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Understanding the three awareness stages of your online audience

May 6, 2022 No Comments

Understanding the three awareness stages of your online audience

30-second summary:

  • Are you confident about how your target consumer moves in the three stages, awareness, consideration, and decision?
  • A website that features content only suited to the first stage of awareness will struggle to convert, whereas a site only focused on conversions may struggle to get any traffic to convert in the first place
  • Here’s how you can create content that is balanced and targeted to better serve people throughout every step of their journey

Not all traffic is equal. Businesses often forget that their site visits and success metrics aren’t just numbers – they are living, breathing people who are driven by behavior. By understanding and creating content to fit the different awareness stages of that “traffic”, you can not only draw more – but efficiently turn those clicks into conversions. After all, businesses aren’t built on visits alone.

This article will show you the three main awareness stages of online traffic, what type of content fits in these, and a method for auditing your existing content. Remember, every customer goes on a journey. This is about making sure you’re at the finish line when they’re ready to convert.

The importance of knowing the awareness stages

Now, bear with us, but answer this: would you try and sell roller skates to a newborn baby or its parents? A little extreme, yes, but sometimes these make the best examples. The point is that the baby may grow into someone that needs or wants a pair of roller skates, but they’re not at that stage yet.

Understanding the different stages your potential customers are at and how they’re searching for your products/services (both directly and indirectly) will give you the accuracy to target them better. These stages are awareness, consideration, and decision. Just knowing these won’t be enough, you need a balance.

A website that features content only suited to the first stage of awareness will struggle to convert, whereas a site only focused on conversions may struggle to get any traffic to convert in the first place.

Research and roleplay will help you massively here. To get in the head of your audience and understand what their journey looks like, you should be asking yourself “What would I do if…” at almost every corner.

To better explore these stages and how they apply to content, we’ll stick to one example for the next three sections. We’ll move on from the baby with the roller skates, and instead, focus on a hypothetical Manchester-based SME that sells hearing aids and is looking to grow its customer base.

Stage 1: Awareness

This awareness stage is when the customer is just starting to realize they have a problem and that they need a solution. Before this stage, they may not have even realized that their issue could be fixed, or that it was an issue, to begin with. Good content at this stage plants seeds in their head that they don’t need to go on this way any longer.

With that in mind, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader here. Yes, they may now realize that they want a solution, but it’s exceedingly rare that a piece of content can tick all three boxes in one go. Those being – making them aware of the problem, helping them consider the options, and then decide to go with your option. That’s why we have different content for different stages. 

In our example of the small business in Manchester that sells hearing aids, the content at this stage may look like this:

  • ‘Five common signs of hearing loss’
  • ‘Data shows that hearing loss is on the rise’
  • ‘When to seek help with your hearing’

If we were writing content for this fictional company, we wouldn’t open these articles with “Now you’re here, view our huge sale on hearing aids!”. Instead, we’d relate to the problems the reader may be having. In fact, throughout all of these stages, your language should be empathetic, solution-focused, and relatable to the reader as much as possible. 

Picture a woman in her 40s that has been playing guitar in a rock band since her youth. For her, not being able to hear the nuances of music would almost feel like having an oxygen supply cut off. She might be having some hearing issues, but her search might not start straight away with “hearing aids near me”. She’d try to learn about her issues, if they’re common and how they can be fixed. In these pages, we’d relate to hearing problems and ultimately (but without sounding too sales-y) suggest that hearing aids have helped millions of people by the end. 

By writing content targeting this stage, you can be there right at the start of the consumer’s journey. While they will be more likely to convert at the end of that journey, a good content strategy is all about balance. This brings us to the next stage. 

Stage 2: Consideration

If the first stage is all about letting them know they have a problem, this is all about showing them how they can fix it. Here, the reader would actively be looking for a solution and considering their options.

While our hypothetical business may be experts at helping hearing loss, there are other ways to do so than just providing hearing aids. We can’t just assume that hearing aids are instantly the preferred option for every visitor. The challenge here is about balancing knowledge, empathy, and delivering content that is objective and genuinely useful to your consumer. However, while you educate your target audience about their options, you can add in smart CTAs that prompt the person towards a landing page that will drive revenue for your business – making this more a choice that your consumer made vs what you wanted to force down their throat.

Sticking to our example of that Manchester SME selling hearing aids, content at this stage may look like this:

  • ‘Six ways to help your hearing loss’
  • ‘The five best hearing aids in the UK’
  • ‘Why even teenagers should consider hearing aids’

As this is the middle stage, you’ll want to avoid leaning too much towards ‘awareness’ and too much towards ‘decision’. You won’t want to speak down to the reader and spend paragraphs explaining the very basics of hearing loss. You also won’t want to open up and ramble on about your great new sale on hearing aids.

Picture a scale, with ‘inform’ on the left and ‘sell’ on the right. You want this to be pretty evenly balanced, but leaning slightly to the left and on the side of ‘inform’.

Show the reader their options, and educate them on the solutions available. Then, if/when they decide that what you provide is the fix for them, they’re already on the right website! They just need a page where they can convert and make that final decision. That leads us on nicely to…

Stage 3: Decision

We mentioned before how awareness content gets you in front of the consumer at the start of their journey. While there’s a lot of value to being there at the starting line, it is content suited to this stage that turns clicks into customers.

That’s why pages here will move away from the blog/article format of the content suggested for the other stages. Instead, you want pages designed specifically for selling the reader on your product or service, with the option to convert right there.

For our hypothetical hearing aid business, the pages designed for this stage may look like:

  • Category pages showing off their best brands
  • Product pages where you can purchase hearing aids
  • A service page to organize a hearing test (with a contact form)

These pages will be laser-focused on selling, while still informing the readers why your business is a better choice for them over all of your competitors. This means a huge focus on USPs.

