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seo in dubai Steve Costanza – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Mon, 09 Sep 2019 19:05:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 We audited Google Ad recommendations: What we learned will surprise you /we-audited-google-ad-recommendations-what-we-learned-will-surprise-you-321359 Wed, 04 Sep 2019 15:24:40 +0000 /?p=321359 The analysis revealed adding sitelinks to ads and replacing trademark terms can help but optimization scores of ad copy might not. In the end, a human-led strategy is still critical for success.

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This article has been updated to clarify a nuance of automated bidding and sitelink descriptions.

Google rolled out its “Recommendations” page, formerly known as “Opportunities,” in 2018. The page features an optimization score, which measures how well your Google Ads account is set up to perform. The higher the score, the fewer the recommendations Google has to offer.

It may seem appealing to implement recommendations from Google, given the search giant’s huge swath of search behavior data. But often, these recommendations don’t take into account retailers’ unique business goals. In some cases, the advice could increase costs or disrupt a sophisticated strategy.

My fellow analysts and I audited several recommendations appearing in various retailers’ accounts. Some recommendations, particularly those that point out missing ad components or suggest new keywords, were helpful. Other recommendations that change budgets or promote Google’s automated bidding solutions like target ROAS, can cause serious complications.

Be cautious when applying these recommendations. With a single click, you can significantly disrupt performance and lose ground in a highly competitive channel.

Worse, some recommendations are applied automatically. If you see “Auto Apply” on an ad recommendation, Google will apply the change within 14 days if it isn’t rejected. That means a campaign can shift without your explicit consent, and those changes may not always drive positive performance.

Following are a few Google Ad recommendations we uncovered as well as our assessment of their effectiveness.

Automated bidding recommendations

Google frequently suggests applying a smart bidding solution, like target ROAS, target CPA and maximize conversions. While automated bidding can save time and energy if you don’t have enough bandwidth or expertise to manage campaigns, it limits your ability to set granular bids and learn from bid adjustments. Google does provide explanations on the fundamental way their Smart Bidding solutions work, but in practice, ceding control over bidding can make it more difficult to diagnose performance problems, and there is still a learning curve on how to work with these tools to achieve your desired results.

This recommendation estimates that the retailer can gain 1.3 more conversions a week if it implements target CPA. Losing control over bid management nets the retailer a little more than one more order per week. The impact of such a change is seemingly minimal, but the cumulative effect of accepting many of these recommendations over time could be high.

Retailers should still do their best to educate themselves on digital marketing basics and think critically about their business objectives before applying automated bidding recommendations. For example, Google may suggest switching to a Target CPA strategy because it forecasts an increase in conversions. However, your business goals may prioritize revenue, ROAS, or click volume, in which case Target CPA could be at odds with those objectives. Furthermore, your account may be set to include non-purchase actions in the conversions column (think email signups, or key page views), and switching to a Target CPA strategy could potentially optimize toward the wrong types of conversions.

In addition, the suggestion provides no explanation of what will happen to traffic if the retailer uses target CPA. If the smart bidding solution sets CPA too low, it could strangle traffic. In a competitive environment like Google Ads, lost opportunity can hamper performance for weeks.

The optimization score gain from this change, 12 percent, is also the highest of any of the recommendations we saw. The high score suggests that implementing smart bidding solutions like target CPA will make the most positive impact on campaigns. This is misleading because smart bidding can have unpredictable outcomes. You may have a negative impact on secondary goals beyond CPA or ROAS. Consider these risks and take inventory of your specific marketing objectives before applying an automated bidding tool.

Ad creative recommendations

Google recommendations are a helpful way to audit paid search ads. Copy improvements that would take a lot of human hours or days to adjust, will take Google a matter of minutes. The search platform can quickly analyze paid search ads and understand if key components of the ad are missing.

In this example, the retailer would benefit from adding sitelink descriptions to its ads. Sitelink descriptions, when featured, provide more information about the sitelink and help the paid search ad capture more space on the SERP. This attracts more clicks. It also provides relevant information to consumers, which improves quality score. A higher quality score lowers ad costs.

Although all of that makes a big impact on paid search performance, Google says this particular recommendation only increases the retailer’s optimization score by 0.1 percent. In reality, these tweaks can improve performance significantly.

Google provides a helpful tip here, but its optimization score misleads the retailer about the importance of useful, targeted ad copy.

Keyword recommendations

Similar to ad audits, Google analyzes retailers’ keywords and assesses how much traffic certain terms drive. If particular keywords haven’t delivered traffic, Google will suggest eliminating those terms from the campaign, as it does below.

