Ad viewability “should not be a KPI”, according to study

A large study of almost 10,000 people found that ad viewability affects ad recall, but goes on to state that it should not be a KPI.

The research, compiled by IPG Media Lab, Integral Ad Science and Cadreon, sought to explore whether ‘viewable’ ads are actually effective.

The viewability problem is considerable, with more than half of all ads not being seen by humans. But how effective are those ads that are seen?

Also, how do ads perform relative to the industry standards?

How is ‘viewable’ defined?

According to the Media Ratings Council (MRC) a banner ad is considered viewable if it is at least 50% in view for at least one second.

A rich media ad only needs to be 30% in view for the same duration, whereas a video ad must be 50% in view for a minimum of two consecutive seconds.

IPG Media Lab said it did not set out to recommend changes to the MRC standards, nor to develop a new standard.

However it found that ads that exceed the MRC standard have 16% recall as opposed to ads that meet the standard, which have just 2% recall.

The research

A total of 9,876 people took part, and were shown one of 189 different ad scenarios on web pages that “matched their typical consumption habits”. In addition, eyetracking was employed for a subset of the panel.

The participants were then invited to complete a post-exposure survey to see if the brand metrics were affected.

The findings

No surprises: viewability is highly related to ad effectiveness. However, the duration is way more important than how much of the ad is in view.

However, while those ads that met the MRC standard attracted the attention of around half of the participants, they performed no better than ads that didn’t meet the standard.

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The research states that, “The MRC standard isn’t a magical threshold for ad effectiveness.”

It also found that ads that didn’t meet the standard sometimes outperform those that did, for example, partial ads that are in view for a longer period of time.

What about ads that are above the MRC standard? It turns out that they don’t always work either, “specifically when time in view is low”.

“Time in view is king”

The study shows that ads that are seen for at least seven seconds increase ad recall by 17%.

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By contrast, even ads that are fully viewable only increase ad recall by 11%. Time in view matters a lot more than percent in view.

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The research also shows that all ad formats benefit from increased viewability, with video ads particularly more effective if seen for a longer period.

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Large format ads “have the most to gain from increased viewability”, while video ads that surpass the MRC standard were seen by 96% of participants.

Johnny, remember me

So then, you’ve made the effort with the creative and spent the money to place the ads, but will people actually remember them?

At the MRC standard for banner ads (1 second/50% in view) there is a 19% chance of ad recall.

However, if your ad is fully in view for seven seconds, that number doubles to 38%.

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For video ads, the MRC standard (two seconds/50% in view) only results in 10% ad recall, but if fully in view for seven seconds ad recall triples to 30%.

Unfortunately for the UX purists, autosound results in 275% uplift in effectiveness, from 8% ad recall to 22%. ‘Audio on’ is unsurprisingly more effective for ads not in view, though the study did not record the amount of people who had a negative response to audio (I’d wager that not all ad recall positively affects propensity to buy).

What was surprising was that there are “no additional gains in effectiveness” when ads were contextually matched to content.

The research concludes that “viewability is important, but is not the end-all-be-all. It isn’t a KPI.”

AdWords Smart Goals: not a smart move for advertisers

smart goals

If I told you that your company could automate your paid search advertising bids based on the conversion data of thousands of other businesses, but not your own data, would you tell me to take a hike?

I think it’s safe to say that many of us PPC professionals disagree with Smart Goals for various reasons – and think this new offering from AdWords is just downright dumb.

There’s certainly been some heated conversations around the web on the issue of Smart Goals, and this post from Julie Bacchini of Neptune Moon has some very good points.

Let’s look a little closer at what I believe the issues to be, and I’ll end on a positive note by highlighting something interesting that Smart Goals is doing.

Companies that might use Smart Goals are not all that unsophisticated

First, it really doesn’t matter if the company that would use Smart Goals is a local brick-and-mortar storefront or an enterprise business. In my opinion, the data is not providing anything valuable to anyone.

However, AdWords talks it up as something that the small to medium-sized business can use, because, hey – if they’re not using any tracking conversion at all, they might as well use some kind of data.

From the announcement (as linked to previously):

To generate Smart Goals, we apply machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data. From this information, we can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert: things like session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser. We can then apply these key factors to any website. The easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect your website visits that our model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions.

That’s like saying to a lost traveler, “Since you don’t have a GPS, I’m going to draw this map on a napkin, and I’m really not familiar with the area, but [shrug] it’s better than not having any directions at all!”

While the positioning statement via Google (and some of the surrounding opinions I’ve heard) is geared towards advertisers who may not be as sophisticated as others, hence, they don’t have conversion tracking – I bet if we looked a little closer, we’d see just who those advertisers might be.

For example, would you call a global multimillion-dollar brand that spends $30,ooo a month on AdWords an unsophisticated advertiser?


Because those types of companies often don’t have conversion tracking for one reason or another – usually because there are so many layers to getting updates on the site (let alone installing a tracking code) that it creates a roadblock to getting anything done.

Plus, there’s also this interesting requirement to get Smart Goals going (from the Google announcement):

Note that your Google Analytics view must receive at least 1,000 clicks from AdWords over a 30-day period to ensure the validity of your data.

That’s not really small potatoes. So you have to get 1,000 clicks from AdWords to validate unreliable data? Hmmm …

To play devil’s advocate, let’s just pretend you run a small business and you advertise in search and you now have access to this Smart Goals feature.

And let’s say you’re the type of person who is focused on running a business – not your advertising – and aren’t tracking conversions, probably don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site, and if you do, never look at the thing.

So here comes this feature that again asks you to take some form of action with your tracking, and gives you data but doesn’t give you the tools to optimize your AdWords account in a smart way so you’re set up for real ROI.

Does this sound reasonable?