In the case of our hypothetical hearing aid company, these may include free delivery, the lowest prices in Manchester, or even five years of free insurance. Your USPs should all be sung about on these decision-focused pages. Remember, at this point, they know they want whatever it is you’re selling, so you don’t need to go to great lengths to explain the very basics of your offerings. Just why your business is the best for them. Ensure to have some positive reviews scattered across these pages.

The content here should be easy to read, scannable, and supported by images if you think that’s something your audience is interested in (always look to see what competitors are doing).

Outside of the copy, for ecommerce businesses, the path to purchasing these products should be clear, with large buttons to show the user that this is where you can buy them. If you’re a lead generation business, then there should be plenty of CTAs (calls to action) to point the user to contact forms, phone numbers, or email addresses.

Key takeaways

Like with any marketing or psychology model, there are variants of this with even more steps. However, if you boil it down, we believe that only three steps are necessary for most businesses. The important thing to remember is that the same user might not go through this entire journey on your website in one session. A balanced content strategy means that you can attract any potential customer at any stage, no matter where they are in their purchasing journey. 

The danger of having an imbalance in your content strategy is that there might be plenty of blog posts around the first awareness stage, but users don’t realize that you can solve the problem they now realize they have. On the flip side, you could have most of your content focused on the final stage, but you may struggle to draw in the customers that don’t even realize they need you.

That’s why we recommend you run a content audit on your website to see how balanced your current output is. Create a table like the one below and add your existing content to it. 

In the example here, we’ll use the ideas we used for our Manchester business: 

Awareness Stage Content Consideration Stage Content Decision Stage Content
 

Five common signs of hearing loss

Six ways to help your hearing loss Category pages showing off their best brands
 

How to improve your hearing at concerts

The five best hearing aids in the UK Product pages where you can purchase hearing aids
 

When to seek help with your hearing

Why even teenagers should consider hearing aids A service page to organize a hearing test (with a contact form)

 

While mapping your pages to this, you should be able to easily identify where gaps are and then plan your content strategy around filling those in. ‘Mapping’ is a great term because all successful journeys involve a map.

If you’re just publishing random content with no overall purpose, you’re stumbling around in the dark and hoping you’ll land up where you want to go. A quality content strategy is all about understanding journies and being there for whatever step of it your customer is on.


Jack Bird is the Content Operations Lead at the Manchester-based SEO and digital marketing agency, Add People.

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The post Understanding the three awareness stages of your online audience appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Why we’re hardwired to believe SEO myths (and how to spot them!)

April 28, 2022 No Comments

Give someone a fish and they’ll EAT for one day. Teach someone to fish and they’ll EAT for a lifetime. Yes, that’s an SEO pun. It’s also the goal of this article.

If you pop into either of the fantastic SEO communities on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’ll inevitably encounter some common SEO myths:

  • “Longer dwell time means a good user experience, so it must be a ranking factor”
  • “A high bounce rate indicates a bad user experience, so it must be bad for SEO”

Social media posts like these get tons of engagement. As a result, they amplify the myths we try to squash through repetition, false evidence, and faulty logic. The problem isn’t limited to social media, either. There are plenty of high-profile websites that package hypotheses as facts because readers eat them up.

These myths are a huge problem because they’re red herrings. They cause marketers to prioritize projects that won’t improve the content, user experience, or Google search performance.

So how can the SEO community rally around the truth? We can start by doing two things:

  1. SEOs must admit our personalities and professions hardwire us to believe myths. We have a deep desire for answers, control, and predictability, as well as a fierce distrust of Google.
  2. We need to recognize the psychological and environmental factors that influence our ability to sort fact from fiction.

So rather than busting individual myths, let’s ask ourselves “why?” instead. In other words, let’s learn to fish.

Internal reasons we believe SEO myths

Let’s dig into some internal factors, such as our thoughts and feelings, that influence our beliefs.

1. SEOs need structure and control

SEO is a fascinating branch of marketing because our performance is driven by a constantly evolving algorithm that we don’t control. In fact, there were more than 5,000 Google algorithm updates in 2021 alone.

In other words, SEOs live in a world of crippling dependency. Even the top-ranking signals that we know about can fluctuate based on the industry, query, or available content within Google’s index. For example, if you manage websites in the finance or health space, E-A-T is critical. If you publish news content, then recency is very important.

To gain a sense of structure and control, we look for more ways to influence outcomes. But there are two problems with that approach:

  • We overestimate the impact of individual ranking factors
  • We falsely believe something is a Google ranking factor that is not

Our need to amplify our own level of control is supported by psychology. A 2016 study revealed an individual’s need for structure made them more likely to believe in a conspiracy theory.

“The human tendency to recognize patterns even when none exist is shown to have applications in consumer behavior. The current research demonstrates that as one’s personal need for structure (PNS) increases (that is, requiring predictability and disfavoring uncertainty), false consumer pattern perceptions emerge.”

If you find yourself waffling between fact and fiction, don’t let your desire for control dictate your final decision.

2. The primal need to recognize patterns

The human brain is excellent at recognizing patterns. Throughout history, we’ve relied on that ability to make better decisions and ensure the survival of our species. Unfortunately, we’re so good at spotting patterns that we also fabricate them.

False pattern recognition has several drawbacks –

  • It might influence SEO decisions that could have a sitewide impact
  • If you overstate the connection publicly, others might misinterpret it as fact

An excellent example surfaced on Twitter recently. Google’s John Mueller was asked if adding too many links to your site’s main navigation could impact Google Discover traffic. The individual who asked the question ran several tests and saw positive results, but Mueller said it was merely an interesting correlation.

“I’d still go with ’unrelated’. As mentioned in our docs: Given the serendipitous nature of Discover, traffic from Discover is less predictable or dependable when compared to Search, and is considered supplemental to your Search traffic.”

Fortunately, this individual went straight to the source for an answer instead of publishing a case study that could have had serious implications for website navigation decisions.