In this instance, Google suggests the retailer remove important trademark terms. While these terms don’t receive a great deal of traffic, they have a very high click-through and conversion rate. And since they appear in the SERP only occasionally, they are not driving up costs for the retailer. It doesn’t hurt to have these terms in the campaign, but rather covers an important base for this retailer.

Google also recommends adding “trending terms” to retailers’ campaigns. In the below example, Google suggests the retailer add the term “gigs in new york” to its paid search campaign. The retailer sells women’s apparel, so the keyword is not related to its products or the consumer demographic it’s trying to reach.

Since this term receives a great deal of traffic, it would drive up costs for the retailer and harm efficiency.

Audience reach recommendations

The final recommendation type Google often supplies attempts to expand retailer reach through account settings. In the example below, Google advises the retailer to implement Google search partners to expand the reach of a campaign. Google search partners are non-Google properties that display Google ads. Retailers pay for these search partner ads in a similar CPC model.

In some instances, applying Google search partners to an account could drive positive results. If you have the necessary budget and have optimized impression share for your shopping and search campaigns, search partners could provide an additional impression and conversion lift. This feature may not appeal to you if you have a limited budget.

It’s important to test this setting on different campaign types to understand its effect on performance. Generally speaking, high-intent or branded campaigns tend to perform better on the search network because consumers are actively searching for your products. Campaigns with general search terms tend to drive up costs at a lower conversion.

Advertising with Google search partners also limits your control over bids. Google automates this aspect, meaning you cannot adjust bids if spend increases beyond a sustainable level. Instead, you simply must turn off search partners.

Ad recommendations are not a quick fix

Ad recommendations may be a helpful tool for improving your Google campaigns, but without careful consideration, these recommendations can easily derail performance. Your retail business has established performance marketing goals and strategies, and you should weigh these recommendations against those tactics. Google’s most common and highly recommended changes – applying smart bidding tools – can potentially disrupt your campaigns the most.

Google’s effort to automate some recommendations can create further confusion and issues for retailers. Closely monitor the ad recommendations page and make sure your campaigns aren’t being changed without your knowledge.

On the surface, ad recommendations seem helpful and easy to apply, but you must be cautious. Although Google is developing more sophisticated automation, ultimately a human-led strategy taking into account unique business goals is still critical for success on Google Ads.

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Prime Day halo effect and 6 other trends to watch for back-to-school search marketing /prime-day-halo-effect-and-6-other-trends-to-watch-for-back-to-school-search-marketing-319849 Wed, 24 Jul 2019 17:50:50 +0000 /?p=319849 Here are some results of Prime Day’s impact in the Google search channel, what they mean for the coming weeks and other major trends on the back-to-school season and beyond.

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Amazon Prime Day is the hard start to the back-to-school shopping season – this year more than ever.

But the bigger trend is that Prime Day is no longer confined to Amazon. It pervades the entire retail industry, with shopping interest heightening across multiple marketing channels.

Including Google search.

My colleagues and I took a look at some of the biggest trends influencing back-to-school search marketing, from Prime Day and its halo effect, to newer Google Ad formats and targeting capabilities. Here are some results of Prime Day’s impact in the Google search channel, what they mean for the coming weeks and other major trends to capitalize on this back-to-school season and beyond.

1. Prime Day led to high search interest on Google

It’s no surprise Prime Day hype reached a new high this year, and Google Trends demonstrates it. Google Trend scores are relative to one another, meaning a 100 – which occurred during this year’s Prime Day week – represents the peak popularity of a search term over a period of time. Relatively speaking, searches for “Prime Day deals” on Google were 26 percent less popular in 2018.

We also analyzed several hundred retailers’ Google Shopping impressions during June and July 2019 and compared them year over year to further understand the impact of Prime Day on Google search interest. 

During the two weeks prior to Prime Day (which was July 1-14 in 2019, and July 2-15 in 2018), we found a 58-percent growth in Google Shopping mobile impressions. For context – that growth was exactly the same in June year over year.

The inflection point came on Prime Day, which ran 48 hours this year and 36 hours last year. Google Shopping mobile impressions grew by 80 percent on the first day of Prime Day 2019 (July 15) compared to the first day of Prime Day 2018 (July 16). The second day of Prime Day saw an 84 percent increase in mobile impressions year over year.

Desktop/tablet growth was even more pronounced, jumping from a modest 18 percent growth before Prime Day, to 40 percent and 47 percent respectively over the two-day sale.

