Should SEOs & Content Marketers Play to the Social Networks’ "Stay-On-Our-Site" Algorithms? – Whiteboard Friday

Originally published on:

Posted by randfish

Increasingly, social networks are tweaking their algorithms to favor content that remains on their site, rather than send users to an outside source. This spells trouble for those trying to drive traffic and visitors to external pages, but what’s an SEO or content marketer to do? Do you swim with the current, putting all your efforts toward placating the social network algos, or do you go against it and continue to promote your own content? This edition of Whiteboard Friday goes into detail on the pros and cons of each approach, then gives Rand’s recommendations on how to balance your efforts going forward.

Should SEOs and content marketers play to the social networks "stay-on-our-site" algorithms?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about whether SEOs and content marketers, for that matter, should play to what the social networks are developing in their visibility and engagement algorithms, or whether we should say, “No. You know what? Forget about what you guys are doing. We’re going to try and do things on social networks that benefit us.” I’ll show you what I’m talking about.


If you’re using Facebook and you’re posting content to it, Facebook generally tends to frown upon and lower the average visibility and ability of content to reach its audience on Facebook if it includes an external link. So, on average, posts that include an external link will fare more poorly in Facebooks’ news feed algorithm than on-site content, exclusively content that lives on Facebook.

For example, if you see this video promoted on or, it will do more poorly than if Moz and I had promoted a Facebook native video of Whiteboard Friday. But we don’t want that. We want people to come visit our site and subscribe to Whiteboard Friday here and not stay on Facebook where we only reach 1 out of every 50 or 100 people who might subscribe to our page.

So it’s clearly in our interest to do this, but Facebook wants to keep you on Facebook’s website, because then they can do the most advertising and targeting to you and get the most time on site from you. That’s their business, right?


The same thing is true of Twitter. So it tends to be the case that links off Twitter fare more poorly. Now, I am not 100% sure in Twitter’s case whether this is algorithmic or user-driven. I suspect it’s a little of both, that Twitter will promote or make most visible to you when you log in to Twitter the posts that have been made or the tweets that have been made that are self-contained. They live entirely on Twitter. They might contain a bunch of different stuff, a poll or images or be a thread. But links off Twitter will be dampened.


The same thing is true on Instagram. Well, on Instagram, they’re kind of the worst. They don’t allow links at all. The only thing you can do is a link in profile. More engaging content on Instagram, as of just a couple weeks ago, more engaging content equals higher placement in the feed. In fact, Instagram has now just come out and said that they will show you content posts from people you’re not following but that they think will be engaging to you, which gives influential Instagram accounts that get lots of engagement an additional benefit, but kind of hurts everyone else that you’re normally following on the network.


LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithm includes extra visibility in the feed for self-contained post content, which is why you see a lot of these posts of, “Oh, here’s all the crazy amounts of work I did and what my experience was like building this or doing that.” If it’s a self-contained, sort of blog post-style content in LinkedIn that does not link out, it will do much better than posts that contain an external link, which LinkedIn sort of dampens in their visibility algorithm for their feed.

Play to the algos?

So all of these sites have these components of their algorithm that basically reward you if you are willing to play to their algos, meaning you keep all of the content on their sites and platform, their stuff, not yours. You essentially play to what they’re trying to achieve, which is more time on site for them, more engagement for them, less people going away to other places. You refuse or you don’t link out, so no external linking to other places. You maintain sort of what I call a high signal to noise ratio, so that rather than sharing all the things you might want to share, you only share posts that you can count on having relatively high engagement.

That track record is something that sticks with you on most of these networks. Facebook, for example, if I have posts that do well, many in a row, I will get more visibility for my next one. If my last couple of posts have performed poorly on Facebook, my next one will be dampened. You sort of get a string or get on a roll with these networks. Same thing is true on Twitter, by the way.

$#@! the algos, serve your own site?

Or you say, “Forget you” to the algorithms and serve your own site instead, which means you use the networks to tease content, like, “Here’s this exciting, interesting thing. If you want the whole story or you want to watch full video or see all the graphs and charts or whatever it is, you need to come to our website where we host the full content.” You link externally so that you’re driving traffic back to the properties that you own and control, and you have to be willing to promote some potentially promotional content, in order to earn value from these social networks, even if that means slightly lower engagement or less of that get-on-a-roll reputation.

My recommendation

The recommendation that I have for SEOs and content marketers is I think we need to balance this. But if I had to, I would tilt it in favor of your site. Social networks, I know it doesn’t seem this way, but social networks come and go in popularity, and they change the way that they work. So investing very heavily in Facebook six or seven years ago might have made a ton of sense for a business. Today, a lot of those investments have been shown to have very little impact, because instead of reaching 20 or 30 out of 100 of your followers, you’re reaching 1 or 2. So you’ve lost an order of magnitude of reach on there. The same thing has been true generally on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and on Instagram. So I really urge you to tilt slightly to your own site.

Owned channels are your website, your email, where you have the email addresses of the people there. I would rather have an email or a loyal visitor or an RSS subscriber than I would 100 times as many Twitter followers, because the engagement you can get and the value that you can get as a business or as an organization is just much higher.

Just don’t ignore how these algorithms work. If you can, I would urge you to sometimes get on those rolls so that you can grow your awareness and reach by playing to these algorithms.

So, essentially, while I’m urging you to tilt slightly this way, I’m also suggesting that occasionally you should use what you know about how these algorithms work in order to grow and accelerate your growth of followers and reach on these networks so that you can then get more benefit of driving those people back to your site. You’ve got to play both sides, I think, today in order to have success with the social networks’ current reach and visibility algorithms.

All right, everyone, look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

The Great PPC Diet: How to Correct Over-Optimization in Paid Search

Originally published on:

Are your pay-per-click campaigns bigger than they should be? Have they become unbalanced or lost their direction?

It’s a new year, and it’s a better time than ever to cut the fat and shape them up to be the fittest PPC campaigns they can be!

ppc diet

How Can You Over-Optimise a PPC Campaign?

There are two main ways you can over-optimise a PPC campaign, which can end up doing more harm than good:

Spreading your assets too thinly: Having too many keywords, ads or product groups within an ad group can cloud judgements. Unbalancing campaign settings: Adjusting or removing bid adjustments in an unhealthy way can produce erratic results.

Let’s take a look at some of these bad habits it’s time to break.

Bloated Keyword Groups or Campaigns

It’s easy to overindulge on the number of keywords you have within a search campaign’s ad group. Sure, you will want to have your ads show for all the keywords relevant to your landing page, but you can go too far in this respect.

more keywords than clicks

Having more keywords than clicks is a bad sign

With a huge number of keywords, you are bound to have many automatically fall under the “low search volume” category. Google AdWords states that low search volume keywords “will be inactive until its search traffic increases” which means that super-niche keywords are a waste of time, essentially deadweight stuffed within an ad group.

Some niche keywords will occasionally get clicks, but if there aren’t enough clicks overall, then the results around that keyword aren’t statistically significant and it’s a shot in the dark as to what bid to set. These niche keywords also deflect clicks from phrase and broad match keywords, which means that they have less historic data to base bids on.

too many ppc keywords

Don’t waste your time with keyword lists like this!

Ideally you should set exact match keywords for high volume search terms accompanied with similar broad match keywords to handle longer, unknown or unique search queries around that topic.

Any search queries that have enough data behind them can be separated out into their own exact and broad match keyword, or even better: these stand-out keywords can form a new ad group to improve Quality Scores with a closely matching ad and/or landing page.

Too Skinny Product Groups

For Google and Bing Shopping campaigns, you can subdivide all products by brand, type, item ID, etc. and place an individual bid on each product group.

It’s a great idea to break product groups into niche groups, as different groups of products can have different prices, margins and conversion rates and you’ll want to adjust bids accordingly.

too many ppc product groups

How should you break down shopping campaign product groups?

Issues arise when product groups are broken down into tiny groups and become too skinny in terms of historic user data. If a product group has only had a handful of clicks, then it’s impossible to tell what the ideal maximum cost-per-click bid for that group should be, especially if it’s had less than two conversions and less than 100 or so clicks.

Ideally you should only create a product group split when all branches of the split have enough clicks and conversions for you to be confident in creating a calculated bid based on historical data. This may mean using just one product group overall for all products and then branching it out when enough data becomes available in the upcoming hours/days/weeks.

ppc bidding based on historical data

Are you setting your bids based on emotions or on reliable historical data?

