Using Data to Drive Your Content Marketing Strategy

When most people think “content,” they think “creative.” I know I did. Coming from a creative writing background, I was a firm believer that the best content was driven by out-of-the-box thinking and a convincing storyline. I knew that to be the best, to stand out, organizations needed to consistently put out engaging, memorable, and good-quality blogs, eBooks, whitepapers, what-have-you. But an overarching strategy holding all that content together? And numbers and data being a driving force behind that content strategy? Years ago, I would have told you that wasn’t my expertise; writing was.

I’ve always known that writing and marketing go hand in hand, but never did I realize the extent in which data – more specifically, user data – could inform the type of content that business’ develop. And even more, how that data-driven content, combined with writing quality, could impact a company’s bottom line.

To put it into perspective, consider one of our B2C clients. For two-and-a-half years, Synapse has been working with them to develop an SEO-optimized, data-driven content marketing strategy – and over that 30-or-so months, we have seen their online visibility skyrocket: First-page organic Google rankings for their blog have increased more than 15x since our content marketing scope began. Organic traffic to their website has increased 470 percent. And that’s primarily because of content – informed, intended, impactful content.

Metric

Benchmark

June 2017

% Change vs. Benchmark

# of Organic Unique Visitors

1,027

5,856

470%

# of Blog Keyword Rankings (Google)

24

123

413%

# of 1st Page Blog Rankings (Google)

5

77

1440%

Every piece of content created for your organization should have a purpose. It should have intent. It should be relevant – not only to your product or services, but also to what your customers are looking to read: What are they actively searching for? How often are they searching for it? How are they engaging with your website today? What is working with your current online strategy, and what is not?

These are all questions you should ask before building out a content development and content marketing plan. By understanding your customers’ interests and needs, and creating content around that information, you can seamlessly integrate your brand with your audience’s online experiences – their newsfeeds, their organic searches, their overall online journey – and become relevant without disrupting their paths.

The question is, how do you do it? Data.

To me, one of the most intriguing facets of marketing is consumer intent, and the fact that digital marketers can actually discover, decipher, and track that intent through the use of online data. Fact is, consumers leave a data trail behind each time they take an online journey. This data trail consists of how they found your site, their exact search queries, digital interactions, social media activity, online purchasing history, time on your website, and more. Combined with SEO data like keyword volume and rankings, an organization can use this information to build a data-driven content marketing strategy with their target market in mind – a content strategy that will not only reach their target audience, but also appeal to that audience’s demand.

Despite the benefits of a data-driven content marketing strategy, research shows that 38 percent of content marketers rarely use data to guide their initiatives. And, according to a study by Forrester, companies typically analyze only 12 percent of the data they have available.

Part of the problem circles back to the art vs. science conversation around content – many organizations have creators to produce content, but lack a team of analysts to interpret and communicate data in a meaningful way, so that it can be used to inform a content development strategy. Another common issue is that the creation of data-driven content just gets overlooked. Marketing teams are busy – already juggling the brainstorming, the production, and the outreach that comes alongside content marketing. Thus, the inherent connection between data and editorial planning gets lost. Sometimes, businesses both big and small just don’t know where to start in terms of making that connection. That may be what has brought you here.

If you are looking to build an audience-first, data-driven content marketing strategy, the best place to start is knowing the types of data that are already available online:

