Navigating the road ahead: How consumers are adjusting to COVID-19

My Post (28)COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives and how we connect with the world around us. Things like social distancing, curbside pickup, and at-home workouts are now commonplace. The necessary measures taken to manage the pandemic have not only disrupted the global economy, but have also altered consumers’ interests, expectations, and purchasing behavior. These shifts are constant and they’re happening rapidly—and we want to help you navigate them. Today, we’ll share five key trends we’re seeing and provide helpful resources for adjusting your media strategy.

What’s changing with consumers?

As of this week, there are over four billion people staying home worldwide. And while we don’t know how or when this crisis will resolve, we do have new insight into how people’s needs and behaviors are changing:

People are using multiple devices to go online at unprecedented levels.

Connecting with the world online is more important than ever right now, with at-home media consumption increasing dramatically and influencing all aspects of life.

  • In the U.S., staying home has led to a 60 percent increase in the amount of content watched. Americans are watching roughly 12 hours of media content a day, according to Nielsen data.
  • Consumers across the globe are spending 20 percent more time in apps and games than they did a year ago and app usage in China grew to five hours/day on average (+30 percent year over year), according to App Annie.

People are turning to Google for important information and content to meet their essential needs.

With businesses adapting to delivery or online models, people are looking for clear, specific information about where, how, and when they can get what they need.

  • According to internal data, searches for “food delivery services” have grown globally by more than 300 percent year over year.
  • Americans are watching videos related to recipes and cooking at a rate 31 percent higher than they did the same time last year.
  • According to internal data, searches for “online pharmacy” have grown globally by more than 100 percent year over year.

People are discovering new connections and nurturing relationships (virtually).

Even as people physically distance themselves, they’re using technology in new ways to connect with each other.

  • 50 percent of U.S. consumers said they have used video to communicate with family and friends. In fact, as of April, Google Meet is hosting 3 billion minutes of video meetings and adding nearly 3 million new users everyday.
  • On YouTube, we’ve seen a rise in “with me” videos, where people film themselves going about ordinary tasks like cleaning and cooking. In the US, views of videos containing “study with me” in the title are 54 percent higher compared to the same period last year.

People are adjusting routines to be at-home-first.

As daily routines and schedules adjust to new realities, so have online and at-home habits.

  • Search interest for “telecommuting” in the U.S. reached an all-time high on Google and YouTube in mid-March, and continues to grow with no sign of slowing down.
  • Workout routines have changed. There’s growing search interest for “stationary bicycle” worldwide since the beginning of the year, especially in Spain and France, and “dumbbell set” in the UK.

People are practicing self-care more. 

People are focused on taking care of their own physical and psychological needs, in addition to those of friends and loved ones. – Read more

How to increase online sales in three easy steps through PPC ads

My Post (26)Coronavirus and related quarantine measures led to an increase in online sales, video content consumption, and the time people spent on the internet in general. That’s why PPC ads are more relevant than ever now for your business. Well crafted ads can be a great way to improve your conversion rate and profit.

In this article, you’ll find the most common errors in contextual advertising and get practical recommendations on setting up effective ads.

The most common errors when setting up ads

1. Contactless ads

Advertisements without contact information take up less space in SERP and lose to competitors’ ads due to the fact that they are less noticeable and informative.

2. Lack of quick links and favicon

This error leads to a decrease in traffic, CTR, and means that the ad budgets will rise.

3. Ads are not optimized for the Google Display Network

A search engine ad campaign is different from one shown on the Google Display Network. If you just copy ads, you’ll not get a good result.

The main difference between campaigns on the thematic sites and in search:

  • Images are not displayed in search but on thematic sites, they must be added.
  • Advertising on thematic sites should be more creative than in search. There are many different formats in GDN you can experiment with.

4. Lack of division into the industry and regional campaigns

Without this separation, you can waste the budget. Dividing the campaign, you’ll identify which industries or regions are more effective, which part of the campaign should get more attention and budget.

5. Improper structure of PPC ads campaigns

The campaign structure does not appear from scratch but is created on the basis of internet demand and customer market analysis (customer needs and requirements, product demand, and other such parameters).

For example, you can create the following groups from your PPC campaign: On a company brand, on general keywords, on regions, on types of the product, on promotions, and on competitors.

6. The site doesn’t load when clicked

Often, a campaign is running but a server is not configured to process the labels of advertising systems. Therefore, when you click on an ad, the site may not load.

How to set up an effective PPC ads campaign

Work with contextual advertising involves continuous analysis. Before launch, it’s an analysis of the target audience, the strengths and weaknesses of the product, the activities of competitors, and niche filling. Since the situation on the market is changing dynamically, before running an advertising campaign, you should carry out a direct analysis of contextual ads, their results, as well as competitors.

Before starting a PPC campaign

As I’ve already said, you should make a deep analysis before setting up your advertisements. You should learn:

1. The target audience

These are people whose attention you want to capture and convert them into buyers.

