by Betty Strigens, Senior Social Content Specialist, Hanson Dodge Creative
It’s easy to compare a Social Media community to one big party – where anyone from your grandmother to your wildest friend from college might chime in on the conversation. But unlike most gatherings, every word of this conversation is recorded for posterity. And if you’re a brand – or act on behalf of a brand – setting the scene is more important than ever.
Below are four invaluable tips to manage the online reputation of national brands. Just like any good gathering, it’s all about creating a good vibe and inciting conversations your visitors want to come back for.
Make clear who you are and what type of community your fans are joining. The same way a party invite can inform guests as to what to wear and what to expect, posting your house rules can help avoid any awkward moments. This is all the more true if there is anything remotely polarizing about your brand.
While in the end you are selling something, don’t expect your guests to enjoy a sales pitch. How many people would leave if your cocktail party suddenly became a Tupperware party? The door is just a click away at this one, and each lost fan could equate to $174 a head. Instead of over-marketing your product, offer your visitor something they can really use: inspiration, information or just a laugh.
Bring enough people together and inevitably someone will make a mess (hopefully that person won’t be you). Handle any criticisms promptly using it as an opportunity to improve the experience and prove the merit of your brand. And like all good parties, some might crash it just for the sake of seeing how far they can get – a great time to gently point out the house rules and the consequences of breaking them.
It’s great to celebrate who you are, but nothing says you are worthy of it more than when your guests do the praising. As author Paul Rand says in his book Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media, recommendations are as important as your reputation and are the single biggest influencer on consumer purchases. Chances are, your followers came to you a fan. Give them a forum to tell everyone why.
Great social media engagement is one big get-together – one where your brand can literally “speak to” a multitude of fans and get immediate, personal feedback from any one of them. When in doubt, rely on the social etiquette you would in any large gathering of strangers-soon-to-be friends. By setting the scene, you’re allowing your social visitor to celebrate the lifestyle surrounding your brand – which is essentially – themselves. Make sure every person at your party knows they are the guest of honor. If you’d like further help in engaging or creating your social community, contact us. We’re happy to help.
With more than 15 years experience in advertising, printing and marketing industries, Betty Strigens specializes in digital content creation and community engagement for a variety of our national and local accounts. Her strengths include conceptualization, copywriting and photography. Throughout her career, Betty’s experience has expanded with the digital landscape, from production artist on small print ads to project management on large photo murals. Now she contributes to an even larger arena – the limitless online community – using her visual and copywriting skills to increase viewership for national clients.
By Joe Ciccarelli, Senior Brand Planner, Hanson Dodge Creative
Now more than ever, consumers care and, as a result, expect more from the brands they support.
Today’s consumers care about eating the right foods, monitoring their health and the health of their families, and keeping the environment—in which they work and play—alive and well. Subsequently, they care more about the brands that help them do all of the above and that share a common belief system.
At the forefront of this thinking sits a category of consumers known as the AHAS™—Active, Healthy and Sustainable. Hanson Dodge Creative first introduced the AHAS concept in 2013 as a way to bring together three consumer groups with related behaviors that have major implications for brands (AHAS 2013).
Prior to 2013, these consumer categories were traditionally identified, studied and marketed to as autonomous groups, each having its own independent set of values, habits and behaviors. With the introduction of AHAS, Hanson Dodge Creative shifted that focus from working to understand each group as a unique segment to uncovering the inherent links between all three, and investigating the notion that, in many cases it is, indeed, the same consumer.
Common sense suggests that an individual who is more active is more likely to be concerned with his or her health, and vice versa. But digging deeper into the shared thinking among consumers in each group helps us to truly understand how closely the demographics, values, thought processes and spending patterns correlate between them.
Within the next year, Hanson Dodge Creative will further study and publish primary research findings to shed new insights on how brands—hoping to be top-of-mind for these sought after consumers—can connect with AHAS in unique and profitable ways.
Download our latest white paper, the first in a series of AHAS-focused, research-based Active Insights planned for this year, for a more detailed overview of this growing segment. To learn more about how to tap into the AHAS and further leverage your brand, contact us.
