Portent http://www.yide31.com Digital Marketing Agency - Seattle, WA Thu, 07 May 2020 14:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 http://www.yide31.com/images/2018/11/favicon.png Portent http://www.yide31.com 32 32 Reporting on Assisted Conversions Through Google Analytics http://www.yide31.com/blog/analytics/reporting-on-assisted-conversions-through-google-analytics.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/analytics/reporting-on-assisted-conversions-through-google-analytics.htm#respond Thu, 07 May 2020 14:00:59 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=53064 As analysts and stakeholders, we all know the importance of making sure we’re collecting the right data. However, I’ve found that we spend a disproportionate amount of time in data collection than we do in the analysis process. Further, not every business and especially not every marketing effort should be analyzed the same. When it […]

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As analysts and stakeholders, we all know the importance of making sure we’re collecting the right data. However, I’ve found that we spend a disproportionate amount of time in data collection than we do in the analysis process. Further, not every business and especially not every marketing effort should be analyzed the same.

When it comes to understanding the path a user took that led to a conversion, Google Analytics has many ways we can collect and attribute data to a specific action. However, not every attribution method is made readily available to us in Google Analytics.

In this post, we’ll start by making sure we understand the options available to us for attribution in Google Analytics, explain assisted conversions and its caveats, and end with how you can start reporting on assisted conversions to tell a better story with your data.

If you’re already familiar with attribution in GA and the pros and cons of analyzing assisted conversions, you can skip to how to set up reporting for assisted conversions in Google Data Studio.

If you want to learn a bit more about attribution in general before diving into this post, you can check out our Digital Marketer’s Guide to Attribution first.

How Are Conversions Attributed in Google Analytics?

Let’s start by making sure we understand how conversions are reported in Google Analytics by default. GA actually attempts to give credit to the last non-direct click, which is often preferred. However, there may be situations where we want to attribute a conversion to direct—when we know it’s a result of brand awareness, for example.

It’s also important to remember that traffic is attributed to direct when a user enters a site directly but also when Google does not have the information to attribute it otherwise. Some examples are when a user clicks on a link in a mobile app, enters your site through an untagged email, or clicks a link in a document. Many obscure situations could lead to a user visiting your site through a non-direct avenue but have it be attributed to direct. Our analytics strategist, Jackie Jeffers, goes into more detail about identifying and analyzing “dark direct” traffic.

Other Attribution Models in Google Analytics

GA understands that the last non-direct model won’t work for all businesses, especially if you’re implementing multi-channel marketing efforts.

Excluding the default attribution model, there are six other attribution models you can play around with in GA. You can give all of the credit to the last interaction, the last Google Ads click, or the first interaction. There are three others to split up attribution evenly among all touchpoints (linear), give more credit to every attribution that’s closer to the conversion (time decay), or split the credit evenly between the first and last interactions.

Our director of analytics, Michael Wiegand, gives a more thorough breakdown of the different attribution models that are available in GA so I won’t go into full detail here.

Analyzing Assisted Conversions

There’s also the option to look at assisted conversions. Assisted conversions give credit to every single touchpoint in a user’s path—even direct. Every touchpoint in a user’s journey to a conversion is given credit as an assisted conversion except for the final source.

There are situations where giving every source an equal amount of credit makes sense, such as purchases with long consideration cycles. Although, you may want to give different weight to the sources depending on its position in the converting path, especially for situations like these:

In this example, you can see the conversion path consists of Referral, Display, Direct, Display, Paid Search, Referral x3, Direct, Referral, Paid Search, Display, Social Network, Paid Search, Referral, Direct x6, then Paid Search x2.

In this situation, social may not deserve as much credit as referral, for example. Referral was the first interaction, and the user entered back to the site through it five additional times. There are typically hundreds of these random combinations of user paths that users end up taking before converting on your site.

Or what about this example?

In this example, you can see the conversion path consists of Other Advertising then Paid Search x3.

Sure, the user entered the site three times through paid before converting, but shouldn’t the other advertising source get credit for bringing the user to the site in the first place? We want to be able to identify what source we paid for that falls under this ‘other advertising’ channel and put more money into it if it’s bringing new converting users to our site.

These are reasons why I report on first interaction assisted conversions in addition to last non-direct click conversions in my reports. We don’t always need to credit every channel in a path; in many cases, we want to know how we first brought a user to our site, and what channel they ultimately took to convert.

In the Multi-Channel Funnels (MCF) reports in GA, you can switch your Assisted Conversions report over to First Interaction Analysis.

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Take a look at this report, for example, where paid search is credited for 30% of last-click conversions but actually accounts for 38% of first-click conversions:

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There are over 9,000 more conversions that occur by users who we first captured through paid search, but are attributing to other channels like organic, paid social, or display. We’re even possibly pumping more money into those channels while cutting down our budget in paid search because our ROI looks worse for paid search when only looking at last-click conversions.

When Should You Report on Assisted Conversions?

Reporting on assisted conversions requires a bit more time and effort, and it’s really worth it if your business meets any of the following criteria:

  • Users take a long time to convert: A purchase with a long time lag will undoubtedly incur more touchpoints along the way, and only crediting the last one won’t help you uncover how you’re acquiring these users.
  • You’re engaged in cross-channel marketing: You have display ads, paid search ads, organic social posts, and paid social ads across multiple platforms—how in the world will you know how you got these users to your site when they search your name and keep converting through organic?
  • You’re determining a budget: Even if you’re engaged in only one paid effort, you have to justify its costs. If you’re only looking at last-click, you may be missing the 9K conversions from the previous example in your calculations.

For example, let’s say one converting user has an LTV of $200, but your YouTube engagements cost $3,000 and only resulted in 10 last-click converters at a CPA of $300. You may decide to pull the plug without realizing that the YouTube engagement resulted in 20 additional first-click conversions that converted through direct. You’re missing half of the picture in these calculations, which is a huge risk, especially if your marketing budget is dependent on its outcome.

With all that said, not every brand needs to report on assisted conversions. Many businesses have almost 100% of conversions occur in their first session. Some businesses may not engage in robust multi-channel marketing efforts, so you may really only have one or two channels to credit, and those may be the only ones that show up in your last non-direct click conversion reports. Lastly, it may not be worth the time and effort if you don’t have budgets to analyze for ROI and efficiency across paid efforts.

Reporting on Assisted Conversions in Google Data Studio

And finally, let’s dig into how to analyze and report on assisted conversions in Google Data Studio—because there isn’t really an easy way to do it. 🙂

The Google Analytics connector in Google Data Studio does not offer any assisted conversion dimensions or metrics yet. However, it is available through the connector in a third-party tool like Supermetrics!

These are the metrics that are available:

In this screenshot from GA you can see the MCF options available are: total conversions, total conversion value, assisted conversions, assisted conversion value, first interaction conversion value, last interaction conversion value, and assisted/last click conversions ratio.

And these are the dimensions (there are even more when you scroll down):

In this screenshot from GA you can see some of the MCF dimension options available are: channel group path, 1st through 4th interaction channel, source path, medium path, source/medium path, campaign path, and 1st through 4th interaction campaign.

Hopefully, these will get integrated into our Google Analytics connector in Google Data Studio one day. But for now, an automated Google Sheets will suffice.

This is how I set up my Supermetrics query:

This screenshot shows the query set up with date range: YTD, metrics: First interaction conversions, last interaction conversions, Split by (rows): Year and Month, Channel group, Conversion goal number, and Filters: mcf:conversionGoalNumber==(not set).

Set your date range and date dimensions (under ‘split by rows’) to fit your reporting needs. Additionally, set your ‘conversionGoalNumber’ filter to return data for the goals you want to report on. I have my filter set to equal (not set) to return only transactions. Otherwise, keep everything else that’s included in my configuration.

Here’s how I modify the sheet when it returns the data:

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I add two columns after the ones that are returned to include:

  • Last Interaction – Assisted Conversions
  • First Interaction Assisted Conversions

I do this to make sure we’re not double-counting conversions as a first interaction and a last interaction. ‘Last Interaction – Assisted Conversions’ returns the difference between ‘First Interaction Conversions’ and ‘Last Interaction Conversions’. Then ‘First Interaction Assisted conversions’ returns the deduped number of first interaction conversions and otherwise returns 0.

Copy the two formulas all the way down your sheet, past where your query returned data so it’ll calculate as your automatic data pulls populate the now empty cells.

Lastly, set up your query to run automatically at whatever increments work best for your reporting:

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In Google Sheets, find Supermetrics in the Add-ons drop-down and select Schedule refresh & emailing.

I still always do a quick check when the query was supposed to run to make sure the formulas exist for every new row.

Then, set up your reports in Google Data Studio to look at first interaction assisted conversions alongside your last-click conversions:

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Or, report on it directly in your individual channel report slides and determine whether to incorporate it into your ROAS or CPA metrics:

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This data can certainly warrant its own reports entirely or can be formatted to tell different stories.

