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RKG is a digital marketing agency providing data-driven solutions to online marketing challenges.



 



How I Used Paid Social to Save My Dog’s Life

5 Dec 2016 11:41:50

Ernie, my one-and-a-half-year-old Boston terrier ran away the day we were moving into our new home this summer. Little did my wife and I know that the following 23 days would be some of the most stressful we have ever encountered. On the day we moved out, we had Ernie staying at my in-laws under the supervision of family, three hours away from our old house, and two hours from our new residence. When doing his normal morning routine outside, something must have spooked Ernie, which led to him running into the woods. We immediately rushed back to start the foot search. A day passed, and the tough task of stapling “lost” flyers on every light pole in town was upon us. Every staple was a punch in the heart. That evening, feeling helpless, I decided to apply my career skillsets towards bringing our sweet boy home. We turned to Facebook and we did more than just ask friends – we created an ad campaign. Crafting a Campaign to Find Ernie Any good digital marketer knows to start by defining their desired audience, based on the goals of the campaign. Our primary goal was to bring Ernie home. The goal of this ad campaign was to create awareness with the measurable goal of a sighting of Ernie. Obviously, we wanted to reach people in the vicinity of where he was last seen. Geo-targeting helped us achieve this by allowing us to define a target radius of 10 miles from where he was last spotted. Not everyone in that area is going to see a missing dog ad and drop what they are doing to help, so we further refined our targeting. Pet lovers, specifically cat and dog lovers, seemed like a no-brainer as a good group to target with our ads. Knowing Ernie’s past behavior, the possibility of him approaching a stranger was unlikely. For this reason, we also added a targeting layer of people interested in outdoor activities, as they are most likely to be outside, and may have potentially seen him roaming around in the distance. We got our targeting set up, then moved on to creating an ad that would give us the best chance at meeting our goal. The ad copy for this campaign clearly identified our objective and struck a familiar chord to the end user based on our use of a geographic reference. The image drew attention, yet still clearly showed what Ernie looked like and how handsome he is, specifically his distinctive underbite. In less than 24 hours, we got a call as a direct result of our Facebook ad campaign. “Monica” informed us that she had seen the Facebook ad and wanted to help however possible due to her background with pet rescues. She lived within 10 miles of my in-laws and had a passion for helping pets.  The response gave us confidence that audience targeting was reaching the right users, even though Monica hadn’t actually seen Ernie. This initial paid targeting helped to fuel the entire campaign organically, as we observed organic reach and page likes increasing in volume at a much faster rate than prior to the paid campaign. More than two weeks had passed though, and still no sightings of Ernie. On day 20, we finally received a call from a lady named Barbara. She told us that she may have seen a Boston terrier running around her neighborhood, 6 miles from where Ernie ran away and matching his description. Barbara had seen the Facebook ad, as she was within the 10 mile radius and had an interest in both pets and the outdoors (after talking with Barbara we learned that she in fact fit our targeting mold). Barbara had also seen an ad we posted on a local classifieds internet page dedicated to school teachers in that area. We were skeptical of a sighting in a neighborhood that far away from Ernie’s last sighting, but decided to meet her at her house to walk around the neighborhood. We were amazed to find out that others in the neighborhood had also seen a Boston terrier, with one neighbor saying the dog he had seen looked identical to our picture. We set up wild game cameras, and the next day, we had a picture of Ernie! He was alive. On day 23, we captured Ernie, who had survived climbing over a mount[...]



