Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Through AdWords, Google has given advertisers a lot of control over when their ads are shown, by means of the different match types and using remarketing lists for search ads.
Until recently, however, you were unable to target users based on demographic – a function that has been available for a while now on both Facebook and Bing.
The new feature allows advertisers using Adwords to target users based on:
- Parental status
This feature will be particularly useful where user intent varies considerably based on these variables. For example if you were selling high-end investments or watches, it is unlikely that young people under the age of 25 would have the necessary capital to purchase them.
However when using this feature, it is important to make sure that your conclusions are based on data as opposed to your gut feelings. A study by Google has shown that some of our preconceived ideas about which demographics purchase which items may result in us missing out on a considerable proportion of buyers.
For example if you were running a campaign selling home improvement products and excluded women on mobile devices, you could lose 45% of your traffic.
One thing to bear in mind is that your customer might not always be your customer. For instance, the study by Google showed that 40% of baby products are purchased by households that do not contain parents.
Here you can see that a considerable proportion of some markets are not the consumers themselves, but people purchasing on behalf of consumers.
How to set up demographic targeting in AdWords
The demographic targeting options can be found within the audiences tab alongside your remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) data. To add bid modifiers take the following steps:
STEP 1. Go to the “audiences” tab and then to the “demographics” sub-tab as shown below.
STEP 2. You can switch between demographic data for “age” and “gender” using the two sub-tabs that are located under the graph.
STEP 3. Bid modifiers can be set within the “bid adjustment” column by clicking on the dashed line.
Once you have done this you should see a popup like the one below where you can enter your bid modifier.
STEP 4. To calculate your bid modifier you should use the following formula: divide the age conversion rate by the ad group conversion rate, subtract one, and multiply by 100.
So for example if the conversion rate for people aged 25 – 34 is 3.52% and your conversion rate for the ad group overall is 2.76%, then your bid modifier would be 28%. Note that you need to round up your modifier to the nearest whole number.
When you are faced with “Unknown” data where Google is unable to match the user to their data, you will in most cases not want to exclude this audience.
In some cases we have found that Google can’t match data to a large chunk of your traffic, which can be frustrating, but if you exclude this you are likely to miss out on a considerable portion of your traffic.
Overall, demographic targeting for the search network gives advertisers another dimension with which to narrow down their audience to target the most relevant people.
Google’s example of baby products being bought by households that do not contain any parents is a perfect example of why it is necessary to follow the data as opposed to your gut feeling when using this feature. Otherwise you run the risk of losing a considerable portion of your audience.
Finally, when you are faced with the dreaded unknown column, think twice before excluding this data. In the vast majority of cases this will account for a considerable chunk of your traffic so it is best not to exclude it.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
I usually write about search marketing, analytics and conversion optimization, but I felt it was important to share a discovery I made recently.
I noticed a major phishing scam hijacking the paid search ads of financial and banking companies on brand keywords. The activity was discovered by an alert I received from BrandVudu, a third-party risk compliance and brand protection tool.
The alert uncovered paid search ads that look like official bank or credit card brand ads, but when a consumer clicks the ad, the landing page is a phishing website.
In this example the tactic follows this pattern:
1. An ad is triggered on brand or brand-plus searches for popular bank and credit card keywords (e.g., brand + “ login” or “low APR credit card offers”)
2. The ad contains a display URL for the financial institution, and therefore appears genuine and official.
3. Consumers who click on the ad are misdirected to a phishing site which attempts to get the user to call a phone number. After this the following events take place:
- The site claims that malware has been downloaded onto the user’s machine, along with a troubling pop-up, and loud sound effects including warning bells.
- The user is directed to call 844-813-5760 or 800-646-0707, which identifies the virus as the ZEUS virus, in order to get assistance from either Apple or Microsoft support.
- In some cases, the pop-up or the tab can be easily closed. In other cases, the entire computer screen is blocked by the warning message and the only way to get out of it, if you are a Windows user, is to use Task Manager to kill your browser program.
