Category: Industry

The finite era of “actionable insights”

For years, “actionable insights” have been the Holy Grail for data analytics companies. Actionable insights, the thinking goes, are the end product of data collection, aggregation, analysis, and judgment. They enable a decision-maker to modify behavior and achieve desired outcomes.

The process begins with data collection, which can take many forms. There’s a big difference between collecting data and aggregating it in a meaningful way that can provide a picture of reality. That’s the “insights” part of the puzzle. First, you need high-quality data, then you need the technological prowess to clean and organize it.

With high-quality data that’s been cleaned and organized, the next step is to provide context. This is the realm of companies like Tableau, which provide tools that translate machine-friendly data points into human-friendly visualizations that strive to depict an objective picture of current conditions.

But whereas a snapshot of current conditions may, in fact, yield new and meaningful insights (for example, if I look ‘sales numbers’ across an organization I can see which channels are over- or under-performing), human judgment has always been paramount in choosing a particular action. A perfect picture of static conditions doesn’t by itself offer any suggestions as to how to achieve particular outcomes. We still rely on management to tweak sales incentives or redistribute resources.

Or at least we did, up until recently. Machine learning is now shifting the balance of institutional decision-making. Advances in processing and algorithmic self-improvement mean that computers can now anticipate future outcomes and take steps to maximize particular ones. Intelligent systems can now see the world in shades of gray and evaluate likelihoods from multitudes of variables far beyond human comprehension.

That’s the world we currently live in, and the evidence is all around us. Machine learning algorithms have swayed elections by stoking targeted outrage. Our clothes, food, and consumer products are designed according to data-driven analytics. Every design feature in your favorite app is being constantly optimized according to how computers anticipate your future behavior. It’s why YouTube is actually pretty good at showing you videos that keep you engaged.

The day is coming when we will no longer require “actionable insights,” because the action will have already been taken. Nobody at YouTube is looking at your viewing history to determine what to recommend next. Computers do that. The value of the stock market is now largely driven by automated trading algorithms, and as a consequence, there are fewer stock analysts than there used to be. Not only can computers process information far better than humans, but they’ve also demonstrated better financial judgment.

The day will soon arrive when “actionable insights” will seem like a quaint notion from a simpler time. Computers will be smart enough to act on insights by themselves. In doing so, they may, in fact, diminish the need for human oversight.

Until then, however, human enterprise is still structured around hierarchies of decision-making and judgment. The CEO of a company still needs to delegate day-to-day responsibilities to human actors whose knowledge and judgment have proven sound.

And so, for now, we still need actionable insights. Data analytics companies will continue to build better mousetraps, until the day when there are no longer mice.

Gil Rachlin, SVP of Products and Partnerships at Synup.

The post The finite era of “actionable insights” appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 29, 2019 0 Comments

Four initiatives B2Bs must tackle now to win in 2020

While ecommerce businesses are in the midst of the Q4 craziness and rising CPCs of the holiday season, B2B clients are planning for their business to pick up at the start of 2020.

In this post, I’ll walk through a few things to consider and refresh before Q1 gets here.

1. Study the competitive landscape

One of the most valuable sources of knowledge from Google campaigns is the ‘Auction Insights’ report, which provides info on when competitors have come into and out of the auction during the year. It’s also valuable to look at competitors that might be newer in the space and have recently entered the auction. With this information, you can dive into new keyword research by using tools like SEMrush and SpyFu. I also recommend studying creative, offers, and copy that your competitors are using across their ads helping to inform potential creative and development and testing for the start of the year. 

2. Reevaluate budgets for 2020

As the start of the year approaches, look to set budgets based on historical performance and anticipated seasonality. In order to have a strong plan in place, you should look beyond monthly breakdowns.

Some questions to consider

  • Did you expand into new channels late into the year?
  • Do you need to invest in more budget into certain channels?
  • Are our remarketing campaigns fully funded across channels?
  • Are you planning on investing budget into new channels?
  • How much of the budget will you set aside for testing?

Answering these questions will help ensure you budget appropriately for both historically efficient channels and promising new channels that can get you some early-adoption benefits. 

