Contextual Evolution

The world of online marketing has allowed advertisers to become targeted in their efforts to reach their audience. Contextual advertising has taken this a step further by allowing an advertiser  to reach thier audience while they are thinking about them.

Contextual advertising is a form of targeted advertising that appears on websites or other online media.  These advertisements are distributed based on their relevancy to the content displayed on the site. For example, an advertisement for ‘24hr Fitness” might appear on a Health and Fitness website.

Google has been doing some sort of Contextual advertising since 2006, when they first rolled out the Display Network. In its early life contextual advertising began with using only semantics and keywords as a means to place ads on relevant site. That is to say that in its early stages contextual advertising was a veritable cluster of formulas aimed at finding the best placement.

In layman’s terms let’s say you have a website for earphones and wish to advertise them. In order to do this you would create and ad group with keywords like “ear buds” and “head phones.” Those keywords would then be used to place your ads on a variety of different sites within a network that had content that fit the theme of those keywords.

While this method is still widely used today by Google and other contextual ad networks, the formulas used can and sometimes do yield a less than desirable result. For example, let’s say that ‘24hr fitness’ wants to begin a contextual advertising campaign, this campaign is built using keywords that are relevant to the health and fitness vertical. Most contextual networks would then display an ad for ‘24hr Fitness’ on any website with relevant content. However, this relevant content is an article on Lance Armstrong and his ubiquitous steroid scandal. I am willing to bet this is not the type of content ‘24hr’ had in mind when they decided on contextual advertising.

This example is a prime example of the new dilemma in contextual advertising. What should you do when the content is relevant but not helpful?

Many new players have introduced another layer of to this process by trying to understand the intent of the user before an ad is displayed. This is done by crawling each individual webpage and crawling it for one, two, and three word concepts.  These concepts are used to definitively match ad placements with the actual concepts that brought users to the page.

High Mobility

According to Nielson, by the end of the year the majority of US mobile phone owners will have a smart phone. Morgan Stanley estimates that sales of smartphones will exceed those of PCs in 2012. Forrester Research forecasts mobile marketing spend surpassing $1 billion in the US this year. Indeed, the ubiquity of mobile shows no sign of slowing, and it cannot be ignored by marketers. Mobile search has been a nebulous topic so far, with no clear, definitive method for success having emerged. However, everyone is doing it. In fact, the IAB found that only 5% of marketers have not yet included mobile advertising in their budgets. Do not mistake this with one of those “just because he’s mobile marketing doesn’t mean you have to! Would you follow him off a cliff?” Jump on the bandwagon people.

People used to not be able to put down books. Then they were unable to turn the volume on the radio down. Then their eyes were rapt by the television. Now, I don’t even think about interrupting my friend during a game of Fruit Ninja. All of the innovative luxuries that waved through the past have finally crashed into a handheld device. For marketers, understanding how your potential customers are using the mobile channel is of utmost importance. There is a theme developing in the industry dubbed “mobile appropriateness,” which focuses on eschewing internal predilections in favor of providing the best experience for the user. As Razorfish’s Matt Cava puts it, “features and functionality might make internal stakeholders happy, but users would find awkward trying to engage with on a smartphone.” Create a clear strategy focused on the mobile user, stick to it, and do not compromise on the experience.

There is a lot of worry that mobile applications will eventually become so prevalent and popular that mobile search will become irrelevant. I don’t believe it. The web can do just about anything that can be done in an app, and it is becoming increasingly more efficient at it. The notion that the two are competing against each other is a misconception; apps and search will continue to work together to augment consumer experience. It would be wise for marketers to dabble in both areas to discover which approach fits best with which respective realm of business.

I see the next big thing in the mobile arena being Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows a mobile phone to receive data from another device or NFC tag at close range. This technology has tremendous potential in various respects. The most promising is contactless payment, where a customer simply taps their phone on a tagged device and the purchase is completed. NFC could change the way mobile phone users interact with each other as well; just touch phones and start playing a two player game. NFC is like the fancier version of the QR Code, whose novelty will turn out to be outweighed by user inconvenience. Some other cool futuristic stuff that NFC could allow: wireless headset-to-phone link, tap phone to printer to print, phone becomes bus/train/plane ticket, swipe-to-check in Foursquare locations. How about if a business owner placed a NFC tag just outside his business, so that when consumers touch their phone to it a coupon appears, ready to use immediately. What an exciting time we live in!

