Why the Popularity of Amazon Alexa at CES 2020 Matters to Advertisers

Why the Popularity of Amazon Alexa at CES 2020 Matters to Advertisers

Amazon

The Amazon Alexa voice assistant cast a big shadow over CES 2020, the premier annual event for showcasing new consumer technology. Amazon demonstrated a number of product integrations with Alexa. They matter because they point to a possible way that Amazon could lead online advertising.

The Battle for a Voice-First Future

Amazon is fighting a fierce battle with Apple and Google to lead the uptake of voice-based products among consumers and businesses (with Microsoft and Samsung also stepping up their own efforts). More than one quarter of Americans own voice-activated smart speakers, according to Voicebot.ai and Voicify. Amazon’s Echo leads the pack, but Google is catching up, as reported in The Motley Fool.

To win the war for voice, Amazon, Apple, and Google need to collaborate with product manufacturers to incorporate their voice assistants into product design (or through aftermarket upgrades).  And CES is where those integrations are demonstrated. For example, Bosch, the maker of smart home appliances such as dishwashers, announced an integration with the Apple Siri voice assistant. And a number of manufacturers ranging from Belk to GE announced integrations with Google Assistant, Google’s voice assistant.

But Amazon outflanked everyone. A wide variety of manufacturers ranging from bed maker Dux to helmet maker Jarvis demonstrated how they’re relying on Alexa to make it possible to use their products with our voices.  But it wasn’t just the sheer number of integrations with manufacturers that mattered – what really caught my eye was how Amazon is making it easier for people to actually purchase things.

Making Purchases Is the Holy Grail of Voice

As I wrote in a recent blog post, people still use voice to do more mundane tasks such as checking the weather. Making purchases, though, is the Holy Grail of voice. Voice commerce is a far more complicated undertaking. And at CES 2020, Amazon showed that it is up for the challenge. Amazon announced that in 2020, automobile drivers will be able to use Alexa to purchase gasoline. As Amazon said, “Later this year, customers will be able to say, “Alexa, pay for gas” to easily purchase fuel at all 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations. The transactions for this new Alexa feature are made through Amazon Pay and powered by Fiserv, a global financial services technology provider.

The ability to pull off voice-activated purchases requires Amazon to work closely with ExxonMobil – an example of the collaboration required to make voice a reality. If Amazon and ExxonMobil can make the purchase of gasoline as easy as making a voice command, then manufacturers and retailers will be encouraged to adopt voice for purchases, too. (Think of appliance makers turning the Amazon Dash device for order replenishment into a consistently reliable voice-first experience.)

Why CES 2020 Matters to Advertisers

Why do these announcements matter to businesses that advertise online? Well, here is a telling statistic: even though Amazon leads voice, Google pretty much owns online advertising. Google commands 37 percent of digital ad spend. The next largest competitor, Facebook, has 22 percent of the market. Amazon lags behind with 8.8 percent. But – Amazon is still very new to online advertising. It did not start dipping its toes into online advertising until 2008. Within 10 years, Amazon had become one of the big three of online advertising.

Amazon is rapidly threatening Google’s and Facebook’s leadership by offering new tools that help businesses advertise on Amazon – and off Amazon. We’ve written about some of those tools, such as my colleague Samantha Coconato’s posts on Amazon Video Ads, Amazon Display Ads, and Amazon Sponsored Ads. Those ad services capitalize on the reality that Amazon has become an increasingly popular way for people to search for products – even more popular than Google.

But Amazon knows the world is changing from text-based to voice-based search. Voice search is not “taking over.” But voice is becoming more common. Per a Microsoft study in 2019, 72 percent of people surveyed had used voice search the previous month. Amazon is preparing for the time when voice will reach a tipping point, and businesses will have no choice but to employ voice-based advertising and search engine optimization tactics into their game plans.

And that’s why the product integrations matter. By making Alexa the de facto voice assistant in everyday products, Amazon wants people to be more comfortable using their voices to use and buy things. Encouraging the uptake of voice among consumers helps Amazon position itself as the premier advertising partner for businesses.

Whether Amazon succeeds remains to be seen. But as Google and Apple compete with Amazon to integrate voice, it’s clear that advertisers need to be ready to adapt.