  • First and foremost, you can look at your existing content. Which pages on your website drive the most organic traffic? Which pages or blog posts drive the most engagement, whether through back links, comments, or on social media? How much time do users typically spend on a given blog post?
  • If you’re running on Paid Search, take a look at which keywords in your account drive the most activity – the most impressions can indicate more volume, the most clicks can indicate more relevance, the most conversions can indicate which themes actually resonate with your audience most. Use those top-performing keywords to drive your future, organic content.
  • If you use tools like Google AdWords or Search Console, you can also look at search queries – the exact phrases people are searching for and using to arrive at your website. A Search Query Report (SQR) can reveal how consumers thinking, what they are looking for, and where the demand is in terms of keyword phrases. Popular themes in your SQR can then guide content that parallels user intent.
  • Organic rankings can also provide actionable insights when it comes to content planning. Marketing tools like MOZ or Aherfs will show you where you are successful in your current content strategy (which keywords you have covered), and where you need to close the gap. For example, if you are ranking at the top of page 2 in Google for a given keyword, you can really push that to page 1 with the addition of relevant content. You can also use SEO rankings data to see where you stand against competitors.
  • It’s important to not underscore the value of competitor content – their websites, their blogs, their resource library, are all right at your fingertips. Take a look at what type of content competitors are developing, how often they are churning it out, what types of themes they are going after, as well as their content’s presence in the organic SERP. Are there certain topics that are not currently covered on your website? Are there certain keywords you can outrank them on in the search results? Competitor content can provide insight into spaces you have not yet explored, as well as popular areas in which you can compete – yet only 47 percent of B2B marketers today use this data to guide their content marketing plans.

These are just some of the many sources you can use to inform a data-driven content marketing strategy. Further website analysis, keyword research, customer feedback, and A/B testing can also prove beneficial in building a content plan. No matter what sources you use, it is important to remember that data and content marketing go hand-in-hand. And to be successful in today’s marketing arena, content must have a strategy to support it.

A data-driven content marketing plan, according to the Content Marketing Institute, helps “to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Content is the future of marketing, and it is data that tells the story behind it. It’s time we start listening.

To learn how Synapse SEM can help improve your content marketing strategy, you may complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

3 Keys to Improve Your PPC Lead Quality

PPC can be a truly remarkable sales channel. Nowhere else are you able to target hand-raisers with such precision. With paid search, someone actually tells you I want “this” and as marketers, it’s our job to provide them with information to help meet their need. If your company’s primary marketing objective is to drive leads for your sales team, you might often run into the issue of “quality” when it comes to your PPC leads. While quantity is important, the qualified leads are the ones that end up generating real profit. In this blog, we will discuss the 3 fundamental keys to improving your PPC lead quality.

Account Structure:

Like with many things in the world, a strong foundation typically leads to success. The same can be said for your Paid Search account. Without it, you can assure yourself that you’ll be wasting a lot of time and money. Keep the following in mind before you start building an account from scratch:

  • Campaign structure: The account structure should be carefully planned with your business goals in mind. Consider which geographies are most important to target, how much budget should go to certain product lines, and what type of reporting you’ll need. Proper planning will allow for precise budgeting and simpler optimizations which will lead to more profitable results.
  • Keyword targeting: When it comes to keyword targeting, you want to ensure that you have strong coverage over a wide range of keywords relevant to your business. After you finish identifying your initial keyword list, select the ones that you believe will drive the most qualified traffic and deliver the top leads. These terms will likely be longer-tailed iterations with less traffic volume.

If enough historical data is present (sometimes your best guess must do), we highly recommend focusing on best-performing geographies and keywords. This high priority campaign will then receive a bulk of the budget, to ensure that your top performing keywords will receive maximum impression share.

Ad Messaging:

Once you have your keyword set finalized, it’s time to move onto the ad copy. Leveraging the appropriate messaging can be crucial in further qualifying traffic before you even incur the cost of a click. Often our clients will bid on expensive keywords that are applicable to both larger enterprises and smaller ones. This is inevitable because many organizations have similar product types but different target markets. This is where strategic messaging comes into play.

When we onboard a client, one of our biggest interests is their target market. Are we going after CMO’s, companies with XXXX+ employees, or companies that drive $XXm in annual revenue? We’ll take these insights and include them in our PPC ad messaging to further qualify our traffic. We know our keywords are applicable to multiple customer sizes, but we need only be concerned with the smaller percentage of qualified traffic. Look at a recent ad copy test below:

As you can see, while our No Qualifier ad drove more front-end leads, it was our Qualifier ad that drove 150% more qualified leads. The cost per qualified lead is also much lower, almost 77% lower than the No Qualifier ad. We sacrifice performance from metrics like CTR and conversion rate, but we make up for it in the volume of qualified leads we generated with our Qualifier ads.