For product feeds containing grouped products with different variants (such as size or colour variations), it’s not recommended to break product groups down to the item ID level, as these items are just one combination of a product’s size, colour, etc. and will likely have the same results as the product in its other sizes and colour combinations.

Custom labels can really help bring up more options to split product groups by. For example, you could create up to five new custom labels for useful groupings such as:

Product price band (e.g. up to £20, £20 – £40, etc.) Product margin band (e.g. up to £5, £5 – £10, etc.) Configurable product SKU Stock levels (e.g. excellent, OK, bad, etc.) Sale/non-sale items Heavy Numbers of Search Ads

How many is too many when it comes to search ads with an ad group?

You need to have at least two text ads to split test ad variations in order to try and increase the click-through-rate and/or conversion rate.

too many ads per ad group

How can you tell which type of ad performs the best?

Having too many ads will weigh you down though watered-down statistics. Imagine an extreme example with an ad group containing over 100 ads: you cannot make any discernible difference between these ads because each one has too few clicks to ever tell what’s going on.

A greedy amount of ads also means that your ads won’t be auto-optimised towards your goals by online advertising platforms until there’s enough clicks to go on statistically. This could take several months or even years to achieve depending on traffic levels and ad placements.

ppc ad testing flowchart

A handy method whilst creating and optimising ads within an ad group

I recommend creating three or four different themed text ads for every ad group, to have the best of both worlds in terms of split testing speed and ad optimisation. Once each ad has had 500 or so clicks, you can see which theme performed the worst across all ad groups, pause that ad; and at the same time create a new unique ad which may push performance even higher.

Unbalanced Campaign Settings

Are your campaign settings balanced and working together in harmony?

There are more than seven different ways to adjust search bids, which can mean that a final bid can look very different from the original maximum CPC bid once all the increases and decreases are taken into account:

ppc campaign settings

How many bid adjustments change your final bids?

All these bid adjustments can significantly optimise a PPC campaign, effectively saving ad spend on users who don’t convert as well, and pouring that saved cost into those users who convert better than average. The overall effect of this is greater volumes of conversions without the need for extra ad spend or a loss of return on ad spend.

When bid adjustments are applied to a campaign incorrectly, they can throw automatic bidding systems and increase or decrease maximum CPCs in a unbalanced and possibly unhealthy way. Take a real-life bad example below for a campaign’s device bid adjustments:

Desktop devices: 40% increase Tablet devices: 15% increase Smartphone devices: 5% increase

No matter what the original max CPC bid has been set at, the final bid will be higher by at least 5%, so the relationship between the max CPC and the final bid is skewed positively in this case.

All bid adjustments need to be based off averages to keep them balanced and working together in harmony.

comparing conversion rates in google analytics

You can use the “comparison” tool within Google Analytics to quickly measure percentage differences

This is especially important when two or more bid adjustments are used, because they can have a knock on effect of multiplying the error down the line. A bid adjustment of +10%, then +15% and then +20% will result overall in a bid adjustment of +52%, for example.

Working Towards a Fitter PPC Account

Now is a better time than any to get your PPC campaigns into shape. Go on the great PPC diet by cutting the fat, reducing bloating and avoid going too skinny or unbalanced.

Sometimes a fresh start is what’s needed to achieve your goals, so don’t be afraid to delete old habits, start from scratch and get started on the right foot towards a healthy and active PPC account.

About the author

Jonathan Ellins is the Head of Insights at Hallam Internet Ltd., a UK-based marketing agency. Working in a consulting capacity at Hallam, Jonathan specialises in paid advertising with a keen interest in creating AdWords optimisation and automated bid management scripts. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

8 Real, Data-Backed Predictions for PPC in 2018

Originally published on:

In the world of PPC, 2018 is going to get bonkers.

Between Facebook making drastic changes to the News Feed and the “New AdWords Experience” set to become the only way to skin the cat, the rise of new ad platformsand the continuation of some of last year’s most popular trends, we’ve got a lot to look forward to (and probably some preparing to do)! To separate the most-probably from the pipe dreams, I dove into the data and came up with some ideas as to what’s lies ahead.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my eight data-backed PPC predictions for 2018!

#1. Facebook Ads Expand Beyond Your Social Feed

One thing should immediately stick out in the industry from the past year – Facebook’s growth is truly explosive. The ad platform added 4 million new advertisers in just 18 months, effectively doubling the network, and it’s posed to keep growing in 2018!

 facebook advertising growth metrics 2018 

But there’s ultimately a cap on the number of ads they can serve users while they scroll through their social feeds, which is why Facebook has been growing beyond just

In 2015, the company made Messenger a standalone platform, and very late in 2017, Facebook introduced a way to monetize the new app with Messenger ads.

 facebook messenger ad 2018

Now we as we’re seeing Instagram looking to break their messaging equivalent Instagram Direct into a separate app, we should expect Instagram Direct ads to follow suite with ad similar ads.

But Facebook’s ad opportunities are even greater beyond their current flagship products. Over the years, Facebook has acquired 65(!) companies – and the tech giant has invested in everything from Fitness Tracking and Speech recognition to Rural communications.

Consider their $19 Billion purchase of WhatsApp in 2014. WhatsApp has over 1 Billion active users and is the most popular messaging application of all time. WhatsApp currently doesn’t support any kind of advertising and once said it never would. But recently, Matt Navarra and TechCrunch discovered that within the Facebook ad manager code, there was hints that WhatsApp message ads may be in our near future!

 whatsap messaging 2018

Facebook’s other major acquisition of 2014, Oculus VR, may also allow Facebook to break out of your social feeds into the fast-growing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality space in 2018.

#2. An Explosion of New Search Ad Formats and Extensions

If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that Google isn’t happy coasting off its flagship search ads. Last year, AdWords retired the standard text ad it had relied on for 16 years to give advertisers more space with their expanded text ads. Google knew that even if search isn’t going anywhere, search was certainly evolving and how we advertisers answer searchers’ questions needs to evolve too.

 new ad formats coming to adwords 2018

Through the year, Google has improved their shopping ads to cater towards people differently. Shopping ads remain a staple in any ecommerce advertisers’ campaigns, but late in 2017, Google started serving Shopping Showcase Ads to people casually searching for top of the funnel, non-branded product searches. Google may soon also allow for people who are ready to purchase to convert via a “Buy on Google” extension directly on the SERP!

 google food ordering map ads

How we connect with customers via search ads has been evolving quickly too. Google enabled call extensions in 2011 allowing us to place a call directly from the SERP. Four years later, Google enabled advertisers more control over how they drive calls to their business with call-only ads and then two years later enabled call bid adjustments. In 2016, Google allowed us to connect to our customers via text with message extensions.

The next era of communication from our search ads may be with chatbots, as it appears that some brands are experimenting with new chatbot extensions per a late 2017 Bing Ads post.

 adwords local service ads

How Google Ads connects us to businesses is also likely to change in 2018. In 2015, Google began testing local service ads for plumbers and locksmiths in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years, Google has tested local service ads in more markets across the United States and for other services such as HVAC, Electricians, Garage Door, Carpet Cleaning, Towing, and even Tutoring and Maid Services!

As Google irons out legalities and liabilities to these services, you should expect them to become readily available to advertisers of all sizes in different local service industries in the US and abroad. Using these ads, searchers can find and directly book appointments through the SERP on desktop, mobile, and even via Voice Search.

voice search ads 2018

#3. Voice Search Goes Mainstream

Google advertises for its own products – a lot, in fact. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll realize that Google’s ads are never specifically about search. Instead, Google advertises its personal assistant app, or its assistant powered Android phones, or its assistant powered Google Home devices.

The subtle push to get people searching more has been effective – on Friday, Google announced that over 400 million devices are enabled with Google Assistant. For perspective, the US population is 323 million, so Google Assistants outnumber us! Add in Alexa, Cortana, and Siri enabled devices and it’s clear that Voice Search is more than just a passing fad. In 2017, 20% of all search occurs via voice search rather than a typed query, and ComScore estimates that by 2020, more than 50% of all search will be driven by voice search!