Google Paid Search Delivers Strong Cyber Week Sales Growth for Retailers

2 Dec 2016 11:36:29

Driven by holiday shopping, the fourth quarter is obviously such a crucial period for retailers, most of whom rely heavily upon paid search ads to help drive both e-commerce and offline revenues. The quarter got off to a solid start with online paid search-driven sales up 13% Y/Y through mid-November, but the real fun doesn’t start until the week of Thanksgiving in the US. It’s been reassuring to see that performance has only improved as we have entered the peak of the holiday shopping season and advertisers have gotten through the pivotal Cyber Week. Mobile and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) remained the biggest drivers of growth, but text ads continue to deliver for advertisers as well, especially as consumer search and shopping behavior changes after Thanksgiving. Once again, sales appear to have shifted earlier in the week to Black Friday and over the weekend, but sales growth is still trending above early-Q4 levels as we have passed through to the post-Cyber Monday period. Here are some of our other findings on Cyber Week performance across key dates, ad formats, and devices, as well as some considerations for closing out the quarter on a high note: Thanksgiving Day Sales Growth Mixed after Strong 2015 After growing 39% Y/Y from 2014 to 2015, Thanksgiving Day sales driven by Google paid search rose just 12% between 2015 and 2016. There were a wide range of results, however, with the variability in growth rates from one retailer to the next running about twice as high as on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. We saw a similar pattern last year and this phenomenon likely reflects the impact of differing promotional strategies from brand to brand. As expected, mobile traffic share peaked on Thanksgiving, hitting 69% of search ad clicks. Phones produced 58% of clicks, up from 42% a year earlier, while tablets produced 11% of clicks, down from 17% in 2015. Mobile sales continued to lag mobile click volume, as phones and tablets combined for 44% of Thanksgiving Day sales. Phone traffic has narrowed the conversion performance gap with desktop traffic though, producing 31% of 2016 sales. Online Sales Continue to Shift to Black Friday Black Friday paid search-driven sales grew 34% Y/Y in 2016, a solid improvement from 25% growth between 2014 and 2015. Cyber Monday sales eclipsed those on Black Friday again this year, but the gap has narrowed considerably in recent years. In 2011, Black Friday was just the 14th biggest paid search sales producing day of the holiday season. It has now been the second most revenue volume for four years in a row. Although mobile produced a slightly lower percentage of Black Friday sales than Thanksgiving Day sales, combined phone and tablet sales share was up 13 points on Black Friday from the previous Friday and even outpaced a typical weekend when mobile share tends to spike 5-10 points above the weekday average. Google PLAs Produce Majority of Non-Brand Cyber Week Sales, but Share Slips Post-Thanksgiving From the start of Q4 through mid-November, Google PLAs produced 65% of retailers’ sales from non-brand Google search ads. That rate began to slip noticeably on Black Friday, mirroring seasonality from recent years. On Cyber Monday, PLAs produced just over 59% of non-brand sales. Along with major changes to other metrics like cross-device conversions, click-to-order latency, and average order value, the small, but clear decline in PLA sales share is another example of how consumer search and shopping behavior changes significantly after Thanksgiving. Compared to 2015, PLA growth remains robust though, with sales produced by the format up 53% Y/Y from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. For comparison, text ad sales rose 16% Y/Y over the same period. PLAs continue to benefit from mobile and partner growth, including from Google image search, as well as from the Local Inventory Ad variant, which is included in these PLA figures. There Are Still Plenty of Shopping Days Left While most retailers have seen strong performance from paid search ads in Q4 [...]



Most Brands Should Use 2015 Cross-Device Data in Analyzing Early Holiday AdWords Performance

