23 03, 2020

Don’t Panic. Leverage Digital Marketing During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

By | 2020-03-23T08:27:03+00:00 March 23rd, 2020|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

Travel bans are in place. Restaurants are closed for dine-in service. Social distancing is the current collective mantra. As the world hermits itself, many brands are assessing what this means for their marketing budgets. With consumer spending pulling back and collective attention turned towards the continual flow of COVID-19 news updates, it may seem logical to spend less on marketing. But, for many companies, this may not be the best approach.

Not Spending is Not a Strategy

Marketing strategy is always about delivering the right message, at the right time, with the right medium, and to the right audience. This truth is consistent and enduring. Put into action, this also means that strategy must pivot anytime there’s a disruption – and the Coronavirus is certainly that disruption.

The knee-jerk reaction is to cut ad spend – and, if you are considering this, take a step back and breathe for a moment. Pulling back on ad spend isn’t a marketing strategy. Less marketing equals less sales and less visibility, which is the exact opposite of your goal and what you ultimately need for your business. And, considering no one knows how long this pandemic will last, ignoring the present climate will certainly make the road to recovery brutally long. After all, you can’t not market forever, can you? What’s your plan?

Our goal as marketers is to break through the noise and reach the customer. Just because this becomes more difficult, or “feels” fruitless, does not mean marketing is turned off. With recent reports stating that web usage is up 20-50%, it’s more important than ever to have a presence online and pivot your marketing plans. Rather than deciding how much to pull back, the focus should be on what medium to invest in and what message to deliver.  Seize the opportunity… wisely.

Even The Coronavirus Can Present Marketing Opportunities

Whether you’re 100% e-commerce, brick and mortar, or a little bit of both, you can still be successful with your digital spend. The key is to find the right mix and define a strategy rather than “click,” turning it off. Consider moving dollars from a direct response (lower funnel approach) to building brand awareness (top of funnel). This is true for the Ford Motor Company, who shelved ads for their new product launches and instead, redirected focus on new spots touting “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now.” The point here is to stay connected with your current audience and create new connections by showcasing your brand to the larger audience that is online because they are at home. Opportunity!

And yes, you may not be Ford, but you have options. Other brands are introducing new, timely calls-to-action. Dunkin Donuts is giving extra points to those in the DD Perks programs for on-the-go ordering. Sling TV is providing free access to news and entertainment. And, One Medical has offered 24/7 virtual care to its members. These are all great examples of marketable offers that pivot digital strategy to respond to today’s climate.  These ads shine to the online audience because they are different, they feel personalized and, consequently, keep conversions and awareness high.  Opportunity!

Pull Back on Ad Spend Only If You Must

Marketing strategies will vary during this period depending on the type of business. Some will choose to stay the course. Some will pull back partially, and yes, some may pull back completely. Before jumping to the latter, consider moving ad spend around to save where you can – but avoid completely disappearing.

Focus on your top awareness drivers. Invest in building your brand and conversions that are relationship builders. Spend where there’s still ROI, even if the benefit to your business takes a little longer. But, you really shouldn’t go dark. 87% of consumers who interact with a brand daily feel more loyal to them – and this number falls drastically as the length of time since last interaction increases.

Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Maintain your connection to some degree, particularly as your competitors dial back and cost goes down. This helps to bridge the gap and helps you get back to full speed when the time comes. Opportunity!

Also keep in mind that the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) projects a 7.1% increase in global media spend based on the expectation that marketers will simply withhold spend until later in the year. The surge in demand later in the year will drive up competition and prices, making acquiring (and reacquiring) customers potentially more expensive than ever before. Staying connected, even somewhat, will reduce the ramp up and deliver a lower blended ROI when compared to a stop-and-go approach.

In Summary: Adjust to the Coronavirus, Not Away From It.

Again, take a very deep breath. Let it out. And, maybe consider taking another one.

Now do what you always do.

Yes, disruption abounds. Resist the urge to throw in the towel. Adjust your strategy to keep your brand alive, visible and relevant to your audience with special messaging and/or new offers. Take advantage of the situation as your competitors panic and ad costs are driven down. Speak to your audience differently, showing that you are still here… and care… and ready when the pandemic clouds dissipate.

We know it’s difficult. Beacon recommends that you calmly assess your particular business’s situation and plan accordingly. Don’t go ALL-IN and don’t FOLD. Stay in the game. Now is the time to collaborate and brainstorm.  Assess the data, as customer visits are probably different. Pay attention to items being put in shopping carts without checking out, more browsing of your products (pageviews), an increase in virtual tours and other low-risk, stay-at-home activities. Opportunity!

And when the world returns to normalcy, and it will, you will be ready. As always, the Beacon Team is here and available if you need guidance.

12 03, 2020

If Beacon Was A Basketball Team…

By | 2020-03-13T13:03:54+00:00 March 12th, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, Google Analytics, PPC, SEO|Tags: , , , |

*** Please note that the below post was written prior to the announced cancellation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. While we are sad that we will not have the chance to enjoy the competition this year, we recognize the need for public safety measures that protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus. With that said, the Beacon team is still out on the practice courts, running game on behalf of our clients. As a technology firm, we are well-positioned to continue providing services to our customers, even if large portions of our staff are relegated to working remotely. 

In times like this, it’s helpful to recall the British government’s advice to its people during public emergencies: Keep Calm and Carry On.  

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

march madnessHave you heard? Tourney time is here!

If you’re a die hard fan of college basketball… heck, even if you’re a casual fan of basketball in general, you’re probably well aware that the biggest event in the college basketball season is right around the corner.

March Madness. The Tourney. The Big Dance… It’s just about GO time!

