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seo in dubai Purna Virji – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 15 Apr 2020 13:47:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gift-giving shopping behavior from religious holidays to relationships and beyond /gift-giving-shopping-behavior-from-religious-holidays-to-relationships-and-beyond-322920 Thu, 03 Oct 2019 19:20:55 +0000 /?p=322920 New research analyzes data and trends from last year's holiday season to bring you key insights to help you optimize your campaigns.

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Remember the struggle of finding the perfect gift for all the different people in your life? So. Much. Pressure. 

As PPC marketers, we have the added responsibility of promoting the giftable products our clients sell and making sure we’re pushing the right products to the right audience. It’s almost double the pressure. 

Microsoft Advertising (my employer) has analyzed all the data and trends from last year to bring you key insights to help you optimize your campaigns. Bonus: This also serves as a handy, data-backed gift guide, for double the win! 

Grab yourself a comforting cup of hot chocolate, it’s time to dig in. 

Step 1: Understand the differences in gift-shopping patterns between Hanukkah and Christmas 

Buying gifts is buying gifts, right? Not quite. The research revealed that gift-giving behavior differs significantly between Hanukkah and Christmas.

It starts with the length of the decision journeys.

Hanukkah shoppers are instant converters as ~70% of users began and ended on the same day. Conversely, ~70% of Christmas shoppers took multiple days to complete their journeyi

While Christmas and Hanukkah shoppers took 23 and 5 days on average respectively to convert, if we dive deeper into the overall journey lengths, we see a marked difference. 

With Christmas shoppers, we see multiple spikes spread out over a longer period:

Act on it: For Christmas shoppers, increase the conversion windows for your remarketing campaigns. Also ensure you serve cross-promotional ads to converters, to increase the odds of repeat purchases.

In contrast, the majority of Hanukkah shoppers were decisive converters:

Act on it: Since most conversions happen on the same day, you can boost visibility via in-market audiences for these instant converters. 

Now a likely follow up question would be if they were buying similar things from similar sites. 

While the top sites visited were similar (i.e. Amazon and Walmart) there were a couple of clear differences:

  • Christmas shopping skewed more towards Electronics sites while Hanukkah shopping skewed more towards Home Goods-focused sites. 
  • Christmas shoppers engaged more deeply with each site, with 16+ page views on average across each of the top five websites: Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and Apple. 
  • Hanukkah shopper engagement was shallower, with fewer page views per site than Christmas, but these views were consistently spread across a broader variety of sites:

What about cross-shopping sites?

One big thing that Christmas and Hanukkah had in common was that Amazon and Walmart were the most cross-shopped sites for both holidays, likely due to their diverse product offerings. 

Act on it: Study competitor ads from the most popular sites to see how you can tailor your ad copy to stand out against them.

Step 2: Plan what to promote (and buy!) for the different relationship types 

What kinds of gifts are most popular for the key people in your life? Let’s break it down. 

Regardless of the holiday, kids are the easiest to shop for. 

The research showed that the majority of shoppers visited multiple retailers during their gifting journey unless they were shopping for kids. In fact, 58% of shoppers buying gifts for their kids are more likely to convert after visiting just one site. 

Act on it:  Be sure to target these shoppers early in the Holiday research journey before they are ready to make a purchase.

Activity-focused gifts were very popular for kids last year, with the most popular categories being Smart toys and video games, crafts and activity kits as well as collectibles like sports memorabilia and jewelry.

Here’s a breakdown of the top searched products for kids:

When shopping for parents, however, searchers appeared to want more direction. 

Shopping for Parents can prove difficult for many – in fact, shoppers were 1.98 times more likely to browse through a gift guide for inspiration. We see an emergence of creative gift idea reseller sites as a result. These tend to range from quirky novelties to practical-yet-unnecessary gadgets. 

Shoppers were also 1.84 times more likely to purchase from gender-curated sites, while seeking inspiration and ideas from sites such as Esquire and Men’s Health since they offer gift ideas plus product reviews. 

Users were more inclined to multi-task while shopping for their Parents as they typically have a less clearly defined shopping goal. As a result, they also over-index on idea sites relative to other relationships. 

Act on it:  Include gift guides and personalization in site links and ad copy. Additionally, consider bidding on upper funnel keywords and have the ads sending shoppers to gift-guides specifically for parents, to set yourself apart from the competition.

Here’s a breakdown of the top searched products for parents:

When shopping for your significant other, why not treat yourself as well?

The most popular gift among couples were shared experiences. Shoppers were 1.92 times more likely to purchase an experience gift like cooking classes or helicopter rides, as many of these activities could be done together. Aww.

Nearly as popular was the classic gift of jewelry, followed by genealogy kits. 

Interestingly, 2018 was the second holiday season where ancestry and DNA kits proved to be a popular holiday gift between couples. In alignment with the shared experiences, this is another activity-focused gift that the couple can do together.  

Act on it:  Reinforce the joys and benefits of shared experiences within your ad copy.

 Here’s a breakdown of the top searched products for couples:

When it comes to gifts for coworkers, Secret Santa and White Elephant-related searches were popular and quite different. 

Although both Secret Santa and White Elephant gifting is relatively lower risk than gifts for family, the journey is still relatively long. It begins with research when the gift exchanges are announced and moves into the buying stage later.

Here’s how they differ. 

Secret Santa shoppers were focused on price-points, likely driven by limits set for the activity. In contrast, White Elephant shoppers were focused on ideas. They were looking to have the “best” or “cool” gift at the party. 

Act on it:  For White Elephant gifts, create additional content and landing-pages focused on giving searchers ideas.

The top searched queries were:

Feeling less pressured and more inspired? Great! Let’s recap our key takeaways:

  1. Hanukkah shoppers are instant converters compared to Christmas shoppers who took multiple days to complete their journey. Consider in-market audiences for the instant converters and increase the conversion windows for Christmas shoppers.
  2. Gift guides emerged as a popular category for all shoppers showing an appetite for ideas and inspiration. Remember to include gift guides and personalization in site links and ad copy. 
  3. Secret Santa shoppers are price conscious and White Elephant shoppers are looking for “cool” and “best” gifts. Leverage landing page recommendations to keep and guide shoppers to convert.

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Forget me not: 3 steps to make your PPC ads more memorable /forget-me-not-3-steps-to-make-your-ppc-ads-more-memorable-303714 Tue, 14 Aug 2018 19:55:00 +0000 /?p=303714 What makes text ads memorable? Contributor Purna Virji looks at ways to keep text ads fresh and top of mind by optimizing ad targeting and implementing ad extensions.

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What makes some ads stick in your mind, while others are instantly forgotten and relegated to the trash heap of online noise we’re exposed to every day?

Have the memorable ad creators simply struck it lucky? Have the others taken general advertising principles, done some brainstorming and hoped for the best?

Is there a way we can actually quantify what makes text ads memorable?

The folks at travel research company Phocuswright set to find out as part of a study they conducted with Bing (my employer). They asked participants:

What do you remember most about the travel advertising you saw online?

The results were clear:

This study was designed for the travel industry specifically, but it can be argued the top three elements would be easily transferable for practically any industry. Why?

  • Because we are visual creatures. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.
  • We are price-sensitive — or at least value-sensitive.
  • We want things to be all about us.

Let’s break down the three elements to see how we can make the most of each.

1. Make text ads visually compelling

Yes, text ads may just be text, but there are more options than you might imagine to make them compelling.

Please roll the drums for Multi-Image Extensions, exclusively available on Bing Ads. This extension allows advertisers to upload five images that appear when the ad is served in the top mainline position. That’s powerful real estate you can use to catch your customer’s eye. Here’s an example of how it looks:

Multi-Image Extensions are in open beta, meaning it is open for advertisers to sign up for access.

As well as attracting the eye, Multi-Image Extensions serve a second, equally important purpose: they guide the searcher to a more specific landing page. In this way, they function almost as visual sitelinks.

Cheat sheet — key things to keep in mind:

  • At least five images should be uploaded for the extension to serve.
  • They can serve alongside other extensions (such as sitelinks).
  • They can be used for any keyword; however, the keywords must be relevant to the images as well as the ad copy.
  • Display text (max. 14 characters), i.e., the wording that shows up below the images, is required for each image.
  • To increase relevance, the same image should also be present on the landing page.

What if you don’t have access to Multi-Image Extensions? Don’t worry, all is not lost. The right words used in the right way can evoke the right images and emotions in the reader’s mind, helping your ad become memorable.

In our Contoso Floral example above, you could help people better imagine using the product by evoking the scent with verbiage like: “Bring the fresh, sweet smell of the outdoors into your home.”

Or, say your product is a winter jacket. You could evoke images and feelings of winter, with copy like “Cocoon yourself in a [product name] and keep the December chill at bay.”

What do these two examples have in common?

