Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

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Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, we’ve got a special on stories about advertising and mobile, with a look at mobile ad viewability from our regular mobile columnist Andy Favell, and the news that Snapchat video ads are generating less than three seconds’ viewing time on average. Over on our sister site ClickZ, Tereza Litsa took a look at how neuroscience can activate brains in a mobile world.

And speaking of advertising, take our 10-minute survey to tell us how the events of 2016 affected your advertising spend, and you could win an iPad mini in time for Christmas!

What is mobile ad viewability, and why does it matter?

When advertisers pay for ads, they understandably want to make sure that the advertising will be seen by someone. So if an ad fails to display, is visible for barely any time or is triggered by a bot instead of a real person, the advertiser shouldn’t be charged for that impression.

Mobile expert Andy Favell delved into why this is even more of a headache on mobile than on desktop, and why mobile viewability is an issue on so many levels.

Snapchat video ads generate less than 3 seconds of view time on average

Snapchat has been a hot property in the marketing world for some time now, with brands racing to snap up (haha) the young and highly engaged audience that Snapchat gives them access to. Only, it turns out that this audience might not be engaging with ads much at all.

Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch this week on the news that Snapchat’s video ads are generating an average of less than three seconds’ view time. Can video ads, even ones which take up the entire screen and play with sound by default, generate any useful leads in under three seconds? As Al Roberts wrote:

If they ultimately don’t see lift and can’t trace action back to these ads, Snapchat, which is reportedly preparing to go public in 2017 at a valuation of $25 to $35 billion, could find that advertiser interest in its platform is as fleeting as the snaps that its users send.

2017 will be the year of machine learning, intelligent content and experience

Last week, we looked at the eight most important content marketing trends that marketers will need to pay attention to in 2017. This week, Jim Yu wrote for our sister site ClickZ about why 2017 will be the year of machine learning, intelligent content and experiences.

Jim took a close look at the role of machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence in understanding data, the importance of automation, and how we can balance machine learning and human capital in the digital ecosystem.

Why Black Friday won’t be going anywhere for a while

Every year, a debate springs up in the world of ecommerce and retail as to whether Black Friday is really worth it. Is the hype bigger than the revenue it brings in?

Well, Black Friday supporters can rejoice, because Robyn Croll reported for ClickZ this week on why Black Friday won’t be going anywhere for a while. Figures from the National Retail Federation have shown that Black Friday 2016 set a record for mobile sales – a total of $1.2 billion, up by 33% from last year. 154 million consumers shopped over the long holiday weekend, an increase of 3 million from last year. Overall spending was up, and Cyber Monday set a record for the biggest day in US ecommerce sales with a massive $3.45 billion in transactions.

In her article for ClickZ, Robyn Croll looked into what retailers learned from last year’s Black Friday shopping extravaganza, and how retailers and brands can still tweak their strategies in the run-up to Christmas.

How neuroscience can activate brains in a mobile world

ClickZ and Search Engine Watch contributor Tereza Litsa was at Integrated Live this week, and listened to Heather Andrew of Neuro-Insight explain how neuroscience can help increase engagement with mobile users. She wrote,

“It’s not easy to be effective with the ever-increasing mobile audience, but emotion along with memory can contribute to a more meaningful relationship between a brand and a target user.

As people become more attached to their smartphones, marketing needs to be adjusted to build trust between a brand and a consumer – and neuroscience can be helpful in this journey.”

Tereza broke down Andrew’s speech into five key takeaways, including how to make messages personalised and relevant to users; the importance of delivering emotional intensity; and why driving physical interaction with branded messages is useful.

Discount codes: 5 ways retailers can handle their deal addiction

Discount vouchers can be a great lever to grow top line revenues and engage new customers. However, they can also become a highly addictive and dangerous drug for retailers, increasingly relied upon (with diminishing effects) as a reaction to three major challenges:

Customers becoming conditioned to buy only with a discount; cannibalisation of organic sales; and a ‘pull forward’ effect with sales spiking artificially in the short term and declining post-promotion.

As their usage becomes increasingly widespread, there’s a rush by retailers to understand the full extent of their economic impact on the customer journey and get smarter with how they’re deployed.

Here are five strategies to make them work:

Have a plan.

Compelling offers that are aligned to recognisable events (Black Friday, January sales etc) can be powerful conversion levers at peak shopping times. However, if you’re focused on short term gains with heavy usage of tenuously themed codes, the chances are your customers will see through it eventually. As Jeff Bezos said:

“When things get complicated, we simplify by saying ‘what’s best for the customer?’ And then we take as an article of faith if we do that, it’ll work out in the long term.”

In the context of promocodes, ask yourself: what’s best for the customer? A commitment to consistently fair prices with reward-based discounts (for new customers, rewarding loyalty or guaranteed incremental purchases), or a convoluted mire of vouchers that leaves them questioning full-price value?

Restrain yourself.

Don’t compromise the plan to squeeze out some end of month/quarter sales, without understanding the exact cost. Do you know the effect on customer lifetime value? Have you calculated the impact of cannibalisation of otherwise full-price purchases? Have you forecasted the post-discount drop in sales accurately?

Consider them marketing spend.

It’s easy to consider discount code cost and revenues separate to traditional marketing channels, with the cost a percentage of margin at the point of sale rather than upfront cost.

However, in order to properly gauge the impact, it’s necessary to understand their effect on the whole end-to-end economics of the customer journey. One company we polled revealed that upon adopting our multi-touch multi-channel attribution model, they revised the ‘incrementality calculation’ for the long term bottom-line revenue impact from discount codes from 70% to 5% of the total revenue generated using them.

Be smart with targeting.

Identify and focus on channels and customer segments where the revenue they generate is more incremental. One example is exclusive offers through specific affiliate partners that can reach new customers and reduce the risk of cannibalising existing customer purchases.

One customer segment approach is to immediately target customers who recently purchased with a time-sensitive offer as a way of generating genuinely additional sales. At Fospha, one of our favourite features is building different customer segments with different propensities to convert either with or without promos. This way you can consistently and accurately avoid wasting promos on people already planning to buy.

Use intent triggers.

