Amazon Takes a Bite Out of Search

Amazon Takes a Bite Out of Search

Search

If you haven’t incorporated Amazon into your search strategy, it’s time to reconsider your strategy. Over the last three years, Amazon has surpassed search engines as the place to start shopping online for products. According to a PowerReviews survey from 2016, 38 percent of people start their product searches on Amazon versus 35 percent who start on Google. A more recent survey from financial services firm Raymond James states a larger variance, with 52 percent starting at Amazon and only 26 percent starting on a search engine. No wonder Eric Schmidt of Google famously called out Amazon as its biggest search competitor in 2014.

I was surprised the first time I heard this information about search behavior on Amazon because Googling things has become second nature to me as a search marketing professional. Then I thought of my experiences as a new mom with an Amazon Prime account, and the numbers started to make more sense. Every time my son suddenly grows, or we’re almost out of some baby toiletries, or I don’t feel like making that third (or fourth) trip to the store, I go directly to Amazon. I can’t remember the last time I started shopping for a product on Google first.

Why are more people heading directly to Amazon? As it turns out, the main reasons most people start their searches on Amazon are:

  • The large variety of products.
  • Free shipping.
  • Better deals.
  • The number of product reviews available.

Another factor to consider is how many people who have an Amazon Prime account. According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, 60 percent of Amazon customers are Prime members, and Prime members make up about 80 million people from the United States. Why would a person paying for a Prime account look somewhere other than Amazon first when online shopping?

So what does this information mean for companies that rely on paid search and SEO as the main drivers of online sales? Shoppers who start their search on Amazon may very well stay on Amazon if they find what they want when they want it.  For those shoppers, it does not matter how greatly organized and efficient a brand’s AdWords account is or how high the organic results are. People who start a search on Amazon and stay on Amazon will never see the ads and are very unlikely to purchase products from these companies. Brands that rely on e-commerce should continue to advertise on search engines. But it is also important for advertisers to take a serious look at their marketing strategy to see if incorporating Amazon into the mix makes sense.

Need help in figuring out if adding Amazon to your plan is the right strategy for you? KeywordFirst can help. Contact us for more information.

How Well Do You Know Your Negative Keywords?

How Well Do You Know Your Negative Keywords?

Search

Google has made great strides developing tools that help advertisers find their target market. Using some of those tools is important. But make sure you don’t forget some of the fundamental best practices to ensure campaign success. A good example is the use of negative keywords in your paid search campaigns – a tried-and-true tactic that can improve your ability to target your paid media considerably.

To refresh you: Google defines a negative keyword as a type of keyword that prevents certain words or phrases from triggering your ad. When you identify negative keywords in your campaign, you lessen the likelihood that your ad will appear for irrelevant searches. When I audit paid search campaigns, one of the most common mistakes I find is the failure to add a robust list of negative keywords.

Finding Ideas for Negative Keywords

Reviewing search query reports will almost always result in negative keyword ideas. In the higher education space, I often see searches around student log-in information, campus living options, and school sports teams. All those searches are fodder for negative keywords. In the retail space, I often see searches including “How to,” “How do I,” or “Can I use.” In many cases, these types of searches result in ad clicks, but not conversions. So such searches are potential sources for negative keywords to add to your campaign.

Some searches are easy to identify as irrelevant. But other negative keywords may not be as obvious to discern.  If you are questioning whether you should add a new negative keyword, I recommend reviewing 12 months of AdWords data if available. Using a Search Term Report, you can filter for searches containing the search term or phrase in question. If you are tracking conversions, you can see how many times those types of searches resulted in conversions, how much spend was accrued, and the cost/per conversion

That data should make it easier to decide to add a negative keyword to block specific searches from triggering your ads. While you are reviewing the Search Term Report and looking for potential negative keywords, take some time to review the search queries for new keyword ideas as well.

