don’t you shouldn’t panic,” said David. “Try to see why it’s not going as expected, and we always make sure we have backup copy/creative/strategy ready to go. Plus if ads start burning out in retargeting you need to be quicker to act than you would do in ‘regular’ times.”

“If sale campaigns do start hot, we’ll usually let them run for half a day at least before touching them, then if performance holds we will start scaling budgets to really try and max the BFCM opportunity out,” David said. “For us, this means checking in every 3-4 hours and kicking budget up by anywhere from 20-50% multiple times a day (or down a little if performance is dropping off). Automating this to some extent using rules and especially to cut unprofitable ads takes some of the weight off our shoulders and means I can sleep a little easier! This is where it’s really important to have set clear goals with clients for what success looks like and what kind of returns we should either be scaling or bailing at, not forgetting to factor in delayed attribution which is worse this time of year than any other.”

Create breathing room for yourself

This is a busy week for many marketers, but it doesn’t have to be chaotic. “For many of us working in e-commerce or with DTC brands, this is the single biggest week of the year in revenue as well as workload,” said Kirk Williams, founder of paid search agency ZATO Marketing. “However, over the years I have learned that it doesn’t have to be exhausting, even though it is still a lot of work. The key is to (1) create space, (2) invest your time wisely, and (3) for next year, prepare even better in previous weeks.”

Williams said he and his team have been able to create space in their schedules this week “by moving our normal optimization procedures to the weeks before and after. We, of course, will still make any decisions ad hoc as needed, but we’re holding off on most ad testing, large bid adjustments, audience experiments, etc. for these four days (the fifth being a holiday that we do, actually, take off as a team). We also block out this week from non-emergency scheduled meetings, and limit our own internal meetings. It is surprising how much these things take up in a work-week, and what you will find is that removing these suddenly frees you up with hours you weren’t aware you needed. This creates space, for the inevitable last minute Black Friday requests, disapprovals, ad changes, etc. that are sure to occur.”

This allows them to spend time on the critical tasks of the week and be able to spot and react quickly to problems. “When a client promotion has an issue on the website which suddenly causes a Shopping Promotion to become disapproved, we now have the space to focus our time on getting that back up and running instead of now having to choose between this non-urgent meeting and that sale,” said Williams. “Too often in agencies, that looks like the employee having to do both and then making that time up by working later and longer hours over this week.”

A sample daily PPC routine

At PMG, over the next few days, the search and social teams will be “focusing on agility and identifying trends that have shifted from our forecasts. This includes responding to shifts in search volume, reforecasting and reporting updates for clients, and working to capitalize on opportunities as they arise throughout the week,” said Boerner. They’ll be relying heavily on the agency’s internal automated solution, called Alli, for a streamlined alerting process to help teams prioritize issues as they arise.

The daily routine at PMG this week will look something like this:

  • Team members are logging on in the mornings and updating trackers, checking alerts for any concerning areas and updating team members as needed via Slack.
  • All teams have a morning stand-up to discuss any shifts/priorities for the day and align for any updates that need to be made.
  • QAing creative changes that are scheduled and making any necessary changes for changes in promotion strategy from clients.
  • Afternoon pacing checks to ensure effective pacing to daily budget flights, making necessary bid changes and checking on competition.
  • The rest of the day is spent monitoring alerts and responding to any client questions that come up outside of the daily updates provided in the mornings.

“We are working with clients to increase fluidity of budgets between November and December due to the holiday timing and the strong performance that we are seeing going into this week,” said Boerner. “We anticipate that performance will drop off more dramatically later in December and are working to maximize coverage for early shoppers.”

Looking ahead

This week, keep notes of how processes are working, how communication flows, problems that arise, hours worked and other thoughts that come to mind. This will help you capture the moments when it’s time to reflect and plan for improvements next year. Should you start earlier? Should you consider diversifying to more channels? What else can be automated? Was your reporting efficient and useful? Did you “create space,” as Williams suggests, to be able to respond to changes and issues effectively?

Good luck this week and may you have many happy returns on investment.

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