Optimizing for Voice Search will require a new search strategy. Knowing that people’s natural language is different from their typed queries, you’ll need to prep your content and your ads to answer their questions, rather than match their keywords. Have your content answer questions people will naturally ask their devices such as “Who”, “When”, “Where” and “How” as they complete their searches.

Structured data will also be preferred over semantic data. If you ask your Google device “Where can I buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?” it won’t show you the nearest answer or even the cheapest – but it will show you the answer that Google can find the easiest, and that will likely be in an advertisers merchant feed or serving a local inventory ad.

#4. The Rise of Visual Search

Visual search may sound new and experimental to many advertisers, but Pinterest actually grew their platform almost entirely as a visual search engine. Pinterest may not the largest search engine, but it’s effectively grown a monopoly on visual search and more than doubled their revenue each year in the past 2 years!

2017 pinterest ad revenue growth

Visual search is something that’s clearly caught the attention of the big search engines, as both Google and Bing are beginning to play with the feature. In the past, Shopping ads were introduced when people were searching for images, but Bing is preparing this to enable users to search within images themselves.

This visual search would allow users to find that item that they must have – and serve them ads for it along the way.

2018 year of visual search

#5. Search Audiences Replace Search Keywords

The keyword isn’t dead – but it’s no longer what controls your paid search. In 2014, we saw keywords lose their meaning when close variants were automatically introduced and then again in 2017 we saw exact match type keywords serve to additional queries including reordered words with functional words added or removed. The keyword is no longer the best way to control who sees our ads – but audience targeting may replace it.

Google’s been slowly expanding its offering of audience solutions over the years – first allowing us to target returning visitors with Remarketing Lists of Search Ads, then our customer lists with Customer Match (first by matching users email addresses, but now by phone number and address as well), and similar audiences for search campaigns. Advertisers can target their ads by demographic and recently based on life events.

On the horizon, Google has plans to allow advertisers to target based on consumer patterns (such as frequently visiting certain types of stores, restaurants, or attending live events), as well as via In-Market Audiences for search ads.

in market for search in 2018

#6. Increased Automation Takes Control Away from Advertisers

Keywords aren’t the only thing that advertisers are losing control of. In 2017, Google also retired multiple ad rotation settings that advertisers used to test ad copy in their accounts. Google’s penchant for creating ad extensions on behalf of advertisers is nothing new, but they recently also began testing out creating ads for advertisers too – which may have some brand-sensitive advertisers worried.

increased automation in adwords 2018

Many campaign types, including shopping ads, dynamic search ads, smart display campaigns, and Google’s experimental local service ads are all created and managed without targeting keywords or full control of your ad copy!

#7. Unchecked Brand Problems Get Worse

The Google Display Network is the largest display network in the world, spanning 3 million websites and apps. YouTube is the largest video sharing network with over 1 trillion videos. Even Facebook is quickly growing their audience network.

All this reach provides advertisers with unparalleled opportunity, but not all that content is the best place for you to have your brand associated with.

display ad placement

I’m sure HR Certification Institute didn’t intend their brand to appear at the top of “The 7 Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Products of 2017.”

Some content online isn’t going to be the safest place for your brand. Unfortunately, a consequence we pay for a free and ever-expanding internet is also a growth in sites that feature fake news, polarizing politics, and at time malicious and hateful content.

In 2017, many brands found their ads on these kinds of sites or videos and pulled their advertising as a result. Although Google and Facebook are both making efforts to prevent this kind of content from serving ads in the future, in an age of increased automation it’s unlikely that the situation is destined to get better. Brand advertisers need to be particularly cautious of what kind of sites their ads show on and exclude inappropriate sites to prevent their ads accidently showing there.

#8. New Bing Ad Targeting May Outpower AdWords

Google’s strong hold on the search market and Facebook’s fast growth have many saying the two companies are effectively making the digital advertising market a duopoly. The Wall Street Journal estimates that 77 cents of every new digital advertising dollar in 2017 was spent on either a Google or Facebook property.

new bing ad features in 2018

Although the digital marketing industry is currently booming, duopolies seldom are efficient markets and generally hinder new growth. In order for a new competitor to rise, they usually need to be willing to drop considerable resources in technology capital to compete. So all eyes are on the other 3 largest tech companies to rise in the market – Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. Apple has put some investment in advertising, but they’re unlikely to compete with Google at that level. Amazon advertising has grown recently, but most of Amazon’s revenue still comes from product sales.

Microsoft may be our best change to compete against Google and Facebook. Although Bing is certainly an underdog, it does reach a surprisingly large 35.6% market share of the US Search Market. The preferred search engine of Microsoft’s own products (Windows, Edge, Office, Skype, Xbox) as well as the preferred search engine of Amazon’s Alexa – Bing can certainly compete in a growing voice search market.

But Bing’s real power might be in another Microsoft product – LinkedIn. In 2016, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26 Billion and invested in it a lot since. Similar to Microsoft’s Bing, however, the largest professional social network is still definitely in Facebook’s shadow.

Where Microsoft could steal the show, however, is if they were to partner their search and social networks together. PPC pros already know that advertising on both search & social can improve both the performance on both networks and even increase the number of repeat visitors and branded searches. But where Bing would really shine is if it were possible to leverage LinkedIn’s ad targeting directly on the SERP. LinkedIn, like Facebook, offers a myriad of ad targeting methods including by a user’s education, skill, and job title and far surpasses Google’s limited demographic search targeting.

In Conclusion


Well, there you have it. If even half of these exciting predictions come to fruition, the way SMBs develop strategies and spend ad dollars could look profoundly different when next year rolls around.

Let us know what you think of my PPC prediction for 2018 on social media or in the comments below, and be sure to check out our blog throughout the year to see which of these predictions are coming true!

About the author

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and SkillShare.

What Rehab & Addiction Facilities Need to Know About Recent Google Policy Changes [Data]

Originally published on:

There’s no hiding from the opioid crisis that became a national emergency in 2017. An estimated 20 million Americans, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. These facts are important and difficult to dismiss. Addiction is a complicated disease with no simple cure. But nearly every recovery program agrees that the first step is to seek help. And as these 20 million Americans, their friends, and their families search for help, many turn to Google to find answers.

However, recent Google ad policy changes complicate the picture of what results people get when they search for keywords related to rehab and drug treatment.

According to a September 14 article in the New York Times, Google released a statement that the search engine has “started restricting ads that come up when someone searches for addiction treatment on its site.” Google cites that some rehab clinics advertising through Google AdWords do not provide the quality care that addicts need to successfully overcome their disease. In response, Google claims to have “stopped selling ads related to those searches.” Following an investigation from The Sunday Times, Google similarly pulled rehab ads in the United Kingdom last week.

It doesn’t appear that these ads have disappeared completely, however. Google Trends data shows that drug rehabilitation searches are steady, while data from 29 rehab facilities advertising through Google AdWords reveals that the number of ad eligible searches on these queries has decreased significantly – down 96%. But Google is still showing some ads on these queries.

google restricts ads for rehab and drug treatment keywords

Apart from their statement to the New York Times, Google has been quiet about the change to their ad policy. Advertisers bidding on rehab-related keywords were not notified of the change. They did not have their ads or keywords disapproved, but instead suddenly started seeing far fewer ad impressions from these keywords.

Although Google is certainly restricting ads for common terms like “Drug Rehab,” as it said it would, it does not take much work to find other common queries serving a full pack of rehab ads:

google ads rehab searches

It’s not clear whether Google changed how it serves organic listings for these rehab-related searches. If not, search engine users would be able to find those misleading or poor-quality sites anyway.

Google also did not announce additional restrictions for its In-Stream ads on YouTube or its image ads across the Google Display Network (although Google will continue to restrict advertisers from targeting individuals based on sensitive information related to these issues, such as through remarketing.) Additionally, Bing has not changed the way it serves ads for these kinds of searches.

Which Keywords Are Affected?