This time of year, college campuses and office cubicles everywhere are notoriously immersed in NCAA tournament brackets and the obligatory cram sessions involving non-traditional basketball powerhouses (and quirky mascots). Some of our favorite underdog runs of the past decade include little-known outfits, like the UMBC Retrievers, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, Norfolk State Spartans or the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks (we like giving the little guys their due). The 2020 tournament edition is expected to be no different as the field is primed to include darlings of the not-so-distant future, in the form of the Dayton Flyers, San Diego State Aztecs, Creighton University Bluejays and the Belmont Bruins.

silhouette of two basketball players And, let’s be honest. With tourney hype growing hour-by-hour seemingly, our thoughts, like yours, occasionally turn to hoops throughout the month. But, momentary lapses in concentration notwithstanding, we like to keep it professional here at the Beacon blog. Sooooo, when a surprisingly accurate idea was presented, suggesting that Beacon’s Digital Marketing Team (DMS) is really a lot like a successful NCAA tournament team, we absolutely had to run it down to its natural conclusions.

As such, what follows for your reading pleasure, is an interpretation of our DMS team roles as on-court basketball positions from your favorite college game.

Without further ado, here is your 2020 Beacon DMS team line-up (lights down, spotlight on):

Point Guards

The point guard is the coach’s representative out on the court. This position is the most responsible for communicating and carrying out in-game coaching instructions. Point guards are also often the embodiment of the coach’s philosophy. They exude the qualities their coaches value most – be it hard work, intelligence or teamwork.

At Beacon, our point guards are easy to spot – they are our project managers. Project managers know the game plan (client account) inside and out, and relay assignments to other team members. They are responsible for keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring that projects are completed the right way.

basketball on its way to the basket

Shooting Guards

Shooting guards have a reputation for being flashy. But, that’s only because their role is so noticeable. A shooting guard’s job is the primary goal of the game: to score. They don’t just put the ball in the basket – they score using a high-value skill: outside shooting (it’s a lot harder to score from 20 feet out than it is from under the basket).

For Beacon’s Digital Marketing Team, the primary goal is to drive customer transactions and online goal conversions on behalf of our clients. No one does that more or better than our Paid Search team. They create online search ads that not only target the audiences most appropriate for our clients, but also deliver exactly what those audiences are searching for.

The Paid Search team is all about driving sales, just like the shooting guard is all about helping the team score the most points.

Small Forwards

The small forward is a little bit like the shooting guard. But, then again, the position can also resemble the power forward role. In fact, small forwards are a little bit like Swiss Army knives – they do a little bit of everything and are involved in most of the action.

This is strongly representative of Beacon’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team. The job of our SEO team members is to drive as much organic traffic to our clients’ websites as possible based on a vast array of highly qualified keywords. This is an incredibly broad assignment that requires competency in many different areas, from technical know-how (sitemaps and schema) to creative output (content development and optimization). Our SEO team delivers across the spectrum of digital marketing needs.

basketball player standing on basketball courtPower Forwards

Traditionally, power forwards were the unsung heroes of basketball teams. They do the “dirty” work: rebounding, defense, setting screens. They made the play that led to a basket, or recovered the ball to put the team back on offense. But, while their efforts are appreciated by teammates and coaches, a power forward’s contributions may not be as easily apparent to a casual fan.

At Beacon, our power forwards are our data science experts. Everything we do here starts with data. It’s how we’re able to track the behavior of online audiences, how we come up with long- and short-term trends and how we’re able to deliver recommendations that maximize the value of a website.

Centers

Last, but definitely not least, are the centers. Centers have the greatest ability to impact the game. They’re usually the tallest player on the court, and are almost always posted closest to the basket.

The best basketball teams tend to play “inside-out,” meaning the ball goes to the center (next to the basket) first, and the next pass is determined by how the defense reacts to the center putting pressure on the basket.

At Beacon, our centers are our clients. First and foremost, we absolutely consider our clients to be an integral part of our team. There wouldn’t be a game without them.

Secondly, our actions are always determined by how our clients are positioned in their respective industries. Their positioning drives their needs, which drives our recommendations and actions.

Lastly, we achieve the best results with close collaboration with our clients – the pass inside (client call) leads to a perimeter player being open (clear course of action), and then to a bucket (successful implementation of a program or campaign).

The center is the straw that stirs the whole drink.

Beacon Knows Teamwork

Want to be part of the Beacon team? We can’t wait to welcome you aboard. A great center is always in demand. Give us a call today to see how we can win a championship together.

25 02, 2020

One Extra Day… to Update Your PPC Ads

By | 2020-02-25T09:18:08+00:00 February 25th, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, PPC|Tags: , , , , |

I’ll be honest, we’ve kind of been a little obsessed with Leap Day here at Beacon this past month. If you happened to notice, it featured prominently into our last post. And, here we are, talking about it again.

February 29On the surface, February 29 is just another day. You wake up the same. Eat breakfast the same. Drink your coffee the same.

So, what is it about Leap Day that is so special?

Is it the novelty of this day popping into existence just once every four years? The lingering of the winter season for a little while longer? The thrill of adding something different to a concept as quintessentially steady as a calendar? A small taste of the – literally – extraordinary?

Perhaps it is all those things. But, to us, February 29 is special because it offers something we can all use more of.

Time.

In our workaholic business culture, time is a precious commodity that is loath to be wasted. Project plans, deadlines, contract lengths, due dates, billable hours… all these things stress the importance of using time wisely and efficiently.

Typically, we all hustle about trying to make the most of the little time we have. But, for one day every four years, instead of worrying about it running out prematurely, we are gifted the benefit of just a little bit of extra time.

How are you going to spend your extra time?

We posed a similar question to our Paid Search Team. Given a hypothetical day free from the pressures of time, how would you improve the paid ad experience for both clients and consumers?

The below list is a synthesis of their responses.