Many ecommerce platforms push discount code messaging at each stage of the funnel. Whilst this approach is effective at delivering the most impactful short-term revenue, it also maximises the cannibalisation effect and encourages customer association between the brand and discounting.

New generation customer journey optimisation companies like us help businesses understanding exactly where customers are most likely to drop off or abandon their carts and trigger in-site messaging with discount codes to increase conversion where they’re needed.

Jonathan Attwood is CEO at Fospha.

Fospha specialises in turning customer data from every user journey, interaction, device and silo into actionable insights to optimise the economics of every moment of the customer journey. Get in touch here.

Influencer marketing: the strides we’ve made in 2016

Influencer marketing saw a huge bump in popularity in 2016, and it’s expected to grow even more in 2017. The social media marketing industry is evolving faster than ever, which is why it’s important to stay on top of the industry changes coming in the New Year.

This is how your brand or agency will stay ahead of the curve to be better prepared for your influencer marketing strategy:

Marketers are investing more in influencer marketing

Recent “60 Minutes” reports show that influencer marketing is rapidly inserting itself into the mainstream conversation and is becoming more familiar to average consumers. As a result, marketers are investing more in influencer marketing.

This will cause influencer marketing to grow rapidly, relative to other marketing tactics. Brands are finding a lot of success connecting with their audiences through targeted influencers and this will only continue in 2017.

Influencer identification is top priority

Brands and agencies are learning that they will only be able to generate authentic content if they put in the necessary work before a campaign’s launch to find and recruit the right influencers for their programs.

Getting enthusiastic participants to create meaningful content and expose their audiences to your brand hinges on one thing: knowing who is a good brand match. SpaghettiOs knew that their product was a childhood favorite and a choice for busy moms everywhere. They chose moms and dads on Instagram who posted frequently with their families to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this beloved childhood snack.

Additionally, they worked with influencers who loved Sci-Fi, comic books, and video games to help promote the launch of their special edition Star Wars cans. The resulting content perfectly captures the fun spirit of the brand.

This type of effective influencer matchmaking is what drives the authenticity and engagement critical to a successful program.

Authenticity is the cornerstone of influencer marketing

Authenticity on the part of the influencer and the campaign strategy is key to any successful influencer marketing strategy. This authenticity comes from a confluence of the influencer’s posts and the audience’s expectations of that influencer’s content. This need for authenticity on the part of the brands and influencers becomes dire with the proliferation of spammy posts from some influencers. The brands and influencers who are able to build authentic programs for their audiences will succeed and see a measurable positive reaction from their audiences.

So in 2017, the onus will be on brands and agencies to build programs that enable this and find the right influencers who can post in these styles.

Brands giving influencers more room to create

As influencer marketing grew in popularity, more brands began jumping into the fray. Some that did were prescribing too strictly what they wanted their influencers to share. But this tendency takes away from the influencer’s skills and abilities to drive authentic engagement.

The brands with the most experience began giving their creators more flexibility and creative liberty to create content for the programs. These brands saw results with the authenticity of the influencers’ content and the response from their communities.

Hilton Garden Inn wanted to learn about the best spots in 19 different American cities so they could create an interactive map for guests visiting those destinations. They selected talented city-insider photographers to document their favorite spots around town. The result? An unfiltered guide to non-touristy destinations in some of America’s best cities and a major value add for Hilton Garden Inn’s guests.

In 2017, we expect brands to do a better job of setting up their influencers for success by giving them more creative opportunities such as this.

Using influencers for content creation

Some of the best accounts on Instagram are professional photographers who used their feeds to showcase their work. These creators were getting hired both as influencers to promote content on their Instagram accounts, and separately as commercial photographers.

More and more those lines are getting blurred and influencers are getting hired by brands simply to create content with no expectation of sharing publicly. Brands have an insatiable appetite for amazing visual content and influencer marketing is one of the best ways to keep up with these demands.

Consumers demand less spam

Though consumers are more familiar with influencer marketing in general, they’re also familiar with the dark side of the marketing tactic. Too many consumers have come to know the tactic as one associated with fit teas and body scrubs promoted by attractive models on Instagram. This is not only an ineffective way to promote any product; it also gives influencer marketing itself a bad name.

As consumers continue to view these types of promoted posts less favorably, we’ll see a decline in their frequency and an increase in content from the quality creators who are inspiring thoughtful brand activations that are authentic to their audience’s expectations for their feed.

Redefining success metrics

In 2016, every brand and influencer marketing agency set out to determine the ROI of influencer marketing. But the brands that were the most successful understood that the true returns of influencer marketing came from the influencer’s impact on the awareness building for the brand and their ability to add to the true story of the brand.

The savvy marketers went from pushing straight for downloads and sales success, to story building success.

Measurement in 2017 will move beyond simple vanity metrics like engagement and sales. Brands will begin to build a better understanding of where influencer marketing fits in their customer’s lifecycle and the brand’s storytelling.

Early in 2016, it was clear that influencer marketing was going to move beyond the practice of a few savvy, forward-thinking marketers to become an essential part of most marketing strategies. We’ve even seen a handful of traditional advertising/marketing agencies launch their own influencer departments this year in an effort to innovate. We’re excited to see how influencer marketing grows in 2017.

Brian Zuercher is the CEO & Founder of SEEN, and is a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

Three ways that AI is enhancing the ecommerce customer experience

Sponsored content in collaboration with Bijou Commerce. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines.

Artificial Intelligence might seem like a high-tech and lofty concept, but recent advances in technology have given rise to a number of more everyday applications for AI.

And in ecommerce in particular, brands who want to stay relevant and ahead of the curve are embracing AI as a way to enhance the customer experience, making it more personalised, efficient and intuitive.

Here are three ways that we are already seeing artificial intelligence in action across various sectors, which when applied to ecommerce, have the potential to take customer experience to the next level.

1. Natural language processing is making search more intuitive

We’ve all experienced the frustrations of trying to search with keywords – a constant process of trial and error which results in many of us giving up in frustration. “iPhone.” “Second-hand iPhone.” “Second-hand like new iPhone.” “Second-hand white iPhone like new.”

Wouldn’t it be better if we could just talk to our computers in full sentences, explain the exact parameters of our search, and have them understand?

Companies like Google and Microsoft are training their AI to interpret complex, multi-part queries.