As a senior planner and strategist, Joe Ciccarelli seeks to understand the people, culture, trends and storytelling behind every brand. He uncovers meaningful information and delivers insights, ideas and strategies that truly connect with consumers. Specializing in branding and advanced qualitative research, Joe also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Marquette University’s College of Communication.
By Tim Dodge, President, Hanson Dodge Creative
A successful direct e-commerce program has the power to transform your business. E-commerce opens the door to a stronger brand, solid MAP pricing for your products, an energized bricks-and-mortar retail effort and, of course, a better understanding of and closer relationship with your customers.
But how do you harness that power? Where do you begin?
If you’ve gone through this process, you know the drill. If you’re considering this process, STOP! Do yourself a favor and follow the 9 Steps to E-commerce Success (below).
In the beginning, IT was charged with the task of solving e-commerce. It was seen as a software problem. Today, smart CEOs realize e-commerce is a cross-functional business opportunity and their involvement is critical for success. Successful e-commerce programs work through the following nine steps in sequence. (Note that software selection doesn’t happen until step 5.)
Whether you’re just starting out or trying to jumpstart your e-commerce business, begin with an analysis of the current potential. That means a review of your current brand strength, web traffic, conversion rates, online pricing issues, competitor success, search engine opportunities and technology implications. Only after you create a realistic vision for the scope and scale of the opportunity, can you start to develop the right strategic approach. If you haven’t reviewed these issues recently, you may be missing some critical changes and competitive challenges. Click here to conduct your own online E-commerce Readiness Check-up.
To succeed in e-commerce, you must deliver a best-in-class customer experience. That means the creation of not only an elegant online shopping experience, but also a responsive customer call center, impeccable and timely fulfillment, and an ongoing digital communication strategy that builds loyalty.
After assessing the company’s capabilities in each of these areas, it’s time to determine which if any aspects you should attempt to manage in-house vs. outsource. There are outsourced solutions for customer service, fulfillment, technology implementation, site design, online promotions management, traffic building and content strategy development in any combination you want. It’s also important to explore whether you want to engage outside partners to work on a fee basis or share the risk and be paid based upon revenue growth.
There are a range of investment models for the required software. Do you want to own the software (software alone can be a $50,000 to $500,000 initial investment)? Do you want to host the software? Do you want to capitalize the costs or expense as you go monthly? There are a wide variety of solutions under each of these models across a broad breadth of technology platforms.
What existing ERP systems and in-house tools and technologies will you need to integrate with? Are there critical reasons to consider .Net vs. Java vs. open source technologies? The trend today is to find software approaches that reduce the number of internal platforms to be managed. IT departments are overrun with disparate tools and technologies that don’t talk to each other. Marketing departments are increasingly frustrated with not being able to manage content and product information seamlessly between corporate sites and e-commerce shopping systems without extensive programming. The best-in-class software tools available today integrate CMS, shopping cart, personalization, marketing tools and analytics all under a single platform. Based on our experience and understanding of the competitors in our space, we have developed a side-by-side comparison of market leading e-commerce products and their key features that may be helpful to you. Download the Competitive Matrix.
If you’ve done the above work, there will only be a few options that line up with your technology needs and business model. Groups like Gartner and Forrester can offer additional insights on the key players.
The software product companies often can point you to some potential partners. But remember, their motivation is to sell their product. They are not likely to recommend an implementation partner who might objectively question the choice of their software. And they won’t offer much help if your consulting needs go much beyond the software programming efforts. E-commerce implementations often can uncover branding and content issues along with CRM and marketing issues that need to be resolved. In addition, the software provider should provide a corporate reference list of companies of your size and with your needs who could introduce you to potential partners.
Together with your consulting partner, it’s time to prioritize the site’s overall requirements, frame your outsourcing strategy, determine the build approach and develop time frames. At this stage you should also determine the budget allocations to branding, web development, content creation and traffic building efforts over a three-year period to finalize an approach to overall growth and funding.
