It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

Good news for Amazon. Bad news for Google. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon’s share of online advertising continues an upward trend. Google, by contrast, continues to lose marketshare. Read on to learn more.

The What

Amazon’s share of online advertising, which has been rising every year, will reach 9.5 percent in 2020, eMarketer says. Google’s share will drop to 29.4 percent, as Google reports its first-ever decline in advertising revenue since eMarketer began tracking advertising revenue in 2008. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of online advertising is predicted to rise to 23.4 percent (note, however, that eMarketer published its analysis before an advertising boycott of Facebook took hold—those numbers will likely be re-evaluated).

The Why

Why is Amazon Advertising increasing its share, while Google sees its marketshare drop?

  • Amazon’s advertising unit, known as Amazon Advertising, is probably benefitting from people shifting their purchasing online during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. As we have blogged, Amazon without question became an especially attractive place to make purchases as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. And Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during this surge, with a tool kit including products such as Sponsored Ads and Display Ads.
  • Meanwhile, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, Nicole Perrin, explains that “Google’s net US ad revenues will decline this year primarily because of a sharp pullback in travel advertiser spending, which in the past has been heavily concentrated on Google’s search ad products. Travel has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, with the most extreme spending declines of any industry.”

What the News Means

The news creates some nice press for Amazon Advertising, but as we have blogged, Google’s ad business remains healthy and solid. And as eMarketer points out, Google is being hit by the economic downturn in travel. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google’s ad products, however.

In fact, Google continues to make its ad products better. We have blogged about some of its innovations lately:

Facebook likely has more to worry about than Google. An advertising boycott is gaining traction with big brands such as Unilever and Starbucks pulling their ad business because they believe Facebook is not doing enough to police hate speech, among other grievances. As reported by cnbc.com, the big names already responding to the #StopHateForProfit campaign have the potential to influence more companies to join the boycott.

Our Recommendations

We suggest that regardless of your platform of choice, businesses continue advertising online. Despite the turbulence among the big online ad players, we know that businesses that continue to have an online ad presence are best positioned for success.

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Do you need help sorting your digital ad presence? Contact True Interactive. We can help.

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Advertising Google

Automated bidding with Google Ads continues to take hold among advertisers. And it’s easy to see why: with automated bidding, Google does all the heavy lifting. But my advice to advertisers is to proceed carefully with automated bidding. In fact, as businesses around you adopt automated bidding, you might want to do manual bidding carefully and thoughtfully. Zig while your competitors zag.

For context: with an automated bid strategy, Google Ads automatically optimize bids based on a simple goal that the advertiser sets. But with manual bidding, an advertiser sets a maximum CPC bid at the ad group or keyword level. In addition, the advertiser can use targeting to modify bids based on variables such as income, location, and time of day, among others. Google’s own website mentions how automated bidding saves time and effort. And that’s certainly true. But, also consider this:

  • If you adopt automated bidding, you’re competing with everyone else using the same tool. You’re using the exact same algorithm that other advertisers are using, which eliminates your ability to gain a competitive edge by customizing your own bid strategy.
  • With automated bidding, you miss an opportunity to achieve the results that you can get with manual bidding. We know from our client work that manual bidding gives an advertiser more flexibility and control. For example, with manual bidding, you can set and adjust bids based on multiple KPIs (such as online orders and online leads). By contrast, with automated bidding, you give Google one goal, and Google sets your bid based on that goal. That’s it. No flexibility. No nuance. In addition, manual bidding lets you set your own maximum CPC for your ads and adjust them as needed. You are in the driver’s seat.

At True Interactive, we are zigging while the others zag with bid strategies. We have used manual bidding for clients and have experienced dramatic increases in year-over-year results. For one of our clients, a cable company, we realized a 67-percent year-over-year increase in online orders and an 80-percent increase in online leads thanks partly to using manual bidding. Why? Manual bidding has enabled us to adjust bids as needed based on our customer acquisition experience and knowledge of the client’s industry. We can be more targeted in our approach, refine our KPIs, and adjust our bids as needed.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: as more competitors use automated bidding, we see opportunities to outsmart them and achieve better results with manual bidding. Contact True Interactive to learn more.

Why You Shouldn’t Move Your Online Advertising Budget From Google to Amazon

Why You Shouldn’t Move Your Online Advertising Budget From Google to Amazon

Google

In the advertising world, the meteoric rise of Amazon Advertising is capturing a lot of buzz and inspiring commentary, including posts we’ve published on our own blog. At the same, Amazon Advertising’s biggest competitors, Google and Facebook, are as strong as ever. Consider the growth of Google’s own advertising business, which dominates the world of online advertising, even as Google’s share of the online ad market drops slightly, per eMarketer. Here’s the skinny:

Alphabet Reports Strong Earnings

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, surprised analysts recently by reporting stronger-than-expected earnings. As reported in Search Engine Land, Google produced $32.6 billion in advertising revenue in Alphabet’s second quarter. That’s a 22 percent increase year after year, and an uptick after several quarters of slowing growth.

