Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Are Google’s Automated Bidding Tools a Good Fit for You?

Google

Google continues to develop new automated bidding products that make it tempting for businesses to hand over their online advertising to Google. The latest tool is a new automated bidding option for app marketers running Google App campaign, target return on ad spend (tROAS). With tROAS, an algorithm adjusts bids higher to serve ads to people who are likely to spend more after they install an advertiser’s app. As Google announced May 8:

To grow profitably, it’s also important to also consider how much revenue you generate relative to the cost of driving those installs and actions. That’s why, you’ll soon be able to bid on a target return on ad spend (tROAS) so you can automatically pay more for users likely to spend more, and pay less for users likely to spend less. If you’re looking for users who will spend twice as much as they cost to acquire, you can set that multiplier for your tROAS bid, and it will find you the right users accordingly. tROAS will be available next month for Google App campaigns on iOS and Android globally.

I’m not surprised that Google is adding to its arsenal of bid tools. Automated bidding is important to Google. It’s a source of revenue for a business whose growth is fueled by online advertising. And based on Google’s disappointing quarterly financial results announced weeks ago, the company is feeling the pressure to improve ad revenues – which might help explain why we’re hearing more and more about automated bid tools.

Making It Easy with Automated Bid Tools

When a business lets Google handle its online advertising, Google does all the heavy lifting. You tell Google how much you are willing to bid for a keyword, and Google manages the bidding including any modification, a process illustrated here. Ideally, advertisers connect with their most relevant audiences at an optimal price. And Google rakes in revenue.

Google will tell you that automated bidding is a more efficient way to manage your campaign, and indeed Google offers many tools such as machine learning to change bids constantly.

Proceed Carefully with Automated Bid Tools

If you lack the resources and time to manage your online advertising and you want to do it all in-house, then automated bidding can be very tempting. But it’s also important that you keep in mind a few big caveats:

  • When you let Google do the driving for you, you lose control of the ability to modify a bid as your needs change, and you lose control of any targeting adjustments you might want to make.
  • You have to be comfortable that Google is representing you on its own media platform. It’s like telling a TV network to pick the shows to run your ad on and set the price for the ad for you (would you ever do that?) And yet this is the kind of conflict inherent in having Google manage ads on Google. You lose control over the ability to negotiate and set a price while Google represents your interests on its platform – and the outcome may not always be in your best interest.

You can expect Google to roll out more automated bidding tools powered by artificial intelligence, which promise to manage bid modifications more effectively.

Test the Waters

If you’re thinking of testing the waters, I suggest that you test automated bidding on a few campaigns. Don’t give Google control over your advertising right off the bat. During your test, carefully check metrics such as costs per click and costs per action. Are they improving to your satisfaction? If so, test some more campaigns with variable bids. If you decide to move forward with automated bids, then commit to staying on top of these tools so that you can learn about developments that could have an impact on your bidding strategy. Automated bidding sounds easy, but you do need to stay invested in learning as with any technology.

True Interactive has deep experience managing online advertising for clients such as these. We understand the nuances of manual and automated bidding and are happy to help you. Contact us to learn more.

Online Holiday Shopping Season Hits $126 Billion

Online Holiday Shopping Season Hits $126 Billion

Retail

Winning the hearts and minds of consumers during the holidays increasingly means having a digital strategy to attract and convert them. According to Adobe Analytics, consumers spent $126 billion online during the 2018 holiday season, an increase of 16.5 percent year over year. For the first time ever, smart phones drove half the traffic, amounting 31 percent of revenue (34 percent growth year over year).

The numbers do not surprise me. By early December, the holiday season was already well on its way to achieving strong results. The final numbers suggest a number of lessons for retailers:

1 Start Early to Win Online

Our own clients were working with us to start raising awareness online for their holiday sales long before the holiday shopping season began. Businesses that began building awareness for their holiday inventory via online advertising were best positioned to attract the surging traffic from shoppers going online looking for deals.

2 Respect the Power of Thanksgiving Weekend

Reports of Black Friday’s demise are exaggerated. Black Friday achieved a 23.6 percent increase in online traffic. But Black Friday is now part of a bigger five-day Thanksgiving weekend shopping extravaganza. The period between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday generated 19.2 percent of all online holiday spend. In particular, Cyber Monday saw a surge of buying. A four-hour time block on Cyber Monday (7:00 pm to 11 p.m. PST) was the most active period of the year. These four hours recorded more than $2 billion in sales. Conversion rose sharply through the evening, as consumers rushed to take advantage of deals. Businesses that invested in a strong Thanksgiving Weekend digital media spend were in the driver’s seat to win, especially if they capitalized on Cyber Monday by spending on ads with strong calls to action during the waning moments of Cyber Monday.

