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Monthly Archives: February 2020

Is SEO dead in 2020?

February 28, 2020 No Comments

The death of SEO is a topic that’s been batted around for years but is 2020 the year SEO, an industry with a history dating back more than 25 years, finally kicks the bucket?

TikTok, digital PR, voice search – new terms have been coined and new social networks have popped up in the past few years. As industry experts take a look back over the past year and forecast trends for the coming year, the inevitable question comes up time and time again: “Is SEO dead this year?”

The answer, of course, is no. SEO is not dead.

If you’re a business reading this article because you’re wondering whether to invest your hard-earned cash in SEO, is it still a viable marketing strategy for 2020, or whether to spend it more wisely elsewhere, read on.

Why do people say SEO is dead?

So if SEO is as wildly successful as we’re proclaiming, then why do people claim SEO dead?

Put yourself into the shoes of a site owner whose whole experience of SEO is those shady emails that manage to avoid your inbox’s spam filter: “Dear Sir, you must be curious to know, in spite of having popular keywords and many backlinks why your website is not visible on the first page of major search engines.” 

Or think of those in traditional marketing who work outside of SEO. According to a study, 61% of business owners cited that “increasing brand awareness” is important to them – how many of these understand that SEO is one of the most effective ways to organically increase awareness of your brand? While we know that the number one position on Google is reported to capture up to 31.7% of search traffic, according to one study, as compared to around 17% in the number two position, all the way down to just two percent in position 10, they may not.

Let’s consider those stats in real terms, think of a sector with a highly competitive high search volume keyword, for example, “cheap flights”. This has 550,000 average monthly searches. If you’re in position one in Google for that search term, that’s a potential of 176,000 people reaching your site through that search result alone every single month.

But to mix things up, add to this the fact that position number one in Google’s search results doesn’t mean exactly what it says it does all the time nowadays. Users will be first confronted with a (debatably) clearly labeled “Ad”, served by Google Ads based on a combination of what that site has bid for them and their quality score.

So some think that SEO is dead because paid media is the top dog

But we can counter this with the fact that position one in Google isn’t everything it says it is anymore. While there will, of course, be an ad at the top of the search results, this is often also followed up by a “Google Answer Box” and/or a knowledge panel. These are our zero-click searches and these don’t come easily. Google doesn’t just hand them out to anyone. It takes a combination of elements to make sure that you secure those placements:

  • Excellent on-page content
  • High-value links off the page
  • A good dash of the best technical SEO thrown

And a good deal, more hard work ensuring that you keep on top of all of this to remain in that position.

Even within the digital industry, people proclaim SEO is dying. Google’s algorithm gets ever-more vicious with every update. Sites can disappear from search results without a warning, and tactics that worked yesterday can cause penalties the very next. In order to sidestep this risk altogether, some will avoid investing time, effort, and money into SEO, but that means potentially missing out on those hundreds of thousands of Google referrals every single day.

But we also need to consider social media referrals, brand mentions in industry publications, influencer marketing, traditional offline marketing, and even word of mouth. 

Let’s delve a little further.

SEO’s past, present, and future

Just imagine a world without SEO, where would we be? That’s something impossible to even consider nowadays, in a time where the term “to Google” has entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

In 1995, the internet had only two billion users, today it is over four billion. To put this better into perspective, Facebook is now 15 times larger than the entire internet was in 1995. And at that time in SEO’s history, search engines such as Archie, VLib, and Veronica were simply virtual libraries with little to no ability to search. They were merely considered indices of web servers. Links didn’t pass any equity as to ranking in these engines simply because they didn’t offer any sort of ranking.

The digital world began to evolve quickly though, search engines started to rank pages based on OPIC (on page importance criteria) scores. And even then, SEO techniques were already evolving – keywords were key but discoveries such as secondary title tag manipulation causing immediate first position rankings were revealed by webmasters like Dave Naylor in forums like WebmasterWorld.

Understanding how the digital world and SEO have evolved is key to understanding how it works today. On the surface, SEO appears to be something simple – search engine optimization – what more could there be than making sure your website works well, looks good, has a few good keywords, and a few good links, right? 

In reality, there is far more to consider – RankBrain, E-A-T, and BERT are just a few updates that Google has introduced to their algorithm in the past few years that have changed everything. The world of search engines is ever-evolving, and SEO’s future looks bright.

SEO is just one part of a larger machine at work

While TikTok, digital PR, voice search and others, even traditional marketing, seem to be a threat to SEO as an industry, in reality, they’re all the cogs in one big marketing machine – and SEO is one of the biggest.