3. Refresh and rethink audiences

It’s important to review the audiences that you have been targeting over the past few months. Along with identifying new audiences to add and poor-performing audiences to pause, consider re-engaging qualified leads that went dark, bolstering account-based marketing efforts, and testing new lookalike audiences. 

4. Map out new creative and content

Creative and content are some of the most crucial aspects of campaign development. While you are preparing for Q1, make sure to do an audit of your current and planned creative and content. Are you thinking about the full funnel? Users who haven’t engaged with the brand before are typically looking to download a piece of content that they find valuable. It could be a whitepaper, case study, infographic, or something else that could engage them. 

As users progress down the funnel, they will be more willing to give their information to request a demo or get contacted by your company. It’s important to understand where a user is in the funnel and offer them content that aligns with that step. Make sure you’re analyzing content from 2019 and identifying your successes. Which can be spun forward, made into a series, or meaningfully refreshed? Give yourself a leg up by producing content you know to be effective.

Looking at historical performance will help you understand your successes and failures in 2019 and incorporate those into the 2020 planning. Creative, testing, competitive insights, and new audiences will be key efforts in driving growth and performance in the new year, so lay the groundwork now to get ahead of steam going into January.

Lauren Crain is a Client Services Lead in 3Q Digital’s SMB division, 3Q Incubate.

The post Four initiatives B2Bs must tackle now to win in 2020 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 26, 2019 0 Comments

Yext researches what American customers are looking for throughout the year

Yext, the Search Experience Cloud company, released new research about American consumer search behavior during the past year. The data, drawn from a sample of more than 400,000 business locations in the United States, revealed new insights about when consumers are searching for and clicking most on businesses across retail, healthcare, financial services, and food, throughout the year.

Among the key findings:

  • Consumers are only getting more active in search: Consumer actions in business listings — driving directions clicks, clicks to call businesses, and more — grew 17% over the past year.
  • Search — and searchers — are getting better: Consumer actions in search grew faster (17%) than search impressions of business listings (10%) over the year, suggesting that customers are finding what they want faster. Whether searchers are learning to use more specific queries or search engines are getting better at understanding those queries, customers are spending less time searching and more time engaging with businesses.
  • Reviews are on the rise: Consumers are leaving more reviews about businesses. Review count per business location grew 27% over the year. In fact, financial services review volume grew 91% per location, the fastest growth of any industry. Businesses are getting savvier about the importance of reviews as well, responding to reviews 47% more than the year prior.

“Some industries are naturally more popular with consumers during certain seasons, but the need for businesses in every category to be in control of their facts online stays important year-round,” said Zahid Zakaria, Senior Director of Insights and Analytics at Yext. “By ensuring their information is accurate across channels — from the search results on their own website to their listings on third-party platforms — businesses can be prepared to capture the wave of customers who are interested in transacting with them, no matter what month it is.”

Yext analyzed when American consumers clicked online listings for various types of businesses throughout the year. The study found:

January | Resolving to stay healthy: With New Year’s resolutions fresh on their minds, and cold and flu season underway, Americans start the year off with visits to the doctor. In January, healthcare organizations see a 17% jump in clicks to their online listings relative to the previous month.

February | Money on their minds: In February and March, tax season is well underway and searches show it. Searching consumers engage with financial services institutions up to 11% more than the annual average.

March | Open house: Starting in March, consumers looking to ring in the season of renewal with a new home turn to search to find real estate agencies. Listings see a 22% average increase in clicks from February to May, complementing studies indicating that spring is a popular season for house hunting and selling.

April | Telecom phones it in: By April, the wave of consumers picking up the latest high-profile smartphone upgrades from the fall has subsided. During this month, clicks to phone carrier and telecommunications provider listings in search drop 14% compared to the month before.

May | May flowers and horsepower: In May, consumers look to capitalize on Memorial Day sales and revamp their rides in time for summer with an average 18% increase in clicks to automotive service search listings relative to the annual average.

June – July | Fun in the sun: Recreation and entertainment listings online — including theaters, sports venues, nightlife, and more — see a surge of consumer interest during the summer months, reaching an average 35% increase in clicks in July relative to the annual average. Clicks to hotel listings also bump up to 20% above the annual average during this time due to summer travel.