3. Confirmation bias

It’s well-documented that people accept information that supports their beliefs and reject information that doesn’t. It’s a primordial trait that evolved when we began to form social groups. Early humans surrounded themselves with others who thought and acted the same way to ensure their survival.

One of the most famous confirmation bias studies comes from Stanford. For the study, researchers segmented students into two opposing groups based on their beliefs about capital punishment.

One group supported capital punishment and believed it reduced crime. The other opposed it and believed it had no impact on crime.

Each group was asked to react to two studies, one which supported their views, and one which contradicted them. Both groups found the study that aligned with their beliefs much more credible, and each became more entrenched in their original beliefs.

SEO practitioners are particularly prone to confirmation bias because we’re terrified of being wrong. We hypothesize, test, build, optimize, and iterate. If we’re wrong too often, we’ll waste time and money, and we could risk our reputation and our jobs.

We need to be right so badly that we may accept myths that confirm our beliefs rather than admit failure.

4. Lack of trust in Google

It’s safe to say most SEOs don’t trust Google. That has led to some of the longest-running SEO myths I could find. For example, even after seven years of repeated rejections from Google, many SEO experts still believe engagement is a ranking signal.

Here’s John Mueller shooting down the engagement myth in 2015:

“I don’t think we even see what people are doing on your website. If they are filling out forms or not, if they are converting and actually buying something… So if we can’t see that, then that is something we cannot take into account. So from my point of view, that is not something I’d really treat as a ranking factor.”

Nearly seven years later, in March 2022, John was asked the same question again, and his response was pretty much the same:

“So I don’t think we would use engagement as a factor.”

And yet, the SEOs piled on in the comments. I encourage you to read them if you want a sense of the intense level of mistrust. Essentially, SEOs overanalyzed Mueller’s words, questioned his honesty, and claimed he was misinformed because they had contradictory insider information.

5. Impostor syndrome

Even the most seasoned SEO professionals admit they’ve felt the pain of impostor syndrome. You can easily find discussions on Reddit, Twitter, and LinkedIn about how we question our own level of knowledge. That’s especially true in public settings when we’re surrounded by our peers.

Not long ago Azeem Ahmad and Izzie Smith chatted about impostor syndrome. Here’s what Izzie said:

“It’s really hard to put yourself out there and share your learnings. We’re all really afraid. I think most of us have this impostor syndrome that’s telling us we’re not good enough.”

This contributes to SEO myths in several ways. First, it erodes self-confidence, which makes individuals more prone to believe myths. Second, it prevents folks who might want to challenge inaccurate information from speaking out publicly because they’re afraid they’ll be attacked.

Needless to say, that enables myths to spread throughout the broader community.

The best way to combat impostor syndrome is to ensure SEO communities are safe and supportive of new members and new ideas. Be respectful, open-minded, and accepting. If more folks speak out when something doesn’t feel accurate, then we can keep some troublesome myths in check.

External reasons we believe SEO myths

Now let’s explore the external forces, like peers and publishers, that cause us to believe SEO myths.

1. Peer pressure

Peer pressure is closely related to impostor syndrome, except it comes from the outside. It’s a feeling of coercion from peers, whether a large group of SEOs, a widely known expert or a close mentor or colleague.

Because humans are social creatures, our urge to fit in often overpowers our desire to be right. When something doesn’t feel right, we go with the flow anyway for fear of being ostracized. In fact, social proof can be more persuasive than purely evidence-based proof.

I asked the Twitter SEO community if anyone ever felt compelled to accept an SEO ranking factor as fact based on popular opinion. Several folks replied, and there was an interesting theme around website code.

“Back in 2014, a web developer told me he truly believed text-to-code ratio was a ranking factor. For a while, I believed him because he made convincing arguments and he was the first developer I met who had an opinion about SEO.”

—  Alice Roussel

“Years and years ago I wanted code quality to be a ranking factor. Many thought it was because it made sense to reward well-written code. But it never was. Browsers had to be very forgiving because most sites were so badly built.”

—  Simon Cox

Similar to combatting impostor syndrome, if we develop a more tolerable SEO community that’s willing to respectfully debate issues, we’ll all benefit from more reliable information.

2. Outdated information

If you publish content about SEO, then you’ll be guilty of spreading SEO myths at some point. Google updates its algorithms thousands of times each year, which means assumptions are disproven and once-good advice becomes outdated.

Trusted publishers have a duty to refresh or remove inaccurate content to prevent SEO misconceptions from spreading.

For example, in 2019 Google changed how it handles outbound links. It introduced two new link attributes into the nofollow family, UGC and sponsored, and began to treat all three of these as hints instead of ignoring nofollow links.

So if you wrote about link attributes prior to September 2019, your advice is probably out of date.

Unfortunately, most SEOs update content because it’s underperforming, not because it’s wrong. So perhaps publishers should put integrity above performance to strengthen our community.

3. Jumping on trends

Sometimes SEO myths explode because the facts can’t keep up with the virality of the myth. One of my favorite examples is the LSI keyword trend. This one pops up on Twitter from time to time, and thankfully Bill Slawski is quick to quash it.

Trend-based myths go viral because they tap into the fear of missing out (FOMO), and SEOs hate to miss out on the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. They also resonate with SEOs because they appear to offer a secret glimpse into Google’s black box.

Although trends eventually fade, they will remain a thorn in our side as long as the original sources remain unchanged.

4. Correlation vs causation

The most difficult myths to bust are those backed by data. No matter how many times Google debunks them, they won’t die if folks come armed with case studies.

Take exact match domains (EMD) for example. This article lists several reasons why EMDs are good for SEO, using Hotels.com as a case study. But it’s a classic chicken and egg argument. Does the site rank number one for “hotels” because it’s an EMD? Or is it because the owner clearly understood SEO strategy and prioritized keyword research, link building, internal links, page speed, and high-quality content marketing for the last 27 years?

We also can’t discount the fact that the domain has 42 million backlinks.

