New Report Underscores Importance of Google My Business

New Report Underscores Importance of Google My Business

Google

Software provider Moz has released its 2020 State of Local SEO industry report, and the insights are revealing. The report, which surveys the priorities of website owners across several industries, focuses on organic content, but it’s still a useful tool for advertisers. That’s because a brand’s priorities for organic content are usually a good indication of its advertising priorities; in short, the Moz report provides insights into digital marketing that can influence online advertising. Two headliners, according to Moz? Google My Business (GMB) and Maps. Read on for more details about these tools, and how they might support your business.

The Growing Importance of Google My Business

One of the big take-aways of the report is the growing influence of businesses’ GMB listings. In fact, according to Moz, businesses are increasingly viewing GMB listings as critical to their local search result rankings: “75% of marketers believe that the use of Google My Business profile features impacts rankings in the local pack.” The report recommends keeping abreast of GMB features and management, making sure details such as categories, and descriptions, are up-to-date. In short, more businesses are investing time in their GMB page, and you should, too.

Google Maps: More Than a Wayfinding Tool

Another recommendation: mind your presence on Google Maps. The report casts a spotlight on Google Maps’ rise, describing it as “a go-to tool for how consumers navigate their community.” And as consumers find their way around an area, it behooves brands to position themselves front and center. The benefits of learning the nuances of Maps, and keeping one’s map intelligence accurate, cannot be overstated.

These findings underscore how significant GMB listings and Google Maps are to businesses. Google continues to dominate the online landscape even if it is having a down year in the advertising sector.

What You Should Do

  • We recommend that you maintain a strong strategy for maximizing GMB as a platform for paid and organic content. As we have blogged here, more than half of search queries on Google result in no ensuing clicks to brand sites. That’s because users frequently find what they need on GMB pages—when businesses have taken the time to make them rich and informative, that is. Make sure your GMB page has substance, from compelling images to accurate location data. As we recommended earlier on our blog, it’s important that you link your GMB account to your Google Ads account. As Google discusses in this tutorial, linking your GMB account to your Google Ads account makes it possible for your ads to appear with location extensions, which encourage customers to visit your storefront. Through location extensions, customers can see your ads with location information such as your address. And then they can get more information about your location by clicking on location extensions.
  • We also suggest that you have a plan for maximizing Google Maps as a platform for paid and organic content. As we blog here, Google has managed to effectively accommodate advertising without corroding user experience on Maps. That’s good news for brands and users alike. A satisfied user will continue to use Google Maps—and subsequently see content, such as promotions, posted by savvy advertisers.

Note the mention of organic and paid content in both suggestions above. The rationale is this: if you are going to spend more time building up your Maps and GMB organic content, why stop there? Google makes a plethora of advertising tools available, tools that can increase your visibility even more—and attract more customers. Get to know those tools.

Contact True Interactive

Through offerings like Google My Business and Maps, Google can help your brand achieve the visibility you desire. Not sure how to make the most of these platforms? Contact us. We can help.

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Advertising

One of the big stories of 2020 is, of course, the surge in people going online. It’s not just that people are spending more time online watching movies and connecting on social media. They’re also making purchases: as consumer behavior moves online, we’re seeing a surge in eCommerce. As reported in Forbes, the latest research suggests that COVID-19 has accelerated the progress of ecommerce adoption by four to six years—within a matter of months. What does that mean for your brand? A look at what the tech giants are doing provides some clues:

Instagram Shop

Instagram is embracing the online shopping trends with its July roll out, in the United States, of Instagram Shop. The online shopping feature allows consumers to view products on Instagram: personalized recommendations drawn from brands you as a consumer follow, plus recommendations suggested by Instagram’s @shop team.

Businesses can also add hashtags to product descriptions to make those products more likely to be featured. On Instagram Shop, shoppers can save items of interest, contact businesses, and place orders directly using Facebook Pay. In short, the feature allows brands to set up a single online store consumers can access via Instagram. Instagram Shop is set to go global in coming weeks.

