In the first part of this SEO/SEA synthesis, we have been through the SEO best practices to improve your website ranking.
But as we have seen, SEO is not enough. To have all chances to be well positioned, you will have to always be up-to-date (as far as digital and technical trends are concerned), you will have to regularly monitor your website not to be surprised and to anticipate the necessary changes but more importantly, you will have to understand and use SEA (Search Engine Advertising).
As mentioned in part one, I had the opportunity to recently follow a course on SEA basics and best practices taught by Mr Arnaud de Terline (https://www.linkedin.com/in/arnaud-de-terline-55540914). Today I would like to share with you this very useful knowledge.
Best practices to improve your ranking thanks to SEA
1- The principles of SEA (or more widely SEM)
““Search Engine Marketing” (SEM) was once was used as an umbrella term to encompass both SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search activities (SEA). Over time, the industry has adopted the SEM acronym to refer solely to paid search”. http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-paid-search
Today SEA is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. SEA includes all activities that aim at enhancing the visibility of a website. It is no longer strictly limited to search engines, but is also open to social networks.
2- SEA, search engine and Search Engine Result Pages
“A web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are generally presented in a line of results often referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs)” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_search_engine
On one hand, research on the web is and will remain very important. The main challenge for the search engines is to answer in the best way possible to any request coming from users; to always improve the quality of their SERPs.
Of course, there are several search engines locally but if we take a closer look at Google, we can see that it is dominant in the world.
On the other hand, the main challenge for companies being present on the web is to make sure their website will be present in the consistent and qualitative results (SERPs) that will be returned to the internet users’ requests. To be present within the results is one thing but to be among the first results is something else: this is the true business success. To have all chances to reach that target, the use of paid ads is a very useful way. And if we consider that Google is leading the dance, Google AdWords (Google advertising program) could be a very good option to improve the ranking of your website’s ranking.
3- Better understand the AdWords auction system to improve your campaigns
If the use of Google AdWords and the launch of campaigns is definitely part of your success on the web, it is by far very important to understand what a campaign is and how the AdWords auction system works.
A campaign is a “set of ad groups (ads, keywords, and bids) that share a budget, location targeting, and other settings. Campaigns are often used to organize categories of products or services that you offer.” https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/6304?hl=en
If you want to create a campaign with Google, you will have to use AdWords. And to do this in the best way possible AdWords, the auction system is something that you should definitely understand.
Firsly, one must bear in mind that ads have to be relevant. Indeed internet users want to have information related to what they are searching for. They don’t want to be bothered with anything else. On the other side, the advertisers want ads to be relevant so that users click on them. As for Google, the company wants everyone to be happy, to have a good experience so they will come back and use their system and services again.
When talking about paid ads, the first element that is to be taken into account is the amount advertisers are willing to pay for the users to click on their ad: here we are talking about “bid”. But this amount doesn’t mean they will actually pay that amount, neither that they will be better positioned if they pay more. Ranking is not all about money, neither limited to “bid”.
There is what we call a second price auction. This mean we don’t have to pay the full amount of our bid. We just need to pay just enough to beat the competition.
In the Google system, the advertiser only pays when he receives a click. But here again the price is not only linked to the bid. Google wants to encourage good quality ads and this way Google shows more useful ads in a higher position.
In fact there are many factors that will impact your ads positioning:
Expected Clickthrough Rate : It corresponds to Google’s prediction on how many times an ad will be clicked on when shown; This prediction is based on users’ feedback: in fact users are voting by their clicks. They are helping to decide who the best to answer to search query are;
Landing page experience: Highly relevant landing page lead to higher score. To reach that, the landing page has to have relevant and original content that helps the user completing his task. This page should be easy to navigate and transparent about the nature of your own business and how you intend to use this information;
Ad relevance: There should be a clear relation between the ads and the search query. Only useful ads are shown; this system prevents advertiser to promote unrelated elements;
Ad formats: All information (site links, website domain phone numbers,…) you can add on you ad that will give more information about your business. This information should give more reasons to click on your ad: your ad is to be useful for the user.
All these factors will create a score that will directly impact your ads’ ranking. To improve your ranking, you can play with all the different factors. The objective – to always better support your campaign – is to have the better score possible. As we have seen, the good news is that this score is not only about money: we can actively influence it!
Would you like to know more about it, please go to www.adwords.google.com/support .
SEA, a true support to support your business on-line
With these two articles we have been through the main basic actions (SEO and SEA) that you can do to improve the ranking of your website.