Back-end Tracking:

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, you will need to ensure that your back-end tracking is linked back to your PPC campaigns properly. By using hidden fields within your forms, you can pass valuable PPC specific information from a landing page URL to your marketing automation or CRM system. This is very important for PPC advertisers because it will allow us to better understand which of our ad groups and/or ad messaging are driving the most qualified leads.

We recommend including parameters like campaign name, ad group name, offer type, and messaging for starters. This way, when you run a Qualifier vs. No Qualifier ad copy test, you’ll be able to tell which ads are generating the qualified leads. This level of tracking also can help you cut costs on areas of the account that never drive qualified leads and will allow you to reallocate to more profitable areas.

If you were interested in learning more about improving your PPC lead quality, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com  or by phone at 781-591-0752.

 

7 SEO Mistakes Dropping You Down the SERP

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical asset to any inbound marketing strategy. A sound approach to SEO will land you strong rankings, relevant search traffic, as well as leads and sales. According to industry experts, 70 percent of users today choose to click on the organic listings in Google’s SERP. And with nearly a 15% close rate, SEO leads are some of the most valuable to marketers and businesses today.

Weeks ago, you may have thought you had this SEO thing down pat—your marketing team has been churning out content nonstop, building hundreds of links to help boost your site’s credibility, maybe even going after high-volume keywords on your website in efforts to get traffic. The problem is, you’re not seeing the results. Your efforts aren’t adding up; your rankings aren’t moving up; your position might even be falling in Google’s search results. Technically, you’re not where you need to be.

Perhaps one of the biggest strategic SEO mistakes you can make on your website is putting too much weight on your organic rankings. While important, good rankings will come later down your story line. SEO is a process, and in order to be successful at it, you must start from the ground up. You must first ensure that your website has a solid technical SEO foundation in order to achieve organic visibility.

I’ve already talked about the SEO mistakes that hurt content marketing. Today, I walk you through the seven technical SEO mistakes we’ve seen sink search engine rankings and bring down entire websites in Google.

1. Your website is slow, period.

Of all the technical elements that go into a website’s success, the one that remains a top consideration in Google’s ranking algorithm is page speed. Fact of the matter is, users want answers to their searches fast, and search engines therefore want the web to be the fastest it can be possibly be. As an effort towards meeting user demands, search engines like Google and Bing rank the fast loading websites higher than equivalent, slower websites.

Your organic performance is going nowhere fast if you think that page load times do not have a direct connection to SEO. For one, a faster website is typically ranked higher in the search engine results. This higher ranking will bring in more traffic to your website, in turn generating more pageviews and converting more leads. Not only this, but page speed has a direct impact on user experience as well. If your website is operating slowly, your bounce and exit rates are likely to increase. To put it into perspective, users typically do not want to wait more than five seconds for a page to fully load.

Page speed mistakes we’ve commonly seen are: over-sized and high-resolution images that take excessive time to load, failure to use compression and browser caching on slow-loading resources, and poorly structured HTML or CSS code. To analyze your website’s load times and to see exactly where it may be tripping up or falling short, you can use Google’s DIY PageSpeed Insights Tool.

2. Your site isn’t mobile friendly.

All too often, we see companies ignore the weight of a mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive website. Yet today, more than half of all Google searches happen on mobile, leading Google to now prefer sites that offer optimal mobile experiences. (Hence their 2015 rollout of “Mobilegeddon,” when the search engine giant started penalizing sites that were not “mobile-friendly.”)

And, as mentioned in my previous article, Google gives mobile-friendly websites a rankings advantage by adding “Mobile-friendly” labels to their listings in the SERP.

For businesses trying to boost their SEO strategy, optimizing your website for mobile search will be a critical factor in your multi-channel ranking success.

3. You’re telling Google to ignore you.

That’s right. All the time, websites unknowingly tell Google to ignore and not rank their pages organically. This is one of the most detrimental SEO mistakes of all, and inadvertently can happen right in your site’s own source code or Robots.txt file.