More companies are embracing at least a partial, if not completely, agile approach to building their sites. Scrum, a form of agile methodology offers two distinct advantages. First, it allows for rapid development of usable software so that the client can see the site evolve and develop it as a working tool along the way, rather than waiting until the end of the project development process. Second, it allows clients to change their minds along the way. In the typical 6-12 month implementation period for projects like these, the business situation can change. By consistently reassessing top priorities and building the most important pieces first, you reduce the risk of having to change course mid-stream or waste precious time and dollars on throw-away work.
Break out the champagne, your first sale is on the books. But also realize that not unlike a new child, this program will require an ever increasing amount of your team’s time and your company’s financial resources. Don’t worry; the financial metrics will make it easy to justify the increased investment and effort. That means you will need to develop an ongoing process for measuring, managing and enhancing all aspects of the process FOREVER!
But that’s a subject for a future blog post.
Download the 9 Steps to E-commerce Success infographic and/or view the keynote presentation. To learn more about how to improve your online success, contact us.
Tim Dodge brings more than 25 years of entrepreneurial business management and marketing expertise to his clients and to the business of Hanson Dodge Creative. Tim is responsible for development of new business models, partnerships and service offers. With a passion for technology and results-oriented solutions, Tim has been the driving force behind the launch of Active Commerce, the Hanson Dodge Creative e-commerce platform developed to help consumer product manufacturers engage with their customers to strengthen their brands and grow their e-commerce business.
It’s true. Facebook did lose users in 2013. However, according to Global Web Index (Jan. 2014), while Facebook’s active users decreased in 2013, it still remains the number one social network, leading the list for account ownership (83%), active usage (49%) and visit frequency (56% of users log in more than once per day).
These facts, among others, were cited by Sarah Van Elzen, Hanson Dodge Creative’s director of social media, during a recent presentation on current trends in social growth and usage.
Van Elzen noted that while Facebook remains the dominant social networking platform, a striking number of users are now diversifying on to other platforms (Pew Research, Dec. 2013). Another recent report (TechCrunch, Jan. 2014) notes that 55% of North American internet users use Facebook, versus 24% for Twitter and 17% for Google+.
And while executives are modest users of social media (about 60% use it one hour or less per week), 90% claim they would use social media more if it were helpful to their business (Forbes, 2013). Not surprisingly, the most frequently used social platform of choice for execs is LinkedIn.
To learn more about changing dynamics in the social landscape, view Sarah’s presentation. And to better understand how these various channels might best be integrated into your marketing strategies, contact us.
Turning content into results, Sarah Van Elzen is responsible for leading the HDC social media practice. Her team engages audiences across a variety of platforms, focusing on campaign strategy, content development, community management and analytics. Sarah began her career in music marketing, and then moved to sunny Florida for her ongoing endeavor in online PR and SEO. Sarah has managed social media strategies for clients since 2007, when Facebook launched brand pages and Twitter was just a few months old. Through a variety of agency positions, Sarah’s experience encompasses web content strategy, SEO, online PR, social media strategy and relationship management.
More than 80% of today’s consumers research products online before buying. As a result, manufacturers and retailers need to have an integrated plan to engage customers in their buying journey.
That’s the message Hanson Dodge Creative’s Tom Flierl delivered this past month to members of the outdoor and winter sport industries at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Show in Salt Lake City and the SIA Snow Show in Denver.
“More and more, the customer shopping experience is starting online,” said Flierl, vice president of sales and marketing. “Currently, about 80% of consumers research products online before buying, and more than 50% buy directly from brand sites. This may may be the first experience people have with your brand — better make it a good one.”
Flierl, a frequent speaker on the topic of e-commerce, leverages more than 20 years of business experience in technology, marketing and media to help businesses identify and deliver greater value in their online brand.
“Winning brands create great experiences and have significant awareness,” said Flierl. “E-commerce is more than an online shopping cart, it should be an engaging customer experience and extension of your brand.”
Click here to see the presentation.