2. The Prime Day halo effect creates opportunity in Google search

Why the increased search interest on Google, when Amazon was the behemoth running the sale? Consumers could have been price checking on Google Shopping (activity perhaps accelerated by Amazon’s recently revised price parity clause). Consumers also could have been seeing if products were available in a store nearby. Or, consumers were searching for discounted products offered by the many retailers that ran their own promotions during Prime Day.

This is further evidence that Prime Day transcends Amazon. The halo effect is creating heightened shopping interest across other channels, including Google search. As a result, retailers offering back-to-school products, as well as many other types of products, may see higher impressions in Google Ads over the next couple weeks as consumers continue to search for items that caught their eye during Prime Day, but didn’t purchase. The coming weeks also might deliver strong performance for retargeting campaigns you have running.

Additionally, July and August are shaping up to be a good time to potentially carry out dry runs for certain year-end holiday promotions, not just back-to-school promotions. Take advantage of the heightened brand awareness and shopping interest. Consider small tests to experiment with various discount amounts, coupon amounts, and promotional ad copy that you’ll run more broadly in Q4.

3. Back-to-school is a short and increasingly well-defined season

Prime Day has become the kickoff to the back-to-school season, offering deep discounts for price-conscious parents and students. From there, the seasonal peak continues to arrive early. For instance, for a multinational apparel and accessories brand, we found that July 30 to Aug. 5 was the top seven-day period in 2018 in terms of Google Shopping clicks and conversions for queries containing “backpack.”

The season tends to end as abruptly as it starts. For the same brand, the full week of Labor Day in 2018 (Sept. 2-8) saw a conversion rate dropoff of 50 percent on “backpack” terms from its seasonal peak performance.

As the back-to-school season progresses, remember there is less time for a click to convert within this season. That’s because Google Ads attributes orders to the click date, not the transaction date.

As always, it’s important to get in front of shoppers when they are figuring out what to buy and from where. Once shoppers have picked a retailer, they are likely to skip the search engine altogether, cutting other advertisers out of the equation entirely.

4. Back-to-school remains a frenzied competition

With only a short season to work with and competition fiercer than ever, proactively adjusting your bids is paramount to the success of your seasonal marketing strategy.

You’ve probably already referred to your performance data from last season as a guiding point for campaign and bidding strategies this year. If you haven’t, segment the performance of your top back-to-school products and keywords by day or week from the previous year to predict when performance trends up and down.

A best practice is to use revenue per click as your target KPI, because it considers both the increase in conversion rate and the downshift in average order values that come with heavy promotional periods.

Of course, as investment prospectuses always say, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Rather, more recent performance (generally 30 days) of your top queries and products should be the base off which you build your predictive bid adjustments. Factors like inventory, product mix, competitive landscape, and changes to Google’s algorithm can have massive implications on performance year to year. Keep an eye on the future, but stay firmly planted in the now.

5. Electronics and clothing will be top sellers – but know which parts of YOUR catalog will be most in demand

A well-groomed Google Ads account is the key to dominating seasonality. Within Shopping, make sure you are setting up your campaigns, ad groups, or product groups to isolate your top back-to-school items. The top two expenses for back-to-school shoppers this year will be clothing and accessories, and electronics, according to the National Retail Federation. That said, review your past performance to pinpoint which items in your catalog will be most in demand.

If your product feed doesn’t have the most accurate or descriptive product types, consider using a custom label to tag your seasonal products. The more granular your bidding structure, the more control you have over which products you promote.

Within text ads, your campaigns are hopefully already grouped into themes. Rather than apply blanket adjustments to all your campaigns, bid up more selectively on keyword groups that represent your bestselling back-to-school products. Don’t forget to update your ad copy and landing pages for the season, especially if you are running promos or have created new seasonal site pages.

To get more advanced, consider creating a separate campaign for back-to-school keywords, so you can quickly and easily modify your spending on those terms after the Labor Day weekend dropoff.

6. Back-to-school search terms are likely to trigger Showcase Shopping ads

As I’ve shared in the past, Google continues to chip away at traditional shopping ads that display for broad queries on mobile. The replacement is the more visually engaging Showcase Shopping ad. This trend accelerated prior to the holiday season last year, meaning this is the first back-to-school shopping season where Showcase ads will be a major traffic driver.

Here’s a look at Showcase Shopping ad impressions for a sample of several hundred retailers over the past 18 months:

Search terms like “school supplies,” “backpacks,” and “kids apparel” are likely to trigger Showcase Shopping ads now. If you’re not in the Showcase game, you’re essentially missing out on all the impressions Google’s algorithm is now deciding should trigger a Showcase ad carousel. Check out these Showcase Shopping how-to’s I’ve shared on Search Engine Land for help on navigating the format.