- The landing page looks like the below, depending on whether you are a Mac or Windows user:
BrandVudu identified the following URLs where consumers are being directed. These URLs seem to rotate daily, with new URLs being used every few days:
|Destination URL||Landing Page||Date Detected|
|Knowdailyhoroscope.com||majorwarnings.online/alert/chrome_win||March 6, 2017|
|March 6, 2017|
|helpvirus.xyz/alert/chrome_win||March 2, 2017|
|pc-helps.xyz/network7026/chrome_win||March 2, 2017|
Why aren’t these scams being caught?
Misleading ads are a problem, as evidenced by the 2016 Bing Ads Quality Review showing millions of ads needing to be blocked. You would think that popular malware solutions would find these phishing scams and alert users, right?
I thought the same thing, but a scan of the above Destination URLs using several top malware scanners revealed green “all-clear” good grade for each site.
The phishing sites are fooling the scanning companies by misdirecting the scanner to a legitimate URL. When they’re visited by a crawler used by malware scanner tools, they usually send users to the actual financial institution website. Scans are performed and land on the legitimate site, therefore a good grade is returned.
Specifically what happens is the phishing site performs a check on the visitor and sends the visitor in one of two directions:
- If the visitor is an anti-virus scanner or ‘crawler’, the visitor is pushed to the proper financial institution landing page or other real site, which looks legitimate and fine; or
- If the visitor is a person (i.e. using a detectable browser), then the phishing site directs the user to the malware phishing site.
This misdirection is the likely culprit as to how the phishing scam can circumvent the search engine’s own audit checks.
The financial implications for bank advertisers
While you might view this simply as a nuisance to be expected in the world of online ad fraud, the implications are in fact much more serious. Financial institutions could potentially be subject to regulatory inquiries plus the erosion of good will in their brand names.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), for example, is the government watchdog that makes sure financial ads are not taking advantage of consumers. They’ve been very active in the last two years, filing multi-million-dollar lawsuits against offenders.
Further, the lawsuits are made public, so even if advertisers can pay the fine, they suffer a huge black eye in the press with already wary consumers.
If you are on the paid search team of a financial institution, government site, or credit card company, it is recommended that you take the following steps to ensure your ads are not being attacked:
- Use a third-party risk assessment tool to monitor your brand and brand plus keywords. There are many options for this; I used information from BrandVudu for this article. Other tools include The Search Monitor, iSpionage and AdGooroo
- Report issues to the search engine’s trademark compliance team for immediate take down
- Document your findings to protect against an audit by a regulatory agency.
If you are reading this article and you are a search engine e.g. Google or Bing, your editorial teams may need additional tools to catch these scams.
Google sparked a small firestorm last week as reports surfaced that its intelligent assistant device Google Home had delivered what appeared to be an unsolicited advertisement to unsuspecting owners.
The reports first emerged on Reddit and Twitter, where users who own Google Home devices posted that Google slipped in an ad for Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast movie.
As one user explained on Reddit:
This morning while I was getting ready for work, I did my usual “Okay Google, good morning”. After information about the time and weather, my google home said something along the lines of “By the way, Beauty and The Beast opens in theaters today. In this version, Belle is the inventor. Sounds more like it to me.”
A mixed response from Home owners
Not surprisingly, many of the Google Home owners who heard the ad were not pleased. “Why in hell would I ever pay someone else to advertise to me, in the privacy of my own home no less?” one Twitter user asked.
“Wow, Google. You were doing so much better than Siri. Then you just threw that all away. Siri may suck right now at many things, but at least I know that Apple will never inject her with ads,” a Redditor wrote.
Other comments suggested that some consumers would no longer consider purchasing Google Home based on the presence of advertising.
But according to Google, the ad wasn’t an ad. First, a spokesperson told Business Insider, “This isn’t an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.”
Later, as video of the ad playing made the rounds, Google followed up with another statement.
“This wasn’t intended to be an ad. What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.”
Unfortunately for Google, if it walks and talks like an ad, it’s probably going to be considered… an ad. At least by consumers and the media.
The future of monetizing voice search?
Of course, Google is one of the most powerful ad companies in the world, so the fact that it experimented with an audio ad on Google Home isn’t exactly surprising.