Tom Flierl leads the Hanson Dodge Creative sales and marketing teams where he leverages more than 20 years of business experience in technology, marketing and media. Tom knows what it takes to successfully manage and grow a business. He has more than 12 years of executive experience leading the integration of sales and marketing, and has held equity positions in two companies including a successful start-up firm. Tom writes and speaks nationally about e-commerce, helping businesses identify and deliver greater value in their online brand.
By Matt Braun, Director of Public Relations, Hanson Dodge Creative
When it comes to the Super Bowl and corporate promotion, most people think of the oft’ hyped game day commercials. But one company cleverly leveraged this year’s event — and the simple concept of a weather forecast — to launch a new service offering well in advance of game day, resulting in a virtual blizzard of publicity. Read more…
For the first time, a cold-weather city without an indoor stadium would host the game on February 2, 2014. Qualifying teams and fans alike were thrust into the inevitable discussions — what will early February be like in the New York area? How cold will it get? Will it snow?
One brand in particular did a phenomenal job of turning simple water cooler talk — “What will the weather be like for the big game?” — into multi-pronged, nearly 7-week campaign to promote a new product offering and its upcoming network debut. The results showcase the intersection of content, media coverage and creativity that created unprecedented buzz for an upstart company.
Accuweather launched a new service offering, 45-Day Forecasts, in the summer of 2013. The service provides long-term forecasts to individuals via smartphones, tablets, websites and more, bringing many skeptics with it as to accuracy of the reports.
Leveraging the much anticipated outdoor 2014 Super Bowl — and to draw attention to its new service — the company launched Will it Snow?, a 45-day PR campaign starting in late December that featured expert meteorologists and their predictions about precipitation on the big day. Beginning on Dec. 18, forecasts were updated daily on WillitSnow.com for Super Bowl Sunday. Weather experts from Accuweather would take turns giving their prognosis for MetLife Stadium, along with a percentage chance of snow. Content was then pushed out via social media channels and to mainstream media.
As the day drew closer, predictions got more precise. As we now know, the game ended up being snow free. Sure enough, Accuweather was right.
This simple, yet creative, campaign allowed Accuweather to promote not only its 45-Day Forecasts, but also make headlines as it battled outlets like The Weather Channel for mindshare as people looked for forecasts. In addition, “Will It Snow?” garnered national media attention from the likes of The Washington Post, Newsday and USA Today, demonstrating the newsworthiness of an outstanding PR strategy.
Accuweather is launching its own network channel in the fall of 2014, and will go toe-to-toe with the Weather Channel, CNN and others to provide weather news to consumers. It’s likely that we can expect to see more “Will it Snow?” type campaigns from Accuweather designed to get people talking. In the end, that’s what an effective campaign should do — create buzz.
Looking for a big idea to create buzz and excitement for your brand? Let’s talk. Who knows…your company might just be next year’s Super Bowl star.
Matt Braun is responsible for the management and growth of the Hanson Dodge Creative public relations practice. With more than 12 years of experience in media relations, press events and marketing communications, he has worked with a number of large national brands, including Miller Brewing Company, Johnson Controls, Briggs & Stratton, Major League Baseball and Northwestern Mutual. His areas of specialty include national and regional media relations, story development, key message development and event planning.
By Bill Finn, Director of Web Strategy, Hanson Dodge Creative
Last year’s books are closed and you’re back in the thick of the action, bumping shoulders with opportunities and competition for this quarter and the year ahead. You’re looking for an edge to gain an advantage.
- How can you gain greater exposure to your customers?
- How can you take the pulse of your customers’ interest?
- What part of your offering are they really interested in?
- Where can you continually deliver value and capture sales and marketing data to help fill the pipeline?
- Where can you direct resources to achieve the greatest return?
Answer: Your website. Here’s why…
Your website is the most public, easily accessed embodiment of your business and your brand.
Whether you’re focused on marketing or e-commerce, the goal of a business-driven website is to drive a conversion from site visit to the customer saying ‘yes’ and taking another step toward a sale. You want customers to make a choice to prefer or purchase your offering above all others in your market space.
Improving your site can improve your bottom line.