The question really should be – “Is SEO really still worth it in 2020?”

As the internet continues to grow at an ever-increasing pace, search engines that work effectively and efficiently become increasingly more important. Users now need search engines more than ever. It’s key to not forget that, at their heart, they’re simply a tool to help users find the best answer to their question as quickly as possible.

Even though at times, it seems like Google is personally victimizing your clients, they’re really refining their algorithms so that spammy sites that have no use to their users are less likely to break through into their search results.

Avoid defunct SEO tactics

Rather than thinking that SEO as a whole is dead in 2020, we need to be reframing it. If it feels like your SEO techniques aren’t working, there’s probably a reason Google just doesn’t have the time to pick out individual websites it takes a dislike to, and stop them from appearing in SERPS for no reason.

In reality, it’s more likely that your techniques are outdated and thus ineffective. In fact, outdated techniques may be harming your brand more than helping it. Think strong, relevant content over keyword-stuffed pages. Aim for naturally earned backlinks rather than paid ones for exact match anchor text links. Spend time on the “behind the scenes” parts of your website – the technical SEO that an everyday user will never notice but will feel the benefits of every time they use your site.

All Google wants when displaying search results is something that genuinely answers users’ queries and works well – and if your site does that then you’ll reap the rewards.

Is SEO worth the time and effort in 2020?

There’s only one answer to this big question, the stats speak for themselves – with over 40,000 search queries every second and an estimated 62.19 billion visitors annually, Google is the behemoth that rules the internet. Without it, or indeed any other well-functioning search engine, how would we find the content we need? 

In addition to this, usability is becoming far more important. With Google’s semantic technology that understands the intent behind longtail searches and allows users to have a “conversation” with technology, and recent reports that over half of Google’s searches result in zero clicks thanks to the Google Answer Boxes, Google Images, Google Maps, and other Google-owned properties. Never before has a search engine ruled so well.

Diversifying and refining SEO techniques is key to getting customers in a world where they don’t even need to leave a search engine to get what they need.

SEO is not dead in 2020, nor will SEO ever be dead, as long as the internet continues to exist.

Sian Thomas is a digital media executive at Bronco, a full-service digital agency based in North Yorkshire.

The post Is SEO dead in 2020? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Microsoft’s Cortana drops consumer skills as it refocuses on business users

February 28, 2020 No Comments

With the next version of Windows 10, coming this spring, Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant will lose a number of consumer skills around music and connected homes, as well as some third-party skills. That’s very much in line with Microsoft’s new focus for Cortana, but it may still come as a surprise to the dozens of loyal Cortana fans.

Microsoft is also turning off Cortana support in its Microsoft Launcher on Android by the end of April and on older versions of Windows that have reached their end-of-service date, which usually comes about 36 months after the original release.


As the company explained last year, it now mostly thinks of Cortana as a service for business users. The new Cortana is all about productivity, with deep integrations into Microsoft’s suite of Office tools, for example. In this context, consumer services are only a distraction, and Microsoft is leaving that market to the likes of Amazon and Google .

Because the new Cortana experience is all about Microsoft 365, the subscription service that includes access to the Office tools, email, online storage and more, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the assistant’s new feature will give you access to data from these tools, including your calendar, Microsoft To Do notes and more.

And while some consumer features are going away, Microsoft stresses that Cortana will still be able to tell you a joke, set alarms and timers, and give you answers from Bing.

For now, all of this only applies to English-speaking users in the U.S. Outside of the U.S., most of the productivity features will launch in the future.

Enterprise – TechCrunch

If socializing within games is so popular, why hasn’t the multiverse arrived yet?

February 28, 2020 No Comments

Thus far in this series we’ve outlined “multiverse” virtual worlds — a concept different from the metaverse — as the next stage of social media and what this future will look like. It begs the question though: if video games have been massively popular for many years, why hasn’t this shift to online virtual worlds as mainstream social hubs on par with Facebook and Instagram already happened?

(This is part four of a seven-part series about virtual worlds.)

The thought of virtual worlds for socializing evokes Second Life (launched in 2003), where users created unique avatars to socialize, build and trade with each other. Contemporaneous press hype told us that our entry into “the metaverse” appeared imminent, and a 2006 cover story in BusinessWeek magazine featured an analyst who predicted that Second Life could displace Windows as the leading PC operating system.

That didn’t happen.