August | Back to school: School is just around the corner in August, and parents and students are not just stocking up on clothes, school supplies, gadgets, and other necessities, but also getting their cars in shape for the morning drop-off line at school. Clicks to listings for stores spike to 18% higher than the annual average. Educational services, like tutors and libraries, see clicks to listings increase 18% as well. Clicks to automotive service listings reach 21% above the annual average.

September | Falling into a Habit: As Americans wrap up their vacations and return to their school and work routines, clicks to recreation and entertainment listings take a noticeable dip (18% below the annual average) in September, falling up to 25% below the annual average in November.

October | Hitting the books: With the school year taking off by October, families get serious about grades again and search for tutors and other educational services. Clicks to listings in the education category see a nearly 10% jump relative to September.

November | Pass the Leftovers: During the month of Thanksgiving, hungry consumers prefer to eat in, with clicks to restaurant listings dropping 13% below the annual average.

December | Home for the holidays: In December, revelers celebrate the holidays with their families and opt to bunk with them over paying for lodging. During this month, clicks to hotel listings in search fall to 26% below the annual average.

December & January | The season of giving — and buying: Americans shopping for holiday gifts in December drive clicks to retail listings 11% more than the annual average. After the holiday shopping season ends in January, those clicks plummet an average of nearly 25% from December as consumers take a break from spending and recoup their savings.

The post Yext researches what American customers are looking for throughout the year appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 25, 2019 0 Comments

Optimizing for position zero: The future of voice search

It’s still early days in the world of voice search, and yet already this new type of device and search engine use is – according to comScore – expected to account for up to 50 percent of the global search market next year. That’s a major shift in consumer behavior in only a few short years.

Digital assistants are becoming increasingly prominent in our homes and on mobile devices, and their ubiquity will only increase.

But where exactly is the brand play in voice search? How developed is the opportunity, and what specific strategies do brands need to apply to benefit from this trend? Let’s take a look at the current state of affairs and, more importantly, where things will go in the next few years.

The current focus on position zero

When you hear marketers talk about voice search today, you probably hear a lot of talk about Position Zero, also known as the featured snippet. This is the content that Google offers in the top search results position in hopes of directly answering a search query. In the desktop and mobile screen worlds, the top content is followed by a host of other search results. In the world of voice search, position zero is everything – the only information that will be relayed to the user. As such, especially for businesses, getting to position zero has become the new imperative. Exactly how to do that, however, is still an open question.

As with all things in the search space, best practices for optimizing for position zero are going to evolve over time. But businesses looking to be a step ahead when screenless search becomes the new norm are focusing on a few key areas:

  • Relevance through data: Being the most relevant for a given voice search is all about giving the search engine what it needs to tailor response for the user – a user whom the voice assistant knows intimately. The more context offered, the higher the likelihood that a digital assistant will pair your business with a potential customer. For example, if you’re a restaurant, this means ensuring the engine can find accurate information on digital profiles regarding not just location and hours, but also customer ratings and reviews as well as details like whether you’re pet-friendly, offer patio dining, feature gluten-free options, and more.
  • Feed the featured snippet: If you want to be the featured snippet to a given query, make sure your website and profiles provide complete, succinct answers to the questions most likely to lead people to your business. This could be within the first paragraph of a blog post, in an FAQ on your site, or in various other areas of content.
  • Prioritize schema: This is SEO 101, but it’s even more important for voice search. Make sure your site is following an agreed-upon structure for how search engines read content, as organized via Schema.org.

While these basics can help businesses increase their relevance for voice search today, we’ve only seen the beginning of what voice search will mean for digital marketing efforts in the future. How will this transformative shift play out over the next few years?

The beginning of the curve

Despite the rise in voice search behavior, the business models that will evolve around this opportunity are still emerging. Right now, the biggest tech players in the world – Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook—are investing deeply in voice search for three reasons:

  • Voice search represents a core technology that can extend across business lines.
  • It represents a transformative user experience that reduces friction and moves people away from screens.
  • Voice search represents a major new way of tapping into emerging markets like India and Southeast Asia, where mobile devices and behaviors are overwhelmingly dominant.

Big tech is investing in voice search for the above reasons, but they’re not really monetizing it yet. That’s going to change in the next couple of years, and when it does, an industry and vendor community will spring up around their monetization models quickly, just as we saw with SEO and SEM in the past.