As more and more consumers interact with devices that have intelligent assistants, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, it’s natural that companies in the digital advertising ecosystem are going to be interested in experimenting with audio ads, which could be a killer app for monetizing these devices.
For Google, the interest is potentially necessary. After all, if more and more consumers come to search for information through voice-based intelligent assistants instead of screen-based devices, it could have a negative impact on Google’s other ad products, especially AdWords.
— brysonmeunier (@brysonmeunier) March 16, 2017
There has been some speculation in the search industry about whether we might see a transition to a “SERP-less search” as voice search becomes more mainstream.
In this eventuality, there has always been the question of what might happen to paid search, and how search engines would monetize the new SERP-less landscape. Well, we may have just found the answer to that question.
In spite of Google’s denials that the Beauty and the Beast product placement was an ad, we could be looking at – or listening to – the future of paid voice search.
A version of this article, ‘Has advertising arrived on Google Home?’ originally appeared on our sister site ClickZ.
Advertising has always been about emotions. Emotions lead to actions and, as such, influencing emotions is the most effective route to influencing actions.
Actions, in turn, become habits, and these habits are the driving force that creates global brands. Marketers have never hesitated to exploit this relationship – in fact you could even argue that it’s the job of a marketer to do so.
But we aren’t capable of influencing everything that drives human behavior. In his classic 1895 work on human psychology, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, Gustave Le Bon wrote:
“The greater part of our daily actions are the result of hidden motives which escape our observation.”
This holds true today, and it unsettles us as digital marketers. The utopian message that underpins our industry is that everything is measurable, with Google AdWords the gold standard bearer in this regard.
Le Bon’s statement is a truism that haunts Facebook, which offers a new form of engagement between consumers and brands, but has been plagued by measurement scandals of late.
Google’s great success has always been in that accurate measurement of actions, and the easily calculable positive ROI that CMOs crave.
Facebook brings that paradox inherent in the quotes from Le Bon and Bernays back to the fore in our industry, as it simply isn’t sufficient to measure actions alone on Facebook.
Google is not immune to these criticisms, either. We have seen this in quite sensationalist terms recently, with Google’s YouTube and Display Network coming under fire for a lack of control on their placements.
This is all the more shocking because we feel let down when the realization hits home that, within current technological restraints, perfect targeting and measurement aren’t quite within our grasp.
Why have we strayed from campaigns designed to shape emotion?
In digital marketing – particularly in search – the truth is that we have never really aimed to shape emotions in our audiences. We understand that emotion is an important driver, but it lends itself more readily to what some dismiss as ‘fluffy metrics’. Therefore, this lies outside the realm of the cold, hard numbers that we take to represent the ineluctable truth of campaign success or failure.
This makes sense, placed in context. As a direct response mechanism, search comes into play once the work to shape emotions has already been done. To be successful, we need to make optimal use of those efforts (TV campaigns, for example), or make up for branding shortfalls, to maximize sales.
That role is slowly changing, and in fact it must do so, if the same companies who managed Google PPC campaigns are now planning to engage in Facebook, Pinterest or Snapchat advertising.
Although all are driven by the auction-based bidding systems that PPC specialists have come to master, the core aspect that will determine the fate of each campaign is an element we have focused on much less in the past: creative assets.
To date, we have come to understand what behavior is, but we still don’t understand why consumers take the actions that they do.
The challenge of measuring emotion online
Leaving aside the ongoing battle between Facebook and Google over data ownership, notably the difficulties in sharing data across their reporting platforms, the fact of the matter is that we will never be comparing apples to apples when we assess these two rivals.
Put simply, the most successful Facebook campaigns manage to shape emotions through great creative, and drive actions through intelligent targeting.
However, even with that in mind, until it cracks measurement Facebook will not be able to overtake Google as the digital advertiser’s go-to platform. Reliable tracking and measurement are non-negotiable aspects of a digital campaign, no matter how great the possibilities may be for using more aspirational creative messaging.
Applying a rational framework to an irrational interaction will inevitably and invariably come up short, but it’s the best we have. Measuring the subconscious is an undeniably complex task, but it is of pressing significance as brand spend slowly permeates its way into digital channels.
