Its PPC, but not as we know it

Paid Search advertisers are this week working out how to operate in a new world. One presumably consisting of less traffic, more competition and higher pricing. Not an ideal combination.

The removal of the right hand side PPC ads over the weekend may seem like a surprising move by Google. Don’t more ads equal more money? But after an extensive period of testing, which undoubtedly proved the intensified auction (and therefore higher CPC) for top slots at a higher CTR outweighed the income from those on the right hand side of the page, each SERP now consists of a maximum of seven ads, four at the top and three at the bottom.

A combination of greater revenues from stagnant growth search terms, the streamlined layout for mobile and desktop and also the extra space for other ad formats and the decision makes sense both commercially and strategically.

But in doing this, Google has changed the face of PPC as we know it, above and beyond the amount of listings on a page.

The success of PPC and Google Adwords over the past 15 years has been down to a number of core redeeming features of the channel.

  • National exposure to potential customers for limited cost
  • Payment model based around ROI
  • Limited barriers to entry around cost
  • Unknown or small businesses can compete on a level playing field

In this latest move Google has removed the bulk of these features and fundamentally changed the Google Adwords channel for good.

Small businesses, once the poster boys for Google, have been pretty much priced out of any ‘commercial queries’, which let’s face it, are any which are going to generate sales.

The barriers to entry around cost have well and truly been raised and in established market it is very much a big boy’s game now. The playing field is now far from level.

And more significantly maybe this move could have removed the ROI viability for everything but high ticket item products. In the past couple of years many businesses have been struggling with their dependence on PPC and its rising costs, this is only now going to get worse.

So the advertising channel where I cut my teeth all those years ago, and where I learnt much of my trade, is now to all intents and purposes dead.

RIP Paid Search, its been fun.

Posted in PPC

Content Marketers Have No Excuse Not to Be Creative

Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality

Standing out in a cluttered world is difficult.  With content marketing being the ‘in thing’ for brands to be investing in, we live in a cluttered world where consumers are bombarded with content to consumer, engage with, and share with their own networks.

The only way to stand out from the crowd through content is to be creative.  And through technology and the internet content marketers have no excuse not to be able to push the boundaries of creativity in their projects.

Technology driving creativity

Obviously you have your content topic, functionality, or design which you can invest in to make yourself different from the competition.  Be more funny, useful, or beautiful than the competition.

Here you need ideas, and lots of them.  Tecmarks brainwriting tool is a great example of how you can generate 108 content ideas in just 30 minutes.

Then there is content format.  And this can be where the challenge lies.  Many content marketers do not have the design or technical capabilities to be creating the level of content needed to produce results.

As a result a whole new industry of tools has emerged allowing anybody who is computer literate to create professional images, videos, infographics and animation without the need to specialist resource.

Tools such as Canva and Pablo for creation of simple images for use with social media.  Infogram and Vennpage for infographic creation and Stock Snap and Pexels for photography and vector images, Flat Icons for icon sets

And beyond simple images, you even have tools like GoAnimate that allow you to create animations without the usual software and experience.  Below is one we created for Tecmark with little more than some photoshop files.

With technology facilitating creativity in such a way, content marketers really have no excuse to be churning out the same ideas, in the same format and just adding to the noise of the Internet.

For a more conclusive list you should check out my colleague Stacey MacNaught’s blog post here.

Social media and its effect on distance – a random musing

Social media and the ever-connected world has, in a lot of instances, removed the impact of distance. For the most part this is a good thing.  Connecting old friends and new, separated families and like-minded individuals who may be thousands of miles apart.

As human beings we have an instinct to want to be close to those we love.  We are inherently pack animals and hold a desire to be part of a crowd, either for social or survival reasons.  This is part of the reason social media has grown to be such an integral part of modern day life. People want to feel connected to each other and to the world. Detachment and isolation is not in our nature.

There are great stories of people reuniting, or building bonds through social media that in previous decades wouldn’t have been possible. This is the affect on distance that is most reported.

But social media has another affect on distance.  That of detaching people from others and the effect of the comments that they make.  For every story of the positive affect of social media there is a darker story of its impact, most recently coined cyber bullying or ‘trolling’.

Neither bullying nor ‘trolling’ (in the sense of its action) are anything new.  Yet they seem to be all the more commonplace today. One of the reasons for this the impact social media has on distance.

As much as social media can bring us closer to others, it has the affect of distancing us from the comments we make and those we aim them at.