Uncovering New Terms

Of course, it’s important to form your negative keyword strategy in context of a general keyword strategy. The Search Term Report is a great tool for doing so. I like using the Search Term Report to do complementary analyses for keywords and negative keywords. I might use the report to find general keywords as follows: often, I uncover new terms that searchers are using to find my product. For example, they might use my modified keyword along with some other descriptive words that might be good keyword additions to my campaign. For example:

  • I might have “+product +x” as my keyword, but I see a repeated pattern of people searching for “lowest cost product x,” “best product x,” “product x for women,” etc.
  • Or, perhaps your product is being used for a purpose not previously known. For example, “Using product x in a garage,” “product x for boats.”

It may be beneficial to add some additional keywords based on your search query results and test performance.

Finally, with the increased popularity of voice searches, you will most likely be seeing longer search queries in your reports, which could offer you valuable insight into ways to better tailor your current set of keywords.  By eliminating spend on irrelevant traffic with a robust negative keyword list, you should see an improvement in paid search performance. And that’s how you turn a negative into a positive!

Image source: Wilfred Iven, https://stocksnap.io/author/775

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Search

The war to dominate voice technology is heating up – and getting more interesting. Both Amazon and Google have recently announced important enhancements to make their voice assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, smarter and more useful. And to increase the level of competition, on June 5 Apple announced its HomePod smart speaker, powered by Siri, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The ability of a consumer to search from multiple devices anywhere they are makes it clear that brands’ strategies need to adapt for voice searches.

Apple Plays Catch-Up

 The launch of HomePod represents Apple’s attempt to gain a stake in the market for smart speakers activated by voice. Apple has been late to the playing field before, but when it enters, Apple creates hardware that leaves competitors in the dust. Think of the iPhone and how it changed people’s lives, and, even more so, the way people search.

Having access to another voice-activated device no matter where you are, whether it’s the HomePod, Apple Watch or iPhone, will only increase the use of voice search. Apple’s sneak peak of the HomePod mainly focused on its abilities for music in the home, but it also touched on similar smart speaker features such as weather, directions, messages, and reminders.

Additional Siri-related announcements included a new voice that is more conversational, which will match with the way consumers speak to Siri. Apple also announced a new Siri-powered watch face for the Apple Watch. Apple is enhancing Siri on the Apple Watch by using machine learning to gather data on how you utilize your device. Siri will use this data to then show you relative and interesting content.

Apple’s release of HomePod occurred on the heels of Google’s and Amazon’s own announcements related to voice technology. It’s instructive to review how Amazon and Google built off their already established products to differentiate themselves.

 Amazon Integrates Voice and Search with Echo

On May 9, Amazon – which dominates 70 percent of the market for voice controlled speakers – announced that its Echo voice-activated home speaker is getting more visual. The new Echo Show product includes a touch screen that integrates visual features with voice. According to Amazon, “Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.”

In addition, Echo Show users can make video calls, thus making Echo Show a competitor to Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s Hangouts, and Microsoft’s Skype.

What Echo Show does for brands and consumers is create a more integrated way for them to share content with each other. For instance, consumers can ask Alexa to make their dining reservations at a restaurant and also call up a menu, display available movie times at different theaters, and watch movie trailers, among many other possibilities.

According to Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff, “The Amazon Echo Show is a quantum leap beyond any Alexa-infused product we’ve seen before” because of the new interface with the touch screen. He also noted that Echo Show will always communicate with you, while other devices wait for you to initiate.

It’s obvious Amazon is becoming a stronger platform for amplifying your brand through paid and organic content, both visual and voice-related. If you do not have an Amazon strategy yet, KeywordFirst highly recommends experimenting with advertising on their platform.

Google Gets Smarter

Meanwhile, at its annual I/O event, Google introduced a slew of features to make Google Home  and Google Assistant more useful.

As if to answer Amazon Echo, Google launched Visual Responses, which also integrates visual content with voice. As Google noted on its blog, “You’ll be able to see Assistant answers on the biggest screen in your house, whether you’re asking ‘what’s on YouTube TV right now?’ or ‘what’s on my calendar today?’”

In other words, Google provides the same functionality as Amazon but with the power of the Google search and discovery ecosystem more closely integrated into the experience.

Google made many other enhancements to Google Assistant and Google Home. For instance, with Proactive Assistance, Google Home sends people information without being asked. So if you have an appointment with your doctor entered on your Google calendar, Google Home will remind you of the date and time, suggest a driving route, or provide other useful information such as helpful stops on the way to the doctor.

