It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

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

The What

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

The Why

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

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

What the News Means

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

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

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

Our Recommendations

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

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

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.

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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.

Amazon, Facebook, and Google Earnings: Takeaways for Advertisers

Amazon, Facebook, and Google Earnings: Takeaways for Advertisers

Advertising

The week of April 27 was especially important for the online advertising world. The three companies that account for nearly 70 percent of online ad spend – Amazon, Facebook, and Google – all announced quarterly earnings. Here was the first time advertisers would see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ad spend. And the news was better than expected.

Amazon Advertising Surges

Amazon announced a rise in quarterly revenue as people sheltering in place increasingly relied on digital to manage their lives, including purchasing products. Amazon’s Advertising service saw a 44-percent increase in revenue (advertising is included in the “other” category in Amazon’s earnings). Why did Amazon’s advertising business do so well?

  • For one thing, consumers on Amazon are searching with intent to buy. And a lot of people are searching on Amazon. According to CivicScience, 49 percent of product searches start on Amazon, versus 22 percent on Google.
  • Amazon without question became a more attractive place to find things to buy as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. According to Learnbonds.com, Amazon’s monthly unique visitors for March, 4.6 billion, easily exceeded competitors such as eBay and Walmart.
  • Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during the surge. As we have reported on our blog, over the years, Amazon’s advertising service has developed a number of products that have served Amazon and advertisers well. Those products include Sponsored Ads, Video Ads, and Display Ads, among others.

Amazon said it will plow its profits into COVID-19-related relief activities. As CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement, “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat, because we’re not thinking small. Under normal circumstances, in this coming Q2, we’d expect to make some $4 billion or more in operating profit. But these aren’t normal circumstances. Instead, we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.”

Amazon’s steady development of an advertising service helped put the company in the position to be able to accommodate this expenditure.

Facebook and Google: Signs of a Turnaround

To no one’s surprise, both Facebook and Google saw a slowdown in revenue earned from online advertising, especially in March. But stock shares for both companies rose after they announced earnings. Why? Let’s take a closer look.

Facebook: More Users and Engagement

Facebook announced that even though ad revenue had dropped during the quarter, it was showing signs of turning around in April. Overall, quarterly revenue rose by $17.74 billion. As Facebook said in a statement, “After the initial steep decrease in advertising revenue in March, we have seen signs of stability reflected in the first three weeks of April.”

In addition, Facebook said that monthly active users had increased 10 percent year over year to number 2.6 billion, and engagement was up as people sheltering in place increased their use of social media.

The advertisers who maintained their spending levels during the dip in March benefitted by being present during the surge in user engagement, as we discussed on our blog.

Google: YouTube Is the Star

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reported quarterly revenue of $41.16 billion, a 13-percent year-over-year increase. Revenue from advertising rose 11.6 percent, with advertising from YouTube surging by 33.5 percent.

Alphabet acknowledged that online ad revenue had taken a hit because of COVID-19. But in an investor earnings call, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, said that “We have seen some very early signs of recovery in commercial search behavior by users.”

Because Google is very active in the travel and retail – industries that have been rocked by the pandemic – its performance actually exceeded expectations.

As with Facebook, advertisers who maintained their levels of spending benefitted as the general population shifted its behaviors online during the first quarter. As we noted on our blog, many businesses adapted their tone and content to demonstrate empathy with ads running on Google sites such as YouTube. Those businesses positioned themselves well.

What You Should Do 

Amazon, Facebook, and Google will continue to dominate the world of online advertising for the foreseeable future. Here is what we suggest:

  • Don’t go dark. Businesses that maintained their visibility online during the March advertising downturn benefitted from the increase in online engagement. Even as states ease up their shelter-in-place orders, social distancing is not going away anytime soon. We’re living in a digital-first world now amid longer-term behavioral changes. Being present with paid media means taking a digital-first approach.
  • Mind your tone. As I blogged in March, businesses need to do a gut check on the tone of their content. Many businesses have successfully incorporated empathy into their advertising while others have changed their messaging to focus on health and safety. Taylor Hart shared some examples of successful social media advertising in this blog post.
  • Be open to different forms of engagement. It’s important that businesses be ready to adapt different forms of engagement to reflect changing user behavior. For instance, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out during Facebook’s earnings call, livestreaming on Facebook is a more attractive alternative to live events. Moreover, Facebook had already been seeing a marked increase in use of its Messenger app before the pandemic. Héctor Ariza recently shared examples of ad products that capitalize on the popularity of Messenger. Given the increase in Facebook’s monthly average users, now is a good time to try those products.
  • Capitalize on new ad products. Google is fighting hard to protect its turf amid the rise of Amazon Advertising. The company continues to roll out new products to make the Google universe more appealing to advertisers. For instance, I recently blogged about how Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV. As Mark Smith discussed in December 2019, Google has been developing some impressive location-based advertising tools.

Contact True Interactive

We know how to create and manage online advertising that is appropriate for the times we are living in — don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help.

 

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Advertising Google

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Advertisers, Watch Your Referrals

Google

At True Interactive, we use tools such as Google Analytics to monitor and measure everything we do. And doing so includes keeping close tabs on referral traffic. Referral traffic consists of visits that come to your site from sources outside of Google’s search engine. When someone clicks on a hyperlink to go to a new page on a different website, Google Analytics tracks the click as a referral visit to the second site. Referral traffic is a recommendation from one site to visit another — like an assist from one basketball or hockey player to another leading to a score.

Referral traffic helps you understand how people find your website. With good referral data, you can understand, for instance, whether your Facebook or Instagram pages are sending traffic to your site (and how much traffic).

But you need to keep a close watch on how Google Analytics measures referral traffic in order to get a true measure. Recently, for one of our clients, we noticed that Google Analytics was reporting a sharp increase in referral traffic from payment sites such as Affirm and Paypal. When we looked under the hood, we noticed that Google Analytics was giving those payment sites credit as the referring sites for customer transactions.

Now, payment sites are essential for a transaction to occur. They make the web more seamless by making online checkout happen faster. Customers making purchases on ecommerce sites probably don’t even notice when they’re referred to a third-party payment site to complete a purchase. But that doesn’t mean Affirm or Paypal should get credit as the referring site. Affirm ensures the purchase happens easily. But Affirm becomes part of the picture after a customer has decided to make a purchase, not before.

Fortunately, we monitor Google Analytics data closely. We acted quickly by adding the third-party payment sites in question to the referral exclusion list, or a list of domains whose incoming traffic is treated as direct traffic (instead of referral traffic) by Google Analytics. We were able to course-correct quickly enough to ensure that we continue to provide our clients accurate data.

The lessons here:

  • Watch your referral traffic closely.
  • If you find a spike in referrals for third-party payment sites, take a closer look at your referral exclusion list. The payment system might be getting an inordinate amount of credit that another site should be getting credit for.

How closely do you monitor your Google Analytics data?

Contact True Interactive

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