But one important thing should be kept in mind: all this is not magic. Before doing any of these actions, and especially launching any SEA actions, you should follow this process:
- Define your strategy – define your business objectives – define your budget
- Set up adwords
- Assess the performances – define the KPIs – monitorize
- Optimize the campaigns
Indeed SEO and SEA are there to help you to promote your business on the web. But in no case it should replace your own knowledge of your own business and all basic marketing actions that should be put in place to drive a business correctly.
A good start on the web, might be to first validate all these basic marketing points?
According to many news media, ad blockers would have turned the Web into a battlefield. These publishers accuse ad blockers of wrecking their business model by decimating ads and depriving them of their main source of revenue. Some of them even speek about a war that will lead to the end of the free web. Seriously? Let’s face the truth, those who virulently denounce ad blocking, also are those who are the most affected by this growing trend. On the other side, users don’t share the same feeling at all. Proof is the exponential increase in the number of ad blockers adopters.
So, Web’s ennemies or saviors? Probably none of them. The real question is: why ad blockers have become so popular?
Eventually, is advertising the best solution to monetize content on the Web?
The unstoppable rise of ad blockers
The use of ad blockers is skyrocketting globally. As you can see on the chart below (from a study by PageFair and Adobe), the rise of ad blocking is impressive. With the proliferation of players coupled with the strong enthusiasm of users, the ad blocking market is expected to keep growing fast. According to a study released in 2015 by SourcePoint and comScore, the use of ad blockers is widespread in Western countries, espacially in France (27%) and Germany (24%) where online privacy concerns are high. And penetration rates are even higher among young people: 56% of Millenials are using ad blockers. However, the rates are still very low on mobile in Western countries since ad blocking has been enabled on iOS9 quite recently: only 1% in the US and 0.2% in France. In Asia, the rate is much higher: 9% in India, 7.9% in China.
The reason behind the rise of ad blocking is quite obvious. Users hate advertising. In magazines, ads are inert and you just have to turn the page if you don’t want to look at them. On TV, never-ending commercials are a little bit more annoying but still, you can change the channel. Ads are way more unbearable online since they are both interruptive and intrusive. Ads can cover your whole screen, pop up, move, make sound, use your personal data… What a nightmare! And on top of that, ads are sometimes irrelevant, despite efforts made by publishers to target their audience.
There’s also another reason. On mobile devices, ad load tends to slow down your browser and reduce your battery life. As a result, millions of users download ad blocking apps such as Adblock Plus and Crystal. Some of them even choose to install lightweight browsers such as UC Browser and Brave which activate ad blocking by default. See how it works:
But ad blockers don’t remove ads only. They can also block tracking codes, sometimes by default. It’s a serious issue for marketers who are probably going to face an important loss of analytical data. It will affect user behavior analysis. Here is a very good article dealing with the impact of ad blockers on Google Analytics.
Ad blocking may be a symptom of a bigger issue: the lack of privacy on the Internet. Users don’t feel safe because they know they are tracked. If you remember, we talked about that in a previous article! Ad blockers simply give to users a quick and easy way to take back control of their personal data. Benefits are huge for users: they aren’t bothered anymore, page load is faster, battery life longer.
Now you may think ad blockers are some kind of “vigilantes of the web”, caring about users. But don’t be fooled. They are not “nice guys”. Some of them are nonprofit blockers. And some others are just using the motive of right to privacy to do business.
The Publishers strike back
For the moment, not really. They are on the defensive. Yet $21.8bn of ad revenue were lost in 2015 and this cost is expected to increase to $41.4bn in 2016, according to PageFair and Adobe. Although publishers acknowledge the problem, little is done to tackle it.
The common tactic consists of denying access to users who are activating ad blockers. To be allowed to read the content, you have to whitelist the website or suscribe. That’s exactly what Forbes is doing. The website was even blocking suscribers using ad blockers but they have just changed that as you can see on the screenshots below. It’s a dangerous tactic since users can decide the site isn’t worth it and leave. As a result, bounce rates will increase dramatically.
Wired is less categorical and tries another approach to lure users. The publisher lets you start the reading then deploys a paywall. It’s a smarter tactic since once the user is focused on the content, he is more likely to stay.
Some publishers hold onto ads revenue and decide to bypass ad blockers thanks to anti-ad blocking solutions like Secret Media. The “block the blocker” tactic is a vain attempt. These publishers should focus on real solutions.
Some others collude with the enemy to join the closed group of “acceptable ads”. The Financial Times reported last year that Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Taboola are paying huge fees to Adblock Plus to be whitelisted by default.
