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Is Content Growth Outpacing Query Growth?

While at SMX West, I heard a particularly interesting subject raised by Rand Fishkin of Moz. He suggested in his “The SEO Revolution Will Not Be Televised” presentation the following: content growth is outpacing query growth.

This relatively boring fact actually will have a rather significant impact on the future of organic search marketing, as well as other channels like social media. Bear with me as I extrapolate on this concept and explore where it may take us in a few years.

Rand’s accompanying blog further explains that as content generation goes up, the likelihood of anyone seeing a piece of created content gets proportionately lower. This is straightforward to confirm as we have seen view rates for Facebook and tweets continue to drop as users and usage climbs.

How Content Fatigue Happens

Photo courtesy of moz.com/rand/content-marketers-become-worst-enemy/

In a brief email exchange, Rand did not think these changes will lead to marketers shifting their attention away from search anytime soon. He said “the uniquely valuable, best-in-class creators, though, will always have opportunity,” and I would certainly agree with that.

However, I am not quite as optimistic about what the future may hold if/when query growth rates flat line and content growth rates keep increasing. I believe that if the supply of content gets too high, and demand for it (in the form of queries) starts to decline, it will ultimately become too cost-prohibitive for many content creators to continue to pursue traffic and likes by generating new content. This would be especially true for small and medium sized businesses that count on search engines for both paid and organic traffic and don’t have many disposable marketing dollars.

To get an idea of when this inflection point may occur is relatively easy. Companies such as comScore provide monthly updates to the volume of searches taking place, seen here for desktops:

comScore for blog

Photo courtesy of Search Engine Land

 

According to Search Engine Land, a decline of 10 percent is the largest change in over four years, which suggests that we are nearing a high-water point where there are simply no more things users need to search for. Notably, these numbers don’t include the high growth of searches on mobile devices, which surely accounts for some of the decline in paid search queries. Google suggests that global mobile search query volume will be higher than desktop queries perhaps by the end of 2014, but users are typically less likely to browse for content when searching on mobile devices. They are looking for quick answers, so a mobile search is not necessarily equivalent to a desktop search.

Nonetheless, if we have not yet reached a point where overall queries (desktop + mobile) are declining, it’s probably coming around the corner sooner than we would hope.

Once that day comes where total queries stop growing, the economics of creating and optimizing for content will become starkly different. Mark Schaefer wrote an article earlier this year where he evaluates how supply and demand for content is already at risk of becoming upside down. In this article, he proposes a similar conclusion that content creation will decelerate due to the unavoidable limit of content-consumption time available (there are only so many humans and only 24 hours available per day after all).

Economics of Content

Photo courtesy of businessesgrow.com

In economics, when supply is significantly higher than demand the invisible hand will correct the disparity. This can come in two forms: demand increasing (more searches in our example), or supply decreasing (less content to choose from). When supply is far higher than demand, the creators of the supply will slow or stop production until demand catches up.

That means that if content marketers are pouring time and money into content that will not be seen or liked by virtually anyone, they will quickly figure it out and stop creating it. Once Google has curated the web and has the answer for virtually any question (see the Knowledge Graph initiative), what role will content creators and publishers then play?

What is most interesting to me is what it means for the future of search, both paid and organic. If supply of queries doesn’t continue to grow, there will simply not be enough users that are going to see your ads or pages at a reasonable expense. Then, presuming it becomes unprofitable to create content for organic traffic or run paid search ads, where will marketers turn to continue to grow their brands and market share?

I predict that the answer is accelerated fragmentation of marketing dollars and a general decline in spending on paid and organic search optimization. Native advertising and alternative lead sources will grow as brands large and small try to find new ways to reach users.

Digital marketing spend is definitely not going down anytime soon, but if the current trends continue the balance of power that Google maintains could certainly shift away from them. People are starting to search less frequently, and when they do the search results are becoming more dominated by direct answers and Knowledge Graph cards – which means even less traffic available for content creators.

To me, the answer does not seem to be social media, as promoting posts is already a necessity if you want any of your followers to see your messaging. This is a very different dynamic than the good ol’ days of building a community and being able to easily keep in touch with them. If a small or medium sized business has to promote a post or tweet in order to make sure their followers see it, then eventually the content creation plus promotion costs will become too significant compared to the value in return – interaction and engagement. It is good for advertising revenues today, but will cause damage in the medium and long term with a business’ desire to use these platforms as a marketing channel.