Just 5% of content attracts 90% of total digital engagement, so clearly we’re getting this wrong so far. In fact, 95% of all content out there is getting single-digit views.
That level of inefficiency is unsustainable, so we simply need to get better at understanding our audience.
Whoever manages to resolve this paradox could gain access to significant branding budgets, so it should be no surprise that the usual suspects are investing heavily in this area.
How are the tech giants approaching this?
The approaches taken by Google, Apple and Facebook fall broadly into two camps: biometrics and neuroscience.
Progress has been swifter in the former camp, but we should not surmise from these advancements that biometrics alone will provide the answers we seek.
Biometrics techniques measure physical characteristics (pupil dilation and facial expressions, for example), while neuroscience is the study of brain functions and patterns of brain activity. Both tasks are Herculean, but the big tech companies are more likely to make notable gains with biometrics in the short-term.
Google and ‘Satisfaction Value’
Google is planning to incorporate biometrics techniques into its search algorithms, which will also be driven by reinforcement learning.
SEO by the Sea reported on a very interesting patent last year, which contains this image:
This is a crudely-drawn example, and perhaps reflects how far Google still have to go in this field, but it is a mixture of exciting and disconcerting. Google has termed this metric ‘satisfaction value’, and the measurement of facial expressions will no doubt be viewed in some quarters as overly intrusive.
Google’s Jeff Dean made the following comments to Fortune magazine, which shed some further light on what is going on here:
“It is like in a board game where you can react to how your opponent plays. Eventually after a whole sequence of these actions you get some sort of reward signal.
An example of a messier reinforcement learning problem is perhaps trying to use it in what search results should I show.
There’s a much broader set of search results I can show in response to different queries, and the reward signal is a little noisy.
Like if a user looks at a search result and likes it or doesn’t like it, that’s not that obvious.”
It’s not that obvious, but it could be discernible if Google had access to more data and more sophisticated technology in this field.
The patent also reveals that Google aims to make use of other biometric parameters, including eye twitching, facial flushing, heart rate, body temperature, and blink rate.
As with all such moves, we can expect this to happen incrementally, to the extent that consumers may not even notice these features slowly make their way into their daily lives.
Biometric measurement is just phase one, of course. Facial expressions are limited and open to interpretation, so Google and its rivals will be looking for a further level of confirmation before using this as conclusive evidence.
Neuroscience may ultimately provide the answers to the eternal questions of what really drives people to take actions, but this field understandably will take longer to arrive at those conclusions.
Google is certainly not alone in investing heavily in this area. Just last year, Apple acquired Emotient, a tech company that uses artificial intelligence to infer emotions from facial expressions.
The stage has been set and, given Apple and Google’s respective shares of the smartphone market, once the technology has been mastered, its mainstream adoption will occur quickly – maybe even surreptitiously.
From emotion to action, from action to habit
It is worth considering the vast array of data sources already at our disposal, along with the hardware and software that seek to unite this into one unified view. The average consumer is in possession of products built by exactly the same companies that seek to harness their personal information for commercial gain.
If tracking and measurement catch up with these developments, there may come a time in the not-too-distant future when reporting dashboards and planning documents pay heed to metrics that go far beyond estimated CTR and CPM, to assess the anticipated emotional reaction their creative assets will attract.
That is an alluring prospect and is one that allow our industry to develop significantly, with the possibilities for click fraud reduced and the rewards for useful content increased.
For now, it would be fair to surmise that digital marketers do not refuse to acknowledge the role of emotion in driving actions; it is rather the case that we have made a rod for our own back by insisting on the measurability of everything we do. Until emotion becomes measurable as a contributor towards improved performance, this area may remain an untapped source of creative inspiration.
However, with the collective might of Google, Facebook and Apple, fed by the hastening effect fierce competition has on progress, we may soon enter a fascinating and illuminating era for digital marketing.
The culmination of this process could ultimately see us deliver on the goal of measuring the motives which have, thus far, escaped our observation.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Google announced yesterday the launch of “shortcuts in search”, which will allow Android users (only in the US, for now) to access quick answers on a range of topics with the touch of a button.
