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Monthly Archives: October 2009

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Report: US Mobile Search Spend Expected To Overtake Desktop Next Year

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By Ginny Marvin

Starting next year marketers in the US will spend more on mobile search — both PPC ads and SEO – than on desktop, according to a new report from digital research firm, eMarketer.

Just last year, the firm estimates, less than a quarter of search spend went to mobile. The report suggests that the tables will turn entirely by 2018, with mobile accounting for 76.7 percent of search spending.

EMarketer includes both tablets and smartphones in its mobile numbers, but says the dramatic shift is being driven primarily by smartphones. Still, it’s worth noting that the market doesn’t have much control over what gets allocated to search advertising on tablets. Google’s enhanced campaigns eliminated the ability to bid separately on tablet and desktop traffic last year. Bing Ads followed Google’s lead this year and also combined desktop and tablet traffic this fall.

Additionally, because SEO is included in these estimates, it’s not clear what the shift in ad spending actually looks like.

Lagging ROI

Lower return on investment from mobile search has been a sticking point for advertisers. EMarketer predicts that ROI on mobile will continue to lag behind desktop until “mobile performance measurement, particularly in relation to the the impact on sales in physical stores, gets more precise.”

Google has been trying to convince advertisers of value of mobile since it rolled out enhanced campaigns. It has introduced estimated cross-device conversions and several mobile-specific ad features over the past year. The company is working on several initiatives to tie mobile ads back to offline store sales, and is facing increasing pressure to do so since the launch of Facebook Atlas, which has an offline tracking component.

Skepticism about the value of mobile search does appear to be waning, however. In it’s third quarter report, search firm RKG noted that after holding down smartphone bids in 2013 in order to improve ROI for its predominantly US-focused e-commerce advertisers, mobile CPCs rose sharply (27 percent year-over-year) and ad spend on smartphones jumped 117 percent.

While still accounting for just a fraction of overall conversions, smartphone-attributable conversions rose 17 percent after RKG factored in cross-device conversions. The firm also saw a surge in mobile search traffic from the Bing Yahoo network.

Still, RKG’s year-over-year share of ad spend on tablets and smartphones in Q3 rose just 18 percent — from 23.9 percent to just 28.4 percent — well below eMarketer’s estimate of 38.1 percent increase in mobile spend share from 2013 and 2014.

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Aruba Networks Enables “Blue-Dot” Indoor Navigation With Beacons

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By Greg Sterling

WiFi provider Aruba Networks used to offer retailers and others “blue-dot” indoor navigation using WiFi triangulation. However Apple’s recent decision in iOS 8 to randomize the iPhone’s MAC address changed all that — and may have effectively killed WiFi as an indoor location technology.

Beyond this, WiFi is expensive and requires significant IT involvement. Beacons by comparison are cheap and don’t implicate IT infrastructure to the same degree.

Now, in an industry first, Aruba has developed viable indoor turn-by-turn indoor navigation using beacons and a process called “trilateration.” The company didn’t invent trilateration but to my knowledge it is the first company that has successfully implemented it in the real world. Trilateration is like triangulation except with beacons instead of WiFi or cell towers.

Aruba has a massive beacon deployment in the San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara California. The 49ers app delivers real-time, blue-dot navigation around the stadium.

Aruba 49ers

Beacon trilateration hasn’t been successfully accomplished in the past, partly because there haven’t been enough beacons deployed in locations and because their low power system — beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to minimize battery drain — hasn’t created strong enough or stable-enough signals to manage “blue dot” navigation.

(As an aside Indoor Atlas enables indoor, blue-dot navigation using geo-magnetic positioning but that’s a completely different technology — though it is beacon compatible. It’s not widely deployed however)

Aruba has developed beacons that can be plugged into walls in addition to running on batteries and can be managed remotely in the cloud at scale. This enables major public venues and retailers with hundreds of stores to manage the thousands of beacons required to deliver turn-by-turn indoor navigation.

You need a lot more beacons and beacon density to pull off trilateration. There are more than 1,000 beacons in Levi’s Stadium for example. They can navigate you to your seats, to food vendors and to merchandise locations around the stadium, in addition to triggering notifications based on your location in the arena.

Beacons are highly privacy friendly because they require apps to receive and interpret their signals. Bluetooth must also be turned on. Consumers thus have significant control over whether they engage with beacons and whether they allow beacons to see them.

