How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

Image shows the WebPageTest results for how quickly Sam Dutton's YouTube video loads on a mobile device. It took 6.6 seconds to load 809kB.

Video has become an important tool in the marketers’ tool box. Video storytelling is a useful and increasingly popular way to engage customers.

But if your video doesn’t work properly or cripples your website or app performance it will become a major frustration to customers, marketers and techies alike.

In the previous two parts of this column on data and download speed and autoplay and audio we learned:

  • Video dominates mobile data traffic
  • When implemented correctly, mobile video should not impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device
  • Mobile users start to become impatient after waiting just two seconds for a video to load; by 10 seconds a fifth will have given up.

This column will explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues with videos to give your viewers the best possible experience with your video content and keep them engaged and watching your videos.

Jump to:

How to detect problems with video
How to avoid problems with video
How to remedy problems with video

How to detect problems with video

Detecting issues with video, audio or any other web or app issue a) can be straightforward; b) should be everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO down; and c) helps to keep agencies, techies and marketers on their toes.

1. Use it

Blatantly obvious – but when was the last time you checked out your site and videos from a bus, train or bar? Incentivize employees to use the site/app (during beta testing and routinely after goes live) and report issues and suggest improvements.

Check for:

  • How quickly did the site/page load? (Count the seconds)
  • How long did you have to wait for the video to start?
  • How good is the quality?
  • Does it stall / (re) buffer during playback?
  • Was it worth watching/watching to the end?
  • How do you feel about these conclusions?

2. User test it

Recruit customers and monitor their behavior and reactions as they use your web site, using different devices, networks and locations. Score against the above checklist. If this cannot be conducted in person use a remote service such as UserTesting.com.

User testing should occur at each stage of the development process. For more on why user testing is so crucial, see my previous column for our sister site ClickZ on Why user testing should be at the forefront of mobile development.

3. Test it

There are different types of testing, including:

  • Page performance – tools such as WebPageTest (free) show how/if the video is impacting how fast the page loads. It shouldn’t. The image below shows the WebPageTest results for how quickly Sam Dutton’s mobile video explainer on YouTube loads on a mobile device. The page took 6.6 seconds to load 809kB.
  • A/B testing – tests alternative experiences with different groups of web (or app) visitors. For example, test hosting the video on the homepage versus on a dedicated page.
  • Video testing tools – AT&T’s Video Optimizer (formerly known as Application Resource Optimizer) is a free-to-download tool used by developers (requires technical knowledge) to detect issues such as delays with start-up and the frequency and duration of stalls and optimum segment size.

4. Monitor it

  • Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, track visitor engagement with video – e.g. number of views, who viewed, how long, and with the webpage itself, including dwell time and bounce rate. See this introduction to using GA to assess video engagement.
  • Heat map tools, such as Clicktale and Crazyegg provide a visual representation of how users interact, or attempt to interact, with webpages and video.

How to avoid problems with video

Following best practices while creating/producing the video or coding the page, website or app that will host it should help avoid many of the common issues – videos that won’t play, are slow to play, or have broken playback.

Industry guidelines on mobile video are thin on the ground, considering the increasing popularity of the format. What guidance is available tends to be a bit techie and thus a turn off for non-techies.

The following recommendations have been compiled with the help of:

  • Doug Sillars, Principal Architect, Mobile Application Performance, AT&T
  • Usha Andra, Senior VNI Analyst, Cisco
  • Rick Viscomi, HTTP Archive project leader, Developer Advocate, Google
  • Ramesh Sitaraman, Professor of Computer Science, UMass, Amherst
  • Sam Dutton, a Developer Advocate at Google.

1. Make it worth it

There are many costs involved with video/audio:

  • For the producer: the cost of production and distribution; impact on web performance
  • For the network: the impact of network congestion
  • For the viewer, in terms of data consumption, battery life and time it takes to consume.

This makes it imperative that the video is meeting a known user need, contains quality content, is the right length, optimized in terms of bitrate, segments and compression.

2. Be aware: video is greedy; HD greedier; 4K much greedier

When it comes to bandwidth, standard video is greedy, requiring 0.5 Megabits per second (Mbps); high definition (HD) is five times as greedy as SD; and 4K is 30 times as greedy.

Cisco’s Usha Andra explains:

“Mobile video and multimedia applications have higher bandwidth and lower latency requirements than non-video applications. The requirements can range from a low of 0.5Mbps for standard definition (SD) to 2.5Mbps for high definition (HD) and over 15Mbps for 4K/ultra-high definition (UHD) downloads and much higher for virtual reality (VR). Latency requirements can range from 100 milliseconds (ms) to 15ms for UHD VR video applications.”

3. Know the limitations of mobile networks in your target markets

Even among developed telecoms markets, the capability of mobile networks varies considerably. Check the Cisco GCI Global Cloud Readiness Tool for an averages of each country.

The stats suggest that download speeds in the US and UK are 40% lower than Norway and South Korea, and 25% lower than Canada:

  • South Korea – download: 31.0Mbps; upload: 14.3Mbps; latency: 68ms
  • Norway – download: 29.1Mbps; upload: 11.6Mbps; latency: 40ms
  • Canada – download: 24.2Mbps; upload: 9.0Mbps; latency: 51ms
  • UK – download: 18.2Mbps; upload: 8.0Mbps; latency: 55ms
  • US – download: 17.1Mbps; upload: 10.0Mbps; latency: 88ms.

Usha Andra adds:

“Please note that these are average speeds and latencies, which means many users experience higher or lower speeds compared to the average speeds. When the speeds and latencies are lower than what an application warrants, the end user experiences delay in video, garbled audio, etc.”

4. Home page or own page?

Few of the most popular sites, including those that have a strong video focus – YouTube, Vimeo, BBC and CNN – host videos on the homepage or category pages. These sites promote their videos on the homepage as image links (often with play button icon overlaid) and text links, which when clicked or tapped go to a page dedicated to that video.

Why? Keeping video off the homepage keeps it leaner and faster to load on mobile devices. See the Twitch example below.

5. Avoid autoplay

Forcing mobile web visitors to view video whether they want to or not, is:

  • Frustrating for the customer (especially when it happens in a quiet environment)
  • Prone to using up the customer’s bandwidth and battery life unnecessarily
  • Liable to slow down how quickly the page loads
  • Contrary to accessibility best practice (as it can interfere with the screen readers used by visually impaired people)
  • A common technique for artificially inflating video view stats.