Smart goals + target CPA = more $ for Google

Okay, I said it. As PPC pros, we don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us, but we look out for our clients first and foremost, and something stinks about this Smart Goals/target CPA pairing.

From the announcement, Google says:

One of the benefits of measuring conversions in your Adwords account is the ability to set a target cost per acquisition (CPA) as opposed to just setting a cost per click (CPC). If you aren’t measuring actual conversions today, importing Smart Goals as conversions in Adwords allows you to set a target CPA. In this way, you’re able to optimize your Adwords spend based on the likelihood of conversion as determined by our model.

Translation: let’s get these advertisers on autopilot.

I’ll venture to guess that Smart Goals + target CPA may be the new up-and-coming default setting AdWords will include on all those business accounts that are never touched beyond the initial set up. What do you think?

I shudder at the thought, but I wouldn’t be surprised if businesses start getting cold calls from agencies that promise to ‘optimize’ their AdWords accounts on a monthly basis using Smart Goals for as little as $200 a month.

On a positive note …

I said I would end on a positive note, and I do think it’s interesting how Google created a workaround for conversion tracking using engagement factors. And I see how that can work.

Remember that example I gave of a multimillion-dollar brand not tracking conversions? I know this because of experience my agency has with this type of scenario.

And often in this situation, we’ll optimize ad campaigns for engagement factors like time on site and pages per session.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering why, if I do this type of conversion optimization around engagement factors, do I have such a problem with Smart Goals.

Here’s one difference: My agency is a partner with our clients and actively manages the bids and their ad accounts based on metrics we’re closely watching, taking into account their business and advertising goals, budgets and preferences.

One client that didn’t have conversion tracking and that we were optimizing their campaigns for engagement metrics did see a 20% lift in their revenue coming from the PPC channel, so we know it works.

But, engagement metrics differ from business to business. As Julie pointed out in her article (linked to at the top of the page):

A very simple example here, if a site has calls as their conversion goal, their pages per session and session duration are often quite short. If you have a good landing page, calls happen fast and goals are achieved. Conversely, if you have a lead generation type of site, people often need to spend longer on your site and consume more page content before filling out your lead form.

As you can see, I’m simply not a fan of Smart Goals, and am less of a fan of what this might imply for countless businesses and their advertising.

But maybe I’m wrong… maybe it will help some companies – and I’d love to hear your take on it in the comments below.

Who really won the Super Bowl? A consumer search investigation

sb 01

Every year, roughly 110 million households (46% of Americans) tune into the most iconic football game of the year.

When consumers have questions or are seeking information related to the Super Bowl they turn to Google as it’s one of the most searched for events of the year in the world.

Let’s analyze some of the consumer search data to see this year’s real winners.

In addition to battling on the football field, the Broncos and Panthers battled for search volume too. It was neck and neck throughout until Denver pulled away when the game looked to be out of reach.

Brands pay big bucks for Super Bowl television spots, so measuring their effectiveness is essential and can be tricky. One way to do so is to look at which ads drove the most search volume (consumer engagement).

Advertiser search interest during Super Bowl

Looking at the top commercials, it looks like the Audi r8 Commander spot drove the most searches. This was followed by Jeep’s Portraits spot. Hyundai’s Ryanville ad was entertaining (who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds?) but didn’t drive the volume of the other car competitor’s ads. Doritos had two funny ads and you can see in the chart that search volume spiked when they ran, but was considerably less than Audi and Jeep. Heinz came through with the cutest ad by far but barely registered a blip compared to the others.

sb 03

Comparing the quarterbacks throughout the season it’s interesting how close it is. As the season goes on and other teams are eliminated, search volume spikes tremendously as the nation’s eyes are focused solely on them.

sb 04

Looking at what Super Bowl-related activities had the highest search volume clearly shows halftime has the most interest with ads, teams and recipes not even coming close.

sb 05

Who won the halftime show?

Speaking of the halftime show, Chris Martin and Bruno Mars did a great job but nobody upstages Beyoncé and that was evident in the search data. Lady Gaga also had a major spike after her tremendous rendition of the National Anthem.

sb 06


Left Shark meme search interest during 2016 Super Bowl

Everybody’s favorite part of last year’s half time show also peaked during the halftime of this year’s Super Bowl. The viral sensation that captured America’s hearts last year was also referenced all over social media…

sb 07

sb 08

left shark tweets

Professional sports search interest year-over-year (US)

America loves football much more so than any other major sport. That is apparent when comparing search volumes of the other United States pro sports championship games. The Super Bowl dwarfs the others – it’s no wonder advertisers pay a premium for television spots. Interestingly though, the US is even more interested in the FIFA World Cup (the years it takes place anyway).

professional sports us searches

sb 11

Super Bowl search winners:

  • Lady Gaga
  • Beyoncé
  • Denver Broncos
  • Peyton Manning
  • Audi
  • Jeep
  • Left Shark (Back-to-Back years!)

Super Bowl search losers:

  • Cam Newton
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Heinz
  • Drunk Drivers

Ben Rotundo is an SEO Manager at DigitasLBi

50 most insightful takeaways from #ConnectSEW 2016


We’re back from Miami now, filled to the brim with ideas, enthusiasm and inspiration.

Connect was the first of our brand new search marketing events, focusing on the user and their journey.

During the two-day event, our attendees got to enjoy three excellent and deeply fascinating keynotes, as well as 30 other sessions across two tracks, concentrating on both organic and paid search, and together they featured more than 40 speakers, all picked for their ability to educate and entertain in equal measure.

There was also a variety of networking events, round-tables, beach parties and pool parties that helped our delegates get closer to the experts.