30 Nov 2016 10:45:07

The holiday shopping season is officially in full swing as Black Friday and Cyber Monday sent many retailers’ sales skyrocketing. Paid search ad spend followed a similar trajectory for most advertisers, and brands are now hurriedly assessing this year’s early performance in order to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and how to move forward. One key consideration many advertisers take into account when calculating AdWords bids is Google’s cross-device conversions metric, which is an estimate of the number of orders on one device which are tied to a paid search click on a different device. As many consumers now own multiple devices with which to search and convert, this metric is valuable in better estimating the expected value of paid search clicks. However, one key bit of information to note on cross-device conversions is that these conversions will continue to accrue for each particular day for as long as the duration of the conversion window. The conversion window is assigned for each conversion type in AdWords, and dictates how long after clicks or impressions (view-throughs) that orders tied to a click or impression will be attributed to and reported on in AdWords. While both single-device and cross-device conversions are attributed to the date on which the paid search click occurred, cross-device conversions are more likely than single-device conversions to occur at a later date. Thus, the lift in conversions created by adding cross-device estimates to single-device conversions often grows larger for any single day over the course of the conversion window for each account. Some brands choose very short conversion windows of just one or two days, and this is less of an issue for those advertisers since it wouldn’t take long for all cross-device conversions for a date to be fully populated. However, any advertiser using, for example, AdWords’ default conversion window of 30 days can see significant movement in the number of cross-device conversions attributed to a particular day throughout the course of the conversion window. As such, advertisers with conversion windows longer than a couple of days may want to use last year’s cross-device lift during the holidays in order to estimate the lift this year, instead of looking at recent cross-device lift for bidding calculations. This is also true throughout the rest of the year, but can be especially important during the holiday season. Taking a look at the lift cross-device conversions accounted for in 2015 for the median Merkle retail advertiser, we find that cross-device conversions accounted for a smaller share of total weekly paid search conversions during the holiday shopping season compared to the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, a trend also observed in 2014. This trend indicates that searchers are more likely during the holiday season to convert on the same device searched on and/or head to a brick-and-mortar location for a purchase rather than switch devices. Paid search order latency and AOV also decline during the holiday season, and all of these trends point to quicker/less considered purchases during this time. Conclusion If your AdWords conversion window is just one or two days, it’s pretty easy to use recent cross-device performance in calculating bids throughout the holiday season as data will be fully populated quickly. However, for an advertiser using the AdWords default window of 30 days, cross-device conversions attributed to Thanksgiving Day might continue to grow all the way until Christmas Eve. As such, it makes sense for many advertisers to focus on what the cross-device lift looked like last year in adjusting bids during the rest of this holiday season. Take this into consideration as you continue to optimize your AdWords account throughout this pivotal time of the year. [...]



One Last Thing You HAVE to Do for Your AdWords Account before Carving the Turkey

22 Nov 2016 14:44:45

The marathon of holiday shopping prep is nearing an end, and many marketers can probably already smell the faintest hint of turkey and stuffing and yams and apples and….you get the point. But before you go home, there’s one last massive thing you absolutely have to do for your account right now – create Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) audiences comprised of visitors to your site during Cyber Weekend and the holiday season in general. Doing so will allow you to target these visitors throughout 2017, including next holiday season, thanks to recent RLSA changes. How to Create Holiday Visitor RLSA Lists Advertisers can create RLSA lists that are populated only with people who visited an advertiser’s site between two specific dates. Using this option, advertisers can create lists specifically comprised of users who visit between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and use those lists to target  those people after the holiday season is over. The most important thing to note, however, is that these lists have to be created prior to the dates included. For example, if you created a list to include visitors between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day on the Monday after Thanksgiving, no visitors between Thanksgiving and Sunday would actually be included in that list, as visitors can only be added to existing RLSA lists and will not backfill. Thus, it’s incredibly important that you move to create these lists right now if there’s even a slight chance you’ll want to use them later. Aside from creating general lists of all site visitors and converters during the holiday season, advertisers may also want to create more specific lists like Cyber Weekend visitors to use during the rest of the current holiday season, or perhaps create an audience comprised of last-minute shoppers to use next year. Note: Advertisers do not have to add these audiences to campaigns now in order to accrue visitors – they just have to create them in their AdWords account prior to the dates targeted. Google’s RLSA Update Opens up New Opportunity for Targeting Holiday Shoppers Next Winter This is the first year in which users included in an RLSA list from this holiday season will stay in that list for targeting next year, as Google changed the number of days site visitors can remain in RLSA lists from 180 to 540 days in September. Longer duration RLSA lists also open up other possibilities such as targeting ads for six or 12 month subscriptions in a timely manner, and more aggressively pursuing annual purchasers for other holidays such as Valentine’s Day. This means advertisers need to be thinking ahead about what types of lists they might want to target further down the road. For many, the upcoming holiday shopping season presents the busiest time of the year in accruing site visitors, and can thus be considered one of the most important times to create RLSA lists for future use. Don’t be the naughty advertiser without any RLSA lists to target once the holiday season wraps up. Get those audiences created today. [...]