Google’s Shoploop

Meanwhile, Google is making its own bid to snag the attention of online shoppers with its video shopping platform, Shoploop. Introduced by Google’s experimental Area 120 division, Shoploop spotlights products in short videos of 90 seconds or less. The videos illustrate how to use the product, and interested shoppers can make purchases online, directly from the app. They can also like, share, and save videos.

As reported in MediaPost, Shoploop “helps brands get product reviews from real people who know and use the products.” One of the beauties of Shoploop is that it streamlines a process that used to involve several apps or websites. Consumers can now discover products, see how they are used in real life, and make a purchase—all in one place. Currently, most Shoploop clips highlight skincare and makeup, but plans are already underway to expand reach to products including clothing, jewelry, and electronics.

What This Means for Brands

Store closures/state lockdowns during COVID-19 undoubtably spurred development of shopping experiences like Instagram Shop and Shoploop. But there’s a good chance that consumer habits formed during lockdown will persist indefinitely. “We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” notes Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights, in the Forbes article cited above.

And because companies like Google and Instagram are making it even easier for people to buy things online by giving them more access points, shoppers will have more reasons than ever to continue those habits forged during the pandemic. The headline for advertisers is this: online advertising not only creates visibility for a brand, it is becoming an increasingly important, even mandatory, strategy for brands to draw shoppers directly to their commerce engines.

The Challenge for Advertisers

The challenge for advertisers is to capitalize on all these access points, while understanding what types of advertising work best to attract engagement online. That is, what kind of ads does a brand now need to create in order to draw shoppers to their Instagram page, as opposed to their website? How should a business build an advertising presence on Instagram that complements the organic content it posts, especially for brands that sell products on Instagram? Different access points can mean different audiences: online ads will not necessarily all be the same.

Contact True Interactive

Need help navigating these new opportunities? Contact us. We can help.

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertising Microsoft

Microsoft has been in the news lately. The tech company has expanded its Microsoft Digital Marketing Center, which provides small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with a central site on which they can manage, online, both advertising campaigns and organic content. Read on to learn more about the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your brand.

What is the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center?

The Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is a product from the company’s experimental project lab, Microsoft Garage. When it came onto the scene in October 2019, it empowered SMBs to use one interface to manage digital campaigns across multiple networks, from Microsoft to Google and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In late June 2020, Microsoft announced a major expansion of the product, with additional features such as:

  • Social management inbox, which serves as a central hub for managing likes, direct messages, and replies on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Image ad suggestion, which allows brands to easily create their own effective image ads by choosing from suggested ads.
  • Improved tools for ads, such as a field for an extra headline. The benefit? Advertisers can include more information in their ads and subsequently enhance location targeting.
  • The ability to appeal disapproved ads from Bing and Facebook.
  • A new home page experience that combines social and ad metrics into one user-friendly dashboard view.
  • Twitter support, which is now enabled.

Who is the target audience?

SMBs are the target market. SMBs have captured even more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. As McKinsey points out, SMBs face an even tougher road to economic recovery. They need all the help they can get.

Who are Microsoft Digital Marketing Center’s competitors?

Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is competing with platforms such as:

  • HubSpot, which is already positioned as a one-stop shop for SMBs. Though Microsoft Digital Marketing Center doesn’t have all the CRM features of a HubSpot, it brings its own advantages to the table. (It’s currently free, for one thing.)
  • Google, to some degree. As Search Engine Land explains, “Similar to Google Smart campaigns, which aim to simplify campaign set up and management for SMBs, Digital Marketing Center uses Microsoft AI to power ad keyword and audience targeting and bidding.”

But Digital Marketing Center gives customers more autonomy. Advertisers can build their own ads. They can also use automated ad copy or modify auto-suggestions.

Why did Microsoft launch this product?

Microsoft probably launched Digital Marketing Center to gain a toehold with the market of small-to-medium-sized businesses, which have more aggressively embraced digital advertising to acquire customers amid the spread of COVID-19. And as noted above, they are not alone in their efforts to win the hearts of this group.