Contact True Interactive

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The Big Trend in Voice for 2020: Voice Assistants Get Personality

The Big Trend in Voice for 2020: Voice Assistants Get Personality

Branding

Where is voice technology headed in 2020? That’s the question on the minds of businesses and technologists as the annual CES show gets under way in Las Vegas. I believe the answer is that voice-enabled devices will get more personality, making voice technology more approachable — and encouraging businesses to embrace sonic branding.

The Rise of Voice Search

I’ve written often about the rise of voice search. I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices. The fact that more consumers are adopting voice-enabled devices is beyond debate – but just to remind you how popular voice-based products have become, allow me to direct you to an insight from Statistica about the growth of smart speakers (which are just one type of voice-enabled product):

As consumers have become increasingly open to the idea of integrating smart technology into their households, smart speaker sales revenue has skyrocketed, growing from around 900 million in 2016 to nearly 12 billion in 2019. Growth in the smart speaker market is increasing at a faster rate than that of other smart home devices, which shows that people trust the technology and find it easy to adopt. As of 2019 an estimated 35 percent of U.S. households are equipped with at least one smart speaker and by 2025 forecast suggest that this penetration rate will increase to around 75 percent.

What fascinates me is not just the growth but how people are using their voices. This time last year, the news stories about voice tended to focus on increasing sales of products such as smart speakers that use the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants (and, to a lesser degree, Apple’s Siri voice assistant).

Voice Gets Personality

But a sample of headlines for the week of January 6, 2020, shows a shift in the narrative. Voice sales still matter, but what matters even more is how people are using voice products as this headline sample shows:

Notice anything about the top three results? They all focus on how we communicate with devices, specifically the need for voice assistants and people to do a better job communicating with each other. The CNN headline about programming your voice assistant to sound like actor Samuel L. Jackson is telling. In 2019, Amazon announced that soon, an Alexa skill would make it possible for people to have their smart devices talk to them using Jackson’s distinctive, earthy speaking style. Now the capability has arrived.

Why does this particular Alexa skill matter? Because it shows that voice is moving on from an impersonal utility to an assistant with personality. Being able to inject one’s voice assistant with the warm, familiar voice of Samuel L. Jackson should help people overcome a natural aversion to communicating with voice-based products: using a device that listens to us and talks to us in the most private areas of our living spaces. As journalist Judith Shulevitz wrote in a recent Atlantic article, “Is Alexa Dangerous?”:

Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into our lives. With their perfect cloud-based memories, they will be omniscient; with their occupation of our most intimate spaces, they’ll be omnipresent. And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like?

Amazon is not the only company making voice more approachable and comfortable by incorporating familiar, iconic names in their products and services. In 2015, KFC teamed up with the navigation app Waze to give motorists a fresh voice option for their audio directions: Colonel Harland Sanders. Google actually beat Amazon to the punch with celebrity tie-ins by making it possible to incorporate the voice of singer John Legend in Google Assistant. In October, Google announced that Google Assistant would incorporate the voice of actress Issa Rae.

Why Voice with Personality Matters to Advertisers

These developments matter very much to advertisers. Although people are getting more comfortable performing complex tasks such as making purchases with their voice assistants, for the most part consumers rely on voice assistants to do simple, mundane things such as checking the weather. Many businesses confine their commitment to voice to making their content more findable through voice search. And voice-enabled SEO is crucial.

But for businesses to do more sophisticated branding and advertising through voice, they need to feel confident that consumers will start responding by having rich dialogues with the brand, leading to commerce. As more businesses realize the ways voice technology can assume a personality, they will adopt more forms of sonic branding as KFC did with its Col. Sanders voice-based experience cited in this post.

Thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence, voice-enabled devices are in fact, getting smarter and more capable of managing purchases and product orders. Frankly, the market got flooded with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home before AI was adequately advanced to make a voice-activated speaker as smart as we’d like them to be. Those days are rapidly drawing to a close, which is good for businesses and consumers.