Another interesting improvement consists of making Google Assistant more conversational and more contextual. As Google noted on its blog, we often want to have follow-up conversations with Google Assistant. So Google has made it possible to see the history of your conversation with Google Assistant as you would a text thread, thus making it easier for you to re-engage with a conversation – say, managing a shopping list at the store after you’ve started one and then had your trip to Target interrupted by something else.

Bottom Line

Google, Amazon and Apple understand that people and brands find each other in more sophisticated, multi-dimensional ways. All of these companies have evolved to incorporate voice search tools and now multi-media discovery platforms.

Brands need to think of themselves as multi-media advertisers in the world that Amazon, Google and Apple are shaping. Performance media is not an either/or choice between voice, text-based, and visual platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. These three leading brands are forcing businesses to think of their media as overlapping, integrated platforms.

Virtual assistants are using machine learning to understand the consumer’s voice, interests, behaviors and intent to give them a better search experience. And with voice-activated devices advancing, consumer’s search behavior is shifting. We’ve mentioned before that voice searches are more conversational and natural. Advertisers now need to focus their content strategy not only around conversational language, but also visuals and the context of the search including the type of device and location.

Image source: PC Magazine

 

 

New Research Report Underscores Importance of Partnering

New Research Report Underscores Importance of Partnering

Marketing

The Chicago area is a fast growing and vibrant source of digital marketing agencies beyond some of the well-known giant firms. A new report by research firm Clutch sheds a spotlight on the diversity and excitement of the Chicago-based digital marketing agency industry. And I’m pleased to announce that KeywordFirst is ranked as a market leader in the report.

Clutch evaluated and ranked Chicago-based digital marketing agencies using a proprietary research methodology that incorporated factors such as client reviews. The reviews covered agency attributes such as quality of work performed and project management skills. KeywordFirst was ranked in the top-tier Market Leaders category in the Clutch digital agency matrix.

Naturally we were excited to be ranked so strongly especially because client feedback figured large in the ranking criterion. As one client told Clutch, “It’s hard to argue with what the numbers tell us. Last year, KeywordFirst helped us to nearly double the amount of leads which we were able to acquire.”

Another client said, “Their work has been successful. We always want results to be better, but KeywordFirst are knowledgeable and are very easy to work with. Unlike the people in many other agencies, they’re humble.”

To be cited for our humility is important. On our website, we talk about the importance of being honest, uncomplicated, and transparent. We believe that agencies need to do more that provide great advice and do successful work. They need to be partners that companies like to work with.

I urge you to take time to review the Clutch report here. And use it to vet your agency as you decide whom to work with. You’ll find a nice variety of options in the report. We’re pleased to be one of the leading choices.

How Livestreaming Makes a Brand More Authentic

How Livestreaming Makes a Brand More Authentic

Marketing

In an age where establishing a reputable brand means maintaining a tightly controlled online presence, livestreaming offers a more authentic look into a company’s operations.  Livestreaming attracts customers and strengthens customer relationships as well.  A majority of customers say product videos are helpful in the decision-making process, and companies are responding. However, heavily edited photos and videos can sometimes distance a brand from its audience by making content look inauthentic. Livestreaming works best when it is authentic.

A multitude of platforms offer livestreaming, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Periscope (Twitter’s own version).  Given the influence of Facebook and Instagram alone, the potential reach that livestreaming offers is significant.

The Key to Livestreaming Success

Being genuine is the key to livestreaming success. There is a fine balance to be achieved: preparation for a livestream, including rehearsal, is essential. But on the other hand, it is important to shy away from being so over prepared that your livestream looks like a slick sales pitch. No customer will be won with a video of a script-reading salesmen, and so achieving a creative, engaging, and possibly interactive video is paramount.

Livestreamed content offers an exciting range of choices. They include:

  • Behind-the-scenes tours.
  • New product reveals.
  • Company events.

Brands that have used livestreaming video include:

  • Dunkin’ Donuts, who used it to promote its sweets for Valentine’s Day last year. The video included how they use their test kitchen to create new products and showed customers how they created a large donut-shaped wedding cake.