This policy change leaves rehab advertisers, good and bad, in a confusing gray area. All advertisers are showing fewer ads on rehab terms, but what is and isn’t allowed is unclear to many. Although advertisers are eligible to show on 96% fewer searches containing the word “rehab,” not all keywords are equally affected. Common searches and restrictive keyword match types, such as Google’s exact and phrase match keywords, are showing almost no ads at all, whereas ads are much more common on long-tailed searches, geo-related search terms, dynamic search ads, and modified broad and broad match keywords.

google adwords rehab ad policy changes

To complicate matters more, impacts to these ads differ vastly among different common semantic strings. Whereas Google is very restrictive of “rehab” keywords, it’s much more lenient on “treatment” and “addiction” related keywords, which still show about a third as much as they did before the new policy. Some advertisers may have discovered that “counseling” related keywords have been unaffected, resulting in twice as many ads from these keywords now.

ad eligible searches for drug rehab data

More complex and long-tailed keywords may also be further exempt from Google’s policy. Searches about different kinds of substance abuse are treated differently – keywords around “substance abuse” are largely ineligible for ads, whereas “drug abuse” or “alcohol abuse” keywords now serve even more ads.

google ads for rehab addiction facilities

The current drug and alcohol addiction crisis is a complex one and unfortunately may not have any simple viable solutions. Seeking help and starting a conversation will always be the first step to recovery, and Google and its advertisers have a real responsibility to provide answers to those seeking help. Google’s new ad policy may remove some qualified professionals from that conversation. At worst, the unclear policy change could restrict policy-abiding advertisers and open loopholes for sketchy advertisers to benefit from.

Data Sources

Data is based on a sample size of 29 accounts (WordStream clients) advertising on keywords related to drug and alcohol rehabilitation and similar services on the Google Search Network between September and December 2017. Ad eligible searches were calculated by estimating the number of ad impressions these keywords would have with 100% impression share.

About the author

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and SkillShare.

What’s in Store for WordStream in 2018

Originally published on:

When I joined WordStream as President in June of 2017, I jumped in head first to what turned out to be the highest-energy environment I’ve ever worked in by far. I’m thrilled and grateful to be part of a team that’s so passionate, and I’ve been so impressed by our hundreds of smart, dedicated employees who come to the office every day with a mission to help our customers succeed. Our customers run an amazing variety of businesses, employing tens of thousands of people and delivering products and services all over the world.

This week, I’m excited to begin a new chapter with WordStream. I’m stepping into the role of CEO, where I’ll continue to oversee our day-to-day operations as well as building and leading the team that is driving continued rapid growth through 2018 and beyond. My friend and colleague Ralph Folz will move into the role of Executive Chairman, where his focus will increase on external relationships, partnerships, and growth by acquisition. I’ll also be joining the Board of Directors.

howard kogan ceo wordstream

Introducing new hires at one of my first company meetings

2017 was a big year for WordStream. We landed on the Inc. 5000 for the fifth year in a row, the Boston Business Journal’s Top Places to Work list for the third year in a row, and were named one of the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work for 2017. We were named the #1 highest rated search advertising software by G2 Crowd. We now have over 250 employees and power more than 10,000 advertisers and agencies globally.

Our track record of growth has been impressive, but we’re not slowing down now, and today I’d like to share with you some thoughts on our current challenges, opportunities, and my vision for the company this year and in the future.

My First Six Months

I have a customer-first philosophy, so when I joined WordStream in June, my first order of business was to spend lots of time with our customers. From jumping on sales and consulting calls, to hosting events in our office, to visiting our customers’ offices, to talking to customers who are unhappy or leaving WordStream, I’ve done it all.

wordstream customer event

A workshop from our customer insight roundtable in November

I have heard countless stories of how WordStream has helped to both grow and simplify our customers’ businesses. The proactive suggestions that the software provides, the simplicity of the user experience, and the talent and compassion of our customer success reps are consistent themes across these conversations.

But our job is not done. To build on this success we are actively working on innovating within our existing ability to advertise across multiple online advertising platforms including Google, Facebook, and Bing (for example, releasing Smart Ads to automate display ad creation), as well as developing brand new product lines and service offerings to meet an expanded set of growth opportunities for our customers (such as the newly released Facebook Ads Grader).

wordstream smart ads software

Smart Ads makes it easy to build great-looking display ads fast

There’s much more to come as we move through the year, so watch this space for more new features and product developments that you’ve asked for.

Our Most Critical Asset: Our People

One of my favorite parts of my job has been my mobile “office.” I’ve sat in several different desks already, spending time with teams across the company, and I like moving around as a way to get to know our people and the specifics of how each different team functions. You can’t build a great company without great people, and our people and culture are two of our most powerful assets.

We are growing rapidly, and this trajectory presents both challenges and opportunity. We need to scale the way every aspect of our business works to support our growth in the coming years. Two excellent opportunities arise for our employees – the ability to take on new projects and technologies, and the ability to take on new roles and responsibilities. This is one of the core purposes of the organization, to provide professional development for our talent so that they are continually learning and preparing for what’s next.

wordstream best places to work

Accepting our award from the Boston Globe with WordStreamers from across all teams

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, check out our careers page – we’re always looking for creative, driven people to join our engineering, product, sales, customer success, and marketing teams.

My Vision for the Future 

The digital advertising market is incredibly dynamic, with market leaders such as Facebook and Google driving constant innovation as well as hundreds of tech companies striving to disrupt the industry. To stand out in a crowded, fast-paced space, we must constantly challenge ourselves to listen more closely to our customers so we can truly partner with them, leveraging emerging technology to ensure we deliver the simplest and most valuable solutions available to businesses and agencies of all sizes.

We’ll add dozens and dozens of new employees this year, who will bring new diversity of ideas, experiences and richness to WordStream – furthering our vision and accelerating our progress. One way we’re powering that effort is through our new partnership with Hack.Diversity in 2018. We’ll develop new ways of going to market, new products and services, and new geographies. Through it all we will focus on making sure we stay close our customers, use them as inspiration for all we do, and deliver ever increasing value to them.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our journey so far – we couldn’t do it without you. Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2018!

Say No to the Slump: How to Drive Post-Holiday Sales with Facebook Ads

Originally published on:

B2B advertisers tend to see an influx of prospects after January 1. But for many businesses—online or otherwise—the post-holiday malaise is very real.

Today, I’m going to teach you how to use Facebook ads to turn the “ugh, January“ you’ve become accustomed to into the Q1 kickoff you’ve always dreamed of. The strategies I’ll touch on are broken out like so…

Brick and mortar: Improve foot traffic with carousel ads and store locators. Ecommerce: Use holiday shopper data and Collection ads to cross-sell complementary products.

But first, let’s establish something…

The Post-Holiday Slump Is a Myth

Brick and mortar and ecommerce outfits alike sprint from turkey day to Christmas with reckless abandon, offering deals left and right; this inevitably leads to a perceived dry spell, a period in which consumers simply aren’t, well, consuming. As such, many choose to significantly reduce their online advertising efforts or press pause.

This is a silly idea.

Folks, there’s plenty of money to be made after the holiday season, and Facebook ads can help you get your hands on it.

post holiday facebook advertising for small businesses 

Stats time!

According to intel we got directly from Facebook, 65% of shoppers plan to keep shopping after Christmas. Why, you might ask? Because humans are consumptive beings who want, nay, demand stuff. New stuff. Shinier stuff. Stuff to complement the stuff we recently received or rediscovered in the recesses of a dusty desk drawer. In addition, January is a great time to take advantage of post-holiday sales.

Let’s give the people what they want…

For Brick & Mortar Businesses: Bring ‘Em Back in With Store Locators

You’re reading the WordStream blog. Based on that information alone, it stands to reason that a good chunk of your (or your clients’) business occurs strictly within the digital realm.

For others, driving potential customers to visit a storefront is just as important as earning sales online. And, in a country with nearly 30 million small businesses, it’s even possible to stumble upon some that rely solely on in-person interactions *gasp* to make a buck.

driving foot traffic to a physical store using facebook ads 

Regardless of which bucket you fall into, this much is true: you can use Facebook ads to push interested parties in your area towards paying your store a visit.

The Strategy

If you have multiple locations, Facebook will allow you to leverage the aptly named “Store Visits” campaign goal. This is a dynamic ad format that allows you to serve proximity-based ad creative to searchers in a dynamic fashion (meaning you don’t need to create a dozen separate ads).

facebook ads drive store visits campaign goal 

Fancy, huh?

Unfortunately, for those of you operating from a single location (which will be my focus today), you’ll need to get creative. Facebook doesn’t currently allow you to use “Store Visits” as a marketing objective. You can, however, combine reach or brand awareness campaigns with hyper-specific location targeting and carousel ads to simultaneously attract local prospects and point them in the direction of your store.

