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Archive: Sep 2015

  1. Amazon Text Ads: To Do or Not To Do?

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    by Elizabeth Marsten

    Amazon has implemented its own site-specific digital advertising search tool – Amazon Text Ads. Similar in functionality to Google AdWords, here are the new program’s capabilities.

    If you hadn’t heard already, Amazon now has a Text Ad unit that’s now available to all Seller Central account holders. What’s interesting is that though Amazon has had this particular ad unit for some time, the e-commerce giant changed how it’s powered and who powers it. It’s with the retirement of the Amazon Product Ads unit that this particular ad unit is starting to gain some attention.


    What They Were

    Basically, it was a site in the partner network of Google AdWords. You couldn’t target the site specifically, a lack of control that’s miffed PPC marketers for years. But you knew it was there, lurking in the background and garnering impressions, clicks, and sometimes conversions for a fairly decent return – at least in aggregate, since you can’t see individual partner network performance or optimize accordingly. It’s just an on or off button in AdWords at the campaign level that’s in the “on” position by default in each new campaign you create.

    What They Are Now

    It’s no surprise that Amazon would eventually elect to stop sending so much traffic offsite with a portion of the CPC going to Google, trying to either capture that CPC for itself entirely or keep the user on Amazon. The new program, if you’re not already enrolled, requires you to set up a Seller Central account on Amazon. It will not entirely shut off all Google partner network traffic yet, but don’t be surprised to see this gradually wind down as Amazon gets more advertisers into the program. For now, estimates are that the volume – click and impressions – would be about 10 percent that you’d see in your Google search and keyword campaigns.

    How They Work

    Honestly, I’m calling it “Google AdWords Lite.” If you remember using AdWords back in the mid-2000s before features like remarketing, dynamic ads, shopping, and YouTube, it’s really similar. Here’s a quick rundown of Amazon Text Ads:

    • CPC-based
    • Keyword, auction-based
    • Utilizes keyword match types: broad, phrase, exact, and negative
    • Can run more than one ad copy at a time
    • Has campaign and ad group structure
    • Offers campaign level daily budgets
    • Ability to schedule start and end dates for campaigns
    • Available bulk file templates

    Ad text includes:

    • Headline
    • Line of body copy
    • A display URL
    • Similar character limits

    With a few updates that weren’t available back in the 2000s:

    • Mobile bid modifiers on campaign and ad group level
    • Higher limits: campaigns in an account 10,000, keywords in an ad group 10,000, ads in ad group 50
    • Conversion code for complete or partial tracking and cross device attribution

    But there are also some limitations:

    • No delete for campaigns: it’s archived, paused, or ended
    • No geographic or location modifiers and no exclusions
    • No day of week or time of day modifiers

    It’s built so much like AdWords, there’s even an option to upload your existing Google AdWords campaigns via the bulk upload option. This means that if you’re interested in trying Amazon Text Ads, the rather large barrier created due to setup time is removed.

    Can You Do It?

    Yes and no. Certain sellers will not be allowed into the program and that is a decision made by Amazon on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, certain categories are “gated” and require approval from Amazon. If you’ve already got a Seller Central account, log in and see if in the drop down under “Advertising,” there is a “Manage Text Ads” area you can go to in order to start setting up. If you don’t have a Seller Central account already, you’ll need to register and provide some basic business information, including tax ID info.

    What I’ve seen so far is that while the setup part is made relatively easy, the volume is OK, the return is actually good, and the volume of the return is low. If you need a comparison, think along the lines of what you might be doing with Bing Ads. The most interesting part now is, because the competition is lower and it’s so new, the head terms that normally would gobble up budget on AdWords get far more converting impressions than you would think. For example, you could bid on single or two-word keywords like “scented candles” and actually turn a positive ROI. As a result, the day-to-day management is very manual. You can download reports, adjust bids, add keywords and match types, and utilize the bulk edit worksheet, but again, it’s still very manual.

    If you’d like to learn more about the program, the most informative help articles are unfortunately gated within the Amazon Seller Central Help Center documentation. If you do have access and you’re interested in the program, I recommend logging in and checking it out. Otherwise, check out the PPC Hero walk through, with pictures.

  2. Why Quality Content Can Help Top Rankings

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    by Mike O’Brien

    Content scored high in Moz’s biennial ranking of search engine ranking factors. It may have been the first time that it was included in the research, but industry experts believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of it as a definitive ranking factor.

