Building Seamless Search – 5 Minutes with Paul Rauff, Head of Technology at Incubeta

Read Time: 5 Minutes 20 Seconds

Paid search advertising expenditure currently accounts for 55.3% of total digital media spend globally, and 72.7% of total digital media spend in the UK, yet the relationship between organic and paid search still remains complex. Until now, there has never been a way to see the true value of search and whilst there are many search tools that look at paid and organic search in isolation, there are few, if any that manage both search channels holistically. Seamless Search by Incubeta is the first search management platform of its kind that manages paid and organic search collectively. By using ML to assess thousands of internal and external factors that impact the correlation between paid and organic search, Seamless Search determines the true value of each channel and provides advertisers with a clear, actionable report. 

With the platform still very much in its infancy, we caught up with Incubeta’s Head of Technology, Paul Rauff to discuss what Seamless Search will mean for advertisers, and the challenges faced by the team when building the one-of-a kind software.

1: Aside from the noticeable gap in the market, what were the fundamental reasons behind building this tool? 

Primarily, because we could. Over the years we’d done a substantial amount of work with data analytics – cracking underlying issues with data access and processing . We knew how to pull together various sources, manipulate the data, analyse the insights and build machine learning models to support and learn from our findings. The next challenge was translating this knowledge at a larger scale.

We found ourselves in a position where we had a lot of data and wanted to make the most of our learnings. We could see the path we wanted to take, and had all the pieces to implement it – realising that, if we pulled it all together, we could build something that really made a difference to the way advertisers operate. Enabling businesses to answer the age old question of whether or not they should spend money on paid search if they already have high organic coverage.

2: What about Seamless Search excites you the most?

Working with data at such a large scale, and doing something that nobody else has ever done before. We had all this knowledge and technology, but there were still so many unexplored aspects of search management. 

We knew how to manually identify the incremental value of search (at a small scale), and wanted to work at a large scale with hundreds of clients at the same time. It’s how we took those learnings, and goals, and projected it into a large scale project (which we then took to the market) that is the most exciting aspect of Seamless Search. Although we have a various collection of inhouse technologies, none of them are client facing, and it is exciting to finally have something that we can pitch to clients that will streamline their strategy. 

3: What makes Seamless Search revolutionary and special?

It’s the only tool out there that solves the age old question of how much paid strategy cannibalises organic coverage. Search marketing is fundamental to digital strategy, yet many advertisers still do not know the true incremental value of their paid search. With over $300 billion being spent a year on digital advertising, you have to wonder what proportion of this annual spend is unnecessary. Seamless Search answers that question for advertisers by enabling actionable keyword insights, true search bid management and straightforward UI. 

4: What challenges did you face whilst building Seamless Search? And how did your team respond?

We faced two kinds of challenges whilst building Seamless Search; Personal Challenges and Technical Challenges.

Seamless Search was being built right in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, which naturally caused an increase in pressure for the team. Office restrictions and an increase in working from home meant that the majority of the team were in different places, and some in different time zones. We had to continue the project momentum in an almost totally virtual environment. 

In terms of technical challenges, it was all about scaling the technology to accommodate a larger volume of clients. Once we overcame the challenges surrounding data handling and technology, we then had to think about the user experience and platform interface. Building something that’s client facing will always pose a challenge, as it has to be 100% polished and easy to use with a top notch interface and “seamless” user experience. 

5: Going into 2021 how will advertisers benefit from Seamless Search?

There’s no doubt that the impact of Covid-19 has triggered an undeniable surge in digital, which will only increase as we enter 2021. Everyone is trying to sell online, and any boost that will give you an edge over your competitors is invaluable. Seamless Search can give you that edge.

Our technology will give advertisers and businesses alike peace of mind that they’re not wasting their ad spend, whilst helping them achieve up to 25% incremental revenue uplift. Gone are the days of worrying whether you should pay to appear for keywords that you already hold a high organic position for. Seamless Search can show you exactly how your paid cannibalises your organic search and vice versa. Going into 2021 advertisers who use Seamless Search will finally understand the value in paying for brand and brand generic terms.

This blog was originally published on Seamless Search.

5 Top Tips for Universal App Campaigns

Read Time: 3 Minutes

When one is looking to acquire new mobile users the first place they should be looking is Google’s UAC (Universal App Campaigns) as a great means by which to drive downloads and in-app actions for your brand. UAC – leverage Google’s landscape and place your ads across numerous networks, including the Play Store, Display and YouTube all within one campaign.

Unlike what you may be used to with traditional Google Ads campaigns, let UAC do the heavy lifting for you by leveraging machine learning to reach conversion goals, whilst testing copy and creative combinations to find the best performing solution.

