I am pleased to announce that True Interactive been ranked by research firm Clutch as a leader among Chicago-based internet marketing companies. The ranking marks the third time Clutch has evaluated True Interactive as a leader in 2017-18 – including the categories of Chicago-based digital marketing and pay-per-click agencies.
The ranking validates our evolution from search specialist to marketing partner. True Interactive is the independent alternative to large agencies.
The Clutch report is especially meaningful for two reasons:
1 The evaluation is rigorous and objective
Clutch is an independent a business-to-business research firm. The company evaluated and ranked Chicago-based internet marketing agencies using a proprietary research methodology that incorporated factors ranging from the agency’s market presence to client reviews.
2 The ranking is based largely on input from clients
True Interactive’s clients provided strong reviews of our capabilities and work style. Here is a sample of the input:
“They excel in attention to detail and are personally invested in our success” — a luxury resort provider.
“It’s been nice to know that we can have a partner that will adapt to us and not charge extra for every little item” – home improvement company.
“Their learning process has been continuous, and they’ve never taken the one-size-fits-all approach for us” – retail company.
Clutch’s research also noted the breadth of True Interactive’s skills in areas such as digital strategy, social media marketing, and pay-per-click advertising. The complete True Interactive profile, including client reviews, is available here. In addition, here are all the companies ranked.
True Interactive is proud to be a trusted partner that builds brands through digital. We are working hard to earn the kind of feedback that our clients have provided Clutch. Contact us to discuss how we can help you improve your digital performance.
Influencer outreach took a major hit in 2017 through some dubious events such as the collapse of the Fyre Festival, which relied on influencer outreach to lure tourists to a disastrous music festival. But influencer outreach is alive and well and will continue to thrive in 2018. Why? A few reasons stand out:
Businesses are feeling new pressure to rely on influencers. As reported recently, Facebook announced that the world’s largest social network is devaluing content from businesses in users’ news feeds and amplifying content from people. Brands that publish content on Facebook are looking for ways to rely on people to tell their stories, which, of course, includes influencers.
People still tend to trust other people more than they do brands. Time and time again, consumers, especially millennials, say they place higher levels of trust in other people than they do businesses, including word-of-mouth recommendations and online peer reviews.
In 2018, I expect to see more reliance on influencers, but not necessarily more spending. Instead, businesses will get more micro-targeted with influencer outreach in 2018, segmenting audiences more carefully and building outreach around influencers who index high in popularity and credibility with those audiences even if those influencers lack national cache. Influencer outreach will become more targeted and scientific, relying on tools that make the process more precise and measurable.
In addition, brands that do partner with high-profile influencers should invest more time and energy vetting them, giving them the same level of rigorous review that they would give a new hire. We’ve seen a number of instances of high-profile YouTube celebrities embarrassing themselves with reckless behavior and remarks. All it takes is one foolish incident for an influencer to destroy their credibility. Businesses are well advised to review influencers’ social media personal track record, including their personal content on their socials.
Finally, understand how to work with influencers. Know their rules of engagement and research how they can be most effective for you. Influencers who are big on Instagram might be the best choice for supporting, say, an event, whereas bloggers who write longer-form content might be more appropriate for product announcements or news events that require more thoughtful analysis.
Clutch, a business-to-business research firm, evaluated and ranked global digital marketing agencies using a proprietary research methodology that incorporated factors ranging from the agency’s market presence to client reviews. The reviews covered agency attributes such as quality of work performed and project management skills. True Interactive was ranked one of 15 leaders in the Clutch digital agency matrix.
The year 2017 has been one of expansion for True Interactive. We’ve built upon our core offerings to provide services in areas such as content marketing and social media. Our evolution into broader forms of digital marketing was reflected in a June Clutch report that named us one of the leading all-around digital marketing agencies when compared to other Chicago-based firms.
The PPC report is special. It’s a ranking of agencies on a broader geographic scale, and it evaluates what has always been our bread-and-butter offering: performance media. I’m especially pleased that Clutch notes the enthusiasm of our clients. One client told Clutch, “It’s been nice to know that we can have a partner that will adapt to us and not charge extra for every little item” – which affirms our belief that the most effective client relationships are partnerships.
With the holiday shopping season here, it’s time to re-examine how you’re using bid modifiers in your paid search campaigns. You might be wasting your budget by using too many modifiers.
Google continues to introduce more refined targeting features such as gender, income level, audience targeting, and look-alike audiences. Soon you’ll have in-market audiences. Having more targeting options for your campaigns is good. When businesses serve up more relevant ads, everyone wins: the consumer, the advertiser, and Google.