Go Mobile

The increase in smartphone traffic clearly shows that businesses need strong mobile-centric advertising strategies, including investments across mobile display networks. But going mobile means more than having a mobile presence. Going mobile means:

  • Promoting your app effectively. Mobile apps are now driving more revenue than ever. Having a strategy to promote your app is more important than ever.
  • Formatting content for mobile viewing and including an easy conversion path on mobile.

At the same time, it’s important to ensure that your messaging on mobile is consistent with your messaging on other channels.

Start Succeeding Now

You don’t need to wait another year to apply these lessons. They hold true with other major events that attract a surge of shopping and advertising, such as Presidents Day and Memorial Day. True Interactive can help you prepare. Contact us.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Retail

We’re off to the races with the 2018 holiday season, and retailers are showing some strong results with online sales. Here’s what Adobe Analytics reported:

  • Cyber Monday hit $7.9 billion in sales, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the United States — a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year.
  • Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth year over year) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth) in revenue.
  • Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, set a new record as the biggest online shopping weekend in the U.S. ($6.4 billion) growing faster than Black Friday and Cyber Monday with more than 25 percent on each day.

Not every retailer is winning this holiday season. Only retailers that do these things are reaping rewards:

  • Focusing on mobile. As we have shared on our blog, technology giants such as Google have been launching tools that make it easier for businesses to showcase inventory with shoppable ads. That’s because shoppers are using mobile as a tool to buy, not just search for places to buy. PayPal, for instance, processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday (a first for PayPal on either day). On Thanksgiving, mobile accounted for 54 percent of online sales, surpassing desktop for the first time, according to Salesforce.
  • Prepared their websites. According to Multibriefs, more people were hit with “out-of-stock” messages on websites than they were last year. “Even worse, some didn’t even make it to the company website,” wrote Multibriefs. “Lowes, Target and PayPal all experienced crashes on Cyber Monday.” The companies that failed to prepare for the online buying spike lost out to sites such as Amazon, which reported its biggest shopping day in history on Cyber Monday. Who says websites are dead? If you were ready as Amazon was, you won big.
  • Moving products quickly. Amazon long ago set the standard for speedy product delivery. But many retailers such as Best Buy are catching up. This holiday season retailers are using free shipping and convenient returns as a proving ground, as this news report discusses. Last month, I predicted shipping would provide an edge to retailers this holiday season — but this prediction applies only to those who have figured out how to fulfill the uptick in demand that online ordering brings. Walmart struggled to fulfill online orders during the 2017 holiday season – let’s see how the retailer does when the dust settles on 2018.

If you took steps to prepare yourself for the onslaught of online holiday shopping – especially by attracting mobile shoppers with a strong investment into online advertising and digital commerce – the 2018 holiday season is looking very bright. For more insight into how to win with mobile shoppers, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

Retail

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are just table stakes for retailers to compete in the first-ever $1 trillion holiday shopping season. The real competitive advantage is coming from shipping.

Based on the client work I do, I’ve always known that favorable shipping can help a retailer compete more effectively during the holiday shopping season. Low-cost, rapid shipping caters to the needs of today’s on-demand consumer who want products curated and sent to them and oftentimes at the last minute.

But what’s changed dramatically about the 2018 season is the Amazon effect. Earlier in November, Amazon announced free shipping with no minimum purchase required from November 5 onward. Amazon did not announce a cut-off date, but it will probably be December 22. Now, this change to its shipping policy is huge. Amazon accomplishes two objectives with free shipping during the holidays:

  • Beating Target and Walmart. These two retail giants had announced more liberal shipping and returns policies of their own in October. Walmart had announced it would expand two-day shipping to the entire Walmart marketplace beginning November 1. And Walmart also said that products purchased through its marketplace could be returned Walmart brick-and-mortar stores products purchased through its marketplace. Target had announced free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase or REDcard membership required from November 1-December 22. Amazon trumped both.
  • Luring shoppers to Amazon Prime. Amazon hopes that anyone using free shipping during the holidays will get a taste of what Prime members enjoy all the time – and, presumably, sign up for Prime, where many more benefits await. For example, Prime members get free same-day delivery on millions of items and free two-day shipping on many more. Prime is the center of Amazon’s on-demand world, which encompasses services ranging from entertainment to retail.

Smaller retailers have a harder time competing on those kinds of terms, but try they must. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, advertising on-demand services such as delivery, shipping, and online ordering/in-store pick-up is key to winning this holiday season. It’s important that you manage your online advertising, including your paid search and display, to show how well you service the on-demand shopper. If you need help, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Walmart

How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Thrive on Amazon

How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Thrive on Amazon

Marketing

Amazon wants to play nice with small and medium-sized businesses. The technology giant has launched a new section on its site, Storefronts, designed to promote small and medium-sized businesses in the United States. The Storefronts portal directs Amazon site visitors to 20,000 small and medium-sized U.S. businesses, including women-owned businesses and family-focused businesses.