They both use sensory words, words that are related to sight, sound, touch, taste or smell. By conjuring up a “sweet” smell and the December “chill,” we prompt our customers to imagine themselves in that position. You get the picture (pun intended).

Cheat sheet — key things to keep in mind:

  • Use sensory words to evoke images and emotions.
  • Use descriptive, specific language to paint a picture.
  • Focus on language that places your searcher with your product.

2. Highlight deals and showcase offerings

Since the beginning of advertising time, we’ve known that discounts and promotions are important. But how you present these discounts and promotions is equally as important, particularly when you consider our ever-shrinking attention spans.

Searchers want to know:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Where can I buy it?
  • Is it on sale?

Your ad needs to give all this information up front. Thankfully, promotion and price extensions can help.

The promotion extension helps to highlight special offers when people are searching for the best deals available. They show below the ad text and display up to two lines of text detailing the promotion. They show up on mobile, tablet and desktop, helping to increase ad engagement and boost potential click-through rate. The image below shows a promotion extension in a Google Ad.

For now, the promotion extension is only available on Google Ads.

Cheat sheet — key things to keep in mind:

  • The promotion should easily be found at the ad’s destination and should match with all headers and descriptions.
  • The relevance also should be clear, i.e., the details shown should be relevant to what’s being advertised.
  • Text that is not an actual promo code, e.g., a phone number, is not allowed in the promo code field.

Another useful way you can highlight your deals and offerings is with price extensions, which are available on both Google and Bing. Here is an example of a price extension in a Bing ad.

Price extensions don’t just tell people how much the item(s) cost, but where to buy them. Essentially, they give you the opportunity to showcase a range of services and products that you have on offer.

Cheat sheet — key things to keep in mind:

  • The prices used in the extensions must be clearly visible on the landing page.
  • They don’t need to go to the same uniform resource locator (URL) as the main ad — price extensions give you the option to link to a preferred third-party seller, such as Amazon.
  • The use of promotional text like “sale” or “free shipping” in the header and description is not allowed.

3. Make it personal

What should you focus on in order to increase relevancy and personalization? Optimizing your ad targeting capabilities.  These capabilities allow us to broadcast at scale but make it feel more like a one-to-one conversation. Let’s take a look at how this works.

Level up remarketing with dynamic URLs

Start by setting up remarketing lists based on clues within dynamic URLs. For example, in the URL below, the teal font shows dynamic elements that describe the style, color and size of the dress. Understanding these will give us clear insights into just what the site visitor is interested in:

By understanding more about what searchers are looking for, we can treat them differently and show them ads that are more customized.

For example, if we know they frequently buy white dresses, then we can show ads about sales on white dresses or cross-sell them on accessories that would match. Of course, this depends on the product and the context. A little common sense is always useful:

Tone-deaf cross-selling aside, dynamic URLs allow us to more effectively move more customers through the conversion funnel.

This doesn’t have to be restricted to retail. For example, with travel, knowing the check-in and check-out dates of a hotel stay could help. The audience can then be served messaging that relates to timely events and add-ons they could enjoy as part of their trip.

Here is how to set up dynamic URLs:

  • Start by determining the variables that would be most impactful.
  • Create audience lists based on these identified values.
  • Create compelling ad copy that touches on the particular behavior or value prop you are targeting.

Boost relevancy with in-market audiences

Available on Bing ads’ search network and on Google Ads on the Display Networks, in-market audiences allow advertisers to target a pool of people who have shown signs of being in the market to purchase goods or services across a slew of different verticals.

For example, if you sold running shoes, you’d have more success by showing ads to people who were actually looking to buy running shoes. You could target the following in-market audience group:

/Apparel & Accessories/Shoes/Athletic Shoes

Who can use these audiences? Everyone! Whether you’re a small business or a large one, or whether you sell B2B or B2C, you should test in-market audiences if your product or service is reflected in one of the in-market categories available.

They’re also a valuable tool to help you expand your reach. Unlike remarketing, you’re not only limited to people who’ve visited your website before. Here, you’re able to reach people who are interested in what you have to sell but who may not have heard of your brand or considered your business.

Reaching out to high-intent audiences is a great way to increase the likelihood of conversions.

According to recent internal data from Bing, ads shown to In-Market Audiences saw up to a 28 percent greater click-through rate (CTR) and up to a 48 percent greater conversion ratio (CVR) than the same ads without in-market audiences.

A success story here comes from a Las Vegas travel and event booking company, Their results included a 65 percent increase in click-through rate and a 27 percent increase in return on ad spend.

Here is how to set up in-market audiences :

  • Simply associate the in-market audience that matches your product/industry under the Audiences tab.
  • Select your targeting option (bid-only or target and bid), and you’re done!
  • Use in conjunction with remarketing and other audience targeting solutions.
  • There’s no need to wait for the list to populate (like with a remarketing list) and no need to wait for tracking pixels to be added to the site.

Forget me never

While creating memorable text ads might seem like a daunting task that requires a large dollop of luck, there are ways you can “formula-ize” it:

  • Make it visual.
  • Make it valuable.
  • Make it personal.

The tools to help you do this are not part of technology’s future — they are already here, and they are easy to use. The question isn’t “Why would you use them?” A better question is “Why wouldn’t you use them?”

I should point out that I have highlighted only a small selection of ways to make text ads memorable. There are numerous other extensions and products waiting out there for you to use. And they will continue to get more powerful and more effective as technology continues its unstoppable advance.

So, go forth and be memorable.

Want more info on Paid Search? Check out our comprehensive PPC Guide – Nine chapters covering everything from account setup to automation and bid adjustments!

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Amazon vs. search: Why you shouldn’t put too many eggs in one shopping basket /amazon-vs-search-shouldnt-put-many-eggs-one-shopping-basket-281766 Thu, 14 Sep 2017 21:16:10 +0000 http:/?p=281766 Where should retail marketers focus most of their time and effort: search or Amazon? Columnist Purna Virji shares data from an analysis of shopper behavior and the findings may surprise you.

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No matter where they’re located or what market they serve, retailers around the globe have questions about how consumers use search and Amazon.

At Bing (my employer), we’ve found that retailers — regardless of size — ask us about the same three things:

  1. Where do consumers look for products online?
  2. How do users behave differently on search vs. Amazon?
  3. Can my search and Amazon channels benefit each other?

The answers are likely to surprise you.

The consumer decision journey looks incredibly complicated to us marketers with its interweaving between research, comparison, intent and transaction, but it feels far less complicated from the consumer point of view.

As consumers, we follow certain behavior patterns almost subconsciously:

  • If we have questions around what it is we need, or want more information before we make a selection, then it’s natural to turn to search.
  • If we know what we’re looking to buy, often we have a predefined preference for which retailer website to begin looking for it.

For many customers, Amazon is a place to start. But is it where customers do most of their shopping-related searches? And is it also the place that they end their journey?

Our company’s search market intelligence team sought to find out.

1. Where do consumers look for products online?

The goal of the test was to study how consumers shopped online, and to learn how search and Amazon fit in within the customer decision journey.

Testing methodology

  • We used a sample of 9 million US users who conducted a retail-related search or visited Amazon on a web browser.
  • We tracked the user activity on Amazon and Bing and categorized users in different retail categories based on their searches.
  • We tracked the user journey, from searching on our site to visiting and searching on Amazon, and vice versa, to understand patterns around user groups that come back to the search engine.
  • We scaled the analysis using comScore data to be representative of mobile and app usage.

The myth

“The majority of retail searches now happen on Amazon.”

This myth has been repeated so many times, it’s often taken as fact just from repetition. It is likely derived from studies that report 56 percent of consumers begin their shopping journey on Amazon. The issue lies in the fact that this number is getting misinterpreted as 55 percent of overall retail searches happen on Amazon — which isn’t true.

The thing to remember is that survey data, while extremely valuable, may not always tell you the full story. Often, the decisions we make are formed by unconscious biases or are very generalized, so we can’t speak to our actions with a 100 percent degree of accuracy.

Think about this: If you’ve ever started your product search on Amazon, does that mean that you would always turn to Amazon to start your search for every single product? Or that you don’t conduct any searches after Amazon?

We know conceptually that is not true, so the researchers used behavioral data to answer that question.

The reality

The reality is, we turn to Amazon for only certain types of searches, mainly the lower-funnel ones. But those are only a small fraction of the overall universe of retail searches — nowhere near the 55 percent that is often cited.

For example, think of queries like “best brand of wedding china,” “how do I cure a migraine” or “what’s better for you propolis or bee pollen.” Would your natural instinct for those queries be to turn to a search engine or to Amazon?

More than likely, your answer would be the former, since at the moment, the latter isn’t really built to answer these questions. Case in point:

Search, on the other hand, is used for queries that span the entire range of the funnel, and that’s where logic would dictate the majority of retail searches occur.

The research agrees.