For this reason and others (especially cost) beacon adoption is gaining increasing momentum. And Aruba’s trilateration is something of a breakthrough for the entire ecosystem.

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A Thorough Data Analysis of Google’s Pirate Filter by @ericvanbuskirk

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By Eric Van Buskirk

Last week, Google began releasing its Pirate update; a penalty against what it called “notorious” piracy sites violating copyright laws. The first “Pirate” filter rolled out in August 2012. It purportedly caught websites with large numbers of complaints submitted against them for copyright infringements. For two years, copyright advocates cried foul, asserting the penalty — which is similar to better known algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda — was more of a tap than the slap they hoped to see websites publishing pirated media face. The data analysis I conducted corroborates this claim: the first Pirate filter did nothing significant to penalize […]

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From Novelty To Foundational Product: The Evolution Of Google Maps

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By Greg Sterling

Until Android came along Google’s most important product after search undoubtedly was Google Maps. I know it sounds heretical to say this but in some ways Maps is more strategic to Google than search today.

That’s because Google Maps bridge the physical and digital worlds and because Maps are more “useful” to mobile users than Google search. It’s harder to live without Maps than it is traditional search in a mobile context.

Google makes comparatively little revenue directly from Maps. However it’s a highly utilitarian even “foundational” product, together with Street View, that helps support the company in myriad and often unseen ways. That increasingly extends to tracking offline store visits by users exposed to online or mobile ads.

In 2012 The Atlantic wrote a flattering, almost fawning, piece about Google Maps and the Herculean effort behind their creation and maintenance:

I came away convinced that the geographic data Google has assembled is not likely to be matched by any other company. The secret to this success isn’t, as you might expect, Google’s facility with data, but rather its willingness to commit humans to combining and cleaning data about the physical world. Google’s map offerings build in the human intelligence on the front end, and that’s what allows its computers to tell you the best route from San Francisco to Boston.

Indeed the “ground operation” is very impressive. Part of that is the data yielded by Street View.

Launched in 2007, Google was not the first major internet company to market with street-level photography — that was Amazon believe it or not. But Google stuck with it and took it to its ultimate global conclusion.

Although Google reaps many benefits from Street View it has also paid a significant price. The company has been assailed all over the world for violating privacy with the images and related WiFi “payload” data it captured. Part of the animus toward Google in Europe can be traced to the earlier controversy surrounding Street View.

Wired has now written a nearly identical article to that published by The Atlantic, portraying the complexity and many layers behind the scenes of Google Maps’ operation. The Wired article explains Google Maps and its various processes as a marriage of humans, machines and crowdsourcing:

Yet satellites and algorithms only get you so far. Google employs a small army of human operators (they won’t say exactly how many) to manually check and correct the maps using an in-house program called Atlas. Few people outside the company have seen it in use, but one of the most prolific operators on the map team, Nick Volmar, demonstrated the program during my visit. (There’s also a fascinating demo in this video from Google’s 2013 developers conference).

The Wired and Atlantic articles reinforce how impressive the global scale and ambition of Google Maps and Street View efforts are. Because people don’t see these efforts — perhaps that’s the point of The Atlantic and Wired articles from Google’s perspective — they don’t know their extent or depth vs. Microsoft, Apple, Nokia/Here, OpenStreetMap, MapQuest or Scout/Telenav and others.

And while a considerable number of people still hold the view that Google Maps are “much better” than Apple Maps that’s no longer true for a large number of iPhone users.

As mentioned Maps and Street View help support a range of products and projects at Google, including search, autonomous cars and (in the future) analytics. So it may be ironic that what started out as a differentiated consumer product may now be most differentiated for Google in ways that the public cannot see.

The post From Novelty To Foundational Product: The Evolution Of Google Maps appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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3 Proven Ways To Write Ads That Deliver More Conversions

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By Frederick Vallaeys

Last month I spoke with David Greenbaum of Boost Media — a company for which I am an advisor and a shareholder — about the reasons why ad text fatigue sets in and what advertisers can do to keep ads engaging.

After our conversation, I began to wonder about specific steps David might recommend for improving ads. Since its inception in 2009, Boost Media has written hundreds of thousands of ads for enterprise brands and agencies.

What follows is his advice — in his own words — and some guidelines Boost Media has developed for writing and testing ads that any marketer could use to see a positive impact on campaign performance.

