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AdWords Expanded Text Ads: Post-Deadline Update

7 Mar


CoreyMorrisGuest Contributor: Corey Morris
Director of Digital Strategy

With the deadline now passed for migration to expanded text ads in Google AdWords, we can look back at the big push to get to the new format and what it’s impact has been. (Want background? Check out my previous post on what they are and the transition) The ad format update was a big change for advertisers who managed large campaigns, and even more daunting for marketing agencies (like us) who manage thousands of ad groups across all our clients. This was just one of the big updates Google made as it officially went “mobile-first” in how it approaches the web. Expanded text ads didn’t change the world, but they did have an impact on advertisers through pushing us to adopt a new standard and to get hands on within our campaigns at a granular level.

 The new standard isn’t really that surprising. While it was big news at the time, the deadline for converting ads passed with little fanfare. We are continuing to see performance trends more closely linked to the early 2016 update Google made removing ads from the right rail putting all of the focus on a single column of ad and organic search results content. In cases where we have ads in the first through third ad slots on the page when they appear at the top of the page, we’re seeing increased click through rates and lead generation performance; however, when ads fall to the fourth slot (and sometimes even the second) that appears at the bottom of the page after the organic search results, engagement drops off dramatically.

 A benefit for marketers who are mostly focus on both PPC and SEO is that we saw organic traffic increase. The increases ranged from 30-80% on average, and some of that can be attributed to there being less noise above the fold on the search results page. In the long run, organic traffic is often cheaper (but don’t always assume so).

 Our conclusion is that expanded text ads are a good thing. They offer the opportunity to take up more real estate [and when ads are in the top few slots at the top of the page, can really attract attention]. Couple that with the ad extensions available and it sometimes isn’t fair to the long-entrenched top organic search results below the ads; however, advertisers pay a premium to be on those top slots and that is something that won’t change any time soon. We must work harder and smarter to try to find the right mix of terms that fit our ROI equation for being in those top slots. The big takeaway is that more is better when it comes to exposure on the search results page and the expanded text ads update allows us to have it if we’re willing to invest.

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Do You Spy on Your Competitors Online?

7 Feb






Guest Contributor: Corey Morris
Directory of Digital Strategy

The word “spying” is fun, but it isn’t really what we’re doing. It isn’t hard, as I’m talking about using timely public information and snapshots to ensure that we get ahead and stay ahead in digital marketing, content, and PR efforts. The biggest challenge for many is getting the right mix of tools, data, and information in a means that is easy to digest in order to make decisions from. Over the years we have used many different tools and want to share what we have learned so you can maximize your intelligence information.

We probably don’t need to go into detail on why it is important to know what content, messaging, and marketing your competitors are doing. I guarantee that your sales team knows what is being said by competitors and what their pitches are. However, maybe because we’re not constantly out in the field and, due to the number of big data sources coming at us each day, we’re not always paying as close attention as we feel like we should.

For search engine optimization and pay per click advertising–two specific types of intelligence information are critical to success. The first is our audience and ensuring we’re targeting the right people with our efforts. The second is our competition. We’re likely not the only ones going after our target audience so we need to profile the strength of each relevant competitor.

The first step is to identify our competitors list. This can come from the list we know off the top of our heads of the traditional competitors we go up against all the time. From there, we need to supplement with competitors who we find ranking prominently in organic search results or advertising on the topics and terms that our audience would find us through. Once we have the competitors list, we’re ready to get to work building out the competitor profile.

Here are the specific competitor metrics that I recommend starting with as you build your competition profile baseline and start ongoing tracking:

  • Organic search keywords targeted, website content, keyword rankings, domain authority score, page authority scores, inbound links
  • Paid search keywords targeted, ad copy, estimated media spend, landing page strategies
  • Social media follower audience size, post engagement, brand mentions, frequency and volume of posting, types of content posted, mix of paid vs organic
  • Email marketing frequency of sending, segments, list growth CTAs, types of content promoted, use of automation

This is a lot of stuff and we’re just scratching the surface. However, there are many tools that will help us compile this information as well as make it visible so we see it on a regular basis, can analyze it, and make informed and strategic digital marketing decisions. There are many different dashboard tools out there that are solid and combining those with the right mix of intelligence tools can get you to a goldmine of meaningful competitive intelligence.

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Fifteen Million Dollars or Fifteen Cents – What is the Cost of Web Traffic?