The results

In reviewing millions of users across our data set and comScore’s panel, the team’s research found that most retail searches don’t happen on Amazon; instead, 70 percent of them happen on top search engines.

A study conducted by Rand Fishkin at Moz earlier this year, which analyzed clickstream data via Jumpshot, came to a similar conclusion. Fishkin asked Jumpshot to compare 10 distinct web properties, add together all the searches they receive combined, and share the percent distribution.

The data found that Amazon received only 1.85 percent of searches, whereas Bing, Yahoo and Google combined received 64.02 percent of searches.

What does that mean for marketers?

Amazon is a strong retail channel and continues to grow, though marketers should be careful not to overcorrect. Search not only stands strong as a retail channel, but it can also help complement and strengthen an Amazon strategy as well.

2. How do users behave differently on search vs. Amazon?

In looking to identify how user behavior differed across search and Amazon, we found that 27 percent of users (about 38 million people in the US) did not visit Amazon either before or after searching on Bing.

These are valuable audiences that are looking for your product information online and buying them in physical stores or other online channels.

Even more interestingly, the research found that even the audiences that were common between search and Amazon exhibited different behaviors across each platform.

Testing methodology

Exclusive Audience using our search engine:

  • We collected data from Nov 1-7, 2016, using Web Browser Logs (US only).
  • We tracked the user activity on Amazon and Bing and categorized users based on queries searched.
  • We filtered for users that do retail-related searches on a search engine (combination of various categories such as: Autos; Guns; Sports & Recreation; Office Products; Health & Wellness; Beauty & Fragrance; Clothing & Shoes; Jewelry & Watches; Home Furnishings; Kitchen & Housewares) and computed exclusivity of these search users that don’t visit Amazon.
  • We scaled the users to overall population based on comScore’s panel.
  • Similar distributions of overall exclusive users were found on larger time periods (~1.5-2 months).

The results

In addition to the discovery that 27 percent of users of our search engine did not visit Amazon at all, the research then drilled down within the 73 percent of users who did use both Amazon and Bing. They unearthed something very interesting.

Approximately 80 percent of users (out of that 73 percent) who do a retail search on Bing and also visit Amazon do not perform the same retail category searches on both sites.

That means that Sally could be looking at buying perfume and, when she seeks information on a search engine, she could be directed to many different sites and eventually buy offline. Sally has also visited Amazon during that time period, but her searches could have been for something different, such as a toy for a child’s birthday.

This behavior was seen across several categories, a few of which are listed in the screen shot below. There are definitely cases where there is a continuation of searches from search to Amazon or vice versa, but that represents the minority, or only about 20-25 percent of the users.

The graph below represents the percentage of shopping-oriented users that visit Amazon but do not search within same category on Amazon:

We can see that for categories like Beauty & Fragrance or Toys, the percent of searchers who do not search within the same category are 82 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

And what of those 20-25 percent of searchers who did related subsequent searches between the two sites?

Shoppers use search for top- through bottom-of-funnel activities. For example, let’s look at data from a client who sells cold and flu medicine, whose pattern holds true across multiple categories.

The teal green bars represent the number of searches conducted on search engines. The dark blue bars were the searches conducted on Amazon.

You can see that search spans the spectrum of upper funnel queries, like “flu symptoms,” down to lower funnel queries, like “cold medicine.” Aside from the typing-averse consumers typing in “cold,” most of their searches are for “cold or cough medicine.

When was the last time you asked Amazon for flu symptoms or sore throat remedies?

Higher funnel searches (queries like “flu symptoms,” “sore throat remedies,” “cold symptoms,” “how to get rid of cold” in the Health & Wellness category) are not searched at all on Amazon.

Search is also relevant in cases when users are researching what to buy or where to buy it. Very often, search engines are used as a trusted utility to help people make informed decisions, such as determining the best product or finding the best deal.

You can see the stark popularity of users relying on search engines for this information relative to Amazon in the chart below.

What can marketers do?

The upper-funnel queries serve as a great opportunity to market your brand via search to shoppers who are showing clear and strong intent for product categories or are in situations where your product can help meet their needs.

Search continues to be the most relevant channel for the research phase of most consumer journeys because this is the stage at which users are seeking the background information they need to become more informed on what they are seeking to buy.

As a result, advertisers lacking a presence on the major search engines can lose out on critical stages of the consumer decision journey.

3. How can search complement your Amazon strategy?

Finally, our search market intelligence team wanted to understand the impact of search ads on subsequent shopper behavior on Amazon. After all, why would you invest in upper- and lower-funnel terms if they didn’t result in higher consumer engagement?

The team looked at users over a period of seven months, with the criteria being that these users searched for a non-brand/category term. They then segmented them into two cohorts. One was exposed to an ad for that product brand, and the other group was not. Both groups visited Amazon subsequently.

Testing methodology

Case study on brand exposure and behavior on Amazon:

  • We collected data over seven nonconsecutive months (June-Aug. 2016; Nov. 2016-Feb. 2017) using Web Browser Logs (US only).
  • We tracked the user activity on Amazon and Bing.
  • We filtered for users that do searches related to a particular product on Bing (some product examples include diapers, laptops and detergent); we categorized users based on whether or not they were exposed to a particular brand ad for those terms.
  • We tracked the activity of the two groups on Amazon and identified the proportion of users that visited that particular brand’s product page on Amazon.
  • We expanded the terms to then include other top online retailers.

The results

Users exposed to product brands via search ads are two to four times more likely to visit the same brand product page when they subsequently visit Amazon. You can see a few of the categories measured in the screen shot below.

This test was also run on other major online retailers, such as Walmart and Target, and lift was an average 20 percent higher than that observed on Amazon.

What can marketers do?

Search enables the user to discover brands, thus creating brand awareness, which leads to better conversions on multiple channels.

In addition to product listing ads via shopping campaigns, be sure to run text ads for direct and indirect brand terms, as well as top products, across both Bing and Google. Take advantage of new ad product releases to make the text ads even more compelling.

For example, Bing has recently updated its Sitelink Extensions policy to allow advertisers who don’t have their own retail capability to link directly to their Amazon product page:

This can even be combined with the Price Extension available on Google AdWords, and currently in pilot on Bing Ads, to include the price in the ad copy, sending valuable users to the retail channels of your choice.

On Google AdWords, an interesting new ad extension to try out would be their Promotion Extension.

In summary

Amazon is incredibly important — and so is search. Don’t overcorrect, in either direction, the spend and efforts between the two channels.

The bulk of retail searches still happen on search engines, and behavior is different across search and Amazon. The kinds of searches consumers do on search span upper funnel and lower funnel, while Amazon is mainly for very low-funnel queries.

Advertisers would benefit from using both platforms together to expand customer reach and create additional synergies and enjoy an overall lift in conversions and profit.

The research has proven just how effective that can be.

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Don’t be tardy! Back-to-school searching starts in July — plan campaigns now /dont-tardy-back-school-searching-starts-july-plan-campaigns-now-275912 Thu, 01 Jun 2017 14:16:24 +0000 http:/?p=275912 It's not too early to start planning your back-to-school campaigns. Columnist Purna Virji from Bing suggests some ways to help you win over back-to-school searchers and stay a step ahead of the competition.

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I know what you’re thinking. School is just winding down, and you want me to start planning back-to-school campaigns already?

Yup. And here’s why: Back-to-school shopping and searching shift into high gear in July. And if you’re not ready, you’ll miss out on the second-biggest shopping holiday of the year.

The second biggest — who’d have thought that, right? Back-to-school spending is second only to the December holiday season.

Research shows that families with K-12 kids spend an average of $674 on the hottest sneakers, fashion trends, electronics, calculators and binders — and even more money for college-bound students.

In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, in 2016 back-to-school spending hit $75.8 billion. (Can I hear a collective “ouch” from all the parents out there?)

Which means for digital marketers, planning needs to start now. Below you’ll find two assignments (plus helpful insights) designed to help you move to the head of the class this back-to-school season.

Assignment #1: Find out who’s buying and plan your bid modifiers

Increased traffic means you need an increased budget. And to maximize those budget dollars, you first need to know exactly who you’re targeting and then build meaningful campaigns.

According to research done by my colleagues at Bing, 32 percent of back-to-school shoppers are aged 35 to 49, and 31 percent are 50 to 64, with the primary customer being female and a mom.

But don’t forget — although mom may be footing the bill, her K-12 kids are dropping not-so-subtle hints about what they want.

On the other hand, college freshmen outfitting their dorms are relying on Mom and Dad to guide their decisions. It’s critical that you segment your audiences with demographic targeting, keeping in mind key influencers.

This means that you’ll need to create a separate set of ads to attract each of these different segments. Thankfully, with demo-based bid modifiers offered by search engines, you can make your ads feel more personalized.

In addition, make sure you’re segmenting by geography as well, so you can optimize not just based on season and local trends but also based on peak periods for each location.