The next big step in the evolution of a voice-first world is for voice to be more user friendly. And developments such as the Samuel L. Jackson skill are an important part of that evolution.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

What Is DuckDuckGo? Advertiser Q&A

Advertising Marketing

Part of the price of being popular is being a target. And as we enter 2020, Google is certainly a big target for privacy advocates, who are uncomfortable with the amount of personal data that the master of the search world collects. And when privacy advocates talk about Google, they mean more than Google.com – there’s also Google Maps, YouTube, and a host of other Google-owned properties to consider. Amid the ongoing discussion about Google’s size and reach, search engine DuckDuckGo has emerged as an alternative for privacy advocates. DuckDuckGo is cast as an underdog and defender of personal privacy, partly because of how the company positions itself (“privacy, simplified”) and partly because of DuckDuckGo’s operating model (DuckDuckGo does not store personal information, follow users around with ads, or track users).

What, exactly, is DuckDuckGo, and how big is it? Let’s tackle these and other questions we’ve been getting from clients.

What Is DuckDuckGo?

Founded in 2008, DuckDuckGo is a search engine whose claim to fame is protecting user privacy. DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or log user information; and DuckDuckGo uses cookies only when required. The search engine also markets itself with a bit of cheek (according to its website, “At DuckDuckGo, we don’t think the Internet should feel so creepy and getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds”) and defiance (“Too many people believe that you simply can’t expect privacy on the Internet. We disagree and have made it our mission to set a new standard of trust online”).

Think of DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine for those who want to maintain a brick wall of privacy between themselves and the digital world when they search.

How Big Is DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo accommodates 1.5 billion searches a month with nearly 15 billion searches conducted in 2019. By contrast, in 2019, Google accommodated 2 trillion searches a day. Although DuckDuckGo is tiny by comparison, the search engine is growing. Those 15 billion searches represent a 60 percent increase over 2018 (9.2 billion) and nearly a tripling of 2017 searches (5.9 billion). Clearly, DuckDuckGo is catching on – with a small segment of the population, yes, but a growing on.

How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money?

DuckDuckGo makes money through advertising and affiliate marketing. Just because DuckDuckGo protects your privacy, it doesn’t mean DuckDuckGo offers ad-free search results. If a user searches for, say, “vinyl records near me,” DuckDuckGo returns advertisements based on the keyword search. But DuckDuckGo does not track or use a person’s data after the search is completed. In addition, DuckDuckGo earns affiliate marketing revenue from sites such as from Amazon and eBay. When users buy something on those sites after reaching them through DuckDuckGo, DuckDuckGo collects a commission. For more insight about advertising on DuckDuckGo, check out this link from the company.

Is DuckDuckGo Reliable?

Your mileage may vary. The search engine has been called out for lacking certain functionality available on Google and Bing, such as custom date ranges. And to be sure, Google provides an interconnected universe of properties (Google.com and Google Maps being a good example). But DuckDuckGo is building out its functionality. For instance, you can do location-based searches through an integration between DuckDuckGo and Apple Maps. The best way to test it is to try it.

Should I Advertise on DuckDuckGo?

Businesses with a limited budget should focus on the properties where they’ll get the most bang for the buck, and without question there are bigger alternative such as Google and Bing that provide much more ad visibility. One of DuckDuckGo’s challenges is that the site itself requires a bit of word of mouth for people to find. But that said, businesses might want to consider DuckDuckGo for discretionary ad spend targeting a smaller privacy-conscious segment of the population.  According to research from SimilarWeb, loyal users of DuckDuckGo love tech, and they use DuckDuckGo as an alternative because they’re concerned about having their privacy protected while they search online. If that’s the type of audience for you, consider DuckDuckGo.

Contact True Interactive

To make online advertising work for you, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.

8 Digital Advertising Predictions for 2020

8 Digital Advertising Predictions for 2020

Advertising

Google takes control of advertising. More businesses feel the heat over consumer privacy. Voice search gets smarter. These are among the trends influencing digital advertising in 2020, according to True Interactive. Here’s a sample of what’s on our minds:

1 Google Takes Control of Advertising

Google is taking away manual control of Google Advertising with the removal of the average position metric and by continuing to implement automated bidding tools and metrics such as top impression share that make measuring search ranking less transparent. As a result, CPCs are going up.