Final Thoughts

Familiarizing yourself with attribution data in Google Analytics and understanding how to analyze assisted conversions will go a long way in helping shed more light on how your customers ultimately come to convert on your site. And while the process outlined in this post is a good place to start, I’d recommend comparing other attribution models and finding the model that properly gives credit to your efforts based on your unique sales cycle and user flow. Then, you can set up your reports accordingly.

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My Time Management Process: 18 Steps That Keep Me Sane http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/my-time-management-process-18-steps-that-keep-me-sane.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/my-time-management-process-18-steps-that-keep-me-sane.htm#respond Wed, 06 May 2020 14:00:47 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=53135 Information overload, too many communication sources, and shifting priorities wreak havoc on our ability to effectively manage our time and workload. I get hit with emails, Slack messages, phone calls, meeting invitations, drive-by conversations, and the always fun ‘everything is a high priority’ request that tries to pull me away from getting done what I […]

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Information overload, too many communication sources, and shifting priorities wreak havoc on our ability to effectively manage our time and workload.

I get hit with emails, Slack messages, phone calls, meeting invitations, drive-by conversations, and the always fun ‘everything is a high priority’ request that tries to pull me away from getting done what I need to do effectively and efficiently.

Our agency’s most effective team members excel at cutting through the clutter and fending off the noise and distraction that pulls them away from following through on their priorities. Their ability to stay organized, responsive, and accountable also allows them to walk away from work at the end of the day knowing there are no loose ends to worry about.

Achieving peace of mind after a full workday is something that everyone deserves.

Everyone’s role and responsibilities within an organization are different, and what I’ve laid out here won’t apply to every single person. That’s okay; the goal of this post is to share a few ways to make sure all of your loose ends are tied up and accounted for when you start and finish your day.

If you take one thing away from this to try in your workflow, this post is a success.

Here’s my approach to staying sane.

Starting the Day

My workday starts before most people are in the office. It’s my quiet time to plan, think, and get prepared for the day ahead. Here’s how I get started:

1. Quickly Scan All the Newsletters and Mailers That Come in Overnight.

My day starts with a quick review. I subscribe to around five daily newsletters that I really pay attention to.

Scrub your email subscriptions. It’s time-consuming and can be overwhelming to open an inbox to 20 or 30 useless mailers that you never read. Just take the time to unsubscribe. It will save you in the long run.

2. Send Anything Worth Reading to Pocket and Read It Later.

If you haven’t explored Pocket, it’s worth a look. Pocket provides a quick and easy way to store and save content for later consumption. I don’t often have time during the day to read full posts or pieces of content. When I find something, I send it to Pocket and catch up during lunch or when I have a moment of free time.

3. Archive Everything That Isn’t Useful or Has Already Been Sent to Pocket.

Once you’ve completed your sweep, get all of the mailers that you don’t need anymore (which should be all of them) out of your inbox.

Delete or archive them to an organized and clearly-labeled folder within your email client.

4. Scan Twitter.

Twitter is my next go-to to get caught up on industry news. Highlights get sent to Pocket for later.

5. Confirm My Calendar for the Day.

I have a lot of meetings; my calendar is usually stacked from 9am until 4pm or 5pm. That set up doesn’t provide much breathing room during normal business hours. If you don’t meet much but have tasks and projects to accomplish during the day, try assigning time on your calendar to provide space for yourself to complete that work.

Every morning before my first meeting, I ensure that my calendar for the day is set. Sure, last-minute changes happen, but at the very least, I know how my day is supposed to go. I make sure I’m not double-booked anywhere, and I make sure I am prepped with the right information and notes for those meetings.

6. Archive Every Email That I Don’t Need to Respond To.

I get included on a ton of group email communication. I like the visibility, but I don’t need to weigh in on all of these conversations. If there isn’t a clear prompt or reason for me to respond, I read it and then archive the email out of my inbox.

7. Boomerang What Isn’t Time-Sensitive.

Boomerang is a lifesaver for me.

If I have an email containing context or information regarding a meeting or task that needs to be addressed but is not time-sensitive, I use Boomerang to bring that email back into my inbox at the appropriate time.

If I’m Boomeranging an email with information for a meeting, I’ll send that email back into my inbox on the morning of the meeting. If there is information about a project I need to work on, I’ll Boomerang that email back for when I’ve slotted time for myself to work on that project.

Either way, those emails are read, prioritized, and scheduled to pop back into my inbox at the right time. Most importantly, after scheduling to bounce back, they are archived and are out of my inbox until I really need them.

8. Reply to All Emails That Require Less Than 90 Seconds to Complete.

Short and sweet. Punch them out and move on. Archive every email you responded to.

There usually aren’t too many of these to address that have come in overnight, because of how I end my day with my emails. We’ll get to that later in this post.

9. Prioritize All Emails That Require More Than 90 Seconds to Respond To.

If you’ve followed the steps outlined so far, your inbox should now only hold emails that you need to respond to or need to reference later in the day.

A few questions to ask yourself about the email that is left in your inbox:

  1. Is it time-sensitive?
  2. Would it be more effective to have a conversation?
  3. Do we need to loop anyone else in?

The answers to those questions dictate your next step. If now is the time for you to respond, do so, and then archive the email.

If you’re still following this workflow, your inbox should now only hold non-time-sensitive emails that you need to respond to or emails with information prevalent to your day ahead.

For me, that usually means around 5-6 emails in my inbox as my day gets underway.

Pretty manageable.

10. Refine and Prioritize Your To-Do List.

I also keep a to-do list through Trello.

My meetings don’t go on there, but the loose odds and ends from the day find their way onto my Trello board. Effective meetings should have valuable action items, right?

Any urgent follow-ups end up on my ‘To-Do By End of Day’ list. (More to come on this later).

With my calendar of meetings set, inbox under control, and to-do list ready, I start my day with a clear path and all of the information I need.

Peace of mind.

Time to take on the day.

During the Day

It’s rare for me to get a solid chunk of time during normal business hours to crunch through email, work on projects, or write.

I’ve had to learn that my work comes from providing direction, feedback, and encouragement for my team.

Here’s how I support my team during the day:

11. No Multitasking During Meetings.

When I’m working, I don’t multitask.

No Slack. No monitoring my inbox. No checking Twitter.

Being present is my focus, and I try my best to minimize any distraction I can. Maybe I’m not good enough to multitask effectively, but I find it very difficult to carry Slack messages back and forth with someone, read an email from another team member, and have a conversion all at the same time.

I can’t juggle all of that well, so I don’t do it.

12. Between Meetings, Catch Up on Slack.

Slack might be one of the most useful tools and one of the most destructive tools at the same time.

The key here is again, no multitasking. I catch up on unread Slack messages between meetings. Non-time-sensitive messages go unresponded to at that moment. (We’ll get to more on this later).

Time-sensitive messages are responded to quickly as time permits.

13. Between Meetings, Sweep My Inbox.

When I get a couple of minutes, a quick scan of my inbox is where I spend my time.

I immediately archive any email that I don’t need to respond to.

I Boomerang any email that I don’t need now but will need later.

I keep any email that I need to respond to in my inbox.

That’s it. Moving on.

Ending the Day

The end of the day is all about tying up loose ends and preparing for tomorrow. Here’s how I end my day:

14. Confirm My Calendar for Tomorrow.

Once my day of meetings is over, I go back to the calendar to see what’s on tap for tomorrow. I confirm my schedule, accepting, adding, moving, and canceling things as priorities shift.

At the end of the day, my calendar for tomorrow is clean and there are no loose ends to worry about.

15. Follow Through on the To-Do List.

By the end of the day, my to-do list has a smattering of random follow-ups to address.

If checking something off takes less than five minutes, I take care of it at that moment. If it’s a longer task without a strict expectation for turnaround, I add it to my Trello board and prioritize it later.

At the end of the day, my to-do list is clean and there are no loose ends to worry about.

16. Organize My Inbox, Again.

I immediately archive any email that I don’t need to respond to.

I Boomerang any email that I don’t need now but will need later.

I keep any email that I need to respond to in my inbox but don’t respond yet.

My inbox is now a neat and concise place only containing messages that I need to respond to.

17. Sort Through Slack.

At the end of the day, I catch up on Slack.

I respond to every message that requires one or respond with affirmation that the message is received.

Some messages trickle in after-hours and those are dealt with as needed.

At the end of the day, my Slack app is clean and there are no loose ends to worry about.

18. Clean up What’s Left in My Inbox.

If I’ve been good about my refinement process, I now only have emails in my inbox that need to be responded to.

If I have an email that I don’t need to respond to, I archive it.

If I have an email that I will respond to later, I Boomerang it.