There is a (vaguely plausible) argument that sites such as YouTube are an exception to the no autoplay rule. As the visitor is clicking through to the video on a dedicated page it is implicit that they intend to watch.

Consider Twitch, the surprisingly popular site where fans watch gamers playing video games live, captured in the image below. On the desktop homepage, Twitch.tv has a live game on autoplay, while on m.Twitch.tv, there are no videos hosted on the homepage.

Comparing the download size and page speed of Twitch homepage when downloaded to a mobile and desktop device on HTTP Archive (April 15 2017) delivers dramatic results:

  • Mobile homepage (with no video) took 5.8 seconds to load 354kB of data over 24 requests
  • Desktop homepage took 19.9 seconds to load 16,255kB of data over 275 requests. Of that, 11,827kB is video content.

6. Viewer experience (VX) and choice

Make sure the video and host page is intuitive. Let the viewer take control. Make it easy to:

  • Choose video quality – low quality, HD or 4K
  • Select and exit full-screen view
  • Change device orientation change
  • View and operate. Ensure the video fits the device screen and that buttons are intuitive
  • Allow playback when the device is offline.

7. Make the video accessible

To make video/audio accessible for:

  • Visually impaired people, provide a written transcript of the audio.
  • People with hearing impairments, provide subtitles.

For more advice on making mobile content accessible to a wide audience, the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines are an excellent resource.

8. Minimize video start-up delay

The delay to start-up is caused by two essential processes:

  • The authentication process (including digital rights management).
  • The downloading of the video. Video files are subdivided into segments. A sufficient number of segments need to be downloaded to the buffer (temporary store on the client device), before the video starts to play.
  • A delay is inevitable, but the video should be optimized to ensure delays are kept to a minimum.

    As can be seen from the 2016 data from Conviva study below, videos tend to take longer to start on mobile devices, both on WIFI and Cellular, than Tablet or Desktop. It’s no coincidence that mobile has the highest proportion of exits per attempt.TAG: First graph shows video start up times for devices including Desktop 3.1 seconds, tablet cellular 2.9 seconds, mobile cellular 3.7 seconds, mobile WIFI 3.5 seconds. First graph shows number of exits as percentage of attempts for same devices including Desktop 12%, tablet cellular 16%, mobile cellular 19%, mobile WIFI 17%.

    9. Keep the user informed

    While the authentication, downloading and (re) buffering occurs, tell the user what is happening and/or distract them. Watching a spinning wheel icon can be frustrating.

    10. Minimize video stalls

    Stalls occur when too few video segments stored in the buffer to allow playback to continue. The video will not continue until sufficient segments have been downloaded (called re-buffering).

    The key is to find balance between slow start and stalling, says AT&T’s Doug Sillars:

    “The 2 biggest metrics for video are:

  • Startup delay (how long from click to stream).
  • Stalls (video stops, maybe a spinner).
  • These are (of course) interrelated. If you startup too quickly – there will not be enough video stored locally on the device… and you might get a stall. Or you can take too much data at the start (long startup delay), but have no stalls later.

    There is a magic “Goldilocks” point in the middle – not too hot, not too cold – that balances the two factors.”

    11. Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size

    Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size for the device and network connection.

    • Re-buffering typically occurs where the video is played at a speed, measured in bitrates (bits per second), that is too fast for the download speed (bitrate) of the network connection, so the buffer is emptied quicker than it is being filled.
    • Digital videos are divided into files, called segments, of 2 to 10 seconds, which are downloaded to the buffer and then played in order. Segments of optimum size for the connection will download, buffer and play faster.
    • A Codec (coder/decoder) is a tool for compressing and decompressing audio and video files. There are a number of different compression formats, e.g. MPEG-4, each with pros and cons. Different video quality and the client device/connection will influence choice of format.

    12. Use adaptive bitrates.

    Adaptive bitrate streaming creates and stores digital video at a number of different quality/speeds/bitrates. The video player on the client device requests the most appropriate of these based on a) network speed, b) device capability, and c) capacity of the buffer.

    There are two types of adaptive streaming, DASH and HLS, because one industry standard that worked on all devices would be just too easy (find out more here).

    13. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

    A content delivery network speeds up how quickly web media, including video loads and plays on a mobile device by reducing the that the video has to travel between the original web server – e.g. your webserver in California, USA and a viewer in Timbuktu in Mali – by replicating and storing the video on servers around the world.

    According to BuiltWith, 53.8% of the top 10k websites use CDNs.

    Akamai Edge, which was one of the original CDNs, founded in 1999, remains one of the most popular. According to BuiltWith, Akamai is used by 11.4% of the top 10,000 sites, followed by Amazon CloudFront at 4% and MaxCDN at 1.3%.

    Graph shows the market share of CDN providers according to BuiltWith: Akamai with 58%, Amazon with 20%, MaxCDN with 7%, EdgeCast with 6%.

    14. Host or embed?

    Hosting websites on a third party network, and embedding the file, removes several headaches, including video compression, adaptive bitrates and engaging a CDN. This helps to explain why 15.2% of top 10k websites embed YouTube videos and 3.6% Vimeo, according to BuiltWith.

    How to remedy problems with video / audio

    1. Page weight or load speed issues.

    Regularly check the key pages using a testing tool such as WebPageTest (this is the tool used by HTTP Archive).

    If this highlights issues of excessive page weight, slow download speed, and it appears that video is a contributing factor (rather than oversized images or inefficient use of JavaScript), the options are:

    • Kill autoplay
    • Ensure the video is not preventing the page loading correctly
    • Move the video to a dedicated page (with a prominent picture and text link)
    • Use A/B testing to verify if this solves the issue.

    2. Video fails or is slow to start or stalls during play

    If the video performance is an issue, here are some troubleshooting tips to try:

    • Try loading the video to a dedicated video service such as Vimeo or YouTube. Compare the performance of the video on the third-party site, embedded on your site and with the self-hosted version to highlight if problems lie with the video, as opposed to the website, webserver or CDN (or lack of CDN)
    • Test the video with a tool such as AT&T’s Video Optimizer (requires development skills) to detect issues with video segmentation, compression, buffering etc. and fix them
    • Have the video re-edited to make it more concise; and optimized to improve bitrate and compression
    • Use or replace the CDN.

    If video performs better on some devices and over different connections e.g. PC on cable versus smartphone on 3G:

    • Prepare a number of versions of the video in different formats, with different quality, bitrates and compression to suit the most common scenarios of device and network type
    • Use device detection to discover the client device, its capabilities and the type of connection to serve the most appropriate version of the video
    • Use adaptive bitrates.