The variance in campaign objectives above is pretty straightforward. Brand awareness campaigns are all about serving your ads multiple times to the same people, which can be useful for advertisers with granular audiences. Reach campaigns, on the other hand, are a pure volume play, a wide net. Like straight up broad match keywords. Provided you nail down your location targeting, choosing “Reach” as your campaign objective will allow you to serve your ads to the maximum number of people within a concentrated area around your store.

 facebook ads proximity-based ad copy

To do this, create a new Facebook ad campaign using guided creation. From the Marketing Objectives interface, select “Reach” and name your campaign something inspirational.

drive in-person purchases with facebook reach campaign goals 

Now it’s time to forge your hyper-local audience. While adding demographic (age, gender) and detailed targeting (demographics, interests, and behaviors) that’s pertinent to what you’re peddling is certainly helpful, the key here is defining your location with laser precision. This ain’t gonna cut it:

 facebook location selection for driving in store purchases

Let’s say you own a store near Boston’s famed Prudential Center. Before selecting your target location in earnest, Facebook actually allows you to choose whether you want to reach everyone in a given area, weary travelers, recent visitors, or the fine folks who call your neighborhood home.

facebook location targeting variables 

If you want to get really fancy (and you live in a bustling metropolis with enough warm bodies to warrant doing so), you can create separate ad sets for the same location offering different messaging to Facebook users based on their relationship to area. Maybe travelers need to know about your coffee shop’s dope free WiFi and residents respond better to your “free kouign-amann after 10 lattes” punch card.

kougin amann 

Throw that sucker in a carousel and resistance is futile.

Now it’s time to add your target location. Add your business address and reduce the radius targeting to a distance that makes sense. If you live in a city, 1-3 miles can be broad enough to form the foundation of a sizeable audience. In less populous areas, you may need to extend your radius considerably.

facebook ads one mile targeting radius 

Once your location is set, establish your budget and ad set duration then continue to scroll down. You’ll want to pay close attention to both frequency cap and ad scheduling here; the former because berating your neighbors is uncouth and the latter because telling them about your store when it’s closed is a bit wasteful.

 facebook ad frequency and scheduling for driving in person sales

Simply adjust your ad scheduling to reflect operating hours and move on to ad creation, where you’re going to want to select “Carousel” and move on to the fun part.

 facebook ads carousel for smb driving foot traffic to local business

Enter your universally applicable ad text first, ensuring that it hammers home what makes your business special and either your address or proximity to an oft-visited landmark.

Now, you’re going to want to ensure that your carousel ad features three cards and that one of them (preferably the last one) is a map showing the location of your business. You can do this by checking the requisite box in the ad creation interface.

adding a map to your facebook carousel ad 

Cards one and two of your carousel should convey your unique selling proposition, a deal you’re offering, or a picture of your storefront (subtlety won’t do you any favors). Since your location probably isn’t changing any time soon, these two cards are the best place to A/B test ad creative in your foot traffic-driving campaign.

facebook ads drive foot traffic local business and restaurant example 

For each card, you can customize a headline and a description (they won’t show in all of Facebook’s ad placements). This is a great place to include exclusive offers that’ll drive traffic to your store. And while the map you added will automatically come with a “Get Directions” button, you can append it to your more aesthetically pleasing cards, too. From a measurability standpoint, you can observe reach metrics at the campaign level in Ads Manger:

facebook reach metrics 

Make sure that you test your ad creative frequently and ensure you’re fully stocked for the impending influx of customers ready to drop bread on your post-holiday wares.

For Ecommerce Businesses: Cross-Sell Your Newly Swollen Customer Base

You’ve got an Ecommerce site. You just spent a month luring prospects and dynamic remarketing to those who escape your clutches in an effort to lure them back. And it worked. You cleaned up in December!

Now what?

My friend, it’s time to cross-sell your customers.

If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, cross-selling refers to the process of pitching complementary items to a prospect or customer. You’re enticing someone with cash in hand with something supplementary. Amazon is the king of the cross-sale.

amazon cross-sell through frequently bought together 

Who doesn’t need ankle weights with their weight vest, am I right?

The “Frequently bought together” section of any Amazon product page is an attempt at leveraging social proof in concert with convenience to move more product at the point of sale. What we’re going to try to do with Facebook ads is a little different: we’re going to attempt to cross-sell the customers you acquired during the holiday season.

The Strategy

For our purposes, let’s say you sell grooming accessories. You know, ergonomic hilts, razor blades, shaving creams, badger hair brushes, and overpriced beard oil infused with essence of dollars past. If someone bought a razor (the most expensive item you sell), there are multiple angles from which you can approach a cross-sale; better still is the fact that these cross sales are recurring because the nature of your business is such that your customers constantly need replacements for your consumables.

sales vs cross-sales with facebook ads 

The key to cross-selling products with Facebook ads is custom audiences. Let me rephrase: the key to SMB ecommerce is custom audiences. If you’re rocking a five-figure product catalogue, you’re going to want to let Facebook automate your cross-selling with dynamic ads. That’s a topic for another day.

You’re going to start by creating custom audiences using the email addresses of people who bought your razors. Go to the audiences tab, click “create audience,” and select “Customer File.”

facebook custom audience is the key to ecommerce cross-sell 

From here, upload the email addresses of the people who bought your product during the holiday season. Since this isn’t your first rodeo— after all, we are talking post-holiday sales—I’m operating under the assumption that your Facebook Pixel is already configured to track purchases as conversions. If this is the case, create a new conversion campaign using your previous purchasers as the target audience:

facebook ads custom audience from customer email for cross-sell 

Now, since you’re looking to capitalize on a recent purchase in an attempt to cross-sell more of your products, you’ve got a handful of options in terms of ad creative. The one we’re going to focus on (because it allows you to promote multiple products without having to worry about creating a product feed) is Facebook’s new Collection ad. It makes creating dynamic, engaging ads that showcase multiple potential cross-sell opportunities super simple; all you need to do is plug your images into a premade template and voila, you’ve got an ad! The only drawback is that it can only be served on the Facebook mobile app. But feast your eyes!

facebook collection ads 

Now, this superlative example from Adidas is just that: the cream of the crop. You don’t need a big shiny video to make these birds sing. Observe.

First, you need to fill out the cover image and text portions of your Collection ad that precede the catalogue-like section. Where Adidas used a video, add an image of the product the members of your custom audience purchased during the holiday season (going back to our example, a razor handle).

 post-holiday facebook ads for ecommerce collection ads

In the text fields, hark back to the fact that the customer recently made a purchase but could really benefit from of your complimentary offerings (conversely, you could lean on a different trigger, like scarcity or FoMo: whatever seems prudent).

Next, you’re going to add the products you’d like to cross-sell into the “Product Lists” section. Facebook requires you to add at least 4 and up to 8.

facebook collection ad product list breakdown 

For each product, you can add a headline (name of product), description (probably price), and a destination URL. That last bit’s a doozy; you can send customers directly to the landing page for the product they deem most intriguing. To squeeze even more value out of this feature, add a separate UTM parameter to each cross-sell product destination URL. This will allow you to remarket to anyone who visits one of your product pages from a Collection ad and doesn’t purchase with a different ad that explicitly serves either a) the product they viewed as a single image ad or b) the three they didn’t view as a carousel ad.

Turning a failed attempt at cross-selling into regular selling: You’re welcome.

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan.

7 Ecommerce Trends You Can't Ignore in 2018

Originally published on:

According to a study published by eMarketer in 2016, the ecommerce sector will experience double-digit growth until 2020, when sales are expected to exceed $4 trillion.

Ecommerce trends for 2018

Few industries can boast such a bright future, which makes looking forward to what’s next in the world of ecommerce all the more exciting. Today, we’ll be taking a look at seven of the most significant and potentially disruptive ecommerce trends that marketers and consumers alike can expect in 2018.

We’ll be examining the current state of each of these areas, as well as taking a speculative look forward for the rest of the year to see what opportunities – and challenges – ecommerce retailers are likely to encounter in 2018.

1. Faster Shipping and Better Delivery Logistics

Looking beyond the idiosyncrasies of specific ecommerce platforms, one of the very few remaining genuine differentiators in the ecommerce sector is that of shipping times and delivery logistics.