Artificial intelligence, combined with the power of natural language processing – which allows machines to understand the nuances of human language – is making this possible. Companies like Google and Microsoft are already using voice search and complex, multi-part queries to continually improve their understanding of natural language.

As natural language processing is applied to ecommerce search engines, shoppers will be able to express their needs, desires and specifications in everyday language – resulting in a faster and more satisfactory shopping experience.

2. Visual search is making the physical world buyable

Visual search, a form of search which allows users to search with images or photographs of objects in their surroundings, is bringing the physical world into the virtual.

This has any number of applications for search engines and social networks, with the likes of Google and Pinterest already developing visual search capabilities that give users more ways to find what they’re looking for. But the most natural application of visual search is in ecommerce.

Think about the number of times you’ve been out and about, and wished you could find out where to buy that cool-looking bag, or those awesome shoes. With visual search, retailers can allow customers to snap a picture of an object they like and find a way to buy it, or buy something very similar, in their store.

A gif showing Pinterest's visual search in action on a smartphone, detecting objects around a room and bringing up related pins at the bottom of the screen.

The future of visual search in action.

Ecommerce giant Amazon has already incorporated visual search functionality into its mobile app and the Kindle Fire HD. Meanwhile, department store Neiman Marcus has partnered with visual search providers Slyce to produce a feature called Snap. Find. Shop. which allows shoppers to capture 3D images of items in any category, and receive matching items from Neiman’s product offering.

Visual search will soon be closing the gap between the moment of inspiration and the eventual purchase, making the transition between seeing an item and buying it absolutely seamless.

3. Chatbots are personalising the online shopping experience

Chatbots are artificial intelligence in miniature: every shopper’s own text-based personal assistant. They have been trialled by companies such as Facebook and H&M as a way of giving online shoppers bespoke attention at no extra expense to the retailer.

Chatbots can help customers more easily navigate the range of products for sale, provide personalised recommendations, and feed back in-depth data about customer preferences and behaviour to the retailer to help improve the business.

Two side by side screenshots of the Kik messaging app showing a conversation with H&M. One shows messages from H&M saying that they have just created a custom style profile for you. They invite you to choose a clothing item around which they will base an outfit. Underneath are a range of clothing items to choose from as a response. The second screenshot shows an outfit with a peasant blouse and black shoes. Underneath are the options Love it, Try again; or New search.

Chatbots like H&M’s Kik bot can offer personalised recommendations to the customer.

As artificial intelligence develops further, chatbots will be able to interact with the customer in almost human terms, potentially even solving customer service issues – or preventing them before they arise.

Ultimately, what we know so far about the future of artificial intelligence is very exciting, and is opening up a world of opportunities for retailers to learn more about their customers, personalise the ecommerce experience and engage with them on a whole new level.

Are you interested in machine-learning personalisation for your mobile channel? Contact Bijou Commerce for a no-obligation chat about what they can offer: marketing@bijoucommerce.com

6 Psychologically Proven Techniques to Boost Your Conversions in 2017

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What does a 1961 experiment have to do with boosting website conversions? You’ll find out as you read this article. First, it is important to establish some facts:

  • For every $92 spent on advertising, the average business spends just $1 on conversion — this explains the abysmal conversion rates most businesses have.
  • 99 percent of people who visit your website will not make a purchase on their first visit.
  • The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.81 percent — yet a whopping 73 percent of companies do not have an idea as to why people abandon their shopping carts.

If conversion optimization has always been a mystery to you, it shouldn’t be anymore. Below, I’ll be sharing some psychologically-proven techniques — many that were first documented decades ago — that you can use to boost your conversions in 2017. First, let’s start with that 1961 experiment…

  • What’s Stanley Milgram’s Experiment in Obedience Has to Do With Your Conversion Optimization Techniques

  • Sometimes in 1961 a famous psychologist, Stanley Milgram, decided to conduct an experiment to see what extent people were willing to go to obey authority. While this experiment was initially conducted to explain why German soldiers obeyed authorities to commit atrocities during the nazi regime, it has far reaching implications on marketing and conversion strategy.

    For the experiment, Milgram recruited participants through a newspaper ad. He then had his partner strapped to an “electric chair,” while a researcher in a coat lab (an authority figure) stayed in another room and asked participants to administer electric shocks to his partner. The whole setup was fake (the electric chair was fake and the participants had no idea that the “victim” was Milgram’s partner), but the participants all believed the experiments was real.

    Shocks were to be administered from a range of 15 to 450 volts — with 15 representing mild shock and 450 representing fatal shock.

    The results of the experiment was shocking. A whopping 60 percent of people obeyed the authority to administer the shock up to 450 percent, even when they thought the shocks were fatal.

    Now, here’s the kicker: The exact same experiment was repeated, but without the real presence of an authority figure. Compliance dropped to 20 percent.

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    As part of your conversion strategy, try to get authorities and niche influencers on board. Have them endorse your products and offers. The more authoritative they are, and the more recognized they are to your audience, the higher the conversion gains you will record. Also, make effective use of social proof you’ve gotten by highlighting them.

  • What the Little Albert Experiment Can Do to Your Conversion Rates

  • Famous psychologist John Watson conducted an experiment in 1920, that most certainly wouldn’t have been allowed today, called the “Little Albert” experiment. It involved a very young child with a natural liking for furry animals, especially a white rat.

    In the experiment, the child started off playing freely with furry animals — however, over time the experimenter made a loud bang whenever these furry animals came around. This gave the child a scare, and the child eventually noticed a pattern and associated the furry animals with the bang; eventually, just the presence of the furry animals was enough to give the child a scare.

    This experiment explains the classical conditioning phenomenon, a principle many top brands use: Apple is associated with luxury and high spend. Walmart, on the other hand, is associated with cheapness. What is your brand associated with?

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    Identify the association you want to people to build with your brand. Once you identify this association, consistently employ it — by subtly and directly communicating what your brand stands for. It might not have much of an immediate results on conversions, but consistent application of it will help you build a core group of loyal followers and help your long term conversion strategy.