In this war, there are collateral damage. E-commerce websites. Let me tell you about my shopping experience on cosstores.com. I didn’t want to register so I clicked on “Checkout as a guest”. CTA was not working. I thought it was a tactic to make me create an account. It pissed me off. But ok I registered. Then checkout and time to press “Place order”. Not working, again. I refreshed the page. Still not working. And then I thought: “could it be because of my Adblock Plus plug-in?”. So I whitelisted the website. And guess what? It worked.
It means that ad blockers can infringe on UX and may have an impact on drop-off rates too… It would be interesting to know how many e-commerce websites are affected.
Proliferation of ad blockers has gone so far that it’s counterproductive trying to stem the bleeding. What if publishers stopped considering ad blocking as a threat but rather as an opportunity?
What future for advertising and publishers?
Advertising is experiencing a major shift. Ad blockers are forcing publishers’ hand to adapt to consumers choice and to change their business model. It’s an opportunity to innovate and find new ways to monetize content.
Here are 5 potential solutions:
1. Less is more
Marketers should focus on quality rather than on quantity. They need to improve ads relevance. Millions of impressions mean nothing if your CTR is equal to 0.001%!
How to be more relevant? First, publishers should review their ad expenses and optimize their budget. Second, they probably would need to better analyze their data and understand user behavior in order to improve targeting. Most of the time, remarketing techniques are missused. That’s not because I visited a car manufacturer’s website that I’m actually planning to buy a car! Third, publishers should challenge their media agency. They need to have more visibility on how the budget is spent and how these agencies optimize ad campaigns. Fourth, they should bannish intrusive ad formats as pop-ups, autoplay and insterstials.
2. Native Advertising
Quality is also a matter of look and feel. Ad blockers don’t block so-called “acceptable ads”. So publishers can take advantage of it. Non-intrusive ads, are ads that blend in seamlessly with content like in-feed, in-read ads or even sponsored blog posts. But publishers have to add a clear label so users can easily make the difference between non-promoted and promoted content. Otherwise they might feel duped and not trust the website anymore. BuzzFeed tried to use native ads. But according to the Advertising Standards Authority, they were breaking UK ad rules because it wasn’t clear enough.
3. Valuable content
Users don’t want their favorite websites to be in pain or die because of them. Websites offering great content and UX are more likely to be whitelisted.
Some publishers like Numerama are reacting in a funny way. On the first banner, you can read: “Here lies an ad killed by Adblock. But as we love you, we replaced it with a smile.”
On the second one:
“These 91,200 pixels are supposed to be an ad space. If you can read this, it means:
- The Death Star destroyed our CSS
- Pixels have been swallowed by the Sarlacc
- You are in a far-off galaxy and news media are finally living in an ad-free world
- You are using Adblock
Anyway, enjoy your reading”
Publishers should take this opportunity to focus on apps. Ad blockers only work at the browser level, which means they can’t affect apps. So why not drive more users into apps? Thanks to deep-linking, publishers can either send users to their app (if they already installed it), or ask them to download it for an enhanced experience. Publishers would also have to improve ads’ quality in applications.
5. New monetization models
Some publishers are relying on subscriptions to premium services. Wired developed an ad-free service. To encourage users to suscribe, L’Equipe is offering a 15-day-free trial to all users who accept to whitelist the website. L’Equipe reached a whitelisting rate of 40%.
The Guardian chose not to block access but the website encourages users to become “supporters” by paying 1$ per week to get rid of ads.
Ads, as we know them, are dead. But they will be reborn, in a new form: less intrusive and more relevant. Ad blockers are now part of the digital landscape. Publishers have to accept it. Now they should focus on the impact of ad blockers on their platform (loss of revenue, loss of analytics and sometimes poorer UX) and start to work on a plan. As Tom Goodwin said: “Adblocking may be the best thing for the advertising industry. A chance to rise to the challenge, create more meaningful connections and serve people better.”
In 2015, the investments in Paid Search grew by 19% compared to 2014 and reached €1.55 billion in France with a constant evolution throughout the year. Like every other year, the investments were greater in the last quarter, but they were greater this time and reached €470 million. Paid search (SEA) can show a very high reach level and with the new advertisement models, companies are more likely to invest in order to increase their visibility. But what happens when the market is evolving and changing? Let’s get into the subject.
Search Engine Market in France
As you may already know, Google is dominating 95.5% of the search engine market in France and it’s where most of the Paid Search advertising is made. Google search engine has evolved a lot during the past years with a lot of updates. They are known to always be game changing updates most of the time.
When searching on Google, this is how the SERP used to be. Wait a minute! SERP?