The surge in advertising revenue for Google has a lot to do with Alphabet’s strong earnings. And advertising simply grew a lot better than expected. As Business Insider reported, “A resurgence in Google’s core advertising business, after a weak performance in the first quarter of the year . . . pushed Google’s net revenue up.” Interestingly, the earnings report came out on the same day that Amazon announced mixed results.

Why did Google Report Strong Growth for Its Advertising Business?

No one knows exactly why Google’s been nailing it with its advertising, because the company remains mum about the details. But as The Street pointed out, YouTube probably had something to do with it. Ruth Porat, Google’s Chief Financial Officer, revealed that YouTube revenue represented the second-highest growth of any segment for the search behemoth. And as management noted, “[W]e are building momentum with our subscription services, YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, now available in over 60 countries, up from five markets at the start of 2018.”

We also believe Google is succeeding because the company isn’t standing still and taking success for granted. As we discussed on our own blog, Google continues to launch new features and tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) to help advertisers launch smarter, more targeted campaigns. The headline is this: whether through paid search ads or display ads, Google has been making it easier for advertisers to do the work.

What You Should Do

What does Google’s trajectory mean to the savvy marketer? We recommend that you:

  • Stay abreast of the industry, and keep your options open. That includes staying calm in the face of inevitable fluctuation. For example, according to ad industry sources, some advertisers are defecting from Google and moving 50 to 60 percent of their ad budgets to Amazon. But news like this isn’t a reason to get rattled—or abandon Google. It doesn’t mean advertising should be an either/or between Amazon, Google, or Facebook. Ebbs and flows notwithstanding, the opportunities Google represents can’t be discounted. And no matter how much Amazon grows, Google is not going away. Brands that devote all their advertising resources to one outlet are likely to get burned—or miss out on opportunity.
  • Understand how Google is evolving. Google will continue to grow its ad business, drawing on several key advantages:
    • A head start in using AI with the specific aim of making advertising smarter and more effective. It’s true: AI is hot, and Google faces competition from Amazon and Facebook in this arena. But as noted above, the company is holding its own with a battery of AI tools.
    • An established global presence that reflects Google’s efforts to tailor advertising products in support of international ad campaigns.

Google continues to sense and respond to consumer tastes, even when Google’s profit motive is not evident. A good example is the forthcoming release of Stadia, the cloud-based gaming platform that Google announced recently. How Google will make money off Stadia is not clear immediately. But one thing is clear: Google is finding a way to keep people using Google by launching new products accessible through Google.

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Contact us to learn more about how online advertising might figure into your strategy. We’re here to help.

Four Alternatives to Last-Click Attribution

Four Alternatives to Last-Click Attribution

Attribution Modeling

Advertisers have become accustomed to the belief that the final click that leads directly to the conversion is the most important click – hence the affinity for last-click attribution. But it’s important that businesses transition away from last-click attribution. That’s because last-click attribution fails to account for the value of the entire conversion path.

Most marketers would agree that their brand campaigns drive a large number of conversions and have very low costs per action (CPAs). Of course the cost per clicks (CPCs) in brand campaigns tend to be very low, but those campaigns are also benefiting from last-click attribution models.

Let’s think about a customer journey for a moment. With the holiday shopping season upon us, many of us will start our search for the perfect gifts with some online searching. Here’s how one of my searches might look:

Top electronic gifts 2018 -> Fitness Trackers -> Top Rated Fitness Trackers ->Apple Watch

In the example above, the brand campaign housing the keyword “Apple Watch” would get 100-percent of the conversion credit if you use the last-click model. Clearly, I did not start my search on a branded keyword, yet the brand campaign gets full credit. When marketers use last-click attribution, they generally see that non-brand keywords achieve low conversation rates and high CPAs, and brand keywords achieve high conversion rates and low CPAs. But is this approach really a fair way to evaluate our campaign and keyword performance?

Marketers have all seen non-brand keywords fail to work well in a campaign. They may be costly to run, and rarely do we see strong conversions. I have paused my fair share of non-brand keywords as I can’t justify their worth to my clients. Not surprisingly, I see search volume decline; and although my CPA often times improves, my overall number of conversions also begins to decline. What we have been missing is the ability to see the value of the entire conversion path.

Alternative Models

One of the main focuses for Google this year has been transitioning clients from last-click attribution into a model that gives credit to each paid click in the user journey. Currently, there several different attribution models available in Google Ads.

Let’s take a look at some of the choices:

Data-Driven Attribution

The model Google recommends most is data-driven attribution, which uses Google’s machine learning technology to determine how much credit to assign each click in the paid search journey. This attribution model is all based on an advertiser’s own data and continues to “learn” over time.

Data-driven attribution takes both converting and non-converting paths into account, and it’s powered by dynamic algorithms that assign credit to touch points based on fractional credit. Google recommends choosing data-driven attribution when available. Unfortunately, this attribution model is not always an option as it requires 15,000 clicks on Google search and 600 conversions over a 30-day period.  Although smaller advertisers will not have access to this attribution model, there are still some good options available.

Linear Model

The linear model distributes the credit for the conversion equally across all clicks on the conversion path. If it takes four clicks for a searcher to convert, each click receives an equal part of the total conversion credit.