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=145325

http://www.mobilemarketingwatch.com/mobile-technology-trends-for-2011-according-to-forrester-research-12801/

http://www.dma.org.uk/news/nws-link.asp?id=5175&t=Mobile+”will+be+the+fastest+growing+platform+for+next+five+years

http://mashable.com/2010/05/06/near-field-communication/

Kenneth Hurta

What a Deal!

People will buy anything if you tell them it’s 75% off. No offense; I am guilty of it too. I bought a tool kit the other day because it said it was 60% off – I don’t even know how to build things. It’s as if consumer desire to react to what is seemingly a great deal outweighs normal buyer evaluation, in which opportunity costs are identified and pros and cons are weighed out. This is why limited time deals are so cunningly effective, forcing us to satiate our craving for cheap stuff before the deadline hits. Groupon and LivingSocial have made a living off coupons, so to speak, and are taking advantage of the public’s penchant for steals by being the biggest innovators in the daily deal marketplace.

These online coupon providers are having such astounding success, and are moving into new venues accordingly. LivingSocial just launched a test for its new venture Instant Deals – a mobile feature that allows consumers to discover deals within a half-mile radius. These offers will compound the local search aspect with a much more limited deadline, encouraging immediate in-store traffic to businesses. Other companies, such as AT&T withShopAlert, are getting involved with mobile location-based special offerings (quite the mouth full) as well.

These new services underscore the rising importance of both location based and mobile marketing. Both of these services are constantly ranked the most promising new areas for the future, and adding the limited time deal facet intensifies the formula. Google rolled out mobile coupons a couple of years ago; a tool that is probably underutilized. The quality, one-deal-at-a-time nature of these specialized coupon providers creates a sort of aura that consumers can’t get enough of. It looks like they are successfully assisting in opening up a very promising market that has yet to be fully conquered.

– Kenneth Hurta

The Search Low Down

The Lowdown on Google Adwords and MSN AdCenter

Google AdWords: Google is currently the largest and most popular search engine in the world with an approximate market share of 67% as of January 2011.  The AdWords program has always been an innovator in the paid search arena and sets the bar for other platforms.  Of the search engine advertising programs, Google AdWords is the most feature rich and user-friendly.  Google’s partnership with smaller search providers and hundreds of thousands of websites means that an advertiser has the opportunity to reach an even wider audience than that provided by Google.com.

Google AdWords:

o Google estimated market share of 67% ( January 2011)

o Most feature rich and user-friendly paid search platform

​MSN AdCenter:  The recent merger of MSN and Yahoo Search has greatly expanded AdCenter’s reach in the natural and paid search world, though it’s approximate market share of 28% is still considerably lower than Google’s.  Both MSN and Yahoo are legacy search engines with origins early in the era of popular web use.  As such, these engines have a relatively large number of ‘grandfathered’ users who have been loyal to these platforms since early in their own online ventures.  With the introduction of Bing in 2009, the MSN search market share has pulled out the steady decline it experienced through the early 2000s and Bing has since grown into the flagship product in the MSN line.

MSN AdCenter:

o Market share of 28% (appx.) is considerably lower than Google’s

o Recent MSN/Yahoo merger – both legacy engines w/loyal users

The Differences:

o Click and impression volume lower for MSN

o Top positions cheaper and easier to obtain in MSN

o MSN has fewer features and targeting options

o MSN users tend to be older and have a lower household income

o MSN users are more often female

Kate McGuire

Make Sure your Bids are in Order!

Google recently made an update to bidding that you should be aware of. In an email sent to our team this morning Google stated that:

Starting on March 15, 2011, we’ll be removing the managed placements default bid in your account.