As always, don’t forget to look at last year’s performance data, to help you optimize this year’s campaigns.

Extra credit: Be there for teachers

Teachers are unsung heroes who invest heavily in the next generation — often with their own hard-earned money. Thanks to increasingly tight school budgets, most teachers spend an average of $500 on their classroom, and some teachers report spending $1,000 or more.

Consider donating classroom items or a percentage of your sales to local schools or even offering a buy-one-give-one promotion. Calling out these promotions in your ad campaigns will encourage customers to shop with you, trust your brand, and feel good about their purchases.

And you can feel good about helping teachers.

Assignment #2: Determine what they’re searching for

Of course, for campaign success, you need to know what your shoppers are looking for. And the answers are all in the data.

Take time to examine trends related to your products and uncover the top-searched terms, as well as the days and times folks are looking.

For example, thanks to Bing data, we know that the most popular back-to-school search category is apparel (shoes and clothing), at 58.5 percent, and click-through rates are high in July and August.

So, for these months, consider optimizing your shopping campaigns with enhancements such as merchant promotions, sale pricing and review extensions, as well as highlighting local inventory.

Oh, and by the way…

Sometimes back-to-school shoppers are searching for what we don’t really expect, such as bed and bath products. Searchers on Bing (as compared to Google searchers) are 16 percent more likely to have spent between $200 to $499 on bed and bath products in the last six months. Optimizing for these products could yield some sweet-smelling profits.

Technology is also a big back-to-school category, and we know that these shoppers do plenty of online research before committing.

Running ads for searches higher in the purchase funnel can be very effective in these cases. For example, an ad for a tablet early in the shopping season may use unbranded search terms and include more detailed ad copy as well as review extensions. But an ad for that same tablet later in the season may have less detail but would also include branded search terms.

Speaking of brand, how does brand vs. non-brand factor in?

Below I’ve highlighted a few search stats and tips from Bing that indicate clear trends in some key back-to-school categories.


  • 72 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
  • Top unbranded searched terms: t-shirts, shirts for teen girls, and cute plus-size outfits

Tip: Including an ad showing the product in use or multiple colors of the item can help the image grab attention.

Laptops & tablets

  • 76 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
  • Top unbranded searched terms: best deals tablets, tablets and best tablet deal

Tip: Influence shoppers with customer reviews using a review extension, and if your product is on sale, be sure to use the sales price column in your product feed.

School supplies

  • 81 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
  • Top unbranded searched terms: calculator, scientific calculator, portfolio

Tip: Consider offering a coupon and try a broad match modifier for unbranded terms.

Furniture, décor, and bed & bath

  • 88 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
  • Top unbranded searched terms: furniture, furniture stores, mattress stores, memory foam mattress

Tip: Personalize what shows in your ad with dynamic text parameters. Showing the product in use, e.g., a rug shown on the floor of a room, can be especially helpful for this category as it provides context to the shopper.

Boost your popularity: Discover where your audience is hanging out

Did you know that back-to-school shoppers plan to purchase from only an average of three websites? Finding out where your customers are spending time online (and where they’ll make their purchases) is critical to getting your campaigns in front of them.

You can also maximize your marketing ROI by syncing your ad investments with other campaigns. Now that you have your assignments, it’s time to kick campaign planning into high gear, so you can edge out your back-to-school competitors.

The post Don’t be tardy! Back-to-school searching starts in July — plan campaigns now appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Listen to your mother: Win Mother’s Day with humor and timing /listen-mother-win-mothers-day-humor-timing-272834 Mon, 17 Apr 2017 14:30:35 +0000 http:/?p=272834 Advertisers, have you put together your Mother's Day strategy yet? Columnist Purna Virji from Bing has some tips for capturing searchers looking to celebrate their moms.

The post Listen to your mother: Win Mother’s Day with humor and timing appeared first on Search Engine Land.


This Mother’s Day, the moms we celebrate are as diverse as our American families. So why stick to the same old marketing tactics you’ve always used?

Let’s make this year even more special (and successful) with some lesser-known tips and advice based on research compiled by my data scientist colleagues at Bing Ads.

Did you know that 87 percent of Americans participate in Mother’s Day? And regardless of age, gender or relationship, people are looking for ways to celebrate and thank the “mom” in their life. For marketers, be sure you’re there for all the moms, with appropriate audience targeting and messaging.

Celebrate modern moms with humor and authenticity

When you think of Mother’s Day messaging from brands, you may remember those wonderfully emotional ads, such as this one from P&G that can bring a tear to even the most cynical eye:

But you don’t have to send people reaching for the tissue box to draw attention. Humor and authenticity can be just as powerfully engaging.

Modern moms are embracing the imperfections of motherhood, and marketers will benefit from crafting messages that celebrate that imperfect reality.

The hashtag #momfail was top among millennial moms in 2016, showing that we’re happy to laugh at ourselves. These little stories are popular since they are at heart extremely relatable. For example:

Why not make your ads stand out by making them humorous and relatable? And here’s the main secret to success: target your ads carefully to the right demographics.

Demographic targeting: The right person at the right time

You have a wide variety of people of different genders and age ranges researching ideas and shopping for gifts. Make your ad as relatable as possible for each of them.

And while effectively targeting this broad range of customers can seem daunting, you can implement this kind of larger-scale personalization.

How? Bing Ads allows you to adjust bid modifiers based on age and gender ranges in addition to the device, geographic and day modifiers. You can tailor ad groups to reach your desired demographic segment by bidding up for them. Personalization at scale, voila!

Think of the segments that could work best for your products or services:

  • Spouse shopping for wife
  • Kids shopping for mom
  • Friends looking to buy a gift for a friend who is a mom
  • Mom looking up ideas for what she wants, and then leaving hints for her family (On this note, the research showed that 65 percent of Mother’s Day searchers on the Bing Network are female, so a lot of us seem to be doing this! My favorite tip is to search for what I want on my husband’s computer and then wait for him to receive all the remarketing ads that are relevant to things I’d love to receive as a gift.)

For all of these segments, there are different age ranges that could be layered on further — older children looking for gifts for their elderly parents, gifts for new moms, 18- to 25-year-olds shopping for their moms and grandmothers.

Try and find the humor and relatability for each of these groups, for example:

  • Mobile phones: “Don’t forget to call your mother — and give her the perfect gift to answer you in style.”
  • Spa gift certificate: “Her first Mother’s Day. Let her sleep in — then send her away.”

Remember, as long as it isn’t mean-spirited, humor can work really well.

Timing is everything

While shopping for Mother’s Day has traditionally been more offline than online, our research has shown that online shopping is increasing year over year. In 2016, 27 percent of Americans shopped online for Mother’s Day gifts.

Top search terms for gifts range from high-tech (think smart phones) to the traditional (flowers, jewelry, chocolate and cards). On the Bing Network, users are more likely to buy jewelry, flowers and cards as compared to Google.

Mother’s Day shopping typically kicks off with gift research in early April, generally through PC/tablet browsing during the work week. Two weeks before Mother’s Day, searches increase on both PC/tablet and mobile; yet, on the actual day-of, mobile searches surpass PC/tablet searches as forgetful shoppers are looking for last-minute gifts.

The top search days for April and May are:

Adjust your device-based bid mods and ad messaging over this period to make the most of it. Here’s your time-based strategy:

From now until late April

  • Be bold. Steer clear of promoting the same ol’, same ol’. Now is the time to promote a much more diverse range of gifts, so Mom can receive something she really wants.
  • Think beyond the obvious. Flowers die, chocolates add calories, but a customized motorcycle helmet for a chopper-loving mom creates lasting memories. Or a music-loving grandma would love tickets to see her favorite band with her grandkids.
  • No matter what you sell (within reason), you can tailor your ads to reach the different demos we outlined above, and help someone dream up a fantastic Mother’s Day present.
  • Don’t forget to set up remarketing audiences and cookie the visitors to your site from your Mother’s Day ad messaging. Start growing your cookie pool as early as possible to maximize the chances of the conversion.
  • Shoppers are most influenced by recommendations, reviews and online advertising for informing their Mother’s Day purchases— so add review extensions to your Product Listing Ads and consider setting up Merchant Promotions for this time period if you are enrolled in the pilot (on either AdWords and/or Bing Ads).

Two weeks before Mother’s Day

  • Increase the urgency in your ads, as this is peak competitive period. Share your incentives for purchase, and bid up the highest on your remarketing ads bid modifiers.
  • For remarketing ads, remind shoppers that you can still ship in time for Mother’s Day arrival. Also consider offering incentives like free shipping upgrades.
  • And remember, the magic number in remarketing is three. Sentiment is highest after seeing an ad three times — any more and it becomes intrusive.