Amazon is the indisputable king of ecommerce delivery, and seems poised to remain on its throne for the foreseeable future. Amazon is notoriously secretive when it comes to specific figures, but an infographic recently published by the ecommerce giant states that Amazon shipped more than 5 BILLION items worldwide via Amazon Prime’s free one- or two-day shipping in 2017. Even more interesting is the data on Amazon’s fastest deliveries – just eight minutes for a forehead thermometer, and just nine minutes for five pints of ice cream.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 faster deliveries better logistics Amazon Now deliveries infographic

In 2018, we can expect Amazon and other ecommerce retailers step up their logistics game.

With more than 8,000 Amazon Prime members currently living in areas offering Amazon Now’s one-hour(!) delivery service – and Amazon’s plans to expand the service even further this year – reducing the time between click and delivery is likely to become one of the bloodiest fights on the ecommerce battlefield this year. Combined with other emerging technologies such as driverless freight envisioned by automotive companies such as Mercedes-Benz, logistical improvements will drive (get it?) the ecommerce sector forward this year.

2. Greater Integration of AI and Machine Learning

Given the appetite for machine learning technologies in Silicon Valley and beyond, it’s inevitable that the ecommerce sector will continue to be disrupted by greater integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in 2018.

Machine learning has already been integrated into many ecommerce systems, from product recommendation engines to improved search functionality. However, 2018 will see a dramatic increase in the applications of these technologies, allowing ecommerce retailers to offer customers exactly what they want in less time with less effort.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 chatbots customer service

One technological area of ecommerce that has already seen remarkable advances in both sophistication and adoption has been the rise of the customer service chatbot, and we’ll likely see continued development of these “conversational agents” in 2018.

These applications will become increasingly helpful and will be able to handle a more complex range of tasks, from problem resolution to assisted transactional functionality. Facebook has already offered some retailers access to new chatbot tools that allow conversational agents within Facebook Messenger to handle payments directly within the app, without forcing users to process their transaction on another site.

Product recommendations are also poised to become even more accurate and helpful thanks to machine learning technologies. We’ll see a move away from keyword-based recommendations to systems that factor in a wider range of signals, from product purchase histories to thematically and semantically related products and greater personalization of results based on consumers’ shopping preferences.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 better product recommendations

Image via Vibetrace

Advertisers can also expect to see greater adoption of machine learning within AdWords and other online advertising platforms. Systems such as Smart Goals and Smart Bidding will become, well, smarter and more accurate, and it’s likely that more advertisers will turn to these tools as a way to maximize the impact of their campaigns – albeit in an opaque way.

3. Augmented Reality Inches Closer to the Mainstream

Until very recently, nascent augmented reality technologies have been largely novelties – think Snapchat filters rather than the glittering future once promised by Google Glass and the like. However, this year will see AR tech take a giant stride forward toward true mainstream adoption, with ecommerce businesses leading the way.

Many leading retailers have been refining their AR offerings for some time, and the results have been striking. Everybody’s favorite Swedish furniture retailer IKEA debuted its Place app late last year, which allows you to see how various IKEA products would look in your home. Although early versions of the app were a little buggy (particularly in smaller dwellings with limited floor space), newer iterations are reportedly much more stable and intuitive.

Of course, IKEA isn’t the only player in the ecommerce space vying for a slice of the augmented reality pie. Amazon’s AR View app offers similar functionality, allowing shoppers to see how thousands of products would look in their home without committing to a purchase.

Expect to see competition in the ecommerce AR space to intensify throughout 2018.

4. Explosive Growth in Mobile Checkout and IoT

No list of anticipated ecommerce trends would be complete without the almost-obligatory mention of the continued meteoric rise of mobile – specifically, mobile checkout and payment systems, and the continued rise of internet-connected devices.

Mobile payment has been one of the most dramatic changes to the way people shop since the advent of ecommerce itself. Growth of the mobile payment market has increased steadily year-on-year since 2015, and there are at least 10 different mobile payment platforms available today, including mainstays like Apple Pay and Google Pay (the recently announced merger of Google Wallet and Android Pay), as well as proprietary offerings from banks including Chase and Softbank. (Oh, and don’t forget everyone’s favorite cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.) As we move farther away from cash, it seems inevitable that we’ll see continued adoption and development of mobile payment systems throughout the year and beyond.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 more mobile payments popular mobile payments providers

Image/data via Statista

However, that’s not to say there aren’t significant challenges to be overcome in the mobile payments space. According to a recent study published by researchers at the University of East Anglia in England, although mobile accounted for 46% of all ecommerce transactions in Q2 2016, mobile conversion rates lag behind desktop conversion rates significantly due to consumer trepidation about mobile shopping, revealing that retailers still have much to do to sway the hearts and minds of their prospects.

Another closely related ecommerce trend that will (unfortunately) gain even greater traction in 2018 is the Internet of Things, or IoT. Contrary to every natural instinct, many companies seem locked in a frantic battle to see who can claim the title of Most Ridiculous Connected Device. So far, we’ve seen “smart” condoms, toasters, bathroom fixtures, and even luggage, and we haven’t hit bottom yet.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 Anil Dash smart device tweet

Aside from serving as a reminder that not everything can (or should) be “smart,” this trend should also remind us that everything that can connect to the internet can serve as another point-of-sale system, a fact that will doom us to the kind of dreary dystopian future in which even our toasters and refrigerators mock us with annoying ads and special offers.

5. Voice Search Everywhere

These days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to talk about mobile without mentioning voice search. In 2018, voice will be one of the leading drivers of innovation in the ecommerce space – and not just on mobile.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 Adobe Insights smart device appliance sales figures graph

Image/data via Adobe Digital Insights

Adoption of smart home appliances such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home units has been a major driver of voice search, particularly in the ecommerce space. Data from Walker Sands Digital indicates that almost one-quarter of consumers (24%) own a voice-controlled smart appliance such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and a further 20% plan to purchase one in the coming year. Use of these devices to complete purchases has also grown, with 19% of consumers having used their smart appliance to make a purchase, and a further 33% of consumers planning to do so in 2018.

Voice search, particularly in the smart speaker market, isn’t just a neat trick or the novelty du jour; it’s the next stage of customer loyalty. According to data from equities securities research firm Consumer Research Intelligence Partners, consumers that use their Echo to make purchases are among Amazon’s most loyal customers, spending an average of $1,600 per year compared to the $1,300 per-year average of Prime customers, a figure 66% higher than the average Amazon customer spends in a year.

Sales completed via Amazon Echo units also provided retailers with numerous upsell opportunities, with upsell rates of more than 60% observed among some product lines.

6. The Rise of ROPO

ROPO – Research Online, Purchase Offline – has been an observable consumer shopping habit for some time, driven largely by thrifty shoppers and eagle-eyed bargain hunters looking for the best possible deal. In 2018, we can expect to see a great deal more ROPO in the ecommerce sector.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 ROPO research online purchase offline

Image/data via Bazaarvoice

ROPO isn’t just the natural evolution of thrifty shopping in today’s digital world – it’s the culmination of the last 15 years of online shopping technology. Consumers like to research products online before making offline purchases because it empowers them to find the products they want at the best possible price, but to retailers, ROPO represents offline conversion tracking at its most effective.

According to Montreal-based ecommerce agency Absolunet, 82% of consumers use their mobile devices to research local businesses, and 18% of local searches results in a sale within 24 hours. By leveraging a range of techniques and metrics, such as mobile payment data, CRM and point-of-sale systems, geolocation tracking, consumer shopping history, social integration, and increasingly personalized advertising experiences, retailers can build incredibly detailed profiles of shoppers who conduct online research before making offline purchases throughout every stage of the customer journey.

British clothing retailer Matalan, for example, discovered that every £1 it spent on AdWords resulted in £46 of sale revenue, £31 of which was in-store.

7. More Storefront Apps

With so much focus shifting from desktop to mobile, ecommerce shopping will be further transformed this year by storefront apps. Many major retailers have offered apps for several years, and shoppers are already well-accustomed to using dedicated storefront apps to browse and shop from their mobile devices. However, 2018 will see more smaller businesses leverage storefront apps to drive sales and, perhaps even more importantly, customer loyalty.

