Google Launches “What do you love?”

30 06 2011

What do you love?

While the introduction of Google+ took center stage this week, Google was quietly rolling out a new product, What Do You Love? (WDYL) behind the scenes.  Its clean and aesthetically pleasing design delivers a useful conglomeration of a number of their products.  Appealing to people’s sense of fun and personal interests, WDYL lets people search for things they “love”, while showcasing a wide array of Google’s lesser known (and well known) products in one centralized dashboard.  A brilliant stab at marketing, really.  It delivers as a dashboard  mash-up of Google’s products (potentially disguised as a marketing vehicle).  However, the results are nonetheless intriguing and an interesting tool for some off the cuff competitive research.

What is WDYL? – Initial Thoughts

With no formal announcement regarding the new WDYL service by Google, the intended purpose and functionality has yet to go public.  WDYL allows users to search for something you love (bonus points for the cute heart “search button”) and serves a dashboard of results containing the thing you love, conveniently placed in a “call to action” for one of Google’s many products.

  • The merging of people’s “loves” (similar to “likes” as Facebook provides) with each product is a clever way of utilizing things people are passionate about and associating those things with a Google product.
  • Each Google product module headline on the dashboard contains a “call to action” to use that Google product to find out more about what it is the user loves.  A few of these include (using an example search for “mac and cheese”):
    • Google Maps: “Find mac and cheese nearby”
    • Google Image Search: “See pictures of mac and cheese”
    • Google Earth: “Scour the earth for mac and cheese”
    • Google Alerts: “Alert me about mac and cheese”
    • Google SketchUp: “Explore mac and cheese in 3D”
    • YouTube: “Watch videos of mac and cheese”
  • To do any of the above actions requires that the user actually use the Google product.
  • Google has done a good job of integrating familiar products (Maps, YouTube) with the unfamiliar (SketchUp, Moderator) which may be a good long-term strategy for keeping users interested long enough to gain visibility for their other more obscure products.
  • Additionally, with each search a new order and placement of each of Google’s product modules is displayed.  So users are not always seeing Images or News at the top of their dashboard.  Patent Search or Moderator may secure the top of the dashboard, high visibility location.

What do you love?

So, if WDYL is successful at promoting some of these lesser known products and gaining users, would Google failures like Wave (among others) have had a chance to shine?  Or, is this just a fun exploration tool to use on rainy days?  Bigfoot followers might be interested to see the Google Earth result that implores them to “Scour the earth for bigfoot”.

There are definitely kinks to work out, as many searches miss the mark.  The templatized style of WDYL doesn’t meld together well with every single search, or fit into the same warm and fuzzy “what do you love?” category.  With relevancy being at the core of Google’s mission, I’m surprised that they haven’t found a clever way to combat more negative searches such as “suicide”, which returns a Google calendar result with a “Plan your suicide events” headline.  These types of unintelligent results could be a turnoff for searchers.

It will be interesting to see how these standalone products can work together and how successful or unsuccessful WDYL is in the coming months.  It’s too soon to tell if WDYL has staying power, or if it fade eventually fade into obscurity.   In the meantime, how do you plan to use Google’s “What Do You Love” service?





59% of Internet Users Search Google to find a Local Business

26 05 2011

If you’re a local business, you want to know where people go to find your business and other businesses like yours online.  According to a research study conducted by CityGrid Media and Harris Interactive, Google continues to be the top place on the web that US consumers look to find local business information.  In fact, 43% of US consumers turn to local search to find local businesses, while BrightLocal found that a staggering 59% of internet users in general search on Google at least once a month to find a business.

eMarketer, March 2011

In addition, the study found that:

  • At 43%, Google Places beat out Yellow Pages (30%), Review Sites (13%), Facebook (12%) and Twitter (2%) as the top online source US consumers check before visiting a business.
  • A recommendation from a friend influenced 52% of US consumers to try a local business.
  • The location of the business was a factor for 10% of US consumers in deciding whether or not to visit a business, while 8% said that a deal influenced their decision.

eMarketer, March 2011

What this means for Local Businesses

While Google Places is a hugely important place for local businesses to be in order to be found online, it’s the word-of-mouth (friend) recommendations that have the ability to influence 52% of US consumers to visit a particular business.  First, in order to be found on Google, a business needs to address local SEO opportunities such as claiming and optimizing their Google Place Page, and a myriad of other items which this local SEO presentation outlines.