But before making changes, you need to identify what’s working and what’s not using a standard set of diagnostic measures. Performed regularly, a diagnostic can serve as a framework for success that organizes your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reveals the “online P&L” of your brand, including areas that will deliver highest value from attention and adjustment.
Diagnostics provide justification for website update and investment against increased revenue generation. They measure relevant criteria for your business. And when you measure it, you can manage it — to improve and quantify the value of your brand online.
Note: Website analytics will provide the foundation for your diagnostic review. Contact your webmaster if you’re not already familiar with your analytics.
Like doctors, savvy marketing managers and executives use diagnostic health checks to evaluate their Internet initiatives. When challenged with a new approach or enhancement, diagnostics provide a data-driven framework from which to make a business case for or against taking action.
Just because someone has surfed the web does not qualify him/her to make strategic and tactical decisions affecting your business and brand. While well-meaning colleagues may lend interesting perspectives, it’s important to make decisions based on such critical information as:
Here’s another reason to care — a diagnostic gives you the opportunity to performance-check your online brand activity and play the role of coach: recommending, monitoring and adjusting techniques for optimum results and operation.
A strong operation crossing finish lines on business goals = VALUE. Take the first steps outlined below to get you on your way.
State your business goals simply and clearly.
State the burning need that your company (and subsequently, website) will address. Consider completing this vision statement template: For customers who <insert problem>, we <solution to problem> and in doing so, <insert how value is created>.
Record all public web URL(s). You may have more than one.
Gain access to your web analytics.
Identify specific actions you want online visitors to perform that serve their needs and drive them to conversion. Identify actions they take to create a sales lead, register a subscription, initiate a conversation or confirm ongoing interest in your offering. Important: Assign each desired action a value in dollars, or match it with a parallel sales activity so that you can define the business value that your website delivers.
List up to 5 competitor URLs.
List social media channels you consistently engage with, and those on your wishlist for activity.
Document your editorial calendar for your online content – are you updating or posting consistently and in a focused manner? If you don’t have an editorial calendar, generate one immediately.
Now that you’ve assembled the information in your diagnostic file, organize it into categories that will be useful for your business to form a snapshot of your online brand presence.
Embrace the truth of your online activity – whether it’s not yet quite there or if it is rising above expectations. Understanding where you are is the first step in achieving your goals.
The list below helps establish the foundation for an executive summary or dashboard — key fundamentals that will allow you to make data-driven decisions for your online brand.
Download a sample spreadsheet containing these diagnostic categories for your use. Adjust the spreadsheet as needed to meet your needs. For instance, you may not have values for each KPI listed, or you might change them to reflect data you do have available. That’s fine – it’s more important to establish metrics meaningful to you, that you consistently evaluate over time.
Upon assembling KPI data for the metrics above, you’ll begin to form a clearer picture of the competitiveness of your online brand. If you want help identifying critical areas for attention, building strategies to improve business growth, and other ways to increase brand engagement, contact us.
Bill Finn leads the Hanson Dodge Creative Web Strategy team and is responsible for the strategic innovation, design and support of digital media initiatives. Leveraging more than 15 years of expertise working with Fortune 100 companies and other corporations, Bill has led numerous client initiatives including strategy, business analysis, digital brand experience, web and mobile app, video, storytelling and business development efforts. An entrepreneur, Bill is the founder of Finn Digital LLC, an digital marketing agency, and also the co-founder and CEO of BoothTagTM, a mobile app and web platform startup company for trade shows and conferences.
by Ken Hanson, Founder & CEO, Hanson Dodge Creative
It seems like everyone is talking about e-commerce and for good reason. According to Forrester Research, a global research and advisory firm, more than 60 million websites were planned for creation in 2013. Forrester also predicts that the U.S. e-commerce growth across all industries will see volume sales rise to $262 billion this year; a 13% increase from the previous year.
“The growth of e-commerce — which already accounts for about 8% of total retail sales in the U.S. — is expected to outpace sales growth at bricks-and-mortar stores over the next five years, reaching $370 billion in sales by 2017. By that time, e-commerce is expected to account for a full tenth of all retail sales in the U.S,” states Forrester.