David Greenbaum headshot

Boost Media founder and CEO David Greenbaum

And Now To David

Last month, we discussed ad fatigue in SEM campaigns and ways to combat it. For optimal performance, digital ads need frequent attention, much like offline ads. Ad copy should never be pushed aside as a “set it and forget it” task.

When ad copy is continually refreshed to stay relevant based on evolving needs and seasonality, conversion rates improve. This is no more true than during the holiday season.

Well over half (56%) of holiday shoppers expect to make at least some of their purchases online this year, and online sales are predicted to increase 8 to 11% over last year.

Online shoppers are big spenders — they plan to spend 16% more on holiday shopping than offline shoppers. Given that the holiday season is a make-or-break proposition for so many retailers, it’s important that online marketers use every tool in their optimization kit to increase conversions, and that includes writing better ads.

Marketers don’t have to rely on guesswork to write better ads. As discussed last month, good ads:

  • Mention seasonality and product changes,
  • Avoid copycat messaging,
  • Address evolving consumer needs, and
  • Adapt to evolving ad platforms.

But the work doesn’t stop there. From Boost Media’s analysis — of 1.3 billion SEM ad impressions from 250,000 ads across large retail AdWords desktop search accounts over the first six months of 2014 — we’ve developed these three important guidelines for writing ads that resonate with your audience and most importantly, improve conversions.

1. Maintain A Consumer Focus

There’s no doubt that the online retail space — and the search results pages for most products — are crowded. A search for something as simple as [scented candles] yields more than a dozen options for the consumer to choose from without their even scrolling down the page. How then can a retailer successfully capture a consumer’s attention?

Have you ever been in a busy, noisy restaurant and heard someone across the room say your name in conversation? Even if the person was talking about another Michael, Susan or Joaquin, your ears perked up. Quite literally, he or she successfully grabbed your attention in a crowded space.

Focusing advertising messages on [you], the consumer, has a similar effect. The proof is in the click-through rate (CTR). Ad copy centered on the consumer that includes words like [you], [your], [you’re], etc. can drive up to a 65% higher CTR. This simple focus on the customer makes an impersonal product seem personal.

There is one exception to this rule of customer-centric focus in ad copy. It’s ok to focus on the advertiser when using the term [official site]. Those two words help the advertiser build trust as well as drive up CTR by 14% and CPI by 16% in the sample set we analyzed. (CPI is conversions per impression, a metric which takes both CTR and conversion rate into account.)

In the example below, the optimized ad is more customer-focused by including the word [your], and alludes to the trustworthiness of the advertiser by mentioning [official site].

Original Ad

Optimized Ad

Example AdWords Ad 1 Example AdWords Ad 2

While including [you] in digital ads is similar to speaking someone’s name in conversation, using [official site] is the equivalent to receiving a recommendation from a trusted friend sitting at your dinner table versus a recommendation from a stranger across the restaurant. The two together create a powerful connection of familiarity and trust.

2. Lead With Customer Benefits, Not Product Features

Most retail advertisers are passionate about what they sell and like to lead with product features in their copy. Holiday product lines are not immune, and many advertisers focus on explaining to customers why their product or brand is better than the competition’s.

Our data suggests that this is the wrong approach in most instances.

Customers do not care that your throw pillows come in 47 color options instead of the 46 offered by the competition. They want to know that your throw pillows will add style, comfort and ambiance to their living rooms. In some ways, emphasizing benefits over features is an extension of the first point: focus on the customer (and how they benefit) and not the advertiser (what they offer).

Adding on to this point, certain adjectives can make ads perform poorly.

Adjectives such as [durable], [longer], and [classic] are what we call feature-focused adjectives. These adjectives have little impact on CTR while deteriorating the conversion rate. Using [reliable], however, provides strong lifts in both CTR and CPI.

Why might such similar words contribute to different bottom-line results?

Simply put, oftentimes product features tell while benefits sell. An ad for brake pads that mentions the [titanium frame] (product feature) is likely less impactful to a consumer than an ad that mentions [safety] (benefit).

Translating a list of product features into real-world benefits requires a leap in the human brain. Using the brake pads example, users would have to connect the words [titanium frame] to the concept of safety, which they may or may not actually accomplish.

Leading with benefits instead of features eliminates an extra step in the minds of consumers as they look at search results.

Boost Media relies on a curated network of professional, human copy writers to produce top-quality creative. Humans are better than robots at determining which benefits will resonate with a given audience at a given time.