What should I do next?

If you are interested in trialing the Digital Marketing Center, start here. The beta is open to U.S. businesses only at this point.

Is there a “gotcha”?

As with many free products, be aware that you get what you pay for. Digital Marketing Center is totally self-service: you’ll be on your own in managing this tool. In short, it invites self-sufficiency! Also, just because it’s free now doesn’t mean the features will remain free.

Contact True Interactive

Do you want to learn more about the Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your business? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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.

Contact Us

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

How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

Branding

In December, I predicted that voice search would become smarter and more useful in 2020: “I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices,” I wrote. “But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices.” Of course, I had no idea that a global pandemic was about to radically change our behavior, including how we use voice assistants. Let’s take a closer look at what’s been happening during the first half of 2020.

Voice Assistants Are Gaining Even More Currency

The pandemic has moved the needle when it comes to consumer openness to voice assistants. The Wall Street Journal reported,

Euromonitor earlier this year noted that consumers were buying more AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, like Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa. But now, such devices have a new draw, says [head of Euromonitor’s lifestyle research Alison] Angus. “Voice-control technology limits the need to touch surfaces so much, so that’s why they are appealing,” she says.

Though states are starting to lift COVID-19-related restrictions, many consumers will remain cautious. Concerns about health and safety going forward will make voice’s touch-free nature ever more attractive.

Voice Assistants Are Increasingly Becoming An Integral Part of Daily Life

In a national survey published by Edison Research and NPR, 1,660 adults across the United States were asked about their use of voice assistants. As Voicebot.ai reports, the survey demonstrated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, voice assistant usage jumped: results reveal that more than 50 percent of smart device owners are using voice commands at least once a day now—an uptick that occurred between the start of 2020 and the beginning of April. At the same time, there is a drop in the number of people who are using voice commands less frequently. Habits are indeed changing, and the change started during the era of COVID-19.

Voicebot.ai also reports that:

  • In 2019, smart speaker owners used voice requests for an average of 9.4 different tasks a week. In 2020, that number has inched up to 10.8 different tasks.
  • Fifty-nine percent of smart speaker owners who also own a smartphone voice assistant perform different voice-related tasks with each device.

Changes in work/commuting habits during the pandemic have also informed voice assistant usage. “With tens of millions of Americans no longer commuting, smart speakers are becoming even more important as a conduit for news and information,” Tom Webster, Edison Research senior vice president, said. He believes those habits will persist, and evolve, noting that “this increased usage and facility with voice assistants will likely increase demand for this technology in vehicles once our commutes resume.”

The Business Response

Some businesses are reading the tea leaves and responding by making voice an ever more useful utility:

  • Snapchat, for example, will be rolling out a new way to sort through the million+ augmented reality (AR) Lenses that Snap makes available through its Lens Studio platform. As TechCrunch reports, “the app’s new voice search will allow Snapchat users to ask the app to help it surface [Lenses] that enable them to do something unique.” Potential applications here could range wide: imagine asking Snap to show what you will look like wearing a particular brand of makeup, say, or how a specific television might look on your wall.
  • Google, meanwhile, has launched a new voice assistant called Diya. Diya’s mandate? To help kids learn to read. According to Voicebot.ai, Diya is part of a new educational app for Android, Read Along, that aims to help parents home-schooling their kids during the COVID-19 shelter in place. Diya “listens” to kids read, correcting errors and offering encouragement and congratulations. Students can also ask Diya for help pronouncing words they don’t know how to say.
  • For Dunkin’ Brands, having a voice search strategy was already a priority at the beginning of 2020. Then the pandemic hit. Coronavirus changed the rules for food and beverage availability, and as Ad Age notes, “Dunkin’ saw a 10x rise in people using voice to search for open locations with access points like drive-through, delivery or curbside pickup.” The company adjusted to the new normal, tailoring its paid online search results to respond effectively to the uptick in voice requests. As Keith Lusby, VP of media at Dunkin’, noted, consumers were often already driving when they made their request, and couldn’t type on their phones to determine whether a nearby location could in fact serve them. “When you think about our business pre-COVID, it was nice to know when I got to the store and they had a drive-through,” Lusby says, “but now it’s determining whether I go or not. We were able to modify our results to make sure we matched what the person was looking for.”