Ecommerce trends for 2018 storefront apps

Image via Cobalt Apps

Data from ecommerce app platform Poq indicates that conversion rates among dedicated storefront apps are approximately 40% higher than those of mobile sites, making the development of such apps a tempting proposition to many retailers. In addition, the average session duration and average order value (AOV) are both significantly higher using storefront apps than mobile sites, which suggests that dedicated apps are likely to become increasingly prevalent throughout the year.

The barriers to entry for app development have never been lower, meaning that even locally focused, family owned businesses can offer customers dedicated apps – and we’re going to see a lot more of this in 2018.

What trends do you think we’ll see in the ecommerce space this year?

Google’s New Campaign Total Budget vs. Daily Budget Setting: Which Should You Use?

Originally published on:

The first question most advertisers must answer when planning any advertising campaign is, of course, what budget they can dedicate to their ads.

AdWords is no exception to this rule, and managing your campaign budgets can seem like a full-time job at times. Especially after Google began allowing campaigns to serve up to twice their daily budget in October, many seasoned experts admitted that they need to spend even more time monitoring their budget pacing.

Luckily, Google’s newest budgeting feature should be a relief for busy advertisers. As of late last week, advertisers now have the choice between setting up a daily budget or a campaign total budget when managing their campaigns in AdWords.

adwords campaign total budget type

Daily budgets will allow advertisers to specify how much on average you’d like a campaign to spend each day – with actual spend fluctuating up to double each day.

Campaign total budgets, however, allow you to specify the maximum amount of budget you’d like for your campaign to spend over the period in which it runs, much like Facebook’s lifetime budgets. Google will serve your ads through your campaign end date so long as your campaign has remaining budget, meaning that you won’t need to change or monitor your campaigns budget daily. Currently, this new setting is only available for video campaigns.

Per AdWords’ official explanation of campaign total budgets:

AdWords will try to spend your total budget evenly over the duration of your campaign while taking into account higher and lower traffic days to optimize your campaign’s performance. For example, let’s say your video campaign gets fewer views on Mondays and Tuesdays and more views on weekends. AdWords will optimize performance by spending more on days when your video is likely to get more views, while keeping your overall budget goals on track.

With a campaign total budget, you’ll only be billed up to the amount you enter for a campaign, even if AdWords serves more views or impressions than your budget allows.

Lifetime budgets pose an opportunity for advertisers, but now you’ll have to choose between using daily budgets and lifetime budgets.

Let’s review some of the advantages and disadvantages of both campaign budget types.

Benefits of Campaign Total Budgets Easier management of fixed budgets.

Sometimes your budget is your budget and you can’t spend more, even if your ROI is positive. If you’ve got a very fixed budget for the run of your campaign, AdWords campaign total budgets may be right for you. AdWords campaign total budgets will respect that hard budget cap and won’t overspend your budget like daily budgets will occasionally.

Less time managing your budget, more time managing your campaign.

None of us became marketers because we wanted to also become accountants, but sometimes managing budgets can take up a lot of our time. AdWords lifetime budgets frees up all the work and intricacies of managing budgets with a simple set it and forget it solution, so you can spend more time testing ads and adjusting targeting.

Disadvantages of Campaign Total Budgets Your campaigns must have an end date.

In order to set up campaign total budgets, your campaign must have a start and end date. Although your ads can run as soon as they’re approved, even the same day, your ads will stop running on the campaign end date. While your campaign is running, you can always adjust your end date, but doing so will potentially stretch your remaining budget thinner. Make sure you’re prepared for your campaigns to end, otherwise you may be in for a surprise to see your ads not showing!

Campaign Total Budgets can’t be shared budgets.

A campaign total budget must be dedicated to a campaign and cannot be used as a shared budget across campaigns. If you’re trying to juggle spend across multiple campaigns, you may need to monitor a shared budget across campaigns or revisit your campaign structure to find a better way to manage your campaigns.

Campaign Total Budgets are only available for Video campaigns.

At the moment, only video campaigns may use campaign total budgets.

Benefits to Campaign Daily Budgets More flexible budget management.

Daily budgets remain the default budget setting and used by many for the control they provide. You can adjust your budget every day and invest so long as your ROI is positive, or decrease your budget on under-performing campaigns. Your campaigns can run on any network and can run indefinitely or have a set end date.

advantages of adwords daily campaign budgets

Shared budgeting options.

Daily budgets can be shared across multiple campaigns, even if they’re running on different networks. This could potentially allow you more control over how much money your entire account or different groups of campaigns spend each day.

Disadvantages of Campaign Daily Budgets Daily budgets can vary a lot and spend up to twice their daily budget.

If your daily budget is the absolute maximum you can spend in each day, you may need to be cautious using daily budgets. Spend can vary a lot depending on the day of week or breakout searches, so you shouldn’t expect your campaigns to spend the same amount day to day. Campaigns can also spend up to twice their daily budget on any given day, which can make controlling a budget over a period difficult.

Depending on how your advertising budget works, you may find using daily campaign budgets or total campaign budgets easier. If you plan to run your AdWords campaigns indefinitely and adjust your investment so long as they’re profitable, you’ll likely want to continue using campaign daily budgets.

However, if you’ve got budget dedicated to running a temporary video campaign for a few weeks or months or if you’re just looking to create some brand lift with a set budget, campaign total budgets may be a great option for your campaigns!

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.

The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Ad Placement Optimization

Originally published on:

Let’s face it: as a marketer, you can target almost any segment imaginable through Facebook.

On top of that, the social media giant has done a fantastic job at expanding the places where your ads are shown. Over the past few years the company has invested great effort into its advertising arms race against Google, resulting in the expansion of Facebook’s advertising placements.

In this post, I’ll discuss what Facebook’s various ad placements are, how they differ, and how you can strategically optimize each one to lay the smackdown on your competition. 

Facebook Ad Placement Options

If you were to start a Facebook advertising account from scratch today, you would quickly realize that your ads are set to run on “automatic placements” and wonder what that means.

facebook ad placement options automatic vs edit 

If you’re anywhere near as cynical as me, you’ll quickly jump to the conclusion that “(Recommended)” means that Facebook wants you to spend more money. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong in that assumption, but I’ll get into that topic later in the post.

If you find yourself disregarding wet paint signs, not paying parking tickets, or simply defying the recommended use of Vicks Vapor Rub when the seasonal flu strikes, you’ll click the “edit placements” button. When you do so you will witness the beautiful world of placement targeting:

facebook ads placement options and instagram ad placement options 

As you can see, there are several territories where your ads can be shown, including:

Facebook’s mobile and desktop newsfeeds Instagram The Audience Network Messenger

You may also notice that you are given three options when it comes to devices:

edit facebook ad placement 

Let’s break these down for further clarification…

Facebook Ad Placements

When it comes to serving social media ads, the Facebook placement is the original gangster.

That being said, they have added a few bells and whistles over the years to give advertisers more flexibility in the way their great-looking ads appear to audience members. Now, a key distinction that needs to be made is that, unless you choose to target both desktop and mobile at the same time, not all placement options will be available to you.

If you choose to only target Facebook users on their desktop/laptop computers, you will be limited to Facebook’s newsfeed and right column placement. The newsfeed is self-explanatory; the right column refers to those compressed versions of your ad on the side of the Facebook UI:

facebook ad desktop sidebar placement 

If you want to target only users on their mobile devices through this placement, you have the option to serve to the newsfeeds as well as Facebook’s “instant articles.” Finally, there are a couple of placement options are only available for certain campaign objectives, including in-stream videos and suggested videos:

 facebook ad placement optimization for in stream video ads

Instagram Ad Placements

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012 has proven to be a smart move for the tech giant from a user-base perspective. The platform currently boasts 800 million monthly active users (many of which are also Facebook users); this allows current Facebook advertisers the ability to expand their reach on a different platform altogether.

As you might have guessed, you only have the capability to target mobile users on Instagram. That being said, you do however, need to choose between advertising within the Instagram feed, or within Instagram’s “stories”.

instagram story ad placement optimization 

Now, if you aren’t fully in the loop, Instagram’s “stories” are similar to Snapchat’s “stories.” They are time-based images, videos, and gifs where people can record their existences for the viewing pleasure of an engaged(?) audience.

Facebook Audience Network Ad Placements

The Audience Network gives you a way to extend your reach away from social media entirely and into mobile apps and websites. Your ad can be displayed as either native, banner, or interstitial:

facebook audience network ad placement optimization 

If your campaigns have a video-related objective you also have the option to run in-stream videos and rewarded videos.