But if you want to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth, Google’s John Mueller says EMDs provide no SEO bonus. Here’s what he said on Reddit:

“There’s no secret SEO bonus for having your keywords in the domain name. And for those coming with “but there are keyword domains ranking well” — of course, you can also rank well with a domain that has keywords in it. But you can rank well with other domain names too, and a domain won’t rank well just because it has keywords in it.”

This is obviously correlation, not causation.

To be clear, I fully support running SEO tests to learn more about Google’s algorithm. But it’s incredibly difficult to create a signal vacuum that prevents outside influences from skewing your results. And even if you manage to isolate one ranking factor, you have no way of knowing how strong the signal is in relation to other signals. In a total vacuum, one signal may win. But in the wilderness of Google, it may be so weak that it’s virtually nonexistent.

Furthermore, the signal may only apply to certain types of content. We’ve seen signal fluctuations before regarding product reviews and E-A-T in YMYL spaces. So even if data suggests something might improve organic rankings, how reliable is the information, and how important is the signal?

All this is to say that we should be very careful when proclaiming new ranking factors, especially if they contradict Google’s statements or stray too far from universally measuring user experience.

5. It’s plausible, but not measurable

This group of myths is rooted in logic, which makes them particularly dangerous and sticky. Usually, they follow a simple formula: if A = B, and B = C, then A = C.

Here’s an example:

  • Google wants to rank content that provides a good user experience
  • If a webpage has a high bounce rate, it must provide a bad user experience
  • Therefore, a high bounce rate is bad for SEO

This seems to make sense, right? Yet, Google has said many times they can’t see what users do on your website, and they don’t look at bounce rate.

I’ve seen the same argument applied to dwell time, time on page, SERP click-through rates (CTR), and so on. To be clear, Google says CTR  does not drive organic search engine rankings because that would cause results to be overrun with spammy, low-quality content.

Most often these myths stem from competing views about what a good user experience looks like and how to measure it. What constitutes a good experience for one type of search query might be a terrible experience for another. This lack of consistency makes it virtually impossible to identify metrics that can be deployed universally across all websites.

In other words, if potential user experience signals depend on too many factors, Google can’t use them. That’s why they launched the page experience update in 2021 which quantifies user experience with specific, universal metrics.

Here’s your fishing pole

In many cases, SEO myths fall into more than one of the above categories which makes them even more difficult to dispel. That’s why we keep seeing social media posts falsely identifying ranking factors like keyword density, domain authority, conversions, and meta keywords.

If you understand a few basic concepts about ranking factors, you’ll be better equipped to sort fact from fiction and prioritize SEO initiatives that drive more organic traffic.

Ask yourself these five questions when you smell the stench of a myth:

  • Is it quantifiable and measurable?
  • Is it scalable?
  • Is it broadly or universally true, or does it depend on the user?
  • Does it support Google’s goals of delivering a better user experience?
  • Has Google confirmed or denied it publicly?

If you can check each of those boxes, then you may have a valid ranking factor on your hands. But don’t take my word for it. Run some tests, ask some friends, use logic, and confirm your theory. And if all else fails, just ask John Mueller.


Jonas Sickler is a published author and digital marketer. He writes about SEO, brand reputation, customer attention, and marketing. His advice has appeared in hundreds of publications, including Forbes, CNBC, CMI, and Search Engine Watch. He can be found on Twitter @JonasSickler.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The post Why we’re hardwired to believe SEO myths (and how to spot them!) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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2022 Search ads 360 update: What you need to know

March 23, 2022 No Comments

2022 Search ads 360 update What you need to know

30-second summary:

  • Search Ads 360 platform has seen one of its biggest updates in 10 years
  • Performics’ Senior Media Manager, Alex Medawar shares key highlights of the updates around budget optimization, performance monitoring, and inventory management

Google recently announced a new update to its Search Ads 360 platform – and it’s a big one. SA360 has gotten even more powerful since it was first launched over 10 years ago, making it simpler than ever for commercial enterprises to manage their search advertising efforts.

A select number of Search Ads 360 users finally gained preview access this past month.

The new platform experience will start rolling out over the coming months while allowing users to continue access in the classic experience. In this article, I outline what’s new and share effective ways to make the most of your budgets and inventory in the Search Ads 360 platform.

1. Greater support for alternative channels

One of the Search Ads 360 updates includes greater support for alternative search engines such as Microsoft Ads and Yahoo! Japan.

Other advertising channels have been neglected for years, and the consequence has been time-consuming workarounds to link data and make bulk changes.

As a result of the new update, Google promises that you will now be able to get more of your work done from the same place.

For Microsoft Advertisers, SA360 will now support additional features:

  • Response search ads
  • Call extensions
  • Local inventory ads
  • Access to a variety of audience types

For Yahoo! Japan advertisers, you can now utilize dynamic search ads and site link extension scheduling.

2. Access to new features

Search Ads 360 will now offer support for the newest features in Google Ads including:

  • Performance Max – a new goal-based campaign type that lets performance advertisers access all of their Google Ads inventory from a centralized campaign. 
  • Discovery campaigns – allows advertisers to run ads in Google discover feeds to deliver highly visual, inspiring personalized ad experiences
  • Display and YouTube Advertising (previously only in the platform)

Google has also added advanced enterprise innovation features that will allow teams to scale everyday tasks such as:

  • Campaign management
  • Create automated rules
  • Use labels across various advertisers simultaneously

The addition of Templates will combine current features like inventory management and ad builder for a unified and scalable experience.

new features in the Search Ads 360 update - inventory management and ad builder

For media managers who spend hours crafting forecasts, the new Performance Center will include enterprise planning capabilities with spend, CPA, and conversion forecasts in the coming months.

3. Updated inventory management

A revamped inventory management system provides streamlined workflows and more powerful controls over how you use your ad space.

Utilizing an inventory feed, SA360 can generate ready-to-go paid search campaigns using dynamic data such as price, description, and availability of your product from your feed.