    When it comes to ranking on search engines, there’s nothing more important than technical factors, such as SEO visibility, the presence of H2 tags and a strong URL, which is worth thousands of keywords. However, content is also crucial to ranking high, according to Moz.

    Combining its own data with that from Ahrefs, DomainTools and SimilarWeb, Seattle-based SEO platform Moz ranked ranking factors as part of its biennial search engine ranking factors study. Looking at the top 50 search results for each Google query from the 22 top-level categories in AdWords, Moz found that domain-and page-level link features are the top two ranking signals, with respective scores of 8.22 and 8.19 out of 10. In third place, which Moz awarded 7.87 points, was page-level keyword and content-based features.

    “Google and other search engines have to be able to read content; it has to be something a machine can understand,” says Cyrus Shepard, director of audience development at Moz. “The technical considerations form a good base, but the user-generated signals about how people are interacting with your content are increasingly important. You can get to page one with technical SEO, but you can’t get to position one with just technical SEO, without great user experiences.”

    Considered items include content relevance scoring, on-page optimization of keyword usage, top-modeling algorithm scores on content, and content’s quality, quantity and relevance. These factors are more difficult to measure scientifically than things like links and title tags, but Google is sophisticated enough to be able to weigh in value, such as the amount of time spent interacting with content or the frequency with which it’s shared or referenced.


    Though content is a new ranking factor to Moz’s analyses, Shepard wouldn’t be surprised if it outranked the technical factors during the next study.

    “Content is basically the foundation of anything. Without it, the pure technical SEO doesn’t have anything to work with,” Shepard says. “For Google in particular, the search results are its product and it’s very concerned with how well the product performs. It’s not about just giving the click; the goal is to go beyond the click and complete the thing the user is looking for, and you do that through quality content.”

    Michael Schiemer, digital marketing manager for New England convenience store chain Colbea Enterprises, agrees with Shepard on the importance of content. He points out that with billions of pages of spam, duplicate content and click-bait articles, Google ultimately gives users a better experience by focusing more on content.

    Indeed, content also weighs heavily in Google’s negative ranking factors. Two of Moz’s top spam flags are a high number of links relative to the content and a high ratio of content in ads, navigation and links to total page content. In addition, duplicate and thin content are two negative ranking factors with scores of 7.74 and 7.69 out of 10, second and third only to “total number of unnatural links to page/subdomain.”


    “SEO and content marketing should go hand-in-hand and now it looks like content marketers will reap more benefits than in previous years,” Schiemer says. “If a business does not successfully utilize content marketing, it is essentially leaving money on the table. It’s not just about link building any more, but creating exceptional and personalized content that readers and viewers enjoy.

    “I agree with many SEO experts when they say that you should write for people and not for algorithms,” he adds.

  3. Snapchat vs. Facebook vs. YouTube: When Is a View a View?

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    by Frank Sinton

    Because Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube each have different standards for measuring viewed content, marketers must contribute video in diverse formats to comply with each platform. So, what is a view?

    As Facebook’s video aspirations begin to attract more attention from viewers, creators, and the press alike, the inevitable “Facebook vs. YouTube” comparisons have begun. And now that Snapchat is reporting 4 billion daily views, we’re already migrating to a “Snapchat Challenges Facebook” storyline.

    Nowhere is this more contentious than the disparity between how videos are viewed on YouTube, as opposed to how they are viewed as native content on Facebook, versus how Snapchat counts views.

    In the past year, Facebook has moved to increase its visibility of video to its users and in turn, to video content creators. At first, the promise was a higher rate of views if embedded directly to Facebook, as opposed to linking to an outside video source, such as YouTube. More recently, videos uploaded directly to Facebook has ensured higher visibility because it’s native to the site and therefore, provides a better user experience, as deemed by Facebook’s analysis.

    This makes sense, as Facebook requires creators and brands to pay to promote and if they don’t, visibility is limited. Thus, shared YouTube content may not be reaching a maximum audience. This raises the question of what exactly constitutes a “view.”

    There is, at the moment, no industry standard definition for what counts as a view. Facebook currently counts a view as “three seconds of watched video, whether the audio is turned on or not,” leading some to doubt the legitimacy of its actual spike in viewership. Meanwhile, Snapchat videos are only 10 seconds or less, leading to its counting a view as anything seen for a second or more. YouTube’s definition of what counts as a view is vaguer: views get counted at “around 30 seconds,” but that time could change based on a video’s length, suggesting the rubric varies from upload to upload.