When children are young, they learn the affect of their comments through the reactions they receive. Cause and effect.  They say something mean to another child; they receive a reaction of upset, sadness or anger.  Most children don’t particularly like seeing another child in distress and so they learn not to make similar comments again as it doesn’t feel nice.

The generation who have grown up in a world of smartphones and social media don’t necessarily learn the same lessons.  Social media contributes to detach them from the effect of their comments.  They say something online, the effect is unseen, and the repercussions are limited.  And if they want to they can detach themselves further through anonymous accounts.

So whilst we all love a heart warming story of how social media has bridged a large physical distance, we should also consider how it is distancing us from our comments and actions an more importantly, what it is doing to the generation who have never known anything different.

Make sure you are ready for a Multi Screen Christmas

Christmas 2013 was a watershed period for multi screen, multi device internet usage. Advances in the available of high quality, low cost mobile devices meant that last year saw a step change in how people used the Internet over the festive period.

On Christmas Day 2013 traffic from mobile phones and tablets made up three quarters of total traffic, overtaking that from desktops by a considerable margin.

Understanding what this means to you and your campaigns is key, as no two customer journeys are the same. According to research by IBM, while tablets drove sales, smartphones proved to be the most popular device for browsing.

And this just involves online sales, the same research suggested mobile influences over £18bn of in store sales, making the picture even more unclear when looking for direct response to campaigns.

Having a clear multi screen strategy for your retail campaigns, and starting to understand how people interact with you on different devices is going to be the key to success this Christmas and New Year. Ignoring any particular type of device and the role it plays in the customer journey will lead to lost opportunity.

Mine your analytics, access your website on as many devices as you can get your hands on, and put yourself in your potential customers, are you offering the optimal multi device experience? And if you were a customer on a particular device, what do you think you would be trying to do? Are you making it easy for them to do it?

More often the answers when you start asking these types of questions are far from positive.

Your website traffic is only going to keep coming from a longer list of fragmented devices, most of which wont be a desktop. And if you are a retailer this Christmas, you don’t have long to act!

Technology is not the solution

In the world of media technology is often lauded as the saviour.  The magic bullet which will solve all of our needs, be it for analysis, targeting, optimisation or the favourite phrase on everyone’s lips, ‘big data’.

Advertising agencies push it hard as a USP (not very unique if everyone is doing it!), advertisers look for technology solutions that will ‘super charge’ their marketing, and the tech companies themselves do their best to stir it all up into a frenzy in order to sell their product.    The world of technology in media and marketing is a difficult one to navigate, categorising tools and understanding how they fit together is difficult enough in itself as this post and the associated infographic exemplifies.

But in reality, technology is rarely more than a facilitator, and businesses that lose sight of that will be left disappointed and frustrated when they work out that their latest tool isn’t going to revolutionise their advertising campaigns.

Technology as a Facilitator

I am a great believer in technology and its uses in advertising.  In fact, it is my job and build technology solutions that make our advertising campaign more transparent and effective.  But this effectiveness, and the role technology plays in our day to day lives, is purely as an insight tool, an efficiency driver and a facilitator.  It cannot (and nor would we want it to) take the place of the team managing and driving our advertising campaigns.

Technology is a key part of the modern day advertising agency life, it makes analysis easier, facilitates speed of changes in advertising and takes away the paper work of old but it still needs the people telling it what to do, or to interpret the information it produces.

Advertising is about People

As much is it is people you are trying to target with your advertising, it will be people who make your advertising work for you. Behind ever technological innovation, or every data analysis tool, there will be somebody interpreting the output and revising your advertising accordingly.  The technology makes a lot of things possible, but without the people driving them, none of it will become a reality.

In a recent survey conducted by Econsultancy 70% of in house marketers stated they planned to increase their investment in technology in 2014.  The leading areas of proposed increased investment were CRM (49%) and Analytics (47%).  My concern is that this investment is being seen by some as the end game.  Buy the tool, problem solved. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Too many times I have seen businesses paying large fees for a piece of technology that is adding no value to their business or their marketing because it is poorly configured or poorly used.  Signing off an invoice to buy the tool doesn’t solve a problem, investing in the people to understand and drive the technology might just do that.

So next time you are pitched a technology solution, or somebody tells you how technology is set to revolutionise the advertising landscape, look beyond the technology and think about what it will take to drive it.  That’s where the real value is added.