  • EA Sports Madden NFL broadcast live from the NFL draft, which enabled them to connect with their customers watching one of the biggest NFL events of the year.

Perhaps the most outlandish livestreaming stunt (in the works) is Taco Bell’s “Love and Tacos” campaign.  On Valentine’s Day, Taco Bell announced renovations to its flagship Las Vegas location—more specifically, a wedding chapel on the second floor where they will hold ceremonies for those unique couples who opt for the $600 Taco Bell wedding packages.  In celebration of the renovations, Taco Bell also revealed a contest for the most obsessed couples already thinking about getting married.  The couple with the best love story, and most obvious love for Taco Bell won a wedding at the Las Vegas location, all expenses covered.  The wedding will be livestreamed for the world to see in June.

Challenges

Livestreaming presents its share of challenges, such as:

  • Quality. One of the biggest challenges to livestreaming is ensuring a high-quality livestreaming session. As anyone who has ever tuned into a sports game, political debate, or any other popularly shared live event knows, buffering can be an issue. If a video is pausing every other second to load, you can lose viewers quickly and annoy them.
  • Timing. Choosing an effective time to stream is another challenge. The ability to analyze a customer base and when the majority of them are most likely to tune into watch is essential.  However, most platforms have remedied this problem by offering the chance to save livestreams to watch at a different time.  While viewers lose out on that special “in the moment feel” unique to livestreaming, the opportunity to still tune into a unique video is certainly a great feature that can help expand viewership.

An effective livestreamed video allows a company to strengthen the relationship it has with its customers in an authentic way. Livestreaming can offer the feeling of a candid, unscripted look into how well-loved products are made, or give faces to the people who work at a given company.  While some technical issues have yet to be overcome, livestreaming can be a potent way to reach out to a customer base.

Great Visual Storytelling in the Automotive Industry

Great Visual Storytelling in the Automotive Industry

Marketing

At a time when people upload 1.8 billion images a day, visual storytelling is table stakes for most businesses to be relevant to consumers. But sharing one’s brand through images and video content is not always easy. Just as developing Web copy and blog content requires effective writing skills, visual storytelling demands close attention to how images create an emotional connection like no other communication medium.

Fortunately, businesses can learn from each other by example, and not necessarily from inside their own industries. For instance, it does not matter whether you sell bathroom fixtures or books: you can learn a lot from the automotive industry about visual storytelling. Automotive companies, ranging from dealers to aftermarket businesses, need to express themselves visually to succeed. (When was the last time you considered a new car purchase just by reading about the latest models?) Here are some automotive brands that are dialed in and know how to employ visual storytelling:

Humanizing a Brand

Subaru consistently uses video and imagery to inspire consumers to think of the human dimension of owning a car. For instance, to launch the 2017 Impreza model, Subaru rolled out video ads (offline and online) that tell the story of a little boy packing his bags and leaving home. Under the watchful eye of his parents, he packs the back of the family Subaru with his beloved personal possessions, including a sleeping bag and baseball bat. The end of the ad, though, reveals a heart-rending plot twist: the little boy is a young man leaving home in his Subaru. His parents are watching him through the lens of nostalgia. The ad tells a dramatic story of growing up and leaving home, with the Subaru playing a supporting role. As an old guy with a daughter graduating college, I think this ad particularly hits home. Here is a smart way to introduce a product — without saying a word about features and functionality. Subaru does it better than most and kudos to their marketing team and agency for brilliant work.

Connecting a Brand to a Lifestyle

On the other hand, NAPA Auto Parts builds its own brand by connecting its name to the excitement of automobile racing. NAPA does an exceptional job creating brand buzz through its sponsorship of drivers with popular racing bodies such as INDYCAR and NASCAR. And NAPA employs plenty of visual storytelling on its blog and social spaces to keep fans abreast of the performance of its sponsored drivers,  such as Alexander Rossi:

Of course, automobile racing lends itself to the excitement of video, and NAPA is happy to accommodate. For example, on its YouTube channel, NAPA shares video content that celebrates its drivers while building awareness for the brand value of “NAPA Know How.” The following video, for instance, effectively uses visual content plus narration to celebrate the way that Know How, skill, speed, and teamwork come together to create success with its professional drivers:

NAPA knows that sponsoring professional racers associates its brand with the distinct elements of automobile racing and uses visual storytelling to maximize the value of its sponsorships.