Pay per click isometric landing page

If Time Were No Issue Paid Search Task List

To be clear, we are not suggesting that the below tasks should only be completed once every blue moon or, February 29 or, just when there’s spare time. All of the discussed processes should be applied to campaigns as needed. The list represents a best case scenario where all of the below can be applied to every campaign, every time.

Take advantage of new ad types in the Google Ads platform

Google is in an ever-present cycle of enhancing their search and advertising offerings. As such, new capabilities are made available routinely. That said, keeping track of everything new that comes out is nearly impossible.

So, with a bit of extra time on their hands, paid search professionals can explore and apply more sophisticated ad types, such as:

Responsive ads – these ads reflect the reality that search is increasingly moving to mobile. Responsive ads allow for an automatic adjustment of the size, appearance and format of an ad based on the unique characteristics of the viewer’s screen. They also match the feel of the hosting webpage, making the ads appear more natural in their display environment.

Dynamic ads – these ads are great for advertisers with a substantial number of products on their website. The content of dynamic ads are automatically generated from the existing website copy, and are targeted to users who are searching specifically for products on the site. Dynamic ads save time, cover gaps in keyword-based campaigns and provide granular control over which group of products are advertised.

Remarketing ads – this ad form targets users who visited your website and can help to increase conversion rates and ROI. If a customer visited a product page on your site and left without placing an order, you can increase the probability that she will return by showing her an ad when she searches for the same product later.

Ad copy adjustments

The more generic your ad copy is, the lower the chance for conversion. But, you can always make your ad campaigns more effective when you apply what you know about your customers. Customers at different stages of the sales funnel search for different things. If you understand the intent behind a user’s search, you can tailor a headline to appeal precisely to what the customer is looking for.

Bid adjustments

If you know that your customers buy more at a certain time of day, from a certain geographic location or, using a specific type of device, you can adjust your bid amounts in order to show more of your ads at the right time, place and device.

Seasonal changes 

You don’t sell a lot of skis in July, and not a whole lot of people buy swimwear in January. If your product mix changes seasonally, it’s important that your ads reflect what your customers are looking for at that time. Reviewing your ads for seasonality is a must.

Keywords Research bannerKeyword management – cut the bloat

The longer an ad campaign runs, the more information you have about what keywords convert and which ones don’t. You might start a campaign with a long list of target keywords. But, taking the time to cut the list down can help save your budget and increase your conversion rate.

Negating customer groups

You learn just as much about what doesn’t work as you do about what does. And that information is just as valuable. You can stretch your budget further if you cut down on the number of times your ads are shown to customer groups that are unlikely to convert. One way to do so is with negative keywords. Negative keywords prevent your ads from being triggered by the wrong kind of search. If your brand is high-end, for example, you’ll probably want to eliminate ad views for users searching for “cheap” or “discount,” or “inexpensive.”

Beacon Knows Paid Search

Need help getting the most out of your paid search strategy? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary PPC audit today.

22 01, 2020

Top 20 Digital Marketing Trends for 2020 (Part I)

By | 2020-01-23T08:43:21+00:00 January 22nd, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC, SEO|Tags: , , , |

horoscope wheelEverybody likes predictions. What’s not to like? It can be very helpful to have someone tell you what to expect or look forward to as you face your day, week, month or year.

That’s why the horoscope is still, to this day, one of the most popular columns in any newspaper. It’s all right there, in a nice little concise statement with just enough ambiguity to be applicable to 1/12 of the world’s population.

Snark aside, some predictions are more worthwhile and telling than others. That’s especially true if they are made at a perceived beginning.

And, seeing as we find ourselves at the start of a new year, AND a brand new decade, we thought this is a pretty good time to lay out some bold statements. So, without further ado, here are 20 things you can expect to happen in the world of digital marketing in the coming months of 2020 (broken down by various industry specialties).

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Trends

Trend #1: Zero-click searches are risingSEO

Organic search isn’t what it used to be. According to SEO evangelist Rand Fishkin, everyone’s favorite search engine – Google – is no longer a search engine but a “walled-garden.” Huh?

What Rand is saying is that Google has optimized the methods by which it keeps users in its suite of products, as opposed to passing on the traffic to the links it judges as the best results.

Increasingly, users are getting the information they want from Google-curated products: Knowledge graphs, Local Packs, featured snippets, and the like. Rand crunched the numbers, and as of July 2019, a majority of searches on Google have resulted in a zero-click session.

The takeaway: High placement in SERPs (search engine results pages) is no longer enough.

Trend #2: Optimizing for rich/featured snippets 

In addition to the placement of your page in search results, you’ll have to pay attention to additional parts of the SERP: the featured snippet (chosen by Google as the best answer to a user question), the rich snippet (structured data to help search engines understand the information being presented) and local listings (such as, Google My Business).

“By optimizing for all of these features in parallel with traditional SEO, you increase the probability of getting more clicks and create a higher chance of showing up in more places,” says Jonathan Wilkinson, Beacon’s structured data expert.

The takeaway: Optimizing for rich and featured snippets is more important than ever, as more than 50% of all Google searches now end without a click.

Trend #3: Voice search is taking off

Not only are users implementing an after-search click less, they may not be clicking at all. That’s because more and more searches are initiated by voice.

“The good news here is that by focusing on featured snippet optimizations, you’re also optimizing for voice search,” says Logan Ray, Beacon’s Chief Strategist – Digital Optimization. “If you have Google Assistant, ask a ‘how-to’ question and then search that exact phrase in your browser. You’ll notice the read-out from Google voice search is identical to the featured snippet.”

Voice searches tend to be more long-tailed and local. For ecommerce, that means that voice searches represent users closer to a buying decision.

The takeaway: Optimize your website content to provide answers to relevant voice queries.

Trend #4: Linkless mentions

Since the beginning of the internet, links have been viewed as content recommendations. If someone links to your site, they’re saying: “This is good stuff. Go here for more information you’ll like.”