So what should advertisers consider before diving into UAC? Brands should be considering the following five points to optimise UAC and drive performance:

  1. Tracking
  2. Event Selection
  3. Budgets
  4. Creatives
  5. Audience Strategy

Tracking your performance 

As with any paid activity, it is vital to track your campaigns, especially if you’re running UAC alongside different platforms, so you can accurately assign credit to the relevant sources. You can choose from Firebase, Google play (Android installs) or use a third-party app analytics provider, but it’s fundamental that you have a source of truth to track and measure your campaigns so you can make the right decisions based on the right information. 

Choose your event selection wisely

Based on machine learning, App campaigns need a minimum of 50 conversion in order to optimise, so make sure you balance your KPI’s and choose an event that will provide enough data for the campaign to work effectively. We  recommend starting with installs and then expanding into in-app actions (such as purchases). If you are revenue based, ROAS campaign goals can then follow on from this. 

Budgets 

If  you haven’t run App campaigns before and are unsure of where to start with budgets, Google recommends a budget of at least 50x your tCPI or 30x your tCPA goal. When managing budgets and bidding, note that Universal App Campaigns run using machine learning and extreme changes can affect campaign performance. Campaigns have a 7 day learning phase as they gather enough data to optimise, making smaller more consistent changes allows you that control without restarting or resetting the learning phase. 

Creative is Key 

With there being less levers on App campaigns to work from, the main capability we have is creative refinement. It is crucial  to have a wide set of ad assets (ranging from text to video) in order to allow your campaign to succeed. Google recommends 4 text ideas, 3 videos and 2 of your top 10 images. Google has said that adding video to your ad groups assets can drive an extra 13% uplift in conversions. If you don’t have video assets available, there are plenty of tools we can use to transform your static imagery into compelling video. Take time to think about your creative strategy when starting up with UAC. Good practice includes ensuring your key headlines, Call to Action and brand are communicated first. Google Play allows you to localise videos so consider using this and localising language and device based content if it differs between markets. Also take into consideration videos are often not watched with the sound on so make sure it’s just as effective when it’s silent. 

Enhance your strategy with Audience work 

Think you’ve got the above sorted? There’s plenty more you can do in terms of audiences, and Google has a set of Beta’s which can get you on the right track to effective re-engagement. 

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Want to learn more about Apps? Have a read of the first blog in our App Series with Google’s Pietro Bagnasco who discusses everything from strategy and budget investments, to re-engagement and Q4 Predictions.

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.

Incubeta UK: A Holiday Season like None Other.

Read Time: 6 Minutes 40 Seconds

As England enters the third week of our second national lockdown, many have been left wondering how the retail industry will fluctuate this festive season in comparison to previous years. With the UK spending over 98 Billion GBP in 2019, a 1.8% increase from the previous year, questions are being raised on the transformative effects coronavirus is having on shopping habits. 

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the pandemic has altered the seasonal dynamics of the festive period. Economical uncertainty and personal finances has led many consumers to do their holiday shopping early, and as behavioural patterns change, so do industry trends and marketing campaigns.

Initial Impact:

Using the Google Store visits trend from a sample of our clients we saw a mini uplift in store visits from the day of the announcement (31st Oct) up until 2 days before the lockdown came into effect, meaning shoppers flocked to the high-street in a last minute attempt to make their festive purchases before the retail restrictions were re-introduced. Store visits then dropped by >50% when the lockdown started on the 5th November.

With the number of store visits dropping by >50%, we once again saw a substantial uplift in online traffic as consumers ditched the high street and switched back to digital shopping. Comparing data from the first 10 days of lockdown (5th-15th Nov vs the prior 10 days) online revenue is up 60% in England (compared to 29% in Scotland and 12% in Wales), with conversion rates up by 24%.

This shift in conversion rates started around the 1st November, just after the second lockdown was announced:

What we can learn from the last lockdown

As a result of coronavirus, and the subsequent global lockdown, there are two different types of trends that have emerged over the course of the year; Shock and Sustainable. Shock trends refer to the sudden rapid consumption of certain products such as toilet roll, canned goods and dried pasta – which went as fast as they came. And Sustainable trends refer to the trends that have fluctuated, but stayed constant throughout the year, such as the ones we identified earlier; online yoga, alcohol delivery and online games.

Although speculative, the consumer behaviour that arose from the last lockdown is a good indication, or predictor of what we can expect this time around. Similar to what we saw in March, we’ve seen a huge rise in digital ecommerce with a 60% uplift in online revenue since the start of the second lockdown, and a 24% increase in conversion rates. However, due to the timing of this lockdown, we have seen some characteristic differences between product preferences and consumer habits, with Christmas decorations and gift hampers replacing the demand for bread-making kits and gardening equipment that we saw in March. 

What does this mean for the Q4 holiday season

With the Q4 peak of the Black Friday – Cyber Monday weekend (27th-30th November), set to take place completely during Lockdown 2.0, online retailers who can accommodate the increased demand on their supply chain, stock levels, delivery and customer service teams, are set to see record breaking online growth this holiday season

We have already seen a significant uplift in year on year growth since the start of the November lockdown, with online revenue growth across our retail clients accelerating by a further 94% on average during the first 10 days of lockdown (239% uplift YoY) compared to the already significant year on year average growth of 146% seen in the 10 days prior to lockdown.

