How Google Insights Helps Advertisers Make Better Decisions

How Google Insights Helps Advertisers Make Better Decisions

Analytics

One of the many challenges businesses have faced in 2020 is customizing marketing campaigns for changing consumer behavior. Who could have predicted that during the pandemic we’d see a surge in people interested in puzzles and puppies, or that a Netflix miniseries would have inspired an intense interest in chess? For years, many businesses have relied on keyword search tools to anticipate consumer preferences based on their searches. But Google recently launched something better: the Google Insights Page.

The Insights page, in beta, makes it easier for a business to explore emerging trends based on Google trending topics. Google cites the example of how an outdoor retailer might see insights on the rising demand for tents during times when consumers gear up for more outdoor adventures. Over the same period, a vacation rental company might see a surge in demand for cabins.

This function might sound familiar to you if you use Google Trends to research trending topics that people are searching on Google. But Google Trends is a manual, standalone tool. Google Insights goes much further by offering more functionality to a business. As Google notes on its Help page, Google curates Insights for your business based on your account performance and searches across Google for the products and services you show ads for.

Insights update daily. A business can check back frequently for new insights that may appear. Per Google:

  • Get insights tailored to your business: the Insights page looks for trends across Google that are relevant to the products and services that you advertise.
  • Understand your performance: drill into each insight to more detailed information about your account’s performance and new areas of potential opportunity.
  • Act on recommendations: Insights are integrated with account Recommendations, making it easy to take action.

Search trend insights help you to understand the search interest for products and services relevant to your business. You can use search trends to respond to shifts in search demand by identifying potential growth opportunities for your business.

Insights not only tells you what is trending but it also tells you how those trends will affect your performance – such as how many clicks you can expect to get from your current keyword coverage. You cannot get that kind of reporting from search tools such as Moz or SEMRush.

At True Interactive, we’re already using Insights for our clients, such as in higher education, an industry that is rapidly changing during the pandemic. Here’s a screenshot that shows the level of detail in the reporting we get from the tool:

Google Trends dashboard

In the above example, I didn’t need to do a manual search to see what types of topics are trending in the education space. Insights told me. In addition, Google Insights suggested how we might want to adapt our keyword bid strategy accordingly.

Using Google Insights with Explanations

Insights can be especially useful when you combine it with other Google ad tools. For instance, consider how you might use Insights along with Explanations, which helps you understand changes in your ad performance based on variables such as your campaign settings and auction activity. Let’s say Explanations tells me that impressions are falling for a particular brand campaign. Digging deeper, I might realize I added some negative keywords that are excluding some searches. When I look at Insights, I might further see that they keyword I excluded is related to a trending search. This data is like a red flag telling me I need to re-evaluate my decision to exclude that keyword.

Insights should prove to be an even more valuable tool when Google rolls it out more widely. Responding to advertisers with this tool is especially helpful now because there are limitations on what we can do in a world of automated bid strategies. It’s nice to have more data to support human decision making.

For more information about insights, read this useful article from Search Engine Roundtable.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. We have the inside scoop on new ad tools such as Insights. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Advertising

When COVID-19 first took hold in 2020 and the world entered a time of seismic change and uncertainty, we urged businesses to stay in the ring with a strong digital presence. We wrote, “You don’t want to be caught flat-footed when consumers shift their behaviors again as the current disruption subsides. And subside it will; not knowing when is different from not knowing if.”

As we look to the new year ahead, this truth resonates more strongly than ever. Here’s what you should know about why digital advertising remains important, how digital presence relates to consumer—not to mention competitor—behavior, and what you can do going forward:

Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Online — Have You?

IBM’s U.S. Retail Index indicates that the pandemic has deeply informed the way people shop: the shift from visiting brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online has in fact been accelerated by approximately five years. The types of goods consumers deem essential has come into sharper focus, too. Clothing shopping, for example, has dipped in an era when more people are attending school and working their jobs online. By contrast, sales in categories such as groceries, alcohol, and home improvement materials have all accelerated.

The question to ask yourself: when people go online to shop, will your brand be present with targeted online advertising, such as paid search, that is relevant to what consumers are looking to buy?

Your Competitors Are Connecting with Consumers Online — Are You?