    Resources (and sources)

    These resources are aimed at developers, but are useful for all (if you ignore the techie bits):

    • BBC’s Mobile Accessibility Guidelines (best resource on mobile accessibility).
    • AT&T’s best practices for mobile video
    • Sam Dutton’s mobile video explainer (video)
    • Sam Dutton’s guide to video web fundamentals
    • François Beaufort’s guide to Mobile Web Video Playback

    This is Part 3 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installments:

    • How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed
    • How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

    Taming the local search beast in a post-Possum and Fred world

    It’s estimated that 46 percent of all searches performed on Google have a local intent, and the Map Pack appears for 93 percent of these.

    In September 2016 Google unveiled a new local search algorithm, dubbed Possum, and it pretty much went unnoticed in comparison to the real-time Penguin update released in the same month.

    In short, Possum made it harder for businesses to fake being in locations that they’re not (through the likes of virtual offices), as well as tackling Google My Business spam.

    Possum, however, isn’t a “single” algorithm update, as it affected both localized search results as well as the Map Pack, which of course are two separate algorithms both triggered by search queries that are interpreted as having a local search intent.

    The Google “Fred” update, which hit SERPs back in March, has also had an impact on local search, much like the Phantom updates before it.

    A lot of local SERPs are extremely spammy, where websites have been built cheap and location names have been liberally applied to every menu link and keyword on the page, such as this home page sidebar menu:

    This of course, is only a snapshot of the page – the menu and tile icons go on a lot more. Spam such as this still ranks on page one, because Google still has to provide results to its users.

    Take advantage of the market conditions

    A lot of locally-focused websites aren’t built by agencies; the vast majority tend to be self-built or built by bedroom level developers who can churn out a full website for £300 (or less).

    Some verticals have seen some significant online investment in recent years, while others lag behind considerably. By investing in a good website and avoiding the same spammy tactics of your competitors, you can create a powerful resource offering user value that Google will appreciate.

    Directory submissions and citations

    Just to be clear, I’m not talking about just backlinks. Recent studies have shown that citations with a consistent NAP (Name, Address & Phone number) are important to both local algorithms.

    There is no magic number to how many directory submissions you should have, but they need to be relevant.

    I’ve worked on local campaigns in the UK where they have been previously submitted to directories in Vietnam, Thailand and Australia. Yes, it’s a backlink, but it’s not relevant in the slightest.

    Think local with your directories, and exhaust those before moving onto national ones. The number of local directories should also outweigh the nationals were possible. To do this properly, it’s a manual process and to ensure quality it can’t be automated.

    Reviews

    Review volume, velocity and diversity factors are important, and in my opinion, they’re going to become more important in the coming months – particularly following the recent release of verified customer reviews for online businesses.

    In Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, the evaluators are instructed to research a website/brand’s online reputation from external sources in order to assess the quality of the website.

    This is why getting reviews on your Google My Business listing, Facebook pages, positive tweets, Yell, Trip Advisor reviews etc are all great. Having testimonials and reviews on your website is great for users, but you wouldn’t publish bad reviews on your own website, would you?

    Google accepts that negative reviews appear, but as long the good outweighs the bad, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you do get a negative review, demonstrate your customer service and respond to it. You can set up Google Alerts to monitor for your brand and flag up any external reviews.

    Google My Business & Bing Places

    Believe it or not, Google My Business is considered a directory, as is Bing Places. It’s important that you have one if you’re a local business, and that you’ve optimised it correctly. This means the correct business name, address and phone number (keep your NAP as consistent as possible), choose an appropriate category and include a thorough description.

    localBusiness structured data mark-up

    Structured data mark-up (or schema) is an addition to a website’s code that enables Google’s RankBrain (and other AI algorithms from other search engines) to better understand a website’s context by providing it with additional information.

    Not all websites are currently utilizing this schema (or any schema), and Google wants you to use it.

    If you don’t have developer resource to hand, and you’re not a coder you can use Google’s Data Highlighter to mark-up content – you will need a verified Google Search Console however to make this work.

    Other considerations

    As well as focusing locally, you need to also consider other ranking factors such as SERP click-through rates.

    Optimizing your meta title and description to appeal to local users can have a huge impact on click-through rates, and the change could be as simple as including the phone number in the title tag.

    You also need to be on https and have a secure website. Getting hacked, suffering a SQL injection or having malware put on your site can seriously damage your reputation within Google and take a long, long time to recover.

    What does Google’s “Project Owl” mean for search and fake news?

    Have you heard of Google’s “Project Owl” yet?

    If not, then you’re in for some fun, because this is a hoot.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    Fall of 2016: Trump gets nominated to the presidency.

    Still in fall of 2016: All around the world, people are asking “WHO? WHAT? HOW?” That’s when researchers found that American voters were influenced by misinformation on the internet.

    The world is completely distressed. They demand that 1) someone be responsible and 2) for them to take action and fix the ‘fake news’ problem.

    Oh – hi Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg.

    Who else other than Google and Facebook, right?

    The public wants solutions from search engines and social media giants to tackle ‘fake news’ and any other misinformation on the internet.

    May 2017: TA-DA! Welcome Project Owl.

    Project Owl is introduced as Google’s answer to addressing fake news. It plans to do this with new feedback forms for search suggestions and the answer box, and authoritative content prioritization in the answer box.

    And no, we don’t see this affecting marketers or SEOs. As long as you continue to practice white hat methods, your day-to-day should be the same. However, given this can affect searchers’ user experience, we see a few challenges.

    Challenge #1: Search engines are supposed to be neutral

    Google is walking on a tight rope. If search engines manage to accomplish tackling fake news, then first, that feels like a violation of the first amendment but second, they will come off as bias to specific news/media sources.

    Remember, feedback from some users will change the search experience for all on that query. It will be difficult to differentiate what’s ‘right’ for one searcher versus what’s ‘right’ for the other.

    But, you know what? When personalized search engines are the new thing, this may not even be a challenge.

    Challenge #2: The proposed plan

    Let’s take a step back and look at Google’s track record when they are “working to fix” something. Just like many updates in the past, Google says one thing and marketers notice something completely different.

    Right now, “Project Owl”, according to Google, will rely on the searcher to provide feedback on the autocomplete or on the featured snippet.

    But, we’re missing the obvious.

    Let me ask you: When was the last time you went in and changed any of your Google search settings? Or rather, did you even know that it was possible to change Google search settings?

    Don’t feel bad – I know SEOs who didn’t even know they could do that!

