Are remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) the future of PPC?

high-cpcs-rlsa-save-the-day

Paid search is a pretty awesome channel, but it’s not without its challenges.

As the chart below illustrates, the cost per click (CPC) in certain highly competitive verticals can get super expensive – we’re talking more than $100 per click in some cases, for industries like law and finance.

(This is Bing data, but it’s a similar story in AdWords.)

Another challenge is that conversion rates really haven’t changed much in 15 years, whether you’re selling washing machines or alarm clocks. It’s around 2.5%.

Finally, we know that desktop search query volume peaked in 2013 and that more searches are happening on the smaller, more competitive screens of mobile devices.

As marketers, we want to get more for less. We want more conversions and we want them to cost less so we can maximize our profits, right?

I frequently get emails like this:

Larry, how do you make money with PPC today?

If my cost per click goes from $1.50 to $4 with a Quality Score of 9 or 10, and it takes 75 to 100 clicks to make a sale, the cost of acquisition goes from $150 to $400. I can’t believe I’m the only one in this boat!

Is there a way we can overcome these big challenges – knowing that in the near future search, inventory will remain flat, CPCs will keep being expensive, and conversion rates won’t change? Can businesses in competitive industries stay the course? Is there a way we can turn this ship around and make sure we get more for less?

Will RLSA save the day?

With RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) you tailor your paid search campaigns based on whether users have previously visited your website (or app) and which pages they viewed.

So is RLSA the superhero technology we’ve been waiting for? Let’s look at some data.

rlsa-versus-non-rlsa-campaigns

In this account, we can see two campaigns that have the exact same keywords. It’s just that one is targeted to existing site visitors (through remarketing) and the other is targeted to new visitors.

Notice how the RLSA campaign has a third the cost per conversion ($36 vs. $100)? That’s because that audience is already familiar with your brand.

See how the click-through-rate (CTR) for RLSA is double (4.8 percent vs. 2.2 percent)? That’s because they’re familiar with your brand.

And notice how the average CPC for RLSA is about half as expensive ($1.45 instead of $2.80)? That’s because of the higher Quality Score (in turn because of the higher CTR).

This is all very interesting. You have this technology that basically lets you find the conversions and clicks from people who are going to click through at twice the rate, half the costs, and triple the conversion rate.

Awesome, right?! Well…

RLSA may be super, but it’s no hero

There’s one problem: RLSA doesn’t create new volume. It actually cuts volume substantially. You’re only getting about a tenth of the volume.

And to make things worse, if you look at the previous month, RLSA added nothing in terms of total conversions (245 this month vs. 250 last month).

Looked at in these terms, RLSA is kind of a shell game. It’s segmenting the cheap conversions out of a bucket of conversions that used to include both cheap conversions and expensive conversions.

You’re just cherry-picking the 10% of cheap conversions out of the pile you would’ve gotten anyway, and looking at them in isolation. It’s all well and good to get those conversions, but you’re still basically stealing all the cheap conversions from your existing campaigns.

While this may be interesting if you’re limited by budget (e.g., you only have $100 to spend), most marketers want to see more quantity at better costs. RLSA delivers on cost savings, but it actually cuts down on the amount of conversions. It’s almost like all you’re doing is applying a repeat visitor vs. new visitor segmentation on your conversion set.

So what’s a marketer to do?

The ridiculously awesome new way forward

So we all know the issues with RLSA.

the-problem-with-rlsa

But what’s the solution?

What follows won’t be a solution for everyone. This applies only to certain verticals that have very high CPCs where there’s a lot of competition and where conversion rates are challenging. This strategy will be especially game-changing if you’ve got a small marketing budget and you want to make sure that budget goes as far as possible.

The crazy new idea is to only do RLSA and completely forget about doing unbranded vanilla search ads.

Then, use the power of social media ads to dramatically – I’m talking 10x to 100x – increase the size of your cookie pools.