  • The Paradox of Choice: While More Options Will Always Hurt Your Conversions

  • In his book The Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz used research to show that giving people too many options can have a paralyzing effect, negatively impacting conversions and making people unhappy. A classic study on choice was cited to argue his point:

    In a 2000 experiment, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper observed the actions of 754 shoppers in an upscale supermarket. About half of the shoppers were shown a variety of 24 gourmet jams while the other half were shown a variety of six jams. The experimenters discovered something shocking: while the large display of jams attracted more people, the display of six jams converted 10 times more people. That’s a 900 percent increase in conversions!

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    More choice could hurt your business, decreasing conversions by up to 900 percent. Carefully experiment with reducing the number of choices you give to people and measure the impact it has on your conversions.

  • The Little Black Bag Experiment and the Familiarity Principle

  • Does familiarity breed contempt, or does it breed content?

    The answer to the above question lies in an experiment conducted by professor Charles Goetzinger of Oregon State University. Goetzinger had a student come to class dressed in a black bag — a process that was repeated for months. Students were initially hostile to the black bag, but they gradually became curious and eventually came to like the bag. This proves the mere-exposure effect.

    Implication for your business in 2017:

    The more people are exposed to what you have to offer, the higher your conversion rates. Regularly share your content on social media — statistics show that resharing old posts on social media can boost engagement by 686 percent. Similarly, start an email list in order to give yourself an avenue to constantly reach your audience. The more avenue you have to reach people, and the more times you actually reach them, the more receptive they will become to your offer and the higher your conversion will be.

  • The Economist Pricing Experiment, and What Decoy Pricing Can Do for Your Sales

  • In an attempt to see the impact decoy pricing can have on sales, psychologist Dan Ariely decided to test the famous Economist pricing on 100 of his students at MIT. He initially gave them two options and asked them to choose:

    • Web-only subscription — for $59
    • Print and web subscription — for $125

    68 percent chose the web-only subscription and 32 percent chose print and web. Ariely then decided to switch things up by introducing a decoy price. He gave the following options:

    • Web-only subscription — for $59
    • Print only subscription — for $125
    • Print and web subscription — for $125

    This changed things drastically. A whopping 84 percent of people chose the print and web subscription (they felt they were getting a bargain!), 16 percent chose the web-only subscription and 0 percent chose the print only subscription.

    By introducing a decoy price, Ariely was able to make an initially unattractive, “expensive” package look like a bargain, more than doubling its initial conversion rate.

    Implications for your business in 2017:

    You can use this same principle to boost product sales, especially if you are selling expensive products. Introduce a decoy price that gives people something “extra” at the price of an apparently weaker product. Just because people feel they are getting a bargain, and that the price could be a mistake, sales and conversions will go up drastically.

    Conclusion

    Sales and conversions is not complicated. Once you know a few psychologically proven principles, you will be surprised at the massive conversion increase you can record. Make effective use of the above principles and watch your sales grow in 2017.

    John Stevens is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hosting Facts.

    Mobile ad viewability: what is it and does it matter?

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    Brand advertisers and their agencies only want to pay for mobile ads that are seen by a person. They do not want to pay for ads that are not ‘viewable’ i.e. they don’t render or are displayed where they are invisible; or for insufficient time to register the message.

    With brand advertising a mobile ad does not count as an impression and the advertiser thus should not be charged if:

  • The ad is not seen by a real person;
  • Because it fails to render or is displayed where it is unseen, e.g. below the fold, when the visitor doesn’t scroll; or
  • If there is insufficient time for the visitor to digest its message.
  • • The first factor is an invalid impression, often caused by ad fraud. These were discussed in the previous two columns.
    • Factors two and three are referred to as viewability, viewable ads or in-view ads and will be discussed in this column.
    • Brand safety or brand adjacency – i.e. the placing of content next to appropriate content, will be discussed in a subsequent column.

    This viewability standard is very new to mobile. And, in practice, ensuring ads qualify as a chargeable impressions, is even more of a headache on mobile than desktop, especially for native app advertising.

    Viewability is an issue on many levels:

    1. Digital ad viewability, generally, is a contentious political issue.

    It has led to some high-level industry bickering between advertisers, agencies, intermediaries and publishers. For example:

    • Unilever CMO Keith Weed is critical of industry standards (see below) for viewability and will not pay for any ad that isn’t 100% seen by a person.
    • IAB (US) president and CEO Randall Rothenberg is critical of agencies with a “lack of dedicated expertise” which place unnecessary complicated demands on publishers to account for viewability and invalid traffic.
      (Neither Unilever or IAB (US) were available for comment).

    2. Measuring viewability on mobile is even more difficult than on digital.

    • The industry had to wait until June 2016, before there was any standard for mobile viewability. See MRC Guidelines below.
    • These standards are for the US, and do not necessarily have international scope. The viewability standard for mobile in the UK, for example, is still a work in progress, headed by JICWEBS (Joint Industry Currency for Web Standards).
    • Quantifying viewability on mobile apps is even trickier than mobile web.

    3. Viewability isn’t the same as ad quality or effectiveness. It does not guarantee results.

    • You can thrust the wrong ad creative, in the wrong format, for the wrong product, in the wrong person’s face all day and they still won’t buy it.
    • Striving for max viewability can drive advertisers / publishers to use more intrusive ad formats, such as interstitials, which can alienate visitors and encourage ad blocking.
    • Viewability is more of an issue for brand advertisers, who pay CPM (cost per thousand impressions). For performance advertisers, who pay by results e.g. acquisition of a new subscriber / installation of a mobile app, it is far less of a concern than ad fraud.
    • Viewability is pointless if there is no guarantee that it is a human rather than a robot viewing the ads.

    Definition of mobile ad viewability

    MRC Mobile Viewable Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines (PDF), published June 2016 offers the following definition.

    Mobile viewable display ad impressions are counted when the following criteria are met:

    • Pixel requirement: Greater than or equal to 50% of the pixels (density – independent) in the advertisement were on an in-focus browser or a fully downloaded, opened, initialized application, on the viewable space of the device, and
    • Time requirement: The time the pixel requirement is met was greater than or equal to one continuous second, post ad render. This time requirement applies equally to news feed and non-news feed environments.