A specialist should understand their pains, determine triggers of influence, find out which style works best to communicate with them.

You can do it with the help of different polls and surveys among your clients, talking to your customer support team, and studying your competitors.

2. The product

How are you selling the product? How is it made? How is it different from competitors? What value does it create for buyers? What are its strengths and weaknesses? You should know answers to all these questions because it’ll be rather difficult to sell a product or service without them.

3. The niche

Each business has its specifics. It can be something more familiar to each of us (for example, retail, like Amazon) or something non-standard from B2B (business to business) sphere (for example, content marketing services). Study sites from given examples to see the difference between niches.

Fact-checking six more rumours about how search is changing

My Post (8)Separating fact from fiction in SEO can be really difficult.

In a previous post, I looked at the validity of five popular rumours from across the search industry. In this follow-up, I focus on analysing the real impact of another six similar claims that are regularly doing the rounds.

Rumour 1: Mobile indexing changes everything

Desktop is no longer the single source of truth for Google indexing. Demonstrating this, I saw an example where a company’s desktop search results showed the same ‘jump marks’ (links to subheads within content) as on mobile search. The trouble was, there was nothing associated with these subheads on the desktop version of their site, perplexing the company (and myself). So, in this case, Google was indexing the client’s mobile site – including the links that were present – and showing it on desktop too.

You, therefore, need to act accordingly. Most SEO teams still run tests on desktops; but if Google is crawling your mobile version, you need to run everything – all your tests and all your health checks – on mobile too, preferably on a real smartphone to get the full experience.

There are also significant differences in the numbers of hyperlinks between mobile and desktop. A study from Moz crawled 20,000 homepages and checked if home page links were the same between the two. Thirteen percent were different and – when crawling in more depth – 63% of external links turned out to only exist on desktop. This means you might have created a lot of desktop backlinks that don’t exist or help your rankings on mobile. Again, check and act accordingly.

Rumour 2: Ranking factors are dead

It is easy to draw the wrong conclusions when analysing SEO best practices. Take the average length of articles. At Searchmetrics we looked at the word count for articles that ranked in the top 10 for Google results. The average across a range of different topics and keywords was 1,692 words. Does that make writing nearly 1,700 words best practice?

Dig into the data and the answer is clearly “no”. If you split it by industry it varies greatly – from 700 words for camping up to 2,500 for financial planning.

The same point applies to all ranking factors – there are some industries or searches where a factor has a high correlation with search position and others where it doesn’t. For example, when I search for “buy trainers” online, seeing lots of small images is probably good as it helps me make a choice faster. However, if I search for “buy Air Force One Black size 6” it makes more sense to show a couple of large pictures as my intent is clearer. Google understands this, meaning that different factors will be important depending on the intent of the search.

Rumour 3: BERT changes everything

Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT to its friends, is Google’s Natural Language Processing algorithm that was rolled out in September 2019.

I’ve heard so many rumours about BERT – the worst ones being that it is related to schema and that URLs get a BERT score, which influences how they rank. Both are simply untrue. If you check on third-party tools, you’ll see little SERP fluctuation in the week BERT was announced. Actually, you will not even find agreement among SEOs on the exact date that BERT was – supposedly – rolled out.

The reason for this is that BERT’s actual focus is on recognising words and looking at their relationships and using that to understand the searcher’s intent more accurately. Take a search for “train from Leeds to Liverpool.” In the past, if you had the phrase “fly from Paris to London and then take a train to Liverpool with no stop in Leeds” on your website, you could have ranked for the search – because you had all the individual words present. Now BERT recognises that there is a relationship between the individual words.

So, the only rankings you would lose because of BERT are those where you didn’t really fulfil the search intent. Yes, BERT is a big change for Google in terms of how it processes queries and language but not a huge update in terms of ranking. – Read more

Accounting for Future Performance in Paid Media

My Post (22)Changing circumstances can force you to confront the future. Planning ahead is essential and can better prepare you for what comes next. While a model won’t perfectly predict what comes next, it can be vital in preparing and setting realistic expectations.

In this article, we’ll cover a few approaches that you can explore and build on. It’s worth noting that while there is no out-of-the-box solution, the process and business knowledge you can apply are what make these tools valuable.

Simple Math

With a few formulas, you can quickly pace account metrics, understand the direction of your account, and plan for the rest of the month. Sometimes the simple method is all you need.

One common method involves taking the current total, taking the average of the last seven days, and multiplying it by the remaining days in the period.

For a month this looks something like a month to date spend + last seven day spend/7 * days remaining in the month.

Simple forecast example in Google Sheets
Simple forecast example in Google Sheets

The simplicity of this method makes it intuitive and easy to adjust for. Seven days is a great starter as most accounts follows a typical cycle as activity rises and falls through a weekly period. You can adjust it for stability by increasing the seven days to 14 or 21. The beauty is that the formula starts so simply that it’s not a big investment to make changes.