So, what is a marketer to do if these trends continue? I see an enormous opportunity for further innovation in the space, by making it easier to buy ads across apps, ad networks and native buys. Beyond that, be prepared to diversify your marketing media mix and always be testing new channels and lead sources.

Of course, never count out the brilliant minds that are at work behind the products at the top Internet properties. Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Apple will surprise us all with new opportunities that we had not even imagined. They have virtually unlimited resources to solve these problems, and buildings full of PhDs to work on them.

What do you think? Is the dominance of Google going to be a distant memory in a few short years or will they continue with their market leadership well into the 2020’s?

 

Google Search Query Change: What it Means for SEM Managers

Not providedOn Wednesday, Google announced a secure search update further fueling rumors that “Not Provided” in AdWords is going to kill paid search query data.  What does that mean exactly? The data for the search queries will not be passed onto any third party analytics tool, including Google Analytics.  Bid management tools that use the Google AdWords API will not be affected.

Although losing another piece of data seems detrimental, the reality is very little is actually altered by this change. Most marketers already manage their data via AdWords API.

Here are some key points to the recent Google change:

  • Advertisers will continue to have access to data that will help optimize and improve their paid search campaigns.
  • This change only affects third party tracking solutions that do not use Google AdWords API.  Many analytics companies still have access to Google AdWords API, so the consequences are minimal.
  • Google Search Terms Report, previously known as the Search Query Performance Report, is still intact and will become more important to advertisers.
  • Since Google Analytics (GA) is considered a third party solution, advertisers may see [Not Provide] in their GA reports.
  • Matching the on-page call activity with the search query will no longer be feasible.
  • If you currently use on-page dynamic call tracking to attribute what specific keyword led to a call, we recommend transitioning all call tracking numbers to attribute per source instead.
  • If you currently customize landing pages, we recommend using the keyword that generated the ad click instead of the search query.

Although the initial rumors seemed to be panic-inducing, in reality, as search geeks we saw this coming.  Google has long worked to keep searches on Google secure. In October 2013, Google released “Not Provided” for organic search results.  This recent announcement allows Google to set the same standards for paid and organic search.

Google Partner

“This change will not impact the way Marquette Group’s search team manages paid search accounts,” said Stephanie Casajuana, SEM Manager.  “We continue to employ aggressive bid management strategies, analyze competition and keywords, properly measure campaign performance and optimize accordingly.”

Learn more about Marquette Group’s paid search solutions.

A Conversation with Google

SMX West

Photo courtesy of Search Engine Land

If you are a search geek, like we are here at Marquette Group, then you definitely would have enjoyed SMX West in San Jose, California.  A few of the Marquette Group digital marketing team, including myself, were lucky enough to attend and take in the full search geekdom.

Among the highlights was a keynote Wednesday evening with Amit Singhal, Google Search Chief.  Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, interviewed Mr. Singhal, and even Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, jumped on stage for quick group selfie prior to the conversation.

Hummingbird

Amit and Danny initially spoke about the many changes at Google, including the recent Hummingbird update.  “Hummingbird is a complete rewrite of our search system.  The last time we did that was shortly after I arrived at Google in 2000. “  The Google Search Chief stated Hummingbird is about understanding “natural language queries, long queries.”  The implications of Hummingbird are great, including deeper and better results for searches on mobile devices.  Marketers should take note of the monumental shift to these devices and ensure existing strategies will scale appropriately.

Knowledge GraphDanny Sullivan

The conversation shifted to the Knowledge Graph, a feature on Google that displays answers to questions or simple queries such as, “Who is Danny Sullivan?”  The question was raised about the fairness of “lifting” content from webpages to the Knowledge Graph and whether this was fair to publishers. Amit answered, “We care about publishers. The relationship between publishers, Google and users is all one of mutual benefit.”  Essentially, Amit was stating that the Knowledge Graph is loved by users and is not going away.  Implications for SEO are mixed, at least for now. We have seen Google testing different searches and answers to questions and these continue to creep into publishers’ web traffic.  For now, the impact is not significant, especially for lead generation or SMB’s. We will continue to monitor as Google tweaks and tests this feature going forward.

Not Provided

Danny took audience questions, and the inevitable topic regarding Not Provided was raised [Not Provided refers to keyword data, once 100 percent available through web analytics packages to analyze organic search, that has since become encrypted and unavailable to marketers].  Amit’s full answer is stated below:

“I’m glad you asked. Over time, we have moved to secure searches. Referrers are not passed to webmasters, but they are passed to advertisers. But webmasters get a lot of information in Webmaster Central.