    Video Time Requirement:
    To qualify for counting as a mobile viewable video ad impression, it is required that 2 continuous seconds of the video advertisement is played, meeting the same pixel requirement necessary for a mobile viewable display ad.

    Why this definition is a good thing:

    Jason Cooper, general manager, mobile at Integral Ad Science.

    “For years we’ve seen media owners avoid addressing mobile viewability or brand safety concerns, citing reasons such as: ‘the MRC has not made up their mind.’ But now the MRC released its mobile viewability guidelines. So this should now help to align all sides of the industry in how to move forward.”

    But are the MRC guidelines too lenient?

    Anyone familiar with desktop display advertising will recognize that the mobile guidelines are remarkably similar to the MRC’s desktop viewability guidelines. These are the same guidelines which critics led by Unilever’s Keith Wood argues are too lenient.

    However, the MRC guidelines should considered the base standard, rather than the gold standard, according to Mark Finney, director of media and advertising, ISBA (Incorporated Society of British Advertisers):
    It is a misconception that the MRC standard is a “target” to be adhered to, it is really more of a baseline. A baseline is needed because all advertisers have their own viewability targets, but you have to have a definition of a “view” for comparison purposes and to calibrate measurement tools. What you choose to pay for is a different matter. However, some people think that MRC is advocating 50% for one second – it is not.

    Setting a lower threshold gives advertisers the flexibility to buy the type of inventory they require. So while some brand advertises call for 100% viewability to maximize eyeballs, this is less of a priority for performance advertisers who are interested in consumer interaction with their ads, but do not what to pay over the odds.

    Mark Finney:

    “Unilever has been very vocal that everything should be 100% viewable. Group M will not pay for anything less on behalf of its clients, and this would seem sensible, but there are downsides.”

    Not all advertisers share the “100% “view. Advertisers who are more focused on direct marketing care less about this than CPA (cost per acquisition). E.g. if the price is right and something is 40% viewable but had a measurable effect on sales they may be happy with that. To get 100% viewable ads carries a hefty premium.

    A good indication of the bewildering array of metrics / definitions currently used by agencies and advertisers to measure viewable impressions is to look at the data dictionary of a measurement company, such as Moat Analytics. ClickZ was shown a copy by InMobi. There are dozens of variants, depending on percentage of ad in view, time in view, position on the page and behavior of the user, all defined with different methods of calculation.

    How are mobile ads verified as viewable?

    Publishers, and increasingly agencies and advertisers, use independent verification companies.

    The list of vendors accredited by the MRC (PDF) currently includes 14 vendors. Check with the MRC which ones of these are ‘Compliant – Self Asserted’ and which are ‘Compliant¬ – Audited’.

    Only two of the 14 are currently accredited for mobile web and mobile app:

    • Integral Ad Science
    • Moat

    What proportion of ads are viewable?

    Unfortunately no company could supply any stats to show how many mobile ads are viewable. So we will have to make do with a chart for general display viewability from measurement company Meetrics. This suggests that more than half of display ads in the UK currently fail viewability tests.

    You might expect publishers to refute such numbers. But they do not.

    So what would it take to get publishers to improve viewability?

    That’s an easy one: advertisers will have to pay a premium for guaranteed viewability.

    Ben Price, group product manager, global media brands, at UK-based publishing house, Future:

    I think there are two things to understand – 1) Increasing viewability will always increase CTR (click through rate) – that’s a fact – because if the ad isn’t seen, then it isn’t going to be clicked. However, 2) Advertisers need to be aware that publishers aren’t currently flocking to drive viewability up, because the yield doesn’t make sense right now.

    For example, if advertisers were just to pay for viewable impressions, at a viewability rate of 50%, the publisher needs to see a rise of 100% in CPMs to achieve the same revenues as before. In reality, the publisher CPM increases are in the 20-30% range, which is why we haven’t seen widespread adoption from the publisher side.

    This also poses the question of how important viewability and CTR really are to advertisers, if the publisher CPMs aren’t in direct correlation to viewability and CTR, what other quality metrics should be measured?

    Does improving mobile viewability improve effectiveness?

    Tests run with one campaign by Future found that doubling the viewability of mobile web ads, increased CTR by 145%.

    Ben Price explains:

    “We focused on mobile ads on one of Future sites – and subsequently rolled it out across the portfolio. We did two main things. 1) Added a sticky footer (ad remains on screen, when scrolling) 2) Adjusted the placement of MPUs (Mid Page Units) to higher viewability locations on the page.”

    The CTR was pretty evenly increased across all campaigns and all ad sizes on mobile as a result. We compared to a previous 3 month average and saw similar sizes of increase in CTR as we rolled out on the other sites as well.

    Off the back of this test, we’ve been building out a dynamic ad serving technology that automatically optimizes the placement of ads across the sites, depending on the content, user and engagement, optimizing for viewability and time-in-view. We plan on launching in Q2 2017.

    This does not mean viewability is the same as effectiveness, points out Price:

    Viewability is a minimum metric and only indicates a minimum level of quality, we need to make sure that we are working to optimize quality at an advertiser, agency and publisher level.

    ISBA’s Mark Finney agrees. Confusing these two is a common mistake:

    “Don’t confuse viewability with effectiveness – they are two very different concepts. Viewability measurement is based on a minimum threshold to enable the validation of an exposure to an ad impression, but it is not a KPI (key performance indicator) in itself. It should be a hygiene factor.”

    Why mobile viewability is different and more difficult than desktop

    The first thing to note is that the smaller form factor means that if publishers, under pressure from advertisers, use more intrusive tactics to increase viewability, it will have an even greater impact on user experience. For example interstitial (interruptive) ads will take up the full-screen and (if badly designed) can be difficult to close, and large sticky ads take up far more of the real estate on mobile than on desktop.

    Mark Finney:

    “Trying to optimize to viewability can lead to creative decisions that can negatively impact the user experience and therefore the brand (intrusive overlays, interstitials etc.). This may also drive more users to ad-blocking.”

    Remember the context and the importance of creative – factors often overlooked in mobile where it is routine to re-use (or should that be “misuse”) creative designed for other platforms.

    The second thing to note is mobile connection times may be slower, so the ad may not even loaded fully by the time visitor has moved on.