If I have time-sensitive emails that should be responded to, I respond to every single one.

Once I respond to an email, I archive it out of my inbox.

On a typical day, my day ends with 2-3 emails in my inbox.

At the end of the day, my inbox is clean and there are no loose ends to worry about.

Project Work

My role is unique in that the majority of my work comes in the form of a meeting in one way or another. I don’t produce a lot of tangible deliverables like when I was a strategist at the agency. I do miss that from time to time.

However, I do have a list of things that I need to address. The items on that list vary in importance, time-sensitivity, and how tangible or aspirational they are. That list of things used to live in my head. Over the years, I’ve become pretty dedicated to storing that list in Trello.

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I take care of my ‘To-Do by End of Day’ list every day. The ability to store long-term thoughts, plans, and aspirations for the agency in one place enables me to write down those thoughts and then move on to something else in a way that I can come back without forgetting.

At the end of the day, my time-sensitive to-do list is completed or items on it are reprioritized.

There are no loose ends to worry about.

When I close my MacBook every evening, all my loose ends are tied. I have my day for tomorrow sorted, I don’t have a stack of emails to worry about, I don’t have people waiting for me to respond in Slack, and I have my to-do list completed or reprioritized.

When I close my MacBook every evening, I have peace of mind. That piece of mind allows me to decompress, relax, and enjoy the time I have with those around me.

I am far from perfect in how I approach my work and everyone has a different workflow that helps them, but I follow this meticulous process closely and it’s made a huge impact on my work and my life over the past couple of years.

I hope you find one or two things worth trying.

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Optimizing for Conversions: 7 PPC Landing Page Best Practices http://www.yide31.com/blog/ppc/optimizing-for-conversions-7-ppc-landing-page-best-practices.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/ppc/optimizing-for-conversions-7-ppc-landing-page-best-practices.htm#respond Tue, 05 May 2020 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=53042 Building landing pages for paid campaigns is much more of a science than it is an art. And while the design esthetic is still essential, if you’re not strategic about the information that makes up your PPC landing pages, you may very well be wasting your time (and your money). In this post, I’ll teach […]

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Building landing pages for paid campaigns is much more of a science than it is an art. And while the design esthetic is still essential, if you’re not strategic about the information that makes up your PPC landing pages, you may very well be wasting your time (and your money).

In this post, I’ll teach you about PPC landing page best practices and industry standards. I’ll also walk you through the anatomy of a landing page that’s designed for paid advertising and share some resources that will help you get started.

But first…

What is a PPC Landing Page?

Before I dive into the why, I’ll start with what makes PPC landing pages different. Unlike your typical website landing page, a PPC page should only be found when a user clicks on a paid ad. In other words, pages designed for PPC campaigns are typically hidden from search engines and only accessible by a PPC ad click. They also contain less “extra” information and internal links than a typical website page, in an effort to limit distractions for customers that might prevent them from completing a conversion.

Here’s a look at how PPC landing pages compare to your typical website page:

In this side-by-side comparison, you can see that a PPC landing page lacks a lot of the elements found in a traditional website landing page, like a top navigation, company and team information, and other links to services or social media channels that may lead your user off the page before converting.

Want to learn more about PPC as a marketing channel? Head on over to What is PPC? Pay-Per-Click Explained.

Why Dedicated PPC Landing Pages are Worth the Investment

PPC advertising is relatively straightforward. What you put into it is what you get out. That said, carefully crafted campaigns, targeting, and ads can only take you so far. Regardless of whether you’re the mastermind behind your PPC strategy or you outsource your paid efforts to an agency, there’s only so much optimization that can be done to improve your conversion rates.

If you want to take your campaign strategy to another level, this is where dedicated PPC landing pages come in! By creating landing pages tailored to your ad groups, you can improve your Quality Score, decrease cost-per-click (CPC), and increase conversions.

7 Factors that Make a Solid PPC Page

Now that you understand the value of ad group-specific landing pages, let’s dive into the anatomy of a PPC landing page design.

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1. Page Title

Your PPC landing page title must authentically match the ad copy that drove the user to the page in the first place. If there’s a disconnect between the ad copy and the page title, users are more likely to bounce as soon as they click on the ad.

When creating a PPC landing page title, it’s important to keep it simple yet informative. Users should be able to understand the gist of what the landing page is about just by looking at the title. When in doubt, use the Blank Sheet of Paper Test to ensure that your title gets your message across.

2. Concise Headlines and Supportive Copy

Don’t waste time writing detailed copy about your products or services. Keeping your headline and supportive copy short and to the point is key. Users should be able to scan the headlines with ease while picking out the information that’s important to them.

If you’re not entirely sure how to best optimize landing page copy for scanners, check out this article from the NNGroup, which covers their research on fundamental scanning behaviors.

3. Trust Indicators

This is the time to leverage your best testimonials, notable press mentions, client logos, and positive user reviews. Another way to show trustworthiness is to highlight certifications that will resonate with your target audience. Whatever they may be, adding trust indicators to your PPC landing pages can show users your dedication to your customers and reinforce your expertise.

The element of trust alone can make or break a sale. And if people don’t trust you, they won’t purchase from you.

4. Clear Call to Action

Clearly defined calls to action (CTAs) are a crucial part of a PPC landing page strategy. CTA copy can’t be vague. Avoid using statements like “learn more,” “buy now,” or “subscribe.” When it comes to placement, make sure that the CTA is visible and featured above the fold. If a user has to scroll to reach the CTA, there’s a greater chance they won’t convert.

5. Accessible Form Fields

Forms must follow accessibility best practices. This means that form input fields should always be visible to the user. While this rule may be obvious, it’s very common to see forms with hidden or missing labels.

Furthermore, it must be clear to the user which input fields are “nice to have” versus “required.” If this information is not clear and the user fails to fill out a required field that results in an error message, they’re much more likely to get frustrated with the process and leave your page.

6. Compelling Images or Video

Compelling visuals may help users get a better understanding of your product or service. Regardless of what your offer entails, pairing descriptive headlines and supportive copy with a visual cue is always valuable.

When designing your PPC landing page, take a look at your image and/or video inventory, and choose a few assets that help get your offer value over the finish line.

7. Negative Space

Unlike the regular pages of your website, you’re not trying to get your PPC page to rank in the organic search results. Meaning, you don’t need to cram as much information as humanly possible onto those pages. Keeping your layout simple and clutter-free is essential. You’ll want to incorporate negative space (also known as white space) into your landing page design.

Think of negative space as a breathing room for your users, or a pause between your selling points. When information is broken out into meaningful and clearly-defined sections, it makes it easier for the user to consume the information on the page.

PPC Landing Page Elements to Avoid

Knowing what elements to leave out from your PPC landing page build is equally as important as knowing what to include. Here’s an overview of the elements that I recommend skipping:

  • Main menu
  • Footer
  • Internal links*
  • Information that doesn’t pertain to the campaign ad group

*Note, you should always include your company logo, with a link back to the homepage, at the top left corner of the landing page. If there’s no way to visit the main site from your PPC landing page, that can be a major pain point as well.

By including this type of information on your PPC landing pages, you’re creating distractions. In this instance, distractions are opportunities for your target audience to deviate from the conversion goal and explore your website further, negatively impacting your conversion goals.

How to Build PPC Pages from Scratch

Now that you have a handle on what you should—and shouldn’t—include in a PPC landing page, you can start building them.

Start by determining the number of pages you’ll need; you will want to create unique landing pages that align with your different ad groups. A well-structured ad account should have clear and tightly themed ad groups with specific keywords. Work with your PPC strategist to identify these themes. From there, you should be able to see how many pages are needed, and the general content that will be included in each of them.

It’s important to note that one unique landing page per keyword variation won’t be necessary. Google understands the similarities, and your page content should include these variations. In other words, you don’t need to spin up a new page for every keyword that you target; this would create unnecessary work and the feeling that your landing page creation will never be done.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to start from scratch. It’s fine to repurpose content from existing landing pages. However, you’ll want to make sure the information you end up repurposing for your PPC landing pages is easy to scan and digest without the context of the original page it came from.

And don’t worry if you don’t have internal design or development resources. There are plenty of tools out there that you can use to build landing pages. Here are a few that I recommend:

All of these options are easy to use and offer pre-made templates to choose from that have been tested already.

What’s Next? Optimize PPC Page Performance with Testing

When it comes to paid campaigns, the work never stops here. Once you’ve got the foundation down, it’s time to test! One of the most important ways you can optimize the performance of your landing pages (and your overall PPC strategy) is by testing new things. And these don’t have to be major updates or revisions; even the smallest tweaks can be impactful.