This move is to simplify bidding options, but this could cause spikes in cost if you are not familiar with what could happen if you fail to act and make the updates.  Most specifically for this scenario if “you don’t have an ad group default bid and are only using a managed placements bid, we will copy the managed placements bid over as the new default bid. Any managed placements with individual bids will still keep those bids.” Considering managed placement bids should convert a higher rater and are thus more valued, you will most likely be paying more for this bid, than you would ever dream for a default bid.

Optimizing Videos for SEO

It is our job to try and squeeze just about any and all SEO value from any page. As more and more people become aware what to do (i.e. keyword density)  and what not to do (all flash), many struggle to find the correct balance between aesthetically pleasing and keyword rich content.

In order to reach this optimum balance we include Keyword rich text into: photos, title, descriptions, how-to’s, and whatever else you can think off. Now, we can harness the power of text and add it to Video using closed caption. This way we get the value of keyword rich content with the aesthetics of a video.

So how does it work?

Well, this article has a few easy (and not so easy) steps for accomplishing this task.

Honestly, there can be a bit of trickery involved. However, if you have your videos housed on YouTube why not just use their nifty tool and embed the video into your code.

So, here is what YouTube says about adding Closed Captions or subtitles to your videos:

You can add captions to one of your videos by uploading a closed caption file using the “Captions and Subtitles” menu on the editing page

Know your files:

caption file contains both the text and information about when each line of text should be displayed.

transcript file, on the other hand, just contains the text of what was said in the video. If the video’s in English, YouTube can use speech processing algorithms to determine when the words in a transcript should be displayed.

Once you have the files, log into your YouTube account to upload them and:

  1. Mouse over your username located in the upper right corner of every page.
  2. Click My Videos. You will then be directed to a page showing your uploaded videos.
  3. Find the video to which you’d like to add captions/subtitles and click the down arrow located to the right of the Edit and Insightbuttons. Select the Captions and Subtitles button from the drop down menu.
  4. Click the Add New Captions or Transcript button on the right hand side of the page. You will be prompted to Browse for a file to upload.
  5. Select a caption/subtitle or transcript file to upload. If you are uploading a transcript (no timecodes), select Transcript file, otherwise, select Caption file.
  6. Select the appropriate language. If you wish, you can also enter a track name.
  7. Click the Upload File button.

So there you go! Now your videos are optimized for SEO.

How Long Before Online Brand Suicide is A Thing of the Past?

I recently came across an interesting Ad Age article about “The Seven Stages of Committing a Social-Media Sin,” where Rupal Parekh discusses  in depth how social media can be used to a brands detriment.
The “seven stages” creates a cycle that shows “how consumers react to a brand,” which is generally the same – each cycle. However, Parekh claims that this “cycle is speeding up” and therein lies the change. Furthermore, “each time a brand experiences a social-media blunder, the event blows up and moves through the seven stages faster and faster before the whole thing vanishes in a puff of smoke.”

Parekh refers to examples such as Kenneth Cole’s tweets about political unrest in Egypt in order to talk about his new Spring line on Twitter.

 
 
However, nowadays Parekh claims that brands are now having an easier time returning to normalcy after these social media blunders because there are PR people who create parody social media accounts that help distract the public.

 
Read on to see how Ad Age used Kenneth Cole’s inappropriate tweet as a case study regarding the “life cycle” of social media: http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=148706

 
 
 

Do you think that marketing and good PR can come to the rescue with what was once labeled as “brand suicide” – specifically by laughing and mocking the situation? If you read through the seven “social media sins,” you can see that Kenneth Cole’s PR team creates parody tweets regarding other political unrest/national & global issues/natural disasters. And, by the end of the day from KC’s original tweet, there was a spike in followers from 8,935 to 9,779. Parekh claims that this “cycle” of the seven stages will become shorter and shorter until…people don’t care anymore? What do you think? Perhaps this goes along with consumers being tougher and tougher to crack, and you have to prove that you’re worth their time.