This tool is especially useful for industry verticals with frequently changing prices and availability such as:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Live and Streaming Entertainment
  • Recruitment
  • Retail
  • Businesses with geo-specific offers

How it works

  1. Provide high-quality data and make a list of attributes for your feed such as product name, price, and landing page.
  2. Create templates for each type of output you want generated such as a campaign, ad group, ad, or keyword. (Tip: start small!)
  3. Utilize functions and attributes to generate highly relevant ads.
  4. Check your output and optimize until you are happy with the results.

Within minutes, you’ll have ready-to-go, targeted campaigns in your account that ready for launch.

In the new Search Ads 360, marketers will be able to manage templates across client accounts to update ads at scale.

budget management in Search Ads 360

4. Budget management

Any media manager will tell you that managing account budgets and pacing is one of the most critical components of campaign management and also one of the most difficult, especially at scale.

As part of the latest Search Ads 360 release, budget management will be improved and integrated with the new ‘Performance Center’.

Later this year, Google plans to provide complete access to these planning tools, allowing you to experiment with a variety of potential media budget flighting scenarios.

Features

The following are some of the features included in the present budget management system:

  • Visual graphs that include target and estimated spend, plus KPIs such as CPA (cost per acquisition) or revenue
  • Automatic budget allocation and bid adjustments set by your chosen budget bid strategy
  • Forecasting capabilities based on historical performance data that factors in seasonality
  • Estimated cumulative spend and likelihood to hit target spend based on historical data
  • Pacing reports at the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual level

As Google adds new features throughout the year, we can anticipate that these tools will become more accurate and streamlined for enterprise planning.

New look

The new Search Ads 360 experience closely resembles the Google Ads platform with similar navigation and a familiar user experience.

Upon launching the SA360 platform, you can see the identical account overview dashboard found in Google Ads for seamless navigation between the two.

Into the future

With the new Search Ads 360 update, Google opens doors for the next generation of enterprise innovations to optimize performance.

The new updates will help you get more work done in one place saving time and providing a better cross-channel view for data-driven decision making.

To learn all about the new tools, enroll in Google’s new Skillshop modules for Search Ads 360.


Alex Medawar is Senior Media Manager at Performics and creator of Alex Medawar.com. As a seasoned digital media expert, Alex Medawar focuses on B2B paid search campaign management and strategy for global brands in the tech space. Utilizing a data-driven approach, Alex believes that both small businesses and large enterprises alike can speak to their audience and drive results within the digital media landscape.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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Online brand protection: trusted automated monitoring is key

March 22, 2022 No Comments

Even though consumers enjoy having the world at their fingertips, they have become all too aware of how much their personal data is abused. According to the Nielsen 2021 Trust in Advertising Survey, 36 percent of respondents distrust ads on social networks, while 36 percent distrust ads served in search engine results.

“As people more frequently shop online, they’ve realized the top ads are not necessarily the best option,” says Josh Stephens, director of Digital Marketing at CWT, one of the biggest travel companies worldwide. “If consumers do not recognize the company name, they will not pay attention, so the ads are becoming a sort of screen blind spot.”

Daniel Creed, head of marketing, planning and effectiveness at Santander UK adds: “As media (particularly online and social channels) attracts increasing public scrutiny and politicization, brands increasingly risk becoming embroiled in controversy seemingly by their mere presence on a given platform at the wrong time.”

Fraudulent behaviour

It is therefore critical all businesses ensure their branding, advertising, and marketing practice integrity, whilst also protecting themselves against the maleficence of advertising fraud.

The unauthorised use of a company’s intellectual property by a third party can create confusion with the customer base, and prospects in terms of business offering, financial model, and a company’s values.

Advertising fraud has become an unintended by-product of the digital era, and left unchecked, can become increasingly rampant. Take affiliate marketing for example – a successful strategy used by digitally-savvy companies but has its own risks.

Affiliate marketing

Even for well-known companies, working with affiliates helps them to tap into audiences outside their traditional channels. Affiliates provide brands and marketers with the opportunity to reach and engage their target audience, creating not only an opportunity for acquisition, but also the opportunity to develop long term relationships with their audiences because of a trusted introduction and recommendation.

However, where traditional channels and affiliates often collide is in paid search, necessitating monitoring to prevent cross-channel cannibalization. “Brands today have become very adept at using paid search as a source of high intent traffic – particularly branded search,” says explains Van Chappell, general manager at BrandVerity, a US-headquartered company which provides paid search and affiliate monitoring tools.

He notes that when affiliates also appear on a search engine’s results page, they “compete” with the brands paid search team, driving up the cost of that traffic.  “It is also unlikely that traffic from branded search is incremental to traffic the brand would get anyway,” Chappell says.

Chappell also says  that “ad hijacks” sometimes occur. “We see affiliates which copy the ads already utilized by brands,” he says. “The consumer types in a search term, they see a search result and it looks like the brand they were looking for – they click on the ad, and it will take them to the site, and so to the user, everything’s fine.”

Behind the scenes

Everything, however, is not fine. Even though the brand will ultimately win the sale, this detour on the consumer journey bears a greater cost for the company. This is because the commission paid to an affiliate is considerably more than the CPC a paid search team pays to a search engine.

There is also an underlying cost to a company’s reputation among affiliates and, ultimately, their brand. “The affiliate channel is very important for brands; it’s a great marketing channel because it is performance based,” Chappell says.

“Affiliate managers, agencies and OPMs spend a lot of time cultivating these relationships and making these connections between publishers that come up with really interesting ways to reach consumers and the brands where those consumers then make purchases.”

Chappell adds a poor reputation “drives quality publishers away”. “It’s damaging for the channel and makes it much harder to have a successful affiliate programme,” he says.

When a brand has a clean and well run affiliate channel in place, it attracts the best partners, which promotes the brand and enables it to reach new audiences.