Facebook Moves to Curtail Discrimination through Ethnic Affinities Targeting

22 Nov 2016 8:21:47

Hi, my name is Andy Taylor and you’re watching another Merkle Insight video. Today I’d like to talk about Facebook’s recent move to restrict advertisers from marketing housing, employment, and credit opportunities using ethnic affinities.

Now, ethnic affinities capabilities have been around for a couple of years and while they don’t actually target users who are definitively a part of a particular ethnicity, they take a user’s interests and habits into account in deciding which users have an affinity or might be connected to an ethnicity.

And so recently Facebook has come under a bit of fire for this because advertisers could theoretically target housing, credit, and employment opportunities based on a particular ethnicity and also turn it off to other users who are of a different ethnicity. So this is a pretty good move on Facebook’s part in terms of curtailing discrimination in these areas, however an important thing to understand is that this isn’t the only way that discriminatory practices can be perpetrated on Facebook or on other digital marketing platforms.

I think an easy way to understand this is thinking about something like geographic targeting. Now the geography of a user tells us a lot of different things about that person. It tells us what the average household income of the area the user is in might be. It also tells us things like weather patterns as well as proximity to brick and mortar stores, and these are all factors that advertisers like to take into account in deciding what kinds of advertising to show a particular user as well as deciding which users they actually want to target. So one thing that geography can also tell us is what the probability of a user being a part of a particular ethnicity is.

So even though advertisers are no longer allowed to use ethnic affinity targeting in these industries, discrimination can still happen using targeting methods such as geography.

So just like offline, in online advertising it’s very difficult to completely stomp out discrimination, and that’s going to be a debate that happens over the next few years in terms of whether or not the advertising industry itself can fully police itself or whether or not there will be further government regulations.

That’s it for today, but thanks for joining and if you’d like to hear anything for about Facebook or other digital marketing opportunities please stay tuned to the Merkle Blog and other Merkle Insight videos as we’ll certainly have more content for you to check out. Thanks everybody.

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4 Ideas to Optimize for Voice Search

17 Nov 2016 10:16:51

Hi, Alexis Sanders here with four tips for optimizing your voice search.

Voice search has been gaining a lot of popularity over the years. Even Google’s CEO during his Google I/O speech mentioned that voice search was driving 20 percent of all mobile and android searches. A survey by MindMeld mentioned roughly 60 percent of users had said that they’d been using it.

And finally voice search was even brought up on Google Webmaster Tools Office Hours when they discussed adding voice search as something they would potentially consider for google search console.

SEOs have focused on optimizing for textual searches and voice searches are a little bit different. They tend to be a little bit longer and they tend to be a little bit more question focused a little bit more natural language. For instance, most people wouldn’t say ,”Alexa, Bill Gates.” Instead they say something a little bit more like, “Alexa, who is Bill Gates? Where was he born? Who is his wife? What does he do for a living?”

So let’s get into the tips of four things that you can do to optimize your site for voice search.

1. Answer users’ questions.

You want to be the resource that answers things that are even tangentially related to your product. Now you want to make sure you don’t interfere with your product acquisition pages, however you want to create content that interests users and makes you the go to guy for search engines like Google.

2. Create sentences that are noun focused and that have a very clear structure.

Subject, predicate, object. That will make it easier for search engines to parse, as well as users to read.

3. You want to make sure you structure your data.

Schema.org was introduced by Google, Bing, and Yahoo in 2011. It’s a way of taking that messy data world and organizing it and consolidating it to make content more understandable and graspable for search engines.

4. Internal linking. 

Identify thematic linking opportunities throughout your content, thereby generating easier navigation for the bots, as well as users as they go throughout your content.

That has been four tips on optimizing your voice search.