Granted, Second Life is still around, albeit with only a few hundred thousand active users. Eve Online is another long-running, open-world MMO where the experience is shaped by users’ contributions and social interactions. It’s been the subject of numerous studies on economics and psychology, given the depth of its data on human interaction, but it remains niche as well.

The popularity of Roblox, which surpassed 100 million MAUs and 40 million user-created experiences in August, and Minecraft, which surpassed 112 million MAUs, shows this movement gaining traction in a bigger way among the youngest generation of internet users.

There are both technical reasons and cultural reasons why participation in virtual worlds will finally go massively mainstream in the next few years.

On the technical side, most consumers have lacked the high-performance hardware necessary to meaningfully participate in advanced MMOs while going about their daily lives. And even if they had the right hardware, they weren’t entering one shared virtual space with all other users, they were just entering one instance of that world which was limited in scope and player count by the capabilities of a single server.

That’s all in the process of changing:

Social – TechCrunch

Teen hit Yolo raises $8M to let you Snapchat anonymously

February 28, 2020 No Comments

It wasn’t a fad. Yolo became the country’s No. 1 app just a week after launch by letting teens ask for anonymous replies to questions they posted on Snapchat. But nine months later, Yolo is still in the top 100 iOS apps and has 10 million active users. Now it’s safeguarding the app from predators while revealing a smart new feature for spinning up anonymous group chats, powered by $ 8 million in fresh funding.

“What we are trying to build is a new kind of network where there’s a fluidity to identity,” Yolo co-founder Greg Henrion tells me. “We weren’t sure if Yolo was here to stay, but we’re still ranking well and there seems to be a real opportunity in anonymity starting with Snapchat Q&A.”

Yolo is the first big win for Snapchat’s Snap Kit platform that lets developers piggyback on its login, Bitmoji avatars, stickers and Stories. This lets tiny development teams build apps that hundreds of millions of people, teens in particular, can instantly sign up for in just a few taps. Another Snap Kit app for meeting new people called Hoop recently spiked to No. 2 on the charts

We haven’t seen this kind of social platform success since Zynga’s empire rose atop Facebook. Spawning more blockbusters like Yolo could ensure that a Snapchat account is a must-have utility for the next generation.

Sleepless nights atop the charts

“For two weeks we basically didn’t sleep,” Henrion recalls about the chaos he and co-founder Clément Raffenoux endured after Yolo shot to No. 1 last May. “You’re trying to stay afloat. It was very, very wild.”

The basic premise of Yolo is that you write a question like, “Who’s my celebrity look alike?”, “What do people really think of me?” or “How could I be nicer?” You’re then switched over to Snapchat, where you can post the question in your Story or messages with a link back to Yolo. There, people can anonymously leave a response; you can post that and your reply with another post on Snapchat.

Yolo co-founder and CEO Greg Henrion, in real life and Bitmoji

The result is that friends and followers feel comfortable giving you real talk. They don’t have to sugarcoat their answers. And that makes people race to open Yolo each time they get a message. Yolo has seen 26 million downloads across iOS and Android globally, with nearly 70% in the U.S, according to Sensor Tower.

Other anonymous apps like tbh (acquired by Facebook) and Sarahah (kicked off the app stores) quickly faded, and others eventually imploded due to bullying, like Secret and YikYak. Although tbh hit No. 1 in September 2017, it was out of the top 500 by November. It seems a combination of inherent virality via Snapchat, easy user acquisition via Snap Kit and sharp product design has given Yolo some staying power. It still managed 2.2 million downloads last month versus a peak of 5.5 million in its first month back in May 2019.

That June, Yolo quietly raised a $ 2 million seed round thanks to its sudden success. The team had been grinding since 2017 on a video reactions app called Popshow funded by a small pre-seed round from SV Angel, Shrug Capital and Product Hunt’s Ryan Hoover. They’d previously built music video-making app Mindie that eventually sold to influencer collective Shots Studios. Popshow never caught on, so the team began experimenting on Snap Kit, building a more official Q&A feature for Snapchat than predecessors like Sarahah and Polly. Then, boom. Days after launch, Yolo’s usage exploded.

But to keep users interested, Yolo needed to evolve. That would require more funding for the eight-person team split between Snapchat’s home of Los Angeles and Henrion’s home of Paris.

An honest way to chat

The concept of a social app where users could shift between full anonymity and representation via avatar attracted its $ 8 million Series A to invest in product and engineering. The round was led by Thrive Capital, Ron Conway’s A.Capital, former TechCrunch editor Alexia Tsotsis’ Dream Machine, Shrug, Day One, Goodwater, Knight VC, ex-Facebooker Bobby Goodlatte, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and SV Angel’s Brian Pokorny.