Without wishing to blow our own trumpet, it was a triumph. But for those of you who missed out on the fun, I’ve collected together all the most insightful quotes right here…

Daniel Loebl on customer-centricity:

Daniel Loebl, our opening keynote: “you cannot decide if you’re customer-centric on your own. Your customers will tell you” #connectsew

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

Key to customer-centric marketing is “deep customer empathy” – need to look at the persona beyond the data #ConnectSEW #marketing

— Marc Engelsman (@marc_engelsman) February 4, 2016

A persona is a description of your customers. A mindmap is who you want to be your next customer #ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 4, 2016

Great quote from Daniel Loebl “Don’t ever use surveys. Surveys are used to reassure on a decision already made” #connectsew #customercentric

— Chris Bishop (@cpbishop) February 4, 2016

Stephanie Wallace, Nebo, on integrating SEO with PPC:

Struggling with integrating PPC & SEO strategy? Tip 1: Use PPC ad copy A/B testing to inform site content messaging #ConnectSEW

— iProspect (@iProspect) February 4, 2016

Tip 2: pull your top traffic PPC & SEO keywords and identify the gaps for new PPC keywords or SEO content opportunities #ConnectSEW

— iProspect (@iProspect) February 4, 2016

In the last quarter Rich Snippets and Knowledge Graph has increased 40% in Google #ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 4, 2016

In the last quarter Rich Snippets and Knowledge Graph has increased 40% in Google #ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 4, 2016

When a paid ad & organic result show on the same page, CTR increases 20%. Collaboration not cannibalization. #connectSEW @swallaceSEO

— Amanda Dodge (@amandaedodge) February 4, 2016

Allison Fabella, Careerbuilder, on SEO diagnostics:

Top 4 technical #SEO audit elements:

Robots.txt, meta robots, canonicals
Status codes#ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 4, 2016

you must know where you stand; can’t optimize in a vacuum! #connectSEW #investigativeSEO @alli12

— Mackenzie (@mackclayton) February 4, 2016

Google bots and #SEO are in essence visually impaired. Use UX principles (LV-HA links, alt tags on images…) #ConnectSEW @eskins

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 4, 2016

Todd Malicoat,, on ranking factors:

There are approximately 200 Google ranking factors. #CTR (click through rate) is probably the most influential. #connectsew

— Kelly Shelton (@kellyshelton32) February 4, 2016

Chris Chang, Elite SEM, on retargeting:

Don’t stalk customers with Remarketing #ConnectSEW @ChrisWChang

— Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson) February 4, 2016

.@chriswchang : “Segment users by frequency to engage them on terms that relate to where they are on their consumer path.” #connectsew

— Shannon McDonough (@shnmcd) February 4, 2016

How to use rlsa and customer martch @chriswchang shows examples @sewatch #connectsew #ppc #retargeting

— kelly sullivan (@kellylsullivan) February 4, 2016

Carl Larson, AT&T and Travis Tillotson, Surgo Group, on mobile search:

@eMarketer predicts mobile advertising will surpass desktop advertising in 2016 at around $40 billion. #connectsew

— Kelly Shelton (@kellyshelton32) February 4, 2016

“If someone tells you this is the year for mobile, give a deep bellied laugh and walk out of the room.” #ConnectSEW

— Anne Kaercher (@annekaercher) February 4, 2016

44% of fortune 500 companies are not mobile friendly…even during the “year” of mobile #ConnectSEW

— iProspect (@iProspect) February 4, 2016

Users have an average of 33 apps, but interact with just 1/3 of them. #connectsew

— A. Nunn (@A_J_Nunn) February 4, 2016

“Over 60% of searchers use the side swipe when it’s available” – @SurgoGroup #ConnectSEW

— g(H)ood kid (@beN_YC) February 4, 2016

Christi Olson on what Bing has in store for 2016:

Search share volume update from @bing @BingAds – now over 20% and 1 in 3 now use Bing network #connectSEW

— Chris Bishop (@cpbishop) February 4, 2016

I’m excited about @BingAds integration across Microsoft Products to driving query growth. View my #ConnectSEW slides

— Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson) February 4, 2016

Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting on content effectiveness optimization:

Content optimization requires requires understanding of search intent and delivering on it #ConnectSEW #marketing

— Marc Engelsman (@marc_engelsman) February 4, 2016

Google & Bing tested satisfaction vs revenue. Proves if you piss off folks they won’t stay/engage/buy. #ConnectSEW @stonetemple

— Grant Simmons (@simmonet) February 4, 2016

@stonetemple recommends comparing top 10 results to yours. See what they have & what you’re missing #ConnectSEW #SinceYouveBeenGone #Flowers

— Grant Simmons (@simmonet) February 4, 2016

Collin Colburn, Forrester, on the evolution of search to discovery marketing:

Exclusive @forrester study:

How do we search?

25% using @facebook
16% using links on other sites
13% offline media#ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 4, 2016

El poder de los #consumidores #connectSEW

— Sandra Weber (@sandraeweber) February 4, 2016

Forrester’s approach to search is “discovery marketing” – WHO (what, how, offer) framework #ConnectSEW #marketing

— Marc Engelsman (@marc_engelsman) February 4, 2016

Larry Kim, WordStream, on paid social ads:

WordStream’s @larrykim: 95% of time online is spent consuming content but just 5% searching for it.