Secondarily, a local business needs to focus their attention on creating and retaining happy, loyal customers, who will become word-of-mouth marketers for the company (and pass along their recommendation to a friend).  And, if you take leaf out of this business’s book, as noted in Andy Sernovitz’s blog, they actually educate their customers on how to become word-of-mouth marketers for the company.  Either way, it’s a process that should become a core piece of any local business’s online strategy – the numbers speak for themselves.





Focus on Increasing Customer Loyalty to Increase Small Business Revenue (Formic on iMedia Connection)

22 04 2011

Generating brand, product and service advocates is paramount for small businesses seeking to grow company revenue and meet long-term growth goals.  Working with small businesses on a daily basis has given me a deep appreciation for the impact that loyal customers and brand advocates can have on a business.  It is important for small businesses to use their resources and time to keep their loyal customers loyal.

A study conducted by Fred Reicheld of Bain & Company, Inc. stated that “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit”.  For many companies, this correlation between customer retention and profit could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue gained.  And, not only do loyal customers mean continual revenue, but they can become a powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing and promotion for a company or brand.

Read the full post on iMedia Connection.





Advantages of Facebook Advertising

6 04 2011

In February this year, comScore reported that Facebook ads accounted for more than one-third of all US display ad impressions.  eMarketer also reported last month that Facebook would surpass Yahoo! in display ad revenue this year; which means that more than one in five US display dollars will go to Facebook, a staggering YOY increase.  Facebook advertising is no longer just a fun trend to watch, it is becoming an online advertising requisite.

Getting started with Facebook advertising is simple; albeit a manual process that requires basic planning, targeting and creativity.  With Facebook’s 500 million+ active user base, there is a compelling reason to test Facebook advertising for your brand, products or services – your customers are online and on Facebook.

Getting started

  1. Understand goals and objectives for the campaign: In our experience, we’ve seen a higher success rate in driving “likes” and increasing fan engagement vs. taking people to a landing page or website.  The culprit?  Facebook-ers typically don’t like to be taken off of Facebook while they’re in Facebook mode, and thus, taking people off of Facebook results in a high bounce rate and low qualified, less engaged traffic.
  2. Check out Facebook’s guidelines: Provided on their Help Center page, advertisers can learn about creating, targeting, and launching a Facebook ad campaign.
  3. Complete the set-up process: With goals and objectives in mind, choose and upload ad creative or logo, choose your targeting and demographic specifications and set a budget   using Facebook’s manual campaign builder tool.  Creating a single ad will take most newbie advertisers under 10 minutes to build.
  4. Test & Tweak: Because users on Facebook are viewing connections’ photos, perusing status updates and the like, the ad needs to capture the user with a bold image and call-to-action.   Likewise, ads can quickly become less and less effective as users become “fatigued” with seeing the same image or message over and over again.  This will decrease CTR as well as impressions if your ad’s performance drops.  Creating and testing fresh ads continually, will have the biggest impact on maintaining and improving the performance of ad campaigns over time.
  5. Use Facebook Insights & Ad Stats: Utilize the Facebook ad stats dashboard to monitor performance of impressions, clicks and actions, as well as Facebook Insights (for Page driven campaigns) to monitor interaction and engagement.

The Benefits

One of the main advantages of using Facebook ads is the ability to target customers more granularly by their interests, as well as other demographic factors such as age, education, connections, location, etc.  Instead of targeting users based on search intent and bidding on keywords (think Google AdWords), Facebook allows advertisers the ability to hone in on a very qualified, niche audience at a reasonable cost.

Selecting the option to target Facebook users whose friends already “like” that particular page can dramatically help to reinforce the advertising message by utilizing the power and influence of a Facebook user’s connections. With this option selected, the ad will include that users’ friends name next to a thumbs up “Like” icon (see below example), which can boost click through rate and improve the potential for that user to like that particular page; because their decision is being influenced by their friends’ interests and “likes”.  Showing these connection preferences can have a strong influence over the success of an ad and the action the user takes once on the Page in question.