If you can increase the size or your remarketing pool by 10x, then it stands to reason that you’ll get 10x more conversions. That means instead of getting only 10 conversions, you’ll get 1,000!

This is an abridged version of Larry Kim’s post as published on WordStream, for more information visit Larry’s blog.

How to optimize your contact page for better conversions

Business address schema code

Providing your future buyers with easy and varied ways to get in touch with you is the most obvious way to improve your conversion rate.

So how to improve your contact page?

Here are a few ideas…

Add your full business address and a phone number

This is just the matter of being trustworthy, especially if you are into an ecommerce, medical or financial business where customers entrust you with their personal data (like credit card details).

Having this information visible is a clear sign to Google of trustworthiness of a site. But even more importantly, it eliminates anxiety in buyers as well.

It makes sense to markup this information properly:

  • Use click-to-call for the phone number for customers to easily call (especially from mobile phone). Here’s a code to use for that.
  • Use Schema.org to point search engines to your business official address (especially for local business. Here’s schema code for that (scroll down to the actual examples) or you can use this free online generator.

Add a call back widget

Call Back Widget

Probably my favorite little trick, a callback button can make all the difference in the world.

A callback button allows your customers to request a callback from your representative. It’s an easy lead as many clients click the button just out of curiosity.

Ringostat provides this widget as part of their overall call tracking and lead generation functionality. A nice thing about this solution is that it’s integrated, so together with the widget you get in-depth reports, multi-channel funnel analysis and your customer support team stats (enabling you to optimize the efficiency).

My favorite part of the report is the ability to see the exact path that led the customer to the call:

Ringostat

Expand beyond your site

Social media is becoming such a huge part of customer engagement that you probably communicate with your audience more there than anywhere else. Using these platforms as a place to encourage contact is a great way to take things off site and into a more open sphere.

You can integrate the two methods pretty simply, as well. Just put buttons to your social media pages on your contact page, and vice versa.

Many people would argue that making your social media sites visible will expose your business to unhappy customers taking their irritation into public, but the truth is, they will discuss your business online anyway: You’d better be there to control the sentiment.

Provide a live chat option

Having someone on hand to ask general questions is a good way to connect with someone who maybe doesn’t want to call, but would like answers immediately.

You can have set hours where they can contact you or a customer service agent, either with or without account access.

This also has the benefit of freeing up phone lines for calls that can’t be handled over a chat box. Like an interactive FAQ that also improves your engagement.

I’ve listed some of the great live chat options in this article.

You can also follow the footsteps of bigger companies and try using a smart chatbot! Here’s a solid insight into current solutions put together by Tej Kohli:

“… China has successfully used WeChat for a while now to enable customers to complete basic tasks such as ordering food, paying restaurant bills… Shopify recently acquired Kit, an all-round marketing masterpiece that can do everything from email customers to help you set discounts and handle 404 errors. Facebook recently announced that their new messenger platform is open to Chatbots, which could be a marketing game-changer.”

Curious to see where it goes!

Make it easy to email

ZenDesk

Trying to find an email address to email support or sales when you don’t have the time to chat or talk can be really annoying. For some reason, companies are starting to cut out email support lately.

But that only removes one option that they would have otherwise had, and no one likes having their choices reduced. Make it easy to find your email on your contact page. And consider putting it on the front page as well, next to your number.

Most email forms are impersonal, annoying, and make it feel as though your message will never be seen. It is like shouting into the wind. Make it short and sweet.

ZenDesk is the simplest solution: It doesn’t force your customers to register in a ticket system, yet it provides your team with nice scaling and tracking options.

Have a trick to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

15 data visualisation tools to help you present ideas effectively

silk

The number of digital skills you need in order to be a functional and useful member of your organisation are increasing at a rate you might be struggling to keep up with.

As well as the ability to understand your analytics and be fully aware of basic SEO skills, you need to be able to present information and data in the clearest manner possible to members of your team and, of course, your senior management.

Luckily you don’t have to be a graphic design wizard to achieve this.

Here is a list of various free and premium visualisation tools that will help you communicate your ideas in a variety of formats, for a range of different experience levels. Hopefully you’ll pick up some impressive new skills here too.

Silk

With Silk you can publish attractive looking webpages featuring a variety of different interactive visualisations, based on your data-sets. These can exist as standalone pages, linking back to your own site for a little SEO benefit, or you can embed them wherever you like.

Sketch

Think of Sketch as a much easier to use, far more intuitive and BS-free version of Photoshop that’s also a damn sight cheaper. I’m including it here because after a recommendation from my learned friend Chris Lake, within the afternoon I had installed Sketch, messed around for a couple of hours and finished a fairly complex but crystal-clear multichannel content marketing plan. I love it.

precision-objects

Google Fusion Tables

Fusion Tables is a web app that allows you to gather, visualize, and share data tables.

You can filter and summarize across thousands of rows, then adapt the data to an embeddable and shareable chart, map or custom layout. Plus all your data organization is automatically saved in Google Drive.

fusiontables

Piktochart

I’ve recommended Piktochart so many times – as has everyone else on the internet in the business of making your data-vizs and infographics look brilliant. It’s just so easy to use and the templates help you achieve results very quickly.

piktochart

Gephi

Gephi is an open-source data-viz tool for graphs and networks. It also allows for exploratory data, link and social analysis.

gephi

Easle.ly

Easle.ly possibly has the most satisfyingly meta-textual name on this list. It also has 1,000s of infographic templates at your disposal, as well as the ability to create one from scratch.

easel ly

Hohli

Need a simple bar chart, line chart, venn diagram or graph rustled up in a flash, without any extra complicated bells and whistles? Hohli should have everything you need.

hohli

Gliffy

Gliffy allows you to make great looking flowcharts and diagrams, but its secret weapon is the fact it has collaboration at its core.

wireframe-android@2x

Infogr.am

Infogr.am has a really beautiful collection of templates for data-visualisation, possibly some of the best looking here, and it’s very easy to use.

infogram

Leaflet

With Leaflet, you can create incredible looking maps, that are fully interactive and mobile friendly, with tonnes of customisable features.

leafletjs.com

D3

D3 basically stands for data driven documents, but there is little basic about this tool. In fact, you should probably only use this one if you have some expertise already. However the results can be more than worth the work.

d3

Bime

The analytics workspace, Bime has a great eye for stylish design, and its multi-device capabilities are impressive. Although it does come at a premium.

bime

Chartblocks

The “world’s easiest” bar chart building app, plus also one of the nicest looking and quickest to use too.

Online Chart Builder ChartBlocks

Dygraphs

Dygraphs lets you make interactive charts which you can mouse over to highlight individual values, then click and drag to zoom-in, zoom-out or pan around.

dygraphs

Timeline

With Timeline you can create embeddable sequential timelines by uploading your data from a Google Spreadsheet. Each timeline is customisable and interactive, plus even though it’s open source it’s relatively easy to use for beginners.

SIMILE Widgets Timeline

Google testing ‘top rated’ shopping ads format for “best” searches

By now we should be used to Google experimenting with its results pages and ad formats, and well, we are, but it doesn’t stop a minor change from creating a frisson of excitement even when only about 0.5% of searchers in a single territory get to see them.

The latest variation, as discovered last Friday and brought to my attention by @VikingWagon (probably not her real name, in fact it’s Victoria), is a new way of presenting Google Shopping Ads, ranked by customer ratings.

Let’s take a look at the tweets, and I’ll try not to be too offended that I discovered @VikingWagon tweeted a certain Barry before me.

Hi @Christophe_Rock Have you seen this before? Seems to only show for best/top related queries on mobile. Thanks! pic.twitter.com/Kur963gQEt

— Victoria (@VikingWagon) June 10, 2016

This was also replicated by a company called Grade Us.

@sewatch@VikingWagon@Christophe_Rock Yep! Same here. pic.twitter.com/b3DEZDvlIu

— GradeUs (@GradeUs) June 10, 2016

And although we all assumed foolishly this was a mobile only variant, Victoria also made it appear on desktop.

@sewatch I made it do it on desktop too 🙂 pic.twitter.com/qeRxWgc7Wg

— Victoria (@VikingWagon) June 10, 2016

Now as I stated in the opening paragraph, which I’ve just realised is drenched in sarcasm, this isn’t much to get terribly excited about, however it is an interesting variation of format that’s perhaps more useful than a mere change of colour.

Google is using rich snippet markup provided by retailers, and using the aggregated customer ratings to put them in a ranked order of best rated. Notice the little blue ‘1st’, ‘2nd’ and ‘3rd’. It’s a great way for retailers to show off their ‘top customer rated’ products and everyone loves a ranked lists right?

This is also particularly relevant – and will also probably only appear – for searches including the term “best”, as this shows that Google is providing results based on genuine intent.

Although at the moment it’s only working for ‘lawn feed’ so who knows what Google’s secret agenda is there. To encourage everyone’s gardens to look prettier? Well I guess that’s not too evil.

Eight tips for getting the most from a modest PPC budget

adwords budgets

Has this ever happened to you? You acquire a new PPC account that’s in a notoriously expensive sector to advertise in. You have plans. Big plans and you’re going to “wow” the new team with grand ideas while visions of industry domination dance in your head.

And then comes the reality check: They don’t have the budget. For a moment, your team feels deflated. But then you realize: “Now is the time to show them how truly badass we are by getting creative with that budget.”

This is not an uncommon scenario. In fact, we just recently took on a lawyer client who has a $166 budget per day, which sounds okay until you realize clicks in their area of expertise cost up to $125.

While it’s every PPC manager’s dream to have an open budget to play with, this takes time to work up to while you gain trust and show them you can drive conversions.

In the meantime, there are always ways to help make the most of the modest budget you’re working with, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today: What to do when an account has a budget that may only support one or two clicks per day, like the example I shared above.

1) Bid on brand terms

You always want to bid on brand, and this is especially true when businesses don’t have an organic presence, when their non-brand clicks are high, and when you’re working with a smaller budget.

The reality is that branded clicks are almost always less expensive, and you certainly don’t want your competitors beating you here as they sometimes bid on your brand name.

2) Explore the Google Display Network

When done well, the GDN is a great way to target folks as they browse the web. For service-based businesses on a shoestring budget, consider putting a small portion towards the GDN by only targeting the cities you serve. Your display ads can be as traditional as text ads, or as engaging as video, rich media or images.

And sometimes it’s way less competitive on the GDN; one of our clients in the legal sector spends between $80 and $100 per click on the Google Search Network versus $2 to $12 on the GDN.

With all the options for placements and targeting on the GDN combined with a watchful eye on excluding sites that aren’t good for the account, you can see some nice results here.

3) Definitely remarket

Remarketing is a targeted way to reach people who have already expressed interest in your business by visiting your website. So don’t let these warmer leads forget about you once they leave your site. Remarketing on the GDN can produce great results with cheap clicks.

4) Get crafty with ad scheduling

When you’re on a modest budget, you have to make calls about when your ads will show. If you’re in a sector where most of your leads come in between 8am. and 6 pm, you probably want to turn off your ads after that, or consider lowering your bids by 50% during a certain time period.

5) Consider shared budgets

Shared budgets allow you to share your entire budget over multiple campaigns to help given them all a chance. We rarely use this strategy at my agency, but when you want to make your budget stretch, it can be an interesting option.

Here’s how Google explains it:

“Say you’ve set aside $100 per day, split evenly between two campaigns. On a given day, one campaign could get less impressions and clicks than usual, resulting in only $40 spent. With a shared budget, AdWords could take that leftover $10 and reallocate it to the second campaign to maximize your campaign results overall.”

You can find this option in the AdWords shared library > budgets.

6) Negate, negate, negate

It’s common to use negative keywords as a way to control budget after a campaign has launched. But if you’re already familiar with the sector you’re advertising in, why wait?

Try launching with a robust negative keyword list, then be psychotic with your review of search terms and negate swiftly.

7) Keep it local

For those in the legal industry similar to the example I started out with, they only really need to target the states they operate in. Better yet, limit it to the counties they operate in to save some cash. Learn more about location targeting here.

8) Try call-only campaigns

Call-only ads show up in the mobile search results for mobile devices that can make calls, and they’ve been an important strategy for those in a service-based business.

When you’re trying to save on budget, don’t worry about bidding to be No. 1 in the results. Now that Google is showing more ads at the top of the mobile SERPs, you can effectively target No. 2 or 3 and still see conversions.

With all the features offered in AdWords and a little creativity, you can help businesses succeed with PPC, even if they have a more modest budget.

Four ways to adjust your SEO strategy for four-pack paid search ads

new york flights Google Search

The appearance of Google’s SERP (search engine results page) periodically shifts as they experiment with new ways to display paid and organic search results to customers.

The latest iteration removes the paid text ads in the right hand column (on desktop results only), but extends the paid results in organic search results. Now, up to four ads are shown above organic results.

As Larry Kim has pointed out, Google is a zero-sum game someone has to win and someone has to lose. According to Kim’s data, PPC will be the winner in this case, while organic search will be the loser. He cites these reasons:

  • Paid search results now look more like organic results
  • The number four paid ad has taken the spot that was occupied by the number one organic result
  • The number of pages returning four ads is growing, and these pages push organic results below the fold

So, we adjust. SEO is about problem solving. It’s ever evolving, trying to stay in step with Google. You’ve worked through algorithm changes in the past. This is just one more egg to fry.

Here are four ways you can adjust your site SEO strategy to account for the new face of SERPs.

1) Start aiming for the answer box

Stay in the SERP spotlight by getting your website selected to be featured in the answer box. The answer box still falls below paid results (if there are any), but it is prominently called out.

do bears eat honey

With the proliferation of voice search, including the introduction of Gboard to phone conversations, you should already be shifting your web copy toward more natural language.

As Andy Crestodina notes, voice-based queries tend to be longer phrases and tend to be questions. Therefore, you should be shifting your content into a question and answer format to meet searcher’s queries.

As an added benefit, writing for natural search can increase your chances of making it into the coveted answer box.

James Perrott makes his criteria for hitting the answer box a little more specific – check out his tips here: Google Answer Boxes: how and why.

2) Make local optimization a priority

If you have brick and mortar business locations, getting in that local pack is more important than ever. Otherwise, organic search space on page one of this SERP is virtually non-existent after four paid results and the local pack.

Let’s take a look at men’s suits.

mens suits serp

Follow these recommendations to ensure that your site makes it into the local pack.

  • Make sure your NAP (business name, address, phone number) is in readable text on your website on multiple pages or in your header.
  • Add local business schema markups to your code.
  • Start a Google My Business page for your business (if you don’t already have one).
  • Start racking up reviews. Reviews can help your presence in the local pack. Think of non-obtrusive ways you can gently ask your customers to leave a review if they enjoy your products and services.
  • Make sure your business is listed in all of the local directories. MOZ local is a great tool for this is. As you can see in the image below, MOZ Local lets you check out your business listings in all of the important online directories to see where your listing is complete and where it needs work.

moz local

3) Stop writing for keywords, start writing for topics

Hopefully, you aren’t still targeting one specific keyword with your content. Keywords aren’t dead by any means, but it’s always a better idea now to write pieces that target topics, using a variety of semantically linked keywords.

First of all, search engines are advanced enough at this point to build a bigger picture of your webpage without you ramming a specific keyword down their throats over and over.

Secondly, however, building a strong semantically optimized article around a topic potentially helps the article rank highly in SERPs for multiple different queries. This greatly increases your odds of landing in SERPs that feature one or no paid search results at the top of the page.

As of February 23, MOZ noted that 36.4% of top ad blocks on SERPs contained four ads. The same amount of pages only had one ad. And those are only counting the pages that have any ads at all.

adwords ad blocker research

Yes, there are still ad-free SERPs – for example, I just ran a search for “auto repair” and there were no ads in my SERP.

4) Form a closer alignment with paid search

Paid and organic search teams need to coordinate to maximize brand exposure in search. As noted recently by Thomas Stern, a mutually-beneficial relationship between the two will allow paid search to boost visibility while organic search identifies gaps in the competitive landscape.

Your paid search counterparts should be focused on placement in queries that are dominated by four-packs of paid results, where your organic efforts are going to lose significant amounts of clicks.

Meanwhile, you are free to focus more of your organic search efforts optimizing around topics that have more ad-free breathing room in SERPs, and that competitors have neglected to target.

Your paid search team is not your adversary. Coordinate efforts to dominate SERPs and pull in more visits.

The nimble will win

A big part of success in SEO is being nimble and adaptable. Rather than worrying about what small changes Google might make next, you will be better served looking at the broader themes that are developing and preparing for them:

  • Start writing for natural language and improve your chances of getting featured in the answer box
  • Make an extra effort to ensure that your site is optimized for local search (if possible)
  • Hit more SERPs by writing for topics instead of keywords

While we are losing the organic SERP space, this is a good opportunity to reevaluate your approach to search optimization and be better positioned for whatever big changes are coming next.

Ryan Johnson is the SEO Manager at DigitasLBi and a contibutor for SEW. You connect with Ryan on Twitter.

A handy guide to content marketing for mobile

A responsive website is not a mobile strategy.

There has been a lot of re­cent articles on mobile and more and more of us are getting on-board but how can you, from a people-centric content marketing perspective, optimise your website for mobile? Let’s begin…

Technical change

Google has strengthened its mobile-friendly ranking signal to include site speed, so should you. This also helps with UX and general engagement. This is the first technical change you need to do and by far the last thing you need to do for mobile.

Micro-moments

“When consumers don’t have a lot of time to make a decision, they tend to focus on a few key criteria or product attributes” – Think With Google

We need to start optimising content to reflect mobile behaviour.

Now I’m not talking about Responsive Content Marketing, but I am saying that we should now make content layout 3D based on devices.

To begin a mobile content marketing strategy, you should think about a time schedule and match this time to the days of the week based on traffic. So that you can say “at 8pm, 25% of my traffic comes from smartphone, I need to write a more mobile-focused blog post,” for example.

Once you know your peak mobile times you need to publish your mobile content during this time. This content needs to be written with the mobile, short time frame, in mind.

Here is a checklist:

Attention span
Write with bullet points and use a lot of headings to make your content more scanable. This is also positive for UX as well as for optimising for Google Hummingbird (which is essentially a thesaurus so you need to include synonyms of your targeted keywords in your text and the headings are great places to start to do this, as well as, optimise for voice search — more below).
Include a short sentence summary of your content at the top of your article to help to grab attention and encourage readership and engagement.
Real life thinking (I can’t wait, I’m busy… waiting for the bus, or kettle to boil)
Mobile content, especially, needs to be written as concisely as possible. Aid reading time by making content as short and with concise as possible.
Social media
Integrate social media icons. Remember mobile is going to kill links, so make it easy to spread your authority and hard work by making it easily shareable.
Mobile keyword research
Think about revenue and conversion. Where does most of your revenue come from, desktop? If so, it is clear that your mobile content marketing strategy should be more focused on the early stages of the buying cycle (more informational queries).
Make sure you carry out mobile keyword research and do not just have a unified, one-size-fits-all keyword strategy for all devices. Mobile queries are more informational and often the only conversion is knowledge acquisition so do keyword research thinking just like this – education and inspire with keywords to build your brand’s trust. Your brand’s trust will then make you money.
Content formats
Including multiple formats of content (e.g. compressed images, embedded videos that do not auto-play) allows you to optimise for more people. We have different learning styles and interact with content differently as a result, this is also true on mobile. It may be that your mobile searcher has their headphones in, so they may be more likely to interact with a nice, short video a lot quicker than they would in an open-floor office space.
Engage your user by strategically selecting and placing the right formatted content on your website.
Optimise for voice search
We speak in natural language. So carry out voice keyword research. See below…
A quick guide to optimising for voice search

20% of all Google searches on Android devices are now voice search queries. You need to get in on this increasingly popular market. How?

Log onto Google Search Console, then:

Go to ‘Search Analytics’ then ‘Search Queries’
Apply a filter with a natural language targeted keyword (e.g. ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘how’)

You now have a list of long tail, voice search keywords. You can also use other tools and platforms to help you with your long tail, voice search, and keyword research.

Then, just as you would for ‘normal’ SEO, put these queries, naturally in your content and most importantly answer them, with well-researched and concise content. You are now optimising for voice search.

So there you have it, a mobile content strategy needs to be person-centric by thinking about the searcher at every touch point. Your content needs to be optimised for mobile but you also need to have a mobile and desktop content-based approach which is directed by data on when and what devices your audience is coming onto your website.

Apple to introduce search ads to its App Store

Search Ads   App Store   Apple Developer

In what seems like a stark contrast to Apple’s backing away from its longstanding mobile ad marketplace, iAd, the company will instead be getting back to the ad business, allowing app developers to pay for ads to appear on top of search results in the lucrative Apple App Store.

Taking note from both Google and Facebook, Apple is making many moves to make its ad offering more open and accessible than ever.

In the meantime, it is filling holes in its previous iterations of iAd, starting with a self-serve, second price auction-based platform with no initial minimum spends.

Apple’s plan to open up APIs for campaign creation, management, and reporting shows how the tech giant is serious about giving advertisers the tools to make a more automated and simple manual process.

Another smart move to create efficiency is Apple’s Search Match feature, which is similar to Google AdWords Universal App Campaigns in allowing an advertiser who is either more novice or strapped for time to set up a basic campaign in fewer steps.

Basic features such as age, gender, location and OS targeting are available, but they will still be much more limited than Google, Facebook and even Twitter’s capabilities.

app store search ads

Apple’s offering also include two areas that seem more limited than others: creative use and data measurement.

It seems like Apple will initially limit creative use to the assets that are already approved within the App Store. This will handcuff advertisers who are used to developing, testing and driving optimizations through custom designed creative ad iterations.

Apple’s stance to keep tight controls over its user data, however, is not surprising.

Although the company is allowing advertisers to track “clusters of users” by implementing “a few lines of code,” it is unclear if Apple will be partnering with standard third-party app attribution companies, such as TUNE, AppsFlyer and Adjust that would offer more sophisticated ad tracking to an individual user level.

Nevertheless, App marketers will now be able to fully capture search intent in both major app stores and promote their apps across both iOS and Android systems.

Though Apple Search ads will not officially launch until the fall, brands and marketers should immediately opt-in for the beta from Apple’s developer portal given participation is free and free downloads can be garnered now.

Along with Google’s announcements of updates to Google Adwords’ new features a few weeks ago, advertisers should also actively assign their agency partners to develop a smart App Store search strategy that takes advantage of all that both Google and Apple has to offer.

Tim Villanueva is the Head of Media Partnerships at Fetch and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

Web users think most outbound links are commercial [study]

outbound links study 2016

The majority of links are considered to be commercial in nature, according to a new research.

Dan Petrovic, aka @DejanSEO, has just published the results of a quantitative study of 2,000 web users in the US and Australia. It was set up to discover perceptions about why web publishers link out.

Accordingly to the research, more than 40% of users think that outbound links from one web page to another are there because they generate revenue for the publisher.

‘Marketing Advertising & Revenue’ was seen to be the number one reason why a link exists, with almost a third of users expecting there to be some kind of commercial arrangement in place.

‘Promotion, Relationship & Sponsorship’ was chosen by a further 9% of respondents. Money, money, money.

Meanwhile, just one in five people recognised links as organic citations to help stand up the information on a web page.

All in all, the analysis of the results found that more than half of links exist for commercial reasons, with only 34% seen to be non-commercial.

Classifying the different types of link

I really like Dan’s classification of links, which now straddles 10 distinct areas (though there is a good amount of cross-over). They are as follows:

  • Attribution
  • Citation
  • Definition
  • Expansion
  • Identification
  • Example
  • Action
  • Relationship
  • Proof
  • Promotion
  • Further details on each of these link types can be found here. For example, you might file that outbound link under ‘expansion’, because it’s there for further reading and insight into this topic.

    Dan makes the point that since many of these link types overlap, it can be hard to spot the true intent as to why a link exists.

    Some links that look natural – and which are genuinely useful – might actually be there because of some business or personal relationship. That doesn’t automatically make them sketchy. It’s just human nature.

    Of course Google doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Many people fear the dreaded manual penalty and go the extra mile to neuter links, even when they have perfectly valid reasons to point visitors to their friends and siblings.

    Dan says:

    “I see a lot of websites nofollow links to their partner websites, sister companies and various other forms of affiliation because they were told to do so by their SEO or even someone in Google’s webspam team.

    “This sort of madness has to stop. If commercially-driven links exist on the web organically then they’re organic in nature and shouldn’t be treated as ‘clean-up material’ nor should those links be penalty-yielding.”

    Hear, hear.

    I’d love to know the gap between how users perceive links and the actual reasons why the author / publisher put them in place. Presumably it is quite large…

    What do you think?

    Four of the most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

    trump la

    It’s Friday, so welcome to our weekly round up of search marketing and related news.

    This week we have the 16 companies dominating Google, stats on retailers’ search budgets, and a look at accusations around Google and searches for Hillary Clinton.

    Is Google manipulating searches for Hillary Clinton? Er,no…

    There’s been talk of Google manipulating autocomplete suggestions for searches on Hillary Clinton. A video from SourceFed claims that searches around Clinton are being manipulated as they don’t return the suggestions they would expect to find.

    Specifically, searches such as “Hillary Clinton cri-” did not suggest “Hillary Clinton criminal charges” and “Hillary Clinton in-” did not return “Hillary Clinton indictment.”

    SEO and reputation management expert Rhea Drysdale does an excellent job of debunking the theory in a post on Medium.

    Essentially SoureFed failed to compare similar searches for Donald Trump, which fail to suggest phrases like “Donald Trump lawsuit”.

    In a nutshell, if Google is manipulating searches for Clinton, it’s doing the same for Trump. There’s another theory too – the popularity of the SourceFed video has led to thousands trying out these searches for themselves, thus potentially manipulating these results.

    Google becomes the world’s most powerful brand

    Apple’s value has dropped 8% to $228 billion in the past year, while Google’s has risen 32% to reach $229 billion. So Google takes top spot in Millward Brown Digital’s annual report.

    Amazon’s search spending

    Fractl has analyzed the marketing spend of some of the biggest retailers, and search gets the lion’s share of Amazon’s budget.

    During the period studied, the ecommerce giant spent $8 million on TV and radio, $54 million on print and $1.35 billion on search.

    amazon-budget

    For more stats, see Mike O’Brien’s piece on the research.

    In search, do the the rich just get richer?

    Earlier this week, Chris Lake covered an excellent Glen Allsop study into how 16 companies are dominating Google’s results.

    As Chris says in his post:

    In this case, the rich are major publishing groups. The way they are getting richer is by cross-linking to existing and new websites, from footers and body copy, which are “constantly changing”

    And these are the big 16:

    top16