    Google said and I quote, “We plan to use this feedback to help improve our algorithms.” That is what they told us years ago about link disavow and they still don’t have that right. My take is that it will be several years before Google is able to filter out “fake news”.

    I personally think TMZ.com spreads lots of fake news, yet they rank for 2,133,648 keywords on Google; and I don’t think Google is going to start taking their keywords away anytime soon.

    As you can see I don’t think Google is going to put much into this and even if they do it will take years before it’s perfected. I believe Google is in crisis mode right now but sooner than later people will forget and Google will move on or deprioritize this.

    Challenge #3: Obscure and infrequent queries

    The third part of Google’s solution is prioritizing authoritative content specifically for obscure and infrequent queries. But, when it’s already such a niche group, how can you determine who that authority should go to?

    Challenge #4: The blackhats

    Like every other SEO tactic, there is always the one group of SEOs that capitalize on Google making an algorithmic change or giving us the capabilities to affect how the algorithm reacts.

    I know blackhat SEOs are going to jump at this chance to devalue other people’s content that don’t serve theirs or their client’s interest. They will probably work from C class IP addresses and run bots on specific timing intervals to make it seem natural.

    Now what?

    Overall, a first step is better than no step at all, but here are two ways I recommend as a stronger combat against fake news.

    First, Google should not only rely on end users to report content that is fake or offensive. Its focus should be less on that and more on perfecting RankBrain, Google’s artificial intelligence.

    Second, it’s not just up to the Googles and the Facebooks to take action. It’s also a user’s responsibility to determine whether a search listing is worthy of your click and trust.

    When you see something that sounds outrageous, it probably is. Hoaxes appeal to natural human curiosity, which is why it’s hard not to click, but still, that’s a choice you get to make.

    Targeting generational buzzwords like “Millennials” means targeting no-one

    If I were to tell you that marketers were using astrological signs as a way to understand/target specific groups of people, you’d tell me that’s a ridiculous strategy.

    “Astrology is fake,” you’d say, and given the precision of modern marketing tools, using the stars to analyze customers or understand population segments would not only be lazy, but the chances of it working would be random at best. Yet, this is happening daily.

    How? For example, thinking that millennials, a 75.4 million cohort of people in the United States alone, share a universal set of attributes.

    Speaking in absolutes about a demographic that makes up ~20% of the total population of the United States with nearly no shared characteristics completely ignores the nuance, depth and uniqueness of humanity, and our diverse wants, needs and desires. We are complex creatures!

    Common sense would indicate that drawing conclusions about such a loosely defined group of folks is at best “pushing it,” and at worst completely ludicrous. There’s simply no way to make an accurate, universally applicable statement about that many people, defined solely by a 20+ year age range based on the year they were born.

    There’s no rigorous methodology behind generational branding

    Even if I wanted to take generational branding seriously, it’s in my opinion not good social science. “Baby Boomers” (18 year cohort) are defined as people born between 1946 – 1964, and an age range between 51 and 70.

    “Millennials” (a 23 year cohort) are people born between 1981-2004, giving an age range of 12-35. Gen Z (no defined cohort yet) have birth years that range from the mid-1990s to 2000s, and, so far there is little consensus about ending birth years.

    The ranges are not only inconsistent, but the fact that not everyone can even agree on these unstandardized, randomly assigned dates says it all. It’s all highly questionable, even for a softer science like sociology.

    A ~20 year ago cohort is too large to mean anything when our experiences of media, culture, etc. have fragmented

    Social trends now move so quickly that single moments of significance are less defining, even if at the time they were seemingly important. The 3-TV-channel world where we all watched the same things has been dead for decades and yet we still apply concepts that were created then.

    Everyone’s experience of the world from a media perspective alone is so unique we can’t underestimate the number of niche communities that now exist that have less to do with age and more to do with personality. The world and the people in it are becoming more, not less, complex and we need updated thinking if we hope to understand it and market to it.

    Psychographics show far more in common than year born / demographic breakdown by year born. If you can target, not just arbitrary ranges as defined by buzzwords, but by people who live in a specific area, are married and are interested in weightlifting and organic food you would have to be willfully ignorant or lazy to think stepping back and targeting everyone is a good idea.

    With the depth we have available for ad targeting in tools like Google AdWords and Facebook ads, it’s inexcusable to not take the time to target the right message to the right users. The sophistication of our marketing capabilities means we’re doing our shareholders and customers a disservice not to go deeper.

    Sample AdWords ad targeting capabilities mean reaching specific and precise segments relevant to us:

    Sample Facebook ad targeting capabilities reach specific social communities that care about our brand:

    As for marketing to specific age ranges? Of course there are product categories with immutable segments for a certain demographic. But buzzwords like “Baby Boomer” aren’t required to market to these groups effectively.

    Additionally, you want to be more specific than a 20 year cohort to accomplish this in a meaningful way. For example, a 34 year old millennial living in a city has little in common with a 20-something millennial just finishing college in a small town – yet generational buzzwords lump them together.

    In Google Analytics, we break out age ranges in smaller, more manageable chunks, so you can analyze college-age students in a specific area which would be far more instructive.

    To some, the word millennials has become just a blanket term for young people. This almost comical story of an iconic American brand grasping for relevancy shows what may be a typical situation in boardrooms, where a group of executives clearly feels behind the times.

    So it seems like an easy solution to just use broad strokes like buzzwords. A brief quote from this story illustrates:

    The other challenge is that many people who work at American Express aren’t all that millennially minded themselves. If you visit Amex’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan, you’ll find squared-jawed men in bespoke suits and fashion model-glamorous women, but not a lot of young people in the uppermost ranks … In one Amex brainstorming session, according to an executive I spoke with, participants spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what FOMO meant before turning to Google. They discovered it stands for “fear of missing out.” It is unclear if the group recognized the irony.

    I don’t think this habit of over-generalization comes from a desire to marginalize millennials, but I do believe it’s a broader way people use to try and make sense of a technology-driven world.

    In most analyses of millennials, the way technology shapes and controls their environment is key to understanding whatever point is being made about them. This categorization provides a way to add a human layer to the discussion around those who have been born into a world where technology and the internet automate our existence.

    Why waste time with generational buzzwords when we have so many better groups to analyze/target/study instead?

