Creating Success in a Complex World

Marketing is about creating success. Why, then, are marketers so often reacting to the numbers, rather than using the numbers to create success? Here are some of the current challenges in numbers-based digital marketing, with an eye to solutions.

Low-Cost Eyeballs vs. High-Value Actions

Historically, media was sold by the eyeball. In a business model based on “reach”, there was little opportunity to optimize on the fly, so traditional media was negotiated only to achieve the lowest cost. This was smart. Giving limited opportunities to improve, you had the best chance of success in being profitable if your media cost was low.

Digital auctions changed all that. Today, going after low-cost media online simply means that you cede an audience to other advertisers who are willing to pay. In AdWords, the advertiser with the best ability to monetize will win. In order to compete, marketers have to highly value actions tightly related to sales and profits, and nothing else. Only then can marketers and advertisers can make intelligent decisions related to value creation, which is the point of marketing.

Action-Centric Advertising is Breaking

While smart marketers moved from eyeballs to actions, fundamental shifts in user behavior were simultaneously breaking the ability to measure actions with total certainty. Cookie-based tracking is falling short in a world of multiple devices per person. Better tracking of multi-touchpoint data and more sophisticated measurement of “influence” is revealing that strict action-based tracking is not wrong, but may be very limited.

The impact on advertisers is immense. Companies that thought they were smartly valuing only conversions are now finding themselves increasing uncompetitive and left to fight it out in the ever-smaller world of desktop-based search.

What Next, Then?

More sophisticated tools are opening the doors to opportunity, while creating new challenges in execution::

1) Holistic measurement. The days of isolated channel behavior, assessment, and budgeting are gone. Cross-channel and cross-device behavior mandates a different view of performance, but one still rooted in value creation. Get used to Venn Diagrams and flow charts. Yes, it is more complex, but it yields better results.

2) Proactive Optimization. Too many companies use their numbers for reporting up, rather than as action points for improvement. Smart companies will isolate key points of the customer story, and will focus on improving them. They will view things that don’t work as opportunities, while recognizing that moving the needle on the things that are working will be faster and take less time.

3) A Segmented View. Marketers need to recognize that behind every average value are the good and bad segments of that audience that can be addressed individually. Sweeping “black and white” decisions based on average performance should be challenged, so as not to throw out the part of that campaign that is working.

The Future

Marketing is evolving and becoming more complex. Media diversity, multi-channel measurement, multi-device behavior, and data overload all contribute to difficulty in crafting a strategy and executing it efficiently. But as difficult as tactical execution is, the core challenge is still in how advertising is viewed. Companies that view every day as a new test and every metric, page, and ad as improvable, and who root everything in the reality of sales and profit, will excel.

Google on Board with Profit-Driven Marketing!

Google recently published a “think with Google” article on Profit-Driven Marketing. They describe it as a “new” trend driving successful campaigns.

We’re thrilled that Google is on board, as we’ve been pushing the envelope with Profit-Driven Marketing for the last eleven years! But why is Google on board now after all this time, and what’s different that led them to publish this article?

Cross-channel interactions. This is at the heart of their article. In the past, Google has often split channel performance based on their own product lines. Search, YouTube, Remarketing, and all the various programs they offer advertisers have been measured independently in the past. But Google, and advertisers, are recognizing that users don’t behave in channel-independent ways, and that cross-channel behavior is getting worse. Specifically, three significant trends are driving channel confusion:

1) Multi-Device Behavior. We don’t live in a one-screen world any more, but most of our tracking tools still assume “device” means “person”. With device hopping and second screens becoming ubiquitous, single-channel attribution is increasingly wrong.

2) Migration of Search to Mobile. Over 50% of search queries have migrated to mobile devices, which are eroding the nice linear performance of Search -> Ad -> Click -> Engage that dominated desktop-based search and led to large performance gains using fairly simple tracking. With mobile search growing while desktop search shrinks, single-channel attribution is breaking.

3) Channel Complexity. Google has been at the forefront of launching many new and innovative advertising programs, but is now realizing that the success of these programs have contributed to confusion in tracking and attribution.