And ever since, people have been trying to game the system by garnering as many backlinks as they could get. Going forward, however, this strategy will yield less and less results.

Why?

Because Google and other search engines have evolved to the point that unlinked mentions hold as much, or more, sway in their algorithms as links.

The takeaway: Good, old-fashioned brand mentions are new again – no link required. Growing and tracking your organic brand mentions will be key to your SEO strategy in 2020 and beyond.

Paid Search Trends 

Trend #5: Rising CPC (cost-per-click) 

Nobody likes to pay more. But, if you’re in Paid Search advertising, you’ll need to get used to explaining to your clients or bosses (same thing) why they should expect to spend more in 2020 for the same results.

“With the SERP now being set and static with paid text ads, shopping carousels, and organic listings, as well as saturation in paid display networks, the demand of advertisers is outpacing the supply of online real estate,” says Jordan Burleson, Beacon’s Chief Strategist – Digital Advertising. “Increasing CPC is unavoidable in 2020.”

The takeaway: Skilled paid search marketers will need to amend strategy in order to increase results from fewer budgeted clicks.

Trend #6: AI/Machine Learning bidding strategies will propagate

All signs point to automation in 2020, as search engines and online advertising platforms are steaming ahead with AI- and machine-learning-enabled bidding strategies.

“Keywords aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – the robots still need us to speak to the other humans properly; however, whatever can be made into a math problem is now the domain of the machines,” says Jeff Furguson, CEO of Fang Marketing, in Search Engine Journal.

Efficiency is the clear upside. The drawback with automation is losing the ability to tweak bids for keywords by hand.

The takeaway: Knowledge of a client’s/business’ audience, goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) will be more important than ever to get the most out of your Paid Search budget.

Trend #7: Audience-based marketing 

Whether you’re human or machine, there is no substitute for knowing the audience.

Once more from Beacon’s own Jordan Burleson:

“The ability to tap into demographic targeting, interests, previous search and browsing behavior, and predictors from the spoken word, are all hugely important to continued success from paid search in 2020.”

The takeaway: Detailed knowledge of your audience behavioral trends can help you leverage customized messaging and calls-to-actions in order to shorten the buying timeline and optimize your budget.

Trend #8: Going beyond Google and Facebook 

Yes, Google and Facebook are still the 800-lb gorillas in the online advertising jungle. But, you can’t ignore the baby gorillas who are maturing in their own right.

Quora, Reddit, Pinterest, and especially Amazon all have engaged and growing communities of users. And that’s just a few of the popular established digital platforms. Every year brings more.

“This does not mean you need to be on every ad platform above. It does mean you need to have a better understanding of where your customers spend their time online,” says Duane Brown, Founder at Take Some Risk. “If your audience is on one of the ad platforms above then you should at least test it out and see if you can make it work for your business.”

The takeaway: Don’t overlook the smaller ad platforms. Your audience surely won’t. Today’s consumers are likely to play in several different sandboxes.

Data Analysis TrendData

Trend #9: User restrictions on personal data

In 2018, legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the largest state in the union. The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, now provides internet users the right to opt out of being tracked online. This is likely to result in less user data available for analysis.

“For marketers, this legislation drives the need to infer what users are doing on their websites,” says Luke Pajer, Beacon’s in-house Data Analytics Specialist. “Inferential statistics is how agencies will overcome gaps in user data.”

The takeaway: Data analysts will rely on smaller population samples to track broader user trends. The skills and experience of your analytics team will become more critical.

*** We’ve reached the end of our blog post, and astute readers may have noticed that we’ve only covered 9 of the promised Top 20 Website Trends for 2020. Don’t despair. Stay tuned next week for the second installment in our series.

Beacon Knows (the Future of) Digital Marketing

Is your digital marketing program ready for a banner 2020? Not sure? With Beacon lighting the way, your path to success can only get brighter. Get in touch with our team to discuss solutions to your digital marketing needs.

7 11, 2019

Be Thankful for Your Paid Search Team

By | 2019-11-07T15:19:28+00:00 November 7th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

red and silver ornaments on christmas treeWelcome to the holiday season, everyone.

Wait, what? It’s barely past October. We’re still working through our Halloween candy stash, you might be thinking. It’s still pushing 70 degrees on the East Coast on many days.

This may all be true. Yet, that hasn’t stopped brick-and-mortar retailers from already decking out their stores with Christmas trees and stocking their shelves with red and green holiday paraphernalia.

Uh huh. That’s right. The holiday season is upon us. And there’s nowhere to hide.

The average consumer might be getting that descended upon feeling right about now. That’s because for us marketers, these are the most important weeks in the calendar. And, it’s not our fault…

Collectively, American consumers spend an unholy sum of money this time of year on gifts for loved ones and “I deserve this” presents for themselves. Vacations and cool travel experiences, expensive dinners out with the family, new cars, new big screen TVs… heck, throw in that super modern, mostly automated, you barely have to carry the load of laundry downstairs washer/dryer combo.

As a country, the US spends trillions of dollars every year between the start of November and December 31. That’s trillions, with a “t.” It’s big business, with a capital “B.”

man holding a credit card and typing on laptopA good portion of those funds get spent online. During the 2018 holiday season, for example, Americans were estimated to have spent nearly $120 billion (it’s with a “b” this time) on the web.

A solid online advertising plan is a must if you hope to tap into all of that consumer holiday spending. If you’re a small or moderate-size retail business, however, you might feel a little intimidated or even drowned out by all the noise that traditionally comes from the heavy hitters – your Amazons, Walmarts, Best Buys, Macy’s’ and the like.

But there’s no need to get discouraged. With the internet being the great equalizer, the right paid search strategy can yield huge returns and pay off big.