A Robots.txt file is essentially a guideline that tells search engines which pages on your site you do not want to be crawled and indexed. Every site should have a Robots.txt file. To take a look at yours, just type in the URL format: yourwebsite.com/robots.txt. While you’re there, you might want to check the Disallow portion of the file—and make sure it isn’t structured like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Any pages following the word ‘Disallow:’ will be ignored by crawlers. And if a trailing slash is following, it means that you are telling search engines to ignore your entire website, homepage and all. A healthy Robots.txt file may only tell searchers to ignore login or administrative pages, such as this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /wp-admin/

Another common SEO mistake is blocking crawlers from individual pages on your site. We typically see this through the use of a ‘no-index’ tag in the page’s source code. If you want your pages to rank, you should ensure that they do not contain the following tag:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex" />

4. You have cookie-cutter or duplicate content.

Content is king in the realm of SEO, and one of the most common mistakes we’ve seen affect organic rankings is the creation of unoriginal or duplicate content. To put it simply, Google ranks pages that offer value to readers; content that is insightful, educational, or has merit – Google does not want to rank content that looks like everything else on the web.

According to the Webmasters themselves, “One of the most important steps in improving your site’s ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content… Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other cookie-cutter pages that don’t add substantial value to users.”

When ramping up keyword optimizations on your website, it can be tempting to replicate or recycle content that targets similar keyword themes. Our advice? Don’t. Write unique content that engages your readers and that encourages them to spend time on your site. This will tell Google that you are credible and rank-worthy. If you use quotes from other sources, link to them.

5. You’re forgetting about on-page SEO.

Perhaps one of the greatest SEO mistakes you can make on your website is forgetting to implement or customize its on-page elements: title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags, even header tags are often lost amidst website builds. But skipping out on these meta tags is a major missed opportunity for SEO, and can deter Google from ranking you on the key terms your target markets are searching.

Some common on-page SEO mistakes that may be hurting your organic rankings:

  • Multiple pages on your site have the same title and description tags
  • Each title tag on your site reflects only your brand, and lacks a keyword focus
  • Your meta tags exceed Google’s character limits
  • Your header tags (H1s, H2s, H3s) are not structured in their appropriate hierarchy
  • You forgot about Alt Tags (Google crawlers can’t read images – it’s up to you to tell them what each image is about through the use of alternative tags)
  • You’re missing meta tags completely on the core pages of your website

6. You’re stuffing keywords onto the page.

Along with valuable content and optimized content comes quality content – content that is readable and relative to users. Yet in attempts to boost SEO efforts, many companies lose sight of quality and aim to “stuff” their pages with target keyword phrases, over and over again; so much that it is no longer readable to users, but solely optimized for search engine crawlers. If you aren’t familiar with keyword stuffing, it looks something like this (we’ll let you guess the keyword phrase here):

“Building an SEO strategy? A good SEO strategy is key to your success! The best SEO strategy is the kind of SEO strategy that will get you to rank in Google. Every site needs a good SEO strategy to rank, but only the best SEO strategy will help you rank on page one in the search results. Start building your SEO strategy with us today!”

Keyword-stuffing is not only a black-hat SEO practice, it is also an outdated method that can actually get you reprimanded by search engines and lose you site traffic. See, Google’s top priority is providing a good user experience, and users do not want to read an article that is stuffed with keywords and lacking any takeaway value. Not to mention, they won’t link to keyword-stuffed content. You won’t look credible and you won’t rank well.

7. Your webpages are not authoritative.

We often hear, “I just created a keyword-optimized webpage for SEO. Why isn’t it ranking?” or, “Why are competitors ranking above me in Google?” If you are here, you may be experiencing similar concerns.

Let me tell you this: if you have implemented an optimal keyword strategy on your website and are still falling behind rankings-wise, it is likely because your domain or page authority is low and not up to par with the other players. This is especially true for new webpages or domains that start out with an authority of 1 (on MOZ’s scale of 1 to 100) and need to gain credibility in Google’s eyes. The best way to build up authority is through natural and quality links.