Results

Formic recently ran a Facebook ad campaign for Rasmussen BMW with a minimal daily spend ($5 day) based on a limited test budget. As a result, Facebook “likes” increased by 438%, interactions & engagement increased by 238%, and Facebook referral traffic to the website increased by 2,216.67%.

Facebook Ad

Facebook Ad

Next Steps

Allocate resources to test the Facebook advertising waters.  For small businesses, the self-serve campaign creation model may work well and keep costs down.  However, for larger corporations who need to scale their  campaigns, looking towards specialized agencies may be the key.  As the popularity of display advertising and spend on Facebook increases, it’s unclear whether or not this will have an adverse affect on ad rates.  Regardless, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot, before an influx in advertisers increases advertising fatigue on users and dulls performance or significantly increases ad costs.  Launching, testing and refining your first Facebook campaign may open up a new and effective online advertising medium for your business.





adCenter Quality Score to Debut this Spring

16 03 2011

Microsoft adCenter announced news last week of the arrival of the adCenter Quality Score, reportedly set to launch this spring.  With much speculation surrounding when this would eventually take place; it is surprising that it took approximately five and a half years for adCenter to publicly release a Microsoft counterpart to Google’s AdWords Quality Score.  Not to belabor the point, but AdWords released their first generation Quality Score in August of 2005.  Two-Thousand-Five.

Microsoft has also chosen to use Google’s “Quality Score” nomenclature for their new feature, raising speculation that it took adCenter this much time to develop a worthy equivalent.  And, perhaps they tried for several years to create a bigger and better version of Google’s Quality Score and just couldn’t come up with anything better (or with a better name) than a score ranked on a 1-10 scale.  In any case, the similarities between the AdWords Quality Score and to-be-released adCenter Quality Score should make it easier for advertisers to translate what they already know about Quality Score (helping gauge, improve and determine campaign, keyword, and landing page relevance) to adCenter.

Here are the details that Microsoft adCenter has released about their Quality Score:

  • Quality Score will be on a 1-10 scale, and be calculated at the keyword level for each match-type being purchased.
  • Scores are designed to represent how competitive your keyword is within the marketplace, with three sub-scores for keyword relevance, landing page relevance, and landing page user experience.
  • Actionable guidance will be provided to optimize and improve your quality score.
  • At launch, scores will be visible and exportable from the adCenter Web UI, and accessible through adCenter Reporting and Reporting APIs.

Additional Sub-Factors include:

  • Keyword Relevance – assessed on a scale of (Poor, No Problem, Good) and how well your keyword competes against others buying the same keyword.
  • Landing Page Relevance – assessed on a scale of (Poor, No Problem) and how relevant your ad and landing page is to the search query.
  • Landing Page User Experience – assessed on a scale of (Poor, No Problem) and whether your site meets adCenter editorial relevance and quality guidelines.

A notable difference between the two Quality Scores is how Microsoft is positioning their score as a “competitive feedback tool”, instead of being an actual score that helps determine ad rank and performance.  adCenter has officially noted that their Quality Score will NOT directly affect how ads rank and I’m guessing (because of that detail) won’t affect keyword bid estimates or the actual CPC, as AdWords’ does.  adCenter’s Quality Score is designed to tell advertisers how competitive their keywords are in the marketplace, whether or not they are positioned for success and how an advertiser can optimize appropriately to improve their Quality Score.

AdWords Quality Score on the other hand, does affect ad performance and influences how an ad ranks, the actual CPC an advertiser will pay and first page bid estimates.  Both scores are determined based on historical performance data.  While Microsoft has yet to be as transparent about what this historical performance data will be, advertisers familiar with AdWords Quality Score guidelines and formulas can guess that historical keyword CTR and historical account CTR will likely be determining factors.

As a PPC advertiser, I’m looking forward to seeing how adCenter’s new Quality Score will have an effect on ad performance for advertisers, since the score (at this point) does not influence how adCenter ads will rank or the actual CPC an advertiser will pay.  Here’s to hoping this tool will be used effectively by adCenter advertisers to better understand how to optimize and improve campaigns – resulting in improved performance!





Branded PPC Campaigns: Should You Bid on Your Company Name?