That cash fueled the release of Yolo’s new group chat feature. You can set up a chat room, give it a name and generate an invite URL or sticker you can post on Snapchat, just like its previous question feature. Friends or friends of friends that are already in can join the group chat, represented by their Bitmoji instead of their name. Yolo suggests people join the more open “party mode” chats where their friends are active.

What makes this special is that once an hour, users can tap the Yolo Superpowers button to send  a totally anonymous message to the group. More Superpowers are coming, but there’s also an anonymous “Someone has a crush on [name]” message so you can secretly profess your affection to anyone or someone else in the chat.

“The limits of Q&A is that it doesn’t generate real conversation. It’s an ice breaker, but we also want conversations to happen,” Henrion stresses. “‘What do you think about this dress?’ The group chat is more about ‘let’s talk about the dress.’” The chats could be focused on people you actually know offline, or those you share interests with. The option to restrict group chats to either just your contacts or friends of friends “limits the amount of meeting strangers,” Henrion explains. “This is very different from the public communities like Reddit or the dating apps.”

Can “anonymous” be synonymous with “safe”?

Still, anonymous apps have consistently proven to be havens for cyberbullying and unsafe behavior. Without the accountability of having your name attached, people are free to say awful things. That can be even worse amongst teenagers who might get in trouble for being mean at school but not on an app.

Yolo first focused on messages blocking 10% of overall messages that contained offensive content. That meant blatant hate speech and trolling couldn’t spread through the app. “We’re strict on moderation. When looking at the reviews about bullying, it’s like nothing compared to any other anonymous app. I think we solved 90% of the problem.”

Now it’s working with Snapchat to safeguard the group chats feature. The goal is to ensure Yolo doesn’t actively recommend chat amongst adults to minors and vice-versa. Henrion says this update should roll out soon.

“It’s 2020 and we need to be very responsible” Henrion tells me. “Moderation and growth are the most difficult things to balance. It’s moderation first for sure. We don’t care about growth if it’s not healthy or sustainable.” The new funding also gives Yolo the luxury of pushing back monetization while it focuses on safely adding more users.

By making anonymity more private, Yolo has a chance to sidestep some of the worst elements of human behavior. Making fun of someone has less appeal if there’s no wider audience like trolls exploited in the feeds and comment reels of Secret and YikYak.

That could let the brighter side of anonymity shine through: vulnerability, honesty and deep connections that are enhanced by the absence of embarrassment. With all the change, uncertainty and anxiety that’s part of growing up, teens deserve a place where they can be open with each other and speak their minds. After all, you only live once.

Social – TechCrunch

How to identify and address the four biggest digital growth challenges

February 28, 2020 No Comments

SMBs working to accelerate digital growth encounter a variety of challenges across internal operations, marketing platforms, site properties, and competitors. Part of the path to growth is identifying and prioritizing those challenges, which can be tough without looking at the right reports and metrics.

In this post, we’ll dig into four areas that often uncover growth blockers and explain how to assess the opportunities that overcoming them would present.

1. Site issues

Growth, in the advertising budget and in awareness, brings more demand on your site. This means more users, more tracking and tagging, and other factors that can affect site speed, which is a huge factor in user experience. One of the best tools out there to test site speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool, which provides great data and insights on your site speed and user experience on mobile and desktop. In general, Google recommends site speeds between two-to-five seconds, and this is considering the faster end of that range in mind. Anything beyond that, and you’re losing money from users bouncing.

Beyond site speed, the way users digest and navigate your site may not be optimal. Although there’s a lot you can glean from click paths in Google Analytics, heat maps are a relatively tried-and-true way to understand:

  • How users are interacting with your site
  • Where they’re getting stuck
  • Where you should relocate your most valuable CTAs and messaging

We’ve seen numerous clients improve CVR by over 20% with rapid testing cycles on top pages.

2. Internal obstacles

You can promise your users the world in your ad campaigns, but without aligning expectations with current internal challenges, that will only build a base of frustrated customers.

B2B companies may have slower-than-expected turnaround times to contact leads that your ads generate, ecommerce companies may experience inventory issues with best-selling products. If your ads are promising same-day calls that get placed weeks later or if you’re offering fast shipping of out-of-stock products, you’ve used ad spend to create a tide of negative sentiment.

Make sure you’re syncing with internal teams to understand challenges that may require you to adjust messaging, or even slow down/pause ad spend while the issues are being sorted out. Especially considering we’re in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, this is more important than ever for sites selling physical products whose supply chain has been affected.