7. Back-to-school is a key use case for Detailed Demographics

Back-to-school is also a good time to use Google’s Detailed Demographics with your shopping campaigns. Of particular interest during this season is the segment for parents—broken down by parents of infants (0-1), toddlers (1-3), preschoolers (4-5), grade-schoolers (6-12), and teens (13-17).

If your catalog spans all these age groups as well as adults without kids, it might make sense to segment your campaigns or ad groups by demographic targets, to hone in on the products most relevant to each audience.

Back to school, back to holiday planning

Once back-to-school reaches its end in September, the year-end holidays will enter the consumer conscience. Drive the best performance from your back-to-school campaigns now, while starting to shift your time into holiday planning mode. More to come in my column as the holiday season nears.

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New customer acquisition vs. retention: 7 best practices for search /new-customer-acquisition-vs-retention-7-best-practices-for-search-315674 Fri, 19 Apr 2019 15:56:31 +0000 /?p=315674 Here’s how retailers should map their audience strategy for new-versus-returning customers to search.

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Like nearly all retailers, a large health and beauty organization is facing escalating competition and CPCs on search. The performance marketing team realizes it can’t keep paying heightening costs to acquire the same levels of revenue from repeat customers.

At the same time, the team recognizes it can better coordinate its strategy on other channels. Retargeting, email and direct can work together more cohesively to push customers to purchase once they’re in the door, or back in the door, from search.

They developed a new strategy for tackling Google Ads, one focused on identifying and treating new customers differently than returning customers. The ultimate goal is to achieve more granular return targets for new versus repeat customers, with repeat customers generating a much more efficient return than in the past.

This scenario is not an isolated case. Many performance marketing teams in retail are keen to understand how a new-versus-repeat customer model works for search. Some of the most common questions are: What should we know about this approach? What’s the process to implement it? How would we measure success?

Here are some best practices.

1. Realize the war for the wallet will be won at the top of the funnel

A new-versus-returning customer strategy can make a lot of sense in today’s competitive climate. Here’s why:

  • Retailers can’t fight for the bottom of the funnel anymore. CPCs continue to rise in direct response channels like search. Retailers’ average CPC in Google paid search (text ads) grew by 14% in 2018, reaching $0.71, according to Sidecar’s 2019 Benchmarks Report: Google Ads in Retail. Google Shopping CPC averaged $0.57 in 2018, up by 4%. Competition in search is at a fever pitch. Retailers are moving the battle to the top of the funnel because they’ve realized the downstream benefits it provides to get in front of customers in the research stage.
  • Most retailers own their customers less and less. Consumers have more options than ever in terms of where and when they shop. As a result, most retailers own their customers less and need to work harder and smarter to secure loyalty. With that in mind, consider this: If someone who just purchased from you is now searching for products you sell using generic terms in a competitive space like Google, is that person really your customer? Or is she a prospect you need to re-acquire at the top of the funnel?

Both these realizations speak to the growing importance of the upper funnel. Similarly, acquiring new customers requires you to strengthen the top of your marketing funnel. And strengthening the top, in turn, requires you to shore up the middle and bottom of your funnel, so prospects move forward to conversion.

2. Define what ‘customer’ means to your business

Here’s one of the biggest pitfalls marketers face when developing an audience strategy: They overlook the step of defining what comprises a customer, and how that definition translates to their search campaigns.

That definition can vary greatly among marketing departments. Some define a customer as any visitor who has purchased in the last six months. Others define a customer as a visitor who has purchased at any point in time. Still, others consider a customer to be a returning visitor who is searching only using branded keywords.

Your definition of a customer should align with how you want to treat past purchasers. This thought goes back to the idea that “most retailers own their customers less and less.” If someone bought from you four years ago and hasn’t purchased since, would you still consider him a customer, and treat him the same as someone who bought from you a month ago?

Say two people bought from you yesterday. Theoretically, your brand is still fresh in their heads. But today, one shopper searches for the types of products you offer using a generic term. The other shopper uses a branded term. Would you consider both of them active customers? Or would you say you need to re-acquire the shopper who used the generic term?

Those are some philosophical considerations to help arrive at your definition of a customer. The other factor is data. Analyze your transaction data to identify trends in repurchase cadence. At what point in time does it become highly unlikely that the shopper will return? One month? Three months? A year? More? Those findings can help inform whether it makes sense to define a customer based on time, and what that timing threshold should be.