But over a period of time, we’ve been looking at this issue. We’ve heard from our users that they do want their searches secure — this is really important to users. We like how things have gone on with the organic side of search.

So, in the coming weeks and months, we’re looking at better solutions for this. We have nothing to announce, but we have discussed with the ads side about how we should handle this in the future.”

The audience, full of search engine marketers, was a bit surprised by Amit’s response.  The fact that Google is considering the Not Provided question internally is surprising – and even more surprising was the mention of paid search.  Many experts, including Danny Sullivan, believe Amit implied that paid search queries may also go away in the future, in order to “make the web more secure.”  As you can imagine, paid search marketers are not happy with this implication.  While most search marketers have found even better ways to report the success of an SEO campaign, keyword-level data would still be a nice extra piece of intelligence–another piece of the puzzle.

So a big finish to a rare conversation with the leader of Google’s organic search.  And the search geeks in the room, and throughout the world, were not disappointed. 

 

Webinar: The Rise of Local YouTube and Facebook Advertising – Now Available Online

If you missed last week’s webinar “The Rise of Local YouTube and Facebook Advertising,” it is now available online!

During the webinar Gary Richmond and David Lenzen reviewed the key findings from our newly released research, “Social Media Marketing Study: Benchmarks for Success” to help advertisers learn how to harness social media to drive leads.

Key highlights from the webinar:

  • Highlights of our recent study including latest trends in social advertising and challenges for marketers
  • How the increase of social usage creates opportunities for brands to be highly-visible
  • How YouTube ads help you engage with hard-to-reach targets
  • How Facebook ads drive engagement and increase likes and comments


To view more webinars visit Marquette Group’s YouTube channel.

9 Reasons Your Digital Ads Go Unseen

Digital Marketing Magnified

I recently read an article about digital advertising changes in 2014 and the following statistics were cited:

  • 54 percent of online ads are not seen by their intended audience
  • 50 percent of web ads go entirely unseen

While neither of these statistics were attributed to a source, assuming they are based in fact, they hit home and got me thinking. How can this happen in today’s digital marketplace where accountability and measurability are so readily available?

These stats seem to indicate that too many advertisers are placing the wrong type of digital ads while failing to measure results and adapt campaigns based on performance. If this is true, the question still remains, why?

It has been my experience that advertisers, especially SMBs, often buy digital advertising without the proper understanding or frame of reference on how to properly target their ads.  Additionally, many advertisers do not understand how to successfully measure and track results of their ads once placed.  While this conclusion may be simple, I believe the problem is much deeper and complex than what it appears on the surface.

The digital advertising marketplace is in a constant state of change, evolving with new advertising methods, new sites and networks, and advancements in technology at a rate of speed that is almost impossible to stay current with. Advertisers are confused and sometimes slow to adjust their focus and media purchasing processes.

In my opinion, there are numerous reasons why digital advertising is not reaching its targeted audience or simply going unseen.  These reasons most likely include:

  1. Lack of understanding regarding the basics of digital advertising
  2. Making poor choices in selecting advertising vehicles
  3. Not fully understanding what type of advertising is being bought
  4. Failure to track results and optimize campaigns based on performance
  5. Entering long-term contracts, which lack the flexibility to make adjustments or cancel campaigns if they are not performing
  6. Placing campaigns that are poorly targeted–both demographic and geographic targeting
  7. Failure to adapt to changes in the digital advertising marketplace
  8. Utilizing outdated data or poorly placed ads
  9. Not understanding how to appropriately leverage local advertising to drive success

While we can continue to list additional factors above, my point would remain the same. A substantial amount of digital advertising is being wasted or extremely unsuccessful. For an industry insider and someone who has watched digital media positively impact many organizations we work with, this is an extremely frustrating and unnecessary reality.

While not every digital advertising campaign will effectively meet ROI and performance standards, at a minimum, they should reach the appropriate targeted audience and make some form of impact. Many successful ad agencies, similar to Marquette Group, understand how to effectively spend your digital advertising budgets. Reputable firms will offer tracking and measurement capabilities to allow the advertiser insights and have the skills and expertise to optimize campaigns and drive success.

I hope your firm is gaining the digital results desired and not part of the unsuccessful statistics mentioned above.  If not, more than likely, you need to seek the expertise and support of a reputable digital agency to recalibrate your campaigns and more effectively drive positive results for your budget.