15 02 2011

A common question that arises while working with and managing a company’s PPC efforts is whether or not they should be bidding on branded keywords if they are already ranking number #1 organically (for their company name).  Logically, it doesn’t seem to make sense to pay for keywords your website is already ranking #1 for in the search engine results, for free.  However, it’s important to consider some of the reasons why a company should enhance their online presence with the help of a branded PPC campaign.

  • Own the search engine results page (SERP) – Bidding on branded keywords can help your listings (paid and organic) own the first page of results for your company name.  Not only do multiple listings help to reinforce your company’s presence, but in some cases it can help simulate brand authority and credibility when a user sees your brand all over the first page of search results; also helping to increase organic click through rate.
  • Protect your brand from competitors – Consider a branded campaign as an online reputation management (ORM) tactic, particularly if you’re in a competitive market space – but even if you’re not.  Branded keywords are often considerably cheaper in comparison to a company’s top, general keywords and can help ensure that you are preventing competitors from appearing above your #1 organic listing for your company name.  Even if competitors are not bidding on your company name now, proactive ORM can ensure your company is being perceived accurately; and keep those pesky competitors from appearing above you.
  • Not all users click on the organic listings – For savvy web users who typically click on organic results over paid results, it’s important to realize that although approximately 70% of users click on organic results, the other 30% or so click on the paid results, not realizing there’s a difference.  It’s critical for your company to be visible to 100% of searchers, not just the 70% that click on the organic results.  With sponsored listings (especially those with ad extensions such as sitelinks or location extensions) taking up a significant portion of top of the page real estate above organic listings, it’s important for your company to be visible in this space too.
  • PPC ads allow you to control your messaging – While you do have control over your organic listing’s title and meta descriptions, PPC ads give you the ability to nimbly change messaging to highlight offers, competitive factors, and different value propositions within minutes.
  • PPC ads allow you to control your targeting – Unlike organic search, PPC ads allow you to control where and when your ads are shown, which keeps your audience targeted, relevant and costs down.
  • Milk that good quality score – Branded keywords often secure the highest click-through rate (CTR), the best quality score and overall performance history, which can help improve account quality score, boosting your overall PPC account history, performance and potential.

In any case, before you rule out bidding on branded keywords, consider the above benefits and conduct a test.  By testing and analyzing the results, it’s undoubtedly a win-win situation, as the proof will be within the data (one way or the other).  If branded keywords are driving up your paid search cost, lowering ROI, or affecting your other traffic sources negatively, then you can decisively rule a branded campaign out of your paid search mix for the time being and not second guess whether you’re missing out on traffic, conversions or revenue – win.  Moreover, if branded keywords help improve your online visibility, traffic, ROI, or conversion activity – another win!





Update to AdWords Ad Sitelinks Serving

17 01 2011

Ad sitelinks have become a big success since their release over a year ago, helping advertisers to increase their CTR up to 30% on average.  As a result of sitelinks’ success and popularity, Google decided to improve the way they serve their ad sitelinks.  As you know, Google allows advertisers to add up to 10 sitelinks at the campaign level, which are then applied to relevant ads (which meet AdWords policy guidelines) at the ad group level.  Up until last week, Google chose to display an advertiser’s sitelinks by the order in which they were added.  Very scientific of Google.

“In the past, we simply used the order in which you entered your Sitelinks to rank which ones to serve. For example, while you could enter up to ten Sitelinks for a campaign, we primarily used the top four for any ad in the campaign (as long as they met our policy guidelines).” – Inside AdWords

With AdWords’ ad sitelinks new serving enhancement, sitelinks will be shown based on historical performance data, rotating in the sitelinks with the best CTR more often.  While advertisers will continue to create sitelinks at the campaign level, performance data will be assessed at the ad group level.  While this new serving enhancement is fantastic, AdWords still does not provide advertisers with the performance data for individual sitelinks.  This lack of data is unfortunate, as advertiser’s currently have no way of knowing which sitelink is performing better, because the CTR is applied to the entire group of sitelinks and not at the individual link level.

In the meantime, at least AdWords is now rotating sitelinks into ads based on performance data, and here’s to hoping that sitelink level performance data will be the next update in Google’s line of ad sitelinks enhancements.








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