What is the solution? Google believes that stepping away from hard conversion metrics to look at the entire landscape, from brand building to engagement, is the path to success. We agree…sort of. We think that the quantitative assessment of all these channels, in combination and over time, leads to a more detailed and effective view of customer engagement, retention, and value. We strongly believe that customer acquisition targets based on Lifetime Value (LTV) have their proper place as the underpinning of campaigns, but we won’t be “channel-blind” about how we get to that cost-effective engagement.

AdWords for Video Tip

The deadline for transitioning AdWords for Video campaigns to enhanced campaigns was August 8, so all AdWords for Video campaigns should now be enhanced. Campaign and device settings for AdWords for Video campaigns are similar to search and display campaigns, which means that you no longer have the ability to show video ads exclusively to users on mobile phones or tablets. If you want to restrict your video ads from showing on mobile phones, though, you can do so by setting the campaign mobile bid adjustment to -100%.

Mobile-Only Enhanced Campaigns?

When we initially learned about AdWords enhanced campaigns, one of our biggest concerns was the inability to cleanly target only mobile phone users with a campaign. We regularly see significant differences between how mobile and desktop audiences interact with our clients’ ads, and in the pre-enhanced campaign world, segregating audiences into different campaigns by device offered us a convenient and effective way to optimize performance around how well our clients could monetize traffic from users on different devices. Since enhanced campaigns, by default, would be set to show ads to users on all devices, our clients were concerned that a flood of new competitors (who weren’t previously advertising to mobile users) vying for placement on mobile search results pages would drive up mobile click costs.

To preserve the gains that we made by creating device-targeted legacy campaigns, we utilized low keyword bids and a high campaign mobile bid adjustment to try and recreate mobile-only legacy campaigns within the new enhanced campaign structure.

Since transitioning all of our clients to enhanced campaigns, we have had varying degrees of success restricting ad delivery to mobile devices only. For some of our clients, AdWords traffic volume from desktop users has been as low as 1% in campaigns intended for mobile users, while in others, the percentage is as high as 20%, with the portion of impressions served to desktop users between 1% and 15%. So far, the difference seems to be keyword bids. With the campaign-level mobile bid adjustment limited to 300%, we are finding that even some significantly reduced keyword bids aren’t low enough to disqualify ads from showing on desktop search results pages.

Despite an anticipated increase in competition for ad placement on mobile devices, our clients haven’t experienced significant increases in mobile click costs, or lower ad positions. For consistent ad position, we’ve seen an average cost-per-click increase of between 4% and 6%.

New AdWords Editor Support for Enhanced Sitelinks

Good news for advertisers who want to take advantage of ad group-level Sitelinks without having to use the AdWords user interface: Google is now supporting enhanced/upgraded Sitelinks in AdWords Editor 10.2, far in advance of the September 23 enhanced ad extension migration deadline.

Google Enhanced Campaign Transition Tips

For months, Google AdWords advertisers have had the option of migrating their old-style legacy campaigns to AdWords enhanced campaigns. As the automatic rollover date fast approaches, more advertisers will be forced to dive headfirst into the complex pool of new options, settings, and rules. Because Google has treated the enhanced campaigns rollout like a true beta, tweaking and adding features and settings since their introduction, it’s critical to approach the transition with a strategy that will prevent you from unintentionally spending more on your AdWords traffic than it’s worth.

Here are seven things to keep top-of-mind when transitioning legacy campaigns to enhanced campaigns, which could mean the difference between smooth sailing and a rocky road.  Feel free to share them with your marketing team!

1. Your ads will show on mobile devices, unless…

By default, all enhanced campaigns will deliver ads to users on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, visitors could have a bad experience after clicking on your ad and reaching your desktop site, which could be hard to see and difficult to use on a tiny touchscreen.

Luckily, Google has opened the door for advertisers who want to opt out of ad delivery to audiences on smartphones. By reducing your campaign-level bid adjustment for “Mobile devices with full browsers” to -100%, you can stop the delivery of impressions to users on their phones. Your ads will, however, continue to show to people using tablets, as the mobile bid adjustment only affects ad delivery on smartphones.