3. Understand your customers’ purchase path

Search is typically a new customer acquisition channel, and you can find new customers at varying levels of cost. As you move up the funnel within search marketing, it tends to cost more to acquire new customers.

However, if you have a strong understanding of your customers’ purchase path, you ideally know that a heightened cost is justified, because you can see your other channels—like email, affiliates, direct, etc.—are coming into play to nurture customers to purchase.

Gaining this understanding has a lot to do with your attribution model. Having a multi-channel attribution model is essential to viewing performance across your channels—and that also makes it a key best practice with a new-versus-returning customer strategy.

Most retailers’ audiences interact with the brand using multiple channels. A multi-channel attribution model lets you more accurately value the role of those channels. That knowledge can translate into critical information for determining the size of your investment and your ROI goal, channel by channel.

4. Create campaigns supporting each audience segment

Once you’ve defined what a customer means to your business, segment your ad campaigns based on new versus returning customers. This is where features like Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) and Customer Match can come into play.

Here’s an example setup involving these features and several similar ones. Keep in mind, this is just one way to slice it. You might find a version of this approach is better for your business and goals.

  • New and uncookied customers (prospects) – This audience is comprised of shoppers who are uncookied and have never purchased. You can build this campaign without remarketing lists, but you can enhance your prospecting efforts by using tools like similar audiences, in-market audiences, affinity audiences, and demographic targeting.
  • New and cookied customers – This bucket could be comprised of shoppers who visited your site but did not purchase within a certain time frame, such as the past 180 days. Create sets of remarketing lists and adjust bids using audience modifiers in Google Ads. Create lists and set modifiers based on the user’s likelihood of converting (e.g., cart abandoners vs. bounced users). The new and cookied bucket also could include customers who have purchased further back than your specified window (in this example, 180 days), because you might consider this audience to fall back into the “new, yet cookied” category.
  • Returning customers – This encompasses shoppers who’ve purchased within the past 180 days (to continue with the example). You can create this segment with a combination of Customer Match (email lists) and cookied purchasers (users who landed on your order confirmation page). For even more granularity, break these users into segments, such as high lifetime value, dormant, or first-time buyers.

5. Set a unique return goal for each audience segment

Once you’ve developed your audience buckets, determine a unique return goal for each audience. A good return goal should align with the goals of your business and the campaign.

Also, it’s important to note the inherent relationship between return and revenue. Generally, a stricter return goal will limit revenue opportunities, and a more liberal return goal will open revenue opportunities.

For instance, you might be willing to target a less efficient goal for prospects (perhaps 30-45% cost/sale), a similar or slightly more efficient goal for the new and cookied audience (25-40% cost/sale), and a much more efficient goal for returning customers (about 5-10% cost/sale).

Generally, with a new-versus-returning customer model, you should be willing to spend more budget and operate to a less efficient return goal to attract new customers. By contrast, you should target a more efficient goal for returning customers because you’ve already invested in this audience and you’ve determined it is more likely to convert after having purchased in the past.

6. Segment each campaign further to align with your customers’ journey

Once you establish baseline campaigns for new and returning customers, analyze your data to determine if there’s enough volume to segment even further. For instance, do you still have enough data to split each campaign by device? If you know that more users are beginning their purchase journeys on smartphones compared to desktop or tablet, is there further value to be gained by targeting these mobile users differently?

Also consider whether you can segment by branded and non-branded terms, or trademarked and non-trademarked terms. That’s because search terms, naturally, reveal tremendous insight into purchase intent.

A new customer searching “laser printers” is probably at the top of the funnel, while a new customer searching “Brother HL-L2370DW printer” is further along in the funnel. If you have enough traffic hitting each of those two types of terms, consider segmenting by them in your new customer campaign.

The same concept applies to your returning customer campaign. For instance, If you see enough traffic going to generic terms versus branded or trademarked terms, consider creating campaigns for each type of query.

7. Watch for KPIs of success

Some of the most important questions to ask yourself as you evaluate performance are: Are you hitting your return goals? Are new customers aligning with your ideal customer profile? Are you increasing net new customers, while maintaining the same level of profit? Is cost per conversion down for returning customers?

Get in the habit of making incremental tweaks about every three months, depending on the trends arising in your data.

Your growth in search will naturally level off if you don’t innovate. Refresh your view of performance, and rethink the role of search in your performance marketing strategy. Consider whether your business and marketing goals are a fit for a model centered on targeting new versus returning customers.