    Verifying mobile web viewability is more difficult than desktop:

    The issue is that the technologies that vendors use to verify ads on the desktop are not necessarily applicable on mobile web.

    Integral’s Jason Cooper:

    “The over-arching issue is that in mobile we have moved away from an environment where URL’s (referrers), cookies and Flash were ubiquitous across all major desktop browsers, to an environment where none of these elements can be relied upon. Using a Flash approach solved measurement of unfriendly iframes in the desktop environment, but Flash is redundant on mobile, so for mobile web viewability we have to seek out new solutions for iframes.”

    The situation with in-app ads is even more complicated as they use a mixture of proprietary “native” technologies a long with web technologies.

    One effort to cure this is the IAB’s on-going MRAID (Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Definitions) standard.

    Jason Cooper:

    “Broadly speaking there are two approaches for measuring in-app viewability: a native approach, which is the MRC accredited route, and MRAID, which offers more scale, but in its existing form, isn’t MRC accredited.”

    Another major misconception is that all in-app ads are always in view because they have a fixed placeholder within the app. However, there are numerous use cases where this isn’t true, one case is with ads that are preloaded waiting to be shown at intervals dictated by the app developer such as between levels of a game. In this scenario the ad downloads and fully renders in the background, in a preloaded state, and of course all tracking pixels load along with it. However, if the user doesn’t get to that certain point in the game, then the preloaded ads are discarded, this is an important point to understand especially when an agency is trying to make sense of the data in their reporting.

    Mobile ad viewability – and viewability in general is a contentious and evolving subject. It helps if all members of the ad ecosystem are well informed. Get involved with whatever initiatives are running in your country and attend any events.

    This columnist recently attended a JICWEBS town hall that was well attended and informative (but the only advertiser speaker, from Unilever, wanted to keep his opinions secret).

    This is Part 38 of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series.
    Here are the recent ones:
    How agencies and advertisers can spot and combat mobile ad fraud
    Mobile advertising accounts for nearly half of digital spend, but it comes at a price: ad fraud
    Where is Google heading with mobile local search?
    Is Google killing mobile organic search

    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 @Andy_Favell

    Three major developments that will shape multi-channel marketing in 2017

    A screenshot from the dedicated Instagram account for Red Bull cliff diving world series, showing a thumbnail grid of different photographs and videos of people cliff diving.

    How have the events of 2016 affected your advertising spend? Take our 10-minute survey to benchmark your performance against competitors – and enter our prize draw to win £100 in Amazon vouchers.

    With the huge range of different marketing channels available to marketers today, it’s more critical than ever to have a marketing strategy that covers a variety of different channels.

    A 2013 study by Multichannel Merchant and Neustar found that 35% of companies already market on multiple channels, and a further 27% had plans to implement a multi-channel strategy in the near future.

    Among the customer touchpoints that the study’s respondents considered most critical to their organisation were search engines, cited by 61% of marketers; mobile, cited by 54% of marketers; and social media, cited by 53% of marketers.

    2016 has been full of developments that will have a huge impact on the way that marketers approach these channels in 2017 and beyond. So as we close out the year, what are some of the major developments that are likely to shape multi-channel marketing in 2017?

    ‘Mobile-ification’ of search

    This year has been full of huge updates to search that reflect the extent to which mobile now affects the landscape of digital.

    First, Google removed the ‘right-hand rail’ from the search results page and moved to only displaying paid ads at the top and bottom of the SERP. This made the layout of the main search results page more adaptive to mobile, and concentrated attention more on the ad positions that tended to perform better.

    Next came a major strengthening of Google’s mobile-friendly ranking system, commonly referred to in the industry as ‘mobilegeddon’, which moved to penalise websites which weren’t adaptive enough to mobile devices. Bing also implemented its own ‘mobilegeddon’ update in 2015 which allowed users to differentiate between sites that were and weren’t optimised for mobile, although it opted not to penalise sites for being unfriendly.

    In 2016, Google doubled down on favouring sites that are properly mobile-adapted in its algorithm. | Image: Google Resources for Webmasters

    Finally, in October, Google announced it would be doubling down on mobile search by splitting off desktop and mobile into separate search indexes – of which mobile would be its primary index. If marketers weren’t already making mobile a priority in their marketing strategy, these developments are sure to have lit a fire under them.

    The ClickZ Intelligence report ‘The State of Mobile Advertising 2016′ found that 56% of client-side and 44% of agency-side respondents characterised their (or their client’s) mobile advertising efforts as “beginner”, while only 13% of client-side and 16% of agency-side respondents described their mobile advertising strategy as “advanced”.

    However, a 2016 Marketing Trends Survey by Selligent and StrongView revealed that 52% of respondents planned to increase their spending on mobile marketing in 2016, a figure which is sure to get even larger in 2017 and in the years that follow. While for many marketers mobile is still considered a ‘bolt-on’ to desktop-focused activities, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite is true very soon, especially for organisations who care about search as a marketing channel.

    Visual social media

    I’ve written a number of times about the trend towards visual social media, with the increased integration of visual elements like video, gifs and images into formerly text-based platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and the rise of visually-focused platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.

    These channels might not be established marketing staples yet, but they are increasingly moving that way. YouTube was the fourth-most cited channel for respondents to the 2016 Marketing Trends Survey who were asked to name the top three performing networks for their social media marketing efforts (behind Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) with Instagram coming in fifth place.

    Overall Instagram is far outstripping the competition as a social platform for brands to grow their following, with a median average of 6-8% follower growth month on month, according to the 2016 Social Media Inflation Index. In total, this worked out to an average of 100% follower growth for brands throughout the year 2015.

    Instagram is one of the best platforms for brands to grow a following

    The rise of visual social media is why established platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made it a priority to integrate more multimedia into their platforms, with the addition of GIFs, short videos and live video streaming to stave off the challenge from more visual competitors.

    Noticeably, both Instagram and Facebook have also pioneered ephemeral visual content offerings in the style of Snapchat, which goes to show how much visual channels are influencing the game in social media. This will need to be a big consideration for multi-channel marketers moving into 2017, if they want to take advantage of the increased opportunities that visual provides.