After switching to enhanced campaigns, your Product Listing Ads will start showing on mobile devices. If your product images, descriptions, and titles (or online store, for that matter) aren’t optimized for a mobile audience, you might want to buy some time to revamp your product feed before showing listings to mobile users.

2. Mobile-only campaigns are a thing of the past, but you can limit desktop and tablet exposure.

Legacy campaigns offered advertisers robust options for choosing which types of devices to show ads on (eg.  iOS devices, the Samsung Galaxy 5, T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide, etc.). In enhanced campaigns, that level of control is gone, and all AdWords advertisers will be forced to show ads to desktop and tablet users whether they want to or not.

Some advertisers attempting to run mobile-only enhanced campaigns have reported a degree of success minimizing ad display on desktop and tablet devices by using a combination of a mobile device bid adjustments and mobile-preferred ads. Nevertheless, enhanced campaigns don’t offer advertisers the opportunity to completely eliminate desktop or tablet traffic. After transitioning a mobile-only legacy campaign, it will be critical to use AdWords reporting to understand the distribution of traffic and cost across device families, especially for advertisers who don’t have the ability to monetize desktop or tablet traffic.

3. Some bid adjustments stack.

AdWords allows enhanced campaigns users to tweak bids via bid adjustment settings at the device, location, and ad schedule level.  If you set a bid adjustment for each, all will affect the price you pay for traffic.

To borrow and build on Google’s example (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2732132?hl=en), if you have a campaign that works well with mobile audiences in Chicago on Wednesdays, you can set bid adjustments for device, location, and schedule to leverage these performance efficiencies without having to create separate campaigns.

Beware of the unintentional consequences of doing so. If you set multiple bid adjustments, the offsets will stack, so your bids may be spiking higher or dipping lower than intended.

Google offers two good examples of how multiple bid adjustments stack:

Example One:

If you know that your campaign performs well on mobile devices in Chicago, you can set bid adjustments to increase your bids for mobile and Chicago to try to capture all available traffic. For example, you could set a +20% adjustment for mobile, and a +10% adjustment for Chicago, resulting in a final bid adjustment of +32% for searches in Chicago on mobile devices.

Example Two:

Say you’ve set a $1 Max CPC ad group bid. You decide to add a +20% adjustment for California, and -50% adjustment for Saturdays. Your resulting bid for a search that occurs in California on a Saturday will be $0.60. Here’s the math:

Starting bid: $1

California adjustment: $1 x (+20%) = $1.20

Saturday adjustment: $1.20 x (-50%) = $0.60

Resulting bid for searches in California on Saturday: $0.60

4. Other bid adjustments don’t.

For campaigns targeting the Google Search Network, AdWords will default to the most specific level where a bid adjustment is set.

If you have a bid adjustment of 100% set for Rhode Island, but a 50% one set for Providence, Google will favor the bid adjustment set at the more specific level. In this scenario, the bid of a keyword triggered by a search from Providence will increase by 50%, but the bid of the same keyword triggered by a search from Newport will increase by 100%.

Campaign and ad group bid adjustments interact in a similar way. If an ad group has a bid adjustment set in a campaign making use of a campaign-level bid adjustment, Google will favor the ad group-level adjustment.

Bid adjustments, though, do not allow you to set budgets for multiple different locations within a single campaign. If you want to do that, you’ll still have to set up multiple campaigns.

5. Ad extensions must be upgraded, too, but there’s no AdWords Editor support (yet!) for enhanced ad extensions.

Advertisers using enhanced campaigns have the ability to create ad extensions for ad groups, customize Ad Sitelinks and app extensions for mobile devices, and schedule the delivery of ad extensions. The new features allow advertisers to be more nimble, making it easier to use ad extensions to promote time-sensitive offers.

One of the most (if not the most) popular and widely-used ad extensions, Sitelinks, is undergoing a major transformation. Enhanced campaign Sitelinks have a 25-character limit, down from 35 characters. Whereas legacy campaign Sitelinks were subject to the dreaded Christmas light effect (when one was disapproved in a campaign, they all went down), each enhanced campaign Sitelink is reviewed individually. Additionally, advanced reporting for ad extensions gives enhanced campaign advertisers the ability to understand which Sitelinks are most effective, a boon for optimization-minded campaign managers.