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How retailers can survive Amazon’s stronghold in Google search /how-retailers-can-survive-amazons-stronghold-in-google-search-313725 Fri, 08 Mar 2019 19:24:35 +0000 /?p=313725 Keep Amazon’s impression share in perspective because it shouldn’t directly drive strategy, but rather provide context around the advertiser competition in your market.

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Retail marketers can’t out-Amazon on the paid Google SERP, but they can find white space.

Among the metrics that can help is impression share. It’s in the Google Auction Insights report for shopping and paid search campaigns.

Impression share is the percentage of impressions your ads received divided by the estimated number of impressions the ads were eligible to receive. Google determines eligibility based on a number of factors, including targeting settings, approval statuses and quality.

On the surface, impression share can help you understand whether your ads might reach more shoppers if you increase your bids or budget.

But a smarter way to use impression share is for gaining context into how your advertising environment is shifting. Evaluate it alongside other performance and competitive metrics. From there, use those insights to identify how to adapt your campaigns and bidding strategy to the changing competitive pressure.

Let’s take a look at the latest data and examples for how to go about it.

Amazon’s impression share in Google Shopping

We analyzed Google Auction Insights reports for a leading retailer in five verticals. These retailers all see Amazon as a regular competitor in Google Shopping and Google paid search.

The following chart shows the share of impressions Amazon has garnered over the last two years for Google Shopping auctions in which both the retailer and Amazon were eligible to serve an ad.

From this chart we can make a few observations. One is that Amazon’s impression share tended to increase as each year progressed, reaching a peak just before or during each holiday shopping period, and dipping sharply during Q2 2018 when Amazon briefly paused its shopping campaigns.

We can also see that Amazon’s share of impressions for categories such as office supplies and home improvement was consistently higher than its share for sporting goods or apparel.

Why the difference between verticals? In part it’s a reflection of each retailer’s search query universe and how much it overlaps that of Amazon. The home improvement and office supplies retailers likely share more of Amazon’s search query universe.

By contrast, a retailer who sells a lot of, say, North Face and Nike products might not see much competition from Amazon, because those brands are not available on Amazon. When consumers search using North Face- or Nike-branded terms, for example, Amazon could possibly appear in search results with ads for similar products. Still, Amazon would have a much lower impression on those items because of their lower relevance.

Ramping up apparel

Take a closer look below at Amazon’s impression share within the apparel category on Google Shopping over the past several months.

One takeaway here is that the hockey-stick growth aligns with Amazon’s private label surge. The company introduced seven new private label brands and over 150 Amazon-exclusive brands in Q4 2018, according to the TJI Amazon Brand Database. Amazon’s largest brand portfolio? Apparel and accessories, with over 80 private label and exclusive brands in the U.S.

Amazon’s impact in paid search vs. shopping campaigns

Looking at the same retailers in Google paid search shows a slightly different set of results.

Amazon has long been active in paid search. While it continues to experiment and fine tune its Google Shopping strategy, the company has a more established and consistently growing presence in paid search, as this impression share data suggests.

An outlier, however, is Amazon’s heightened impression share within the office supplies category. That trend aligns with Amazon’s push in the office supplies market over the past few quarters.

For another view of the data, let’s isolate Amazon’s impression share for each vertical.

Compete with Amazon, not against it

The best way to respond to Amazon’s growth is not to panic. Look at your bottom line and determine what, if any, impact Amazon is having on your business. Impression share is a metric that shouldn’t directly drive strategy, but rather provide context around the advertiser competition in your market.

At the end of the day, keep Amazon’s impression share in perspective. Amazon is influential, but retailers that know their business and customers can be well-equipped to handle rising impression share from competitors. Here’s how.

Know how to interpret impression share

Impression share can you help you determine your biggest competitors on Google, and how that landscape is changing. While you probably know your competitors overall for your business, that composition might differ in Google’s shopping and paid search channels. For instance, retailers that devote most of their digital marketing budget to Google Shopping could create strong competition for you on that channel, while creating little competition elsewhere. Use impression share to uncover new entrants or established competitors who are being more or less aggressive with their bids. Say your CPCs suddenly rise. Examine impression share to see whether a competitor’s heightened spending is a factor.

Understand a healthy impression share for your business

Your business, competitive landscape, and return goals determine an ideal impression share. If you’re up against deep-pocketed competitors like Amazon, an impression share of 10% might be healthy for your campaigns, as long as you’re driving revenue efficiently. If you’re achieving your revenue targets within your campaign’s return goals, there’s little concern about a few competitors outranking you.