What You Should Do

Lusby’s comment is a perceptive one, and echoes what we’ve discussed on our own blog. Brands looking to optimize voice in ads and websites will want to evaluate typical voice search queries and pay attention to the conversational text that occurs. As Lusby notes, “That’s our view of voice—meet the customer; they’re giving us more info, so let’s give them a better result.”

But how to achieve this? To begin with, advertisers want to pay attention to the nature of conversation, which tends to be more complicated than the verbiage used in a simple Google search. In short, people express themselves differently in voice search than they do in Google searches. Google searches are more brusque. Advertisers hoping to connect well with voice searches will want to write copy consistent with how people speak. “Who,” “What,” Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great words to focus on. Queries that include natural phrases such as “near me” or “can I get the number for” can also be useful/telling. In the end, sites or copy that match conversational tone are likely to help brands looking for hits from voice-based searches.

Finally, consider how you might use voice to improve the customer experience overall. As brands like Dunkin’ demonstrate, businesses can use voice technology to create a more pleasant customer experience as people continue to look for ways to avoid touching screens.

Contact Us

How can you implement voice? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

How to Succeed with Google Discovery Ads

How to Succeed with Google Discovery Ads

Google

It’s official: Google has launched Discovery ad campaigns globally. “Discovery ads,” so dubbed because they are designed for Google users who might not be actively looking for things to buy, have already been adopted by True Interactive in our client work. In fact, we’ve seen higher conversion rates on Discovery campaigns than on traditional display campaign, which have translated into lower cost per conversion numbers. Read on to learn more.

What Are Discovery Ads?

Google Discovery ads are designed to appear exclusively on mobile devices, with the exception of those discovery ads showing in Gmail (these also appear on the desktop). As noted, they are called “Discovery ads” because they are designed for the “laid back” individual: someone who didn’t necessarily access Google with an intent to make a purchase. As reported in Adweek, this is in fact a receptive group: Google says that 86 percent of online consumers exploring the web or watching videos are also open to shopping ideas. That’s a sizable audience: according to Google, Discovery Ads can “reach up to 2.9 billion people across multiple platforms, including Gmail social tabs and YouTube’s Watch Next feeds,” all in a single campaign. As Search Engine Land points out, Discovery ads tend to be image-rich: advertisers can run a single image ad or a multi-image “carousel,” meaning an ad with multiple images users can scroll through. The ads may be similar to ones brands are already running on Facebook, which means advertisers can repurpose existing ad creatives.

On what platforms do Discovery ads appear? As one might guess, they occur on Google Discover (the new name for Google Feed). They also show up on Gmail, which The Drum reports enjoys more than 1.5 billion monthly users, and YouTube, cited by Forbes as the second-largest search engine in the world. Heavy hitters, in other words.

True Interactive and Discovery Campaigns

True Interactive has been an early adopter of the format for our clients. As noted, we have seen an increase in conversion rate and a decrease in cost per conversion. Why? For one thing, the ad format applies the power of the Google algorithm to target the right consumer. And the format has simply hit at the right time: mobile usage is increasing.