31 Jan







Guest Contributor: Corey Morris
Director of Digital Strategy


I recently saw in Ad Age that estimated the cost for a 90-second TV ad slot in the Super Bowl to be fifteen million dollars. While a Super Bowl ad goes out to a massive audience on what many consider an unofficial national holiday, it can be hard to measure the full actual impact the spot has on a business. While sitting here with my mind blown about how much work I would put into finding ways to make web traffic from the spot measurable and able to be attributed properly, I started thinking about the differing cost of traffic through specific website traffic channel sources. That led me down an interesting and variable path. In my recent [2016 benchmarking review of the building materials industry] I found some connections that make sense and others that provide for strong predictions of what we’ll see in web traffic at the end of 2017.

The most predictable was that direct traffic (third highest source) and organic traffic (highest source) are both in the top three as traffic drivers. These are two “free” sources of traffic to a website; however, they aren’t really free. There are costs associated with building a brand, sales efforts, and other drivers that cause a website visitor to directly type in a domain name and go to a website. Additionally, while the organic traffic from search engines is free, there are often costs associated with search engine optimization, content development, and website maintenance in external expense or overhead.

The second highest traffic source is paid search traffic. This traffic source is strictly for paid ad traffic to the website from search engines. By default, it is often written off as a more expensive source of traffic by many companies and is not considered. Yet, the evidence continues to suggest that this is an important source of traffic, right after organic search engine traffic. It fills gaps and ensures that as many visitors as possible are captured from search engines. With the removal of the right column of ads in early 2016, it is as important as ever because the ad slots at the top of the search results pages look more like organic results. The beauty about this source is that it has much more visible and self-contained costs than other channels. We know what we are paying in media, what our external or overhead costs are for managing it, and the more small-scale content investment needed for PPC compared to content marketing.

Social media traffic is a small segment, yet it is the most rapidly growing and surpassed email marketing in 2016. Both social media and email marketing fall under the content marketing umbrella in terms of external costs on overhead for internal management plus the need to generate content.

So, where does this all lead us? After running through a lot of different scenarios, looking at different industries, and diving deep into analytics of specific companies, I realized there’s not really a set, objective benchmark target to report or target. The key is to first find out what the true costs of your traffic are by channel. Once you have those numbers and expose all potential hidden costs, then you can calculate the true cost per acquisition for each channel. That will show you how much return you’re getting on your investment in each area so you can make wise decisions when that next budget season comes around or when that new campaign idea comes up.

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See It To Believe It: The Persuasive Power Of The Infographic

24 Jan

Guest Contributor: Matt Hillman

Creative Director


Of all the types of content available today, nothing is forwarded more than the humble infographic—three times as often as any other content on social media. Distilling reams of information into lively, succinct, and easily digestible content, the infographic is the data snapshot we can’t seem to get enough of. So we thought it would be interesting to create an infographic about infographics. Definitely information that you need to see to believe.



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Gutsy B2B Creative Calls for Mutual Trust

9 Nov

Six simple trust techniques for clients and creatives


420769_789433871855_1274789115_nGuest Contributor:
KC Rudolph, Art Director

Trust between a client and agency is the single most important factor to achieve truly great creative work. Without trust, no one pushes the creative envelope, the best ideas end up mediocre, and the disruption that advertising and marketing efforts strive for goes unrealized.

That’s why building trust should be a priority for both the client and the agency. To stand out you need to take chances, do things differently and occasionally go out on a ledge. In business, that can be a daunting proposition and we often take the easier, safer, less challenging direction.

When trust doesn’t exist, the safer and often less rewarding path is usually chosen; when trust does exist, the path can seem less daunting and the rewards within reach.

Trust works both ways. Clients should strive to trust their agency’s creative team to deliver ideas and finished work that stands out—even if the ideas make you slightly uncomfortable. The best ones usually do.

On the other hand, B2B creative teams should trust their clients will be open to wildly creative ideas. Granted, we need to trust our clients when they throw legitimate red flags, but too often the best ideas get left behind. The defeatist mindset of, “they’ll never go for it,” can be the death of brilliant ideas. When trust exists, “they’ll never go for it” can become “let’s go for it!”

B2B Clients and creatives want the same thing—great creative work that stands out from the competition, and leaves a unique and lasting impression on the audience. They say trust takes a lifetime to build and only a moment to lose. But, if we wait a lifetime to trust our partners, then the moment to do great, gutsy things will pass us by.

Just like clients are experts in their roles, agency creatives are experts in theirs. Trust them to be just that, and the final product will be better for it. Ideas will be bigger, designs more eye-catching, copy more clever, and results more rewarding.

Remember these six simple trust techniques:

  1. TRUST the client to be an expert in their product or service
  2. TRUST the client to be open minded
  3. TRUST the creative team to be experts at what they do
  4. TRUST the creative team to deliver ideas that are unconventional
  5. TRUST gut feelings and push the envelope in order to break through
  6. TRUST that this will result in better creative

Now… what boundaries do you want to push? We’re ready.

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