  • Now’s the time to bid up heavily on mobile and tablet, especially if you’re a local business.
  • For last-minute shoppers, you will want to update your extensions to make it even easier to make purchases. Include location extensions so customers can find the nearest store to quickly pick up their online purchases.
  • This is also the time to include gift cards, last-minute deals and overnight shipping in your Enhanced Sitelinks for last-minute gifts.
  • You can use ad extensions to your advantage here — callout extensions, location extensions and action link extensions can be the best friends to last-minute shoppers.
  • Make sure your ads cover these key points:
    • Clearly state that you can still get the shopper their gift in time for the holiday.
    • Give them ideas for what they can still buy.
    • Tell them where to go to buy it/pick it up.
    • Give them the most convenient way to buy.

Post-Mother’s Day:

  • Just as you did over the winter holidays, don’t forget to target ads explaining your easy return process, and be sure to share ideas for what she could buy with the gift cards she received.

Happy Mom, happy customers

This year, go beyond the ho-hum ads. Humor, targeting and timing are all keys to success this Mother’s Day, while also ensuring that moms receive the thank-you they deserve. After all, when Mom is happy, so are your customers.

The post Listen to your mother: Win Mother’s Day with humor and timing appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Commercial success: 3 last-minute PPC tips to pump up the effectiveness of Super Bowl LI TV ad buys /commercial-success-3-last-minute-ppc-tips-make-super-bowl-li-tv-ad-buys-268044 Fri, 27 Jan 2017 17:30:47 +0000 http:/?p=268044 Columnist Purna Virji shares her tips for advertisers in capitalizing on game-day search volume.

The post Commercial success: 3 last-minute PPC tips to pump up the effectiveness of Super Bowl LI TV ad buys appeared first on Search Engine Land.


Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. There is no bigger day for football — or advertisers. And whether they’re on their couch or at a neighborhood watering hole, fans of both will be tuning in to Super Bowl LI in droves.

Sure, Super Bowl Sunday is about football. But the commercials share the spotlight. In fact, many Super Bowl viewers say they watch the game specifically for the commercials. Some (like me) skip the game entirely and just watch the commercials.

As we know, commercials can be the most memorable part of the big game, with water cooler talk continuing long after the last touchdown. It’s no wonder that brands spend an absolute fortune on them.

If you’re a brand that invested in TV for this year’s Super Bowl, how can you make the most of your TV spend? And what if your brand didn’t spend big for TV? How can you still benefit?

Read on for three tips to make the most out of this year’s Super Bowl commercials.

1. Top playbook tip: Get the timing right

Search volumes increase — sometimes significantly — after the release of a TV commercial on Super Bowl Sunday. In fact, Microsoft’s (my employer) research found that branded search volume can increase up to 98 percent for an advertiser with a Super Bowl commercial.

This rise doesn’t just impact game day and the after-party. It can last through the week following the game.

Super Bowl related search volume on Bing

You can up your game by syncing your search and TV ads.

A key part of the Super Bowl advertising trends research Microsoft did looked at advertiser-related search volume for six Big Game commercials to study how TV advertising can impact PPC ads.

They found that search volume followed a similar pattern across industries.

Here’s an example:


The study also revealed that not enough advertisers take advantage of this opportunity — surprising given just how much money these TV ads cost.

Of the 2016 commercials studied, the results showed that as many as 31 percent of SERPs had no mainline ad showing and 21 to 56 percent of SERPs had no impressions from the commercial sponsor.

Why miss out on all the extra traffic?

Tip: Plan your PPC budgets to ensure that your ads will be there to receive the pass after game day! I recommend setting aside extra budget for game day and the next three days.

2. The key to a strong offense and defense: Adequate keyword coverage

Advertisers have only a few days to capture the buzz a new commercial brings, so it’s important to maximize clicks while keeping competitors at bay. What’s an advertiser to do?

If you are one of the few big brands who purchased a Super Bowl commercial, strengthen your keyword coverage and enhance your bidding strategy to defend your position and capture more clicks.

While your goal is to target keywords related to your commercial, it’s important to go beyond the basic brand, product and service ad commercial keyword combinations. Don’t forget, viewers also search for the memorable or quirky aspects of commercials, such as actors, celebrities, characters or other elements.

Tip: Here are some ideas to expand your keywords:

Start with keyword variations of this basic combination:

         brand ± product/service ± super bowl ± ad/commercial

Add in references to:

         <product type>, <related products or services>

         <actor(s)>, <character(s)>, <commercial elements>

         <commercial’s name>

         <popular past commercial’s name>

         <questions raised by the ad>

  • Who’s the actor in the brand commercial?
  • Is brand’s service really free?
  • What song is in the brand commercial?

Additionally, give yourself the best on-field advantage with mainline bidding. We found that 90 percent of clicks occur in the mainline and that mainline ads have a click-through rate that’s 13 times higher than sidebar ads.

Tip: If you’re a competitor or a smaller business not advertising, this is a great opportunity to sneak in and steal clicks.

  • Don’t forget to bid on competitors’ brand names, especially for RLSA or remarketing in paid search ads.
  • Using the “newsjacking” model, you can still bid on Big Game commercial-related keywords to take advantage of this surge in volume.

3. Layer on the bid mods: Mobile + Demo

While the Super Bowl has traditionally been limited to a TV screen, that’s not the case anymore. Second screens are starting to play a big part in the game. Microsoft’s internal data revealed that over 80 percent of people plan on using at least two devices during the game.


This means fewer TV viewers simply sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

eMarketer estimates that nearly nine in 10 internet users in 2017 will use the internet while watching TV at least once a month, and 26 percent of those simultaneous users will consume digital content related to what they’re watching on TV.

In 2016, 30 percent of Bing searches during the Super Bowl came from mobile devices. How do you capture passive or distracted consumers when they decide to take action?

Through a well-planned bid modifier strategy that allows you to more effectively create tightly targeted ad messaging. Since the audience is distracted, your ads are going to have to work that much harder to be effective. Making them feel more personalized and relevant can make a huge difference.


Don’t forget to add in demo-based bid mods.

Why? Because women make up 46 percent of game day viewers. In 2016, there were 60 percent more searches for “Denver Broncos women’s apparel” than for “Broncos jersey” and “Denver broncos jersey” combined.

If you’ve used the Bing Ads Intelligence Excel plug-in, you’ve seen how valuable the Age and Gender report can be for strategizing device and demo-based bid mods. You simply type in your core Game Day keywords and run the report, which can be turned into a graph such as this one:


Based on the graph, you’ll get a better understanding of how to tailor your bids and ad copy to best speak to the target audience. For example, based on the above chart, I would know to create ad messaging that appealed to the 50+ age range tailored for tablet devices.

Device-based bid mods:

Make sure you’re most effectively speaking to the mobile and tablet users with Expanded Device Targeting.

Note: One key difference between Google AdWords and Bing Ads is the lower ceiling for desktop bid modifiers:


Should you have a negative bid modifier in Google AdWords, it will be adjusted to the lowest setting on Bing Ads, which is 0%.

A game-winning strategy

When you use these three tips to create a strong PPC campaign, you’re on your way to major commercial success this Super Bowl.

I’ll leave you with some Super Bowl commercial inspiration: my all-time three favorites ads from FedEx, Tabasco and Pepsi. Enjoy!

The post Commercial success: 3 last-minute PPC tips to pump up the effectiveness of Super Bowl LI TV ad buys appeared first on Search Engine Land.

SEO and voice search-proof your shopping campaigns this holiday season to win the omni-channel shopper /seo-voice-search-proof-shopping-campaigns-holiday-season-win-omni-channel-shopper-255412 Thu, 18 Aug 2016 15:15:46 +0000 http:/?p=255412 How can you make your shopping ads stand out this holiday season? Columnist Purna Virji suggests some ways to optimize your campaigns for the valuable omni-channel shopper.

The post SEO and voice search-proof your shopping campaigns this holiday season to win the omni-channel shopper appeared first on Search Engine Land.


Honey for bees. Pikachu for Pokémon Go-ers. Ironic eyewear for hipsters.

Some things are known attractants. But when you want to lure the omni-channel shopper this holiday season, the variety of channels at your disposal can seem overwhelming.

Why choose when you can combine? Turns out, the key to winning the hearts and dollars of omni-channel shoppers is using a multi-channel strategy.

Let’s look at how you can most effectively combine Shopping Campaigns with SEO best practices and emerging voice search trends to gain a giant advantage this holiday season — not just in terms of short-term profitability but more importantly, to increase overall customer lifetime value.

What do we know about omni-channel shoppers?

Omni-channel shoppers are folks who research and buy both online and offline via a variety of channels and devices.

Not only do these folks form a growing segment of our target audience, they also represent the largest spending group. Savvy advertisers know that the key to long-lasting profitability (and bonuses!) is to go after this valuable audience.