Ok Google! What is that again?
SERP or Search Engine Result Page is the list of results Google displays in a relevant way to answer a query. On that list, you have different types of links: the sponsored and the natural links. The difference between these two links is that one is paid and the other isn’t. The paid links also called sponsored links are one of the multiple ways Google makes its turnover. The paid ads work on an automated auction system. Multiple factors make you win an auction: the auction amount, the quality of your ad and your rank as an advertiser (based on your previous ads performance)
The following picture shows the older format of SERP when searching for “Chaussures soldes”.
You can see that Google suggests several ways of advertising to companies. You have the three first sponsored links on the left with the symbol “Annonces”, the sponsored links on the right, Google shopping which allows pure players and e-commerce websites to display specific products according to the user query, the knowledge graph that gives you all the insights of real world people, places, things, and the connections between them. These paid advertising forms are the most known. But as already stated below, Google has developed a lot of new functionalities. And unfortunately, all the companies with an online presence must follow closely what’s changing in order to be competitive.
Paid search: what has changed in early 2016?
Google has launched a 4th type of sponsored links on the SERP and has decided to delete those that were on the right. The only exceptions are the Shopping display ads and the knowledge graph ads that remain.
Most of the marketers have reacted differently to that change. One said that auctions are going to be tougher and it will be more expensive to win. Others think that it is not relevant and it has no direct consequences on them.
This is how it looks like as for now
I would simply conclude that it depends on your business activities and how your business is positioned in Paid search. If it’s the heart of your business, and that you are a pure player, it may not affect you a lot as you mainly used Google Shopping advertising formats. Those who provide services will have to pay higher their auctions by buying relevant keywords and be on the top 4 premium links displayed to users. I deeply think that Google has arrived to a point where they can do whatever they want and the market will follow and this because of their market dominance. This recent move, part of their strategy to relevantly respond to the customers’ query, will allow them to increase their revenues and will consequently change marketers’ ways of advertising online and may ultimately affect the 2016 Paid search market.
[easy-tweet tweet=”Some main #Paidsearch and #SEA updates on @Google in early 2016″ user=”sebafayo” hashtags=”DigitalMeUP, GEM”]
Google: How search works
Kantar Media: 2015 Paid Search Overview
JournalDuNet: Liens sponsorisés, qui sont les principaux annonceurs en France
Adwords: Colonne de droite supprimée, pas de quoi s’affoler !
Abondance: Plus de publicités à droite, 4ème lien Adwords dans les résultats Google
Arnaud de Terline: SEM Class, January 2016
What’s UX? Is this a kind of new superpower? Sort of.
User Experience Design (UX) is a fuzzy notion in France. Yet this is a key concept in digital. As Steve Jobs used to say: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”. In other words, UX is the power of designing an ergonomic and intuitive interface. It aims to provide graphic solutions to usability problems. “Is my website or my app user-friendly? Can users find what they want easily and in a short time?” Here are the questions that marketers need to ask themselves. To answer these questions, they have to take a deep dive into data. Today marketers are aggregating a huge amount of data but only 1% is analyzed to make decisions, according to a survey from IDC…
What’s a DMP?
UX can be leveraged to increase retention rate and seduce new customers. To help marketers with that, there are tools like Data Management Platforms (DMP). Usually first party data were stored as separated silos. Web analytics data, CRM data, marketing campaigns data… But now, thanks to DMP, it’s possible to store all this data in one place… And also to add other types of data! A DMP is a kind of mega tool that brings back together all data sources about one customer, to create one profile. Main DMP providers on the market are Eulerian, Bluekai (Oracle) and Demdex (Adobe). With a DMP, marketers can centralize:
1- First party data, which includes:
- Behavioral data: pageviews, queries, purchase history, answers to surveys…
- Customer data: online & offline CRM data
- Interaction data: impressions and clicks on advertising campaigns (display, search, retargeting, emails)
- Mobile and in-app data
- Social data: interactions on social networks
2- Second party data. It’s provided by other companies, usually partners, whose audience has similar profiles to yours. Thus second party data is a way to get new customers.
3- Third party data, including:
- Demographic data
4- Others, such as open data. For example, the weather.
By unifying data, DMP enables companies to get organized and clear results. Then they can create segments more easily and analyze each user profile. Moreover, it enables marketers to have a customer-centric approach. This is where UX and personalization come into play.
How can I personalize my interface with data?