About 300,000 U.S. small businesses operate on Amazon, according to TechCrunch. Storefronts should help them in a number of ways such as:

  • Providing one simple portal for shoppers who want to support smaller businesses, thus making it easier to find them.
  • Categorizing smaller businesses by different areas of interest to enrich the discovery process. In addition to family-focused and women-owned businesses, Amazon curates other categories such as Halloween and Back to School.

The move should be a win/win for Amazon and small and medium-sized businesses:

  • Amazon strengthens its position against competitors such as eBay that have attracted smaller businesses.
  • Smaller businesses enjoy more visibility and support.

Smaller businesses can win in Amazon’s world by:

  • Treating Amazon as one important element of your commerce ecosystem. Amazon should complement your presence on sites such as eBay, Etsy, and Facebook, in addition to your own website and brick-and-mortar storefront.
  • Capitalizing on Amazon’s advertising tools. As we have noted on our blog, Amazon offers tools that make it easier to rely on Amazon as an advertiser. For instance, Amazon’s Marketing Services and Advertising Platform products offer options ranging from Sponsored Products (a keyword-based campaign promoting a single product) to Amazon Managed Service (Amazon manages display ads on an advertiser’s behalf). These products make it possible to capitalize on Amazon’s increasing popularity as a search platform.

Amazon is rolling out an advertising program to support the launch of Storefronts, including a testimonial from Michigan-based Little Flower Soap Co. According to Little Flower co-founder Holly Rutt, “Since we started selling on Amazon in October 2016, our sales have nearly doubled. Due to our success, we have been able to hire new team members from our community, including full and part time jobs.”

For more insight into how to succeed on Amazon, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots

Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots

Social media

Tweeting with the Cyrillic alphabet might get your Twitter account suspended. According to The Verge, Twitter users from Bulgaria report that their accounts are being suspended simply because the users are tweeting in Cyrillic. So what gives? Well, Twitter has been cracking down on trolls and Russian bots in the wake of negative publicity about how sites such as Twitter are being manipulated by Russian-managed bots. And since Cyrillic is an alphabet used by Russians, “the very use of the alphabet is being treated as a red flag,” speculates The Verge.

In other words, a Twitter bot-busting algorithm might sweep you into its net along with suspected bots just because you have the temerity to use an alphabet used by untold number of human beings. Unfortunately innocent users are paying a price. As The Verge noted:

Innocent users are able to recover their accounts reasonably quickly after a suspension, but then Twitter still treats them like digital outcasts, showing “tweet unavailable” messages when they respond to a conversation thread and also muting them from sending notifications to others. If you want to know what the term “shadow banning” refers to, well, it’s basically this sort of treatment. It’s especially troublesome because when someone affected by it reaches out to Twitter’s support and help services, they’re told that their account isn’t banned and everything is fine. Except their friends can’t receive any notifications from them or see their contributions to group conversations.

Twitter has a long road ahead of it as the platform attempts to balance the need for free speech with the abuse of trolls. In a recently published column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I discuss Twitter’s struggle to protect its site from trolls without trampling on innocent users. The experience Twitter is having with users of Cyrillic is the latest illustration of Twitter’s struggle. Will Twitter hire enough competent people to manage its troll-policing algorithm, though? The company is just beginning to enjoy a financial turnaround, and the costs of hiring more editors may be unacceptable to investors. For more insight into Twitter’s troll problem, check out my column and contact us to discuss how to build your brand on social.

Welcome to True Interactive!

Welcome to True Interactive!

Marketing

By Kurt Anagnostopoulos and Mark Smith

Welcome to a new era!

Today we officially changed the KeywordFirst name to True Interactive.

True Interactive reflects how we have evolved to become a trusted digital marketing partner that improves the performance of our clients. The KeywordFirst name served us well for many years and reflects our search roots. At the same time, over the past few years, we’ve been helping clients solve problems that extend beyond search, such as:

  • Managing digital advertising campaigns, including mobile.
  • Developing paid social strategies.
  • Managing analytics programs.

Analysts such as Clutch have noticed our evolution. In 2017, Clutch named KeywordFirst a leader in both pay-per-click advertising and all-around digital marketing — and then in 2018 as a leader for Chicago-based internet marketing services agencies. We received especially high marks from clients for the quality of our work and partnering style, as noted here.

Search is as strong as ever and remains one of our core skills. In fact, our broader experience with digital marketing has made us better at search. And now the True Interactive name reflects our present and future.

Our people and our culture remain the same. We’re as dedicated as ever to delivering results with complete transparency. True Interactive will continue to build our brand through the strength of our talent, client relationships,  and ideas for shaping the future of performance-based digital marketing.

We are excited for what the future holds!

— Kurt and Mark