But here’s the problem: it’s too easy for advertisers to pile on the bid modifiers to their campaigns. Just because you can target by device, location, gender, age, and time of day (to cite just a few modifiers) it doesn’t mean you should.
Let’s say you are a brick-and-mortar retailer advertising a personal care product to women of a certain age. Your research shows that your target age range is likely to respond favorably. You launch your campaign and start achieving results. Then you decide that maybe, just maybe, you’ll earn more if you target a higher income bracket at a certain time of day. Then you discover that your company is opening a new store in Orlando, and so you modify your bid to target the location. Well, the more you refine your bid, the more your campaign is going to cost.
Here’s what happens when you pile on too many modifiers:
You can waste money. Your costs per click increase with each modifier. The next thing you know, you’re overspending because you’re trying to reach a highly targeted audience when advertising to a more broadly defined set of consumers might have achieved as good or better a result for less money.
You dilute your ability to measure performance. You might see improvement in a campaign. But with 10 different bid modifiers in place, how do you know which one is moving the needle?
In reality, this feature can result in vast overbidding. Here’s the catch—if a search fits the criteria for multiple bid modifiers, all adjustments are “stacked” on the base bid. For example, imagine that a keyword’s base bid is $1 and you’ve set your device modifier to increase bids by 100% on smartphone searches, your geographic modifier to increase bids by 50% for searchers located in Florida, and your time of day modifier to raise bids by 100% from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. If someone in Florida searches this keyword on their phone at 9 p.m., the bid will automatically be bumped to $6.
But advertisers continue to struggle with overbidding, one reason being that they just aren’t aware of the problem or they cannot resist the lure of experimenting with more targeted advertising as AdWords introduces new features.
To guard against the temptation of piling on with too many modifiers, True Interactive suggests:
Define your marketing strategy and stick to it. A sound strategy encourages a disciplined spend. Your keyword bids should reflect your agreed-upon product development and rollout campaign. Don’t create keyword bids on the fly. But if your marketing strategy changes, then re-examine your keyword strategy and modify accordingly.
Limit your bid modifiers. Apply only a few at a time. If you want to experiment with another modifier, consider dropping one. Limiting your modifiers helps you isolate which ones are performing the best.
Use negative modifiers instead of positive modifiers. Instead of adding on to your bid to reach an audience, add negative bids to audiences you don’t want to reach. It sounds so simple, but not enough advertisers use this tactic. Doing so makes for a more efficient spend.
Bottom line: be disciplined and strategic about your bid modifiers. Remember the adage: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. For more insight into digital advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.
Managing your AdWords budget has gotten a lot more complicated.
Recently, Google announced that AdWords campaigns can spend as much as twice their average daily budget – a steep increase from when Google allotted itself only a 20-percent leeway to increase a campaign’s budget.
As a result, as Google noted, “On days with lots of high quality traffic, your costs could be up to 2 times your daily budget. This spending is balanced by days when your spend is below your daily budget.”
That’s right: Google has empowered itself to exceed your allotted AdWords budget by twice the amount you had planned. So, let’s say your campaign budget is $300 a day for the month. Conceivably, during spikes in search volume, Google could lift the ceiling on your spend to $600.
Google assured its customers that “you won’t be charged more than your monthly charging limit: the average number of days in a month (30.4) multiplied by your average daily budget.”
But even with Google’s assurance that monthly charging limits would not be exceeded, customers were angry. Here are three reasons why:
Large advertisers running hundreds or thousands of campaigns rely on the ability to constantly adjust their keyword spends daily depending on spikes or drops in demand. They might lower their budgets when spikes in demand occur to protect themselves from their budgets skyrocketing. Now along comes Google disrupting their finely calibrated campaigns and potentially doing the exact opposite of what they intend.
Businesses running shorter (less than 30 day) campaigns, such as event-based campaigns, could have their budgets blown within the first few days of their spend. To be sure, Google would cap their budgets, but a spike in demand could cause these customers to essentially end their campaigns sooner than planned if Google were to increase their spend by as much as twice the amount budgeted.
The wide budget variance could also hamper anyone performing campaign, keyword or ad copy tests by disrupting their allotted spend levels.
On the other hand, smaller businesses that do not change their budgets often are likely unaffected. In fact, having Google recalibrate its budget could make the business’s spend more consistent throughout the month.
So, what should you do? I suggest three course of action:
Pay more attention to the results of your spend on a daily basis (which we do already for our clients). Be ready to adjust spend sooner than you might have planned.