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6 Ways to Spread E-commerce Cheer this Holiday

16 Nov 2016 9:58:40

The leaves have changed colors, football season is in full swing, and before you know it…it will be Thanksgiving. This can send both consumers and marketers into a panic trying to prepare for what lies ahead over the coming weeks. Don’t worry, there are still a few last-minute tips you can implement to ensure a successful e-commerce holiday season. Find Your Best Gift Givers on Digital The first priority for reaching customers through search is ensuring keyword lists and Google Shopping feeds fully encapsulate the products you have to offer and the ways that your customers tend to search during the holidays. The customers you see purchasing for you in Q4 may or may not be the same that you see throughout the year, which can impact which queries you might want to trigger ads for through both Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and text ads. For example, “gift card” terms may be less productive throughout the year but are more likely to convert during the holidays, particularly as shipping deadlines loom. Advertisers should look back to queries that drove orders during last year’s holiday season and ensure relevant terms are still represented this year. And, of course, launch keywords to account for any new or hot product offerings that weren’t sold last year. Beyond ensuring that PLA and text ad campaigns are set up to show ads for all relevant queries during the holidays, advertisers need to be taking customer affinity into account. Gone are the days when marketers could sit back and expect returns from a blanket approach for all shoppers, and brands should be looking to target existing customers and past site visitors intelligently through Google’s Customer Match and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. E-commerce marketers should use these audiences to test the full value of customer data this holiday season by customizing ad messaging and experiences. Each customer contributes uniquely to your business, and optimizations should seek to drive as much value out of each interaction as possible. Consider testing audiences comprised of customers who’ve shopped with you in prior holiday periods as they may be shopping for the same gift recipient and could be more likely to buy from you again for that person. Although volume may be modest, we’ve seen very high click through and conversion rates for these holiday shopping audiences. Tweak Your Mobile Strategy for Holiday Shopping Mobile paid search traffic share is consistently increasing, and typically spikes around key travel days such as Thanksgiving (up over 10% from prior Thursday in 2015) and Christmas (up over 15% from week earlier in 2015), when users are less likely to have other devices available to them. Mobile share also rises at the end of the fourth quarter, presumably due to last minute brick and mortar shoppers ahead of Christmas and as a result of the new mobile devices people receive over the holidays. E-commerce marketers need to place a high level of focus on mobile site optimization to ensure smooth interactions during this pivotal time. It’s also important that performance be evaluated in such a way so as to properly value this traffic, not only for conversions on those devices, but also for mobile research that converts on other devices and channels. At a weekly level, we see the biggest lift from cross-device conversions in early November, across all device types. This cross device impact then steadily declines throughout the holiday season, picking back up slightly the week of Christmas: Be On Point with Holiday Messaging You have heard it before and I will say it again: holiday messaging needs to be consistent across platforms. Just as with other marketing tactics, e-commerce marketers need to have a content calendar in place in order to queue up timely ads. Below is a high level sample content calendar for your paid search holiday campaigns: Spend some time looki[...]