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Expanded Text Ads vs. Responsive Search Ads: A Performance Comparison http://www.yide31.com/blog/ppc/expanded-text-ads-vs-responsive-search-ads-a-performance-comparison.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/ppc/expanded-text-ads-vs-responsive-search-ads-a-performance-comparison.htm#respond Thu, 30 Apr 2020 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=53019 In a previous blog post, I explained what responsive search ads (RSAs) are compared to expanded text ads (ETAs) and how you can implement them in your Google Ads account. I also wrote about Google’s claims about RSA performance: higher clickthrough rate, higher conversion rate, lower cost per click. But that got me to thinking: […]

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In a previous blog post, I explained what responsive search ads (RSAs) are compared to expanded text ads (ETAs) and how you can implement them in your Google Ads account. I also wrote about Google’s claims about RSA performance: higher clickthrough rate, higher conversion rate, lower cost per click. But that got me to thinking: Is that even true?

So, I decided to test those claims by taking a look at the data available to me from two of Portent’s largest paid search clients. In this blog post, I’ll share that data with you and try to paint a clearer picture of RSA performance. If you want a more 101-level overview of responsive search ads and how to use them, I recommend checking out my previous blog first.

The Claims

Before we dive into the data, I want to quickly go over Google’s claims about responsive search ads. With RSAs, Google says that it may help you generate more conversions because your ads will be eligible for more auctions. It also claims that it can help your Quality Score by improving your clickthrough rate, which in turn lowers your cost per click. While they don’t guarantee performance by any means, it’s a bold claim nonetheless. Any feature that can potentially boost performance in all KPIs is obviously a must-have, but you need to be sure to test the performance to see if RSAs perform well for your specific account.

Now that we’ve quickly recapped the potential performance of adding responsive search ads to your account, let’s take a look at the data.

The Data

To get the most reliable data possible, we looked at two of the highest spending accounts that Portent manages, one in the outdoor apparel industry (I’ll call them Client One) and another in the HVAC industry (I’ll call them Client Two). We pulled all search data from a six month period.

Once we got the most relevant data we could find, we had to figure out exactly what metrics we wanted to focus on. To most accurately determine the performance of RSAs vs. ETAs, we chose to focus on Clickthrough Rate (CTR), Cost per Click (CPC), and Conversion Rate (CVR). We chose conversion rate instead of flat conversions to ensure that the data wouldn’t be skewed by one type of ad receiving more traffic than the other.

Now without further ado, it’s time to get into the results.

The Results

Let’s start with CTR:

Of the three metrics we looked at, CTR was easily the most confusing metric to analyze. For Client One, responsive search ads performed 24.5% better than expanded text ads did. If you were to look at just this account, you would see RSAs as a slam dunk when it comes to improvements, but unfortunately, we’re not just looking at one account.

When looking at Client Two, the takeaways for CTR become a lot murkier. As you can see, we actually saw a very slight decrease in CTR compared to traditional expanded text ads. It’s only a 3% decrease, but it still calls into question the overall effectiveness of responsive search ads.

Let’s look at CPC next:

I’d say that’s pretty inconclusive evidence. Despite having extremely large sets of data over a six-month period, the cost per click managed to be exactly the same for both Client One and Client Two.

This isn’t to say that RSAs don’t help cost per click, because it might. In these two accounts, however, we didn’t see any evidence that CPC improved due to the use of responsive search ads. If I were to run this test again, I would want to try it in a brand new campaign that hasn’t run either RSAs or ETAs. The fact that ETAs were running in the account long before the RSAs means they could’ve had a chance to improve their CPC over a long period of time.

Finally, let’s look at CVR:

Now that’s what I’m talking about! For both Client One and Client Two, we saw substantial increases in our overall conversion rate when using responsive search ads compared to traditional expanded text ads (40.7% and 13%, respectively). RSAs clearly helped generate more conversions than traditional ads, which at the end of the day is what you’re looking for in a paid search account. This is likely due to the larger number of headlines and descriptions, coupled with Google optimizing for conversions from our bidding strategies.

Final Thoughts

Despite not showing any evidence of improving CTR or CPC, responsive search ads helped these two clients see a significant increase in conversion rates over a six-month period. And while CTR and CPC are important, they don’t mean anything if you’re not turning those clicks into conversions. So I would call this experiment an unequivocal win for responsive search ads.

Don’t take my word for it, though! Every account is unique, and will likely see different results by running the same test. I know multiple clients have tested RSAs that haven’t performed as well as expected due to a variety of reasons. So run your own tests, draw your own conclusions, and do what’s best for your company or your client. Happy testing!

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Post-COVID Re-Entry Strategies for Digital Marketers http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/post-covid-re-entry-strategies-for-digital-marketers.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/post-covid-re-entry-strategies-for-digital-marketers.htm#respond Wed, 29 Apr 2020 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=53055 There are plenty of studies out there showing how COVID has impacted PPC, SEO, and Social Media across various industries. Most of the news is pretty dire, particularly in entertainment, hospitality, leisure, restaurant, and travel verticals. Even some industries that have been deemed essential services and have been able to keep their doors open through […]

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There are plenty of studies out there showing how COVID has impacted PPC, SEO, and Social Media across various industries. Most of the news is pretty dire, particularly in entertainment, hospitality, leisure, restaurant, and travel verticals. Even some industries that have been deemed essential services and have been able to keep their doors open through shelter-in-place orders have seen declines too: automotive, construction, and elective medical, to name a few.

So what can we do as digital marketers, working with in-house stakeholders and consulting clients, during this dark time? Start planning for how and when to re-emerge.

We don’t know how consumers of our clients’ products and services will choose to re-enter public life once governments relax quarantine restrictions. But there are some indicators we can keep an eye on that will signify that business is returning to normal, or whatever new normal looks like.

Leading Indicators for a Post-COVID “Normal”

We’re keeping an eye on a few specific things for our clients that will show us that people are starting to return to pre-lockdown life (once government restrictions are lifted). Most of them revolve around transportation and travel, but some of them are unique to the businesses we’re working with and the industries they operate in.

So what’s a framework for the things that you look for in a leading indicator? Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What are the signs people are comfortable being in public again?
  2. What are the prerequisites for people using your products or services, and how are those things trending?
  3. What are the non-brand category searches that people use when they are starting to research your products or services?

From there, you can extrapolate specific phrases or ideas to monitor on Google Trends. Here are some tangible examples of a few things to focus on.

Commute Times

When’s the last time you looked at the traffic report for your metro area? Probably not very recently, right? If you did, you would find average commute times are down incredibly. Here in Seattle, even with all the delivery drivers and essential personnel on the roads, today’s commute times are down 27% from the average. Commutes were even faster a few weeks ago when the shelter-in-place orders were first instituted. We anticipate that an increase in commute time will indicate that people are becoming more comfortable being out and about and in need of products or services.

Vacations

Let’s face it: We’re all gonna need a vacation after this virus runs its course. The index on “vacation” searches is down 42% year-over-year compared to last April, according to Google Trends. Folks may be hesitant to go on a trip, even after broad travel and public assembly restrictions are lifted. But once we see an uptick here, it will be a promising sign.

Air Travel

One of the hardest-hit industries were airlines. In early March, there was a huge wave of “flights” and “flight prices” searches as people were afraid they weren’t going to be able to travel out of state or out of the country. After that, volume on air travel terms is down almost 60% for what’s usual for this time last year.

Brand Names

Our companies’ and clients’ brand searches will be another key indicator. We don’t work with TGI Friday’s, but like most dine-in restaurants, they were hit really hard by quarantine. Watching searches for their brand name climb back up will be a good indicator that folks are out shopping and needing places to eat that aren’t geared for delivery.

Product and Service Searches

Similarly, demand for products and services over search will be another indicator that people are researching with intent to buy after the COVID lull. Even essential services like “auto repair” that have remained open have seen declines. More recently, in April, driven by stimulus checks arriving from the government, we’re noticing a slight uptick to indicate demand for those services again.

Re-Entering the Post-COVID Marketplace in Phases

With leading indicators in place, the next step is deciding when and where to relaunch marketing campaigns. A lot of advertisers have pulled back budgets in the last 60 days, and understanding how to re-approach those in phases is important.

Another consideration here is that local governments are talking about re-opening certain aspects of the economy in waves. So what’s right for one business may not be right for another. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a real return to business-as-usual until a viable COVID vaccine exists, but some verticals will get a temporary head-start.

Phase 1: Brand

The no-brainer is bringing brand campaigns back first. Be there when people need you and are seeking you out specifically. Start with paid search branded keywords (I would argue that you should’ve never turned these off, but some businesses might not have had a choice) and paid social messages targeting only true categorical intent for your brand or industry.

Phase 2: Essential Services

First responders, medical professionals, grocery store workers, and delivery drivers come to mind here, but essential service folks are busier than ever. If you can find an elegant way to target campaigns to these folks and to offer them truly helpful products and services while they’re risking their lives to keep the lights on in our society, do it. You can do this with clever content marketing on your site and through email campaigns, regardless of the inbound channel.