The latest version of the AdWords desktop editor, AdWords Editor 10.1 doesn’t support upgrading to, adding, editing, or deleting enhanced campaign Sitelinks, though. AdWords Editor 10.2, set for a mid-August release, will, so even though the campaign migration deadline is July 22, the deadline for upgrading to enhanced ad extensions was pushed back to September 23.

If you rely on AdWords Editor to make sweeping changes in large accounts, but need to make multiple changes to take advantage of ad group level Sitelinks or Sitelink scheduling, you’ll have to painstakingly do so through the AdWords Editor interface.

7. Bidding on the Google Display Network has already changed.

In addition to device, location, and schedule-based bid adjustments, recently-updated Display Network bidding options add an additional level of complexity to the management of Display Network campaigns. Custom bidding gives advertisers control over how much to pay for traffic from users generated by different types of Display Network targets when an advertiser is using multiple types of targets in the same ad group.

If default bidding is not chosen, all targeted elements in your ad group will receive the ad group level bid, and users who click on your ad will be directed to the page reflected in the ad destination URL. In order to set element-level (i.e. keyword, placement, or audience-specific) bids, the custom bidding option must be selected for your Display Network ad groups.

While custom bidding isn’t an enhanced campaign-only feature, using default bidding in combination with mobile bid adjustments could cause you to spend far more or less than your Display Network traffic is worth.

Updated Google Merchant Center Feed Specs

We’ve all been there: you search for a product, dig through dozens of thumbnails, find one that looks exactly like what you want, click to enlarge, and see a photo so pixelated that Seurat would be jealous. A small or pixelated image can be the difference between making the sale and driving your potential customers to a competitor.

In their latest product feed specs update, Google recommends that advertisers use product images of at least 800 pixels in height and width to accommodate users searching on devices with high-definition screens. So put those beautiful pixels to work. It’s time to adapt your Google Merchant Center feed for the hi-def world.

Selling multipacks, custom goods, or non-family safe products, too? Check out how the new specs affect you.

http://adwords.blogspot.com/2013/05/updated-google-shopping-feed.html

Bing Product Ads: How to Prepare

MSN has announced that Bing will open its feed-based Product Ads to all advertisers in Q3 2013. Based on the announcement’s accompanying screenshot, Product Ads will inhabit prime real estate on the Bing search results page for product-related user queries.

Similar to Google’s Product Listing Ads, Bing’s Product Ads will allow advertisers to entice potential customers with product images in a virtual marketplace, and allow users to compare relevant product search results at a glance. Since PLA’s have been a boon for many of our clients, we’re ready to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the Product Ads rollout.

Here are five ways you can prepare to take advantage of the potentially big opportunity:

1. Create a Bing Shopping feed. You’ll need one to run Product Ads. Make sure it meets editorial guidelines, and learn a little bit about which titles, descriptions, and images work best before you need to make it the backbone of your campaign. (http://advertise.bingads.microsoft.com/en-us/bing-shopping)

2. Optimize your product descriptions. Most advertisers simply copy and paste manufacturer or distributor copy into their feeds, but with a few tweaks, you can easily distinguish your store from the herd, add some personality, and pack them full of relevant, compelling keywords and phrases.

3. Use compelling product images to distinguish your listings from your competitors’. Dazzle your potential customers with large photos from multiple angles. Don’t drive them to a competitor’s listing with a pixelated stock photo.

4. Familiarize yourself with the BingAds platform. According to MSN’s developer resources, adding product targets to an ad group will be similar to adding keywords to an ad group, so learn how before diving into the deep end.  (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/library/bing-ads-product-ads-guide-v8.aspx)

5. Prepare to support your Product Ads campaign with robust paid search and retargeting strategies. Don’t make your first impression your only impression. Some people won’t be ready to buy when they first see your ad, so make sure that when they’re ready to buy, make your site the most convenient option.