    But this isn’t an argument over competing view standards so much as it is an illustration of how advertisers and creators alike need to prepare themselves for a world where YouTube is no longer the only relevant video platform, with all the contradictory metrics that comes with it.

    Rather than focusing on the differences between how views are counted, we should instead be far more concerned with how those views are monetized. Right now, there is no way to monetize on Facebook. In other words, today, Facebook’s video efforts are designed to drive value for Facebook and not creators. Snapchat has better options, charging a premium for the scarcity inherent in the impermanent nature of its videos.

    The good news is that this is exactly where YouTube was at inception. Advertisers and creators didn’t mobilize to monetize YouTube until almost two years after it launched, and now there is a system in place that benefits both YouTube and its creators.

    While this doesn’t exist yet for Facebook, the past dictates that it’s simply a matter of finding the avenue of application to make the monetization of that space work, whether it’s reliant on views or another factor. Furthermore, as this happens, it may force an industry definition of what counts as a view, which can only benefit Facebook and new platforms in the long run.

    That’s why it’s a mistake to focus on the so-called competition between the different video platforms emerging. People are waiting to see whether Snapchat pulls ahead of Vine, Facebook ahead of YouTube, and so forth. But to creators, these are all avenues of connecting with audiences in unique ways. They each serve a purpose, and can be used for their own unique brand and creative engagement. It’s just a matter of understanding and defining how.

  4. How Is UGC Changing Content Marketing?

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    by Mike O’Brien

    Consumers find the word-of-mouth nature of user-generated content to be particularly trustworthy, which has resulted in a surge of popularity comparable to that of influencer marketing.

    “User-generated content” (UGC) may have become a clichéd marketing buzzword, but it’s still one that resonates enough with consumers to have shifted the nature of content marketing.

    According to digital think tank L2, 55 percent of consumers trust UGC over other types of marketing. Coca-Cola for example, attributed a 2.5 percent quarterly sales increase in part to an Instagram gallery centered on the massively popular “Share a Coke” campaign from last summer.


    Why is UGC so popular with people? Authenticity, according to Tessa Wegert, communications director at digital agency Ensighten.

    “Brands are producing more content than ever, and consumers are starting to feel overwhelmed,” Wegert says. “There’s the potential for native ad and brand content blindness, particularly if the content doesn’t ring true to the viewer, but UGC can combat that. We all know the power of word of mouth, and there’s an element of that with UGC. Consumers are seeing their peers speak favorably of products and services. It’s trustworthy and it’s visual, and those are powerful things.”

    The visual nature of UGC makes it particularly popular on Instagram. Hyatt uses location tags to incorporate Instagram photos into its email marketing, while Sigma Beauty, for whom Instagram has become the top source of referral traffic, curates 16,000 user photos each month.

    “When I have an army of 16,000 marketers [marketing] for me, it’s a far more cost-effective, timely way for me to produce marketing content for my brand,” says Matt Langie, chief marketing officer at Curalate, the visual and analytics platform behind #SaksStyle. Also known as “the shoppable selfie,” #SaksStyle is a hub made up of pictures users have shared from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.


    “The smart brands are the ones going, ‘We’re seeing behavioral changes; how do we connect that with a sale?” Langie says. “What’s interesting to me is that this is really becoming a conversion of social, content and commerce where consumers are sharing what they’re doing on social and brands are developing more and more authentic imagery. The missing link has been connecting all this to commerce.”

    The way Wegert and Langie speak of UGC is parallel to the sentiment toward the growing trend of influencer marketing. According to content and influencer marketing firm IZEA, more than half of digital marketers invested in paid social influencer endorsements last year. For example, Michelle Phan, whose beauty tutorials have helped her accrue nearly 8 million followers on YouTube, was recently featured in a Diet Dr Pepper campaign.

    For brands, the idea is that regular people see Phan as more relatable than someone like, say, Gisele Bündchen. According to Langie, the same principles apply to UGC.

    “[Consumers are] tired of the manufactured image. They want something that’s authentic to a consumer who looks just like me: maybe a little heavyset, maybe a little too skinny, maybe not handsome,” Langie says. “Everyone has their own shortcomings and at the end of the day, I’m not buying a product because I want to look like Gisele. I’m buying it because it makes me look good.”