Phase 3: Subtle Remarketing

If you have people continuing to filter into retargeting campaigns in search, social, and display, again, be there for them when they need you. Make sure you keep the frequency of these ads low so as not to be annoying or insensitive and think about making the pool expiration shorter than you would normally.

Phase 4: Non-Brand

With a close on product and service searches as leading indicators, ensure those have recovered first before you start buying non-brand advertising in search or doing any prospecting campaigns in paid social or display channels. Demand has to be there, or else companies and clients will see very poor ROI on these efforts.

Phase 5: Sales and Promotions

Nothing reads more tone-deaf during a crisis like this than touting a doorbuster or one-day-only markdown campaigns. If you had a big sale initiative planned for the 4th of July this weekend, maybe skip it this year. Make this the last type of advertising message you bring back until COVID is well and truly a thing of the past.

Use Your Judgement

There is no playbook for how to be a good marketer in a global pandemic. But we can use our empathy as humans to think about what feels right for our clients and customers and go with our gut as we plan.

If you’re not sure how a new campaign would be received, maybe send out a quick survey to some of your most loyal customers with an incentive and get a read on it before you bring back a big component of your marketing budget.

When in doubt, wait it out. Like all the people who hoarded toilet paper in March, our first response in a time like this is to panic and follow our lizard brain. That, historically, doesn’t make for great marketing and could land you in more hot water PR and public sentiment-wise than the campaign is worth.

Above all, stay safe and be smart out there, people. If you do, there will be a lot of great case studies for us marketers when this is all over.

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How to Measure the Impact of Zero-Click on Your Digital Marketing Strategy http://www.yide31.com/blog/analytics/how-to-measure-the-impact-of-zero-click-on-your-digital-marketing-strategy.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/analytics/how-to-measure-the-impact-of-zero-click-on-your-digital-marketing-strategy.htm#respond Tue, 28 Apr 2020 14:00:26 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=52997 In June of 2019, there was a fundamental shift in the way Google SERPs operate, which had been in motion for some years beforehand. For the first time, the majority of searches on Google resulted in a paid search click, or no click at all. In other words, search results that facilitated an organic click […]

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In June of 2019, there was a fundamental shift in the way Google SERPs operate, which had been in motion for some years beforehand. For the first time, the majority of searches on Google resulted in a paid search click, or no click at all. In other words, search results that facilitated an organic click through to a website were in the minority.

As Rand Fishkin outlines in his widely-shared analysis of this shift, the implication is that Google is prioritizing Google. It’s building ways to keep people within the SERP, and prioritizes paid search results when it can’t, so they have a higher chance of getting monetary value from the click-through.

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From Rand Fishkin’s analysis: desktop searches resulting in zero clicks, paid search clicks, and organic clicks.

An early sign of this shift was when Google introduced “position zero.” By pulling information and content from other websites and highlighting it directly in the Google SERP, it reduced the need for people to click through to any given website. When people do a Google search, get their information from the SERP, and do not click through to a website, this is what is known as a “zero-click” search.

Here is what you can expect as a result of this shift, and what trends to look for in your digital marketing reports. I also highly recommend reading Portent Senior SEO Strategist Evan Hall’s explanation of zero-click as a primer to this post.

Symptoms of Zero-Click

To set the stage, it’s important to remember that because this shift has happened within the Google SERPs, it will primarily affect two channels: organic search and paid search.

It’s also important to keep in mind that what you experience may vary depending on your activity within these two channels; these reporting observations are not one-size-fits-all. You may see variations of how these metrics have been impacted depending on the number of visitors to your website, your participation in either of these channels, and your industry.

Organic Search

A big symptom of the zero-click phenomenon is a gradual decrease in organic traffic to your website. This is measurable in both Google Analytics and Google Search Console, represented as users in GA, and clicks from Search Console.

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From Rand Fishkin’s analysis: organic searches that result in a click have decreased over time.

Your visibility on the Google SERPs (i.e., impressions) has likely remained steady or has even improved. If you’re optimizing your website for Google rankings, you will continue to rank well, and still appear high on the SERPs. Your organic search impressions are likely not impacted.

If that is the case, Google may have recognized that your website is ranking well and is relevant to users, and may tap your website for SERP “position zero” content. Alternatively, they could be surfacing “position zero” information from related businesses, or even your competitors, and people do not need to click through to a website.

From a usability perspective, it saves users a click if Google can scrape information that they are searching for. However, from a website reporting perspective, there will be a downward trend of organic users who visit your website.

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In this sample client data, we observed that impression trends are similar YoY, but clicks decreased over time.

As a result, impressions remain similar or have even improved, depending on the level of your SEO work, and your organic users have slowly declined.

Paid Search

After zero-click searches, paid search results have been increasingly prioritized to come after the position zero answer boxes. It is beneficial for Google to prioritize paid search to maximize clicks that result in revenue.

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From Rand Fishkin’s analysis: between 2016 and 2019, searches resulting in paid search clicks increased from 4% to 6.85% on desktop.

Although the budget drives Google Ads, and rankings may vary depending on the effectiveness of your strategy, if Google is beginning to prioritize paid search rankings, they may show higher in the SERPs.

We’ve seen this phenomenon reflected in client data where clicks increase at a higher rate than both impressions and cost. With a relatively consistent YoY budget, and no major optimizations or campaign restructures, we can attribute this click increase in part to SERP result behavior.

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In this client example, paid search clicks have increased at a higher rate than impressions and cost.

Metrics You Can Measure

With these changes in the SERP in mind, following are several metrics to help you gauge the impact of zero-click on your reporting, and on your digital strategy.

“Off-Site” Metrics

The following are metrics you can measure in the Google SERP with Google programs and third-party marketing tools. These will help you identify SERP trends for your own business outside of your website data.

Google Ads

Impressions and Clicks. As we have illustrated with client data, look to see if the number of “clicks” from paid search ads has increased over time, and at a faster rate than impressions or budget increases. This implies that the CTR is increasing, and people are clicking through paid ads at a higher rate.

Phone Calls. Google Ads recently added a reporting metric that allows you to track phone calls placed from a paid search call extension. This is another opportunity for a user to forgo a click and interact with your brand directly.

In this screenshot of Google Ads, you can find phone call data under the ads & extensions section.

Google Search Console

Impressions and Clicks. Similar to Google Ads, if you’re optimizing your website to rank well on Google, your organic impressions should have a similar YoY trend, depending on the seasonality of your business. With Google placing “position zero” boxes in the SERPs, your organic click-through rate may have gone down. Both metrics are important to monitor as you evaluate the impact on your organic traffic.

Google My Business

Phone Calls and Directions. Google has highlighted the visibility of local businesses in the SERP with Google My Business profiles. To measure whether your off-site activity has increased, monitor the number of people who request directions to your business, or call you directly from your Google listing.

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Two GMB metrics to measure off-site activity are requesting directions to your business and phone calls.

STAT

Keywords Ranking in Position Zero. STAT is an SEO-focused tool that helps evaluate your rankings on the Google SERP. With this tool, you can define which keywords you want to track data for, and how they appear in the SERP. The most common types of ways a keyword can show in position zero are:

  • Featured Snippets
  • Knowledge Graphs
  • Answer Boxes

By creating a dynamic tag in STAT, you can aggregate the keywords showing for any of the above SERP features, and have a clear idea of which keywords, and how many, rank in position zero. If you compare this value against the number of searches for those keywords, you can get an idea of the percentage of searches your tracked keywords are ranking for.

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On-Site Metrics

These metrics are all measured through Google Analytics based on your website data. After getting an off-site idea of how your business appears in the SERPs, it’s valuable to measure user activity down the marketing funnel to determine the impact on your conversion and sales metrics.

Google Analytics

Paid Search Visitors. As you’re tracking the increase of clicks in your paid search activities from Google Ads, there should be a corresponding increase in paid search visitors to your site. There will always be some discrepancy between the values. However, they should be in the same ballpark. You should take note if there is a large difference between Google Ads clicks and Google Analytics users and sessions from Google Ads. This could indicate a separate tracking issue or functionality problems with the paid search landing pages.

Organic Search Visitors. Similar to paid search, there should be a ballpark similarity between organic clicks from Search Console, and organic users in Google Analytics. You can also expect them to trend in similar directions, so if your overall Search Console organic clicks have been decreasing, organic search visitors in GA should follow suit.

Your Primary Web Conversions. Be sure to monitor your website conversions (purchases, form fills, etc.) and compare them against internal leads and sales. Has there been a major shift? With client data, we have seen that despite the overall drop in visitor traffic to a website, the conversion rates have actually improved. Despite a seemingly scary impact of zero-click reducing organic searches, we have also seen that it can improve and optimize the user journey. Although fewer people are arriving at your website, the users who do tend to be more qualified.