If you don’t have links pointing to priority pages on your website, they are not likely to rank well in Google. Links, both inbound and internal, spread equity to and throughout a site. They build both domain authority and individual page authority and are strong ranking signals in Google’s algorithm—with one caveat:

Google will penalize you for generating unnatural, paid, spammy, or engineered links. Do not make the common SEO mistake of paying people to link to your site; do not use black-hat link-building tools like ScrapeBox to spawn backlinks in mass quantities from sketchy sources. This will not only get you demoted in the search results, but also blacklisted if Google finds out. Earn your links through quality, credible, and linkable content and you will be rewarded with improved rankings.

When it comes to SEO, there are no shortcuts. Whether you are a business owner, marketing director, or CMO, whether you are an enterprise, small business, or non-profit, it is important that you approach search engine optimization the right way in efforts to gain Google’s good graces for the long haul. Your first steps will be correcting these ever-so-common SEO mistakes.

To learn how Synapse SEM can help improve your SEO strategy, you may complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

4 PPC Remarketing Lists You Should Always be Using

Whether you are a paid search marketer or not, we have all experienced those image ads following us around on almost every site we visit. Remarketing is a feature that allows advertisers to reach individuals who have previously visited their site when they are searching on other sites. Fans of remarketing boast about the ability to easily establish branding and influence customers who are likely to be interested in your product (since they’ve visited your site previously). Critics complain that the “Big Brother” aspect can be creepy and irritating to users. That fact is, remarketing and audience creation are powerful tools for paid search.  When implemented correctly they can increase conversion volume and provide countless opportunities to cross-sell your target audience.  A successful remarketing campaign starts with an audience. Here are 4 remarketing audiences that every search engine marketer should be using.

  1. Non-Converter Audiences

A crucial point of remarketing is to attract previous site visitors to return to your site and make a purchase. Many marketers follow through with this strategy by simply targeting all users to their domain. However, they leave out one significant element.  Advertisers are constantly wasting their impressions and sometimes even clicks on individuals who have already converted on their site. A great way to narrow down your remarketing efforts and strengthen your target audience is to exclude anyone who has visited a confirmation page or a specific checkout page. This will also help to improve click-through-rate because obviously, someone who has already downloaded or purchased a product is less likely to click on that same advertisement.

Another key strategy is to specifically target users who have reached a checkout page or a cart, and left the site without converting. These individuals are typically more interested in your product, and you can capitalize on this by increasing bids. All of these strategies can be put in place when creating an audience. Google Analytics gives you the option to exclude users who have completed a goal, and you can also exclude anyone who has visited a specific page (i.e. a confirmation page).

 

  1. Content Nurturing Audiences

Many B2B companies attract low funnel leads through content downloads (i.e.  (white papers, infographics, eBooks, etc.). A great remarketing audience strategy is to create a separate audience list for users who have downloaded a specific piece of content.  Then, you can specifically target those users with deeper funnel CTAs (i.e. free trials and demo requests). This notion can be seen in the results of one of our B2B clients. We set up a nurturing campaign in order to cross market to our previous converting users.  Consider the conversion rate discrepancy between the regular Non-Branded Search campaign below and the special Content Nurturing campaign. Although volume is lower than the search campaigns, conversion rate is 164% higher.  This is an excellent practice for B2B companies who have specialty lead nurturing marketing programs.

  1. Similar Audiences

For smaller companies attempting to use Remarketing to acquire new customers it can often be a challenge to create an audience that is large enough to become eligible for the Display Network. For example, a remarketing audience list must contain 100 active visitors or users within 30 days. If you are utilizing very specific and niche targeting, this can sometimes be a challenge. Google remedies this with the introduction of Similar Audiences. These audiences are created by Google and take into account the actions users take within your original audience.  Google assigns any user that has similar search history as your site converters into a Similar Audience. For example, if your audience is targeting users who have reached a page about bedroom comforters, instead of targeting users looking for the broad category of “bedroom furniture,” it will remarket to people looking specifically for comforters on Google.. For more information on RLSA campaigns and Similar Audiences read our latest blog post.