When the realm of voice search and voice advertising takes shape, it will be the brands that are experimenting now that are poised to win. Now is the time to test and learn, regardless of whether businesses are able to reliably demonstrate the ROI of their efforts today. Every minute invested in better understanding emerging voice search behaviors and opportunities, particularly as it relates to how a brand’s target audience is using voice search, will pay dividends in the voice-dominated future.

There’s no question that voice will rule the future of device interactions. The only question is whether your business will emerge as an early leader in this space in the coming 24 months – or whether you will be forever playing catch up.

Ashwin Ramesh is the founder and CEO of Synup, the NYC-based Intent Marketing Cloud that helps consumers find the right information about them on the web, mobile, and voice search.

The post Optimizing for position zero: The future of voice search appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 21, 2019 0 Comments

Capitalizing on paid social in B2B industries

Paid advertising on social media channels always seems to be growing, it’s a huge buzzword at the minute and everybody wants it to work for their business.

In B2C you’ll find endless ecommerce businesses who essentially make a living through Facebook ads alone and this makes sense, social media is very much a consumer channel. But this doesn’t stop stakeholders in B2B companies pushing for paid social to drive a volume of leads and clients.

And this is where it gets challenging. As a B2B marketer, you are advertising in an unleveled playing field.

When you advertise on Google Ads you have user intent, you still have competition but you are all competing for the same thing, an engaged user.

When you advertise on Facebook however, you are targeting the same users as businesses in fashion, electronics, homeware – and there is no intent.

It, therefore, becomes incredibly important that you pinpoint the right audience and target them with engaging creatives. If you don’t you will just be wasting ad spend.

There is so much you can do with paid social ads, so I’ve outlined a few that I have seen work well in the B2B space.

Customer Lookalike Audiences

There are so many audiences you can test across LinkedIn and Facebook, be that based on job titles, interests, company names – the list goes on. However, If you are new to paid social or just looking for a new way to generate leads, lookalike audiences are where I would start.

There are two ways to do this; – the first is to get a list of all the users who have enquired via your website, be that a form completion or a download – whatever you deem to be an inquiry.

The second, and better option, is to upload a list based on actual client data i.e. people who have paid for your service.

Creating these audiences is where AI and paid search go hand in hand. We are relying on the social platforms to analyze our data, our customer’s profiles, and behavior and then finding us users it deems to be similar.

The caveat, as with all AI like this, is that your lookalike is only ever going to be as good as the data you input, hence the platforms recommend you upload a significant enough amount of data.

The process of creating a lookalike audience is straightforward with both Facebook and LinkedIn.

How to create a lookalike audience in LinkedIn

How to create a lookalike audience for paid social in LinkedIn

  1. Prepare a csv. file as per LinkedIn’s requirements (This can be done based on business name or contact email address)
  2. Go to “Account Assets” and click “Matched Audiences”
  3. Click “Create Audience” and select “List Upload”
  4. Name your audience
  5. Select the file you wish to upload and hit “Upload”
  6. Wait 24 hours
  7. Back in “Matched Audiences” click “Create Audience” and this time select “Lookalike”
  8. Name your audience
  9. Select the list your previously uploaded and hit “Create”
  10. Again wait 24 hours

How to create a lookalike audience on Facebook

How to create a lookalike audience for paid social in Facebook

  1. Prepare your data in a csv or txt file as per Facebook’s requirements
  2. In Facebook Ads Manager navigate to “Audiences”
  3. Hit “Create Audience” and select “Custom Audience” from the dropdown
  4. Here you can pick different audience types, in this instance select “Customer List”
  5. Select the “Use a file that doesn’t include LTV” option
  6. Upload your file and ensure the identifiers match the fields in your data set
  7. Name your audience and hit next
  8. Back in “Audiences” select “Create Audience” and this time hit “Lookalike Audience”
  9. Select the audience to base your lookalike on by searching in the “Other Sources” dropdown and select the appropriate location
  10. Select the “Audience Size” percentage you wish to target and hit create

The difference with Facebook is that it allows you to select the size of your lookalike audience based on a percentage scale which ranges from one to ten percent. One percent is essentially the audience that is most alike your customer data and ten percent is therefore much broader. You are able to create multiple audiences and tailor your bidding appropriately.