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This client data represents an overall decrease in organic users and an increase in conversions.

Has Zero-Click Impacted Your Business?

While these are examples of trends you may see in your reporting, it’s important to add a caveat that the results of your website will differ depending on your industry, size of business, level of participation in paid search, and how attentive you are with optimizing your website to rank well on Google SERPs.

Two valuable takeaways from this ongoing shift are:

  1. Paid search is of increasing importance. Google continues to prioritize clicks, which will result in a paid click through, over a free organic click. Paid search is always of some importance, because where you aren’t paying to play, your competitors likely are.
  2. Organic search still matters. We can’t stress this enough! Despite fewer click-throughs to your website, it still has to be optimized to rank well to be tapped for position zero, and to rank competitively against paid search.

Based on the metrics we’ve outlined, this should give you an idea of how your business has been impacted by zero-click, and where you have opportunities to optimize. The Google SERP changes on an ongoing basis, and understanding ranking preferences will help you stay at the top of search results.

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How and When to Consider Pivots in Your Digital Marketing Strategy http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-and-when-to-consider-pivots-in-your-digital-marketing-strategy.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/how-and-when-to-consider-pivots-in-your-digital-marketing-strategy.htm#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2020 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=52982 Many brands seem to effortlessly execute and replicate strategies that gain engagement and loyalty, realize search visibility, and improve conversion rates over time. Yet, regardless of how robust their plan is, most businesses will go through a season when they need to implement a pivot in their marketing strategy. Sometimes the shift is monumental, and […]

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Many brands seem to effortlessly execute and replicate strategies that gain engagement and loyalty, realize search visibility, and improve conversion rates over time. Yet, regardless of how robust their plan is, most businesses will go through a season when they need to implement a pivot in their marketing strategy. Sometimes the shift is monumental, and other times slight tweaks can have a ripple effect across channels.

I define a marketing pivot as an intentional change in strategy: a decision to adopt a new platform or channel, engage a new target audience, or create a different type of content. Knowing both when and how to pivot is necessary to stay nimble, and adapt your marketing approach when necessary.

One of the things I enjoy most about digital marketing is the ability to research, test, and implement opportunities quickly to make an impact on audience engagement. Yet, it’s important to evaluate your strategy, budget, and current approach before getting too excited about shiny new platforms and channel strategies. Pause and take a step back.

When Should You Invest Time and Money in Making a Pivot?

Every pivot should have a purpose. If your digital team ventures into a new strategy or platform without an agreement on the “why” behind that change, then it could be difficult to justify the expense, effort, and time. Pinpoint an opportunity or clarify the perceived reasoning behind a known issue before you chart the course for your pivot.

Here are some examples of when it might be time to consider a change to your digital strategy:

  • When part of your marketing stack isn’t performing as well as expected. (organic traffic plateau, paid social CPL continues to be high, paid search competition is increasing and your budget is flat, etc.).
  • When you realize you’ve been focusing a channel on the wrong part of the marketing funnel (traffic from paid channels is not converting to leads, return on ad spend is too low, assisted conversions are primarily from channels where you’re investing less time and budget, etc.).
  • There is uncertainty around your user journey and user engagement (traffic and time on site are increasing while conversions are flat, your target audience isn’t engaging with your paid campaigns).
  • You’ve been using the same playbook, and you want to (or have been told to) test something different to increase brand awareness (Pinterest paid advertising, digital content promotion, podcast advertising, etc.).
  • You have the time to research and budget to invest in evaluating new strategies (slow season, new fiscal year, extra content development team capacity, etc.).

If any of these prompts resonate with the state of your strategy and spark excitement about finding a path forward, then keep reading to learn about how to effectively close a gap in your digital marketing approach. And if you know something isn’t working, but you’re not sure where to start, performing a marketing mix analysis or competitive analysis can help uncover traffic sources, users, or content that isn’t performing as well as it should be.

Types of Pivots

There are three ways I categorize pivots. Each has different motivations, financial support requirements, and expectations of results that can influence the pace and visibility of your plan. Identifying the type of shift you need or want to make as an owner of the strategy, channel, or team can help clarify urgency, timeline, and goals that are foundational for making a pivot in digital strategy. I’ve also included some questions to ask when preparing to address each type of pivot.

Leadership-Initiated Pivots

I associate these pivots with the “I have to/I need to” language from a marketing team. For example, “I have to improve organic traffic to this section of the site by the end of the year, or we will lose budget.” They are always time- and budget-bound, requiring a thorough plan. These opportunities can have a broad-range impact and carry amplified risk or reward for paving a new path forward. Plan your commitment and communication with leaders wisely by addressing these potential roadblocks early on:

  1. Was a goal identified, from which you can build a potential projection to set expectations? If not, help set an appropriate target.
  2. Is the timeline for achieving the goal and utilizing additional resources to meet that goal clear between leadership and your team? Plan time for discovery and research, then follow-up with any adjustments needed to the timeline.
  3. Can you initiate this pivot in strategy with the tools and personnel you have? If not, make the gap clear or reset expectations around what you can achieve with your current capabilities and budget.

Team-Initiated Pivots

These pivots, usually associated with “I want to” or “I want to learn,” are often driven by innovation and a desire to test from within a team. “I want to expand brand awareness and drive organic traffic with this audience by testing podcast advertising.” Because these changes are driven by a team closer to the day-to-day strategy, there’s usually more data and motivation on hand to support the change or pilot a test to inform directional results. Set your team up for success by asking the following questions:

  1. Why is it the right time to make this pivot? Make sure your data analysis informs your decision, your roadmap, and your communication with leadership.
  2. How would collaboration with other teams potentially improve the outcome of this pivot?
  3. If this pivot goes as planned, how will your work and your engagement with customers change? Use this answer to support your conversations with partner teams and leaders.

Channel/Platform Change Pivots

There are times that tools and advertising platforms are updated and force change. Or, a new feature release encourages further investment in one platform over another. These shifts in advertising methods likely start with a “let’s try this” attitude. For example, “What would happen if we shifted our paid social budget from Facebook to Instagram, and started advertising on Pinterest to increase top-of-funnel awareness about our product?” Consider the following when changing or expanding a platform or tool:

  1. Have you done enough research on how other companies in your industry use this platform? See if you can gain insight into the budget, not just the tool, competitors might be using as well.
  2. Do you need to plan a research period into your roadmap if you haven’t used this platform before? Set clear expectations for when you can start testing or launch your new approach.
  3. Identify how your strategy for this platform needs to work in concurrence with other channels or campaign elements. Note those connections and dependencies in your roadmap.

How to Pivot Well

One of the most important steps when making a change in strategy is documenting where you started. Get very clear on your goal and what you, your team, and your stakeholders aim to accomplish. Below is a template to get you started:

  • Metric: What do you want to improve on? (e.g., traffic).
  • Baseline: How will you measure performance? (e.g., monthly sessions, non-branded traffic YTD).
  • Channels: Which channels will you be focusing on? (e.g., paid search, organic search).

Next, set a measurable goal and KPIs you can use to track progress after launching your test and make decisions about how to evaluate performance and budget.

  • Goal: Clearly state what you are looking to change or improve (e.g., increase brand awareness).
  • KPIs: This should be quantitative and measurable within the platform you’re using (e.g., increase organic traffic by 15% by the end of the year).

Once you have settled on the goals, it’s time to build your pivot plan. Don’t worry, you can always adjust, but having one in place makes things much less stressful in the midst of testing.

  • Timeline: Your plan should list a specific start date (e.g., May 1st instead of Q2). It’s important to consider seasonality, product launches, target audience shifts, or historical engagement rates that might affect your performance.
  • Evaluation Milestones: I recommend a one-month test minimum, monthly reporting, and quarterly evaluation and confirming how progress will be communicated.
  • Hypothesis and Steps Needed to Prove it True or False: Borrowing from science, pair a hypothesis with your quantitative KPIs to help you stay focused on your strategy until you can evaluate the results. This hypothesis could be completely new or based on user research, personas, keyword research, or competitive analysis.
  • Targeting: Confirm the specific audience(s) this pivot will affect, if it varies by channel, funnel stage, or product, so your approach is clear.
  • Research and Testing Opportunities: Determine how you might ease into a strategy shift, if possible, through reallocating existing budget, A/B testing, running heat maps on landing pages, or pilot testing with a small subset of loyalty customers.
  • Implementation and Tracking: Define who owns the implementation and tracking of metrics once the pivot kicks off.

With a documented plan in place, it will be easier to gain buy-in from peers and leaders on making a change in strategy, no matter the size. Now, after all of that prep work, you’re ready to launch your pivot—exciting!