Going forward, Google will continue to push automated bidding strategies. Google’s rationale is that its algorithms are smarter, making it possible for Google to adjust bids per auction. But smarter bids are not necessarily less costly ones in the short term, and there is still much trepidation by marketers in handing total control over to Google, who stand stands to profit from an increase in CPCs and overall spend. Bottom line: as Google continues to make manual bidding more challenging, advertisers will be forced to buy into automated bidding with less transparency.  Expect CPCs to increase at least in the short term as businesses hand more control over to Google.

— Beth Bauch, senior manager

2 The CCPA Throws Down the Hammer on Big Tech

By July 2020, we will see the first major lawsuit against one of the big technology firms – likely Facebook or Google – over a violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA, which goes into effect January 1, is evolving. Businesses are still figuring out its vagaries and requirements. Google and Facebook are in interesting and vulnerable position because they touch so much audience data for businesses, increasing their risk level. And we know Facebook’s track record for privacy violations, don’t we? Watch for it: a major lawsuit will happen that forces businesses to come to terms with the CCPA.

— Tim Colucci, vice president

3 Netflix Adopts Advertising

Netflix will need to adopt some form of advertising. Netflix has achieved phenomenal growth, to be sure. But the entertainment company also faces unprecedented threats with Disney+ and, eventually, Apple+ once Apple figures out a long-term strategy that works. (Apple has a lot of cash and time to get Apple+ right. Just wait.)

In addition, the cost of creating content is putting Netflix in an interesting bind: when Netflix has a hit show, it has to spend more money to accommodate audience demand, creating even more costs. On top of all that, for the first time in a long time, Netflix has reported drops in membership levels.

Netflix will likely introduce a less-expensive ad-based model, but the company will also do something it has avoided pursuing: product placements in shows like Stranger Things, which popularized brands such as Kellogg’s Eggos without earning Netflix a dime in return. Those days will come to an end as Netflix responds to pressure from investors to cover its costs and respond to the threat of Disney.

— Héctor Ariza, manager

4 Voice Search Gets Smarter and More Useful

I’ve written often about the rise of voice search, and I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices. But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices. That’s happening because as we get accustomed to the ease of using our voices to manage our lives, we are gradually becoming more comfortable accomplishing more complex tasks. In addition, thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence, voice-enabled devices are getting smarter and more capable of managing purchases and product orders. Frankly, the market got flooded with smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home before AI was adequately advanced to make a voice-activated speaker as smart as we’d like them to be. Those days are rapidly drawing to a close.

— Taylor Murphy, manager

5 Google Monetizes Maps and Google My Business

We recently blogged about the fact that half of searches on Google stay on Google properties such as Google Maps, YouTube, and a business’s Google My Business (GMB) listing. In other words, half of searches are not resulting in clicks on a business’s website. In addition, Google My Business is the most important local search signal according to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors. These data points mean that businesses need to invest more time and energy maximizing the value of their presence on Google. Google knows this reality and is getting more aggressive about offering advertising products for businesses on these sites. Earlier in 2019, Bloomberg discussed how Google is evolving Google Maps with more advertising tools. Especially as more cars integrate mapping technology, Google is going to place even more advertising emphasis here. I also expect Google to provide more advertising options for businesses to promote themselves on their GMB listings. I also would not be surprised If Google introduces a premium version of GMB in which businesses will enjoy more features for a cost.

— Mark Smith, co-founder

6 Cause Marketing Faces a Reckoning

Cause marketing has been around for years. Businesses have learned they can create stronger emotional ties with customers and job seekers by associating themselves with a topical issue such as sustainability. In 2019, businesses were falling all over themselves to promote a position on sustainability as the topic reached all-time levels of public awareness. But there’s just one hitch: we’re seeing a glut of cause marketing campaigns, and they’re not necessarily connecting with consumers. I was reading a recent report from DoSomething Strategic that discusses how businesses have struggled to make their cause marketing connect with young people. Gen Z definitely wants to associate with purpose-driven companies. But businesses still have a lot of work to do in order to convince them that they’re aligned with Gen Z values. Businesses are going to become more careful about how they do cause marketing. I believe we’ll see fewer online ads and a more thoughtful use of content marketing, PR, social media, and native advertising in which a business can spend more time having a longer-term discussion about issues it cares about. Businesses will humanize these conversations by sharing their position through the voices of their people.