For shorter-term campaigns, set your spend levels lower to have some level of protection, especially if you know you’re going to get high volume traffic within that time period. You might want to pull back from the get-go.
For existing campaigns, study your performance data carefully to set your budgets more carefully. Many companies that have been actively involved with paid search for years have a lot of data to draw upon in order to calibrate their budgets.
In any case, this change is permanent. It’s not going away. If you are not doing so already, watch your AdWords campaigns more closely and be ready to change them. True Interactive can help you. Contact us – managing your online advertising is our business and passion.
Snap Inc. is finding allies in its ongoing war with Facebook. The latest battlefield is location-based marketing.
Last week, Snap announced the launch of Snapchat Context Cards, a new feature that injects more information into the content that Snapchatters share on the app. The launch has raised questions from businesses, ranging from “What do Context Cards mean to advertisers?” to “What the heck are Context Cards?” Here are some answers to popular questions:
What are Context Cards?
Context Cards consist of optional “more” buttons that Snapchat has embedded into the Snaps that Snapchat users post on their accounts. When you click on the “more” button, the Snap reveals location-based information about a user’s Snap.
For example, let’s say Snapchatter Marcia posts a photo of herself enjoying a breakfast burrito at her favorite café. Her photo, of course, is the Snap, or content that she posts on Snapchat. A Context Card, or “more” button, which appears on Marcia’s Snap, reveals a treasure trove of information about the café, such as its address, map location, and user reviews. In addition, Marcia’s Snapchat friends who receive the Snap can click on ride-sharing services embedded in the Context Card if they want to visit her at the café.
This video gives you more insight into how Context Cards work:
Context Cards have generated a lot of curiosity because Snaps are the language of Snapchat. Context Cards enrich that language with information about the places where Snapchatters share information with each other – sort of like turning Snaps into Swarm check-ins loaded with information about where Snapchatters are and what they’re doing.
The term “context card” is not unique to Snapchat. Facebook uses them, too. As Facebook explained in 2016: “A context card is an added (and optional) tile that pops up after someone clicks on a lead ad but before they get to the form, giving businesses a place to offer more details on the information people are signing up for. So, if a business is using lead ads to find new email subscribers, they may use a context card to explain what type of content they offer in their emails. Context cards help businesses ensure that the leads they receive are high-quality.”
But Snapchat has branded the term within a specific context of location-based information.
Does every Snap now contain a Context Card?
No. According to TechCrunch, “[Context Cards won’t appear in every Snap, however, lest you were worried that Snapchat was turning every single post on its platform into a marketing tool. Instead, it’ll include those that have been tagged with the company’s venue-specific Geofilters, or with any Snap that’s been submitted to the public ‘Our Story’ feed and that appears in Snap Map or Search.”
Where does Snapchat get all location information needed to create Context Cards?
Snapchat is not mining all the data on its own. To retrieve and publish location-based information, Snapchat is partnering with companies that collect this kind of information already. As reported in Adweek: “The messaging application teamed up with launch partners TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Michelin, Goop, Uber, Lyft, OpenTable, Resy and BookTable to supply information including reviews (from critics and customers), tips, reservations, booking rides, directions, hours of operation, phone numbers, websites and other Snaps from around the area.”
Foursquare provided more insight into how Foursquare partners with Snapchat on Context Cards here.
What does Snapchat get out of Context Cards?
Context Cards could make Snapchat more attractive to businesses, which it must do in order to compete as a revenue-generating advertising platform. Just how Snapchat will benefit remains to be seen, but here are a few ways the company may become more valuable to advertisers:
User engagement: If Context Cards cause Snapchat users to spend more time on the app by digging deeper into each other’s Snaps and interacting with the location-based data, Snapchat will be able to report stronger user engagement numbers to advertisers. For instance, conceivably a user could tap into a Context Card, check out customer reviews of a restaurant pictured in a Snap, and use Uber to visit the restaurant all within Snapchat. More time spent on Snapchat means more opportunities for advertisers to interact with users.
Data: Snapchat can collect more data about user activity, such as what they are searching for and where they are spending their time, which would make Snapchat a source of more targeted advertising. And targeted ads mean more relevant interactions with users, which is Facebook’s stated competitive advantage.
Revenue generation: the Context Cards could create ways for Snapchat to collect more revenue from transactions and advertising. As discussed in Forbes, “The feature could also open up a new revenue stream for Snap, as it could charge its partners a commission for each booking or transaction carried out via its platform. If Snap is able to scale up this opportunity, it could be quite lucrative given the company’s relatively young and affluent user base, which is located primarily in developed markets.”