Celebrating Failures and Successes

Pivoting is a necessity for survival in some industries, as advertising platforms evolve, and as audiences expect more from brands to which they are loyal. In digital marketing, the tools we use make it easier to test and transform strategies, expand audiences, and run experiments.

My most memorable projects at Portent have been coaching clients and team members through upgrading their digital strategy. But let’s be honest, some pivots do not go as planned, whether due to timing, depth of audience awareness and engagement, or not properly connecting implementation across channels.

Even when KPI progress doesn’t meet expectations, it doesn’t mean that the budget was a waste of time and effort. If you start your pivot plan with a baseline metric and hypothesis, it will be easy to look back and see how far you’ve come (e.g., if brand awareness increased and organic traffic rose by 15%). More importantly, you’ve gained valuable insight about your customers that you can apply to future initiatives, as well as the capabilities of your marketing team, who adapted to a new business approach and can now iterate on the process.

I once worked with a client who asked for a pivot plan with every strategy I recommended. She wanted to know that our team had clear performance metrics top of mind and that we were prepared to quickly make a change when initiatives didn’t proceed as planned. Proactive communication about pivots and their potential impact became a habit after six months of planning and launching a new site and building an audience for her brand.

You might not be recommending frequent digital marketing strategy changes with a rapidly evolving brand or a demanding manager right now. Still, chances are you will in the future. I hope these tips help you confirm or organize a plan for how to execute and communicate your next pivot effectively.

The post How and When to Consider Pivots in Your Digital Marketing Strategy appeared first on Portent.

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Testing Automated Bidding with Google’s Maximize Conversions http://www.yide31.com/blog/ppc/testing-automated-bidding-with-googles-maximize-conversions.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/ppc/testing-automated-bidding-with-googles-maximize-conversions.htm#respond Tue, 21 Apr 2020 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=52941 It’s easy to sit around and theorize about bidding strategies. It’s even easier to switch a bidding strategy only to revert it back after a week of less-than-stellar results. If you’re going to test a bidding strategy, the first step is to do your research. Make sure your chosen strategy is the right one to […]

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It’s easy to sit around and theorize about bidding strategies. It’s even easier to switch a bidding strategy only to revert it back after a week of less-than-stellar results.

If you’re going to test a bidding strategy, the first step is to do your research. Make sure your chosen strategy is the right one to test, and set your expectations accordingly. In this post, we’ll dive into one Google Ads strategy: Maximize Conversions automated bidding. I’ll share the results of our three-month test, what we learned, and when it makes the most sense to use it.

What Is the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy?

Automated bidding was introduced by Google back in 2010 with the release of Enhanced Cost-Per-Click, and Google has been encouraging advertisers to adopt its ever-growing array of automated features ever since. In Google’s words, automated bidding “takes the heavy lifting and guesswork out of setting bids to meet your performance goals” by utilizing advanced machine learning.

Maximize Conversions as an automated bid strategy came about in May of 2017. It claims to factor in multiple signals such as remarketing lists, time of day, and browser, coupled with machine learning technology to adjust bids for each auction based on the likelihood of a conversion by that user.

Is Maximize Conversions the Right Strategy for You?

In theory, Maximize Conversions sounds ideal if conversion count is the end goal. However, there are instances where this could certainly be the wrong bidding strategy for your campaign. If any of the following KPIs are your primary metric, Maximize Conversions might have disastrous results:

  • CPA – Consider a Target CPA strategy, as Maximize Conversions could drive that number in the opposite direction.
  • ROAS – If revenue is variable and you’re able to pass accurate revenue data to Google Ads, consider Target ROAS over Maximize Conversions.
  • Volume – Maximize Conversions can limit your reach to only those likely to convert.
  • Max CPC – Maximize Conversions offers no control over how much you bid for a click.
  • Budget – Straight from Google’s own support page: “Maximize conversions will try to fully spend your average daily budget, so if you’re currently spending much less than your budget, Maximize conversions could increase spend significantly.”

If the total number of conversions is the primary metric you’re chasing, and you have some wiggle room in the areas listed above, Maximize Conversions may be just the ticket.

Putting Maximize Conversions to the Test

We tested Google Ads’ Maximize Conversions bidding strategy on one of our B2B clients that sits in a somewhat niche industry. This client’s focus is on improving total conversions year-over-year and keeping a target CPA of $100, though they are willing to go up to $150 if the total number of conversions warrants it.

On November 17th of 2019, we traded in our trusty Target CPA of $100.00 to a Maximize Conversions bidding approach. In terms of volume, here’s how the campaign performed the three months before swapping the bidding strategy, and the three months following the swap. Our bidding strategy change is marked with a pink line:

The line graph here shows a jump in both clicks and impressions once the bidding strategy was swapped to maximize conversions

In terms of conversions and cost, here’s that same date range with the same pink line:

Again, the line graph shows a jump, this time in terms of conversions and cost once the bidding strategy was swapped to maximize conversions

Our date marker is hardly necessary in either of these graphs. We can see that in just the first week, our metrics jumped exponentially, as laid out in the table below:

This chart shows within the first week of switching our strategy, impressions went from 1,145 to 4,050; clicks went from 98 to 175; conversions went from 2 to 13; and cost went from $245 to $596.

But machine learning takes time, and automated bidding strategies need a few days to, well, learn. So let’s remove the initial week of trial-and-error on Google’s part (the week of November 18th), and compare our three-month periods to each other sans volume spikes.

After removing the initial week, comparing three months of performance to the previous three months, we saw an 189% increase in impressions, 71% increase in clicks, 135% increase in conversions, 108% increase in cost, and a 12% decrease in CPA.

The Results

In the above comparison table, we can see that not only did conversions increase from 26 to 61, but our cost-per-conversion surprisingly dropped from $95.12 to $84.13. And, despite our expectation of an overall drop in volume, the additional (and unplanned) $2,659 in cost resulted in a jump for both impressions and clicks, of 189% and 71%, respectively.

So, Does Maximize Conversions Work?

Maximize Conversions certainly worked for this particular campaign. Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that the 135% increase in conversions and the 12% decrease in cost-per-conversion came coupled with a 108% increase in cost. If our budgets weren’t as flexible as they were, we might have had to have an awkward conversation with our client.

We also didn’t report on the effects on other potentially important KPIs, such as cost-per-click or impression share, for example. The purpose of Maximize Conversions is to… well, maximize the number of conversions you’re getting. If cost-per-click is paramount, then using an automated bidding strategy that essentially gets rid of your maximum bids is likely not the best idea.

The Takeaway

There are many machine-learning powered bidding strategies in Google Ads; bid strategy can have a significant impact on how (un)successful any given campaign is. Ultimately, your bid strategy should be determined by the top priority KPI. And if that KPI is the total number of conversions, Maximize Conversions may be the right bidding strategy for you.

Just remember to do your research and set expectations before you get started.

The post Testing Automated Bidding with Google’s Maximize Conversions appeared first on Portent.

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How to Structure Facebook A/B Testing for Any Business http://www.yide31.com/blog/social-media/how-to-structure-facebook-a-b-testing-for-any-business.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/social-media/how-to-structure-facebook-a-b-testing-for-any-business.htm#respond Thu, 16 Apr 2020 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=52964 If you work in digital marketing, you are likely familiar with A/B testing: the process of running an experiment to determine the best version of a variable by isolating users into test groups and analyzing performance between the two. A/B Testing on Social Media Social media offers unique opportunities for A/B testing. Users are tied […]

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If you work in digital marketing, you are likely familiar with A/B testing: the process of running an experiment to determine the best version of a variable by isolating users into test groups and analyzing performance between the two.

A/B Testing on Social Media

Social media offers unique opportunities for A/B testing. Users are tied to accounts, not cookies, which means audience demographics are more accurate, and the likelihood of experiment replication is much higher. Additionally, most social media platforms give advertisers the ability to easily target and exclude users from segments, decreasing the possibility of overlap between test groups.

As with any channel where a business is investing ad dollars, A/B testing is an important piece of campaign optimization. Analyzing the performance of audiences, ad creative, and landing page conversion all contribute to a healthy social media strategy. A/B testing can also help advertisers determine success across channels, which allows for better budget allocation between platforms.

The concepts outlined here apply to A/B testing on any social media platform, but the emphasis of this post is on one platform specifically: Facebook.

Best Practices for Facebook A/B Testing

The A/B testing strategy for each business is unique, as each company has different goals, resources, and products. That being said, there are several factors we consider to be best practices across the board.

Goal Setting

Goal setting in a social media A/B test may look different than in other channels but is still just as important. Once a social media campaign is live, feedback from users is immediate. It’s easy to get caught up in the sentiment of user response without stepping back and seeing the big picture. While this is an important part of evaluating success, setting goals beforehand (tied to specific KPIs) will ensure your team can accurately evaluate results.