Ad revenues for the Big Three—Amazon, Facebook, and Google—can also shed some light on what a successful path forward can look like for brands. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Big Three are enjoying a surge of online revenue: Amazon and Google have reported strong quarterly sales, and Facebook has also enjoyed record revenue. All three had a great third quarter, evidence that businesses continue to connect with people, online, on multiple levels, from retail to social media to digital advertising. Even the StopHateFor Profit ad boycott did not seem to take a lasting bite out of Facebook’s advertising revenue, which was up 22 percent in the third quarter as compared to a year ago. (It’s worth noting that changes in consumer habits have manifested themselves not just in terms of venue—e.g., the move online—but timing. As Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos notes, “We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts.”)

Social media ad spend overall is also on the rise. In the third quarter, global social media ad spend increased 56.4 percent. According to The Drum, that’s almost double the average spend recorded during the COVID-19-related spending nadir of late March.

In short, brands that understand where, and when, to connect with consumers will benefit. If you are ignoring trends in online advertising, you are probably falling behind competitors who are speaking to these tendencies. Are you taking the prevailing trends to heart?

What Businesses Should Do

To stay competitive, we recommend that you:

  • Keep focused on digital. That’s where the action is, according to the data.
  • Invest in creative advertising. As more people go online and interact with brands, it’s going to be harder to stand apart from the pack. As we’ve blogged, it’s critical to invest in strong creative—and creative that is consistent across all your touch points.
  • Keep growing as digital tools evolve. An understanding of—and investment in—new technology helps brands communicate that what they have to offer is cutting edge. And that new technology is out there for the taking. For example, Consider Google’s new visual search tools:
    • Google Lens allows shoppers to tap and hold an image in the Google app or Android Chrome browser in order to find it in an online store.
    • AR Autos will soon allow shoppers to look for a vehicle in Google Search, then see it rendered in 3D or augmented reality. The result? A more immersive look at key features before consumers even arrive at a dealer lot. This advance “peek” is particularly beneficial at a time when many shoppers are trying to limit in-person contact during the pandemic.

Google’s offerings are just a taste of the new opportunities out there. The headline is this: staying on top of new technology can help position you for success.

Contact True Interactive

The changes brought by 2020 won’t go away with the flip of a calendar page. Rather, they have invited brands to adapt. Curious as to how digital can elevate your brand in 2021? Contact us.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/apps-blur-button-close-up-267350/

The Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit: Advertiser Q&A

The Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit: Advertiser Q&A

Google

On October 20, the Justice Department filed a long-anticipated anti-trust lawsuit against Google. The lawsuit alleges that Google is “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States.”

In other words, Google wields an unfair competitive advantage.

Google, of course, holds a commanding share of the online advertising market, at roughly 29 percent, followed by Facebook and Amazon. Ironically, Google’s share has been dropping, and 2020 has been rough on its ad business. But the lawsuit isn’t about market share; it’s about allegedly unfair business practices. Read on for answers to questions you might have about the matter.

What exactly is the lawsuit accusing Google of?

According to the Justice Department, Google illegally protects a monopoly in its core search business. That monopoly is harmful to consumers and Google’s competitors. Google pays companies like Apple billions of dollars to make its search engine the default option on their devices – giving Google an unfair advantage. In addition, the Justice Department alleges that Google capitalizes on its dominance by collecting data from users, thus giving its search-based advertising business even more of an unfair advantage.

What is Google’s response?

Google disagrees strongly. In a blog post, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker wrote, “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives. This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”

Walker contends that Google paying businesses like Apple to make its search engine the default search engine is no different from a cereal brand paying a supermarket to stock its products at the end of a row or on a shelf at eye level.

When will the anti-trust case be resolved?

The case could take years to be resolved. Google has deep pockets and will defend itself aggressively. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an outcome anytime soon.

How will the outcome of the presidential election affect the lawsuit?

No matter who wins the presidential election, the lawsuit will move forward. The Justice Department has gone on record saying it is committed to the legal action. Attorney General William P. Barr has aggressive pursued a lawsuit, and the action will simply continue if President Trump wins the election. If Joe Biden wins the election, the consensus legal opinion is that the lawsuit would remain in place.

What happens if Google loses?