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

Use paid social ads like a firestarter or an accelerant. You don’t have to spend much. @larrykim #sewconnect

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

Please enjoy @larrykim‘s Organic & Paid Social Sharing/Posting Pyramid Scheme diagram #sewconnect

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

Grant Simmons,, on building intent personas:

What do searchers care about? Nice bit of brilliance from @simmonet #ConnectSEW

— Danny Goodwin (@DannyNMIGoodwin) February 4, 2016

.@simmonet : Marketers value rankings; Google values quality; users are looking to the best answers to their implied questions. #connectsew

— Shannon McDonough (@shnmcd) February 4, 2016

Erin Everhart, Home Depot, on moment based marketing:

We’re not competing for media placements anymore, we’re competing for attention. via @erinever #ConnectSEW

— Lisa Weinberger (@PearlyWrites) February 5, 2016

There is no such thing as a linear path to purchase anymore. Consumers are constantly switching from 1 digital device to another #connectsew

— Kelly Shelton (@kellyshelton32) February 5, 2016

People feel first and think second. Emotional content is twice as effective as rational content @HomeDepot #ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 5, 2016

Martin Macdonald, Orbitz, on the evolution of content:

“More content generally results in better rankings” #ConnectSEW

— iProspect (@iProspect) February 5, 2016

Position 2 generally speaking has the most number of words on first page results #ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 5, 2016

Analyze the correlation between amount and type of content on page around specific set of keywords and its rankings #connectsew

— Katharina Warzel (@bigdatakatha) February 5, 2016

.@searchmartin : “People do exactly what you want them to do as long as you give them visual cues.” #connectsew

— Shannon McDonough (@shnmcd) February 5, 2016

Luis Navarrete Gómez, The LEGO Group, on customer engagement:

Ask adults to build a Kronkiwongi, they say what? Ask children and they say no problem! @LEGO_Group #connectsew Excited to start the session

— Katharina Warzel (@bigdatakatha) February 5, 2016

Organic Results for #KronkiWongi = 40k Showing that inspiring kids and parents works. #connectSEW

— Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson) February 5, 2016

The moral of the LEGO story? The Value of Digital ≠ Sales. Holistic campaigns can drive brand value @Luis_Navarrete #KronkiWongi #connectSEW

— Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson) February 5, 2016

Avinash Kaushik, Google, on driving innovation from customer intent:

Who cares about demographics, it’s all about understanding intent #ConnectSEW

— Gerald Murphy (@GeraldSearch) February 5, 2016

Markters need to understand and find INTENT. Intent is the gift of the internet. @avinash #ConnectSEW

— Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson) February 5, 2016

Humans are more complex than trying to match them into a stage of the funnel. Funnels don’t make sense.@avinash #connectsew

— Katharina Warzel (@bigdatakatha) February 5, 2016

“Fuck funnels” @avinash #ConnectSEW

— Lisa Sandano Martino (@lsandano) February 5, 2016

Interesting exercise. Why aren’t you breaking done your business content in this way? #connectsew @avinash

— Grant Simmons (@simmonet) February 5, 2016

If you solve for these three things, you’ll finally stop sucking at social media @avinash #connectsew

— Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 5, 2016

Bidding for top position on a SERP: what does it get you?

ads top vs side ctr

Automatic bidding algorithms have been a part of paid search tool sets for a long time and artificial intelligence is gaining more and more traction every day.

While I think this is a tidal wave of information and computing power that’s coming towards every industry, I also think that there are very important strategic decisions that will always be in the hands of the search marketer.

One of those most often debated is the value of a top position. Many find themselves bidding to a top position simply because it feels like winning (which is a fantastic reason why removing human emotions in marketing decisions could be a great thing – score one for AI).

It is innately good to see your brand at the top of a search page, but I wanted to take a look at the difference between the top and side position. How does the rank of your ad impact its results? Does it differ on Google vs. their search partners? The findings were very interesting.

Top vs. Side

I started looking at data across the last 13 months across all verticals and terms. There is a point to be made about excluding branded terms, but for now I included them simply because they often will be displayed as a side ad even if they are the only ad in the auction.

This data can be pulled from Google using the Top vs. Other segment where you can pull this data for specific levels of your own accounts and brands.

The differences when combining all search traffic (Google + Partners) makes a very compelling case for top placements.

Not only does the user click-through on top ads at 10% (compared to 0.5% for the side), but the conversion rate is almost twice as high and the cost-per-click is significantly less. What could be better than that?

Another way to look at it is for every 100,000 impressions, the top ad position would net 3,349% more sales at a 63% lower cost per acquisition.

Again, I think branded terms have some level of impact to this analysis, but I think the idea that consumers have a better branded association with top ranked ads on the search results page is true.

Google vs. Partners

The difference for the partner network also tells a pretty interesting story.

The mothership outperforms the partner network in click through rate and conversion rate. This does however come at a premium. The CPCs are slightly higher.

Overall the Google domain yields a better CPA by 7% for side ads and 40% for the top ads more than offsetting the increase in cost per click.

According to the most recent earnings report, Google saw a 2% growth in partner traffic vs. a 40% growth in their own traffic. I’m sure that some of the shifts in their partner network have a lot to do with this, but maybe advertisers are getting savvier with their data and opting out of the partner network for these very reasons.

What should you do with this info?

  • Dig into your own metrics. Measuring top position is almost never the right metric to judge success, however understanding the building blocks that make up your success is important.
  • Consider if the search network is right for you. If you have a constrained budget it probably doesn’t make sense to extend your full keyword list to the partner network. This doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition. Determine the right keyword set or campaigns that perform best for you across the networks. The same can be said for extending your campaigns to Yahoo! and Bing.
  • Data is the best part of being a search marketer. I’ve said it a million times before, data is what separates success from failure in this business and it’s simple data like this that can help uncover some great opportunities for your business.

    WordStream’s Larry Kim on how paid social ads can become your ‘unicorns’

    unicorn gif

    Reporting live from Connect, our two-day search event in Miami, here’s the second in a series of posts summarising a few of our sessions, covering either organic engagement or paid search innovation.

    Yesterday, we heard from the awesome Larry Kim from WordStream, the most influential PPC expert for three years in a row and a man who can rattle through 156 fascinating and incredibly helpful slides without taking a breath.

    What’s the current landscape of PPC?

    Well, it doesn’t look great. As Larry says, “We’ve had a good run. It’s been 15 years, but there are headwinds on the horizon.”