Data compiled by Microsoft (my employer) reveals the top three key characteristics of this audience:

  1. They have short attention spans. Shoppers quickly make tradeoffs among price, discounts, delivery method, shipping costs, relative quality, ease of return and numerous other factors to determine what channel to purchase from.
  2. They’re channel-agnostic. The channel that offers the greatest combination of convenience, value and reassurance wins their business.
  3. They spend more. Deloitte’s research revealed that shoppers who visit stores, online and mobile destinations expect to spend 75 percent more than those who shop at stores alone.

Given how easily distracted these shoppers are — and with brand loyalty being trumped by convenience and value — advertisers will have to be more strategic about when and how to get their attention.

Combining PPC strategies with additional channels yields the best results. Here, we’ll look at advice for shopping campaigns, using SEO and social ads to make your product ads stand out for text and voice search.

Shopping campaigns + SEO + voice search

Since the omni-channel shopper has a short attention span, the visual nature of products ads (managed via Shopping Campaigns) is the perfect way to grab attention.

They’re also ideal for those voice search queries when the omni-channel shopper is on the move and looking for quick answers or comparing products via digital personal assistant.

Voice search trends: the visual-vocal connection

The use of natural language when searching via a digital personal assistant such as Cortana, Siri or Google Now means that these search queries will tend to be longer than text queries.

It’s faster and more convenient to talk than to type. This is giving rise to far more specific queries (My previous article goes into further detail).

Shopping Campaigns are an ideal match for voice search queries. Product ads can more easily fit the bill for ultra-specific queries than text ads. For example, we’re seeing far more detailed queries such as:

Sample product ads for shoes

Secondly, the visual nature of the ads means that even when someone is second-screening, busy with other tasks or just on the go, it’s easy to sort through the results and take action quickly.

It’s worth paying extra attention to optimizing all the key fields in the data feed to not only increase your chance of showing up more often in relevant auctions but also to earn the click, no matter whether the omni-channel shopper is searching via voice or text on desktop, tablet or mobile.

Here are three tips to create the strongest, most-likely-to-convert product ads:

1. Give your feed the SEO treatment

As the saying goes, showing up is half the battle. I’d tweak that to say showing up often in the most relevant results is half the battle. The rest is earning the click (more on that in a bit). We need to ensure we have the right words in the right place.

Ultimately, the feed is what relevancy is based on, and giving it the SEO treatment can help the search engines better understand what we’re selling.

Your data feed (aka your product feed) has required fields like title, description, price and image. Optimizing your title and description fields is super-important, as is filling in blanks among the optional attributes.

Not only do the optional attributes open the door for powerful segmentation when creating product groups, but they also provide a ton of relevant information that the search engines can use to determine where and when to show your ads.

Title tips:

  • Be very descriptive.
    • Add in descriptors such as brand name, material, size, etc. A good checklist is:
    • 2_titleField Tips
  • Use common wording.
    • Keyword searches trigger your ad based heavily on words in the title.
    • Don’t refer to something as a “fuchsia frou-frou frock” if the common parlance is “pink cocktail dress.” Your search query report will reveal exactly what terms people tend to search for in relation to your products.
  • Know your limits.
    • After a certain number of characters, the title will get truncated. For example, on Bing Ads, the total length allowed is 150 characters, but only 35 characters show up before it gets truncated.

Description tips:

  • Don’t forget to pay attention to this field. Bing Ads has mentioned that they do take it into consideration when determining relevance.
  • Add relevant, high-quality keywords using natural language and common wording.
  • It’s helpful if the descriptions can match up with the landing page descriptions and contain the same level of detail.

2. Get creative with your creative

Within the restrictions of the product ad template, there’s still a lot of room to get creative. The two primary elements in your product ad that you can get creative with are the image and price.

Let’s break these down.


Product ads are starting to have a similar issue to text ads, in that they can often all look very similar. In the field of same-same, the right image can help the ad jump out from the page.

  • See where you stand. Start by looking at your competition and think about photography that stands out from the standard way that they’re displaying their product.
  • Use some color in your imagery. The ad in the top left of the screen shot below stands out because of color, which is a simple and compelling change from the other photos. Color in photos not only makes your ad more attractive, it gives your customer more information. Whenever possible (and as appropriate), choose images with plenty of color options for your customer.


  • Show the product in use. Deviate from the traditional manufacturer’s image, if possible, since every seller will have the same image. Showing the product in use gives your shopper more context for your product, and shoppers nearly always want more information.


  • Don’t forget:
    • Keep your white borders in the image space to about 10 percent of the image size; ads containing images with greater than 60 percent white space may not show.
    • High-resolution images that are at least 220 x 220 pixels display best.
    • No watermarks or promo text on images are allowed on Google or Bing.


Most of us can hardly resist a sale. Discounts in your product ads attract attention, clicks and conversions. Adding a sale price in your feed lets the search engines show both your before and after prices, to reinforce the sense of urgency.

Whenever possible, especially with any holiday-specific promotions, add a sales price and sale price effective date into your feed to help you stand out.


In addition, it’s always good to do a regular competitive check to ensure you’re priced similarly to the competition. A competitor offering a large discount could cause you lose clicks.

How do I split-test my ads?

A common question I get asked revolves around testing different images (or other feed elements like titles) within Shopping campaigns.

Traditional A/B testing isn’t possible with product ads, since the same physical inventory can’t be duplicated in the feed. But there is a workaround: sequential tests.

Essentially, you run one image for a set period of time, then switch it out and run another image for an equal period of time. (Using this method, you could also test titles and descriptions.)

But there are some drawbacks with this method:

  • There would be more “noise” or additional factors (such as competitor changes or seasonal effects) that could affect the results.
  • It could take approximately 48 hours to re-crawl the feed.

3. Mobile shopping

As Marketing Land has reported, over 90 percent of retail shoppers use smartphones in stores. The top reasons were price comparisons or looking for deals, looking up product information and checking reviews online.

Plus, in their hunt for the best price, shipping, availability and sale, the omni-channel shopper is highly likely to use their mobile device along the way.

Microsoft internal data revealed that searchers research their purchases ahead of time, with eight out of 10 of the highest search volume days on the Bing network occurring in November and skewing for weekends.


There are two ways your shopping campaigns can help:

  1. Encourage traffic to the stores. In an interview with Google, Target detailed how 75 percent of their shoppers start their experience on a mobile device. They even go as far as to phrase it “mobile is the new front door.” This is a phenomenon that’s spreading across the retail industry.
  2. Grab the sale online. Whether they’re showrooming while in a competing store or at your physical location, it’s easier for shoppers to browse products and learn more about them while online than it is in-store.

Plus, as digital advertisers, we can easily serve coupons or showcase deals to encourage the sale.

A Hitwise study found that in the US, 77 percent of retail searches that mention “coupon” are initiated on a smartphone or tablet. They also found that searches with the potential to close the sale, such as “return policy” or “price match,” were initiated on a mobile device at least 77 percent of the time.

Mobile-specific Shopping campaign tips:

  • Ensure all campaigns have optimized device-based bid modifiers that are well-calibrated for mobile.
  • Make your product ads stand out with special holiday sale prices, deals and other enhancements, such as reviews or merchant ratings.
  • Tie in local inventory data where possible, to stand out for the shopper and encourage them to visit your local store.

In conclusion

With these three Shopping Campaign optimization tips, you’re well on your way to being more efficient at luring in those high-value shoppers this holiday season. In fact, you might have enough time on your hands to take the afternoon off to do some actual shopping.

The post SEO and voice search-proof your shopping campaigns this holiday season to win the omni-channel shopper appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Influencing with ad copy: how to truly drive action /influencing-ad-copy-truly-drive-action-251354 Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:52:31 +0000 http:/?p=251354 Is your ad copy ineffective? Columnist Purna Virji discusses how you can tap into your customers' decision-making brains to drive clicks and conversions.

The post Influencing with ad copy: how to truly drive action appeared first on Search Engine Land.


Persuasion. Influence. Psychology.

The conversion rate optimization (CRO) crowd is adept at tapping into these to drive the actions of their audiences.

When it comes to ad copy, there may not appear to be a lot we can do to actively influence our search audience. Short of a screaming headline (not allowed), all we have is a limited set of characters.

We can make every one of those characters truly work by channeling our inner CRO expert.

Before we jump into the words that work, let’s take a few minutes to understand the psychology of decision-making. What causes us to choose X instead of Y? What’s behind our decision to opt for free shipping rather than 10 percent off our order?

Fact is, we can influence our audience with smart, effective ad copy. Here’s how.

We think like lizards

Okay, okay. I know the whole reptilian brain thing was huge back in 2012. But it’s still a really smart tactic at its core and can do magical things for ad copy.

If you missed it back then, here’s a quick overview. We all essentially have three brains driving us:

  • the human brain, which is responsible for logic, learning and conscious thought;
  • the mammalian brain, which deals with moods, memory and hormones; and
  • the reptilian brain, which rules basic survival functions like hunger and fight-or-flight.