    For example, with recommended actions:

    • Users who responded to holiday ads last year that become recurring customers over the next year (run more of those specific ads next season, replicate for your other product categories and double the budget if the numbers were previously great!).
    • The specific location with the highest average purchase order or customer loyalty for a national restaurant chain (or better yet, the top 5%). What went right here? What are the common traits among customers here and how can we attract more of them to our other locations?
    • For a pharmaceutical company with a new arthritis drug, targeting people ages of between 30 and 60, the average onset of RA According to the Arthritis Foundation (this is a specific, actionable age segment, not the nebulous “baby boomer” and is immutable range, no buzzword required).
    • All your site visitors who added something to their shopping cart but don’t complete checkout. For sure these include people of all ages; likely optimizations don’t even require demographic data.
    • Users who follow your brand on social channels (aka your influencers) – what can you learn about this very specific group that is unique to your brand. Incredibly useful to understand these folk and their nuances so you can best nurture those relationships.
    • The top 20% of your customers by annual spending or product category. How can you grow these really valuable segments?

    The above list is just to get you thinking, but to me it’s so exciting what’s now possible that to keep doing what was always done is doing our work and sector a huge disservice.

    Or, you could just ignore all of this and just make stereotypical ads for millennials without actually getting to know them, so that you too can repeat Pepsi’s gaffe and become a global embarrassment.

    Google I/O: What’s going on with Progressive Web Apps?

    Image: Who ate all the pies? Size of Twitter's Android app 23MB+; iOS app 100MB+; PWA 0.6MB. Size of OLA Cabs Android app 60MB; iOS app 100MB; PWA 0.2MB.

    At Google’s developer jamboree, Google I/O, last week the search giant paraded a host of big name case studies and compelling stats to herald its success with two initiatives to make the mobile web better and faster: Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

    Progressive Web Apps are a Google innovation designed to combine the best features of mobile apps and the mobile web: speed, app-like interaction, offline usage, and no need to download anything.

    Google spotlighted this relatively new web product at last year’s Google I/O, where the Washington Post showed off a newly-built Progressive Web App to enhance its mobile experience.

    Whether companies believe in or plan to adopt Progressive Web Apps, the initiative (along with AMP) has done a fantastic job of highlighting a) the importance of making websites and apps lean and mean so they perform better on mobile and b) how ridiculously bloated, slow and inefficient websites and apps have become.

    PWA and AMP are not the only answers to mobile bloat, but being led and backed by Google, they bring the potential for 1) broad adoption, 2) lots of resources, and 3) favorable treatment from Android, Chrome and Google Search.

    What’s so great about Progressive Web Apps?

    PWAs bring native app-like functions and features to websites. They should (depending on the quality of the build) work on all smart devices, adapting the performance to the ability of the device, browser and connection.

    The key features that get people excited about PWAs are:

    • The ability to send push notifications
    • Option to save to the device (home screen and – now – app launcher), so it loads even faster next time
    • Ability to work offline (when there is no internet connection)
    • Make payments. One of the most significant PWA announcements at Google I/O was that PWAs can now integrate with native/web payment apps, to allow one tap payment with the users preferred provider, including Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Alipay and PayPal
    • Closer integration with device functions and native apps.

    The margin of what native apps can do compared with a web-based app (N.B. PWAs do not have a monopoly over mobile web apps) is disappearing rapidly.

    The last year has seen a remarkable 215 new APIs, allowing web apps to access even more of the native phone features and apps, announced Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP, product management at Google, in his Mobile Web State of Union keynote.

    He pointed out that you could even build a web-based virtual reality (VR) app (if you wanted to), citing Within and Sketchfab, which showcase creations from developers around the world.

    Who ate all the pies?

    But the most compelling thing about Progressive Web Apps is their download size, compared with iOS apps and Android apps. Check out the size comparisons in the image below for two case studies featured at Google I/O: Twitter Lite and Ola Cabs (the biggest cab service in India, delivering 1 million rides per day).

    • Size of Twitter’s Android app 23MB+; iOS app 100MB+; Twitter Lite PWA 0.6MB.
    • Size of OLA Cabs Android app 60MB; iOS app 100MB; PWA 0.2MB.

    Why does size matter? Performance on the web is all about speed. The smaller the size the quicker the download. Think SUV versus Grand Prix motorbike in rush hour traffic.

    Interestingly, Twitter markets the PWA as Twitter Lite particularly targeted at people in tier two markets where connections may be inferior, data more expensive and smartphones less advanced; while Ola Cabs markets the PWA at second or third tier cites where there are similar issues with connections and smartphones.

    This (cleverly) helps to position the PWA as non-competitive to their native apps.

    Which companies have launched Progressive Web Apps?

    A growing number of big name brands (see image below) have launched PWAs. These include:

    • Travel companies: Expedia, Trivago, Tui, AirFrance, Wego
    • Publishers: Forbes, Infobae, Washington Post, FT, Guardian, Independent, Weather Company
    • E-commerce companies: Fandango, Rakuten, Alibaba, Lancôme, Flipkart
    • Formerly native app-only companies: Lyft, Ola Cabs.

    At I/O, Google trumpeted the achievements of a number of companies, inviting several to share their experiences with the audiences – only the good stuff, clearly.

    1. Faster speeds; higher engagement

    m.Forbes.com has seen user engagement double since launch of its PWA in March (according to Google).

    For the inside track see this Forbes article. The publisher claims its pages load in 0.8 seconds on a mobile device. The publisher was aiming for a Snapchat or Instagram-like experience with streams of related content along with app-like features such as gesture-based navigation.

    In this video case study, embedded below, created for I/O, Forbes claims to have achieved a 43% increase in sessions per user and 20% increase in ad viewability.

    The Ola Cabs PWA takes 1-3 seconds to load on the first visit – depending on the network, “including low 3G” Dipika Kapadia, head of consumer web products at Ola, told I/O attendees. On subsequent visits it takes less than a second as it only needs to download the real-time information, including cab availability.

    Ola achieves this partly due to its size: the app is just 0.5MB of which only 0.2MB is application data. As it downloads it prioritizes essential information, while other assets download in the background.

    2. Consumers readily download PWAs to their home screens

    When mobile visitors are using the mobile app, they receive a prompt to save it to the home screen, so it loads faster next time. It does this by caching all the static parts of the site, so next time it only needs to fetch what has changed.

    Twitter Lite, as Patrick Traughber, product manager atTwitter, told the Google I/O crowd, sees 1 million daily visits from the homepage icon.

    Since launch of the Progressive Web App, in April 2017, Twitter has seen a 65% increase in pages per session and 75% increase in tweets.

    3. Notifications

    The ability to send notifications to mobile users to encourage them back to the app, used to be one of the big advantages of native apps over mobile web. No longer.