The audience is one thing, but you still need to couple this with appropriate creative and compelling messaging.

Get “creative” with your creatives

Coming back to one of my original points, standing out on paid social is difficult for all businesses, given the fact there is just so much interesting content at a user’s fingertips – their friend’s posts, brands they follow, pages they follow and ads to name a few. So it is important that your ads stand out.

Further still, your B2B ad needs to work a little harder to stand out. On LinkedIn you get a bit of good grace from users; people are in the professional mindset and engaging with business-related content. However, with Facebook, it needs to be interesting, engaging, and most importantly stand out.

The best example I have seen of a business doing this well is Simply Business, a UK based business insurance company, who has a whole campaign around businesses with interesting names.

How Simply Business got creative with their creative for paid social

 

The social creatives all play on celebrity names as business names, “Steven Spielburger”, “Leonardo DiCappuccino”, and other such ones.

The reason I say they are doing this well is I first saw this campaign when browsing Instagram stories on my personal account and it made me look into what else they were doing.

Their campaign is utilizing this same kind of creative across Facebook and Instagram with image ads, videos, and obviously stories.

Some key things to do with different creative

  1. Images

    Design something that stands out and grabs people’s attention as they scroll up and down a feed. Bold colors and clear messaging are key to this.

  2. Videos

    Keep them succinct and avoid using overtly corporate or stock footage. Appearing natural is what is likely to drive engagement.

  3. Gifs

    Perfect for Facebook, focus on some kind of animation that relates to something people know, for instance, a gif of houses with “for sale” signs changing to “sold” might stick in the mind of realtors.

  4. Top tip

    Use tools like the Facebook Ad Library and the Ads tab on a company LinkedIn page to review the creative they are using.

Tailored messaging

Without a doubt, tailoring your message to your audience is one of the most important aspects of advertising on social media.

If social platforms allow you to pinpoint your audience to something as specific as Marketing Directors in finance businesses with 11-50 staff on the East coast you need to ensure you make the best use of that and tailor your creative to it.

Over the last few months, I have tended to split all social campaigns out by sector so I can pinpoint target customers who are realtors, accountants, and attorneys to target them with copy and creative that highlights why my service is of value in their industry.

This is incredibly simple to do, and while it may be more time consuming to set-up, you will see much better CTRs and much better conversion rates when that traffic comes to your site – even more so if your landing pages can reflect the audience too.

LinkedIn Text Ads

This seems like a really basic and dull tip, but it works.

Whilst there is nothing particularly glamorous or exciting about a LinkedIn Text Ad they can be incredibly effective in generating leads.

Simple to set up, they consist of four elements

Four elements of setting up LinkedIn text ads

 

  • An image: Generally your logo
  • A headline: 25 characters
  • A description: 75 characters
  • A landing page

There is no need for any complicated creative and therefore no need to go through the process of briefing into a designer and using their resource. You can get these set up in less than five minutes.

In setting up the ad you will also need to have created an audience; it makes sense that you craft your headline and description to reflect this audience. As I have said previously in this post, it is essential that your ad messaging is relevant to your audience, especially on social where there is so much content flying around.

Generally you will find that you get a high number of impressions and a very low CTR, however, with the LinkedIn audience targeting options, you know that this traffic will be highly relevant. In addition to this CPCs are often much cheaper on text ads when compared with other LinkedIn ad formats.

All in all, for very little effort you can set up campaigns which, in my experience, have tended to be fruitful in generating leads, and doing so at an effective cost-per-lead.

Conclusion

To summarise, there is so much that you can be doing with paid social in a B2B industry, but there are a few things that you definitely need to be considering:

  • Get your targeting right and make sure you try Lookalike Audiences
  • Make sure you get creative with your creatives
  • Tailor your ad copy to the people you are targeting
  • Don’t overlook the simple and dull things, they can be extremely effective

And as with all things digital, the most important thing is to test and share. There are always new features on social advertising platforms and you never know what will work until you give it a go.

Daniel Marshall is a Strategic Digital Marketing Manager with experience in international search marketing strategy across PPC, SEO, CRO, and social (paid and organic). He can be reached out on Twitter @digitallydan14.

The post Capitalizing on paid social in B2B industries appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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admin November 18, 2019 0 Comments