    And those ‘headwinds’ are…

  • Paid search CPCs are at an all time high, across Google and Bing.
  • Certain verticals are insanely expensive.
  • Mobile is responsible for 50%+ of all Google searches.
  • There are fewer ad spots on mobile.
  • Apps are stealing from desktop searches, people are just opening a Yelp-type app and searching within there.
  • 95% of time online is spent consuming content, but only 5% are actually searching for it.
  • WordStream’s @larrykim: 95% of time online is spent consuming content but just 5% searching for it.

    — Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

    But there is a new power rising in PPC: social media ads.

    Social media ads

    PPC marketers should pay more attention to social ads. Don’t be sceptical about this, because we can move far beyond the ‘like campaigns’ from a few short years ago.

    The key to future social ads success is to focus on ‘assisted conversion’; using paid social ads to indirectly assist organic posts.

    Social ads do fantastically well. They allow you to build up and amplify your brand, and create demand for your products or services.

    Here you need to create content and “amplify the crap out of this stuff” in a very cheap manner and target the right people who will consume it.

    The other thing that social ads do fantastically well is they can convert visitors into customers really easily, because you can filter users into very accurate demographics and remarket to a very narrow segment of those people.

    As Larry says, “when you get this working, it’s like printing money.” And here’s the major reason why you should be doing social media ads…

    Big ad budgets are not required. You can do extremely well with paid social ads for $50 or less.

    Use paid social ads like a firestarter or an accelerant. You don’t have to spend much. @larrykim #sewconnect

    — Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

    Social media ad tips

    Be aware of Facebook’s relevancy score. The higher the post engagement of the thing you want to promote (minus negative engagement – hiding it, reporting it as spam), the higher your relevancy score, and the more often your post will show.

    Incidentally, Twitter copied the above exact process with its ad campaigns, they just called it a ‘quality adjusted bid’. Of course both of these have ripped off Google’s ‘quality score’ anyway, so fair enough.

    The key to you ads appearing often on social is getting high engagement and increasing your quality score.

    In order to achieve this, you must only promote your best stuff. The top 1% – 2% of your content, as Larry describes it, “Your unicorns.”

    Because they’re so rare and wonderful.

    One example from Larry is a tweet of his, sharing a blog post he wrote about Alphabet (the new parent company for Google). Although this initially got a low 2-3% engagement rate, Larry then promoted it to influencers who had used the #alphabet hashtag in the previous seven days.

    The tweet then increased to a 27% engagement rate, generated 2,100 visits, 348 retweets. All of this using just $49.

    The worst thing you can do is divide your social ads budget equally between every post and promote them all equally. Again, pick your unicorns. Also don’t try promoting something this month that didn’t work last month, it won’t work this time either.

    How do you find your unicorns? Larry uses the following ‘pyramid’…

    Please enjoy @larrykim‘s Organic & Paid Social Sharing/Posting Pyramid Scheme diagram #sewconnect

    — Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) February 4, 2016

    “This pyramid scheme won’t land you in prison.” In fact it will help you see which posts have worked organically, and it’s these ‘winners’ that you’ll promote on social channels. Like you’re ‘auditioning them’.

    It’s easy to find which social posts are the best because Facebook and Twitter lets you see how well they’ve performed in their own respective analytics tools, easily accessible from your page’s menu.

    Larry goes on to say that the biggest difference between using paid social and organic social is your own ‘pickiness’. Organic posts are you casting a wide net, whereas paid is you casting a narrow net, but hopefully vastly increasing your engagement.

    Five of the most interesting search news stories of the week

    where to go in italy

    While our editor Christopher is busy sunning himself in Miami at SEW Connect, I’m left with the task of this week’s round-up of SEM news.

    So we have new Google mobile features, Valentine’s Day search stats and more…

    Google’s new ‘trip planning’ feature for mobile

    Google recently introduced a new feature for mobile users, as reported on the koddi blog.

    The feature, triggered by searches such as those below, provides ideas for where to go and what to do.

    Clicking on more opens up further destination ideas, and takes you away from the organic results altogether.

    Ultimately, it can lead to reviews of hotels and tourist spots, and the ability to plan trips on Google.

    italy travelitaly trav

    Travel sites will no doubt be less than impressed with this move, which seems to take attention away from organic results.

    However, these are not transactional searches, but queries more likely to be used in the earlier stages of travel planning when looking for ideas.

    At the moment, I don’t think travel sites should be too concerned, especially as travel buyers then to take their time and view multiple sources before buying.

    Alphabet becomes the world’s most valuable company

    Google’s parent company Alphabet nudged ahead of Apple to become the most valuable company in the world, with better than expected results.

    The company’s shares rose by 4.7% on Tuesday, meaning Alphabet is now valued at $548 billion compared to Apple’s $534 billion.

    Google to warn users about ‘deceptive download’ buttons

    Google announced this week that it would begin to warn Chrome users about sites which contain download buttons which appear to come from trusted sources.

    Like this:

    pasted image 0 (5)

    According to Google:

    You may have encountered social engineering in a deceptive download button, or an image ad that falsely claims your system is out of date. Today, we’re expanding Safe Browsing protection to protect you from such deceptive embedded content, like social engineering ads.

    If you attempt to head to such a site, you’ll see a warning like this:


    I’d say not pressing download buttons on random sites would be the best protection from malware, but it all helps.

    Is Google censoring search suggestions?

    As covered by Christopher Ratcliff earlier in the week, UK Google users uncovered a strange anomaly in autocomplete suggestions, whereby negative search terms were suggested for all political parties except for the Conservatives.


    The background to this is the tax deal between Google and the UK government which saw the search giant paying what some felt was a derisory amount.

    Valentine’s Day and search: stats from Bing

    Enough Google-related news, now for Bing. This week it released a slideshare doc with stats on spending and search volume around Valentine’s Day.