    Notifying users about recent activity is very important to Twitter, said Traughber. And Twitter is taking full advantage of this capability, sending 10 million push notifications each day.

    For the inside track on Twitter’s PWA, see this article.

    4. Winning back customers that have deleted your native app

    App-only companies face the challenge that users only download and retain a limited number of apps on their smartphone and will uninstall those that aren’t used as regularly as others, thus once deleted, it’s over.

    Thus it is an eye-opener that 20% of Ola PWA bookings come from users who have previously uninstalled the native app.

    See Google’s case study on Ola’s PWA.

    5. PWAs appeal to iOS users

    Compared with other mobile browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Opera and Samsung, the default browser on Apple devices, Safari, can be slower when it comes to adopting advancements in mobile web. This means Safari users won’t experience some of the more advanced features of PWAs, yet.

    Despite this, brands are seeing improved mobile engagement after launching a PWA. Lancôme Paris has seen session length improve by 53% among iOS users, according to this case study of the Lancôme PWA, cited at Google I/O.

    6. Conversions

    According to Wego’s video case study, embedded below, created for I/O, the Singapore-based travel service has combined both PWA and AMP to achieve a load time for new users is 1.6 seconds and 1 second for returning customers. This has helped to increase site visits by 26%, reduce bounce rates by 20% and increase conversions by 95%, since launch.

    If you need more impressive stats to make the case for a web app, visit Cloud Four’s new PWA Stats.

    For more articles on mobile web performance see:

    How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed
    How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio
    How to fix your bloated mobile website: fewer, better, smaller images
    Optimizing images for mobile: right format, right size, right place, right device
    How JavaScript impacts how fast your page loads on a mobile device

    Andy Favell is Search Engine Watch’s 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.

    A visual guide to Pinterest advertising

    Pinterest has slowly been building itself up as an advertising alternative to Google and Facebook over the past 12 months.

    The company’s focus has historically been on building an engaged user base through its intuitive, visual interface.

    As a social network, it has always offered something a little different.

    However, advertisers have been skeptical about whether Pinterest could ‘monetize’ this model, due to the nature of engagements users have and also the demographics that typically spend time on the site.

    Those concerns have not been allayed altogether, but Pinterest has made some fascinating moves of late. They have launched a paid search partnership with Kenshoo, completely upgraded their visual search capabilities, and expanded their reach by adding a new Google Chrome extension.

    By combining an engaged user base with advertising that doesn’t disrupt their experience, Pinterest may have a formula that works in an age of ad blockers and decreased consumer attention spans. Their stated aim has been to own the ‘discovery’ phase of the purchase journey, suggesting products to users before they know exactly what they are looking for.

    Google has clearly taken notice, too. The search giant’s recent product launches, such as its ‘similar items’ feature and the recent announcement of Google Lens, demonstrate Google’s strategy to stymie Pinterest’s growth. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

    That said, Pinterest remains a relative unknown in the advertising space. Many advertisers would no doubt welcome a third, genuine alternative for their digital ad dollars, a fact that will likely benefit Amazon as well as Pinterest. But before taking the plunge and launching a paid campaign, there are some things we need to know.

    As such, it seems timely to take a step back and assess what really differentiates Pinterest from the competition, what options are open to marketers, and what you need to know before getting started with Pinterest advertising.

    Since this is Pinterest we’re talking about, we thought a visual guide would be most fitting.

    Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other recent visual guides and infographics:

    • 7 advanced Google Shopping strategies
    • A visual history of Google SERPS: 1996 to 2017
    • What will the future of Google search results pages look like?

    Infographic created by Clark Boyd, VP Strategy at Croud, and graphic designer Chelsea Herbert.

    How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 2: autoplay and audio

    Image shows two charts 1. Content breakdown for homepages of the top 100 sites 2. Content breakdown for the homepage of YouTube. Source: HTTP Archive April 2017

    Mobile video is a major up-and-coming trend in content, with brands everywhere converging on the new and lucrative mobile video market.

    Mark Zuckerberg said on a recent shareholder conference call that he sees video as “a megatrend on the same order as mobile” – which makes mobile video, the intersection between the two, the ultimate sweet spot of engaging content to draw in new consumer eyeballs.

    But sadly, there are still some technical hurdles to overcome before the mobile video experience is as smooth as companies would like it to be. In our previous installment we looked at how video can be a massive mobile data hog, and why it shouldn’t (but still does) have an impact on download speed.

    In this part we’ll look at the contentious subject of autoplaying videos and their impact on mobile webpage performance, as well as how audio can delay page speed, and what kind of conditions make for a poor viewer experience (VX).

    Our third and final part will consider some solutions that webmasters can enact to counter the issues with mobile video.

    Video autoplay and page performance

    Comparing the data on HTTP Archive for average content for the top 100 most popular sites (according to Alexa) with the top 1 million (shown above) reveals some interesting stats.

    On average, video content is just 17kB (rather than 128kB) which is 2.1% of total page size, which, is a (comparatively) slender 828kB.

    There are three reasons why this might be:

  • Top sites avoid using video. (Considering these include video specialist like YouTube, BBC and CNN, this is the least likely of the three reasons).
  • Top sites avoid using video on the (mobile) homepage. (The homepage of YouTube, for example, is made up of image links to videos, rather than videos themselves. Each video has its own webpage).
  • Top sites use video more efficiently (as Dutton suggests).
  • Querying this apparent anomaly of video usage between all sites and the top 100 with the web performance experts at HTTP Archive, we received the following answer from Rick Viscomi, a leader of the HTTP Archive project and Developer Advocate at Google:

    “I think the answer is: efficiency. To be more specific, I think it comes down to autoplay. HTTP Archive just visits a page and records the page load without clicking around. Autoplay videos would be captured on those visits, while click-to-play would not.

    “Autoplaying is wasteful for everyone involved because a page visit does not always demonstrate intent to watch. One notable exception is YouTube, where visiting a watch page is definitely intent to watch. Keep in mind that only home pages are crawled by HTTP Archive. So my theory is the top sites choose not to autoplay in order to keep bounce rates low and conversions high.”

    Notably, autoplay video and audio is also frowned on from an accessibility perspective. See these BBC guidelines for example. The reason for this is that people with visual impairments rely on screen readers to read aloud a webpage. Clearly if audio or video media starts to play (including advertisements) it will interfere with the screen reader and will make tricky for the user to find out how to make it stop.

    The impact of audio on page performance

    One of the most useful features of HTTP Archive or WebPageTest (from where it is captured) is the filmstrip which shows how a website loads on a mobile device second by second.