Dig into click share, too

Click share is the percentage of clicks on your ads relative to the clicks they were eligible to receive. Analyze click share in combination with impression share to get a better sense of where your campaigns are weak and can improve. In paid search, if impression share is high but click share is low, your ads might be appearing for irrelevant queries. If the same situation is happening in Google Shopping, your products might be priced too high above the competition. Or, maybe competitors are showing promotions on their ads more often than you. Conversely, if impression share is low and click share is high, consider bidding more aggressively to increase impressions and earn even more clicks. Push products that have the best price for an easy win.

Use smarter segmentation

If you can’t simply increase budget as a response to competitors’ rising impression share, try this instead: Segment products into campaigns based on how much exposure you want those products to get. Increase bids in the campaigns containing the highest margin or best performing items. Or, create separate campaigns for branded and non-branded queries. In Sidecar’s 2018 Google Shopping Benchmarks report, we found that clicks from branded searches delivered 171 percent more ROI and a CTR four times higher than that of non-branded searches. Also, within Google Shopping, use negative keywords to filter queries and avoid wasting impressions on less relevant or low-performing terms.

Bring your mobile strategy up to date

Google Shopping hit a milestone in Q4 2018, according Sidecar’s research. For the first time ever, more than half of all Shopping conversions on occured on mobile devices. Google paid search wasn’t far behind with 44 percent of all conversions occuring on mobile in Q4. If exposure and brand awareness are among your goals for Google Shopping, you’ll get more bang for your buck on mobile where CPCs are cheaper and where Showcase ads are a factor. Those mobile impressions can lead to conversions on both mobile and desktop. Consider creating a separate campaign for mobile traffic if you haven’t yet. It will let you tune bids granularly to how your products perform on mobile.

Plan search and shopping campaigns cohesively

As the above charts show, metrics like impression share vary between shopping and paid search campaigns. You might find, for instance, that you face greater competition in paid search than Shopping. As a result, you might treat paid search as more of a bottom-of-the-funnel channel and focus spend on high-intent queries that have the greatest chance of converting. To complement that strategy, consider how you can fill the top of the funnel with Google Shopping—a channel where you already have an advantage in terms of exposure. You might be able to withstand bidding more aggressively on a greater swath of products to drive up impression share even more.

Evaluate a move to multi-touch attribution

Most retail marketers probably agree that last touch attribution is a fundamentally flawed approach in today’s omnichannel world. On the other hand, multi-touch attribution can empower you to measure performance across channels and gain an entirely new (and more accurate) view of your customers’ journey. While it’s certainly not a simple feat to shift attribution models, some retailers, like Moosejaw, are successfully making the move. The retail landscape is only becoming more competitive. A multi-touch model that aligns with your business and goals might be among the few, major ways you can uncover a new advantage to push shoppers through your marketing funnel.

By carefully coordinating shopping and paid search campaigns, you’re positioning yourself to achieve a full-funnel marketing approach. Put your customers first when devising any strategy for Google Ads, while keeping your competitors in view.

The post How retailers can survive Amazon’s stronghold in Google search appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Navigating Showcase Shopping Ads this holiday season /navigating-showcase-shopping-ads-this-holiday-season-308500 Fri, 23 Nov 2018 12:30:40 +0000 /?p=308500 Recent updates have made Showcase ads appear for more specific queries while the addition of video is giving retailers a new, visual way to promote their brand.

The post Navigating Showcase Shopping Ads this holiday season appeared first on Search Engine Land.


When Google announced Showcase Shopping ads in 2016, two objectives were mission critical: to help shoppers discover what they wanted to buy and where they wanted to buy it.

Today, the ad format is still an important method used to capture shoppers using broad terms on Google. But the tech giant is doing more than just catering to upper funnel shoppers this holiday season. Recent updates have made Showcase ads appear for more specific queries while the addition of video is giving retailers a new, visual way to promote their brand.

A lot is happening in the world of Showcase ads ahead of the year-end retail rush. Let’s talk about Google’s latest updates, results we’re seeing, and what retailers can do to get the most out of Showcase ads during the holidays.

Here’s what is new

Showcase terms expand

Showcase ads were initially released as ads displayed for generic queries. Recent data from Sidecar (my employer) has shown that they’re also moving down the shopping funnel as the holidays approach. In addition to broad search terms, Showcase ads are now rendering for more specific and branded terms.

These terms, which now range from broad searches like “couch” or “sofa” to detailed searches like “KitchenAid mixer,” indicate Google’s willingness to test a wide range of search queries and determine the value of Showcase ads throughout the shopping journey. Engaging high-intent shoppers may lead to higher conversions and position Showcase ads as a full-funnel format.