3. Creative chaos

Images, headlines, descriptions, landing pages, ratios, messaging themes – each element can be a factor in attracting and optimizing user engagement, which makes prioritization of testing complicated. The creation of a testing calendar that aligns with your media plan is incredibly important. If you’re new to testing, start slowly and test one variable at a time to keep results clear. If you’ve got some testing experience under your belt and have the requisite budget and expertise, consider adopting a multivariate testing tool to help you execute a rapid testing schedule that will provide both insights and greater performance.

4. Competitive pressures

The challenge that lurks for companies in every growth stage and vertical is competition. More than simply driving up CPCs on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, competition requires marketers to consider things like:

  • Cheaper brand clicks vs net-new non-brand users
  • Acquisition vs less-costly remarketing campaigns

It also requires frequent analysis of how the competitive landscape is changing – new entries, new messaging, new price points and offers. SMBs especially need to clearly articulate their advantages over better-known competitors to give themselves a chance to carve out market share in the face of rising costs.

Of the types of challenges outlined above, only competitive pressures are somewhat beyond your company’s control. Make sure to plan out your cadence of site analysis, internal check-ins, and creative testing roadmaps to keep your own house in order and position yourself to meet competitive challenges that arise.

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

The post How to identify and address the four biggest digital growth challenges appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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End Game, the startup behind Zombs Royale, raises $3M

February 28, 2020 No Comments

End Game Interactive CEO Yang C. Liu has a refreshingly straightforward description of what he and his co-founder Luke Zbihlyj are up to: “We’re just building games. And to be honest, we don’t know what we’re doing.”

Despite this self-proclaimed ignorance, End Game has just raised $ 3 million in seed funding from an impressive group of investors: The round was led by the game-focused firm Makers Fund, with participation from Clash of Clans developer Supercell, Unity CEO David Helgason, Twitch COO Kevin Lin, Twitch VP Hubert Thieblot, Danny Epstien and Alexandre Cohen of Main Street Advisors and music executive Scooter Braun.

Liu told me that he and Zbihlyj got their start by building websites tied to existing games, such as PokéVision, a site for finding Pokémon in Pokémon GO. However, they were inspired by the success of simple, browser-based multiplayer games like to create games of their own — first, then, then Zombs Royale.

Altogether, End Game says its titles have attracted more than 160 million players, with 1 million people playing in a single day. Zombs Royale, in particular, seems to have been a hit — the battle royale game (where a single map can pit up to 100 players against each other) was one of 2018’s most Googled games in the United States.

Liu said the team’s success convinced them to focus their efforts on game development: “Do we want to make products that people simply use, or games that people think about out when they’re going to school, or going to work, or dream about?”

End Game founders

Zombs Royale was supposedly built in less than four weeks, but Liu said that after its launch in early 2018, the team spent most of the year maintaining and scaling the game. Then 2019 was all about building a team and creating the next game, Fate Arena, a title in the new Auto Chess genre that’s supposed to launch on PC, mobile and other platforms soon.

Liu noted that unlike End Game’s previous work, which featured simple 2D art (“On Zombs Royale and Spinz, I did the art, and it’s terrible”), Fate Arena will feature a “3D, high-fidelity art style.”

But even as the company’s games start looking a little less primitive, the goal is still to develop and iterate quickly. Liu said he hopes to fund “many tries” at building other cross-platform, multiplayer games with this seed round.

“We pride ourselves on rapid experimentation,” he said, adding that the key is “not biting off more than we can chew. We design [our games] to scale from the beginning. We don’t necessarily need to be World of Warcraft, where you need to make 100 quests as the baseline. We’re focused on games with a small starting point that can scale into something much bigger.”

Supercell Developer Relations Lead Jaakko Harlas made a similar point in a statement included in the funding announcement:

Many companies are quick to point out how fast-moving they are. Then you come across a team like this and realize what being lean and moving fast really means. Yang, Luke and the team have already shown that they can ship accessible games that showcase a real flair for fun, and we look forward to supporting them in their quest for the next big hit game.


Startups – TechCrunch

When To Create New PPC Campaigns

February 27, 2020 No Comments

In this post, we will discuss at which point new paid search campaigns should be created and the process behind it. This is from my time as an account manager and may vary by account vertical, platform, and network.