Chappell expands on the benefits further: “In many ways, some of these techniques [in affiliate fraud] can lead to distraction and lead you to places that you didn’t intend to go. If a brand can keep the search engine clean of all these distractions, the consumer clearly knows where they can go to do what they wanted. It’s a better experience for consumers.”

Keep it clean

Santander’s Creed believes it is not the customers’ responsibility to make the distinction between a platform getting it wrong and brands not taking precautions.

“The onus is on brands to ensure they are making informed decisions and are taking the necessary steps to mitigate and minimise these risks,” he says. “Brands need to understand the risks attendant to each media channel and develop a comprehensive policy for the protection of their brand and evolve the right tactics to protect themselves.”

To maintain a clean affiliate model, companies must monitor their affiliates. There are two ways to do this: manual monitoring and automated monitoring.

The former, for example, involves an affiliate manager typing branded or non-branded keywords into a search engine and monitoring the adverts which appear.

There are numerous challenges to this approach, however. Not only is it time-consuming, but it is also arguably ineffective given fraudulent adverts often look identical to their genuine counterparts.      It is also impossible to capture varying search engine results from just one location using manual monitoring.

Automated monitoring, on the other hand, means all associated affiliates are monitored from one place around the clock. If a false advert appears, brands can crackdown on unsavoury partners quickly, while protecting the customer journey and keeping their marketing budget intact.

In doing so, the brand reputation remains intact which helps them to attract the most successful affiliates. This in turn further promotes the brand in a virtuous cycle that continues to feed upon itself.

Marketing in the digital era promises boundless opportunities, but brand protection is more complex than ever. Fortunately, with the right tools in place, the results become clear.

The post Online brand protection: trusted automated monitoring is key appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Beyond the ad: Conversion Optimization

January 14, 2022 No Comments

Today, using data for driving business decisions has become common practice for most companies, with many having a dedicated analytics team checking the impact of marketing investments, which channels to invest in and effect. But the majority of these activities are focused on optimizing parameters before the audience click the ad. The question is: are you taking the same data driven approach to your website design?

If you don’t use data to optimize your site’s user experience, you risk low conversion rates and lost revenue. A well-designed user interface could increase your website’s conversion rate by up to 200 percent, and a better UX design could yield conversion rates up to 400 percent. 

Now take your revenue, check your conversion rate, and calculate what it would be if the conversion rate would increase +200%. The number right there is why the companies that will thrive in the future most likely will be the ones that are data driven in, and focus as much on, both crucial moments during the user journey—before and beyond the ad.

The solution

Building this strength comes down to working with the research methods within conversion optimization and step by step A/B testing your way to a website your customers will love using.

Here are three steps on how to get started:

  1. Find the weak spots on the site. Combine quantitative research in Google Analytics, qualitative research such as user testing (in the Optimize Resource Hub you can find easy instructions) and inspiration from best practices. The Optimize Resource Hub gives you best practice suggestions from Google and a library of test results from other companies

  2. Prioritize the most impactful tests. Give each test idea a score of one to ten according to the uplift you think it will generate, and subtract a score of one to ten depending on the effort the test will require. 

  3. Start testing. You can get started today by setting up Google Optimize—the tool that uses the full power of Google Analytics. A free version is available so you can have a test up and running within a few minutes. 

For more in-depth knowledge around the process of conversion optimization, check out the CRO tips in the Optimize Resource Hub.

Optimize CRO 1

Learn from experts

We have one more treat for you, in the form of a new series of articles that will be published here on the blog: The Optimize CRO Series—Experts share their secrets. In this series, CRO experts from all over the world will give their best advice around these topics:

  • Research methods

  • Prioritizing tests

  • Favorite frameworks for analyzing sites

  • How to do a QA (quality assurance) of an A/B test 

  • The experts’ best tests

  • Learn from the failing tests

Eager to know more? Make sure you start following the Google Analytics products blog through the channel that fits you to get the upcoming guides.

Google Analytics Blog


Manage tags easily and safely with the new Community Template Gallery

January 13, 2022 No Comments

Businesses often work with trusted partners to conduct a variety of important functions on their websites. These partners can help businesses accurately measure their online conversions or determine which product reviews to display. For all this to work  businesses need to implement tags, or code written by their partners, directly on their sites. It’s critical for businesses to trust that these tags are working as intended to protect their customers and brand. 

With that in mind, we’ve created the new Community Template Gallery for Google Tag Manager. Community Template Gallery is an open platform where partners can share their tag templates. Businesses can then customize these templates to easily implement tags on their websites.

Not only does Community Template Gallery help businesses quickly implement and manage tags, but it also provides more transparency into how these tags will behave—making the whole tagging process easier and safer.

Less code is more 

In the past, if your business needed to implement a partner tag that wasn’t already integrated with Tag Manager, getting that tag up and running would take a lot of manual work. You might have to consult with your partner to determine how to correctly customize and place the tag on your website so it was tailored for your business needs. Not only did this take a lot of time, it also required heavy involvement from developers, leaving lots of room for error.

Community Template Gallery reduces the potential for incorrect implementation. Once your partner shares their tag template in the gallery, you can find it and simply enter the required information in an intuitive UI. You do not need to customize any HTML or Javascript.

Businesses can add tag templates to their workspace and then tailor the tag by completing the form.

Businesses can add tag templates to their workspace and then tailor the tag by completing the form.

Community Template Gallery also helps partners keep tag templates up-to-date. Whenever partners make updates to their tag templates, the latest version will quickly become available. And if you’ve already implemented that tag template,  we’ll notify you that there is a new version that you can review before making the update.

Increased transparency 

When you publish a partner’s tag on your website, you need to understand what it does and trust that it won’t do anything unexpected. That’s why we’ve built a permissions system into Community Template Gallery.

Before you implement or update a tag from the gallery, you will now be able to review and approve the actions it will take when it becomes live on your website. This gives you more control and transparency over the tags on your sites.

