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

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Why Google Smart Shopping Is a Boon for Retailers

Google

School is always in session at True Interactive. We regularly learn about Google products through Google’s Partner Academy, which keeps its advertising partners in the know about key product updates.  At a recent Partner Academy event in Chicago, we got immersed in Google’s recently launched smart shopping campaigns. Smart shopping combines multiple campaigns running on Google ad networks and uses machine learning to maximize their performance. My take: retailers should jump on smart shopping now to maximize your holiday campaigns.

Smart shopping combines shopping and dynamic remarketing campaigns into one product available on all networks where people are conceivably shopping:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Remarketing.
  • YouTube.

Smart shopping provides an efficient way for advertisers to roll up multiple campaigns into one. In addition, Google optimizes performance of your campaign across each network. According to Google’s blog,

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

With Smart Shopping campaigns, your existing product feed and assets are combined with Google’s machine learning to show a variety of ads across networks. Link to a Merchant Center account, set a budget, upload assets, and let us know the country of sale. Our systems will pull from your product feed and test different combinations of the image and text you provide, then show the most relevant ads across Google networks, including the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.

To help you get the best value from each ad, Google also automates ad placement and bidding for maximum conversion value at your given budget.

The main advantage of the product is that Google serves your ads among the four networks where they perform best. In addition, smart shopping offers a more efficient spend, more sensible budgeting (you fund only one campaign and let Google optimize your budget), and a simplified approach to campaign management. The product is a boon for large retailers running complex campaigns, including, of course, holiday campaigns.

There is a downside, though: you cannot break out results by the four types of shopping experiences. Therefore you cannot really optimize toward the best performing format. When I asked Google about this limitation, I was told that providing this breakout is one of Google’s highest priorities for smart shopping campaigns in 2019. So, stay tuned.

In addition, you cannot apply negatives, such as negative keywords and topics, to your campaign. So if you want to, say, exclude news topics to avoid having your ad appear alongside an undesirable topic, you cannot do so.

The format also has limits. Smart shopping supports only two bid types: maximum conversion value and target return on ad spend. You also have to install the dynamic remarketing tag on to your site, which drops a cookie on users’ browsers and draws on the product ID as well as the revenue and other attributes to create audiences. (By contrast, with standard remarketing, you don’t need to fuss with this tag. You can use a generic tag that applies everywhere.)

Since smart shopping campaigns take about 15 days to really take effect, make sure you plan ahead so that you hit peak performance on days that matter most to you, such as Cyber Monday. If you have questions about how to deploy smart shopping campaigns, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Note: this post is the first in a four-part series on recently launched ad products from Google. Watch our blog for more posts.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/working-macbook-computer-keyboard-34577/

Google Broadens Exact Match: What You Need to Know

Google Broadens Exact Match: What You Need to Know

Google

Our clients have been asking us about some recent news regarding how Google defines exact match. Here’s what’s going on and what you need to know:

Broadening “Exact Match”

Exact match is a keyword match type. With exact match keywords, a business can conduct a paid search campaign and reach potential customers searching for a specific keyword that you’re bidding on; or some close variant of it.

Google recently broadening the meaning of an exact match. Google is now looking at user intent when matching a query against a keyword. As Google noted in a blog post, Google will show ads for searches that include implied words, paraphrases, and other terms with the same meaning. Here’s how Google explains the change:

Let’s say you’re marketing for a travel business. If you’re using the exact match keyword [yosemite camping], your ads may show on other terms like “yosemite campground,” “campsites in yosemite,” or “yosemite national park ca camping.”

In each case, the intent of the search still matches the original keyword: to go camping in Yosemite National Park. However, you wouldn’t show on terms like “yosemite hotel” or “best yosemite camping,” because while both refer to staying at the park, the intent is different. Instead, these terms would match to the broad match version of this keyword.

This update represents a major change to Google’s algorithm. Why the change? According to Google, roughly 15 percent of searches conducted every day are new. As a result, potential customers might be looking for products and services using terms and phrases that are not even on your radar screen. But now, with machine learning, Google can cast its net wider without advertisers needing to manage an ever-expanding keyword list.

Benefits

Both advertisers and Google should benefit from this change. Businesses should be able to reach more people using Google’s advertising products. According to Google, advertisers using mostly exact match keywords see 3 percent more exact match clicks and conversions on average, with most coming from queries they aren’t reaching today. Google also benefits by matching user queries to a broader pool of keywords – which means more clicks, traffic, and revenue for Google.

What You Should Do

I advise any advertiser to keep a close eye on your search query reports (SQRs). You may notice unexpected queries matched to your keywords. You may need to add keyword negatives to modify your campaign. All algorithm changes have an impact. So watch your reports closely and be ready to adapt as needed. If you have additional questions about exact match targeting, contact True Interactive. We’re happy to help!