    A few highlights:

    • $18.9 billion was spent on Valentine’s in 2015, 10% up from 2014.
    • Candy and greetings cards were the most popular purchases, followed by flowers and evenings out.
    • Search volumes rise steadily during mid to late January,rising more sharply in February, presumably as people begin to panic…


    Why your current SEO approach isn’t enough


    Reporting live from Connect, our two-day search event in Miami, here’s the first in a series of posts summarising a few of our sessions, covering either organic engagement or paid search innovation.

    This morning, we heard from Collin Colburn from Forrester, who outlined a few tips for your current organic SEO strategy.

    Customers are more empowered than ever before.

    Technology and connectivity have completely changed our lives, especially in terms of how and where we spend our money.

    This has also led to a power-shift, where people have almost total control of what they see and experience online. This is in turn “causing havoc” for businesses and forcing them to evolve quickly.

    It also doesn’t help that the online experience is full of noise; many sites are just a wall of ads, messages and assorted brand clutter. Users now have multimedia and multi-device habits and therefore have multiple means of escape.

    All of this has led to search evolving into ‘discovery marketing’. In fact marketers are now shifting money away from paid search into content marketing and other means of being discovered organically.


    There are major challenges to organic search.

    25% of US online adults find new websites and info through Facebook now.

    Google is taking over its own SERPs with how it indexes and presents other website’s information through its knowledge graph and answer boxes.

    Mobile search is a huge challenge, especially how it’s helped turned search ‘local’. More than 50% of searches are done on mobile and you’re more likely to be served results based on well-optimised local businesses.

    Finally, marketers lack the data to understand the impact of SEO, now that Google has blocked keyword data. We don’t know how organic search is driving leads and conversion. This means we need to evolve…

    How do you evolve to become a discovery marketer?

    Forrester uses a WHO framework, which basically asks three questions of your online business…

    What do target users see? You need to understand the subject and context of the search query.

    How do customers find you? You need to plot the different sources that drive users to your site using behavioural data and analytics.

    What should you offer users? You need to identify an optimal offer based on user intent and behaviour.

    What SEO tactics should you employ right now?

    Design for mobile users, of course. Use the mobile friendly testing tool that Google provides.

    Keep location data accurate. You need to provide name, address and phone numberr first and foremost. Bear in mind that it can take 15 hours to optimise one landing page.

    Increase content assets, especially ones your competing with your rivals for. Think of those juicy answer boxes you could commander away from them.

    Maintain a strong foundation is core for SEO – site navigation, structured data markup, link-building.

    Formulating a go-to-market strategy for your mobile site or app


    Planning and budgeting for your promotional campaign at the very start of your mobile project is critical to success.

    It doesn’t matter how brilliant your mobile website or app is if no one knows about it or uses it.

    The Catch 22 is that people visit websites/apps found at the top of web search results and they download native apps that appear in app store top 10 category lists. But to achieve these rankings your site or app has to be among the most popular.

    This is what makes the go-to-market strategy crucial to the success of your project. Planning and budgeting for promotion in advance is not only essential for determining project ROI, as discussed in previous column but it should also influence the development process.

    The go-to-market plan should consider the following six types of marketing, and weigh up the pro/cons and relative costs of each:

  • Paid advertising – display, search, native.
  • Public relations – to earn press, blog coverage.
  • Owned media: digital – CRM, email, SMS, social media.
  • Owned media: physical – brochures, packaging.
  • Shared media – social media, email, SMS.
  • Search engine optimization/App store optimization.
  • Companies tend to underestimate the costs of marketing mobile projects – particularly mobile apps.

    Agencies contacted by ClickZ recommend a marketing spend that is at least equal to the amount spent on development.

    All agencies report that promoting native apps require more effort and cost to promote than a mobile-friendly site or web app (a browser-based application) due to the closed nature of the app environment and the intense competition between apps for downloads.

    Mick Rigby, CEO of Yodel Mobile, London:

    There are more steps to go through to get a mobile app user than a visitor to your mobile site or web app. The potential user has to click on the banner/video, they then visit the app store listing, they then have to download the app and they then have to open it to use it. With a mobile site you click on an ad and then visit the site.

    This does not mean businesses should be complacent or overlook the requirement to plan marketing their mobile sites or web apps.

    This column will cover the first two marketing types: paid media and public relations.

    The other four – digital owned media, physical owned media, shared media (social media, email, SMS), search engine and app store optimization – will be dealt with in the next column.

    Distribution-driven development

    Per Holmkvist, chief digital officer, Zmarta Group, a Sweden-based consumer finance company says:

    A common mistake in mobile projects – whether that is websites, web apps or native apps – is to focus too much on the service itself, and think too little and too late about how users will actually discover and become interested in your mobile service.

    The promotional strategy and budget should be established at the very beginning of the project, because a) it is a critical consideration when determining if the project will be a success and b) it should be a major influence over the service concept and the development process of your website or app.

    Holmkvist prescribes distribution-driven concept development. It’s a methodology that was developed at Mobiento, but is central to every project he oversees at Zmarta.

    This methodology puts the formulation of the go-to-market strategy ahead of development.

    So for example if the budget for paid media is tight, the mobile site/app design will have to more creative about how it grabs attention, encourage and facilitate sharing, and maximize the chance of being found via a web or app store.

    Per Holmkvist:

    A pointier concept breaks through the clutter more easily, can get some earned media (articles, word to mouth, social media shares etc.) and can lower the need of purchased media. Also a concept that embraces peer-to-peer functionality (challenges, co-creation etc.) may survive and thrive on a lower bought media budget.

    The same goes for a service which is very integrated with one or more social media platform (not just adding like share buttons at the end of the project) or web services that are created with SEO driving considerations at the core.

    Lifecycle marketing

    The marketing strategy isn’t just about the launch campaign. One-time visits to the site/web app or downloads of the app are no use to anyone if there is no repeat use or knock-on traffic through media and social media buzz.