Businesses can review and approve how a tag will behave when implemented on a website.

Businesses can review and approve how a tag will behave when implemented on a website.

Community Template Gallery is now live in both Tag Manager and Tag Manager 360. You’ll find many tag templates already included and ready to use. If you’re a tag developer, we encourage you to build and submit your template today.

Google Analytics Blog


Deliver consistent site experiences with Google Optimize

January 12, 2022 No Comments

Consumers expect connected shopping experiences from research to purchase. But their journeys aren’t linear; they move around, visiting—and revisiting—multiple sites and apps, multiple times a day. 

This makes it challenging for businesses to deliver a coordinated site experience, especially if they are running an experiment or personalization on their site. How do they make sure that the version of their site someone saw in the morning is the same version they see in the afternoon? 

Google Optimize can now understand when a customer has returned to a site they visited before and deliver a consistent site experience. Let’s see how this works.

Imagine you’re a hotel business running a marketing campaign that promotes a 20 percent discount for the upcoming holiday season. When people visit your site in response to the campaign, you want to make sure you offer this discount to them throughout their entire booking experience, even if they come back multiple times before they make a reservation.

One part of your marketing campaign is paid media you buy through Google Ads. In this case, you would use Optimize to create a custom web page featuring the discount and then add the Google Ads rule to ensure this page is shown to people who first arrive to your site from your Google Ads campaign. There are likely many people who click on an ad, explore your site, then come back later to complete the reservation. Now, no matter how many other pages on your site people visit, or how many times they return over 24 hours, Optimize will automatically display that custom page to them each time. 

Another way you promote this sale is through email. For this part of your campaign, once you create a custom web page with the discount offer, add a utm_campaign parameter named “holiday-sale” to the URL in the email. Then in Optimize, add a UTM parameter rule for “holiday-sale.” Optimize can now use that parameter to display the correct experience every time people who received the promo email visit your site. In addition to email, you can also use the UTM parameter rule in advertising campaigns managed with Display & Video 360 and Search Ads 360, or any other campaigns you are running that support UTM parameters.

optimize_112119.png

Create a UTM parameter rule to focus your experiment or personalization on a particular marketing campaign.

Royal Bank of Canada is an Optimize 360 customer that has already begun using UTM parameter rules. 

Together with their Google Marketing Platform Partner, Bounteous, they often use Optimize 360 to run personalizations across their entire website. Because most of these personalizations are focused on delivering the right content to the right user from their marketing campaigns, they were excited to start using the UTM parameter rule. 

“The customer journey at the Royal Bank of Canada is rarely linear. We need experiments that can react as customers frequently engage and navigate our website. The UTM parameter rule gives us that flexibility, and it is changing the way we approach our campaigns.” 

– Arnab Tagore, Senior Manager of Digital Analytics, Royal Bank of Canada

Both the Google Ads rule and UTM parameter rule are already available to use in Optimize and Optimize 360. We encourage you to go into your account and check them out and we look forward to sharing more new features that help you better meet your customers’ expectations and get the most out of your website.

Google Analytics Blog


What’s new in App + Web properties

January 10, 2022 No Comments

This July we announceda new property type in Google Analytics that helps you measure across both your app and website in one place. The new App + Web property helps you better understand your customers’ journeys across platforms so you can deliver more unified experiences.

Recently, we’ve introduced enhancements that allow you to measure multiple websites, do even more custom analysis, and get faster insights from your data.

Measure multiple web streams in a single property

App + Web properties now support multiple web streams, including Firebase web apps, in a single property—up to 50 data streams across your apps, websites, and web apps. This allows you to see metrics aggregated across all your related apps and websites, or apply filters to compare them individually. For example, if you were an online retailer with multiple regional stores, you could see your total global sales for the month or compare the sales of each of your regional sites and apps. 

More options for custom analysis

In July we introduced the Analysis module in App + Web properties with five techniques to do cross-platform analysis with more flexibility. Now, we’ve added two more techniques to the mix: cohort analysis and user lifetime, as well as an update to the existing pathing technique and a larger window for historical data. These capabilities will become available over the next few weeks.

Cohort analysis helps you compare engagement between groups of similar users with more metric and dimension breakdowns.  For example, you can compare revenue between cohorts of users that were acquired at different times to understand the results of a change in your marketing strategy. 

User lifetime gives you insight into the lifetime activity of a group of users, based on custom dimensions you choose. For example, see how many lifetime in-app purchases were made by users acquired from a holiday promotion you ran.

Backward pathing allows you to work backwards from a conversion or other key event and analyze the differences, trends, or patterns users took to get there. For example, you can start from a purchase event to see how many users that made a purchase entered the funnel from an email campaign to your website, compared to a search ad that deep-links to your app.

Data retention has now expanded to up to 14 months across all techniques within the Analysis module so you can conduct longer term analyses, like year-over-year. Go to data settings in your property admin to increase data retention.

App and web insights at your fingertips

Automated and custom insights, previously available only for web, are now in App + Web properties. 

Automated insights use machine learning to identify key trends and anomalies in your data. For example, if there was an unusual spike in sales yesterday, you will get an alert of the change which you can then investigate. Automated insights get smarter and more relevant to your business over time. 

Custom insights give you the control to tell Analytics what metrics you’d like to be alerted about. For example, if you are a retailer and you’ve just released a new product, you may want to track sales specifically for that SKU.  You can set up a custom insight to alert you if the product’s sales increased by more than 10% week-over-week. These alerts can now be set up to run hourly, and you can receive email notifications within 5 minutes of a triggered alert.

Instant answers with search

When looking for specific insights in your Web properties you can simply ask a question in the search bar and get a quick answer. Today, we are extending this to App + Web properties, so you can ask questions and get holistic answers across your app and web data. 

Ask questions using keywords, such as “users from organic channel last week,” and a relevant answer will appear in the search dropdown. Be specific about the metric, dimension, and time frame to get the best results.