Fittingly, Google has termed these “tappable shortcuts” and they will lead searchers to instantaneous information on dozens of topics, including sports, restaurants, local amenities, and entertainment.
The new feature is available within the Google app in the US, although users will have to upgrade the app to the latest version before the shortcuts are accessible.
As Google continues its relentless release of new mobile-first products, this announcement is entirely aligned with the search engine’s strategy to keep pace with – and anticipate – trends in user behavior.
Tappable shortcuts lend themselves to a search experience that is more open-ended in nature than traditional Google queries. Notably, they also remove a fundamental element of the Google experience: either typing or voicing a query.
In a wider ecosystem that now includes maps, the knowledge graph, and structured data, it is understandable that Google has chosen to make this move now. With the addition to their fold of hardware like Google Home and the Pixel smartphones, combined with an upgraded Assistant on all Android phones, Google seems closer than ever to unifying the digital user journey.
The following (very short) video was also released yesterday to demonstrate how ‘shortcuts in search’ will work:
But will this initiative take off, what will it mean for SEO, and how will Google manage to integrate paid ads into this new search experience?
Will Google convince users to get on board?
The first phase will be to convince its vast user base to transition across to this way of discovering information.
The actual functionality underpinning this change has not been updated; it is merely a more streamlined way to surface information. Google Now has offered access to many of these features for some time, but user behaviors can be slow to change.
One could even suggest that this launch is Google giving a nudge to the public to show them just how much is possible through their products now.
At SMX West yesterday, Google’s Jason Douglas summarised one of their core objectives as simply trying to find the “easiest way to help the user get things done.”
No doubt, achieving that goal would go some way to convince people to take the small step of updating an app.
A mass migration of users to this app would have myriad benefits for Google. By keeping users enclosed within its own ecosystem of information, Google gains access to their data and, just as crucially, keeps those users out of Facebook’s grasp.
With machine learning at the core of everything Google does now, all of that data will only serve to improve the accuracy of search results, and those improved results will convince users to stay on the app.
How will Google rank these results?
This is an important question for SEO professionals, although it is a little early to answer it conclusively. Its degree of importance will also, of course, depend on just how many users elect to search by tapping on shortcuts.
Intriguingly, Jason Douglas implied at SMX West yesterday that as part of the wider Actions on Google initiative, consumers will be able to set preferences, not just on their sports teams or favorite restaurants, but also on the brands they like most.
Douglas went on to add:
“We’re trying to decide now how sticky those preferences should be. In some cases, you can set some preferences in the app. We’re trying to learn as we go. For shopping, is it convenience or best price that matters most? There are a lot of new ranking and quality challenges.”
The ramifications of that statement could be far-reaching, and it is understandable that Douglas chose to equivocate slightly on these points, refusing to take a definitive stance on such an important point.
Nonetheless, it is certainly plausible that user ‘preferences’ on certain brands would factor into personalized organic search results.
Will Google offer paid placements?
Google has been open in stating that this new environment presents a huge challenge to its paid search business. Voice search is best suited to providing just one answer, which leaves little room for paid placements.
The inherent complexities for an auction-based bidding model like AdWords in this scenario are subtle and difficult to disentangle, but this is especially true if users state an overt preference for one brand over another.
For example, if a user has selected Kayak as a preferred flight aggregator over Skyscanner, how would that affect the price each would have to pay to rank first on that user’s travel searches? How would Google factor that into its auctions, at a grand scale?
If Skyscanner did choose to pay an inflated rate for first position, how would that sit with the user, who no doubt would recall selecting Kayak as their preferred brand?
These are challenges that Google is all too aware of, but there can be little doubt that ultimately, they will find a way to monetize this trend if it does take off.
What should we expect next?
We should expect any attempts to monetize this to be tentative at first – especially in the wake of the opprobrium raised by the recent ‘Ads on Google Home’ fiasco.
That said, Google’s decision to make these updates has been driven by what it foresees to be a new way of discovering information.
Therefore, we can first expect Google to entice users to use its new range of hardware and software through their ubiquity and ease of use, before making those first forays into transforming its paid search model to an interaction that no longer requires a user to search.