PPC Hero

As Block exits, Salesforce forecasts it will surpass $20B in revenue in FY2021

February 27, 2020 No Comments

When Keith Block joined Salesforce from Oracle in 2013, the CRM giant was already a successful SaaS vendor on a billion-dollar quarterly revenue cadence. When the co-CEO announced he was stepping down yesterday, the company reported revenue of $ 4.9 billion for the quarter.

During his tenure, the company’s revenue more than quadrupled, earning an impressive $ 17.1 billion last year, and, as Block announced at the earnings call, the company he was leaving was forecasting revenue of $ 21 billion for FY2021.

Consider that it was not that long ago (in May 2017) that we wrote about the company reaching the $ 10 billion mark. It’s perilously easy to get lost in these numbers, to take them for granted and think they don’t mean as much as they do. It’s hard work to build a billion-dollar SaaS business, never mind $ 10 billion or $ 20 billion.

Yet Salesforce is embarking on unchartered territory for a SaaS company. It’s approaching $ 20 billion in revenue for a single year.

Growth through acquisition

Granted, the company keeps growing revenue by making big deals like buying MuleSoft for $ 6.5 billion in 2018 or Tableau for $ 15.7 billion in 2019, or just this week buying Vlocity for a mere $ 1.33 billion. That means the company spent more than $ 25 billion over a couple of years to buy substantial companies that will help them build their business.

Block took a moment to brag a bit about his accomplishments, including how some of those purchases performed, during his swan song call with Salesforce, calling it a capstone of his time at Salesforce:

In Q4, we grew 32% in the Americas, 28% in APAC and 47% in EMEA in constant currency. Now that includes our recent acquisitions. And at the close of FY 2020, the number of Salesforce customers spending $ 20 million annually grew 34%.

Think about that last number for just a minute. This a SaaS vendor with the number of customers spending $ 20 million growing by 34%. Block helped orchestrate that growth and worked with the executive team to help determine which companies it should be targeting.

At a press conference in 2016 at Dreamforce, he discussed Salesforce’s acquisition strategy. At the time, it had bought 10 of 12 companies it would end up acquiring that year. It would buy only one in 2017, before revving up again in 2018. Here’s what he said about what they look for in a company, as we reported in an article at the time:

We look at culture. Will it be a good cultural fit? Is it a good product fit? Is there talent? Is there financial value? What are the risks of assimilating the company into our company?

What’s next for Block?

There is no word on what Block will do next beyond acting as an advisor to his former co-CEO Marc Benioff, who took time in the earnings call to thank his colleague for his time at Salesforce. As well he should.

As Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research point outs, Block leaves a big hole as he steps away. “If there is no equivalent replacement, you will see a significant impact in sales. Keith brought industries and sales discipline,” Wang told TechCrunch

It will be interesting to watch what he does next, and who, if anyone, will benefit from his vast experience helping to build the most successful pure SaaS company on the planet.

Enterprise – TechCrunch

A look at performance post Google’s average position sunset: Top vs side

February 27, 2020 No Comments

Average position as a metric has been retired since the end of September. This is a big change since for years clients, agencies, and any advertiser has always had at least a little bit of vanity management. By that I mean, everyone at some point submitted a bid with the sole goal of being “number one” and not any actual business metric.

This change was implemented to acknowledge that the average position is not meaningful when you are in a world of personalized search. Stopping vanity bidding is just a beneficial side effect. I wanted to take a look at some data, specifically CPC and CTR, to see how performance varies for top and side positions. I also wanted to look at how these metrics vary on vs. Search partners. What I found were some very interesting insights that might impact how you think about your campaigns.

When it comes to the differences between Google and it’s partners and top vs. other the keys are:

  • Google top vs. other has the biggest differences when it comes to CTR. The data showed a >900% increase in CTR across desktop, mobile, and tablet. This was the highest delta across the entire data set, expect for Partner top vs. other which was nearly 4x the difference.
  • Mobile for Google vs. the Partners was also a significant difference at 918%. This was noticeable because the desktop variance was only 30% (basically a tie). The importance of mobile can’t be understated.

CTR differences after average position sunset

When it comes to cost per click differences the variances were really noticeable when it comes to cost per click. The drop off between Google and partners was at least 100% and as high as 268%. The differences are driven primarily by demand. Many advertisers do not participate in the partner network. Therefore, demand is down and the cost per click would fall as well. This is where if the conversion rates are right you would be able to pick up some additional scale. The difference when looking at Google and Partners top vs. other is a much smaller delta. This just highlights the demand point above. The difference in mobile was only 13%. There are such a high demand and fewer spaces for mobile that the difference between top and side was the smallest of any data set that was reviewed.