In the example below, the first ad is peppered with product features like [chemical-free] and [effective]. But what is the benefit of a chemical-free diaper? What does effective mean in the context of diapers? Presumably, it means not leaky.

By the time customers can think to ask these questions, they have surely moved on to a competitor’s ad.

Feature-Oriented Ad

Benefit-Oriented Ad

Example AdWords Ad 4

3. Fulfill Consumer Needs (Not Just Wants)

Imagine you are shopping for a new pair of hiking boots to buy for your sister this Christmas. The salesperson asks: “Does she want waterproof boots for just $50 more?” Unsure, you consider both the waterproof and regular boots.

Alternatively, let’s say the salesperson begins by stating: “We live in a rainy climate. She needs waterproof boots.” You are more likely to purchase the more-expensive waterproof boots because the need is established up front.

The same is true for ad copy.

Including [want] in an SEM ad improves CTR by 59% but reduces conversion rate. When a need is presented in the ad before the consumer clicks to visit the site, the conversion rate increases. This data suggests that “wants” capture attention, but “needs” close sales.

While wants generates a lot of attention, customers are looking to satisfy needs.

Conveniently, want and need have the same number of characters, making these words easy to interchange for testing. Data on these two nearly interchangeable words can influence customers at different phases in the purchase process.

Want-Based Ad

Need-Based Ad

Example AdWords Ad 5 Example AdWords Ad 6


Focusing on customers instead of the brand, benefits instead of features, and needs instead of wants are essentially three roots of the same tree. Our data suggests that your brand story should focus on the customer and how they can derive benefits that fulfill their needs.

Creating optimal brand messaging during peak holiday season is no longer a guessing game. Ad creative testing data from your own SEM campaigns can cheaply and easily provide actionable data that indicates how new messaging may perform across other advertising contexts.

When you find something that works, your research will pay off with increased conversions and make your holiday season the best one yet.

And Now Back To Frederick

It’s amazing to see the huge impact word choice can have on ad performance. It reminds me of an example many years ago, when eBay was still an up-and-coming company and they were running ads with headlines such as, [Find Laptops on eBay].

Since eBay wasn’t yet a well-known brand, many consumers skipped over the ad thinking it was for another search engine. eBay had promised to help you find what you were looking for, which was why people had come to Google in the first place.

When eBay changed one word in the headline to say, [Buy Laptops on eBay], all of the sudden the message made sense to consumers and the CTR improved.

Keeping that example in mind, I’m ready to test David’s advice and hope you will too.

Thanks for reading and sharing my posts and happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The post 3 Proven Ways To Write Ads That Deliver More Conversions appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Sweden The Latest To Consider Google “Link Tax” For Newspapers

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By Greg Sterling

A member of the Swedish parliament, Niclas Malmberg, wants Google to help fund Swedish news publications along the lines of the French model established last year. Threatened with a “link tax,” Google agreed “to create a €60 million Digital Publishing Innovation Fund to help support transformative digital publishing initiatives for French readers.”

Google also agreed to “help increase [French newspapers’] online revenues using [the company’s] advertising technology.”

Like other countries in Europe Sweden is alarmed by the decline of its newspaper industry and places the blame on Google. Malmberg wants Google to share its ad revenues with publishers.

I used both Bing and Google translate to capture the essence of the Swedish proposals. Neither service is entirely accurate and so nuances are lost. However the basic core of the information is there.

Malmberg appears to point to Swedish company Spotify as another potential model for the newspaper industry. Spotify provides royalties and pays musicians based on user subscriptions. The analogy isn’t exact because Google News is entirely ad supported. However the Swedish politician sees some sort of allocation or sharing of Google ad revenues with Swedish newspapers based on their traffic or market share.

Like other countries in Europe Swedish publishers believe Google is unfairly making money off their content and harming the industry. Accordingly some sort of “link tax” like legislation will likely emerge — to be used as leverage in a negotiation with Google, as in the French case.

Similar restrictive copyright legislation has been proposed in or passed in several countries in Europe, including France, Germany and Spain. I suspect we’ll see similar legislation duplicated across Europe or emerge at the EU-wide level.

We can endlessly debate whether Google is being unfairly scapegoated for changes in user behavior or whether the company is contributing to the decline of newspapers in some way. Many European leaders are convinced of the latter.

That’s the political reality Google is dealing with in Europe.

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