“What might that right strategy be?”, you might ask. To find out, we sat down with our Digital Advertising Team. The following insights from Beacon’s paid search experts are some of the most essential parts of a winning holiday season advertising strategy.

Insight 1: Be prepared to spend more when the holiday season rolls around 

dollar bills

Like that old adage goes: “You have to spend money to make money.” That couldn’t be more true when the trees start shedding their leaf coats and the shopping season approaches.

In the paid search world, this is the time of year when ad spends get an extra boost. There are two related reasons for this.

One, it’s the start of a feeding frenzy, and everyone is getting in on the action. That increase in competition means that you’ve got to allocate more funds just to attain the same results from earlier in the year. And, if you hope to beat out your top competitors, you’ll probably need to beat their spend budget. Everybody is spending more, and you’ve got to keep up.

Secondly, that increase in competition also drives up the cost of the keywords you’re bidding on. Depending on how many competitors are bidding on it, a term that cost you $1 yesterday can quickly double, or even triple, tomorrow.

“For many advertisers, holiday sales and Q4 earnings make up a significant amount of their annual revenue,” says Jordan Burleson, Chief Strategist for Digital Marketing at Beacon. “Online search traffic will spike in the months of November and December. And therefore, your average cost-per-click will increase 20% to 50%, resulting in less traffic for the same cost.”

Don’t be shocked or upset when this happens. In fact, building this expected increase into your allocated advertising budget in advance can help you stay both sane and competitive.

Speaking of planning…

Insight 2: Have your advertising plan ready well before Black Friday rolls around

woman holding up shopping bagsA lot of transactions happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But, there’s a healthy number of people who prefer to get their shopping done early. In fact, as many as 39% of all holiday purchases take place before the Thanksgiving holiday. That means, you’ve got to be ready to roll with your paid ads… like, now.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to blow through your budget too early and miss a rush on your products or services later in the season. Are there mid-December sales that you’re planning to run? After Christmas promotions? New Year’s specials?

You may want to reserve some of your budget to target potential customers for those sales events. To maximize these opportunities, it’s also important to be intimately familiar with your business and industry seasonal cycle.

Having a good plan based on known customer trends is key to holiday season success.

Insight 3: Make use of negative terms 

Ok, so far, we have “spend more money” and “make a plan.” Good advice, but not the type to satisfy the cost-conscious crowd, right?

Well, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. After all, successful businesses know how to spend wisely.

One way to optimize your ad dollars is by ensuring that they’re not spent on bad or non-strategic keywords. Savvy PPC marketers create a black list of negative keywords which prevents automated platforms from displaying your ads for searches that include those terms.

“Negative keywords are essential for any good PPC campaign,” says Olivia Earley, one of Beacon’s Paid Search Specialists. “Acting as a barrier for unwanted search terms, negative keywords protect your account from unwanted key phrases, saving you money while increasing conversions and click-through rates.”

Insight 4: Use all available space on the playing field

An online ad is pretty simple, right? It appears at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) and displays a short description of a product, event, sale or promotion.

Well, as with everything related to the digital world, paid ads have continually evolved to deliver more nuanced, targeted and specific information. On top of the space for the typical advertising copy, online ads now feature ad extensions. Extensions are extra opportunities to deliver specific types of content.

“Paid ads have expanded to feature a lot more useful information for potential customers,” reports Beacon paid search analyst Zach Wellman. “Ad extensions allow you to deliver actionable content that empowers consumers to more easily reach the content they intend to find.”

Extensions can be links to specific pages on your website (sitelinks), a phone number that can be automatically dialed from your mobile device, your average product/seller rating, the physical address of your store, even pictures of your products.

In fact, image-based product listing ads (or, shopping ads) are the newest paid search fad. In a product listing ad, the main feature of the ad are photos of your products rather than marketing copy.

Extensions and product listing ads also have the advantage of occupying more space in SERPs than the typical online ad. And, the more space you take up, the less you leave for your competitors.

Which brings us to our last point…

100 m race trackInsight 5: It’s all about the competition

If you hope to beat your digital competitors, there are two things you absolutely have to do: 1) know how they’re selling, and 2) sell where they’re selling.

That means that you should keep an eye on the ads that your top competitors run. Tracking your competitors’ ads gives you a good idea of what keywords they’re targeting. It also allows you to match or improve upon the offers your potential customers see and increases your odds of earning their clicks.

Another thing you should do is bid on your competitors’ branded keywords (their names).

“Bidding on competitors is essential to making sure you are staying relevant to your potential leads,” says PPC specialist Sammy Kleege. “Not only do they get a comparison in products, you get to stay on top of what your competitors are doing that you may not be.”

Advertising in your competitor’s wheelhouse may seem like an aggressive tactic. And, in some ways it is. But, it’s also how savvy marketers get a leg up. Besides, if your competitors are worthy opponents, they’re probably doing the same to you.

Beacon Knows PPC

Want a more sophisticated approach to your paid search efforts? Beacon is here to help. Give us a call, we’re eager to talk to you about your business.

13 03, 2018

Remarketing & Enrollment: Why it Works for Colleges & Universities

By | 2018-03-15T15:01:43+00:00 March 13th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

If you’re reading this article, you probably have at least a basic understanding of how remarketing works. For those who do not, remarketing ads identify those with a predisposition towards your product and nudge them to buy (or take some action).

Here’s the scenario: A user visits the admissions page for AGU (Amazingly Great University). Since AGU runs a remarketing campaign through Google, a cookie is placed that identifies the user after he or she leaves said website. The ad may be an enticement to request a course catalog, arrange for a campus visit or any number of desirable actions. As they visit other websites, your remarketing ads remind them of their initial interest and what they found compelling about your school.

Conversion rates tend to be greater with remarketing ads as the subject or target has already shown a familiarity with your school or interest in your product (an education). And the numbers say that the reminder, the subtle nudge often does the trick. Ultimately, they come back for more.