Is anyone else appalled to learn that our decision-making is most often seated in our reptilian brain?!

We may think we’re being logical and process-oriented, but that’s just a story we tell ourselves — because our true instincts come from a gut-sense we aren’t even aware of. When it comes to decision-making, we are more lizard than human.

Our reptilian brain is driven by five areas of awareness: Pain, emotion, fear, ego and contrast.

These five areas of awareness hold the key to influencing your audience with ad copy that sparks action, so let’s explore how.

1. The pain is real

So much of our drive to purchase comes from pain points, whether large or small.

We might want a new car because it pains us to continue to pay for repairs on the old one. We pick a quiet restaurant over a noisy one because of the agony of not being able to have a conversation over the din.

Pain is a primary driver. Our ad copy can draw attention to it and offer a resolution with our product or service.

For example, most of us have had to clean up a trash-related mess in our homes at some point — usually when we’re the most tired or running late or wearing the nicest clothes. It’s never fun and never at a good time.

If you sell trash bags, reminding people of this painful time can be an effective tactic:

Image example ad Pain

Here, avoiding messy trash disasters is a huge selling point and certainly offers a solution to garbage bag pain.

How to use the pain

Think about the pain points of your customers. Now, consider how your product or service solves those paint points. Work this copy into your headline or description (and certainly on your landing page).

2. Get all emotional

Touching your customer’s emotional strings creates a connection; it breaks down resistance and lets your customer open his or her mind to your product.

Who can get through a Dove soap commercial without getting misty-eyed? Or the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials during the Super Bowl?

It’s important to note that we remember the brand names behind these highly emotional ads. Hallmark cards, anyone? I’m teary just thinking about them.

This doesn’t always have to be done at such a grand scale. Simply planting an emotional thought or speaking to the aspirations of the searcher can often be enough.

For example, when we look to invest in higher-end cookware, we’re often doing so because we want to cook even better meals for our loved ones. Here’s a great example of using callout extensions to subtly create the “warm fuzzies”:

Example ad Emotion

Williams-Sonoma evokes a wonderful sense of emotion with ad copy about cooking for friends and sharing a meal. This copy brings up your own memories of doing this, and suddenly those warm fuzzy feelings are part of your experience with Williams-Sonoma.

How to use the emotion

What moves your customer? What is it about your product that creates a connection with others? Note that the emotion doesn’t have to be teary drama — it can be a range of emotions, including anger and humor.

Once you land on an emotion you want to trigger, make sure ad copy, description and landing page are all in sync for a complete and authentic experience.

3. Fan the fear flame

Fear can actually sell as much as sex or desire, since it will trigger people to take action. Think about it. News broadcasts have peddled fear-based marketing for years. An insider rallying cry of the media has always been, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Famous brands use fear all the time in their taglines. Nike’s “Just Do It” takes aim at consumers missing out (channeling FOMO if you will), and L’Oréal’s tagline, “Because I’m Worth It,” confronts a woman’s fear of her own lack of value.

Ad copy can get to the fear in the customer in the same way.

If you felt your eyes had been feeling a little dry lately and did a quick search for “dry eyes” expecting to see an easy cure or find symptoms, you’d probably pay attention to an ad like this:

Example Ad Fear

Just the thought of something minor like dry eyes affecting my vision would be enough for me to click to learn more or pick up the phone to set up an appointment with my ophthalmologist.

Fear is primal and acute, and if your ad copy can mine that vein in a way that’s not exploitative, you can drive sales.

How to use the fear

Get inside your customer’s head and figure out what they’re afraid of, and how your product can remove the fear. For example, “Never shiver again” for a winter coat.

Often, the connection isn’t obvious. Plastic bowls, for example, answer the fear of breaking china. A new camera answers the fear of forgetting important moments.

4. Inflate that ego

We are essentially all ego-driven. “What’s in it for me?” isn’t just a marketing pillar, it’s a truth about you and me in every waking hour. So it only makes sense that ad copy that drives right to the heart of the ego is going to have some success.

Example Ad Ego

This Bobbi Brown ad really hits hard with “Perfect Your Eye Look!” and “Get a Lit-From-Within Glow” and “Be The First to Shop It.” This is all about me, and as a result it resonates extremely well.

How to use the ego

The easiest way to zing your audience’s ego is to ask yourself, “How would I want to be talked to?” If you’re being honest, then compliments, praise and encouragement will top the list of ego-happy ad copy tactics.

5. Contrast this with that

There’s a reason weight-loss businesses’ entire advertising strategy can be summed up in the phrase, “before and after pictures.” We love to see contrast. It’s the most apparent way to recognize difference.

There are a number of ways to use the contrast technique: between yourself and a competitor, between yourself and the absence of your product, or between yourself and the current solution (which may not be a product). For example, Belt A is made of finer leather than Belt B, or using Belt A is better than hitching your pants up all the time or Belt A is more fashionable than suspenders.

Alternatively, you can also look at known pain points of your competition and highlight how you’re different and/or better. For example, to become a member of a warehouse club, you’ll need to pay an annual fee. For some, this may be a pain point.

Example Contrast

Sometimes what you DON’T have is a more favorable appeal, in a contrast situation. No fees! No batteries! No sticky residue! In a specific situation, all of these contrast points would be a stronger selling point.

How to use contrast

First, take a look at your closest competitors. What are you doing or offering that’s better? Then look at your product in contrast with alternatives that people may use or buy. What’s better about your product in that context?

Finally, look at your product in contrast with no product — this can be an effective contrast, as it creates needs. I had no idea I needed non-slip sticky inserts for my heels until an ad told me I didn’t have to have aching feet.

Within the ordinary lurks the extraordinary

Sometimes word selection or how we phrase a choice can drastically impact an ad’s performance. In our constant seeking of the big idea, it’s easy to overlook the simpler things which matter the most. (I think there’s a life lesson in here somewhere, too.)

Here are two great ways to do this.

1. Use impactful verbs

One word — a single verb — can make all the difference in the world. A fascinating study illustrates this.

Participants in the study saw a film of a traffic accident and then answered questions about what they’d seen, including the question, “How fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?”

Other participants got different words instead of “contacted,” like “hit,” “bumped,” “collided” and “smashed.”

Even though they all saw the same film, the phrasing in the question influenced how fast they thought the cars were going:

Average speed perception

The livelier verbs like smashed and collided were the ones that lead to perceptions of higher speeds.

Another interesting effect. Participants were asked one week later whether they had seen broken glass at the accident site. The correct answer was “No,” but 32 percent of the participants who were given the “smashed” verb said there was broken glass. Even our memories can be influenced by word choice!

How to choose the right verb

Instead of going with typical word choices such as “Buy these boots” or a purely descriptive ad title such as “Black boots at Storename,” test some lively verbs that inspire action.

How do you think “Rock these black boots at Storename” or “Walk all over in these black boots at Storename” or “Strut your stuff” would perform in comparison?

Go with something that conjures up a more vivid mental picture to help you leave a lasting impression.

2. Test the framing effect

The framing effect is a cognitive bias; people react differently to a choice depending on how it’s presented or framed.

For example, the media can choose to portray an event in terms of lives lost vs. lives saved to leave a different impression of the same event. Or a grocery store can choose to label their ground beef as either 99 percent fat-free or 1 percent fat, and it’s likely the store will see more sales for the former.

The facts remain the same, just the degree of appeal or perception can change based on how it’s presented.

This can apply to ad copy as well. Some ideas to test:

  • “10% off” or “Free shipping?”
  • “Lifetime warranty” or “Free service for life?”
  • “Save big” or “Big savings?”

The differences may seem miniscule, but the impact usually isn’t.

The description isn’t the only place to test the framing effect, either — test it out in the headline, the call to action and the display URL, too.

Give it a whirl

Influencing with ad copy is one of our strongest tools in the paid search game. It’s also the most fun, because you get to open up your creative brain and your lizard brain and really bring some joy and satisfaction to what is normally a very technical job.

Remember to look for the big impact within the smallest places.

Set up some tests using ad copy from each of these points and see how it goes. I’d love to hear about your results, too, so drop me a note at @purnavirji.

The post Influencing with ad copy: how to truly drive action appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Is your brand prepared for voice search? 3 steps to get the conversation started /is-your-brand-prepared-for-voice-search-three-steps-to-get-the-conversation-started-247483 Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:09:55 +0000 http:/?p=247483 As voice search becomes more widely adopted, what can search marketers do to prepare? Columnist Purna Virji discusses how to adapt to this growing trend.

The post Is your brand prepared for voice search? 3 steps to get the conversation started appeared first on Search Engine Land.


Whether you work in SEO or PPC, you’ve likely noticed a new trend emerging in your search reports: a rise in longer-tail searches and question-based search phrases. The likely culprit? Voice input.