I know what you’re thinking – “I sell professional things to professional people: I don’t want my ad showing up on Tinder amongst the sea of singles who all claim to love puppies and adventure!” Well, you are in luck you saasy B2B marketer you. You can exclude specific catagories of apps and websites from the audience network, reducing the amount of wasted clicks. The good news is that these categories and block lists also apply to instant article and in-stream video placements as well:

facebook ads exclude audience network specific content and publishers

This also applies to religious and political categories. Boom, there you go!

Pro Tip: If you visit the website of a business with a remarketing pixel and then visit the website of someone you don’t agree with but is also a part of an ad network (i.e Google or Facebook), by default, the advertiser did not choose for their ads to be on the specific website that you chose to visit and revile so much. It is most often not the advertisers fault because many of them do not have the expertise to be able to exclude these sites specifically. You are visiting the site and the ads are following you #knowledge #blessed. 

Facebook Messenger Ad Placements

The Facebook messenger placement has two options available for advertisers to choose from: Messenger home, and sponsored messages. The home option is self-explanatory, and is essentially a banner ad that is served in the home menu:

facebook messenger ad placement  

The sponsored messages ads appear if you choose the “Messenger” objective at the campaign level. This placement allows targeted, in-context ads to re-engage people who have an existing conversation with your business.

facebook messenger ad sponsored message optimization 

Now that I’ve outlined what the available placements are, I will show you how to effectively optimize your campaigns around them to receive the best value for your dollar.

Optimizing Your Facebook Ad Placements

The truth is, not every placement works with every campaign objective and, in my experience, it’s a better idea to cut some out altogether. There are two approaches to placement optimization you can take right out of the gate – trial & error and goal-centric.

The “trial and error” approach to Facebook ad placements

This approach requires you to set up a campaign (we’ll use the example of a conversions objective).

Take a designated period that you would like to run your ads to a given audience on automatic placements. After the period is over and the data is collected, you’ll want to take a look at the performance in ads manager. To do this, select the ad set or target audience that you ran the test with and open the performance tab on the right-hand side of the screen:

edit facebook ad placements in facebook ads manager 

Once that is opened, select the placements tab on the top right:

 measure facebook ad performance based on ad placement

As you can see from this example, the placements were set to automatic and Facebook’s algorithm was able to learn and optimize for the placement that yielded the most results for the lowest cost in concordance with my bidding strategy.

Through this method you can methodically go into the ad set and pause down placements that are not performing well. Even though Facebook’s algorithm “optimizes” for the best one, it will still spend your money on others to some extent. Going in and cleaning them up will ensure your money is being spent in the best place as often as possible.

The “goal centric” approach to Facebook ad placements

Quick confessions: I wasn’t entirely truthful in my previous example and before you go and get your ad sets in a bunch let me explain myself.

I mentioned that I had set the ad set to “automatic placements” for the test. The example being used was a conversions campaign for eBook downloads and the part where I mislead you was that I didn’t run all the placements “automatically”. In reality, I paused down the audience network from the start and did so for good reason.

After years of advertising on Facebook and managing accounts for a variety of clients, I have become extremely weary of the audience network as a placement in general. When included in conversion-based campaigns I have noticed that, although it underperforms, Facebook insists on serving it to audiences over better performing and more desirable placements like the newsfeed. I have witnessed a similar phenomenon in many website click campaigns, where a large portion of the budget was being allocated for cheap clicks through this placement. This example was in fact set to “automatic placement”:

facebook audience network optimization based on performance visualized  

On the surface, one would think this isn’t all too bad. Cheaper clicks, more volume, bar graphs that ascend in a stereotypical stock photo manner. Life is good! Right?


I have found that, especially when running ads for my personal site, these audience network clicks are often accidental and don’t yield interested users who visit other parts of your site (or convert for that matter). They often bounce immediately: damn their clumsy thumbs! That being said, if you’re one of those “I need to see it to believe it” type folks then be my guest. Try it out for yourself.

Anyway, when I said, “goal centric” earlier (as opposed to trial and error), I meant whenever you create a new campaign in Facebook, the first thing you want to do is clearly define what your advertising objective is. When you do this, you want to devote a good amount of thought to what the user’s experience with your ad will be. If you are marketing a free eBook download, do you think people are going to stop playing Candy Crush to download it? Probably not, unless it’s an eBook on how to hack the game. To which I would applaud your hyper-specific targeting strategy.

And so, with that…

Facebook Ad Placements by Campaign Goal

Let’s look at the optimum Facebook ad placements for each available campaign goal.

Awareness Campaigns

If you’re running a brand awareness campaign, any placement will work. This is all about brand recognition and the key to lock on that door is frequency. If you want to devote considerable budget to this campaign objective I suggest making several relatively small audiences with high daily budgets. This will increase the frequency of your ads across platforms to a point where folks won’t be able to close their eyes without seeing your ad. Not annoying at all!

If your goal is reach—advertising to more people as opposed to more often— you’re performing what equates to a traditional media buy. Keep an eye on your frequency capping (so you don’t waste your budget berating the same people with your creative), but feel free to use as many placements as you see fit.

Consideration Campaigns

Consideration campaigns come in significantly more flavors than awareness campaigns, so let’s look at placement options for each one:

Traffic – Traffic or link clicks campaigns are good to go on all placements with the exclusion of the audience network (optional). Over time I would suggest analyzing placement performance to make further optimizations based on the types of content you are promoting.

Engagement – Automatic placements – optimize over time.

App Installs – You are restricted to mobile only placements here. I personally treat app installs the same as lower funnel conversions and for that reason place high value on them. Unless you are extremely confident in the relevancy of your audience, then I would exclude the audience network. You may find that users are more likely to download an app when they aren’t already in one.

pied piper facebook ads 

Video Views – This objective is available for all placement networks except for Messenger. If it’s only video views you are looking for I would stick with automatic placements. You could also break out the video-specific placements into their own ad set and test them against the others.

Lead Generation – Depending on the nature of your offer and form, I would say exclude the audience network for this one. You want people to take an action in submitting information, whether on a landing page or through a Facebook lead ad. They will be more likely to do so within the newsfeeds. From my experience even limiting to only the newsfeeds, will give you a more optimal CPL.

Messages – You are limited to the messenger placements for this one, which is fine because that’s why it’s here.

Conversion Campaigns

Conversions – Everything but the audience network. Seriously – kill it with fire. Some of my peers also hate Instagram as a conversion placement; I personally love it and have witnessed great results and CPA’s from it. Don’t listen to the haters.

Product Catalog sales – I would set automatic with this one, yet watch it very closely. With ecommerce, you need to be very strict with your CPA’s to be profitable. Break out placements when necessary and bid accordingly.

Store visits – Set to automatic and review results; remove costly placements as they pop up.

facebook ads for driving store visits 

Device-Specific Facebook Ad Placement Optimization

If you want to get even more methodical with your approach to placement targeting I would suggest breaking out each and testing them against each other with their own budgets. To do this you simply clone an ad set for as many placements you feel necessary to break out. You then exclude all other placements than the one you want to target individually.

Another common practice involves breaking down an audience between mobile and desktop users. This can be particularly valuable for conversion campaigns for you to assess where your best CPA is achieved and then manually devote a larger portion of your budget to the more profitable device.

Don’t Just “Set it and Forget it”

If you are to take away anything from this blog post (aside from excluding the audience network), it’s that the details of Facebook ad placements too often go overlooked.

If you are running campaigns on Facebook, leveraging lookalike audiences to find new, qualified leads, you owe it to yourself to get in there and clean things up. Too many advertisers shut down campaigns or ad sets prematurely with the belief that they just “don’t work.” In reality, they just weren’t ensuring that their ads were served in the right places.

About the Author

Brett McHale is a paid marketing and lead generation expert. Formerly the Sr. Paid Specialist on WordStream’s marketing team, Brett now consults and manages the paid search and social media marketing strategies for an array of B2B tech startups.

Connect with him on LinkedIn

Follow him on Twitter

Visit his site

How News Publishers Are Approaching Native Advertising: Creation and Sales Trends

Originally published on:

Just over half of news publishers say they now offer native advertising options on their platforms, according to recent research from the Native Advertising Institute and the International News Media Association. Read the full article at MarketingProfs