Chinese E-Commerce Watch – Branding Opportunities on Baidu

10 Nov 2016 8:59:42

This article first appeared on The Huffington Post. Singles’ Day, China’s biggest e-commerce day annually, takes place on November 11. For just one single day, Tmall (the main shopping platform under Alibaba Group), will generate sales that eclipse the entirety of US e-commerce revenue on Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined ($5.8 Billion). For example, in 2015, Tmall witnessed 91.2 billion RMB in sales, which is equivalent to $14.3 billion USD, breaking the previous record (also owned by Tmall) only halfway through the day. In total, 2016 Tmall singles day sales beat the previous ecommerce record by 59.7% and beat Black Friday/Cyber Monday revenue by 146%. The massive ecommerce activity on Singles’ Day is not limited to Tmall alone as the online shopping heat expands across the entire Chinese ecommerce space. This presents a massive opportunity for ecommerce advertisers considering expansion into China. [Singles' Day] presents a massive opportunity for ecommerce advertisers considering expansion into China.Baidu, the No.1 search engine in China, is an inseparable part of the e-commerce ecosystem. Last year, Merkle announced its official partnership with Baidu, which means Merkle is Baidu’s first US-headquartered reseller for brands seeking growth in China (learn more about Merkle & Baidu partnership here. In addition to its basic search engine function, it offers a wide range of services including Baidu Map, Baidu Cloud (a cloud storage service), Baidu Encyclopedia, Baidu Experience, MP3 Search, travel-booking, and so on.   As part of the Merkle search team, we are most interested in Baidu’s primary advertising product, similar to Google AdWords, which is called Baidu Tuiguang (which means “promoting” or “advertising” in Chinese). This platform allows advertisers to show their ads on Baidu search results pages and on other websites that belong to Baidu Union (similar to Google Display Network). If you have experience with both Google AdWords and Baidu Tuiguang, you’ll find them very similar in terms of keyword creation, campaign management, and bidding adjustments. There are even additional targeting features and products that mirror previous/current Google betas. For example, our team is testing a product called “Brand Industry Bidding” that functions similarly to Google’s Target Outranking Share Bidding product, by enabling advertisers to bid on relevant domains as opposed to keywords (more to come in a separate blog post). However, the disappointment is that Baidu’s tools are all in Chinese, which poses a big challenge for non-Chinese speakers. That’s why we wanted to share what we learned about Baidu Tuiguang here, so that anyone interested in using Baidu to promote their brands won’t be deterred by the language barrier. An earlier report from Boston Consulting Group shows that Chinese consumers care more about brands than Westerners do, which means getting their brand names in front of potential customers is even more crucial for advertisers extending their businesses in China. To better serve advertisers to achieve that, Baidu offers different solutions for businesses at different scales. We’d like to introduce you to the following three types of brand ads that are often used by advertisers on Baidu Tuiguang. 1. Brand Zone This type of brand ad has a similar look as RAIS (Rich Ads in Search) on Bing. They show in the top position on SERP (search engine results page), including multiple links to the site. Compared to RAIS, Brand Zone owns a bigger space on SERP so that they are more likely to catch people’s eyes and get a higher CTR, a result proven out through testing by our Baidu SEM team. However, Brand Zone runs on a CPT (cost per time) model, which means the ads are purchased on a monthly basis. According to Baidu, the price of the ads depends on the estimated traffic o[...]



Strengthen Your Core: Paid Search Landing Page Best Practices Part 1

3 Nov 2016 9:38:47

In the always changing world of paid search, it’s easy to get wrapped up in new ad extensions and betas to the point that we begin to lose sight of the foundation of search. However, without the right keyword, smart bidding, relevant ad copy, and appropriate landing pages, even the snazziest visual sitelink won’t convince a user to convert. So, let’s go back to the basics, lay a solid foundation, and strengthen the core of our campaigns, just in time for the holiday shopping season! Ten years ago, the tried-and-true keyword-bid-ad copy-landing page combination worked largely the same way it does today (although the SERP itself has changed quite a bit). In this post we’ll revisit the importance of choosing the right landing page and tricks of the trade to keeping your users engaged after they click. Once your foundation is laid, there’ll be plenty of time to add all the bells and whistles that you want. Until then, let’s take a step back and look at one of the key components of a successful paid search program. Landing Page Selection 101: Pretend You Are The Customer Some basic background thoughts to keep in mind: you’ve been shopping on the internet for years now, so think about what you would want to see on a landing page after you click on a link. Think about the search query and the types of results you would expect to see, or would want to see, in order to make the best shopping choices. Let’s start with where we are in the shopping funnel timeline and the types of keywords associated with that level of detail in the search process. If we’re just starting our shopping for “women’s clothing”, we need to be prepared to land our users on a more general page that would provide lots of women’s clothing options, highlighting all of the areas that the website can satisfy -- from shirts and pants to accessories and outerwear. If a website sells both men’s and women’s apparel, there is usually a dedicated women’s menu choice (a category-level landing page) which should showcase a page designed specifically for this level of shopping. We would expect to see choices for all of the various types of women’s apparel, presented in an aesthetically pleasing way, along with clear ways to navigate to the next level of specificity. In the example below, this women’s category-level landing page would be a strong choice for the keyword “women’s clothing”. Choosing anything more specific (the shirts page or the footwear page, for example) would restrict the user to just that particular clothing item. If the user isn’t savvy enough (or worse … too lazy!) to navigate up one level on the website, they might just choose to bail out on it altogether. And that’s what you’re looking to avoid (site abandonment), first and foremost, because you’ve already been charged for the click. You need to make the best of it, and give the user the best chance to convert on that click. Now let’s say the user enters the shopping funnel timeline already knowing that she needs a new sweater. So we’re working with “women’s sweater” for our keyword now. She may not know what type of sweater she’s looking for, so we’ll want to show her some choices. We now have the option of using either the “Sweaters” subcategory-level landing page, or a website search results page for “women’s sweater”. Which one you choose to use depends on several factors, some of which are: The number of products on the page Whether top-sellers are featured on the page The ability to sort or drill down to more detailed choices In the example, below, the search results page returns a larger number of products than the dedicated women’s “Sweaters” page (235 vs. 74). However, the filtering is only for sizing options, which doesn’t seem like the most important filter option at this[...]