    Increased integration of commerce and social

    Social media is generally treated as a channel best suited for building up brand visibility and traffic, for raising awareness but not for making direct conversions, as consumers tend to have lower purchase intent when they visit social networks. But several shifts in 2016 have signalled that this might not be the case for long.

    Social media and ecommerce have been overlapping more and more as social networks look to drive more revenue by integrating ecommerce features into their interface. The launch of Facebook Marketplace, the acquisition of Famebit by Google/YouTube and the change to Pinterest’s business profiles to showcase Buyable pins more prominently are just three recent examples of this trend.

    marketplace2

    Even where organisations aren’t using these features directly to sell products, it could prove more lucrative to advertise on social platforms where consumers are increasingly being put in a purchasing mindset.

    Social commerce, the closer integration of ecommerce and social, is a significant shift that has the potential to impact mobile, ecommerce, marketing and advertising, and marketers with stakes in any of these channels may well need to adapt their strategies accordingly in 2017 and beyond.

    Have your say on the state of paid search, social and cross-channel advertising in 2017. Take our 10-minute survey and be in with the chance to win £100 in Amazon vouchers.

    8 Tips for a Simplified Local SEO Strategy in the New Year

    Chat symbol and Quotation Mark - hanging on the strings

    It’s around this time that we resolve to do things just a little bit better than the year before. By mid-January, most of these resolutions have fallen to the wayside as they are too hard to consistently do.

    Often, the smartest resolutions aren’t those major changes, but small tweaks, replacing bad habits with good and introducing new ways of thinking about our routines.

    Once the holiday rush is over and sites are no longer on lockdown, its time to focus on the little things adjustments, but together can produce measurable local SEO gains. Here’s how to get started:

    1. Adapt Your SEO Strategy for Voice Search

    Earlier this year, we learned that an estimated 50 billion voice searches take place on personal assistants like Alexa, Google, Siri, and Cortana each month, accounting for about 10% of global search volume.

    This doesn’t require a reinvention of the way you do SEO, but small adjustments can help you capitalize on the voice search opportunity. For starters, consider the intent behind voice searches. Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to have local intent and are typically long-tail queries in more natural language. SEW’s Rebecca Sentance shared a great piece on adapting to voice search here to get you started.

    2. Shift Budget to Mobile

    Brands still spend an inordinate portion of their budget on print. Considering that many retailers are now seeing 70% or more of their traffic coming from mobile, your individual locations will benefit from a greater investment in mobile.

    Optimize your mobile pages for search and UX, use a mobile store finder, and keep mobile intent in mind as you’re naming pages and creating content.

    3. Focus on Local Link Building

    Links are still largely the currency of the web; your network tells Google how relevant you are in your local community and helps you rank on local queries. You don’t need to chase big media mentions or spend a ton on PR to see success in local link building.

    Instead, look for opportunities to connect with other stores, service clubs, sports teams and non-competitive entities in your area through co-promotion, sponsorships, etc.

    4. Get Your Local Listings in Order

    Cork, Ireland

    They’re already out there–your locations are listed in hundreds or thousands of local directories, networks and aggregators. Where that information is outdated or incorrect, user experience and rankings suffer.

    Automate the process of cleaning, optimizing and distributing your local listings data to ensure your listings are complete and accurate across major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, and across the local search ecosystem as a whole. Here’s how.

    5. Prioritize Your Store Locator

    How likely is it that a local consumer on the go is just going to realize your brand is the one they want, navigate to your national website, find your store locator, and seek out the location nearest them? The way many brands use store locators is a missed opportunity. Instead, optimize your store locator for higher search rankings on relevant queries, and for greater local visibility for each location. That way consumers get the information they need after just 1 click.

    6. Personalize Your Ads for Local Searchers

    Personalized retargeting, location extensions, and local landing pages with hyperlocal content are all great tools for boosting your local ad conversions.

    Start with the foundation of location and build out from there with other signals like demographics, time of visit, query and referring channel to drive localized content that connects with searchers in the moments that matter.

    7. Make UGC a Part of Your Content Mix

    Eighty-seven percent of consumers say that content can have an impact on their purchasing decisions, but 43% are turned off by a hard sell. The answer? User generated content (UGC), which also provides social validation and instills trust.

    When searchers have an immediate need, they don’t have the patience to sift through generic content; they want relevant, local recommendations from people they can trust. Integrating local UGC on your local landing pages is a quick win.

    8. Define Your Local Search KPIs & Get Right with Reporting

    Which metrics actually matter? Accurate tracking and reporting is critical, and you need to be able to take action on your insights. We shared a piece on defining your local search KPIs that you can use to lay the groundwork.

    Once you’re measuring what matters, comprehensive reporting closes the loop from search to sale, helping you turn that business intelligence into optimizations that further drive revenue.

    Local SEO doesn’t have to be complicated, even for multi-location brands with hundreds or thousands of locations. Brand-wide, you still have the opportunity to connect at a hyperlocal level.

    Make that local connection and engagement the driving force behind your 2017 SEO strategy, seeking efficiencies and ways to simplify as you focus on driving sales to your stores or other forms of local engagement.

    Can sub-three second video ad views deliver results?

    Snapchat Stories

    Brands have been upping their investments in new ad products from popular social media services, but are they getting their money’s worth?

    Some are reportedly starting to ask that very question in the face of metrics that raise questions about their potential efficacy.

    Take Snapchat and its ad offerings, for instance. Snapchat is one of the most popular social platforms in the world, and brands have been eager to take advantage of the opportunities Snapchat is increasingly giving them to advertise to Snapchat users.

    But as detailed by AdAge’s Garett Sloane, “one top advertiser” using Snapchat video ads has revealed that the ads generate less than 3 seconds of view time on average.

    “We still buy it, and are figuring it out,” the advertiser told Sloane. Another agency executive, who also spoke to Sloane anonymously, added, “The interstitial vertical video ad is challenging. People just tap through. That’s the behavior.”

    Obviously, this is almost certainly raising concerns for brands hoping to effectively reach young consumers through Snapchat, but while the company wouldn’t comment on the average video view times reported by one of its advertisers, it does believe that its ads are effective.

    A Snapchat spokesperson pointed to an eye-tracking study the company conducted, which found that Snapchat’s video ads captured more attention than the video ads on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

    Snapchat is also quick to point out that its video ads take up the whole screen and play with sound on by default, whereas video ads on services like Facebook don’t.