Isolating Variables

As with any science experiment, it is important to manipulate only the variable you want to test, and control all other variables. This ensures that your experiment has accurate results not influenced by outside factors. This is just as important for A/B testing on social media. The variables in this instance can be any aspect of the campaign: from location to audience to creative asset. We always recommend that our clients avoid combining A/B tests, to ensure that one test doesn’t skew the results of another.

A/B Testing vs. Facebook Split Testing

While A/B testing is possible across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, it should not be confused with Split Testing, Facebook’s dedicated A/B testing functionality. The difference is how the campaign is structured and results measured.

For example, in a traditional A/B test, a standard campaign is created with one audience, and two creative assets are added. Based on predetermined KPIs, an advertiser compares performance and declares the winning creative. In a Split Test, Facebook “divides budget to equally and randomly split exposure between each version of your creative.” Facebook will then declare a winner on a cost-per-result basis:

These results of a Facebook split test declare Version B the winning variation because it's cost per result is $48.15, significantly lower than version A's cost per result, which was $120.37.

Additionally, Facebook will provide a confidence interval, specifying the likelihood that you would see the same results if the test was replicated.

Split Testing is a great way to isolate variables and reduce effort on the part of the advertiser, as Facebook determines the winning variation. But Split Testing is not right for all businesses, especially those that require significant flexibility. Once a test has been published, it cannot be edited until the test is finished (it can only be turned off).

Measuring Results

The Breakdown Effect

If your business is executing an A/B test on Facebook but not running a structured Split Test, it is important to take into account the Breakdown Effect. Facebook states:

“A common point of confusion when evaluating Facebook ads reporting between ad sets, placements, and ads is that our system appears to shift impressions into underperforming ad sets, placements, or ads. In reality, the system is designed to maximize the number of results for your campaign dependent on what ad set optimization you choose. This understandable misinterpretation is called ‘The Breakdown Effect.'”

Essentially, it will appear in Ads Manager like the algorithm incorrectly optimized your campaigns.

This graphic shows an example of the Breakdown Effect for a social media ad campaign. Both Instagram and Facebook ad placements are tested. After 4 days, the platform detects Facebook CPA is escalating quicker, shifting budget to Instagram. At the end of 10 days, in aggregate, Instagram placements performed better.

For example, say you are running a campaign with all placements, and you view performance by placement. It may look like the Instagram Feed drove a lower CPA than other placements, but Facebook allocated less ad budget towards this placement. The first instinct would be to manually manipulate the campaign so that Instagram is allocated a higher percentage of the budget. This would likely result in an overall decrease in performance. As put by Facebook, “The system recognized that although one placement was driving the most efficient results initially, it predicted the cost was going to increase throughout the duration of the campaign.”

The key here is to look at aggregate performance by strategy, not a breakdown of each individual element.

What Does Success Look Like?

As I mentioned, a successful A/B test on social media looks similar to a scientific experiment elsewhere: it can be replicated, it provides actionable insights, and results can be directly tied to specific variables in the campaign. A successful A/B testing strategy should include next steps and iterations. Because ad creative on social media has a short lifespan, there will always be another test to perform. It is important to isolate key themes within your tests to move the program forward.

Primary and Secondary KPIs

Here are a few examples of what we consider to be primary and secondary KPIs. Your primary KPIs should be measurable period over period and tie directly to your business objectives. They should not be subjective.

Primary:

  • Sales (Last click)
  • Leads
  • Landing page views
  • Click-through rate

Secondary:

  • User sentiment
  • Referral traffic
  • Sales (impression attribution)

A/B Test Suggestions for Your Business

Our team has done extensive A/B testing for clients in a variety of verticals. Based on our experience, here are some suggestions for some market-specific A/B tests to help get you started.

eCommerce/Business to Consumer

With by far the most options, eCommerce and retail companies have the advantage of tying results directly to sales. With this ability comes the desire to A/B test every aspect of the current social program. We recommend setting a specific testing schedule, with flexibility worked into that schedule if a pivot is necessary. Sticking to a program ensures that tests build on each other strategically. It also reduces the likelihood that external groups can drive it off course.

Business to Business

With a longer sales cycle and a smaller list of potential clients, we recommend starting A/B testing by audience. If lookalike audiences don’t have enough seed data and retargeting audiences are too small, using A/B testing can help your business determine what your audience looks like on social media. From here, we recommend moving onto messaging and creative testing via lead generation.

Professional Services

While it may be difficult to measure which type of creative drives the most sales, it is easy to determine which type of messaging your customers respond well to. For example, for one of our clients that sells a high-investment product, we segmented their customer lists into groups by demographic. We then A/B tested messaging highlighting specific value propositions. The differences in responses amongst the groups informed our messaging strategy across all channels moving forward.

In Other Words

A/B testing is a valuable piece of your paid social strategy. It should be used to inform not only your social investment, but that of your other channels as well. The ability to test specific messaging to a specific audience group, and receive immediate anecdotal feedback cannot be replicated elsewhere. By taking into account the recommendations above, any business should be able to execute an A/B test on social media with clear, actionable insights.

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Hone Your Marketing EQ Through Uncertain Times http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/hone-your-marketing-eq-through-uncertain-times.htm http://www.yide31.com/blog/internet-marketing/hone-your-marketing-eq-through-uncertain-times.htm#respond Tue, 14 Apr 2020 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.yide31.com/?p=52923 It’s hard to put words to the last 30 days. I’m not even going to try and do it. The best we can do is put on our problem-solving hats and partner with our stakeholders and clients to navigate the unchartered. The technical skills required haven’t changed over the past month. Technological innovation on the […]

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It’s hard to put words to the last 30 days.

I’m not even going to try and do it.

The best we can do is put on our problem-solving hats and partner with our stakeholders and clients to navigate the unchartered.

The technical skills required haven’t changed over the past month. Technological innovation on the marketing side won’t stop. No, now isn’t the best time for a 30-minute demo of your cutting edge tool.

What must change is the self-awareness of the brands we work for. Our tone needs to change. And our strategic and tactical guidance needs to change because of that.

Our soft skills as marketers lead us now more than ever. There’s been so much made of the importance of EQ; now is the time for those skills to shine.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s where we are focusing.

It’s Time to Really Listen

Stop multitasking. Stop checking yourself out on Zoom. Be honest with yourself.

That’s a great start. Seriously, it will make a huge difference.

The best marketers set themselves apart through their ability to listen, interpret, reflect, and then take action. More importantly, they pick up what’s not explicitly said and turn that into questions and directives for next steps.

You may hear the message on the other end, but are you really listening? Time to start.

Lead With Empathy

This shit is hard on so many levels.

The news changes daily. The timespan is unknown. Consumers aren’t sure what to do. Marketers aren’t sure what to do either. Budgets and forecasts are formulated, scrambled, and then formulated again. And again. And again.

Get used to it for the next couple of months.

It’s taxing for everyone. Acknowledge that. Providing empathy helps create comfort and the feeling of a safe space.

It’s way easier to work in a safe environment. You’ll get more out of yourself, your team, and your stakeholders by creating that safety.

Over Communicate. Then Communicate Again.

There is so much information to process right now. The endless news cycle has infiltrated our jobs and our lives; any prior separation of those is gone, for the time being.

More than ever, clear and honest communication is key.

In presenting options to stakeholders, focus on the short term but keep the long term in mind. Layout all of the positive outcomes that could come from a new campaign or initiative, but make sure to clearly outline all of the drawbacks that could come as well. Leaving information off the table is irresponsible at best.

Build Agility

I’m willing to bet that your plans 30 days ago have changed, and your plans in 30 days will be different from what they are today.

Get used to it.

Harnessing agility could be your strongest tool, and I promise you’ll be able to tell what brands have it and those that don’t.

Embrace fluidity, and if you become a partner who can change and navigate quickly, you’ll become invaluable to your stakeholders.

Put Your Stakeholder First

Let’s talk about stakeholders. In the agency world, our key stakeholders are our clients. Regardless of what marketing position you find yourself in, a stakeholder is someone who has some degree of decision-making ability in your workflow.

Put their needs first.

Make them look smart, even if it means short-term pain for you. It will pay off in the long run for both of you.

In the last 30 days, we’ve recommended action that directly led to revenue coming off of our P&L statement. We did it because it was the right recommendation for our clients’ needs.

I promise you that our relationships with those clients are stronger than ever.

It’s About Building Trust

All of this is aimed to build trust; through listening, communicating, empathy, and agile decision-making. We need more of this right now.

Ian Lurie, Portent’s founder, has a saying that’s stuck with me since I started here.

“It’s better to be trusted than liked.”

I love it.

It’s something that I think more people should hear, think about, and try to adopt. Honing the soft skills drives at the core of building trust. And as we work to market—or appropriately not market—in today’s environment, it’s more important than ever.

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