Voice search is easier than text input; we all know this. We can speak something much more naturally than we can type it. Most of us are looking for a fast fix or a way to make multi-tasking more efficient, and conversational user interfaces fit that bill perfectly.

Whether we want to ask Alexa to clarify a recipe while cooking, ask Siri for directions while driving or run quick searches during the commercial breaks when second-screening, we’re all getting increasingly comfortable using voice search and digital personal assistants.

Take a look at the rapid adoption rates that Search Engine Land reported on back in December:

Search Engine Land Study

The vast majority of folks reported adopting conversational search just within the last several months, showing how dramatically it is growing.

Why does this matter?

There’s an obstacle that brands face when adjusting to voice input for search. The obstacle is that we will turn this easy input into a complicated problem because we haven’t adjusted for it.

Here are three simple steps you can take today to prepare.

1. Rethink how you’re showing up for branded searches

Do you follow the comedian John Oliver? I love how good he is at skewering companies or people who are doing things they shouldn’t. Recently, he did a report on the problem of mistaken identity in credit reporting with the three big credit reporting companies.

John Oliver’s investigation revealed that as many as 10 million people in the United States have major errors on their credit reports as a result of mistaken identity, but the major credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) have no system in place for fixing these errors which cause a lot of havoc in people’s lives.

Here’s what he did:


He suggested his viewers visit parody sites his team created at, and Because, as he said, “It would clearly be a horrible thing if these actual companies were mistaken for these fake companies. But don’t worry – 95 percent of the time, that won’t happen. And apparently that’s good enough, right?”

While this is a hilarious parody, we do need to take into account variations in pronunciation when it comes to voice search, since the margin of error here can be quite vast.

I could search for these brand names and still come across the parody sites, like here:


As you can see, this is not ideal for the credit company’s brand.

I’m going to walk you through a true example, and this is your cautionary tale.

I did a voice search on Cortana on my desktop for Bobbi Brown makeup. I noticed that Cortana spelled “Bobbi Brown” differently from the brand name:


Here’s what the SERPs looked like:


Great job on the shopping ads here, and the organic results were on point, too. In this case, misspellings had been accounted for within the search strategy.

But what about brands that are not in English?

Let’s take Yves Saint Laurent as an example. I searched for “show me Yves Saint Laurent bags” using both Siri and Cortana:



Cortana did much better here than Siri did, but the variability in pronunciation means that we can’t count on voice search getting it right every time — at least not for a while.

Advertisers need to anticipate these issues and commit some time to resolving the voice search picture for their brands.

What can you do?

  • Research misspellings that can result from common mispronunciations of brand name, product name or key search terms.
  • Add them as a test to your keyword optimization strategy, though be careful to add in relevant negative keywords, as well.

2. Adjust for natural language

Natural language shows intent more strongly.

When you type a search, you use computer language — “Bahamas vacation deals,” for example. When you speak a search, you use your own language: “What are some Bahamas vacation deals for June?” or “How much does it cost to fly to the Bahamas?”

The advantage of this is the degree of specificity. That’s also where brands can stumble.

If your listing in the SERPs for one of these specific queries is a generic page, chances are you’ll lose the click. To boost your chances of winning, make sure you offer search results that can answer the query most closely.

For example, here are three of the ads that showed up for a conversational search for “What are some Bahamas vacation deals for June?” Which one would you have clicked on?


The third ad mentioning the “summer sale” has a very high level of relevancy, and it is the only one that factored in the specific timeline mentioned by the searcher. That’s the one I would have picked!

What can you do?

  • Optimize your landing pages and ad copy to account for high-value natural language searches.
  • Since broad match may not always account for natural language queries, consider adding these high-value natural language queries as keywords within your PPC campaigns.
  • Select keywords based on the degree of intent the searches reveal. For example, I may not want to bid on “Who lives in the Bahamas?”
  • Adjust bids based on degree of intent. For example, I would want to ensure I raised my bids for relevant queries such as “What are the best vacation packages for the Bahamas?”

3. Adapt for top of funnel

Of course, you’re showing up for branded searches or transactional searches directly asking for your product. But what about being helpful to your customers by answering their questions with information you have to share?

As you know, content marketing helps brands build loyalty. When it comes to conversational search, it also helps you show up for long-tail queries, which is another aspect of voice search that is becoming more critical.

Since voice search queries have been shown to frequently contain question words, marketers could benefit from informational creative that addresses top-of-funnel queries, as well.

While they may not immediately be transactional, this content could help build your brand’s goodwill and engagement levels.

For example:


What can you do?

  • Research a list of FAQs relevant to your products, and try optimizing those pages for the natural language query version of the questions.
  • Monitor additional KPIs, such as assisted conversions for PPC, as well as micro-conversions, such as form fills or content interaction.

In summary

Think of the last few searches you did using voice. How often are you using it? This is a great time to get a jump on voice search and voice inputs, as we all try to figure it out together as an industry.

The early adopter gets the advantage, so why not get the conversation started at your company?

The post Is your brand prepared for voice search? 3 steps to get the conversation started appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Marriage Equality, Healthcare & Low Unemployment: How Search Marketers Can Make A Difference This Tax Season /marriage-equality-healthcare-low-unemployment-search-marketers-can-make-difference-tax-season-239584 Thu, 07 Jan 2016 15:18:17 +0000 http:/?p=239584 Tax marketers, pay attention! Columnist Purna Virji discusses some developments that may impact your search campaigns this year.

The post Marriage Equality, Healthcare & Low Unemployment: How Search Marketers Can Make A Difference This Tax Season appeared first on Search Engine Land.


As the marketing world recovers from the Hunger Games-eque madness that was the holiday retail season, we know this rest period is but temporary. The next melee for paid search marketing is now upon us, in the form of tax season.

Many businesses that specialize in taxes or services that support tax filing have a similar marketing calendar to retail, in that most of the annual income happens over a span of three months. This puts a lot of pressure on a $9.3 billion industry to get it right.

This year, more than many recent years, current events are shaping new tax requirements, giving marketers an opportunity to highlight specific areas of assistance.

For example, with the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, many same-sex couples will be filing jointly for the first time. This is in addition to the over 2 million couples that already tie the knot in the US each year. Could you be the one to answer their questions when they do a search about this?

Let’s take a closer look at the events shaping the tax season this year.

1. Affordable Care Act

Healthcare coverage is now part of your tax return. Per the IRS, approximately one in five taxpayers last tax season reported that they did not have qualifying health coverage all year.

Twelve million filers claimed a healthcare coverage exemption, and over three million filed Form 8962 to get a premium tax credit. The tax penalty for not having health insurance will more than triple for 2015, making this tax season significant for many filers.

What this means for tax marketers

Zero in on terms and write ads which target keywords these filers will be searching on, such as:

  • Obamacare tax requirements.
  • Affordable Care tax info.
  • Forms for ACA tax credit.
ACA Timeline Tax Season

2. Marriage Equality Act

Anticipate newly married couples having questions about the tax benefits available to them. According to Accounting Today, members of a married couple can make unlimited gifts to their spouses without gift taxes, can inherit a spouse’s property without paying estate taxes and a surviving spouse can roll over their spouse’s IRA.

What this means for tax marketers

Capture curious filers with keywords targeting their needs, including:

  • Marriage Equality tax questions.
  • Married filing jointly.
  • Tax benefits for married couples.

3. Low Unemployment Means Many New Filers This Year

The unemployment rate remains low across the US. The US economy is estimated to have added 2.3 million jobs in 2015 alone. More jobs and fewer unemployment checks will lead to many more people filing taxes this year than in the past (Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income, but many don’t file taxes). Many filers will be first-timers, with questions they need answered.

What this means for tax marketers

  • If you have a local office or multiple offices, add location and phone numbers to your ads (in paid search ad extensions to your paid search ads to support easy access).
  • Sympathize with the overwhelming feeling that new tax filers may feel, and create messaging that reassures.
  • Bing (my employer) research shows that many sitelink terms are under-used but have high ad quality (meaning that they draw a lot of clicks).
    • For example, “Tax Calculator” is one that’s particularly neglected by advertisers but would provide a big benefit to new tax filers. This is aligned with Bing’s search trend performance analysis, which found that “tax calculator” and other variations of the term were among the most popular search terms.
  • Test ad copy that’s proven itself; in Bing’s research, they noted the top performing copy combinations across devices.
Tax Season ad copy

In Summary

Profound changes across our country are being realized in the most concrete way on our tax forms, and the opportunity to help confused tax filers is bigger than ever. Tax marketers should be prepared for the first big surge of tax searches in early January, as shown in the Bing Ads Tax Insights presentation.

If you’re a tax season marketer, what changes are you anticipating for this year?


The post Marriage Equality, Healthcare & Low Unemployment: How Search Marketers Can Make A Difference This Tax Season appeared first on Search Engine Land.