Providing Insight

J&P Cycles Parts & Service, the world’s largest aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories provider, does an exceptional job using visual storytelling to provide practical “how to” knowledge.  For instance, on its YouTube channel, J&P Cycles shows visitors how to install bike accessories such as seats and brake pads. A recently posted video takes you into a cycle shop to show you how to upgrade a cycle for less than $2,000, and if you want to learn how to install mirrors on a Harley-Davidson, J&P Cycles will show you how:

Those are just some of the videos available on the J&P Cycles DIY Motorcycle Upgrades and How-To Videos Channel on YouTube.  You can also find more how-to videos on the J&P Cycles website, including tips on battery installation.

By providing how-to videos, J&P Cycles is really demonstrating customer empathy. J&P Cycles knows that the purchase of an aftermarket product is hardly the end of the experience. The real moment of truth arrives when a customer installs the product.

What You Can Learn

These examples of visual storytelling apply to any brand. For instance, businesses that provide any kind of professional service can emulate the J&P Cycles example by using video to share thought leadership. A good way to get started with visual storytelling is to first map out your paid, earned, and owned media strategy, and figure out where visual storytelling can play a role. Subaru clearly understands how to apply visual storytelling to evoke emotion for paid media. J&P Cycles has done a nice job of integrating video to enhance customer service as part of an owned media approach.

How do you apply visual storytelling? What lessons have you learned?

Mobile Advertising: Let Your Customer Be Your Guide

Mobile Advertising: Let Your Customer Be Your Guide

Mobile

Mobile is a shining star of performance marketing. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), for the first time, mobile ads account for the majority of digital ad spend. The IAB 2016 Internet Advertising Revenue report says that mobile ad revenues increased 77 percent to $36.6 billion in 2016, or 51 percent of total digital ad spend. Desktop search, the next biggest category, accounted for 24 percent of the total.

The IAB also says that the $36.6 billion spent on mobile ads included $17.2 billion for mobile search and $18.1 billion for mobile display.

I’m not surprised by the growth in mobile ad revenue. The ad spend reflects changing consumer behavior and the power of major publishers such as Google. The number of mobile searches on Google surpassed desktop searches two years ago. And Google has been changing its algorithms to force brands to respect the power of mobile. For instance, Google’s 2015 “mobilegeddon” algorithm rewarded mobile-friendly web pages with higher rankings for searches done on Google.

And yet, as important as mobile has become, mobile is still a contextual experience. To me, the real excitement and long-lasting value for advertisers comes from creating meaningful online advertising that appeals to omnichannel consumers.

Omnichannel consumers interact with brands through a variety of devices and channels, including social media, your website, display ads on other sites, and search results – on mobile phones, desktops, tablets, in games, on television, and through voice-activated assistants, to cite just a few of the proliferating channels and devices that shape the consumer-brand experience.

You get a better picture of how complex the advertising landscape really is when you dig into the IAB report and sift through the variety of ad formats that account for digital spend. (The report’s appendix alone, which details the pricing models and ad formats, is instructive.)

It’s important that businesses understand the nuances of advertising through different channels and devices. For instance, Tim Colucci at KeywordFirst has been blogging lately about the distinct challenges and opportunities of video advertising. (Here is an example.) At the same time, I believe it’s more important to coordinate mobile in context of the understanding your consumers’ journeys from awareness to purchase to loyalty. Yes, mobile advertising is probably going to be important to just about any brand, but how and when you spend on mobile advertising may differ dramatically by channel (e.g., Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram) and device depending factors such as what stage a customer is in the buying decision and the time of day they’re interacting with your brand.

So let’s celebrate and appreciate the rise of mobile ad spending. But even more importantly, let’s keep our focus on the broader consumer journey and invest into experiences that create and retain customer relationships throughout the journey, one impression, channel, and device at a time.

Image source: Startup Stock Photos