    The loading process for New York Times mobile site on May 1, 2017 is captured by HTTP Archive in the image below. The audio story The Daily is at the top of the mobile page, above the fold, allowing us to see clearly how audio may delay page speed.

    The audio does not finish loading until 22 seconds, when the play button finally appears and the site is visibly complete.

    Poor viewer experience (VX)

    Assuming there is no autoplay, a correctly coded website should not require the video to be downloaded until the user requests it by clicking on the play button.

    However as soon as the mobile user clicks on that play button, the level of expectation changes…

    There are three potential VX problems with video:

  • The video is too slow to start.
  • It fails to start.
  • It stalls during play back – this is due to (re) buffering or a dropping connection, typically shown by the spinning wheel.
  • Poor video quality – or quality that is less an optimal for the connection.
  • Research by Conviva and nScreenMedia (November 2016) illustrates the difference in VX quality when a viewer is indoors (WIFI) or outdoors (cellular) failures for videos to start increases from 1.5% to 2.9% and buffering issues rises from 7.9% to 14.3% of views.

    This has a noticeable impact on user satisfaction out of home 11.8% exit before the video starts versus 9.0% in home.Graph shows difference in video quality when a viewer is indoors or outdoors (as explained in the text). Source: Conviva and nScreenMedia (November 2016).

    Research carried out by University of Massachusetts and Akamai, of 6.7 million video viewers, in 2012, also shows a growing intolerance to slow, stalling video.

    Ramesh Sitaraman, Professor of Computer Science, UMass, Amherst tells ClickZ:

    “Mobile users are impatient and abandon videos that do not start up quickly. However, they are more patient than users who have high-speed Internet access (say, Fiber), since their expectations of speed are lower in comparison.

    “Mobile users start to abandon a video after waiting for about 2 seconds. By the 10 second mark, if the video has not started, roughly a fifth have abandoned.”

    And on stalling:

    “We don’t have data split out just for mobile. But, we studied a cross-section of users that included mobile. Overall, people watch videos for a shorter period of time when the video stalls than they would have otherwise.

    “Roughly, a 1% increase in stalls leads to 5% decrease in the minutes watched.”

    This is Part 2 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installment: How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 1: data and download speed.

    7 advanced Google Shopping strategies [Infographic]

    Google Shopping Ads now make up 56% of retailer ad spend in the USA, and a study by Merkle has shown that Shopping ads also accounted for 46% of clicks to retailers in the second quarter of 2016.

    The current trends indicate that Google Shopping revenue is only going to grow in the next few years, making it more vital than ever to have a strong Google Shopping strategy as a retailer.

    The infographic below, produced by Clicteq, will give you a quick visual and entertaining summary of seven advanced Google Shopping strategies that can supercharge your Google Shopping performance and help you compete in 2017.

    International SEO: 5 ways to scale performance

    The digital revolution has truly become a global phenomenon.

    In the European Union, Internet penetration reaches over 80 percent, with some countries reaching well above 90 percent. In China, there are 731 million internet users, representing only 53 percent of the population — leaving plenty of room for growth.

    The Internet offers brands an unprecedented way to reach their customers across borders and regardless of language or cultural barriers. Reaching different populations requires an understanding of what people want in these different countries and then producing content to meet these needs.

    It’s not a matter of simply translating content into different languages, but of applying basic SEO principles of relevancy and localization on a global scale — while also ensuring technical SEO content is delivered in the correct language to the appropriate population.

    As you get started with your international SEO strategy, here are five ways you can scale your practices to maximize your potential.

    Understand demand variations from region to region

    When completing a global search, you will find that even within Google, content types and SERP layouts will vary from country to country. For example, a particular keyword might trigger a Quick Answer in one country, but in another it will not. In each region, Google models its SERPs based upon local trends and interests to provide an optimal user experience.

    Not only will content and SERP layouts change, but so will keywords and traffic rates. Keywords cannot directly translate from one language to another — you must take into account cultural interests, population, slang, and local vocabulary.

    Different regions have different expectations from brands within the same industry in terms of what they want to see before they make a purchase decision.

    As you develop an international search strategy, you must understand that ranking well for a particular term in one country does not mean ranking well for related terms in another. You must optimize locally and build content and user experience precisely for that local audience. Before taking any steps toward building an international search strategy, you must understand keyword demand and traffic within that country.

    Build a global framework for your international SEO

    As you create an international search strategy, you’ll find that incorporating technical aspects of SEO will be necessary. Primarily, you will need to employ hreflang tags.

    A hreflang tag is a piece of code that helps Google understand the intended language and country for your content. This will ensure your content is displayed in the right region. For example, a Spanish language site written for an audience in Argentina will not provide the optimal user experience for those in Spain because there are differences between the two countries in the vocabulary used, even though both speak Spanish.

    The hreflang tag helps to ensure that the consumer audience sees the content that has been written specifically for them to provide the most relevant and helpful experience.

    The tags also reduce the threat of duplicate content, because they inform Google that your content has been written for different audiences. Your content for an audience in the United States might overlap with content written for audiences in the UK, therefore, the hreflang tag is necessary to reduce the threat of duplicate content.

    There are three main strategies to ensure content is correctly marked with the hreflang tag.

    Place the tag in HTTP Header and ensure it is present on every page.
    Place the tag in the site map.
    Mark up the page itself.

    As you begin to mark up content, it is important to use the ISO 639-1 format for all languages, and restrict the size of all site maps to be no larger than 50 mg or 10,000 URLs. If yours will be larger, it is possible to split the map to stay within these guidelines.

    Localize the content you create

    Once you understand how to create the framework for your global audience, you must also create content for the region-specific site. Recognize that you do not want to simply translate content for one site word-for-word into another language.

    The content itself should be localized so that it appeals to the audience within the new region. This means creating content to reflect local search trends and interests and performing keyword research specific to each country. You also want to incorporate local vocabulary and slang, and work with native speakers to ensure your content resonates with those reading it.

    If you have multiple locations for a particular business, make sure you implement separate landing pages for each one. Be sure to create content for different landing pages that reflects the region, such as incorporating local landmarks, pastimes, and interests to boost the appearance of each landing page in the SERPs.

    Unify differing strategies

    For an effective global strategy, you must bring together your global, local, and mobile optimization strategies. Rank countries in order of where you are most likely find customers. Use these rankings to help you identify priorities. Use your global framework to ensure search engines understand where to display your content to maximize your relevance to the intended audience.