What makes Remarketing more effective for Higher Ed?

In the world of Higher Ed, the sales funnel is a protracted one. Leads must be nurtured over time as the selection of a college or university is a decision of great magnitude and has so many moving parts. It’s not something we typically do impetuously.

Remarketing campaigns appeal to a more deliberate decision making process. They can tactfully remind the potential student of the things they may have found attractive about your school or even entice a prospect to look elsewhere if your ad strategy is faulty.

Segmentation & Remarketing Strategy for Higher Ed

Segmenting your audience is the first step on the way to developing a sound remarketing strategy. Since Google enables you to target viewers based on a number of behaviors (users who visited your site or just a specific page, took a particular action, etc.), you can develop a tiered strategy based on these audiences. For example, your remarketing pitch may have a different message for those who visit your tuition and costs page as opposed to those who spend time perusing the course catalog for your school of business. Intent based segmentation can yield great results.

You’ll likely want to target your prospects by geography, too. Campus visits are easier to get if the prospect is within a reasonable travel radius, for example. Facebook offers remarketing that enables geographical targeting, too. So Facebook remarketing becomes an option for this group.

For all groups, set frequency limits for your remarketing ads. Hit them too hard and you may alienate them.

Test Your Ad Copy

Use A/B testing to determine your most effective ad copy. Try using different copy, CTA’s, and ad placements. Even after settling on a successful campaign method and copy, change the design from time to time as ads can become stale or fade into the background after a while.

What You Need to Know About Higher Ed Remarketing

Still got questions? Beacon is one of the premier digital marketing firms for Higher Ed and we’d love the opportunity to show you why. Feel free to contact me directly or give the DMS team at Beacon a call to discuss your institution and enrollment. I’d love to talk strategy with you and suggest a course of action tailored to your specific student audience(s).

 

6 09, 2017

PPC Tips and Strategies for Increasing Student Yield

By | 2017-09-01T09:28:27+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

While one may or may not think of a college or university as a business, there is no arguing that those involved in student enrollment mean business. The playing field is more competitive every day. This is evidenced by the fact that more and more schools use PPC (pay per click) advertising as part of their appeal.

Since many more in your target audience communicate through digital channels than in the days when you and I went to school, it goes without saying that it doesn’t pay to stick with just traditional means of promotion. Besides, at the rate that the enrollment landscape is changing, PPC almost qualifies as traditional.

PPC Strategies for Higher Ed

Unlike large, profit generating entities, most colleges have limited budgets to work with. This means that while one may encourage ones students to experiment, to “find themselves”, you don’t want your marketing people to have to do so, too.

Make sure you have a clearly defined strategy going in. Higher Ed keywords are generally very expensive (again, the Higher Ed space is VERY competitive), so it’s essential that you use your marketing dollars efficiently. That having been said…

Branded Campaigns Don’t Work for Higher Ed

Many businesses use branded campaigns to make sure their competitors don’t pick off shoppers who are looking to pilfer their customers. However, your audience differs from most. With a college website, many students, alumni and faculty use the website as a constant resource.

Since you’re already at the top for a branded search, you don’t want to waste your money paying for those who choose to access your site through a PPC add. That’s a sure way to burn through your ad budget and see minimal return.

Higher Ed Remarketing Ads Do, Though

The enrollment funnel for Higher Ed is protracted when compared to other competitive spaces. That being the case, a conversion rarely happens as part of an early touch. This is true across the board, unless your brand is so big that you don’t need to advertise. That’s a very exclusive club.

Remarketing ads follow visitors from their initial visit to your site (or mobile App). As they visit other competing sites, your ad will pop up, keeping your school fresh in their mind. It’s a great way to maintain a familiarity and nurture the process. These remarketing ads can include periodic offerings such as a limited time discount on an application fee in exchange for contact information.

Get even more granular by using Google’s RLSA’s. You can target users based on their behavior, which page on your site they visited and how long they stayed. So, if they visited the page for your dental school, they’ll receive remarketing ads specific to that discipline.

Higher Ed PPC & Mobile

Make sure the landing pages for your PPC ads are responsive. Recent surveys indicate that roughly 80% of high school seniors and their parents view college websites on their phones. If your site is mobile friendly, you’ll also be able to take advantage of Google’s new Expanded Text.

You’ve spent the money to get your visitors to your website. Don’t blow the experience now.

And that’s Just the Beginning

Want to know more about how you can pull more candidates into your school’s enrollment funnel? Beacon is recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country. We’ve been helping colleges and universities with PPC marketing for over 20 years. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

13 09, 2016

How To Create Remarketing Campaigns That Work

By | 2018-09-14T14:39:42+00:00 September 13th, 2016|Categories: PPC|

Remarketing-Tips

Whether you’re looking to drive sales, increase registrations, bolster applications, or promote awareness of your brand, remarketing can be an extremely effective component of your marketing strategy. Remarketing lets you show ads to people who’ve visited your website before or who have interacted with your site using their email. When people leave your website without taking action (register, buy, fill out a form, add to cart, etc.) you can show them targeting text or display ads to bring them back to targeted landing pages so they can convert. Below are just a few of the benefits of remarketing for your website:

Benefits of Remarketing

  • Large Reach Online: You can reach people on your remarketing lists as they use Google search and browse over 2 million websites and mobile apps that are part of the Google Display Network.
  • Branding Yourself: Because the cost-per-click is so low, you are able to run a large-scale and inexpensive branding campaign on popular websites.
  • Reach Visitors As They Are Ready to Take Action: Bring users back in the middle of their research/shopping process.
  • Remarketing Lists Are Tailored To Your Goals: Create unique lists for users that abandoned checkout/registration, users that have converted before and users that abandoned after one visit.
  • Low Cost-Per-Click: Because these users have visited your site before the cost-per-click is sometimes 2-3 times lower than search campaigns.
  • Simple Ad Creation: Produce multiple text, image, and video ads for free with Ad gallery.
  • Marketing Insights: See reports of how your campaigns are performing, where your ads are showing, and what price you’re paying.