— Kurt Anagnostopoulos, co-founder

7 Agile Advertising Takes Hold

We all know about real-time marketing, in which a brand uses social media to turn a news event into a marketing opportunity. Agile advertising occurs when a business acts on a recent event and creates a connected marketing experience that endures well beyond a single tweet, Facebook post, or other digital impression. We saw Bud Light exercise agile advertising during the World Series when it capitalized on the fact that a fan in the stands stopped a home run ball with his chest while holding two Bud Lights in his hands. Bud Light created a series of marketing moments including creating a branded T shirt depicting the fan stopping the home run ball. Bud Light paid the fan to attend another World Series game sporting the Bud Light attire. We also saw agile advertising in action when Aviation Gin created a slick ad online that gently made light of the controversial Pelton cycling ad. I see more businesses adopting this practice because the digital production tools have evolved to the point where talented storytellers can quickly conceive of an idea and get it into market with an ad that taps into current events and endures for days and weeks.

— Max Petungaro, associate

8 Hispanic Marketing Hits Its Stride

In the United States, 69 counties are majority Hispanic, doubling from 34 in 2010. Hispanics have increased their economic power, reflecting a growingly diverse U.S. population. In 2020, Hispanics will possess $1.7 trillion in buying power. The United States continues to reflect Hispanic tastes in all aspects of our culture (including and beyond the Hispanic community, ranging from movies to popular music). We’re going to see businesses apply research and targeting to do more effective, sophisticated Hispanic marketing that recognizes the diversity and tastes that reside among Hispanics. Brands are already capitalizing on this growing market. (For more insight about marketing to Hispanics, check out our blog post.) And tech companies such as Google are responding to a more multicultural world in general by making their platforms more open to people who speak languages other than English, an example being how the Google Assistant voice software can interpret 44 languages on smart phones. These types of developments will help bridge the world between businesses and Hispanics in 2020.

— Amanda Cortese, associate

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

 

 

 

 

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash

Google Fights Amazon through Location-Based Advertising

Google Fights Amazon through Location-Based Advertising

Google

Amazon is gunning for Google. A recently published report by Forrester says that Amazon Advertising will have a break-out year in 2020, leveraging its popularity as a search platform to make its booming online advertising business an even bigger threat to Google than it is. Currently, Amazon is the third-largest online advertising platform – still far behind Google and Facebook in terms of market share, but rapidly growing.

But Google has many cards to play, and strengthening its advertising services at the local level is a big one.

Location-Based Digital Advertising Is Big Business

Location-based digital advertising is big business, as brick-and-mortar establishments capitalize on increasingly prolific tools such as search and display to attract customers. As well they should: in 2018, Google reported that the number of “near me” searches on Google has risen by 500 percent over a period of two years, meaning an explosion of searches for people seeking things to do, places to go, and purchases to make near their location. Google has seen an opportunity to monetize that kind of search behavior and acted on it.

How Google Is Developing Location-Based Advertising Tools

Here are some examples of Google products for businesses to use in order to attract those near me searches to their locations:

  • Promoted Pins. Google is barely scratching the surface for using Google Maps as an advertising platform. I mentioned local search ads on Google Maps above. But that’s not the only way to advertise there. Businesses can also use tools such as Promoted Pins, which are visually appealing markers that make a business’s location stand out. Earlier in 2019, Bloomberg discussed how Google is evolving Google Maps with more advertising tools. Especially as more cars integrate mapping technology, Google is going to place even more advertising emphasis here.
  • Location extensions.These make it possible for a business to show an address, phone number, and a map marker along with its ad text. There are two types of these extensions: Google Ads location extensions help people find a location by showing ads with address, a map to a location, or the distance to a business. And Affiliate location extensions help people find nearby stores of a retail chain that sell your products. Per Google, the Affiliate location extensions tool is useful if you sell your products through retail chains and want to reach consumers when they are deciding what and where to buy.
  • Google My Business. Google My Business (GMB) is the central repository for a company’s locations. Technically being on GMB is an organic play, and your GMB listing is crucial. It’s really like a second website. When businesses claim a GMB listing for a location, they can enrich it with location information, deep content describing their business, visual information, customer Q&As, and reviews. GMB is actually the most important local ranking signal on Google. But note the tie-in to advertising. Google allows a business to link its GMB to its online advertising via the location extensions I mentioned above. Doing so makes a business’s GMB an even more powerful tool to attract customers.
  • Local Services by Google. Google launched this offering to help businesses such as plumbers and contractors that provide services at a customer’s location. Businesses that participate in the program have their ads appear above search results (even paid search results). The compensation model is pay per lead, meaning that the advertiser pay only for leads resulting from the ad as opposed to clicks. Local Services ads complement paid search.