CPC differences after average position sunset

While the CPCs weren’t that different the CTRs for Google mobile top were significantly higher than the search partners top. I thought this was worth showing the actual data to show the differences between mobile and desktop. The drop in mobile top is very high indicating a different search experience and relevance. The differences are very small and much lower CTR when looking at the “Other” positions.

CTR actuals at other positions after average position sunset

What action should you take based on this data?

1. Don’t manage to these metrics – Optimize them

Ultimately, you shouldn’t really care what the CPC is or what your CTR is. The goal is hitting your KPIs. If you need to pay $ 100 per click, but convert 100% of the clicks then it’s no different than paying $ 20 per click and a 20% conversion rate. That’s not to say you shouldn’t optimize to improve, you should. I’m just suggesting that metrics like top vs. side CTR are simply indicators on how you can improve. These are not your true KPIs.

2. Understand the value the search partner network brings your campaign

The search network provides scale to your campaigns and to Google for a revenue stream. That doesn’t mean in every case you need or require that scale. If you are struggling to perform break down your traffic by Google and the partner network. Look at not only CTR and CPC data, but also understand conversion rates. What would happen if you cut off the search partner network to both your volume and your cost per acquisition? Does this additional scale provide your business value or would it be better spent investing in other areas that perform better? This isn’t a one size fits all answer. You need to do the work and the result might be different by campaign or even keyword.

Note: The stats and observations shared by the author have been derived from BrandMuscle’s anonymized client data.
Feel free to share your observations in the comments section.

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How blockchain will dominate the digital advertising industry in 2020

February 27, 2020 No Comments

Every day we read data breach scandals by ad tech vendors. We are getting tracked every day with hidden cookies, and permissions we give unconsciously. According to Juniper research, advertising losses were to reach $ 42 billion in 2019 and were predicted to be driven to reach $ 100 billion by 2023. Blockchain came into action to provide transparency while serving ads and paying for the real human interactions on the ads, not automated traffic.

Blockchain is emerging into the technology market these days and transforming the way we have been doing the online transactions lately. This technology is not only limited to the finance market, but it is also impacting the advertising and marketing industry too.

In this article, you’ll learn how blockchain is going to impact the digital advertising supply chain in the year 2020.

People generally associate blockchain with bitcoin, a well-known cryptocurrency market but it’s not the same. Bitcoin is the name of a cryptocurrency developed through blockchain technology.

So, what exactly is blockchain?

Blockchain is the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) which contains the record of multiple distributed transactions between different people. It doesn’t require any central control, because the data is not located in any local server, it’s stored in a secured server distributed globally.

The application of blockchain in digital advertising is very significant. From the last few decades advertising firms using user’s personal data to understand their buying habits and designing campaigns by invading their personal space.

It offers a secure environment for the advertisers and the publishers and allows them to connect the right audience and make safe transactions.

A look into what data says

The blockchain market is expected to reach over $ 23.3 billion by 2023 and $ 176 billion industry by 2025.

Digital advertising is expected to climb to  $ 427.26 billion by 2022.

“Blockchain advertising” – According to Google Trends data

blockchain advertising search trend on Google Trends

Why is blockchain technology entering into digital advertising?

The industry space opened up for blockchain recently when data inflation and data discrepancy news surfaced online – advertisers and publishers started looking for a better alternative for transparency.

Advertising platforms like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and others, were enjoying the monopoly in the digital advertising place since the last decade. These advertising giants were manipulating the data and information to make a huge profit margin.

Some news to read on data inflation

Advertisers sued the social networking platform for overstating video-viewing metrics over an 18-month period from 2015-16, which led the advertisers to pay extra for video ads based on the inflated data. Read more here.

A lot of other news reported about the fake bot traffic advertisers were paying for. It is all because of a lack of control. The publishers and advertisers don’t control the data, hence restricted to see only information ad tech vendors are offering. Data is very vulnerable today, digital advertising tools are using this as their new profit-making plan.

How would publishers know that they’re receiving a fair share of profit?

Kanstruktor over at Steemit explains:

“Decentralized network between advertisers and publishers through caching, and logging of clicks and leads, key statistics, personalized nodes in the blockchain operator MetaHash (fork of Ethereum – ERC20). It is a basic principle of protection against fraud and concealment of data on actual transactions from advertisers, or making unrealistic target bots in the traffic of publishers instead of real users.”

Ad vendors employing illegal techniques to access users’ personal data for their benefits, in exchange for rewards, and similar scenarios is a major threat and blockchain basically came into the picture of digital advertising to give the user control over their data.