Automated and custom insights, as well as instant answers from the search dropdown, are available in App + Web properties today in English and will soon be available in all languages supported by Google Analytics. 

Next steps for App + Web properties

Businesses already see the benefits of bringing more of the customer journey into view. TUI group, a leading integrated tourism group based in Europe, is using App + Web properties to close the gap between their app and web data. 

Previously we had been manually stitching together app and web sessions in order to generate customer behaviour insight and value our marketing investments; this release unifies that data to show the full path to conversion. Dan Truman
Global Head of Digital Analytics, TUI Group

If you’re not already using the beta and your business is looking for a more complete view of how your customers engage across app and web, you can get started today by setting up a new property and linking your app and website.

Google Analytics Blog


“Up and to the right” with Data Studio

January 9, 2022 No Comments

Millions of people from global enterprises, small businesses, governments and educational institutions are choosing Data Studio to make data-driven decisions. Over the last year, people used Data Studio to monitor ad performance, track brand performance, visualize student progress, and build machine learning models. 

Google Ads monitoring report by Search Foresight

In 2019, we launched more than 80 new features and over 50 new connectors to data. A heartfelt thanks to our users and developers who made 2019 a year to remember. Here are a few highlights. 

Visual Analysis

Throughout the year, we invested in visual analysis allowing faster data exploration and insights discovery. We made it possible to turn a chart into a filter using chart interaction controls. We also launched cross-chart interactions and drill downs. These investments, alongside updates like optional metrics, give users the tools they need to explore and interact with their data.

Drill Down GIF

Fast performance through In-Memory BI Engine

Having the right tools to interact with and analyze data is critical but if report performance is slow, analyzing and visualizing large data sets can be frustrating. In collaboration with the Google Cloud BigQuery team, we launched BI Engine to bring sub second performance to Data Studio. BI Engine is an in-memory analysis service that integrates with your BigQuery data to return blazingly fast results in Data Studio. No more waiting for the page to load!

BI Engine

Scheduled PDF export

Listening to what our users need has always been a priority for the Data Studio team. Two of the top requests we heard from our users was the need to create PDFs and schedule emails of reports. Users can now do both. We’re happy to let you know that as of last week you can now set a custom schedule for scheduled emails. Learn more.

Email Delivery

Conditional formatting

We recently launched conditional formatting, which allows users to apply formatting based on a set of rules, making it easier to tell a story with your data. We’re continuing to invest in conditional formatting and recently added  AND and OR conditions to support compound conditions. Learn more.

Conditional formatting

In 2020 the Data Studio team is committed to delivering a great product that helps our users make better decisions with data. To stay in the loop on what’s happening in Data Studio, subscribe to email updates under Settings > Marketing Preferences or check our Help Center each week to learn “What’s new.”

Google Analytics Blog


Do more with Data Studio Community Visualizations

January 8, 2022 No Comments

Data Studio Community Visualizations, currently in beta, allow you to create and integrate custom JavaScript components into your dashboards. You can use Community Visualizations to expand your chart selection, customize your report styling, or create custom components that perform advanced analysis or even in-browser machine learning.

New galleries for Data Studio Community Visualizations

Showcase gallery for Community Visualization reports

The Data Studio team recently launched the Community Visualization Report Gallery.

There, you can explore how others in the community have leveraged Community Visualizations to make the most of their data and dashboards.

Reports featuring Community Visualizations

Reports featuring Community Visualizations

Public Partner Visualization Gallery

Additionally, we’ve added a new gallery of Partner Community Visualizations that we’ve made available. Browse them in the new Data Studio Visualizations gallery.

The Data Studio Visualizations Gallery

The Data Studio Visualizations Gallery

Click-to-add Partner Visualizations

To add these Partner Visualizations to a report, click “Explore more” in the Community Visualizations drop down. There, you can browse and install a variety of partner-built charts, including funnel visualizations and Gantt charts.

The new in-product Partner Visualization gallery

The new in-product Partner Visualization gallery

Community Visualizations can add to a Data Studio dashboard in different ways – from providing custom charts and styling to integrating calculations with reporting.

Statistical analysis with Community Visualizations

Anvil Analytics + Insights works to bring data-driven decision making to all of their work, including optimized paid media campaigns. They used Community Visualizations to build their own Chi-Square statistical analyzer.

Several Anvil customers noticed that channels in Google Ads and Analytics converted at different rates, and wanted to know if the variance in conversion rates was statistically significant. 

Prior to using Community Visualizations, the Anvil Insights team manually exported the data out of Google Analytics into a separate tool, then ran the statistical analysis. Depending on where Anvil ran the analysis, the results were either stored separately from their reports, or not stored at all. Every time they wanted to test a different hypothesis or run a different variation of the test, they had to repeat the same time-intensive process.

In order to speed up hypothesis testing and integrate the tests and results into Data Studio reports, Anvil used Data Studio Community Visualizations and built a Chi-Square calculator within a week. 

Anvil’s calculator takes in data, just like any Data Studio chart. Once the calculation is complete, the analyzer presents the statistical significance, and either calls the viewer’s attention to a relationship in the data, or comments that there was nothing of note in the data. Now, all it takes to test new hypotheses is switching out the data for the component, just like you would for any other Data Studio chart. See it live.

Anvil Analytics + Insights Community Visualization Chi-Square Calculator

Anvil Analytics + Insights Community Visualization Chi-Square Calculator

“This has been a much faster way to find statistical significance in our campaigns and in other hypotheses we want to test. Anvil’s Director of Analytics and Decision Science, Brett Lohmeyer says, “The best part is that it gives us an easy way for our team to better communicate the value of using statistical significance to our clients.”

Try it yourself

Check out the new in-product Partner Visualizations Gallery to browse and add new partner-built Community Visualizations to your reports. To build your own Community Visualizations, check out the developer documentation.

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