I Heart You

I Heart You

Oh Saint Valentine, you slay me. A day dedicated to intimate companions expressing their adoration and companionship, what a thoughtful proposition! Sometimes camaraderie is just so cumbersome; V-day is necessary for jaded couples to remind each other, and their selves, of why they are meant to be together. This jovial date also creates a serendipitous bonus for singles: getting all of the couples out of the way so that other singles can be easily spotted…a personal independence day if you will.

With the way it is celebrated today, you would think Valentine’s Day was a brilliant big idea spawned into a societal norm by an advertising agency. I can see it so clearly, a conference room full of suits (perhaps for a jeweler), eyes wide, while the pony tailed t-shirter opines “Love is about commitment. It is about giving. It is about sacrifice! Sacrificing your heart, your soul, your paycheck. Because nothing says I love you, like a box of chocolates and a diamond.” Even if it wasn’t created by advertisers, it is often a favorite point to focus a campaign flight around.

Couldn’t make it to the store in time for a card, flowers, or jewelry? Well, you’re probably out of luck, and a bed tonight. But Google might help mollify the strife with its map your valentine initiative!  Google always knows what’s up, and is proving its expert prowess again with a poignant combination of location and sentiment. This same formula could be imitated for a powerful search engine marketing tactic, by combining geo-targeting, personalization, and location based ads with relevant messages that provoke meaningful memories or induce nostalgia. Think of how much more interested you would be in an ad that showed say, a bicycle, which was displayed with a picture of your favorite park. Or even better, your favorite park as a kid! Okay that is a little creepy, but creepiness is becoming a lot less significant and a lot more ubiquitous nowadays.

– Ken Hurta

Cars, Monkeys and Cheese…That’s What I saw during the Super Bowl.

Last night along with millions of others I watched the Superbowl (sort of), mainly the ads.  I was hoping for something exciting and interesting and quite frankly I didn’t get what I wanted – (except for CareerBuilder.com – those little monkeys in the parking lot had me thinking of our parking situation here at Leverage Marketing).  Most of the ads to me were just meh, but MainStreet.com weighed in on the Winners and the Losers of the SuperBowl.

Apparently Chrysler – (the ad with Eminem and not the cartoon Eminem) had the highest buzz.  I must say I thought it was interesting, but I still favor a different car commercial over any other car commercial lately.

All in all – I think that most of these companies should have saved their $$$ and done lots of branding online through image ads and other online branding efforts. I’m just not sure that a one time ad shown to an audience that was probably comprised of a bunch of buzzed people  was worth it.

What do you think?

Don’t Be Evil

Google’s famous informal slogan rings in my ear every time I see its vibrant logo. Monolith corporations the size of Google are far too often shrouded in iniquity and questionable ethical dealings. But Google started with the standard to be good. Good to its employees, good to its customers, good to its clients. Perhaps it is the technical industry which Google operates in that is good, or at least less bad, than the others we have grown accustomed to seeing on the news. When was the last time you saw a tech company committing violations of human rights or running its own nation’s economy into the ground with its jobbery?  Not Google, but is this cuddly search do-gooder really as exemplary as it seems?

Reputation management. Also called public relations or good publicity. Google is a guru at managing its own reputation. Even when it saw controversies in the past, most of them passed in and out of the echo-sphere rather quietly.

Google has created a model of reputation management that any success-seeking business should imitate. ORM is especially important for search engine marketing, as more than ever search engines are taking social trends into account when indexing sites. What people are saying about you matters, a lot. Just one bad review can have dire repercussions for your brand if you don’t do anything about it. Brands should be proactive, as opposed to preemptive, when managing online reputation.

Start your business with good practices as a standard, not just a mission, and it will all be easier. ‘Social’ is one of those buzz words that cannot be ignored and will not go away, thus making the coordination of social media and search campaigns extremely pertinent. Use this immense network of connectivity that we all take for granted to your advantage by reaching out to your customers, following up with them, directly providing personalized special features, and whatever else you can think of to engage your fans! Everyone is just waiting for the next cool or convenient thing that is worthy of sharing with friends. The more you are talked about online, the more crawlable information to be indexed and affect your rankings. But remember this goes both ways. So for your sake and everyone else’s, don’t be evil.

-Kenneth Hurta

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