Google could get broken up, thus reflecting a growing “break up big tech” sentiment among lawmakers. In the complaint’s “request for relief,” the U.S. is seeking “structural relief as needed to cure any anti-competitive harm.” In other words, Google might be forced to be restructured, or broken up.

What should advertisers who use Google do?

For now, everything is business as usual. The case may take anywhere from six to 18 months to even go to court. We recommend:

  • Do manage your Google advertising account very closely. As we have blogged, Google has been known to introduce features and policy changes that could increase your advertising costs.
  • If you advertise with Amazon Advertising and Facebook, keep a close eye on current events. In recent years, lawmakers have been critical of the Amazon, Facebook, and Google because of their growing dominance. The Google lawsuit may not be the last against them.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with all firms of online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

How Google’s New Ground Rules for Search Term Reporting Affect Advertisers

How Google’s New Ground Rules for Search Term Reporting Affect Advertisers

Google

If it seems to you that Google is reporting fewer search terms in your keyword reports, you are not alone. As discussed in Search Engine Land, Google is revising search term reports “to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users.” As a result, advertisers have access to fewer search terms when evaluating keyword performance. And lack of visibility is a problem.

Here’s how advertisers are affected: lack of visibility into keyword performance makes it more difficult for advertisers to optimize campaigns, especially when using manual bid strategies. That’s because advertisers lose valuable insights into how people are searching. Without that insight, advertisers struggle to add negative keywords to block irrelevant traffic and improve traffic relevancy — which ultimately can make controlling costs per conversion more difficult.

The new ground rules also lack transparency. Google has not explained what the criteria for a specific search term to be deemed as one being “searched by a significant number of users.”

Taking a Closer Look

The change means that advertisers and their agency partners cannot see all the search terms that match their keywords. As a result, it’s impossible for anyone planning keyword spending to have a complete view of how people search — which means keyword planning is less efficient and more costly.

We have seen the negative impact of this change in our own client work. Here are two examples:

  • On one of our campaigns, thanks to this update, we have lost visibility into search terms that account for 47 percent of month-to-date clicks. If this doesn’t sound significant, consider that in highly competitive verticals with relatively high cost per clicks, advertisers may lose visibility into search terms that drive 44 percent of month-to-date spend, just as it happened for our client.
  • In another campaign, we have lost visibility into search terms that account for 53 percent of month-to-date clicks. In other words, we cannot see search terms that drive 51 percent of month-to-date spend for our client.

When an advertiser cannot see which search terms correspond to its keyword spend, then the risk for inefficiency is unacceptably high. Unfortunately, advertisers end up paying for irrelevant search terms, which means paying for terms that are not converting. The visibility fog is not so damaging for advertisers whose cost-per-click spend is low, say, $1 CPC. But for an advertiser paying, say $50 per click, the resulting inefficiency is very high.

Why Is Google Limiting Keyword Visibility?

Why is Google doing this? Well, Google’s official stance is that it all comes down to user privacy. As Google told Search Engine Land:

In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.

While Google’s primary purpose may be to protect privacy, this change may result in greater ad spend as budgets are increased in order to make lead goals – which means more revenue for Google. Having visibility into search terms means a more targeted spend for advertisers, and less money for Google. But when an advertiser lacks visibility, the advertiser may spend money needlessly on terms that are irrelevant to the product or service that is being advertised. An inefficient spend means more money for Google resulting from wasted dollars.

We reached out to Google to share our concerns. If you are seeing similar results, you may want to provide your feedback to Google as well.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Advertising

This is going to be a different holiday season. Many shoppers will be planning for holidays apart from their extended families and friends as they practice social distancing. And shopping itself will look different: consumers will likely be very careful about going into brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, shoppers will seek convenience. We’ve blogged about the importance of customer-friendly shipping in the past; this year, as consumers order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, convenient and cost-effective shipping will be more important than ever. Shoppers will also rely on services such as curbside pickup that make it easier to purchase gifts without needing to go into stores. It’s important that retailers adapt online holiday advertising strategies accordingly.