Top Showcase slot drives higher CTR

Google last year revealed that Shopping ads appearing in the leftmost spot on mobile receive up to three times more engagement from shoppers than other positions. Showcase ads have seen similar results since launch. According to Google, the top Showcase slot drives 3.6 times higher than average click-through rate. Shoppers rely on Showcase ads to discover new products, and retailers who appear in the leftmost slot have more opportunity to engage with these shoppers.

Video in showcase ads

In September, Google announced a new addition called video in Showcase ads. This feature allows retailers to include a video of any length along with their Showcase ad. Video is a vehicle retailers can use to differentiate themselves and serve captivating visuals to get shoppers’ attention. Google was strategic with its release, too: The rollout of video comes just in time for the holiday season.

Still a discovery-driven format? Look to the data

Showcase ads may soon be an effective way to drive purchases and find new customers, but the data suggests they are still mainly an exposure play for retailers. We took a look at Showcase ad performance over a 16-week period between July and October 2018. The data, based on a sample of over 50 U.S. retailers, shows that impressions and engagements increased significantly while conversions stayed relatively flat over that time.


Both impressions and engagements began to tick up in mid-September, with each reaching peak values in mid-October. Conversions, on the other hand, remained static over the 16-week trial, never seeing more than a 20 percent week-over-week increase.

Google’s expansion of Showcase terms to include specific queries may help bolster conversions over time, but for now, Showcase ads remain an exploratory ad format.

Tactics to employ this holiday season

Use Showcase ads to increase exposure

Discovery is key when it comes to Showcase ads. While it’s helped inform early-stage shoppers about new retailers and products, the expansion of Showcase terms targets shoppers in every stage of the shopping journey.

Use Showcase ads to get your name and products in front of as many shoppers as possible. It’s a powerful format that helps shoppers get more acquainted with your brand and the products you have to offer. Whether your ads appear to low-intent shoppers in the research phase or high-intent shoppers ready to buy, being visible to a wide range of shoppers can only benefit your business.

Keep an eye on specific and branded query performance

The growing number of Showcase terms expands the playing field to include shoppers who are further down the funnel. While it remains unknown just how well specific terms in Showcase ads perform, retail marketers should keep a keen eye on specific and branded searches — especially during the holidays.

Use query mapping to see which ad groups and keywords specific queries are being matched with. This will shed light on how well these lower-funnel searches are faring in Showcase ads. Stay close to shifts in performance from one campaign to the next and use this intel to inform spend on specific keywords.

Know the difference between negating keywords in Shopping and Showcase ads

When two or more Shopping campaigns promote the same product, a priority setting (low, medium, or high) can be set for each to determine which campaigns’ set of products should be bid on in auction. This setting can also help funnel certain keywords downward.

The process of segmenting keywords is different for Showcase ads. According to Google, campaign priority is not compatible with Showcase ads. If you create a low-priority Showcase campaign that only contains keywords you negated from the high-priority campaign, the low-priority campaign will pick up many queries along with the queries negated from the high-priority campaign.

Don’t look to your Shopping campaigns to inform your negative keywords for Showcase ads. Instead, simply negate the keywords you don’t want to appear for Showcase ads.

Build a campaign tree that excludes underperforming products

Showcase ads don’t allow you to bid at the product or product group level. Since this is the case, think about building a campaign tree to exclude certain products that don’t perform well. This will help you focus directly on promoting the products that move the needle for your business and achieve your Showcase ad goals.

If you’re focused on generic query performance, for example, you may exclude high price tiers so you’re showing products that are more affordable and approachable to a wider variety of buyers.

Use the search terms report to gauge the need for new ads

Let your query performance inform your campaigns. In Google Ads, use the search terms report to determine which queries are driving traffic to your site and which queries are performing poorly. Running this report helps you gauge the need to create new Showcase ads. For instance, if you have a kitchen appliance ad or ad group and are seeing queries roll in for coffeemakers, it may be a good idea to build a separate ad specifically targeting coffeemakers.

Develop a strategic approach to video content

Video in Showcase ads will be an important vehicle in maximizing brand exposure. Before deployment, however, retailers should give their development process careful consideration. Think about how your business can benefit from the addition of video and what its purpose will serve in each of your Showcase ads. These factors should serve as the backbone of your video production strategy.

Consider all that goes into the development of video for Showcase ads. From content ideation to creative execution, video requires collaborative thought from some resources. Create a content strategy for video that makes the best use of your time and team.

These tactics can play a big part in getting the most out your Showcase ads this holiday season. With these actionable items in place, your Showcase ads are set to take on the holiday retail blitz and beyond.

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