Many advertisers have responded by launching Black Friday offers even earlier this year, in a bid to avoid a large spike in orders over the Black Friday/Cyber Weekend period, thereby reducing the pressure placed on distribution centres and maintaining appropriate social distancing regulations. However the YoY CPC growth we’ve seen so far, has not exceeded what we saw pre lockdown.

Research has shown that 46% of UK Adults are planning to take part in Black Friday sales this year, with nearly a quarter of shoppers willing to wait in a virtual queue for more than an hour in order to grab a bargain. With many people working from home during the lockdown, 17% will be prepared to wait in online queues whilst working, which will likely shift a higher proportion of sales to earlier in the day than seen in previous years. The research also highlights that, despite a significant 40% of shoppers being disappointed with an online purchase, only 14% would go to the trouble of returning a purchase – a trend which will likely increase as many shoppers who traditionally do their Christmas shopping in store are forced online due to current retail restrictions.

So what can we expect to see in terms of performance for the remainder of the Holiday season? Based on current trends and the timings of this year’s Black Friday weekend, our expectation is that the revenue trend for the remainder of Q4 will look something similar to the chart below, with two potential scenarios from the 2nd December – which will be very much dependant on whether or not the England lockdown is extended, and whether retail restrictions on the high street will remain:

Product & Category Trends

So what re-emerging trends have we seen so far in the second lockdown? Coronavirus has undoubtedly caused drastic shifts in consumer behaviour throughout the period of lockdown, and this is no different the second time around. Search volumes for “Alcohol delivery”, “Yoga Online” and “Online Games” continue to trend well above the pre-corona levels. And with the launch of new home entertainment systems (such as PS5/Xbox) this month, we will undoubtedly see the gaming category rise as we get closer to Christmas.

We can also expect to see a secondary uplift in ‘Click and Collect’, ‘Home Delivery’ and ‘Take-Away’ trends throughout this lockdown due to physical retail restrictions. Businesses should plan their logistics and advertise their home delivery cut-off dates early to avoid client dissatisfaction and disappointment.

With the current UK retail restrictions, and nonessential stores only opening for click & collect, the focus is back to ecommerce, as the only place for consumers to browse is online. As a result “Christmas gift” and “Christmas decorations” shopping started earlier this year than in 2019. 

We also saw trends emerging in the popularity of Gift Hampers and Baskets. As lockdown measures tighten, interest for hampers and baskets is rising – compared to previous years where they only gained popularity closer to Christmas. This trend is expected to increase as we move towards the festive period.  

Hot or not?

As the weather gets colder, search trends increase drastically, with products such as loungewear, pyjamas, socks and slippers all seeing an increase in popularity YoY. This is no different to what we’re seeing now, however the lockdown period has triggered an uplift in these search terms significantly earlier than in previous years.

It will come as a surprise to no one that last year’s uplift in search volume for “Party Dresses” is unlikely to be repeated this year. Consumer interest in both “Heel Shoes” and “Men’s Suits” plummeted in March, and has not recovered since.

Certain verticals, such as Home & Garden and Gifts & Special Event items saw a significant and continual uplift in searches since the March lockdown. Following the second national lockdown announcement on 5th of November 2020, it is interesting to see which search volumes are trending up again.  We found there to be particular uplifts in; Computers & Electronics, Beauty & Fitness and Hobbies & Leisure.

Verticals that saw a big hit following the March lockdown were: Travel, Sports and Jobs & Education. Interest in real estate and vehicles saw a temporary drop, followed by a gradual increase, putting them back to (almost) pre-corona levels last week. The second lockdown has had the biggest impact on Travel and Sports, with travel suffering most from the second hit as they were still struggling to recover from the first.

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google’s New Search Criteria

Read Time: 3 Minutes 25 Seconds

Last week Google announced that, as of May 2021, Page Experience Signals would be included within the Google Search ranking process. Since their initial announcement in May, Google has identified a 70% median increase in the number of users engaging with Lighthouse and Page Speed Insights, with many site owners using Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report to identify areas of improvement. Changing their algorithms to include user experience within search ranking will allow Google to streamline the user journey, whilst pushing advertisers to improve their page experience, for fear of being knocked down the SERP. 

So how should one prepare for this? Despite Google introducing the idea of page experience signals within search ranking close to seven months ago, the new feature is relatively unexplored, and as so often happens whenever Google launches a new update, it has been met with a flurry of queries. We asked our Director of Search Experience, Joe Comotto what this update will mean for the search industry, and how businesses can prepare their strategy in advance of the launch in May 2021.

1: What is Page Experience

“Page Experience” is a Google Algorithm update that will be introduced to Google’s search ranking process. The update will focus specifically on how a user will perceive the experience of a specific web page, combining the Google Core Web Vitals with the pre-existing search signals which includes mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

After introducing the idea of page experience signals within search ranking back in May 2020, Google have now formally announced that the update will be included in Google Search ranking from 2021 onwards, specifying that the inclusion of page experience signals will:

“measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page and contribute to our ongoing work to ensure people get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web.

2: Why is this important?

If your site performs poorly or doesn’t comply with these requirements, then you can almost certainly expect to see some sort of downturn in Organic Google performance.

Sites that not only answer the searcher’s query, but provide a good user experience will now be ranked by Google at the top of the SERPS. You might have really great content but if you’re providing users with a lousy site experience and they can’t easily access the information, then Google isn’t doing its job. This has become even more of a requirement as user adoption of mobile has increased, emphasising the issue even more.

3: How do you prepare for this?

If you haven’t already started planning then there is still plenty of time left, and understanding how you currently perform is a good place to start. The best way to ensure that your website is meeting Google’s standards for site quality is to measure your performance using Core Web Vitals. 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Knowing where the issues exist on your site is the next step and this is best achieved through a site-wide audit of your pages. Identifying some of the quick wins that you can implement between now and May will put you in good stead for when the update is rolled out. However, don’t ignore the bigger projects because of their complexity. They may take up more time and resources, but the more complex the task the bigger the performance uplift and getting key stakeholders to buy in will be key to your success.

And don’t forget, whilst these changes are being driven by an SEO requirement, the benefits are far reaching and will impact the performance of other channels within your marketing strategy such as PPC.

For more information on what page experience signals will mean for your business, join us on the 10th December at 12:30pm for Incubeta Ignite: The Next Steps in Search, with Incubeta’s Joe Comotto, and Binary Bear’s Joe Doveton. Sign up link here.

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.

Last Top-Tips for Black Friday

Read Time: 3 Minutes 50 Seconds

With Black Friday and Cyber Weekend looming right around the corner, we asked the team for some last minute top tips to help see you through the four day extravaganza. Covering everything from audience optimisation and tailored ad content, to interactive creatives and lead generation ads, here are their thoughts.

Stand Out Creative Design

“Over the Black Friday period users are saturated by content, so ensuring your creatives stand out is vital. Including interactive formats and creatives that drive user urgency such as, countdown timers in your creative strategy is a great way to ensure you don’t become lost in a sea of content.” – Beth Vaughan, Creative Development Executive

 

Amazon Ads Strategy

 

“When it comes to Amazon, make sure you’re utilising all of Amazon’s advertising features and start showcasing your brand well before Black Friday (keeping the momentum going all the way  through – until the end of the year). Black Friday sees a 129% increase in traffic, and a 250% increase in sales compared to the October average so I recommend using a three step approach over the course of the weekend, focusing your product strategy on:

  • High potential products before Black Friday
  • Product deals during Black Friday
  • Top performing products after Black Friday

With 30% of users on Amazon planning to make Christmas gift purchases in November, advertisers need to understand their customers and tailor their seasonal keywords accordingly, as well as increasing bids & budgets to allow for the spike in demand.” – Peter Munton, Senior Performance Manager

 

Display

“Make sure you remain flexible over Black Friday and Cyber Weekend as it’s hard to predict how consumers and competitors will behave during this time. Running ads focused on lead generation in the lead up to Black Friday will allow you to generate excitement and guarantee you an audience ready to retarget over the weekend, and on Cyber Monday. 

You should also consider your target audience, tailoring your content to target deal-savvy users, who purchased last Black Friday, and advertising on deal websites where users will likely be browsing options before purchase. 

Lastly, as time spent on YouTube has rocketed during lockdown, ensure you also take the time to consider your YouTube strategy, as well as a brand measurement piece, to get a better idea of the impact this activity has on users.” – Alice Malthouse. Account Director

 

PPC Optimisation

“My top tip would be to build out specific Black Friday campaigns with extended keyword coverage on both exact and broad modifier match types, rather than integrating these within your existing search campaigns. Not only will this enable efficient budget management, but you’ll also find it easier to monitor your bids – as these will likely have higher CPCs due to the rising competition associated with the holiday season. 

Advertisers should also remember to preserve enough budget to spend on both the day of, and Cyber Weekend,  remembering to double check campaign budget caps to avoid capping out. A good idea would be to check how much each Black Friday campaign spent last year and get an additional 20% on top of that for this year, giving a rough idea of what to spend each day. 

Additionally,  make sure you’re fully taking full advantage of the variety of audiences you can create; from last year’s Black Friday purchasers, to users who have visited your deals page but have not completed a purchase. Targeting cart abandoners is always a good audience to focus on, as they tend to have a higher intent to convert than ‘just browsing’ customers.” – Emma Pilaviou, Account Executive

 

Social Urgency

“In a society where everything is at the touch of one’s fingertips, now is the perfect time for advertisers to get their brand in front of their audience, creating a sense of urgency and demand for their product. My top tip for Black Friday would be for brands to use the time sensitive nature of Black Friday deals to play the ‘for a limited time only’ card, boosting the consumers’ sense of urgency, and incentive to buy. 

Brands should be optimising the Facebook platform, to generate this sense of urgency – creating clear and straightforward ad content that targets intended audiences. Although Facebook has declined over the years on the hierarchy of Social Media Platforms, it still remains the best platform for targeting specific user demographics. Brands should also be using Instagram and the stories feature to interact with users, identifying which ads are resonating with their audience and which are not.” – Louis Basileo, Partnership Sales Associate

There’s not long left until the big day, but with these top tips you’ll be able to pick up some quick wins across the Black Friday weekend. If you want to get some external insights into how your campaigns are performing, get in touch with the team today.

NMPi by Incubeta Wins at the DADI Awards

Read Time: 1 Minute

We are thrilled to announce our fifth award win this year , at the 2020 Drum Awards Digital Industries (DADIs) for our work with M&S International.

With advertisers having more data than ever, more channels available and more tools at their disposal, The DADIs recognise the very best that the industry has to offer. And with that being said, we are honoured to have won the Best Use of Data award for our campaign with M&S International.

The campaign focused on audience optimisation across M&S’s 34 target markets. The client needed guidance on how best to break down their budget allocations in a more nuanced way to increase revenue and reach their goals. With countless variables and hundreds of thousands of data points in play to make these decisions, NMPi by Incubeta developed a custom, cloud-based platform to process the data points, giving each market their own unique score (based on their complexity and potential). This allowed M&S to gain insights on how to split their budget to drive performance and international revenue.

See full campaign results here.

As always, a huge thank you and congratulations goes out to the teams and our client who worked tirelessly on these campaigns.

What a Democratic Win means for the US Marketing Industry

Read Time: 4 Minutes 30 Seconds

After nearly two weeks  of vote-counting Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is likely to be elected the 46th president of the United States, denying Donald Trump a second term in presidency, and making history with Senator Kamala Harris of California – who, amongst other firsts, will become the first woman to serve as vice president.

The 2020 presidential election recorded the highest voter turnout in over 120 years, as previously firm republican states edged blue in a bid to remove the current incumbent populist president from power. Barring recounts and valid legal challenges the results are now in, the outcome has given marketers a further ‘philosophical quandary’ to consider as the U.S. faces one of the deepest societal divides in their history.

Marketing to a polarised customer base will be the least of their worries, and while it may seem trivial to analyse how the election might affect marketers, Biden’s victory will likely mark the start of a dramatic shift in America’s recent attitude toward the world, which will undoubtedly have a widespread impact on both the the media industry, and advertising as we currently know it.

Coronavirus:

The initial priority for the Biden administration will be the eradication of the coronavirus pandemic and kick starting the economy back into action. A process which will fundamentally cause drastic shifts in consumer behavior. As Biden tries to control the virus, we’ll likely see an increase in country wide initiatives combined with state-specific lockdowns, including varying degrees of restrictions being introduced across the US. Although many advertisers may view this as an opportunity to showcase their digital literacy, even large-scale corporations aren’t immune to the pandemic pressures, and accompanying Biden’s plans to squash the virus, will be an increase in conscientious marketing across the industry.

How advertisers reach potential audiences during such uncertain times is a challenge in itself as lockdown restrictions will only heighten consumers’ awareness of brand messaging. The challenge many will face will be establishing a genuine set of brand values that are reflected at the heart of the company. Jumping on the coronavirus bandwagon with shallow or insincere messaging that disregards consumer emotions would only damage one’s image beyond repair. Going forward we will likely see changes in ad content and messaging, as brands tap into heightened levels of social consciousness, choosing to speak authenticity in their campaigns.

Data Privacy Regulation & Audience

Ad targeting has been a hot topic of conversation for both the Republicans and Democrats over the last year, as targeting and tracking practices have become front page news and the feature of many a legal battle. With research showing that, on average, US advertisers spend 20% of their marketing budgets on user identification and ad targeting, the new government will certainly try to regulate and control this area of digital advertising. 

As it stands the US has yet to pursue a federal privacy law akin to Europe’s GDPR (California have taken the lead here with the CCPA), but as technology continues to change and develop at a rapid pace and consumers vocalise their demand for increased data security/stricter privacy laws, the government will likely address user protection issues in congress and tighten the grip on data protection practices. That may however be easier said than done. Historically speaking, the Republicans and Democrats do not align when it comes to data privacy; the Democrats are advocating for a rigorous government controlled structure, while the Republicans favor a more muted approach to federal regulations. This means – taking into account that the Democrats are unlikely to receive a Senate majority – that any bill on privacy regulation and data protection will be challenging to pass. That being said, although differing opinions of each party, and a split Congress, may slow the passage of a privacy bill, the demand for a federal privacy law is ‘inexorable’ and the US should expect to see regulatory changes in the next coming months. So what will this mean for advertisers?

Personalised advertising is the golden ticket of digital marketing, and over the past decade alone marketers have funnelled millions of dollars into data activation solutions and audience identification. While the measurement of targeting may have improved fourfold, the introduction of privacy laws will seriously limit advertisers’ new found ability to personalise ad messaging. As regulations are rolled out, platforms and regulators will be forced to improve their data privacy and protection practices, which inturn inhibits advertiser’s access to third-party data and addressable advertising. Moving into 2021, marketers should be preparing themselves for the inevitable introduction of stringent regulations in a tactful and strategic manner.

Antitrust:

While there may be a rising consensus for the tightening of antitrust laws, with a split Congress we are unlikely to witness any drastic changes to the current legislative monopoly definition or existing antitrust laws. Although a full Democratic Congress would have seen a more aggressive policy regarding Big Tech companies (who’ve previously avoided sweeping antitrust regulation), we’re more likely to see a gradual approach with minimal changes to the existing laws, and an increase in tool availability for the Department of Justice. 

That being said, VP Elect Harris’s relationship with Silicon Valley will undoubtedly play a part when the Democrats bring certain issues concerning Big Tech companies to congress, and we can expect to see a real change in the accountability of these companies, as she uses her prior relationship with them to level the playing field for small independent businesses. Going forward, forcing Big Tech companies to compete on an even level will result in lower ad costs, greater transparency, and more innovation for advertisers.

Are you Overlooking the Value of Apps?

Read Time: 5 Minutes 30 Seconds

As we draw closer to Christmas, and the inevitable influx of consumer spending that accompanies it, we caught up with Google’s Head of Mobile Apps Partnerships, Pietro Bagnasco to find out why Apps should be at the forefront of one’s marketing strategy.

Why should brands consider app campaigns for Q4?

People will probably be tired of reading and hearing this, but we are definitely living in exceptional times. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that people’s desire to stay healthy, connected, productive and informed has only increased. And that smartphones and Apps are now, more than ever before, the closest and most-used access point for users to all of that. 

In fact, worldwide, the average weekly time spent in Apps grew 20% year over year in Q1 2020, suggesting that Apps are making a difference in how people navigate through this unprecedented time.

Our Director, Lowell Doppelt, recently spoke about this, during the peak of what’s now been referred to as “the first wave” and discussed how Apps can deliver helpfulness. 

What’s your philosophy on how brands should approach their Apps?

In my experience, brands should always start by asking themselves why they built the app in the first place, and how they can use it to deliver value to their customers. 

For the many brands who might have an App but aren’t necessarily leveraging it, investing in it or using it as a customer touch point, should circle back, and revaluate their strategy. Apps are proving to be invaluable, and compared to all other channels, have a higher retention rate, a higher average order value (whether retail or food delivery) and better brand loyalty over the long term.

As mentioned earlier, now more than ever, consumers are turning to Apps to satisfy their needs. Think of the increased adoption of food and grocery delivery Apps as an example, which played a key role during the lockdown globally. Additionally the boom in video conferencing and fitness Apps in 2020, which helped everyone stay fit, healthy and connected with their families. 

The time users are spending in front of a smartphone is surpassing 2019’s figures. Customers’ attention is on Apps, and those advertisers who are not there now, risk losing their market position in the coming 2-3 years. 

How do you recommend brands get started?

When we talk about investing budgets into user acquisition for your App, there are three things to consider: 

  1. Having a clear goal and strategy for your app
  2. Having the right measurement in place
  3. Having a solid creatives strategy and capacity

1: Always start with defying the goal and the strategy for your App user acquisition. 

Why? Because this will allow you to then translate this into actions and specific implementations on our Google Ads platform, leveraging the right product at the right time. Are you looking for new users? Google App Campaigns for Installs will help you find new users at the cheapest possible cost per install (CPI). Are you looking for users to complete specific actions, for example a purchase or a signup? Google App Campaigns for Actions will let you set a specific Cost Per Action (CPA) that your brand is willing to pay for a new user to download your App and complete said action –  leveraging over 300 million signals thanks to our machine learning. Are you looking to re-engage with existing users, who might have lapsed or stopped using your App? Google App Campaigns for Re-engagement will allow you to define the audience you want to reach out to (for example people who have the App installed on their phones but have not opened it over the last 30 days, or people who have added an item to cart but not purchased) and bring them back to the App.

2: Measurement is instrumental to this all. 

Having the right measurement means being able to provide our machine with the right signals that will lead to a performing optimization. But right measurement also means, on your side, the ability to look into the data and accurately measure the performance of your investment.  Google Analytics for Firebase is our analytics solution that will open you the doors to a detailed measurement, as well as a performing optimization of Google App Campaigns. For those of you more familiar with the Web side of things, this is our Google Analytics product, built specifically for Apps.

3: Finally, good creatives are imperative to the success of a campaign. 

Capture the user’s attention, convey your unique selling proposition, entertain, intrigue….leverage AdGroups to group your message and cater it to different audiences (for example if you are a Food Delivery business you could group your creatives by food type) to increase your chances of success. It’s important that you have the right bandwidth to produce creatives, test them and iterate on what works. My recommendation would be to assess whether your design team has the capacity to sustain a continuous effort, and if not, identify a strong partner in the market.

Do you have any predictions for what we will see in Q4?

I believe Q4 will provide an even further acceleration to the above mentioned trends.

Given the world’s current situation, Apps provide a unique way for users to keep socializing and entertaining, whilst also shopping and consuming content and services in a safe, protected and convenient way during the holiday season. A staggering stat, reported by TechCrunch indicates that “consumers will spend more than 1 billion hours on Android devices alone during the fourth quarter, a 50% increase from the same time last year”. As user trends accelerate towards Apps, they become even more ingrained into user habits, substantially redefining the user journey across a continuously increasing number of businesses beyond the usual suspects. 

What advice would you give to brands starting app campaigns now?

Get started, measure & iterate. Because our product leverages the power of machine learning to help bring you the best results, keep in mind it’s a learning journey. Therefore, get started: test, measure the right KPIs and scale what works. There is no magic behind what our algorithms do, it’s all based on data and iterations. 

Define your strategy and plan, launch it, give it time to optimize, then measure results and start iterating on creatives, bidding strategies and bidding amounts. Most importantly, if you are just getting started and do not have the full skillset in house or the bandwidth to follow and successfully deliver on your App strategy, I would encourage you to look out for the right partner that can help you capitalize on this opportunity.  

AppOn!

This blog was originally published on Incubeta.

The Importance of SEO – NMPi by Incubeta partners with Alibris

Read Time: 3 Minutes 40 Seconds

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often overlooked by advertisers for the ‘quick wins’ that paid media can offer. Whilst a PPC campaign does have its advantages, it’ll only get you so far, and disregarding the benefits reaped by SEO could come at a major detriment to advertisers. With approximately 75% of searchers ignoring paid advertisements on the SERP (choosing to focus solely on the organic results), identifying how Google crawls your site, and optimising your website to compliment Google’s algorithms has never been so important. 

Here is an example of the impact that SEO can have on your site, and how NMPi by Incubeta helped online book merchant Alibris obtain actionable recommendations to help improve their website’s performance. 

Server Log Reporting for Alibris.

Alibris is an online store that sells new books, used books, out-of-print books, rare books, and other media through an online network of independent booksellers. Due to the nature of Alibris’ separate mobile and desktop configuration, it was not possible to emulate how Google crawls their website.  Having access to this data is fundamental to the SEO process as it would allow us to identify any indexing issues Alibris was having, and implement solutions to fix them which would boost their product ranking on the SERP.  Even Google’s own analytical platforms such as Google Search Console couldn’t provide Alibris with a clear, single source of truth when analysing their website’s crawlability. NMPi by Incubeta was tasked with determining how often the website (both mobile and desktop) was being accessed by various web crawlers and agents (including Google’s own web crawlers). 

Without the availability of this data through Alibris’s analytics platforms,  NMPi by Incubeta had to access the logs kept by their cloud security company, CloudFlare. These logs generate over 100 million rows of data every single week, and the report we created needed to be updated in near real-time, which involved storing and processing large quantities of data. We used Google’s BigQuery database to hold the gigabytes of data for processing and Google’s DataStudio service to handle the reporting. We then partnered with Incubeta’s technology team to partner up to produce a server log report.

The problem we faced was that CloudFlare purged its data fairly regularly. We had a good source of fresh data within the logs, but no historical data. This meant that the report was unable to show any historical trends. To combat this we worked with the client to gain access to their web server logs. The data stored in these logs weren’t purged often, so we were able to find enough information here to satisfy our historical data requirements. However, the web server logs didn’t store data in a “clean” manner, so when we tried to import a sample directly to BigQuery, the import job failed. We had to spend time writing rules that identified what the errors were, so that we could fix them in the huge raw files. Once the logs were imported, we then had to familiarise ourselves with the CloudFlare API, and write a script that checked CloudFlare every 5 minutes and imported the latest log events.

Returning to the server logs, we then wrote code that converted the server log format into the CloudFlare format. We also now downloaded all of the server logs (going back to July 2019), cleaned them, and converted them to match CloudFlare’s data. Alibris now had a real time database of server events, with historical data going back to July 2019. With the data in place, we connected it to DataStudio and worked with the SEO team to create a final report.

Knowing that high volumes of raw log data would be difficult to interpret, we processed the data so that it could be presented in a digestible manner through dynamic charts and tables. This allowed us to better analyse the data which would inform our SEO strategy and way forward. 

The server log report gave us access to unbiased, real world data, to compare against site crawls, Google Search Console and data from other 3rd party tools – allowing us to identify a high number of crawlability roadblocks and errors originating from Googlebot requests such as:

  • Server-side redirect chains and loops (72% of Googlebot requests, June 2020)
  • Broken resources & inaccessible pages (1 % of Googlebot requests, June 2020)
  • Working pages (only 27% of Googlebot requests made in June resolved with a 200 status)

Through our combined efforts, we were able to provide Alibris with a clear, actionable strategy to tackle their website’s crawl inefficacies and boost indexation numbers which in turn improved their website’s performance across all channels.

To view the full case study please click here.

PI Live: Using Channel Optimisation to Enhance Marketing Strategy

Read Time: 4 Minutes 30 Seconds

At this year’s virtual PI Live Global our Head of Product Development Fred Maude was joined by Lily’s Kitchen eCommerce Director Michelle Corp, and Channel 4’s Digital Programmatic Lead Alex Wright, to discuss cross-channel data and how to enhance your marketing strategy.

Within the session, Fred, Michelle and Alex highlighted the importance of a cross-channel mix, focusing on evaluation, analytics and partnerships. As we move into a somewhat uncharted holiday season, this presentation provides the perfect overview of why channel optimisation should be at the heart of your business strategy going forward.

Evaluation

Primarily speaking, advertisers should start by evaluating the current and existing channels that they operate – identifying opportunities and gaps, whilst asking themselves questions such as ‘What is our brand deploying’ and ‘How are we reaching our audience’. As Fred pointed out, one of the biggest issues surrounding channel marketing is the overall lack of evaluation. Advertisers don’t necessarily realise what areas or channels that they are missing, and end up sticking with what they already know, thereby missing out on a substantial volume of potential. Fred then discussed how the issues we often see are surrounding the methods brands use to measure channel performance. Frequently we see advertisers operating on the last click model which  naturally doesn’t work with every channel. A solution to this issue would be to drive advertisers towards data-driven attribution which fairly credits each area relevant to their performance.

The conversation then moved to channel optimisation, led by Michelle, who discussed how channels should be thought of both independently and holistically. Advertisers need to be evaluating what channels they can use and how they can be used together, whilst aligning with brand objectives and remaining within budget. Brands should also be including a full funnel mix within their strategy, creating good content to attract specific audiences in specific sections of the funnel. All channels resonate well with different sections of the funnel, so providing advertisers are well informed on what’s happening across the board with their channels, they should be able to guarantee full funnel coverage within their strategy.

Whilst Michelle emphasised the importance of evaluation and identifying opportunities, as a brand, she also stressed the importance of brand privacy and protection policies. Going into 2021, advertisers need to be completely transparent with their methods, aligning with, and being open to their users and customers. Everybody has a very different view on data protection and it’s completely dependent on specific company needs. However, when brands look at their funnel and the people they want to work with, they need to be challenging what their audience is telling them, making sure that cookies are inline with data retention and ensuring compliance accuracy.

Analytics

The topic of ‘trusting in analytics’ and the importance of data collection was brought up. Whilst recent events in the world have led to drastic changes in both consumer behaviour and demand – with unforeseen spikes in retail, shopping habits and platforms – the data analytics game has remained fairly consistent. Although change itself will always happen (and rapidly in a digital space), Fred discussed how by ensuring one’s data strategy is set up correctly, advertisers can guarantee that their analytics will work seamlessly, independent of how quick the changes around them are. The first way advertisers can do this, is through identifying their position on the data maturity framework, and subsequently earning the right to break out their data. 

Fred then went on to explore the four stages, or points, in which advertisers should view their data: initially through the analysis of data accuracy and consistency (across all channels), followed by first-party data (margin data, LVA analysis etc), third-party data (competitor comparison, business data etc.) and finally ensuring that you’re overlaying this with your customer data. Things are changing, and will continue to change at a rapid pace, advertisers need to respond to this by fully integrating themselves across all parts of their business, ultimately trusting their analytics to build the best possible picture of their business. If advertisers collect, build and automate, then they’re guaranteed an edge over their competitors.

The conversation then swung to that of GDPR compliance, and the concerns surrounding the legislation and data collection. Fred discussed how, although back in the day we could be much more granular with our targeting, Google are now launching their own solutions (such as Ads DataHub)  to target this, and advertisers can still access fairly granular data.

The panel was closed with a focus on what advertisers can expect to see in the holiday season and the start of 2021. Fred took the lead on this topic, raising a secondary question discussing the implications that the lockdown sales spike might have on the volume of sales anticipated later on in the year – in particular on Black Friday and the lead up to Christmas. Have consumers already spent their disposable income for the year, or will we still see a huge amount of revenue generated from festive shopping? Whilst Fred’s closing statement declared that he doesn’t expect to see as much growth this year as we’ve seen in the last couple of years, only time will tell.