Rise of Convenience

Signs are everywhere that shoppers will place a heavy emphasis on convenience:

  • Retailers from Home Depot to Macy’s are downplaying Black Friday, focusing instead on spreading out holiday deals over a period time. This is a big shift: no longer will customers be expected to queue up in front of physical stores on retailers’ timetables. It’s simply not safe to do so.
  • Instead, retailers are stressing their ability to manage—and support—how people want to shop on their own terms. For example, Walmart has launched Walmart Plus, a new subscription service through which the retailer, among other things, manages delivery of purchases. For $98 a year, participating consumers receive in-store and online benefits like unlimited free delivery. The service, a direct competitor to Amazon Prime, demonstrates how retailers can pivot to meet customer needs during a year of radical change.
  • We also see retailers expanding their curbside pickup services, which makes it possible for shoppers to minimize in-store shopping while still getting what they want on their own timetable. As noted in eMarketer, curbside pickup is booming: “We now expect US click-and-collect ecommerce sales to grow to $58.52 billion, up 60.4% from our initial forecast of 38.6% growth.”

What Retailers Should Do

There are steps retailers can take to stay competitive during a holiday season shaped by an unprecedented year. What do we recommend?

  • First off, start now to advertise your holiday sales. Why? Because people are probably shopping earlier to accommodate more time to ship things. eMarketer recommends capturing accelerating holiday traffic by setting suitable budgets, not to mention competitive targets, for Smart Shopping campaigns and Smart Bidding.
  • But don’t just promote merchandise. Promote convenience; send the message that you are recognizing shoppers’ needs during an extraordinary year, and working hard to make life easier. For example, if you offer curbside pickup, use Google advertising tools to promote it: retailers can now indicate in their local inventory ads that curbside pickup is an option. And features like the local inventory ads curbside pickup badge, currently in beta, allow retailers to highlight contactless pickup available for products next day or even same day.
  • Capitalize on location-based advertising such as advertising on Google Maps. As we have blogged in the past, Google Maps advertising offers unique possibilities; why not use this tool to highlight your shipping and curbside service offerings?
  • Put video to work. Explain how your shipping and curbside services work via tight, thoughtful video segments. Per eMarketer, “Viewers are three times more likely to pay attention to online video ads than television ads, and 70 percent of viewers say they bought a brand after seeing it on YouTube.” YouTube’s value, in fact, can’t be overstated: the article goes on to detail that the video-sharing platform has a 97 percent audience reach. Internalize these tendencies and strengths, and capitalize on them by planning a video strategy that reaches more people, and inspires those people to come shop this holiday season.
  • Make sure you promote services such as shipping through Google search ads. As eMarketer notes, almost 75 percent of U.S. respondents who indicate they plan to shop this holiday state that they will shop online more than they have in past holiday seasons. And the time-honored joy of browsing for gifts? A similar percentage say they will indulge their browsing online rather than on-site. Meet these online browsers and shoppers where they are at, letting them know, in their online search results, what you are offering in terms of shipping.

Contact True Interactive

A year ago, no one could have predicted the ways 2020 would shape consumer need—or the imagination and agility that would be demanded of brands responding to that need. Let us help you create online holiday advertising strategies during a singular time. Contact us.

Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unlike any other as people plan amid the reality of social distancing. And yet in a few important ways, the season will reflect the direction that consumer shopping behavior has been headed already, especially with people putting digital at the center of their shopping experience. Here are three ways retailers can prepare:

1 Be Digital-First

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to do more online shopping than they did in previous seasons. These findings should surprise no retailer. The holiday shopping season has been going increasingly digital for years. According to Salesforce data, there was an 8 percent increase in digital spend overall for the 2019 season, with $723 billion in digital revenue worldwide. The difference in 2020: digital will dominate.

If more people are buying online, that means they’re spending more time online searching for things to buy. In the past, we’ve counseled retailers to aggressively embrace digital advertising tools to prepare for this shift in behavior (for more insight, see this post from 2018 and a sample post of mine from 2019). What’s different about this year is that online advertising where your audience is – such as on Amazon, Facebook, and Google  – is essential, not optional, especially as social distancing has created a surge in people spending more time on digital.

2 Level up Your Mobile Game

Consumers prefer digital, but they have not abandoned in-store shopping by any means. According to a new survey of more than 1,400 U.S. consumers by CodeBroker, 53 percent of shoppers intend to shop at physical locations. Among those who said they were not planning to shop at their favorite stores’ locations, 61 percent said they would change their mind if they received a high-value mobile/digital coupon for a product in which they were interested.