These and other location-based advertising tools will give Google a strong base to fight Amazon in 2020. Google has an already vibrant advertising business. Google didn’t become the leading online platform by sitting still. About half of all Google searches stay on Google properties, meaning people searching for things find what they need from search results without clicking through to a website. In 2020, look for Google to further monetize this ecosystem through local advertising.

Contact True Interactive

To learn more about how you can succeed with online advertising, including on Google, contact True Interactive.

Will Increased Scrutiny Make Google More Transparent?

Will Increased Scrutiny Make Google More Transparent?

Advertising Google

It’s been a tough week for Google from a PR standpoint.

On November 11, The Wall Street Journal published a story about how Google has been collecting Americans’ personal health data as part of an ambitious foray into healthcare. Although Google was not accused of any wrongdoing, the examination of its data collection practices resulted in the announcement of a federal probe. And then to cap off the week, on November 15, The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy article, “How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results.”

Let’s just say the title of that second article captured plenty of interest in the advertising world.

Do Google’s Actions Match Its Message?

The November 15 article, like the article about Project Nightingale, did not accuse Google of doing anything illegal. But The Wall Street Journal painted a picture of a company whose actions are not always aligned with its statements. For instance, The Wall Street Journal pointed out examples of Google intervening to manage search results contrary to what Google says on its blog, “We do not use human curation to collect or arrange the results on a page.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Google:

  • Weeds out more-incendiary suggestions in the search auto-complete function.
  • Has made algorithmic changes to search results that favor big companies over smaller ones and “in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser,eBay, contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc.  . . . .” (The comment about Facebook and Amazon is especially interesting given how Amazon and Facebook compete with Google for advertising revenue.)
  • Employs thousands of contractors whose job is to assess the quality of the algorithms’ rankings. “Even so,” says The Wall Street Journal, “contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors’ collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms.”

For me one of the most fascinating details in the article is the inference that Google’s advertising growth has influenced how the company treats businesses on Google. According to the article:

Some very big advertisers received direct advice on how to improve their organic search results, a perk not available to businesses with no contacts at Google, according to people familiar with the matter. In some cases, that help included sending in search engineers to explain a problem, they said.

One former executive at a Fortune 500 company that received such advice said Google frequently adjusts how it crawls the web and ranks pages to deal with specific big websites.

Google updates its index of some sites such as Facebook and Amazon more frequently, a move that helps them appear more often in search results, according to a person familiar with the matter.

For its part, Google said it does not provide specialized guidance to website owners. Google said that faster indexing of a site isn’t a guarantee that it will rank higher. “We prioritize issues based on impact, not any commercial relationships,” a Google spokeswoman said.

I would urge any business to take the time to read the article. Here again, this is not an exposé of wrongdoing but rather an in-depth examination of how well Google’s practices align with its words.

The Core Issue: Transparency

Google is certainly not alone in facing increased scrutiny for its management of data and its relationship with advertisers, and the heat Google is experiencing right now is nothing compared to the firestorm that Facebook is enduring.

To me, the core issue of the November 15 article is this: transparency. Google’s practice of holding its cards close to the vest has created an impression of a business that has something to hide – perhaps not a fair impression, but as they say, perception is reality. As Google manages the fallout from the November 15 story, I do think we may see some interesting outcomes for advertisers:

  • Smaller businesses — which the article characterizes as second-class citizens groveling for fair consideration — may receive more responsiveness than they typically get from the advertising giant when issues arise that demand attention.
  • All businesses may see more transparency from Google, such as how the algorithm works and the explicit impact of the many algorithm changes that Google enacts through the year. A message of “Trust us – we know what we’re doing” just isn’t going over very well. At the same time, Google needs to protect its intellectual property, and the company says that revealing too much of how the algorithm works will make it easier for parties with bad intentions to game the system. It will be fascinating to see how Google reconciles these factors amid increased scrutiny.