Every website has a function. As a higher education site, your goal may be to drive more applications or showcase degree programs you need to fill vacant spots in. eCommerce sites have a goal of selling more products, seasonal goods or featuring sales/promotions that arise. Even normal content websites can get in on the action. Remarketing can be a crucial component or your website by bringing users back to download whitepapers, read new content or sign up for e-newsletters.

Remarketing Ad Types

Remarketing Campaign Types

  • Standard Remarketing: Used to show ads to previous website visitors as they visit. Display Network websites and use Display Network apps.

With standard remarketing, you are able to use AdWords remarketing code or your Analytics tracking code to start tracking every visit to your site and start building audiences. You can begin creating lists based on the product/content page they visited, based on visiting a certain page of your conversion process and even based on not visiting a certain page. The benefit of creating remarketing lists using Google Analytics is that your lists are much easier to build, just like narrowing down your audience using advanced segments or inline filters when navigating the Analytics interface. Standard remarketing relies on either text ads or image ads (we recommend using both) to maximize your chance of customers viewing your ads.

  • Dynamic Remarketing: Boost your results with ads that include products or services that people viewed on your website.

Dynamic remarketing is perfect for eCommerce websites or sites with products or service pages. These campaigns can be somewhat trickier to setup but are invaluable to your bottom line. You need a setup and verified Google Merchant Center account and remarketing code that tracks dynamic variables from your product pages. This step will need to involve a developer on your site or with an agency like Beacon. The beauty of these campaigns is that you can show users the exact products they viewed within an image ad on a popular site like CNN or Weather.com to bring them back to the shopping process. These campaigns have very low cost-per-click and high conversion rates.

  • Search Remarketing: Show ads to your past visitors as they do follow-up searches for what they need on Google, after leaving your website.

Remarketing Lists For Search Ads (RLSA) are simple to use and drive higher returns than standard search campaigns. After you have gotten visitors to your site through a search or non-branded campaign you can use search remarketing to bring them back as they continue researching on Google. For example, you may be selling ‘sectional sofas’ and bidding on those terms to bring people to your sofa pages. After they leave your site you can bid on ‘sectional sofas’ using a remarketing list to only show your ads to previous visitors. The same concept will work for users searching for ‘mba programs’ or ‘divorce attorneys’. Your cost-per-click will be much lower than the original one and the fact that they recognize your URL helps drive more clicks.

  • Video Remarketing: Show ads to people who have interacted with your videos or YouTube channel as they use YouTube and browse online.

Video remarketing works by linking your YouTube account to AdWords. You can start building video remarketing audiences by adding users who watched your videos, liked, commented or shared your videos and those users who subscribed (very qualified users) to your YouTube channel. By reinforcing your message with people who have already seen your videos or channel, you’re more likely to succeed in increasing your return on investment. Video remarketing also uses a different pricing model, known as CPV. With CPV bidding, you’ll pay for video views and other video interactions, such as clicks on the call-to-action overlays (CTAs), cards, and companion banners.

  • Email-List Remarketing: With Customer Match, upload a list of email addresses that your customers have given you and show them ads as they browse online.

AdWords Customer Match allows you to upload your email list to begin remarketing to them on YouTube, Gmail or the Search Network. This can be extremely valuable to relay promotional offers, new products, and services and increase brand advocacy from your repeat visitors. AdWords even gives you the option to upload a plain text file of email addresses and will hash them using an algorithm for your client’s and user’s security. A great way to use this remarketing type is by segmenting your users by their email address so you can remarket to:

    • Higher Education:
      • Undergraduate students
      • Undergraduate parents
      • Graduate program students
      • Alumni
    • eCommerce
      • Repeat purchasers
      • Users who abandoned checkout
      • Users who have converted
      • Visitors interested in specific products/services

In Conclusion

Remarketing can sound confusing and overwhelming but in reality, some campaigns can be set up and begin running in hours. Whether you are interested in getting your brand name out their, selling more products and seasonally low sales periods, boosting your monthly promotions, enrolling more students or simply educating your visitors, remarketing can be that missing piece of the marketing puzzle. Contact Beacon, to learn how you can get started in remarketing for your website today.

16 08, 2016

How To Convert Standard Text Ads To Expanded Text Ads In Google Adwords

By | 2020-01-29T15:34:20+00:00 August 16th, 2016|Categories: PPC|Tags: , , |

Expanded Text Ads Are Available Now

The way users search for products, brands and services online have changed. Businesses can no longer avoid or ignore the shift to searching on mobile devices. Because of this Google and Google AdWords have rolled out both responsive ads and expanded text ads across their advertising platform. Earlier in 2016, Google changed the way search results display by removing paid ads from the right-hand side of search results pages, which helped pave the way for a better mobile search experience across all devices. The big news for advertisers… You now have 50% more advertising space in your text ads!

Expanded Text Ads Mockup

How To Get Started With Expanded Text Ads

Expanded Versus Standard Text Ads

Expanded Versus Standard Text Ads

Expanded Versus Standard Text Ads

 

 

unnamed - Copy

Expanded text ads now feature two headlines at 30 characters each and one 80-character description line that will help advertisers reach a broader audience on mobile and create more room to promote your brand. Expanded text ads have removed the display URL and now use the domain URL from your final URL and give you the option to add keywords in two new optional “path” fields. It is important to transition your ads as quickly as possible because you may have the opportunity for your ads to showcase 50% more text than competitors that haven’t made the switch. Google has provided an Official Guide To Optimizing Expanded Text Ads for those of you that manage your paid ads internally. Agencies like Beacon, have a paid search team to assist you in getting the best bang for your buck so you don’t have to.