In addition, the Google/Ipsos research says that 53 percent of shoppers that plan to shop this season said they’ll choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping. And 47 percent of said they’ll use options to buy online, pickup in-store, or use curbside pickup.

These findings tells us that retailers that use mobile wisely to improve the brick-and-mortar shopping experience will win. Here again, this trend is not new. Holiday shopping has been going mobile for some time, and as we blogged in 2019, retailers that had already responded to the rise of mobile orders were already enjoying a distinct advantage over those that had not. What’s different about 2020 is that retailers need to prepare for a surge in curbside pick-up orders with consumers using their mobile phones to manage the process of ordering and picking up their purchases. Moreover, retailers can and should deploy advertising strategies that use mobile coupons where possible and appropriate.

3 Adapt to a Different Shopping Mindset

How shoppers feel about the holiday season will be radically different. Consider these realities:

  • Many shoppers will be planning for a holiday apart from their extended families as they practice social distancing. As shoppers inevitably order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, their moods will be affected.
  • Shoppers are already planning amid a threat of COVID-19 cases spiking again during the winter and possibly triggering state-by-state lockdowns. The ongoing news reports about COVID-19 are likely creating a sense of urgency among shoppers as they work around the possibility of their favorite stores closing. Moreover, shoppers are likely experiencing understandable anxiety and fear.

Retailers should respond by:

  • Activating holiday shopping campaigns now. If ever there was a year when shoppers are planning ahead and are receptive to holiday campaigns that promote services such shipping and curbside pickup, 2020 is that time.

In addition, be ready for a surge in queries from shoppers about details such as product order status as people shop with caution. The Google/Ipsos survey found that 67 percent of holiday shoppers will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it. This means retailers should expect more customer queries everywhere you interact with customers, including email and your socials.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed this holiday season with online advertising, contract True Interactive. We have extensive experience helping businesses thrive with digital.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Advertising

Businesses, keep your eyes on Apple Maps. The increasingly popular wayfinding app is making some big changes with the roll-out of iOS 14 this fall. As widely reported, Apple will:

Empower Visual Storytellers

People who visit businesses may upload photos of those businesses on their Apple Maps listings, just like they can do on Google Maps. The next time someone wants to post a photo of their stay at your hotel, they can do just that on your Apple Maps listing. Or if they want to depict the quality and safety of their dining experience at your restaurant, you can expect them to do so on your listing.

Rate Your Business

For the first time, people can rate their experience at your location by giving you a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Now, this is a pretty basic change. On Google Maps, people can actually write reviews, not just ratings. But even still, allowing for ratings is probably going to move Apple Maps closer to being a full-fledged site for reviews and ratings. This development means businesses will need to pay more serious attention to Apple Maps as a source of reputation building. Customer ratings and reviews are increasingly important. Nine out of 10 people read them.

Why the News about Apple Maps Matters to Online Advertising

So why should businesses that advertise online care about these changes? Well, for one thing, anytime Apple changes its products, businesses need to pay attention. Apple is a bellwether brand with a wide-ranging influence across the business landscape. When Apple acts, the world is affected. We believe that the Apple Maps changes mean a few things:

Mind Your Own Visual Storytelling

Businesses need to strengthen their ability to create compelling visual content, including images and video, in their online advertising. Apple is responding to the reality that in the age of Instagram, visual content creates lasting impact. Apple is appealing to the same consumer who follows sites like Instagram closely. The question for any business: how powerful is your visual content? How well do you capitalize on visually appealing ad formats on sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat to connect with customers?

Think of Maps Apps as Brand-Building Tools

True, Apple Maps is not an advertising destination. But apps such as Google Maps and Waze evolved beyond consumer wayfinding a long time ago, as we have discussed on our own blog. And Google Maps is easily the most dominant map app. As Apple continues to position Apple Maps as the ad-free, pro-privacy alternative to Google Maps, businesses should expect Google to go in the opposite direction. Rather than allow Apple to define its brand, Google will roll out more advertising options for businesses on Google Maps. Watch for them and capitalize on them.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.