Google Mobile Impression Share Declines as Expanded Text Ad Volume Spikes

28 Oct 2016 10:00:59

Google Expanded Text Ads are here, and here to stay. But as we’ve previously noted, the reality of Google’s rollout of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) hasn’t always lived up to the buzz of expectations. Recently, a few of our client teams uncovered a troubling correlation between the increase in ETA traffic and a decrease in impressions. About a month ago, we noticed that brand traffic was declining for one of the programs we manage. We dug into our top brand terms to see if we could isolate the problem. CPCs had remained steady, but our impression share (IS) had fallen off. Looking at the AdWords auction insights report, we didn’t see any new competitors – or any at all for that matter – bidding on our brand terms. Taking a look at IS data by device though, the issue was clearly stemming solely from mobile. After looking at overall CPC trends, we were fairly certain this wasn’t a bidding issue, but we took a look at the mobile CPC trends as well. Mobile CPCs had fallen slightly, but the decline didn’t quite justify the sharp drop we were seeing in mobile impression share. ETA traffic had been ramping up since early June, and we were wondering if this could be having an effect on our impression share. Was there something about ETAs serving on mobile that could lead to decreased impressions? Indeed, we saw that as our share of mobile impressions coming from ETAs jumped up, mobile IS dropped off. The increase in ETAs serving was driving down our mobile IS. But why? We dove deeper into the data to look at the trends on Google.com vs. Google Search Partners. Interestingly, we found that our mobile IS on Google.com for our top brand term had remained steady. It was our search partner traffic that saw mobile IS fall off. The drop off was perfectly timed to the rise in impression traffic coming from ETAs. We quickly discovered that this issue was not isolated to one search program. Another program had tested going all in with ETAs after Google assured them that they wouldn’t see a drop in traffic by just running the expanded ad format. As soon as that program paused their legacy ads though, traffic took a steep drop. That team dug into the data comparing Google.com traffic to search partner traffic and found that the decrease in traffic was also coming exclusively from search partners. After sharing the data with Google, they were told that some search partners may not have the real estate to support and serve ETAs. Our team responded by reactivating their legacy ads and traffic returned to normal. While Google hasn’t made a big push to raise awareness of this issue, it does seem that not all search partners can fully support the new ETA format. Advertisers should be aware of how this may impact their overall traffic as ETAs continue to ramp up. These trends were easy to spot for these specific programs due to their high volume of search partner traffic. If your client or company doesn’t see a large percentage of impressions coming from search partners, you won’t be impacted as drastically. Additionally, we are not certain which search partners are causing this issue; so based on the makeup of your search partner traffic, you could see varying effects. If you start to see a decline in your traffic, dig in to see if the rise of ETAs is causing your search partner traffic to decrease. We hope that Google will make quick work of resolving this issue with its search partners and return total impression volume back to normal. [...]