Time Decay Model

The Time Decay Model gives more credit to clicks that happen closer in time to the actual conversion. For example, if the path to conversion takes five clicks, the time decay model would assign an increasing proportion of credit with each subsequent click, with the final click that led to the conversion receiving the most credit.

Position-Based Model

The Position Based Model gives 40 percent of the conversion credit to the first click, 40 percent to the last click in the conversion path, and the remaining 20 percent across the other clicks on the path.

A Recommended Approach

As mentioned above, if the data-driven attribution model is an option for your campaigns, always choose that. But if you don’t have enough data available for that option, how do you go about choosing among the other options? Google offers a few suggestions:

  • Choose a time decay model if your client has a conservative growth strategy, is a market leader, and has little competition. In this scenario, the final clicks in the conversion path will get more credit.
  • If your client is growth oriented, new to the market, and is facing a lot of competition, choose a position-based model where the first and last clicks in the conversion path will get the most credit while the clicks in between will receive a smaller portion.
  • If your client falls somewhere in between, you may opt for a linear model, giving equal credit to all the clicks on the conversion path.

There is no absolute right or wrong choice, and any of the models you choose will give you better insight into the complete conversion path more than the last-click model can. Google also offers an attribution modeling tool in Google Ads that allows you to change attribution models and compare results among the different model types.

Outcomes of Different Models

No matter what attribution model you choose, you should anticipate a decline in brand conversions and an increase in non-brand conversions. The actual number of conversions will remain the same regardless of the model you choose. But you will see fractional conversions reported, indicating each campaign/ad group/keyword that played a role on the conversion path.

So let’s revisit my holiday shopping search from above:

Top electronic gifts 2018 -> Fitness Trackers -> Top Rated Fitness Trackers -> Apple Watch

If I used a position-based attribution model, here would be the new breakdown for conversion credit:

  • 40 percent of the credit would be given to “top electronic gifts 2018.”
  • 10 percent of the credit would be given to “fitness trackers.”
  • 10 percent of the credit would be given to “top rated fitness trackers.”
  • 40 percent of the credit would be given to “Apple Watch.”

Using last-click attribution, I would see keywords “top electronic gifts 2018,” “fitness trackers,” and “top rated fitness trackers” appear to be poor performers, as all of the conversion credit would have gone to “Apple Watch.” Conversely, if I were to use the position-based model, I would see that all of those keywords together played a role in the conversion path — and I would have a better understanding of the value of my non-brand keywords. This insight would allow me to make smarter decisions when optimizing.

Without question, we are able to make smarter decisions when we have a better understanding of the full conversion path. I suggest taking some time to experiment with the various attribution models using the attribution modeling tool in Google Ads. Based on your findings, select the attribution model that best suits your goals. I have found the additional conversion path insight to be valuable.

For more insight into how to improve the performance of your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Amazon Gears Up for Holiday Advertising – and So Should You

Analytics

Amazon is testing a new attribution tool as it ramps up its platform for holiday advertising. According to Digiday, Amazon has invited a select number of advertisers to test Amazon Attribution, which “lets advertisers compare whether ads on its sites are more effective than those on its rivals.” Amazon Attribution includes page views, purchase rate, and sales among the conversion metrics advertisers can select to understand the impact of their display, search, or video ads outside of Amazon.

As we have reported, Amazon’s advertising services are growing as more brands capitalize on Amazon’s popularity for search. As Marketing Dive notes, Amazon is positioning itself for an uptick in brand advertising for the 2018 holiday shopping season. Even if you are not one of the businesses using Amazon Attribution, I suggest you get a jump on the holidays by building awareness now inside and outside Amazon. You don’t need to do holiday advertising just yet – but you should prime the pump for the holidays by:

  • Building your name awareness on Amazon by using some of the advertising tools that Amazon has rolled out. Amazon has launched products such as display advertising designed to make it easier for merchants to reach its vast audience with paid media. Some of those products also help businesses advertise outside Amazon. Amazon’s advertising products were recently bundled under Amazon Advertising. For more insight, check out this Amazon page.
  • Step up digital advertising outside Amazon, too. Rolling out holiday ads in September is not the point – priming the pump by building general name awareness is.

You can measure the effectiveness of your pre-holiday campaign by expanding the conversion pixel of your display ads for a maximum of 90 days. Per Google, a conversion window is the period of time after a customer clicks your ad during which a conversion, such as a purchase, is recorded in Google Ads. The default window is 30 days.  But you can change the conversion window as often as you’d like. Doing so can makes it possible for you to track behavior all the way back to the click someone made on your display ad.

A Caveat

A caveat is in order: if you use the Google Ads conversion pixel as your primary source for tracking purchases, then it may not be the best idea to expand the pixel window to 90 days. Doing so can cause results to become inflated. If you are using another source as your true north (e.g. Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or a third-party platform like Marin or Search Ads 360) then the inflated conversion totals aren’t as much of an issue.

How are you preparing for the holiday season? Contact True Interactive if you need help. We collaborate with brands on all aspects of digital marketing every day.