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google Responsive Ads: What You Need to Know

Google

Google is working harder to woo advertisers as the company faces stiffer competition from Amazon and Facebook. For example, Google rolled out responsive search ads and responsive display ads to make the advertising platform more flexible for brands. It is important that advertisers understand these features and how to maximize their value.

How Responsive Search and Display Ads Work

According to Google, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

Responsive display ads work the same way, with advertisers submitting up to up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions, and five logos for a display ad. As with responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to test different combinations and show the ads that work best. According to Google, “On average, advertisers see 10% more conversions at a similar CPA when using multiple headlines, descriptions, and images with responsive display ads (versus a single set of assets).”

What You Need to Know

Based on our experience with clients, I see some near-term ramifications:

  • Your advertising will become more effective. These formats are exciting because they capitalize on machine learning to scale your advertising content. As Google notes, “Great display ads assist consumers using rich images and useful information. However, showing the most relevant and engaging ads across millions of sites and apps isn’t easy.” Responsive ads are a compelling solution.
  • Organic content pays a price. By making ads more effective, Google will push organic listings down in search results.
  • You need to invest more effort. Yes, Google does do the heavy lifting when it comes to executing on your ads. But to get the most out of this format, you’ll need to come up with more variants of your message and images. (That’s the point of responsive search and display: Google takes multiple inputs to give you optimal results.) In addition, you’ll want to monitor which assets are performing best, which takes time and effort (although Google provides tips for doing so on its blog).

What You Should Do

  • Review your messaging strategy. Having more variants of your content presents an opportunity to review your messaging and differentiators. You obviously don’t want to create content willy-nilly. All your content should support your brand in some way.
  • Learn. The Google blog links I’ve shared above contain a number of tips for maximizing the value of these ads. For instance, with responsive search ads, Google advises that you include at least one of your keywords in your headlines, and create headlines that are relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. Furthermore, provide as many distinct headlines as you can. Per Google, “More headlines gives Google Ads more options for assembling your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.”

At True Interactive, we’re working with clients to plan and execute advertising with these and many other tools. We’ll report our learnings on our blog. Watch for our posts, and contact us if you need help with your online advertising.

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Coming Soon: A $1 Trillion Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

Get ready for a strong holiday shopping season. eMarketer has raised its 2018 holiday shopping forecast, with total retail spending growth expected to be 4.1 percent, up from eMarketer’s previous prediction of a 3.8 percent growth rate. The 2018 season will approach $1 trillion in spending, or $986.77 billion to be more precise. In addition, eMarketer says that retail ecommerce will grow at 16.2 percent, with that growth being driven largely by mobile.

“We expect that the 2018 holiday retail season will be one of the strongest in recent years,” eMarketer said in the October report, Holiday Shopping 2018. Reasons for a strong season include:

  • A strong economy that will fuel spending.
  • A lengthy shopping season, with 32 days occurring between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the longest possible calendar between these two landmark dates. “This will give shoppers ample opportunity to complete more of their holiday shopping online,” noted eMarketer.
  • The growth of mobile. “The other key growth factor is the extent to which mobile is fueling consumers’ ecommerce migration” said eMarketer. “Mobile now drives nearly two-thirds of online shopping activity, according to research firm comScore, and is inching ever closer to a majority share of ecommerce spending. Although shoppers are still much more likely to shop than buy on mobile, they are increasingly comfortable transacting on smartphones, thanks to more seamless, optimized experiences on both mobile web and apps.”

The prospect of a stronger holiday season is good news for retailers and consumer electronics firms. Per eMarketer, “Consumer electronics will prove popular during the 2018 season, particularly with an ever-expanding slate of voice-activated and connected home products hitting the market. Apparel and accessories will continue its online migration, while the toys and hobbies sector promises to get more competitive.”

The companies in the best position to thrive:

  • Have strong mobile commerce operations.
  • Capitalize on an expected intense period of spending around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday is no longer a single-day event. The day really begins on Thanksgiving now.
  • Effectively invest in advertising across the digital world, with a focus on Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

To make sure you benefit from the holiday spend, be sure to check out some recently published resources from True Interactive:

  • Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads,” a post from Samantha Coconato that discusses one of Amazon’s popular advertising products for businesses that have a presence on the platform.

At True Interactive, we’ve been actively working with clients to create successful holiday advertising campaigns online. Contact us if you need assistance with yours. We’re happy to help.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

How to Succeed in Amazon’s World

How to Succeed in Amazon’s World

Amazon

One of the most significant advertising stories of the year is the rise of Amazon as an ad platform. As we discussed on our blog earlier this year, Amazon’s advertising products have been enjoying phenomenal growth albeit off a much smaller base compared to Google and Facebook.