Unfortunately, e-commerce is similar to traditional business in one regard: most e-commerce initiatives will underperform or fail in their first year.
Pricing is fierce in today’s increasingly competitive environment. Declining labor costs have driven prices so low that we’ve created a “free, perfect, now” mentality with the consumer.
On the business side, the emphasis on ROI has created a fixation with short-term results — at the expense of building the brand infrastructure necessary for greater and more significant long-term revenue growth.
In other words, e-commerce is one of the most competitive areas of business today. Despite this fact, many are tempted to invest primarily in the technology without first taking the critical step of developing the brand strategy.
Why make a significant investment in branding upfront when cutting corners on branding will enable you to use those dollars for online marketing instead?
Why not get the website up and running and invest in branding when you can afford it, a little at a time?
Website technology is expensive, and it is tempting to put off the investment in brand strategy; but I believe that the brand strategy is the first step in a winning e-commerce program. Below are 17 reasons why your e-commerce strategy should start with a killer brand strategy:
1. Business Valuation
If you ever plan to sell your online business or go public, your brand will be a key asset. According to The New York Times, the Apple brand was recently valued at more than $98 billion, which is an impressive 57% of annual sales.
2. Global Potential
We’ve seen clients increase their sales exponentially by going global. But it takes a smart brand strategy to capitalize on your global potential.
3. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
If you want your customers back, you have to be positioned in their minds; the right brand strategy will do just that. According to Adobe, only 8% of visitors are repeat customers, but they make up 40 % of the revenue.
4. Strategic Planning
Do you know where you want to be in 5 years? The right brand strategy can actually drive your strategic planning.
5. Financial Planning
Your brand strategy should drive your marketing plan for the next 5 years and enlighten your technology investment as well.
6. Organizational Readiness
Getting your e-commerce team on the same page is no easy trick. A robust brand strategy will provide the consensus you need to move the ball forward in all areas of your company.
7. Talk Value
According to the Customer Insights Group, 78% of consumers say they talk about their favorite brands. That means if your customers believe in you, they will do a lot of advertising for you via social media and word of mouth.
Breakthrough brand strategies are built on compelling insights based on primary and secondary consumer and market research. These insights can be the difference between success and utter failure.
9. Lifetime Value
According to Clickfox, 50% of purchasers say their relationship with a brand starts with the first purchase. The long-term potential of that relationship can only pay off if you’re building it on a solid brand foundation.
10. Bigger Purchases
According to the 2012 Brand Loyalty Study, 68% of consumers say they are more likely to buy more from a brand they love.
There are a million options out there and your competitor is only a click away. Be the one customers remember.
Tie your optimization to an authentic brand strategy to make the right first impression.
Your brand is the vehicle for continuity in a fully realized chain of experience that connects emotionally.
14. Increased Profit
Apple, the most valued brand in the world, had only 8% of the cell phone market in 2009, but 32% of the profits. The stronger your brand, the stronger your margin and influence over the marketplace.
A strong brand strategy will light the way to the right technology and architecture for your e-commerce site.
The brand strategy should be the cornerstone of the online user experience.
17. Other Online and Offline Impact
Your e-commerce site will be used to research purchases in other channels. Whether they end up purchasing at their favorite neighborhood retailer or Amazon, the brand will be what they remember as they shop.
With 60 million new websites every year, you need to bring your A-game. Set the pace for your category and maximize business value long-term by building your e-commerce site on a solid and inspired brand strategy. Give me a call and let’s talk.
Ken Hanson is the founder and CEO of America’s leading active lifestyle agency, Hanson Dodge Creative. Ken’s 30 years of interactive and graphic design experience and countless industry awards have earned him a reputation as one of the nation’s leading marketing communication designers. More than a gifted artist, Ken is also a strategist and marketing practitioner with a passion for building brand equity and loyalty. He founded the studio in 1984 and continues to oversee creative direction for both interactive and print projects. He was chosen in 2001 by Graphic Design Magazine as one of the 50 most influential designers in America and is the founding director of the Milwaukee chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
By Jeremy Schmidt, Digital Marketing Manager, Hanson Dodge Creative
Six dollars earned for every dollar spent on direct marketing. It’s a marketer’s dream come true; one that Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLA) are making a reality.