If you need to add more nuance you can apply this same method to account segments to account for differences in brand investment, non-brand, shopping, or the product line level. You can also add further modifiers to weight the remaining days differently. The best part of this method is that it can be easily modified, is intuitive, and produces reasonable results with little effort.

You can see more advanced implementations in this post, How to Forecast Spend Potential in Paid Social Campaigns

Data Tables in Excel

Data tables are a great method to estimate the account level effects of changing metrics. You can take an efficiently metric such as ROAS or CPA and create a table with new CPAs/ROAS by different cost per clicks and click through rates. This helps you forecast the impact of performance changes in your account.

Data Table Example in Microsoft Excel
Excel Data Table Example

Unlike the previous example, it does not account for time. Instead, it provides useful benchmarks for upper and lower limits in performance. It clarifies possibilities and outlines the bounds of performance.  You can use it these as a best-case and a  worst-case scenario or see how far metrics would have to change to hit a goal target.

You can find further details in this post,

How to Utilize Excel Data Tables for Better Projections

and this webinar,

Discover More Accurate Projections with Excel Data Tables

Going Further with Your Models

Or course models can go much further. You can explore time series with Holt-Winters, ARIMA, and more. While these are not always directly applicable to daily work and optimizations they can be useful when longer terms forecasts are needed. The main benefit is that they are built to account for trends and seasonality. Something our naïve models don’t account for. – Read more

Assessing Your PPC Data and Analytics Needs

My Post (9).pngIn the world of PPC, data is king. You need it, you use it, and it guides every decision big or small. Yet, wrangling your data is like climbing a mountain. It often requires immense effort, specialized tools, and the grit to see it through. Lacking any of these is a recipe for disaster, but often it’s not until we’re halfway into our climb that decisions made during the planning stages can start to impede our progress.

We’re often in a hurry to get our data into reports and into stakeholder’s hands. Sometimes we lack the technical expertise or money or both for the solutions that would best serve us. Often we simply lack the time to carefully understand our problems and vet possible solutions. This can lead to poor product fit for the problem we have and wasted time.

But, it doesn’t have to be like this. No matter your resources the first step is understanding your needs and taking the time to consider what solution might work best for your situation. Note that I did not say the best technical solution or the most expensive solution. Often we get enamored with tech wizardry and forget to consider our own abilities and resources leading to a fancy solution that doesn’t actually work for us.

So how do we arrive at a plan and figure out possible solutions? It starts with understanding the problem you are trying to solve.

The Problem

Anyone who has worked in PPC long enough is well versed in the amount of data that is present and the struggle to make sense of it. You’re in a constant battle of exporting data from multiple sources (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and trying to make sense of it in some type of reporting format. Often it involves you trying to store it in some place like a spreadsheet or database.

Getting the data, storing the data, and reporting on it are usually constant struggles at all places small and large. Ad networks go down, spreadsheets crash, and reports run slow leading to many headaches all around.

Seeing the frustration and the wasted time that comes from these issues, teams often see a problem and want to find new solutions. This is often a good idea, but a team needs to know its own capabilities, resources, and priorities when figuring out solutions.

In short, they need the proper mindset. – Read more

Pausing Your PPC Campaigns Due to Coronavirus? Read this first…

My-Post-8 copy.pngThe Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on businesses around the world, and whenever there is economic uncertainty, one of the first things to get axed is marketing budgets and campaigns.

While that would make sense at first glance, what this has meant is that average Cost Per Clicks has dropped by over 50% across the board, which means that for those advertisers who do continue with their campaigns, they get to enjoy leads at significantly lower costs than before.

So, rather than pausing your campaigns altogether, a better strategy might be to try and leverage the market opportunities by reducing your spend and getting more bang for your buck.

Here are some really simple changes you can make to your PPC campaign, which, combined with the lower CPCs more advertisers are seeing currently, will help reduce your Cost Per Lead by as much as 150%!

#1: Adjust Your Ad Schedule To Show Up During The Best Performing Times

If you head over to the Overview section of your Google Ads dashboard, towards the end, you are going to see a Day & Hour chart, which you can adjust to see what day and hour of the week you tend to get the most conversions.

Make a note of the top 2-3 days you tend to get most of your conversions, and you can decide to either exclude other days from your campaigns for the time being or reduce the bids on those days so you still show up, but your spend will be much less on those days.

Depending on your type of business, another relevant metric might be to look at the Cost Per Conversion or Conversion rate and depending on your campaign’s objective. If other non-conversion related metrics such as clicks, impressions, etc. are more suitable, you can make a selection from all the options available by clicking on the drop-down on the top left.

#2: Look At The Device-Level Performance Data To Cut Out Waste

On the Overview tab, you will also find a chart showing your campaign’s performance on a device level, and as with day and time data, you can use this info to reduce your Cost Per Lead by adjusting your bids for the devices that are performing the best for you.

The first thing to look at is the Cost Per Conversion, and as you will see from this example, computers have resulted in the lowest cost leads while tablets have been the most expensive, so the obvious thing to do here is to either reduce how much you want to bid for tablets or exclude them altogether. – Read more