 

  1. Login/Career Page Users

One uncommon aspect of Remarketing audiences is the ability to use them for search campaigns. This is often practiced in RLSA campaigns, but there is one strategy that can be used for almost all search campaigns. Most sites have a Login Page or a Careers Page. Most likely, organizations are not interested in targeting individuals who have visited those pages. A great strategy to implement is to create a search audience targeting visitors to those two pages if applicable. You can then exclude that audience within your search campaign. Doing so will help limit impressions to only relevant customers. This is a technique that can be beneficial for both brand and non-branded campaigns.

If you’d like to learn more about how Synapse SEM can help you improve your paid search or organic strategy, please email us at sales@synapsesem.com or call us at 781-591-0752.

Google Launches Automated Call Extensions on Mobile

One of the more recent updates within Google AdWords is automated call extensions for landing pages that prominently feature phone numbers.  This update was announced in early January, and just rolled out last month.  As many advertisers were notified, the update by Google is intended to make it easier for users to make calls to businesses through their mobile phones, and will allow for more detailed reporting insights on call performance.  Google stated that this year, mobile search engines are expected to drive around 33 billion click-to calls to businesses globally (19% more calls than from mobile landing pages alone).  As Synapse has learned with many of our B2B clients, more and more lead-gen companies are relying on marrying call data with online form data to determine their total number of prospective opportunities.  This update by Google will make it even easier for advertisers to properly set up click-to-call moving forward.

 

What’s Changing?

First and foremost, if you do not already have call extensions set up within your account, Google will begin automatically creating call extensions based on prominent phone numbers listed on your landing page.  Previously, you would create call extensions manually through the call extensions tab.  You could set up your business phone number, or a dynamic phone number and have Google automatically generate numbers and forward to your business.  Have phone numbers that are dynamically generated?

Not to worry.  Google will only automatically pull in phone numbers that are not dynamic in nature.  If you’re already running call extensions, Google will leave everything as-is.  If for any reason you do not wish to have click-to-call set up within your account, make sure to go to your call extensions tab and remove any that Google may have already created for you (the update was activated on February 6th).

 

What else may be impacted?

Along with the automated call extensions, which limits time manually updating ad extensions and minimizes room for error, Google also noted that there would be more robust reporting.  Not only will you see the number of calls per day as you used to, but also call duration as well as start and end times.  Additionally, Google will provide the caller area code for each phone call, and whether the call connected.  Advertisers can also set up call conversion tracking to see which campaigns are driving the most valuable calls.

 

What other options are there outside of automated call extensions?

Some third-party solutions such as DialogTech and CallRail could be an alternative solution to ensure you’re tracking client leads all the way through to opportunities and sales.  While automated call extensions offer more robust insights than the original call extensions, third party solutions may be a great alternative to ensure you’re able to track all the way through the funnel.  One caveat to these solutions is that you’ll need to be sure you have sufficient volume – without a certain number of clicks in each ad group, some of these solutions won’t work properly.

While there are mixed reviews out there right now on Google’s latest automated call extension update, one thing is for certain: Google’s push for updates specific to mobile-advertising is only getting more aggressive as the months progress.  We fully expect to see additional mobile-focused updates come out from Google in the upcoming months, hopefully allowing for more robust insights in terms of tracking all the way through the funnel.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how Synapse SEM can help you improve your paid search or organic strategy, please email us at sales@synapsesem.com or call us at 781-591-0752.

 

Are Slow Site Load Times Crippling Your Digital Marketing Programs?

Sluggish site load times are a core finding on over 50% of the Technical SEO audits we perform for our clients.  When we present our clients the data and show them Google’s Page Speed Insights, we’re often asked, “Is it worth investing to improve these load times?”.

Even in a world with limited budgets and back-logged internal resources, our answer is increasingly becoming, “Yes.”

Improving site load times is an easy task to push off.  Optimized load times are not prerequisites to running search engine marketing programs.  If you want to spend money on search with a slow site, Google or Bing will happily take your money.  On the SEO front, content development initiatives often take priority over the technical work required to fix poor load times. But as the competition has literally ‘quickened,’ the ramifications of a slow site have become more and more pronounced.