And Amazon shows no signs of slowing down. In September, eMarketer reported that in 2018, Amazon will become the third-largest digital advertising platform behind Google and Facebook. On October 8, CNBC reported that some advertisers are moving as much as half of their search budgets from Google to Amazon. According to CNBC, “Amazon appears to be emerging as the most credible threat to Google’s cash cow advertising business since Facebook conquered mobile advertising beginning shortly after its 2012 IPO.” Those reasons include:

  • Amazon’s continued growth as an ecommerce platform beyond retail, which gives Amazon a larger pool of advertisers.
  • Amazon’s popularity as a search engine. According to Survata, about half of product searches begin on Amazon.
  • Amazon provides a seamless search-and-purchase option. Per CNBC, unlike the case with Google, “Using a Google search ad to lead to a purchase may require a person to set up an account and input their credit card information with a separate website. Especially for smaller brands, there’s not really an advantage between selling direct to the consumer versus selling through Amazon.”

Google holds a strong lead over Facebook and Amazon. But especially for businesses that sell products on Amazon, Amazon’s advertising products are increasingly attractive.

To help our readers better understand how to succeed with Amazon’s advertising solutions, on our blog we are casting a spotlight on three Amazon products: sponsored ads, display ads, and video ads. The first post in our series, “Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads,” is live. As my colleague Samantha Coconato writes, Amazon’s sponsored ads are Amazon’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution. They are available to sellers, venders, book venders, and Kindle Direct Publishing. Sponsored ads take a consumer directly to a product page or brand site within Amazon.

To maximize the value of sponsored ads, advertisers should spend time to really think through which products and offers would make the most sense on this platform. For example, putting up ads for a seller’s entire inventory all year round would probably not be a wise use of your money. Pulsing the ads on and off during seasonal or clearance sales and using a promotion or discount would be a better way to generate sales and to raise awareness of your products or store.

For more insight into Amazon sponsored ads, check out our post. And stay tuned for more insight. If you have questions about maximizing the value of digital advertising, contact us. We’re here to help.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Why Advertisers Need Bing

Why Advertisers Need Bing

Marketing

I know of businesses that consider Microsoft’s Bing search engine to be a “cover-your-bases” alternative to Google. But Bing continues to grow as a strong advertising platform on its own terms. As The Verge reported recently, Bing is contributing to surging growth at Microsoft:

Microsoft’s search advertising revenue from Bing has been growing steadily over the course of the financial year. Each quarter it has consistently grown by around 15 percent, and Q4 is no exception. Search revenue is up 17 percent, thanks to higher revenue per search and an increase in search volume. While many are quick to dismiss Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Microsoft might have a unique opportunity to capitalize on its search engine after the EU ruled to force Google to unbundle its search app from Android. Phone makers will certainly be looking for opportunities to bundle rival search engines and browsers in the coming months.

Here are two reasons to invest in Bing as an advertising platform based on its own merits:

1 Bing Is Valuable

At True Interactive, we have seen larger average order values on Bing compared to Google. In other words, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. Why? The average Bing searcher probably has a higher income level than the average Google user.

2 Bing Innovates

Bing has been a forward-thinking innovator from the start. For instance, Bing’s visually stunning layout, emphasizing crisp graphics, has always been light years ahead of Google, making Bing literally a more attractive-looking platform in the Instagram age.

Bing continues to raise the bar with visual content. The recently launched Bing visual search extends a strong visual search capability across both Android and iOS devices, whereas visual search on Google remains limited to the Android world.

Bing innovates in many other ways, too. Recently Bing announced Spotlight, which relies on artificial intelligence and an extensive knowledge graph to provide a more well-rounded perspective on news that evolves over time. As Bing explained on its blog, “Spotlight shows users the latest headlines, a rundown of how the story has developed over time, and relevant social media posts from people around the web. Spotlight also shows diverse perspectives on a given topic so users can quickly get a well-rounded view on the topic before deciding what they want to go deeper on and read by clicking on any of the articles.” Here’s an image from the post:

Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn gives Bing more fertile ground to innovate. Bing recently made it possible to allow advertisers to target LinkedIn audiences. By contrast, Google Ads lack this option.

Google remains the top dog in search because of its market share alone. But Google is not the only option. Bing provides advertisers a tool to tap into a wellspring of innovation especially as consumer behavior continues to evolve with visual search.

For more insight into how to integrate Bing into your own digital marketing, contact True Interactive.