  5. Social Media Marketing Budgets and ROI: How to Plan for 2016

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    by Jasmine Sandler

    Today, social platforms are essential to digital marketing strategy. These insights can help you organize an effective plan to prepare your social media marketing budget for next year.

    As we enter Q4 of 2015 and the race continues for technology market position from younger social tech companies like Periscope, Meerkat, Pinterest and Instagram, the modern social media marketer or social manager has a lot to think about. The heavyweight advertising platforms – LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter – are becoming more sophisticated, offering all types of hyper-local targeting and better analytics.

    People and time resources for social media management are becoming more demanding, as organizations finally see social media marketing as a real branding and sales channel. All of these things combined require marketing directors to assess their marketing budgets a bit differently moving ahead into 2016.

    Any good chief operating officer (COO) understands the concept of wastage as well as any great chief marketing officer (CMO) understands the strength of solid, experienced marketing resources. When considering a budget for social media, the balance between the two is critical. Before the marketing decision-maker makes their 2016 social media marketing budget, I suggest he or she sits down with the company chief financial officer and/or COO to review company expenses, profitability, and company goals.

    In my opinion, social media is a serious branding tool. I say this because it can inevitably affect a company reputation, market position, and valuation, if it is a public company. The operations side of any organization needs to understand how social media branding can play a big part in a company’s overall value.

    Initiate a real social media marketing planning session. For this session, the top executives – the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, and sales director – should convene to discuss what the company vision is for the next year, and how social media can support it. Additionally, the previous marketing year programs should go under review. This allows the whole team to visibly see where the company has spent marketing dollars, where these funds have performed, and where they have failed to perform.

    When considering where to put your money in social media advertising, marketing, and resources, it is critical to review your target audience. Create user profiles of social behaviors for each audience. It’s more than likely you already have smart CRM systems, digital analytics, and social analytics deployed internally. Use these to start gathering insights on which social channels are delivering the most site traffic, where your users are spending their time in social, what types of content is driving the highest consumption and shareability, and so forth.

    With this data, illustrate user social behaviors and traffic patterns. You will start to realize:

    • Which social ad platforms may make sense for your business
    • What type of content production you should invest in for 2016
    • What frequency you should invest in content production during 2016
    • Where you might consider enabling a talent resource to manage a vertical online community

    It’s also a good time to review the listening, managing, monitoring tools your organization utilizes for social media marketing. Evaluate the:

    • Ad management reporting tools
    • Market automation tools
    • APIs
    • CRM systems

    Assess your tools and their related effective use to create what I call, an internal end-to-end social media branding and sales system.

    Finally, analyze how social media marketing will affect sales so that sales planning and social planning can start to better align in 2016. This means:

    • The sales goals and past years’ performances needs to be reviewed and considered.
    • Each salesperson’s personality type for social selling needs to be understood. Building relationships in social media is a bit more complex than our traditional face-to-face interactions. You could have the best social sales person right under your nose and not even know it.
    • A proper social salesperson needs to be trained in the art of supporting the company social ecosystem.
    • At minimum, your marketing efforts and tools need to correlate with the social sales process, from LinkedIn profile messaging to the use of SlideShare and Twitter to CRM to offline presentations.

    As a guide for social media budgeting and assessing proper ROI, both branding ROI and sales ROI must be considered because social supports both. On the branding side, ROI is determined by:

    • Gains in market share
    • Popularity in social
    • Mentions in online PR
    • Requests for branded interviews in influential publications

    But social branding is not as easy as it was at one time. Competition in virtually every industry is strong: social mobile usage is at an all-time high and the social noise is tremendous. This means that more social resources need to be deployed at the company level, including training, hiring, and managing.

    Of course, measuring social to sales success is much more tangible. Today, there is a plethora of opportunities in social media marketing, with more platforms and more chances for targeted selling. Advertising spend has increased for B2B organizations across the board, and corporate spend has substantiated this fact.

    For an idea of budgeting for social at the starting point, I would encourage you to take a look at an infographic I created in 2013 for ClickZ in my article, How to Effectively Budget Your Social Media Program in 2013. Simply add 15 to 20 percent to each end of the annual spectrum for small and mid-market companies and 20 to 30 percent for larger, enterprise organizations to get current estimates.