Some basics about our experiences and requirements follow here:

  • Targeting: as with any regular Display campaign, we can use remarketing, in-market, affinity, custom intent and similar audiences.
  • Bidding: these campaigns can only use automated bidding strategies such as Target CPA and Maximize Conversions.
  • Ad Placements: ads can show on YouTube (mobile home feed only), Gmail (Promotions & Social tabs—as noted, ads are served on both mobile and desktop), and the Discover feed (iOS, Android Google app, and mobile Google.com site).
  • Ad Formats:
    • Two options:
    • Asset requirements:
      • Images: high-quality images are needed (they can’t be blurry) in either 1200 x 628 (landscape) or 1200 x 1200 (square)—preferably in both sizes.
        • Note that ads with call-to-actions inside the images will be disapproved. You can have Google include a Call-to-Action button in your ad by choosing one from Google’s predefined list (e.g., Learn More, Subscribe, Shop Now, Apply Now, Get Quote, etc.)
  • Text:
    • Carousel requirements: one main headline (40 characters max), one main description (up to 90 characters), a business name (up to 25 characters), as well as one headline for each individual carousel card of up to 40 characters.
    • Single image requirements: at least one headline no longer than 40 characters (can include up to five different 40-character headlines and Google will optimize for performance), along with one description line of up to 90 characters long (can include up to five different descriptions of 90 characters each and Google will optimize for performance).

What You Can Do

What should your takeaways be? We recommend that you:

  • Capitalize on this format.
  • Monitor Google ad innovations on an ongoing basis and understand the powerful nature of Google and how it is evolving.
    • As we’ve blogged, Google draws on several advantages as it grows its ad business:
      • A massive user base that relies on Google across multiple platforms and apps.
      • A head start in using AI, with the specific aim of making advertising more effective—and smarter.
      • An established global presence that showcases how Google tailors advertising products in support of international ad campaigns.

Google has a good track record of recognizing needs, and creating products—Shopping campaigns with partners, for example, or location-based digital advertising—to meet those needs. That proactive stance will no doubt continue.

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Eager to learn more about what Google might offer your brand? Contact us.

Google’s Shopping Campaigns with Partners: How It Works

Google’s Shopping Campaigns with Partners: How It Works

Google

Google has a track record of recognizing needs, and creating products to solve those needs. In the book How Google Works, authors Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg describe a strong culture in which problem solving is encouraged—and facilitated. How Google Works came out in 2014. Six years later, Google continues to prove that problem-solving and innovation are core strengths: one need look no further than a product like Shopping campaigns with partners. Still in beta mode, Shopping campaigns with partners has been created by the tech giant to make it easier for nonretailers such as manufacturers to sell their own products online. How? By giving those brands a way to run advertising that links directly to any commerce site. Read on to learn more.

What Is Shopping Campaigns with Partners?

Shopping campaigns with partners essentially puts products in places where shoppers will see them. Increasingly, that means a digital presence: according to Google, 56 percent of consumer time spent with media is on digital. Shopping campaigns with partners capitalizes on the importance of digital, facilitating a collaboration between brands and retailers, and then connecting the two by directing consumers from ads that appear throughout Google ad touchpoints like Google Search or YouTube.

Why Shopping Campaigns with Partners Matters

It’s easier and more efficient for businesses to advertise when they don’t have to manage a commerce site of their own, and Shopping campaigns with partners takes that burden off of manufacturers. But the partnership the product forges clearly benefits both parties: as Google notes, “brand manufacturers . . . promote their products while increasing traffic to retailers of their choice.” The mutual benefits don’t end there. As part of the partnership, manufacturers partially fund the retailer’s advertising cost for the manufacturer’s products. In return, retailers provide attribution reporting for the products highlighted in the campaign.

Who Is Using Shopping Campaigns with Partners?

Shopping campaigns with partners will eventually be launching in every country where Google Shopping products are offered. Some manufacturers, such as the Estée Lauder Companies, have already had an opportunity to test the capabilities of the product during its beta phase. In this instance, Shopping campaigns with partners paired Estée Lauder with a retail partner in the United States; the campaign was specifically meant to position and promote Estée Lauder designer fragrances, and maximize holiday demand. The strategy paid off: thanks to Shopping campaigns with partners, clickshare of the targeted fragrances increased 70 percent.

True Interactive is ahead of the curve. We’re working with businesses to use the product to support their online commerce needs. We’ll report on results later!

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Eager to learn more about how Shopping campaigns with partners might benefit your brand? Contact us.