    A useful methodology for looking at the customer life cycle (there are plenty of others in the marketing world) is Dave McClure’s AARRR methodology which splits the marketing strategy into five goals:

    • Acquisition
    • Activation
    • Retention
    • Referral
    • Revenue

    The following diagram illustrates what role marketing plays on the path to conversion for a website. This is nine years old and a little busy, but it’s as applicable to mobile web/apps as anything else around.

    Paid advertising

    Mobile sites/apps can be – and are – promoted through virtually all types of media (it doesn’t have to be mobile):

    • Mobile – mobile websites and in-app.
    • Desktop web
    • Print
    • Out-of-home – i.e. billboards
    • Radio
    • TV

    Take the launch campaign for Supercell’s mobile game Clash of Clans, which has used TV advertising and billboards (pictured above), as spotted on the London underground by mobile marketing agency Somo.

    Chris Sheldon, senior account manager, Somo:

    One interesting point about the Supercell print ads is the distinct lack of mentions that the product being advertised is an app. There isn’t the traditional ‘download on the App Store logo’. This suggests that they believe their audience is now fully capable of recognizing an ad for an app and how to action it without explicit instructions.

    In fact, mobile integration helps make TV, print and out-of-home advertising more measurable and actionable.

    If a user interacts with static ad by scanning a unique QR code to hyperlink to a mobile site for more information or texts a unique short code to enter a competition or uses Shazam to identify a song in an ad, the impact of the ad can be measured.

    See this case study to see how Somo used Shazam to target customers based on the soundtracks of Very (its client) and competitors’ TV advertisements to drive mobile traffic to, helping to boost m-commerce sales by 45% over the Christmas period.

    These examples aside, mobile media – in-app and web – is the obvious choice for advertising mobile sites and apps.

    Agencies will often target users of sites or apps within the same category e.g. games, health. This surge in ads for mobile apps particularly is helping to drive the rapid growth of mobile ads over the last 10 years.

    Social media has been a big recipient of mobile advertising. Campaigns that drive traffic to both mobile web and mobile app installs dominate social media marketing.

    A study of the top advertisers on Pinterest by SensorTower found that driving traffic to their mobile websites is still a priority over generating app installs.


    Expenditure on mobile ads is now the second largest in US, topped only by expenditure on TV, according to eMarketer.

    It is expected to account for 21.6% of dollars spent by US advertisers in 2016.


    Martin Utreras, senior forecasting analyst, eMarketer:

    We believe a good portion of money is spend on app install ads [10.4% of mobile ad spend in 2015]. In addition, a good portion of mobile ad dollars is coming from marketers driving up engagement to those same apps.

    Spiraling cost

    Inevitably, this demand is pushing up the cost of mobile ads while consumer tolerance of ads falls, with an increasing number reverting to ad blockers.

    According to Fisku, as of December 2015, it now costs $3.34 in advertising for each person that downloads an Android app and $1.46 for Apple.

    While winning a loyal user (one that uses the app three times or more) costs $4.23 – up 101% year on year.

    With sobering numbers like these, you can see it is important to plan and budget for your go-to-market strategy in advance.


    The spiraling cost of advertising makes it essential to consider other forms of marketing, including public relations (below), owned media (digital and physical), shared media and search engine optimization/App store optimization (next column).

    Public relations

    PR campaigns aim to generate coverage of your mobile offering in the mainstream, trade publications, blogs and social media etc. where it is hoped it will catch the eye of the target audience.

    Agencies may refer to this as creating buzz, influencer outreach, but it all amounts to the same thing: using the influence of others to convince mobile users that visiting your site or downloading your app is a good idea.

    There is more to PR than press releases. Agencies will help business refine their marketing message (more about this in the next column).

    Using this message, agencies will often spoon feed stories to the media, even write the story themselves or prepare video content – this is called content marketing.

    Increasingly agencies will write articles then pay to place it alongside editorial content on host sites – including many of the mainstream publishers – often indistinguishable to readers. This is dubbed native advertising.

    Evgene Dychko, Content Manager, at Chicago based app marketing specialist, Comboapp:

    PR outreach is more time-consuming part of the promotion strategy than user acquisition [paid ads], but it is proven to be an efficient support for paid marketing efforts. App reviews in media and thematic blogs help to attract and retain target audience.

    All kinds of PR implies content marketing, since we send out pitches, write blogs and articles, create message around the product.

    One campaign that really got the media talking was the launch of Good2Go, a controversial sexual consent app aimed at US students in 2014.

    The campaign run by Comboapp targeted 400 media outlets, generating 210 articles in publications with a collective audience of 4 billion.

    The campaign resulted in more than 20,000 downloads in the first week, pushing the app to the top of the App Store lifestyle category.

    Despite previous approving the app, Apple pulled the plug on Good2Go just nine days after launch – showing how vulnerable native apps are in Apple’s world.


    Whatever the final outcome, Good2Go is a good illustration of the magnitude of PR campaign required to push a mobile app to the top of its category.

    Next steps

    The next stage in the formation of your go-to-market plan is the evaluation of owned media (digital and physical), shared media (social media, email, SMS), search engine and app store optimization.

    These will be dealt with in the next column.

    This is the eighth part of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series.

    Here are the others:

  • Six mobile strategy questions
  • How to identify your mobile audience
  • Why prioritize mobile-friendly web
  • Web apps: advantages of native apps in a web browser
  • How to test the viability of your mobile project
  • Assessing the technical and operational feasibility of your mobile project
  • Show me the money: proving your mobile site or app will deliver ROI
  • Andy Favell is ClickZ columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor.

    Contact him via Linkedin or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

    This article was originally published on our sister siteClickZ, but it’s so helpful we thought we’d share it here too.

    25 useful metrics for content marketing success

    content metrics pageviews

    Content marketing has been widely adopted but how are people measuring whether it works or not? Which metrics should we be looking at?

    The answer to that last question will depend on the business and its goals. Measuring for its own sake is pointless, it has to align with business goals.

    With this in mind, I’m not going to tell you which metrics are most important, but will simply present the various metrics you could use.

    The basic (obvious) content metrics

    These are perhaps the most obvious and often easiest things to look at, and can be found with Google Analytics (other analytics platforms are available of course).


    Simple enough. How many views did your article, video, infographic etc attract?

    It’s a good measure of popularity and indicates whether your content has hit the mark, especially in comparison with other pages.

    If the aim is to build an audience and measure popularity, or to convince advertisers, it works.

    However, if your goals are different, pageviews will only tell part of the story.

    If you’re targeting a specific audience, the number of people viewing your content is less important than whether the right people are.

    For example, I could write a piece of clickbait on Kanye or Trump (don’t worry, I won’t) and attract 100,000 views.

    However, would it help Search Engine Watch? Would those visitors become regular readers or decide to attend our events? I doubt it.


    This can be more precise than pageviews as views can be distorted by other factors. Dirty tricks like pagination for instance.


    This was previously known as visits in Google Analytics and refers to a single visit form a user, and may include them viewing several pages.

    Bounce rates

    I’ve covered bounce rates in more detail previously, but basically it tells you the percentage of people that left a given page on your website without viewing any other pages.

    It’s a good general measure of whether your content is successful in sending traffic to other, perhaps more valuable areas of your site, if that is the purpose of the content.

    What constitutes a good or bad bounce rates depends on the nature of the content and the business goals.

    Average time on page

    This is a metric I like to use, and it’s relevant for a publisher like SEW. We aim to produce useful content that people will find useful.

    If we write a detailed article, and people take the time to read, that suggests it worked well and that the topic was interesting. This can them inform future decisions on content.

    For example, this article on internal linking has and average time on page of 4 minutes and 6 seconds, which is higher than the site average.

    It suggests that at least some people found it useful (I hope).

    time on page

    Visitors viewing multiple pages

    Unless your content’s goals can be met with one pageview, then you’re likely to want your content to lead people to another page. Perhaps to sign up for a trial, make a purchase, or download a white paper.

    There are a few ways to measure this, but I use a custom segment which filters out the visitors which view three or more pages.

    So, for the article mentioned above, we can see how many viewed that and went on to view other pages on the site, and compare this with other pages.

    page depth

    New and returning users

    If the aim on your content is to attract new visitors, then this is the metric for you.

    new return

    Traffic sources

    Where is the traffic coming from for your content? Are you targeting social users, or perhaps search traffic?

    Which sources deliver the ‘right’ visitors? Which work over time?

    Engagement and social metrics

    Some of these metrics can be found on Google Analytics, for others there are plenty of useful tools (free and paid) to use.

    NB – the bounce rate, time on page and page depth metrics described above could easily fit into this section too.

    Social shares

    Now that Twitter has killed share counts, third party tools are the easiest way to find this data.

    Here’s the most shared posts on SEW from the past six months, shown on Buzzsumo.

    Not the same as the most popular posts though. It’s interesting (and useful) to note the differences.

    social shares

    Shares by content length / type

    Which kinds of content hit the mark on social? Do longer posts work better?

    shares by content

    Who is sharing your content? Are you reaching influential users?

    Look into the detail – are you reaching people who are likely to amplify the reach of your content?

    Are you reaching people whose profiles match your target audience?

    who shared

    Number of comments

    While a lot of opinion around articles is now expressed away from the site, the number of comments on a post can still give an indication of whether the content has hit the mark.

    Quality of comments also matters. Are people having an intelligent discussion around the points raised by the article, or are they just insulting each other? Hopefully the former…


    Are people clicking through from your content to the relevant pages? Sign up forms, lead generation forms etc.

    Comments / references to your content

    Is your content working from a PR perspective? Are other sites and sources picking up on your content and mentioning your brand?

    Search metrics

    SEO goals are part of content marketing, so it’s important to see what effect it is having.

    Search traffic

    You’ve launched a content-driven campaign, or perhaps a blog. Is it driving more search traffic over time?


    Keyword goals

    If you are using content to improve rankings for certain terms, measure how the content moves the rankings, and which pages are being returned for them.


    Link building

    Is your content attracting links? Which content attracts links from the best sources?


    Is it evergreen?

    Are you producing evergreen content that delivers traffic and leads over time?

    This may require more effort and investment, but it can pay off more handsomely.

    Brand metrics

    These are harder to measure, but remain important.


    Does the content help to promote your brand? Do people recall your brand? Do they have a favourable impression?


    What are people saying about your content and brand? Social monitoring tools, surveys etc can provide some insight here.

    Content perfomance

    Does your content drive sales and leads? Does it move the bottom line? This is the ultimate aim of content marketing, whatever the goals.

    Direct sales

    Are people clicking through from your content and making a purchase?

    For example, Repair Clinic produces content relevant to people’s repair issues which ranks well in Google and leads visitors to pages like the one shown below.

    How many are actually making a purchase?



    Are people signing up for test drives, calls for more information, visits to showrooms etc?

    Increasing conversions

    Did the content you added at a certain part of the sales funnel increase conversions?

    It could be better product page copy, or even a piece of micro-content explaining form fields.

    Email subscribers

    Does your content help to build you email list? This may not deliver an immediate return, but it contributes to email marketing ROI.


    How much did the content cost to produce? How many sales or leads can you attribute to it?

    This is the ultimate measurement, though outcomes which can’t be easily quantified should be considered.

    For example, if the content helped to build awareness of the brand or increased sign ups to emails, then this may deliver a return on the investment long-term.

    Which metrics have I missed? What works for you? Let me know below and I’ll add them to the list…