Personalization consists in adapting the interface to users. And to so, marketers rely on data contained in the DMP. Let’s take an example to understand how useful and valuable it is. We work for a retailer in the fashion industry. This is what we know about one customer from our DMP:
- More likely to click on the “Dress” section after homepage
- Last purchase: 2 dresses, 1 pair of shoes; amount: 375€
- 30 years old
- December, Sunny day
So, instead of displaying the basic visual on the homepage, we decide to personalize it. Thus, when this woman will visit our website, she will get a personalized message: a visual featuring new dresses and/or a banner offering 10% off on dresses only.
Qubit developed a platform to optimize user experience and conversion rate. According to one of their case study, it’s possible to get an increase of 20-25% in conversation rate. Let’s have a look on this video to understand how it works:
It’s even possible to get contextual data and make recommendations to customers in real time. Teradata has developed a tool that helps marketers to take decisions by making recommendations. For instance, a customer from BNP Paribas is checking the mortgages section then making a simulation to estimate the rate he can get – and to get the result, you need to write your email address in the form. He gets 2.27%. He decides to leave the website. Right after, he receives an email. He opens it and finds that the bank is ready to offer him 1.99%. The recommendation tool assumed that if the customer left the website without trying to get more information, it was because the rate was too high.
Personalization offers more relevant content to customers and contributes to improve user experience. Marketers can even adapt an interface in real time and make recommendations either according to customers’ profile or customers from the same segment. And all this thanks to DMPs. Thus, it’s a way to improve the relationship between the company and the customer. E-commerce companies can then avoid churn and increase their conversion rate.
Data is the core of digital business. Marketers’ challenge is to turn a huge amount of figures into actionable data in order to increase performance and ROI. With the right tools, they can better understand their customers and improve user experience. That’s why we speak so much of “Big Data”. But how is it working exactly?
How is data collected online?
Basically, data are collected thanks to cookies. Cookies are in fact little files that are stored on your browser. These precious files provide very useful information about the user such as: his browser, IP address – and so his geolocation, clickstream data, behavior on a website, etc. For instance, thanks to cookies you can know the number of sessions on your website and the number of unique visitors.
What’s the point in collecting data?
Marketers rely on cookies to track users’ activity. They need to get this kind of information about their customers and leads in order to understand who they are. What is at stake here is the knowledge of customers’ behavior.
Offline, “bricks & mortar” and even “bricks & clicks” have a great advantage: they have the chance to meet face to face with their clients in-store. Online, this is a whole different story. Of course there’s no point in collecting data if you don’t know how to use it. You must pick information that enables you to customise your message and that is more likely to trigger a purchase. Show the right product, at the right time, with the right channel, that’s the real challenge for marketers. Thus, data is a powerful leverage for personalization. Thanks to data analysis, companies like La Fourchette are able to adapt the website interface and the content for each user.
Are cookies crumbling?
Cookies only enable you to identify a combination of one device and one browser. Which means that if you are visiting this blog from Google Chrome and from Internet Explorer at the same time, you will be counted twice. And this is a serious drawback. Cookies are not sufficient because they are not able to recognize the user.
On top of that, users annoyed with these methods have different ways to bypass cookies. They can either set their browser to reject some cookies, or they can delete cookies that are already stored in their browser’s cache. They can also get rid of them faster thanks to applications such as Ghostery. In European countries, it’s now a legal requirement to warn the user. Cookie banners are another way to protect the privacy of users.
Obviously, the loss of valuable data is huge for marketers, and it’s a matter of quantity and quality.
Cookies vs. Fingerprinting
Cookies are now presumed dead. As profiling issues have become a major concern, marketers need to get more detailed information about unique visitors. That’s why companies are increasingly turning to more sophisticated technologies such as fingerprinting. séjours linguistiques This method enables marketers to get more accurate information. Your fingerprint includes the brand of your device (desktop or mobile), the screen size, the time zone, etc. Just have a look on Am I unique? to realize how powerful it is. All these characteristics form a unique setup, in other words, a unique signature. And so an easily trackable one. In addition, fingerprinting is universal and is also efficient on mobile devices. It seems that we are getting closer to our user… But it has one big flaw. It’s undetectable, which means that regarding users’ privacy it’s an ethical issue. Although fingerprinting is a more efficient technology, many companies are reluctant to use it for the moment because of its dark side.
Some of you would think it sounds creepy. And we cannot blame you! But think about it. For marketers, fingerprinting is a way to optimize their marketing spends and ROI thanks to a more accurate targeting and tracking method. For customers, it could be a way to avoid spam and get relevant content and advertising only. A win-win situation. Fingerprinting might be the future of online advertising. But of course it comes with a price, our privacy. As users, we need now to ask ourselves if we are willing to pay…