Should I Convert To Expanded Text Ads?

According to Google, starting on October 26th, 2016, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads. This means you’ll only be able to create and edit text ads using the expanded text ads format after this date. Existing standard text ads will continue to serve alongside expanded text ads. Keeping the old format will mean losing 50% extra advertising space and potentially huge losses to competitors using the format. 

How To Convert Standard Text Ads To The New Expanded Format

Now we come to the tricky part. If you are like me and manage hundreds, if not thousands of ads, converting these ads to a new format manually can take an impossibly long time. If you add up ad creation times for most ads (let’s say 1-2 minutes) multiplied by an account with upward of 100 ads, you are looking at investing 3-4 hours in converting to expanded text ads. If you manage multiple campaigns for multiple accounts, like Beacon does, this conversion time can add up to over 2-3 weeks time easily. Fortunately for you, Beacon has a quick solution.

If you download the most recent version of AdWords Editor that supports expanded text ads, you will be one step closer to expanded ads. Once in AdWords Editor’s Ads panel, select all the standard text ads you would like to convert and right click your selection and select ‘Export as expanded text ads’.

2016-08-15_11-14-37

Once Editor exports the selected ads you will find all of your standard text ads with the updated expanded text ads format in the downloaded .csv file. All you need to do from there is to fill in the two new optional path fields if you choose so and create a new headline #2 to complete the transition.

Expanded Text Ads CSV

Remember that when you import the .csv file back into Editor your headlines, descriptions and paths may exceed the recommended character lengths and you may have some edits to make before all the new ads will be approved.

More Questions?

If you have more questions on how to utilize the new expanded text ads in your AdWords account or need new management of your brand’s campaigns, please contact us today.

1 03, 2016

Google’s New SERP Layout: How It Affects You

By | 2017-07-20T09:10:42+00:00 March 1st, 2016|Categories: PPC|Tags: , , , , , |

What Happened With The SERPS?

Starting February 18th, Google issued a worldwide roll-out of a ad placement format: 4 paid ads will now display on top of desktop SERPs (search engine results pages), instead of the usual 3. In addition, they are also removing paid ads on the right-hand side of SERPs with the bottom of the SERPs featuring 3 paid ads. These changes, once fully rolled out, will be active across all languages. This change isn’t completely unexpected as Google has been testing their four-ads format for months now, but we should be seeing the changes take a more permanent effect in the next few weeks. The one constant amid all of these changes are the Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which will remain atop the SERPS or on the now free right-hand side.

How Does The SERP Change Affect Me?

In the industry, speculation abounds as to what effect these changes will have on:

search-cps-after-serp-change

  • Paid Search Cost: One of the main concerns from the change has been how much more expensive will clicks become with fewer ad spaces. Will advertisers with smaller budgets not be able to compete and fade away? SO far, the results don’t show this is the case. According to different early case studies, CPCs haven’t shown any increase and some industry experts argue that the increase in ad inventory at the top of the page will drive down CPCs.

new organic results

  • Organic Visibility: Another cause for concern has been that organic listing #1 is now paid ad #4. This means organic results and organic top-performers have been pushed down the page and lose visibility. Organic real estate has been shrinking for years, thanks to features such as news, images, videos, local/map packs, the Knowledge Graph, new ad formats and features like hotel/flight search. The conclusion is that results have not changed enough to start worrying or make drastic changes but if you have third-party tools or SEO management platforms to monitor position changes, you should make use of them to stay ahead of any new changes.

shopping-ads-ctr-lift

  • Product Listing Ads: One of the biggest gains from the SERP change came in the form of Google Shopping Ads. Product listing ads and the knowledge panel are the only listings that will appear in on the right, beside the top four paid search ads. Early results suggest that the retained position on the right-hand side is helping the PLAs attract a slightly higher CTR as well as a larger share of the paid clicks from the SERP. If you currently have PLAs, take advantage of them by expanding your product groups and enjoy the new exposure until competition creeps in. If you aren’t taking advantage of PLAs and have shopping feeds, work with your developer and/or marketing team to create a Merchant Center account and tap into this prime retail space. 

paid-search-volume-changes-after-serp-change

  • Search Volume: Many marketers have been concerned that fewer ads above the fold and SERPs would translate into decreased impressions and search volume. Although some paid search users have complained of fewer impressions and clicks it seems to be more of an issue of seasonality and normal shopping cycle than the SERP change. For marketers that focus on the spots 3-4, most have been the biggest winners from the SERP change as impressions and clicks went through the roof especially at the 3rd position (some are seeing CTR double or triple). The good news is the right-hand ad positions and bottom of the page ads accounted for less than 15% of click volume before the new changes so the true impact isn’t as great as some marketers will lead you to believe.

In Summary

The SERP change in February 2016 shook up the digital marketing world as do all global changes Google makes with search engine results pages. The biggest winners from the SERP change were most paid search advertisers especially those advertisers in position number 3 followed distantly by those in the brand new position 4. Position 3 advertisers saw click-through rates increase over 20% while position 4 saw increases up to 15% in click-through rate. The biggest losers were advertisers in positions 5-11. Those unfortunate enough to remain in these positions or to be bumped down to positions 5-11 have seen significant loss of impression share and total click volume due to be evicted from the right-hand SERPs.

It is still unknown whether organic results will win or lose as data is inconclusive and more case studies need to be performed. Due to just moving down one more position and possibly moving under the fold, organic listing businesses may see drops in search volume and website sessions. If you are high-ranking in organic currently, look to your digital agency or marketing team to find third-party tools or SEO-management platforms to help monitor position increases and decreases over the next 30 days.

 

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