PLAs allow you to promote your products on Google Shopping and create a more engaging user experience. These search ads include richer product information, such as product image, price and merchant name, without requiring additional keywords or ad text. Whenever a user enters a search query relevant to an item in your Google Merchant Center account, Google will automatically show the most relevant products along with the associated image, price and product name.
Results from the recent holiday shopping season indicate PLAs can be ROI superheroes. According to Channel Advisor, Google PLAs increased same-store sales 94% year-over-year this past holiday season. And at Hanson Dodge Creative, for every dollar our clients spent on Product Listing Ads in the month of December, they saw over six dollars in revenue.
Since 2012, everyone is now required to pay to be seen on the Google Shopping platform. As noted earlier, this change made Google Shopping either the key to your future or the source of your demise. This statement has become more true with each passing month.
If you’re an e-commerce retailer and you’re not already using Google’s Product Listing Ads, you have an opportunity for significant growth in 2014.
Of course, not everyone has the time and energy to monitor and manipulate Google AdWords and Merchant Center accounts (what feeds PLAs) with the same intensity as a dedicated agency of experts. But the 5 guidelines below will allow you to make a good start.
1. Segregate PLAs from other campaigns
An e-commerce website that lacks attribution is a common mistake. Breaking out PLAs from other campaigns in AdWords gives you the ability to clearly track performance and make any changes that need to be made.
If you allow PLAs to run alongside underperforming keywords, you could easily pause a campaign you’ve written off as unsuccessful without realizing what was and wasn’t working inside of it.
2. Create a manageable structure
There are dozens of terrific articles written on optimal structures for PLAs; a recent posting by Certified Knowledge is quite thorough and informative. But the best approach is a structure that will allow you to gather information without diluting it too greatly. If you only have 1,500 SKUs and your traffic volume isn’t significant, you may be diluting your information by separating each product into its own ad group.
By default, Google allows you to group all products together, break them out by individual product (ID), by product type or by the product’s brand. If you’re looking for the most basic structure that will allow you to function with all products running, grouping all your products together is your best bet.
If you want to track which of your products — whether individually or by group — is producing the most revenue and performing the best, breaking ad groups out by product type or brand would be more beneficial for you. This would also allow you to set bids on a more granular level.
3. Police your search terms
Despite no keywords requirements to run PLA campaigns, Google allows you to run search queries on your Product Listing Ads. Instead of showing an ad on selected keywords, Google shows Product Listing Ads based on how user searches match product titles and descriptions. Descriptions can be up to 5,000 words, so there’s much greater room for error on matching these than there is when you’re in control of the keywords.
Head into your PLA campaign, click into the auto targets tab and learn about what search terms your products are showing up for. Not only will this give you the opportunity to learn about some potential new negative keywords, it also presents the opportunity for keyword research.
4. Monitor your Merchant Center account
Product Listing Ads are powered by the feed you submit to Google’s Merchant Center. These feeds can be uploaded manually or through a scheduled upload. If your feed can be grabbed through your website and is updated automatically on a daily basis, schedule a daily upload so Google has accurate information about your product stock and pricing.
If you don’t have that luxury and are forced to manually upload a feed, the feed can last for about a month before Google requires you to upload a new one. But uploading a feed once a month could create problems, as that could leave your product information out of date. A good rule of thumb — upload a feed as often as you’re prices or shipping information changes require.
5. Deal with issues quickly
If you fall into the once-a-month trap, you’re bound to find yourself on the receiving end of warnings from Google. If price information changes and your feed fails to reflect it, the price shown in the Product Listing Ads will be incorrect. If stock information changes on your site and your feed is not resubmitted to Google, an ad out-of-stock product could still be shown.
Google has uncanny awareness and will quickly realize these inaccuracies and deliver warnings in your Merchant Center account. Be hyper-aware of these warnings and fix issues before you find your account suspended and your PLAs inactive.