    Your local and hyperlocal strategies will then guide your content creation process. With local keyword research and by working with a native speaker to identify regional dialects and vocabulary, you can then produce content that appeals to the local audience.

    Finally, make sure your content is available for users on mobile devices. Globally, mobile now outpaces desktop, and in some regions, it represents a large segment of the population.

    For example, more than 95 percent of the Chinese internet-using population also uses mobile devices. Brands that want to succeed need to ensure that their content is ready for the on-the-go user. This includes responsive design, creating content for the “I-want-to-go” micro moment, and ensuring all web pages are mobile-friendly.

    Measure your results

    As with all SEO strategies, expanding globally requires you to take careful measurements of your progress. You can use the information from your metrics to see where you still need to improve and build a more effective international SEO strategy.

    Take measurements of your presence and ranking in different countries before, during, and after you implement a concrete global strategy. This will allow you to clearly see your progress throughout and narrow down potential areas for improvement.
    Track your page rankings to assure pages rank correctly in each country. Errors with your hreflang tags and keyword rankings, such as ranking a term common in the US in the UK, can reduce your relevancy to the local consumer base, ultimately hurting your rankings and ability to engage prospects and leads.
    Measure success and impact of alternate digital channels, such as the Twitter account for a particular country.
    Consider the potential for PPC when expanding into new markets. When you begin your international SEO efforts, it may take time to gain high rankings for your site. Using PPC can help you gain traction in a new territory. Measure your success with these efforts to better understand search behavior and conversion rates in new territories.

    As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and the importance of digital marketing spreads throughout the globe, brands looking to grow their organizations must understand how to engage audiences beyond their native borders.

    There is more to building an international website than simply translating content, and these tips should help you move in the right direction. Incorporating global SEO should be an important addition in the toolbox of any marketer to help them improve marketing to international customers.

    PPC 101: Eight tips to get started

    PPC can deliver effective results for a business, but it can also seem overwhelming when you’re just getting started. How can you use it to increase ROI?

    PPC (Pay-Per-Click) marketing, or paid search marketing, offers a great opportunity for every business to promote its services and extend its reach. Whether you’re targeting an existing audience or a new one, PPC campaigns can increase conversions, provided that they’re crafted properly.

    If you’re considering investing in PPC, here are eight tips to keep in mind.

    Start small

    If you’re just getting started with PPC ads, then it may be a good idea to test a small campaign first. Your first campaign doesn’t have to be perfect, but it can serve as a great experiment to see what works and what can be improved.

    This can be a great test without worrying yet about conversion and clicks. The initial goal is to improve your PPC marketing skills until you’re comfortable enough to invest in a bigger budget.

    Focus on a specific audience, start with a small budget and see what you can learn from the initial results.

    Set a goal for your PPC campaign

    It’s useful to set a goal when planning a PPC campaign. Whether it’s brand awareness, lead generation, or engagement, a clear goal can help you focus on the right ways to achieve it.

    For example, a campaign focusing on lead generation requires very specific metrics afterwards to analyse its effectiveness. Did you manage to reach your set goal with your PPC campaign?

    Was there a shift in the focus during the campaign? How can you ensure that you increase the effectiveness of your next campaign?

    Analyze keywords

    Another good way to start is by analyzing the keywords your competitors are bidding on. How are they performing? Which keywords could work better for your campaign?

    It may be a good idea to test several keywords until you find the best ones to focus on. Sometimes the ones that convert better are the least expected ones, so make sure you perform research before you start a campaign.

    Keywords that combine high search volume with low competition are ideal. For a great primer on how to get started with researching keywords, don’t miss Nikolay Stoyanov’s Complete guide to keyword research for SEO.

    Find your audience

    The success of your PPC campaign depends on the relevance of the audience you choose to target.

    It’s important to find the right audience to promote a product, or a service. There’s no need to spend your budget in the wrong audience. If you’ve just started with PPC it may be preferred to focus on an audience who already knows you. This increases the chances to increase conversion, as it lifts the barrier of brand recognition as an initial step.

    Once you get the perfect understanding of the demographics you want to target, you can maximize the chances of developing a successful PPC campaign.

    A/B test your campaign

    A/B testing can occur in all stages of your PPC campaign.

    From the copy, the title and the image, to the landing page and the target audience, there are many ways to discover how to create a successful campaign.

    A/B testing allows you to understand what makes an effective PPC campaign and it may even offer you insights you didn’t expect.

    Make sure that every test has a clear goal and try to avoid different split tests at once, as this may not help you measure their effectiveness.

    Focus on the language of your PPC copy

    How does copywriting affect your PPC campaign? The language you’re using may impact the results of your campaign.

    You copy should be:

    clear
    descriptive
    relevant
    persuasive

    Moreover, emotional appeal can also affect your PPC copy. It’s easier to increase conversions once you understand what makes people click on an ad. Going beyond the relevance of the message, it also has to offer the trigger for users to be interested enough to click on it.

    Sophie Turton gave some interesting pointers on how to do this at last month’s Brighton SEO conference – read our writeup of her presentation to learn how to apply psychology to your PPC campaigns.

    Be careful with budget

    A bigger budget doesn’t necessarily increase the chances of success for your PPC campaign. Thus, there’s no need to immediately blow your entire budget on PPC ads, especially if you’ve just started.

    Start with a small budget and test the performance of your campaign. Once you’re getting used to PPC marketing, it’s time to proceed to the next step.

    This has to do with the art of balancing budget and ROI. PPC conversions don’t necessarily depend on a large budget. Instead, the understanding your audience and crafting relevant copy are what will increase the chances of success.

    Even if you do have a large budget for your first campaign, use it wisely. Focus on conversion, and pick the best options for your audience.

    Optimize your landing page

    The landing page for your PPC campaign should be as optimized as possible. This is the page that people visit once they click on your ads. Thus, it has to be as relevant and valuable as possible.

    If you want to ensure that your campaign is effective enough to increase conversions, then you need to ensure that your landing page reflects your goals.

    Is your landing page appealing?

    Does it facilitate the user experience?

    Is the loading speed tested?

    Last but not least, is the call-to-action clear?

    Overview

    If you’re interested in investing in PPC ads, then it’s time to discover how to create the right ad, for the right audience.

    All the tips above can help you analyse your campaign’s performance in the most efficient way. Approaching your campaigns with a “test and learn” mindset will offer you valuable insights, turning you into a PPC expert before too long.

    To sum up:

    Start with a small campaign
    Focus on the audience that you know
    Keep the budget low to begin with
    A/B test your campaign
    Pay attention to your copy
    Optimize your landing page