In many ways, Google is grappling with issues that social media platforms do all the time – providing an open forum for the exchange of ideas among people while at the same time making it possible for businesses to succeed through advertising and commerce. What exactly goes on behind the scenes to represent the interests of both people and businesses is not always clear. But that situation may change soon.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we live in the world of online advertising. We know how to help businesses succeed with Google, Facebook, Amazon, and many other advertising platforms. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

3 Ways to Gear up for Black Friday with Online Advertising

3 Ways to Gear up for Black Friday with Online Advertising

Advertising Google

Black Friday is coming in hot! We’re already seeing an explosion of deals. For instance, Walmart has gone live with a wave of reductions and early Black Friday deals. Amazon’s Black Friday “preview” features a smart home device bundle deal. And not to be outdone, on November 8, Target celebrated “HoliDeals” with a two-day Black Friday preview sale.

As we discussed in our recent blog post, “3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season,” Black Friday is more than a day. It’s more like a season unto itself. And as the examples above illustrate, more retailers are responding by not only extending Black Friday hours, but actual deals, beyond the day. As a consequence, advertising begins early, too, and carries over into Cyber Monday.

Don’t want to get left behind? Here are some ways to stay competitive with your Black Friday offerings:

1 Put Google to Work for You

Maximize the value of Google’s many advertising tools to showcase your Black Friday sales and your merchandise. These tools include Black Friday promotion extensions, which allow advertisers to get granular with specifics in their text ad promotions, without cutting into established character counts. And note that Google’s Black Friday-specific ad units, as distinguished from the typical promotion extension, will drive your ad to prime placement so that it shows up at the top of the SERP under “Black Friday Deals.”

2 Be Visual

It should go without saying that Black Friday means turning it up a notch with visual storytelling. This is a time to make your merchandise pop. Fortunately tools exist to make it easier on platforms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Instagram.

As we’ve noted, Google’s Showcase Shopping Ads take a common-sense approach to advertising. Using Showcase Shopping Ads, brands can visually group related products, and in the process merchandise them more effectively. Google recently blogged about how retailers such as Urban Outfitters are benefitting from Showcase Shopping Ads. According to Google:

Urban Outfitters is one example of a retailer using Showcase Shopping ads to get into the consideration set and inspire those new to their brand. Urban Outfitters expanded their Showcase Shopping ads to 50 key categories across apparel, home decor, and beauty. Overall, they saw a 241 percent CTR lift across campaigns running Showcase Shopping ads, with 52 percent of those customers being new. Moreover, Urban Outfitters saw a 186 percent increase in sales from new customers via Showcase Shopping ads (compared to reactivated customers).

In addition, Google recently announced it has improved Showcase Shopping Ads by expanding them into Google Images. Moreover, Google also announced it is making YouTube more shoppable. You get the idea: Google wants advertisers to rely on Google to reach customers.

Meanwhile, Instagram and Facebook Stories are a brilliant way for advertisers to draw potential customers with appealing content that incorporates a narrative and interactive elements. In a survey by research firm Ipsos, 62 percent of respondents reported becoming interested in a product after discovering it via Stories, and more than half indicated they make more purchases online due to Stories.

Finally, Amazon, now the third-largest online ad platform behind Google and Facebook, offers tools like Sponsored Products (which promotes products to shoppers who are using certain keywords, or viewing similar products on Amazon) and Sponsored Brands Display Ads (through which advertisers can upload a customized creative). Amazon provides more insight into these products here.

3 Go Mobile

As we recently blogged, the 2018 holiday season marked the first time smart phones accounted for more than half of all visits to websites during the holidays. Brands are wise to embrace mobile—and deliver a great experience on their site, regardless of where consumers are accessing it from. You don’t want to lose customers to an online experience that reliably delivers from a PC or laptop, but not a smart phone. A failed purchase from a smart phone may result in . . . no purchase at all.

Contact True Interactive

Need help making the most of the opportunities Black Friday affords? Contact us.

Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay