Last Minute Valentine Shopper

My Dear Valentine,

What have you done for your Last Minute Valentine Shopper? Valentine’s Day is around the corner and is seemingly crazier than ever. There will be long lines at the checkout for greeting cards, gifts, and fighting for the last dozen wilted roses. The need for unique gift ideas and finding another way to avoid the crazy lines will all happen online. The last minute shoppers will actively search for flowers, gifts, and Valentine Cards. We have gathered our weapons and moved forward to battle the ‘Valentine’s Rush’ and prepared our clients by integrating and displaying text ads into their campaigns. Further preparation for the combat can be done at Google’s Content Network (GCN) and Youtube. Do what you can and help last minute shoppers in the battle. Hope you have a great Valentine’s Day!

Yours,
LM

Google stops Print Ads product, traditional media cries a single tear

Google recently announced that in February they will be cutting corners and chopping off their Google Print Ads product. While this may not affect some advertisers and companies, it shines light on the fact that traditional advertisement may be heading to an early, although perhaps foreseen demise.

The search engine king better known as Google gives us an ominous sign that traditional print ads aren’t as effective as other new forms of advertising by shutting down their ambitious print product.

The idea of their product was to create better “calls to action” on newspaper ads by making customer response tags that point to various mediums of communication such as their website, a text messaging system or a toll-free number. These communication mediums were wired with Google Analytics in order to better track the effectiveness of these ads.

After a little over a year in business and a sluggish economy began to muzzle its way in, they decided to take the reins off of print ads because of the lack of impact it has created (Read more here). Google’s attempt at trying to apply what works for online search advertising to traditional, decades old advertising was a valiant attempt, but it shows a glimpse of what the ever-changing advertising landscape will look like.

Search engine marketing has the ability to be reviewed, scaled and modified in order to create the highest return on investment by using tools such as Google Analytics. Periodically your search engine marketing specialist can go into this tool and eliminate the poorly-performing ads and test new ones, thus maximizing ad revenue. With traditional newspaper ads, tracking ad dollars is nearly impossible. Ever ask anyone if they’ve used Google search? We’ll bet our left shoe they’ll say yes. Ever ask anyone if they open up a newspaper to only look at advertisements? We won’t bet our shoes on this one, but chances are more people have used Google. The point is not that we need new shoes, but rather a Google ad can far outreach a newspaper ad in terms of impressions on qualified traffic. And this rings true for all of the other search engines as well.

Because of said advantages of search engine marketing and our choking economy, there is currently a gradual shift into more trackable ad spending. The age of the one-stop-print advertisements is sadly dwindling away into the past, and we must embrace what’s new and working. Calling to mind that our economy is currently turning blue in the face, companies are trying to streamline their operations to get the most out of their money, which is exactly what Google did. We wish traditional advertisements good luck, and make way. – AL

Holiday Sales Disappoint Optimistic Retailers

Massive retail discounts failed to rescue this holiday season and delivered the most dismal 4th quarter in nearly 40 years. Consumers spent cautiously this year worried about the U.S recession, job losses, and a sinking stock market.

This is a disappointment for companies that had hoped the holidays would offset a year when sales have been sliding steadily, draining profits and, in many instances, undermining the ability to pay down debt. No retail sector was spared. Some sectors hit the hardest were:

Luxury Items -35%

Electronics and appliances -26.7%

Women’s apparel -22.7%

Furniture -20%

E-Commerce -2%

E-commerce showed the most persistence, however it was disappointing compared with last year which showed an increase of 22.4% during the same period.

The season’s dismal results have left stores with mountains of inventory to clear, prompting many to move up their typical January clearance sales earlier to help salvage what they can of the season. Retailers like JCPenny are having door buster clearances starting at 5:30a.m with 70% discounts while luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus are trying to offset the 84% fall in its fiscal 1st quarter with 40% on already reduced merchandise.

200,000 stores are predicted to close this year, which some experts predict will be the most in 35 years, is likely to come across areas from electronics to apparel, shrinking the industry, taking advantage of the long tail of fewer niche players and suppliers. Moreover, retailers soon may face yet another blow. In recent years, they have seen a big lift in post-Christmas sales as shoppers coming back to stores to redeem gift cards often spent more than the card amount to buy full-price merchandise. This year however, shoppers expected to spend only $151 on gift cards this season, a 24% drop from last year. – IR

More Shoppers Favor Online Shopping over the Store this Holiday Season and a few tips on what your business can do to reap the rewards

According to Retailer Daily, the web has become the favored place to shop this Holiday Season.  In the study 49% of respondents chose online shopping as their favorite place to shop this Holiday Season while only 44% chose In-Store as their favorite destination for completing their Holiday Gift Shopping.

The extensive study also asked shoppers to rank the importance of 36 features when buying gifts online this Holiday Season.  The top 10 ranked responses were:

  1. Free Shipping with Purchase
  2. Keyword Search (The shopper can search by keyword and not just by options given in the menu)
  3. Clearly displayed and easily sortable search results
  4. Sales and Specials
  5. Free Returns
  6. Accessible contact Information
  7. 800/Toll-free phone #
  8. Coupons and /or Rebates
  9. Advanced Search (search by color, price, size, et cetra)
  10. Perpetual Shopping Cart

While it may be a little late in the Holiday Season to update your websites search functions or shopping cart – you most certainly still have time to incorporate the six other features into your Holiday Marketing Plans and into your businesses Pay Per click account.

I often find myself shopping online, and consider myself spoiled by sites like Zappos.com where shipping (both ways) is always free.  I can also be guaranteed to make a minimum purchase, if I know I’m going to save money on shipping.  Imagine all the people who only purchase at sites with free shipping – make sure you don’t miss out on this bump in shoppers and that your business is offering Free Shipping this Holiday Season.

I’m also often roped in by sales and specials found on my favorite sites.  For example last month, I was shopping on Sephora.com and was immediately taken in by the New Limited Edition Fresh Sugar Social Set.  I made sure to purchase the item quickly before the Limited Edition set was snapped up and I was left out in the cold.  Imagine how many other shoppers have purchased this item because of the special Limited Edition status. Just because you decide to offer a special it doesn’t mean you have to cut your businesses margins. A special could just mean that you are offering something that is “Special” (due to limited availability or abscence of stock at any other retailer).  This tactic focuses on offering something to the shopper that gives them a fear of losing if they don’t act soon.  Obviously, no amount of fancy jargon will overcome a product that is priced too high – so make sure you are price shopping your competitors sites throughout the holiday season and making pricing adjustments as neccessary.

As far as returns, I have to circle back to my personal favorite shoe shopping site Zappos.com.  It’s very convenient and reassuring to shop online and know the company will honor returns and foot the bill for return shipping, no questions asked.  Smaller businesses may not be able to absorb the cost of free return shipping with each order, but this Holiday Shopping season could be a good time to give free returns a try in order to stay competitive this season.

This holiday season may be more challenging for online and offline retailers alike, but by using a few of the tips shared above hopefully it will be a profitable time for your business.  To discuss the tips above or to discuss your Online Holiday Marketing Plan please give your team at Leverage Marketing a call.  Happy Holidays!

Paid Search Spending Slows

Enter the words “Paid Search Spending Slows” into the search engine of your choice and you will see a deluge of articles – mainly about Google’s dim prospects for the future.   One of the articles I found “Note to Google: Paid search growth seen slowing” was from August of 2004.  As early as four years ago, analysts were predicting the maturation of the Search Market and Google’s growth.  What this means is that at one time new search entrants may have been growing by leaps and bounds but as more people have entered the market, the rate of growth has slowed.  News of this slowdown in search growth can also be seen as late as this month.  According to a recent study by Covario and released by Btobonline “Year-over-Year growth in paid search stood at 32% in the third quarter, compared with 83% year-over-year growth in the first quarter of 2007.”

It’s important to point out that paid search spending is slowing not declining.  This trend is very important to the growth of all of our customers pay per click accounts, because we need to keep in mind:
•    Consumers are still searching online and clicking on businesses paid search ads.
•    Marketers (some who may be your competition) are advertising and hope “ready, willing and able” buyers click on their paid search ads.
•    People like you and me are purchasing products and services online at a rapid pace.

We also have to look at the time frames compared when we hear of a slowdown of any sort.  In the study released by Covario – the time frame compared is the 1st quarter of 2007 to the 3rd quarter of 2008. Perhaps a more accurate time frame to account for the slowdown would have been from the 3rd quarter of 2007 to the 3rd quarter of 2008.  Obviously you would not want to compare the performance of your Pay Per Click Campaign in September 2008 to how it performed in February 2007.  In my opinion, that is just silly and you will most likely end up with a trend that has little value to the future of your account.

We all know the economy is changing, search marketing is maturing, but advertising online with pay per click marketing is probably going to give you better results than passing out business cards at your local grocery store or even running ads in the newspaper.  Keep in mind, Leverage Marketing can assist with your paid search marketing, but can also assist with your organic search needs through our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) department.

Google’s Chief Economist On the Recession

The verdict is still out on whether or not we are in a recession, but according to Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, “A recession will prompt consumers to use search even more frequently to find deals”.  He went on to say that “advertisers are willing to take all the clicks we can give them” at current prices. Not very surprising given the fact that Google’s bottom line did very well in the last quarter despite numerous less than favorable expectations for the company.

What this means for online advertisers – it’s still a bit early to tell. But, it’s obviously a good time to market your business online. One of two things will happen:

  1. You will pick up market share from your competitors leaving the market.
  2. Your business will keep its place in the market beside your competition and you won’t find yourself lagging behind once this ‘recession’ is over.

Businesses large and small are likely to feel the effects of this likely recession. As your marketing plan adjusts to the changing economic climate, be sure to keep your team updated at Leverage Marketing.

Marketing in a Down Economy

“Focus on the intersection between what you do best and what your customers want the most.  Relationships outlast transactions.”  This is a quote that I took away from watching a clip recently on Fox Business News – How to Market in a Down Economy.

A concise statement that many might pass off as commonsense, but raises the question: Does everyone involved in making sure your business is a success, including Leverage Marketing, know what makes your business the best and do they also relay that information to the customer?

For example, if your business is securing hotel rooms for leisure travelers – what makes your business the best?  Why should I as a leisure traveler choose your hotel booking services over another service?  You may say because my prices are the lowest and all hotel rooms are guaranteed.  Sold – this is what I want the most – the lowest price and obviously to not find upon arrival that I have been bumped because a guest decided not to check out of your hotel at the last minute.

Does your web page effectively speak to your customers needs while highlighting what it is that your business can do to meet their needs?

Going back to our example, does your landing page tell me that rooms are guaranteed or do I have to search in your websites’ Terms and Conditions to find this information?  What about if I actually do find a lower price, how easy do the instructions make it for me to contact you and make sure I receive the lowest price guarantee?

Finally, when a prospective customer contacts your business for assistance are they met with someone who is enthusiastic and will go the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction?  When customers contact your business are their inquiries responded to promptly and professionally?

In our example, I may want to contact your business before booking online to ensure that I can pay with Discover upon completion of my stay.  Will I be met with someone who is pleased to find out the answer and call me back or will I be met with someone exhibiting traits a tad less desirable and annoyed that I called?

Hopefully the questions above will help you remember to focus on “what you do best and what your customers want the most,” not only during the downturn in the economy but also when economic times get better.  Please remember that Pay Per Click Management services at Leverage Marketing include landing page optimization suggestions and we look forward to assisting you with ensuring that your business is focusing on “what you do best and what your customers want the most.”

Numbers Game: How soon should your business follow up with a web generated lead?

We have all heard that following up with web generated leads as soon as possible is a good idea. The question although still remains, what time frame should your business strive to make phone contact with potential buyers in order to maximize contact and qualification of web generated leads? A recent study by MIT and InsideSales.com, should help answer this question and also help increase your businesses sales.

  • 5 minutes. According to the study, “the odds of contacting a lead if called within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drops 100 times.”  Statistics for qualifying leads are equally as surprising – “the odds of qualifying a lead in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drops 21 times.” Since the qualification stage is where we find out the purchasing potential of the web generated lead we should pay close attention and strive to follow up with all leads within 5 minutes.
  • Too Many. What’s interesting about this study is that it only takes into account leads that were called upon at least one time.  Many studies exist that show between 30-80% of web generated leads are never followed up on.  If your business has any leads that fit this category, maybe it is time to add additional sales staff or other tools that can help your sales team quickly follow up on web generated leads.
  • 4 – 6 PM. The best times of the day to make contact is between 4 to 6 pm. 7-8 AM and 11-12 were some of the worst times to call during the day. The study seems to suggest that calling leads around breakfast and lunch time is not the prime time for contacting or qualifying leads.  The study still leads the reader to believe that regardless of the time called – calling within 5 minutes is the most ideal follow up time.
  • 49.7 Percent. The study also found that Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call in order to contact web-generated leads. Tuesday is the worst day to make contact with a lead, with Thursday being a 49.7% better day to call.  Now, we wouldn’t suggest that everyone takes off Tuesdays for the rest of the year, but maybe Tuesdays should be earmarked for learning sessions and quarterly off site meetings for your sales teams.

Pay Per Click (PPC), Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Landing Page Optimization (LPO) are different ways that your team here at Leverage Marketing can help increase the number of web generated leads that your business receives.  Do you know what percent of these leads your sales team follows up on or even how quickly your sales representatives are following up on web generated leads?   Feel free to give your team here at Leverage Marketing a call and we will perform a complimentary review of your businesses response time.

August’s Most Surprising News – MySpace Serves More Ads Than Yahoo!

Yes, you read that correctly… since their income-driven site redesign in June, MySpace has begun surpassing Yahoo in number of ads delivered. According to eBrandz.com Search Marketing & Technology News reporting on the comScore announcement:

“Yahoo Inc. lost its position in the U.S. marketplace for online display advertising to MySpace, which has served 56.8 billion ads 15.2% of the display ads on the Internet, while Yahoo recorded in at 53.1 billion display ads with a 14.2% share.”

While Yahoo earns more revenue, due to more expensive CPM, MySpace pages get loaded virtally non-stop, 24-7 by an highly wired generation who can’t go an hour without checking email… this is why there’s been a recent influx of major nationwide, even global advertisers, like Wendys, Sprint, Verizon, and Sony. Another interesting market quote:

“…even as the data indicates speedy growth of MySpace in terms of advertising viewer-ship, analysts say the social network site has struggled to draw top-dollar ad rates relative to Yahoo, known for attracting premium advertising rates.”

In plain English, this means MySpace is cheaper than Yahoo. Keep in mind, these are display ads – not text ads – so we’re not talking about any major pay per click upheaval. But we are talking about the fact that an “infant” of a web site, in terms of the relative age of Yahoo, is serving such a massive number of display ads and they continue to be relatively inexpensive as well.

However, all may not be well in fairly-tale MySpace land. As its core usership matures, many analysts expect these users to migrate to more useful and less offensive social portals, like Facebook, Twitter, possibly even to Yahoo’s My Yahoo webmail interface. MySpace is designed to throw as many ads as possible in front of its users in a spam-like way that some critics say it typical of the 90’s style “more hits = more money” mentality that just doesn’t work anymore. I tend to agree. In then end, the advertisers will determine whether or not this ad medium actually works or not. However, it seems fairly obvious that the Web 2.0 generation of social networking sites are indeed an advertising force waiting to be reckoned with.

How Much Are You Investing In Analytics? – acCenter Staff

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In the UK last week Brand Republic reported that UK spend on search engine marketing would reach £2.75bn this year.

However, just a tiny fraction of that cash – £330m – was spent on the art of SEO or search engine optimisation. The lion’s share of web site owner’s budget went on paid search solutions like Google AdWords or Microsoft adCenter.

SEO is an essential and vital route to improving usability and search engine visibility of web sites. So with what appears to be a disproportionate amount of time and money being allocated to this fine discipline, it made me wonder how much was being invested in web analytics.

When I say investment, I mean investment in people. Although many web analytics tools cost money to run, some are now free but you still need people to make sense of the data they provide. At Microsoft we have full time analysts pouring over dashboards of data, setting benchmarks and looking out for actionable insight. Some might say that having dedicated resource is a luxury a large company like Microsoft can afford – and they might be right!

But that doesn’t prevent company leaders from coaching their marketing manager or webmaster to spend an hour a day keeping an eye on what traffic trends might be exploited.

Investment doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of cash.

A few hundred dollars on a training course at a conference for someone in your company who’s interested in data could result in thousands of dollars made or saved. Paid search is an incredibly valuable lead generator and marketing channel, but in order to build a better web experience for users we need to better understand their behaviour and then act – that means investing a little more time and energy into web analytics and SEO.