But Snapchat will have to tread carefully. People won’t use Context Cards that create unwanted advertising popping up on their screens.
What do Context Cards mean to advertisers?
If you operate brick-and-mortar storefronts, make sure your location-based data and content are accurately reported to Snapchat’s partners such as Foursquare. A Context Card isn’t going to be very valuable if it sends users to the wrong address of that café where Snapchatter Marcia is enjoying her breakfast burrito. Now, more than ever, you need to manage your data and content closely.
Keep your eyes on Snapchat especially if you advertise to a millennial audience. Watch how Context Cards evolve and be ready to capitalize on advertising opportunities as they arise.
If you advertise on Facebook, keep an eye on how Facebook responds. Facebook has not capitalized on location-based marketing beyond giving brands real estate to create their own pages. Look for Facebook to answer Snapchat with more effective ways for businesses to embed location-based information into the world’s largest social media platform.
Bottom line: Context Cards give Snapchat a way to combat Facebook in location-based marketing. Facebook offers something akin to Context Cards when users check into places on Facebook and reveal information about the location of the check-in. But they are not very and interesting and useful. Context Cards embed a lot more information. Snapchat has an advantage – for now.
To make your marketing more effective across the digital world, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.
How do you report on a controversy that strikes your own organization?
In recent days, the NFL has found itself at the eye of a storm with the #TakeaKnee player protests erupting in stadiums across the country. But on its NFL.com website, the league has not shied away from reporting on the sensitive issue, with stories reporting the protests and player reactions. The NFL’s reaction to #TakeaKnee is an interesting example of how a business uses the discipline of content marketing to address a controversy too big to ignore.
What Exactly Is Content Marketing?
A business practices content marketing by publishing useful information that supports its own brand. The definition breaks down this way:
Content marketing builds the credibility of a brand (hence the “marketing” part of content marketing) . . .
. . . by sharing useful information (content), such as how-to tips, news, commentary, and visual stories.
Through content marketing, brands act as publishers, sharing news, editorial commentary, and other forms of insight you typically associate with a third-party information source. Content marketing is not “look at me” advertising or PR. Both those forms of marketing are valuable and have their place, but they are not content marketing.
When True Interactive publishes blogs commenting on digital marketing, we practice content marketing because we are building our brand by publishing information we believe to be useful to our clients. When we issue a press release announcing a new hire or a client win, we are not practicing content marketing but rather PR, which is why we post press releases elsewhere.
Controversy Hits the NFL
When the #TakeaKnee protests escalated rapidly over the weekend of September 22-24, the league was faced with a challenge: how to deal with the issue. The news section of NFL.com was the natural place to report on the topic. Like other brands serious about content marketing, the NFL acts as a news publisher on its own website. NFL writers cover football topics just like newspaper sports writers do. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey ravaging Texas, Houston Texans Quarterback JJ. Watt discussed his commitment to helping Houston recover from the storm – and the NFL was there to report his comments.
The NFL is a news-reporting machine, as it must be to cover a league with 32 teams. News coverages ranges from scores to injuries to topical events such as the example with J.J. Watt. The league also covers college football, wisely understanding that devout NFL fans likely care about college football, the source of most NFL talent.
The NFL has been known to cover news that casts the league in a less-than-flattering light, such as the Miami Dolphins’ suspension of linebacker Lawrence Timmons. But the #TakeaKnee protests have been something different: an issue that thrusts the NFL into the center of a political and social maelstrom, resulting in calls of boycotts and support at the same time.
The league’s handling of the issue on its website has been measured:
The league reported a perspective from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The NFL also let pictures do the talking via a photo essay of various team protests and shows of unity.
On the other hand, the NFL complemented the #TakeaKnee coverage with many other articles discussing league news, including, of course, the most obvious: game results. For the period September 24-28, most of the news coverage centered on developments affecting on-the-field play, such as the struggles of the Baltimore Ravens offense.
By balancing coverage of the controversy with news about the game itself, the NFL showed that the contests between the teams do not exist in a vacuum while keeping the focus of its coverage on the reason why people watch football in the first place: to find which team will win or lose. To be sure, you can find more complete, hard-hitting perspectives on the #TakeaKnee controversy elsewhere, including criticisms of owners’ participation. That said, the website’s news section passes the test for being useful – one of the principles of content marketing – while also supporting the NFL by being credible. Contact True Interactive to learn how to build your brand with content marketing. We’re here to help.