    But the question remains…

    Just what can advertisers hope to accomplish with video ads that don’t typically get more than two to three seconds of view time?

    Snapchat apparently thinks those two to three seconds are capable of creating value.

    One executive who works with Snapchat and spoke off the record told Sloane, “They want to create meaningful brand experiences, in as little amount of time as possible. You can’t make a sale in three seconds, but you can start a relationship with somebody.”

    Even if that is true, however, brands will eventually have to determine just how meaningful and valuable those three second relationships are.

    If they ultimately don’t see lift and can’t trace action back to these ads, Snapchat, which is reportedly preparing to go public in 2017 at a valuation of $25 to $35 billion, could find that advertiser interest in its platform is as fleeting as the snaps that its users send.

    6 tools for a better, smarter social media influencer campaign

    Brand24

    Influencer marketing involves a lot of listening, planning and experimenting. These tools will help you set up a social media campaign allowing to better find, monitor and approach influencers.

    One important word of caution though: Social media influencers should be tackled with huge care. Remember each of those people has a dedicated online audience: If you appear too spammy, they have eager ears to describe their bad experience to. An influencer media campaign can thus turn into an online reputation crisis.

    Always think twice before pitching the influencers anything: Brainstorm together with your team before taking any action.

    1. Start listening: Brand24

    The first step to setting up a solid influencer marketing program is to start listening to your audience on social media. Not only will it allow you to better engage with people who discuss your brand or products, but it will also help you better understand niche influencers, what they do for a living and how to best approach them in the future.

    Brand24 is a great tool for real-time social media monitoring and social analytics insights.

    It has very robust features allowing you to organize social media noise and make the best of it:

    • Set up employee collaboration to make sure there’s always someone listening
    • Set up many sources and keywords and organize them in groups (for example, “brand-sensitive”, “niche influencers”, etc.) to assign different teams or team members to different channels
    • Detect social media sales opportunities
    • Keep an eye on your competitors and who endorses them on social media
    • Access easy to digest social media analytics.

    It’s a good idea to keep all your social media influencers under a single channel to better interact with them and spot the best opportunity to approach them.

    2. Define your audience: MakeMyPersona (or an alternative)

    One of the most important part of forming groups of ambassadors is making sure they click with your target demographic. Which means they have to be a part of that demographic. You need to figure out who your audience is, what they want, what they like, and the concerns and needs they have. Hopefully you have already mined a lot of that data through past market research for advertising and product development. Start from there.

    If most of your target audience are trendy 20-something early tech adopters, for instance, then that is who you target as an influencer. They will immediately fit in with your audience, and convince them that they know what they are talking about. It drives a connection, and adds a tone to your brand, and the campaign.

    It’s a good idea to create personas for your niche influencers the way you’d create them for your customers as well. This way, it will be easy for you and your marketing team to understand how to best approach the influencers, which contests to try and engage them and which type of content would appeal to them.

    MakeMyPersona is a cool tool by Hubspot that helps you create marketing personas by taking you through the process step-by-step. It requires no registration, so you can play with it any time.

    makemypersona

    There are other tools that help with persona building. Two of my favorite tools are:

    • Userforge allows for cool collaboration features, so you can work on influencer personas together with your teams
    • Xtensio offers very clean user-experience and is very easy to use.

    3. Search for more influencers on Twitter: Buzzsumo

    Once you are all set with listening tools and you feel like you know your niche social media channel quite well, it’s a good time that you go out and find more influencers outside of your immediate circles.

    Buzzsumo

    Buzzsumo is the best tool to start here. It has a handy “Influencers” section where you can find influential Twitter users by typing any keyword in the search box.

    • Sort lists of influencers by their
      • followers,
      • reply ratio (shows how responsive this user is: Avoid broadcasters!)
      • average retweets (shows how many retweets each user’s tweet gets on average)
    • Add any influencer to Twitter lists or follow right from Buzzsumo
    • View tweeted links (i.e. links this user tweets) to get an idea of the type of content they like
    • Filter lists to see only bloggers, companies, journalists, etc.

    If you are into local business, you may want to also search for local hashtags. Local hashtags include city hashtags, event hashtags and venue hashtags. Use local directories to find more of those, e.g. Yelp, Patch, DJ Local, Zvents, etc

    4. Find influencers among your subscribers / customers: Followerwonk (or an alternative)

    There may be active social media users among people who have already bought from you (or subscribed to your list!). These people already know you and your company: they will be much more willing to respond and engage with your messages.

    Matthew Barby shared a very easy hack explaining how you can find Twitter accounts behind your email list for free:

    • Create a new Gmail account
    • Add your whole list to your address book
    • Create a new Twitter account under that Gmail account
    • Let Twitter follow everyone from that Gmail account
    • Here you go: People you follow = Twitter users behind your email list

    Now use Followerwonk (or other alternative) to analyze those you follow and identify people with solid following and interaction signals. These are your influencers!

    Followerwonk

    You can also use Twitter Tailored Audiences to reach those people even more effectively. Just upload your email list to Twitter and create a new audience to target your ads to. This way, you have higher chances to get noticed. Just don’t be too pushy: Don’t look like you are aggressively stalking those people.

    5. Find influencers who are looking to be pitched: ClearVoice

    ClearVoice is a solid searchable directory of niche influencers who created their profiles their and are in active (or passive) search for new gigs.

    ClearVoice

    You can create projects to have influencers apply or you can simply search the directory and reach out to influencers. ClearVoice also offers all kinds of publishing and editorial tools you may be interested in

    6. Set up smarter social media links: Startafire

    Not quite a most obvious influencer marketing tool, Startafire is a must-have tool for any social media campaigns you are thinking of.

    Startafire adds a badge with your recommended content within any link you share, to grow and expand your content’s reach. This is what it looks like:

    startafire

    This way, even when you are sharing your influencers’ links, you’ll still be able to showcase your (recommended) content and engage more people with your tweets.

    It integrates with all sorts of social media management sites and platforms including Buffer, Hubspot, Hootsuite and many more.

    Are there any other influencer marketing tools that belong to this list? Please share them in the comments!