Blockchain applications in digital advertising

1. Ad Buying and selling without the mediator

No intermediaries will be benefitted by employing blockchain-powered online advertising platforms. Blockchain is solving the transparencies and trust issues the ad tech industry has.

2. Fraud prevention and transparency in the ad supply chain

It’s very difficult to find the fraudulent clicks and impressions you are paying for. Blockchain technology integrated with the tools helps find and flag sites with click discrepancy and bot infiltration which would flow the ad budget to the right sites with genuine clicks.

3. Targeting the right audience

Driving an ad campaign according to their customer journey is important. With the help of blockchain, ad tech platforms can automate campaigns based on the specified set of rules. If the audience falls into those certain criteria, then only an ad will be visible to them. By doing this advertisers can utilize the budget on better sites to show ads.

Audience engagement will be credible now with very much accurate data that will help design better campaigns. The leads and subscriptions would be genuine and identifiable.

4. Data management

Data and insights play a key role in drafting a great campaign strategy. Blockchain makes it simple to retrieve the right KPIs utilize the data for better decision making.

5. Customize ad delivery

No one likes to see the same ads multiple times and increase ad fatigue. But, advertisers were not able to control the delivery of the ads in most of the top advertising platforms. With blockchain, advertisers will be given control to limit the ad frequency according to their campaign objectives.

6. Social media ads

A lot of fake news used to surface online through social media channels, now it can be controlled as blockchain technology is the distributed system is highly transparent and trackable. It can limit the social media ad frauds.

7. Data safety

Data safety and privacy is a major challenge in the digital advertising industry. The users browsing behavior is no longer the reason you serve your ads to them. Now, audience permission is required to use their personal data. A lot of countries are taking initiatives to stop the illegal practices. Security compliance like GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and a lot more came into the picture for data privacy and safety.

8. Ad-verification

Blockchain reduced the role of third-party platforms to verify ads if they comply with the guidelines and save a lot of time for the advertisers.

9. Ad automation

Ad auctioning process and more easy and transparent with the help of blockchain-based advertising platforms. The ads will now be more effective and relevant.

10. Content management

The delivery of the content is more data-driven and accurate with blockchain. Content monetization, content personalization, content discovery, and content creation would be easier in these blockchain technology ad platforms.

Some digital advertising platforms using blockchain

Today the market is flooded by blockchain-powered ad platforms. Tech giants like IBM Corporation, Amazon Web Services, Inc., Accenture Plc, Microsoft Corporation, SAP SE, Oracle Corporation, Infosys Limited are investing in this technology.

Big companies like Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark, Pfizer, Unilever McDonald’s, Nestlé, and Virgin Media have joined a new blockchain pilot seeking to increase transparency in advertising online. Automobile giant Toyota uses blockchain tech to reduce fraud in their digital advertising campaigns.

Kat Howcroft, senior media and budget manager at McDonald’s, said:

“This technology offers us the opportunity to see a truly transparent picture of our investment across the digital supply chain. We are also eager to understand the potential impact that this may have on our ROI and efficiency.”

According to Babs Rangaiah, Global Marketing, IBM iX:

“Blockchain is creating new ways of doing business across industries, particularly where greater trust and transparency are required. As it relates to media, we expect blockchain to be able to provide a single source of truth to any given media buy, eliminating the doubt and uncertainty that is common today.”

Benefits of blockchain in the digital advertising industry

Accountability and transparency are required in the digital advertising ecosystem across the globe. Blockchain brings that trust factor to the table. With the help of blockchain ad tech vendors are now able to show the comprehensive actionable view of the ad distribution and transactions.

For every advertiser, data is the key to define their business success. With blockchain now, the advertisers receive the right high-quality data and reduce the chances of its alteration because of the distributed ledger approach.

The cost of the transaction is reduced significantly by removing various payment gateway platforms. Blockchain-powered ad platforms assure safe transactions while maintaining users’ anonymity.

Conclusion: Blockchain is the future in the digital ads industry

It will be too early to say if this could stop the whole of digital advertising scandals, ad frauds, and bot traffic. But, definitely, blockchain is impacting the digital advertising ecosystem positively and gradually. Ad tech giants like Google are adapting the blockchain-powered tools to enhance their functionality.

Blockchain topped the list of the digital marketing trends 2020. It’s time to show zero tolerance for the ad frauds, data alteration, and data breaches. The companies considering an upgrade to their advertising platform with blockchain will lead the way going forward, and it’s time you added your business to this roster.

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