Click here to learn 4 Things to Look for in a Local Digital Agency

I’m Being Followed: How Google and Other Companies Track Me

To escape the never-ending winter weather, you decided this morning to start searching for vacation spots that have no shortage of palm trees and warmth.  Then, this afternoon you routinely check your Facebook newsfeed and an amazing thing happened; there’s an ad in the right rail for a vacation resort and a discounted flight.  How did they know?

Consumers may think ads that follow them around the Internet are creepy; when in reality this actually helps a consumer during the buying process to make a better, more informed decision. This misconception is due to a lack of awareness of what retargeting is and how it works. The ability to dynamically retarget a display ad is an incredibly powerful online marketing tool when used correctly.

So what exactly is retargeting and how does it work?

In its simplest form, retargeting serves ads to consumers that have visited an advertiser’s website and left without converting. This keeps a brand top of mind when someone shows initial interest. Dynamic retargeting takes a branding display campaign and turns it into a targeted lead generating tactic.

According to the global retargeting leader AdRoll, 98 percent of shoppers don’t convert on their first visit to a site.  Below is an abbreviated overview of how to use retargeting to get those consumers back.

1.    First, you “cookie” a consumer that visits your site

To properly retarget your ads, a pixel is dropped on the webpage.  This unobtrusive code is unnoticed by consumers and does not affect the site’s performance.  Once a consumer visits that site, this pixel allows a cookie to be placed on the consumer’s device. Companies can choose to target users that visit part of the site – such as a shopping cart or a form – or targeting can opened up to the whole site.

2.    Visitors are then served your display ads in real time when visiting other partner sites across the web

By serving “almost” customers an ad, you are guaranteeing that ad dollars are only being spent on consumers who have had some sort of engagement with your company or product. That is why marketers who use retargeting generally see a higher ROI than a branding display advertising campaign.

 3.    Visitors click, return and convert. You get more sales!

Consumers see an ad for the pair of shoes that they almost bought prompting them to return back to the site and possibly make a purchase this time.  If the consumer does not convert again, then we can continue to serve them ads for a certain amount of time.

To avoid being retargeted, consumers can clear the cookies on their device at any time.  But before being quick to do so, remember there are many other benefits to allowing cookies on your computer, including retaining your login information and leaving items in a shopping cart to return to later.

Marketers are learning to avoid creeping people out through better targeting and less intrusive messaging. As retargeting becomes more understood and better utilized, its reputation is continuing to improve.

Consumers are watching. Are you there?

Video in nature is engaging. Whether it’s a baby taking her first steps, someone falling or a breaking news story, video brings stories to life and connects people. Digital technology, and the idea of always being connected, has changed consumer behavior. We’ve all experienced it. When you are on Facebook and scroll your newsfeed to then watch, like or share a video. Or your friend sends you an email or text with a link to video on YouTube you must watch. Or you missed the latest episode of your favorite show, and you watch it on demand online.

Did you realize that over six billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube? What’s even more important for brands is that video viewers are engaged. Fifty-two percent of YouTube viewers take action after watching video online, and 35 percent purchase things they see advertised on YouTube. With the increasing number of consumers visiting social sites and watching online videos, brands can be highly visible to their target audience and effectively deliver their message.

With video advertising you can:

  • Engage with hard-to-reach segments
  • Reach consumers through a cost-per-view model on desktop, mobile and tablets
  • Distribute unique localized videos for each of your markets
  • Target your audience by location, gender, age and lifestyle/content interests
  • Track reporting on views, clicks, calls and conversions

Youtube article picture

According to our recent social media study, Social Media Marketing Study: Benchmarks for Success, multi-media (video) content is popular with users, but a challenge for marketers. While marketers find video daunting, YouTube and other social channels are creating more affordable and efficient national and local opportunities to share or advertise content. A reputable agency, like Marquette Group, can minimize the challenges of video and help you take advantage of multi-media popularity.

 

Eliminate Wasted Advertising Dollars by Attributing Leads

Every advertisement, whether it is online or off, costs you time and money. Knowing if your advertising campaigns are successful can save your company from inefficiencies and wasted dollars. Accurately measuring ad campaign effectiveness and optimizing accordingly, ensures a high return on your investment.

Attributing leads can be difficult with traditional forms of advertising. Without a unique call tracking line for each TV advertisement or billboard, there is no way to determine where a sales lead may have come from.