Also, be aware of Bing. Microsoft’s search network has had a product listing type ad in beta for quite a while and will surely have it launched in full sometime in 2014. All of the successes you’ll find on Google should be able to be reproduced on a smaller scale on Bing.
Think you’ve got a handle on the basics? Check out our white paper for a more advanced look at managing a shopping feed and Google’s Product Listing Ads. And feel free to contact us with any questions.
Jeremy Schmidt has extensive experience as an Internet marketer. Prior to joining Hanson Dodge Creative, he was a paid search analyst who oversaw Google AdWords and Bing Ads for both B2B and B2C clients. He currently provides strategy and execution on SEO and SEM initiatives for various Hanson Dodge Creative B2C clients. When he isn’t studying the latest online marketing strategies, he’s playing, researching and writing about basketball.
By Joe Martinez, Digital Marketing Manager, Hanson Dodge Creative
(January 22, 2014) – The Google Display Network lets you place ads on a variety of news sites, blogs and other niche sites across the Internet to reach more potential customers. You can create text, image, interactive and video ads, place them on websites that are relevant to what you’re selling, show them to the people who are likely to be most interested, and manage and track your budget, campaigns and results as you go.
Because of these capabilities, Display Networks are a valuable tool for remarketing or placement ads. When done right, this channel can deliver very cost-effective/conversion ratios as compared to other campaigns that may be running. But many businesses abandon Display Network campaigns due to a lack of performance and/or lack of understanding on how to best optimize them.
To harness the power of Display Networks, you need to know the tricks. To better explain these tactics using concrete examples, let’s use the scenario of a toy store owner who ran her campaign during the holidays and wants to improve her Display Network performance. Use the five strategies below to improve your campaign’s performance and results.
The toy store owner wants to see where her ads are currently being shown. In addition, she wants to exclude any irrelevant websites from ever showing those ads again. Knowing this, she blocked out cooking websites since they don’t really apply to her business. News websites have a lot of holiday articles in December, so she kept those in.
Note: AdWords gives you the stats to monitor traffic and costs; if you’re spending a lot of money on one of those news sites and getting no return, you can exclude them later.
The toy store owner does not want her remarketing ads to follow a customer who recently bought a toy on her website because she doesn’t want such ads to annoy a good customer. What the toy store owner should do is create a remarketing audience for all users who land on her checkout completed page and add that audience to her remarketing campaign’s exclusion section. This will save her costs and increase her click-through-rates (CTR) on her remarketing ads.
An important takeaway: Know your target audience and adjust your campaign settings to better fit that demographic.
By creating text ads and image ads in every size that Google allows, the likelihood that impression shares would increase enables you to get the most exposure as possible. If you’re running on a tight budget, you should monitor where these ads are being shown to preserve that budget. If your goal is sales or conversions, analyze the performance of these image ads to make sure they are giving you a good return on your dollar.
If you have the means, create engaging ads that move and capture users’ attention. For instance, the toy store owner used Product Listing Ads (PLA) to show her product directly on banner ads.
Take a look at Converse and what they do for remarketing:
When visitors hover over the ad, it shows me the name of the product looked at plus the price. Another outstanding feature — they have a call to action telling users to SHOP to boost CTRs. If you have access to a designer, test out these types of ads to find what works best with your audience.
In this particular account, you can see that the Remarketing and Display Network campaigns had little direct ROI, but were huge factors in assisted revenue and conversions. This could be key in deciding whether or not to turn off the Display Network campaign. Research how much you’ve spent to get those direct and assisted conversions and evaluate the ROI you received from your efforts.
The above suggestions are fast ways to improve campaigns, but there are are many more ways you can optimize your Display Network efforts. Contact us for to learn more and improve your results.
Joe Martinez manages the SEO and paid search strategies for several clients at Hanson Dodge Creative. He is certified in Google AdWords – Search Advertising, Google AdWords – Display Advertising, Google Analytics and is a Bing Accredited Professional. Joe previously worked for a large national retailer as an e-commerce specialist where he focused on sales analysis and website product placement. He has created and led many successful paid search campaigns, with expertise in both B2B and B2C companies.