The good news is there is an ever-increasing number of online channels used to reach consumers. Today, the purchase-decision journey for online consumers takes many paths; video, social, mobile apps, email, display advertising and local search advertising. In many cases a combination of these vehicles will influence a customer’s decision to act. As a result, accurately measuring campaigns and optimizing the performance of a digital marketing mix can be timely and confusing, but not impossible.

Call TrackingDigital marketing allows companies to precisely track where the lead came from and what the cost of that sale was to the owner. Each click, impression or call can be tied back to a specific device. Through continued advancements in technology, advertisers are now able to track call quality, not just call duration. This allows advertisers to identify keywords in the conversation and better understand the product or service desired by a consumer.

From there, it’s the responsibility of the company to estimate how many calls it takes to convert to a sale. This conversion rate can now be used to optimize the campaign.

As technology evolves and measurement becomes more readily available, marketers are less willing to invest dollars in vehicles that cannot demonstrate their effectiveness. By properly measuring your investment against the value of a lead generated, companies can successfully drive more sales leads thus improving your bottom line.

 

SEO and SEM: A Primer

Ensuring your brand appears in top placements in search engine results is critical as more consumers search online.  There are two ways in which consumers can find you on the Internet.

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO), or the process of improving the quality and quantity of your organic search traffic
  2. Search engine marketing (SEM), where you pay for each click sent to you through the search engine.

Even though these two Internet marketing strategies procure very similar results they operate in very different ways.

SEMvsSEOUnderstanding SEM

Paid search, sometimes referred to as SEM, describes the process of paying to have your ad placed in certain positions on the page. In this screenshot, you will see where paid ads are located on a Google search engine results page. How much you are willing to spend on a keyword and the quality and relevancy of your ads and landing page will assist in dictating your placement. A great advantage with this type of program is gaining complete control over which terms your company website will be listed under. This allows for adjustments based upon what keywords are performing well and what areas are generating more traffic. It normally only takes a day or so to set up a campaign, but it is an ongoing process to maintain and efficiently manage the program.

Understanding SEO

Organic search, or SEO, is considered a “natural” search. Your company ranking will be based solely on relevancy, content and having a good website. It is not based upon how much money is spent. The top organic search position attracts more attention than top paid positions. A good SEO program will improve organic ranking through optimizing a website to be more search engine friendly as well as making sure to increase its perceived importance in the eyes of a search engine.

The Importance of Search Strategy

Both SEO and SEM require unique strategies to achieve your lead generation goals at the national and local level. An ideal solution set is a combination of both of these tactics. Depending on the product or service you are marketing as well as the audience you are marketing to, the depth and focus of each program will vary.

Marquette Group implemented an SEM test for a new client, a regional tire dealer. At the end of this test their click-thru rate increased by 343 percent. This was due in majority to the utilization of relevant keywords, compelling ad copy and optimizing landing pages. Their click-thru volume increased 33 percent and their cost-per-click was decreased by 19 percent. This is just an example of the importance of good program maintenance. The same can be said for the SEO side of the table.  A Fortune-500 consumer products company’s organic rank improved 101 percent over the course of two years through Marquette Group’s Business Listings Management solution. This shows how absolutely crucial it is to be on top of your game, or have an agency that is, when it comes to these two necessary product sets.

Learn more about Marquette Group’s paid search solutions.

 

Marquette Group Releases Social Media Study

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 11.40.57 AM

We’ve all become remarkably comfortable with social media. Tweets, snaps and pins abound. No doubt social media is convenient and engaging for consumers, but what what’s the payoff for businesses?

Advertisers are no strangers to social. In November, Facebook announced that over 25 million local, small business pages are active, and Foursquare tells us that 1.5 million businesses use their site. So, while advertisers are hanging out their virtual shingles across a growing list of social media, are they bringing in paying customers or just casual browsers?

To help our advertisers learn how to harness social media to drive leads, Marquette Group commissioned the Social Media Marketing Study: Benchmarks for Success. Over 500 advertisers participated in the study giving us an understanding of those who consider themselves successful, or not so successful, in social media and what strategies they’re using.

A few of the findings include:

  • What successful social marketers are doing that others aren’t
  • The role content plays in social media
  • Challenges advertisers face in achieving their social marketing objectives

Most importantly, knowing what to look for in a digital agency—whether to lead or support social efforts—makes a world of difference in hitting brand and revenue objectives.

 Learn more about Marquette Group’s social solutions.