Poor site load times have many detrimental effects on website performance, but several stand out as the most problematic:

  1. The User Engagement and Revenue Impact – Slow load times are a major driver behind user bounces and exits. “58% of shoppers will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.”  For Amazon, for example, “a 100 millisecond improvement in load time [is equivalent to] a 1% revenue increase.” These stats demonstrate a clear connection between page speed and conversions and ultimately ROI.
  2. The SEO Impact – Load times are becoming an increasingly important algorithmic signal for Google. Google has been open that page load times are a major signal in their ranking algorithm for computers, but they’ve recently announced that the same signal will soon affect mobile rankings as well.  Furthermore, research has shown that “slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.”
  3. The SEM Impact—As stated above, Google and Bing will let you run search ads despite your site’s load time issues. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are not repercussions to poor load times in an SEM account.  Landing page experience is a factor in determining keyword Quality Score.  A component of Google’s landing page experience assessment is site load times.  Google explains, “If it takes too long for your website to load when someone clicks on your ad, they’re more likely to give up and leave your website. This unwelcome behavior can signal to Google that your landing page experience is poor, which could negatively impact your Ad Rank. That’s why you want to make sure your landing page load time is up to speed.”

From conversion rate, to SEO rankings, to SEM ROI, site load times are having a major impact on the performance of your digital marketing programs.  Have you pushed off improving site speed?  If so, it’s time to get into action and make site speed a priority and a core KPI in your digital strategy.

To learn more about improving your site’s load times and implementing a technically sound SEO strategy, please contact us today!

 

4 Considerations When Determining Your PPC and SEO Budgets

One of the most common questions that arises in the world of digital marketing is, ‘how do I most effectively allocate my digital marketing budget?’ This question comes up frequently amongst our clients, and unfortunately there is no cut and dry response.  The answer to this question depends upon many factors, but for the purpose of this article (as well as our readers’ sanity) we’ll narrow our thoughts down to 4 important factors to consider when determining how heavily to invest in paid search and SEO.

1) Are you an established site with reasonable domain authority, or are you a completely new business?

If you are a business with a completely new site, chances are there isn’t a ton of awareness out there about your brand.  You also likely don’t have much SEO credibility, which means you’re probably not showing prominently in Google for your key terms.  To start generating leads or sales, the best bet is to begin advertising through paid search, where you can pay for immediate visibility for your most important keywords.   Because SEO improvements take much longer to take effect, paid search is your best option.  If you are a firm that is already established, with strong rankings (which would mean you’re ranking on page 1-2 on critical keywords), a more even investment could be made across paid search and SEO. This will allow you to capture leads quickly through PPC, but also continue expanding upon the organic keyword set you’re currently ranking on.

2) What does your timeline look like?

The next most logical question to consider is your timeline.  How quickly do you need to gain these leads or sales?  Do you have an upcoming deadline and are you behind on your goals for lead volume?  If you have set goals to hit a certain number of leads within the next 6-12 months, invest in paid search.  Ranking organically can take 6-12 months or longer, and by then you’ll just be starting to rank (and definitely won’t be hitting your goals).  If you have more time to spare and are more concerned with longer term lead generation, investing in organic is a safe bet to ensure you build domain authority to get your site to rank.  If you have short-term AND long-term goals you must meet, then investing in both channels is critical.

3) Are you profit or revenue focused?

Is your business more focused on profitability or revenue growth?  This is a tricky one, and timing, as well as how established your site is, definitely come into play here.  SEO and PPC can work with either of these goals, however SEO is a better long-term solution to driving efficient profit (you’re not paying for organic clicks, after all).  With PPC, you have more control over tracking and optimizing based on ROI, but it will be the more expensive option in the long run. If your site is already well-established organically, you may be able to grow your bottom line by investing more aggressively in paid search.  For lead generation, paid search will be the better option if you want a certain number of leads and want them quickly. For longer-term lead-gen, you’ll want to invest more heavily in SEO, since that’s where most of the click traffic goes.  Your KPIs are critical to consider, but timing and current positioning within organic results also play into this decision.

4) How niche is your business?

While paid search is an extremely effective and profitable channel most the time, certain ‘niche’ businesses have markets that are so specific or narrow, they may not fare so well in the world of paid search.  Businesses that require mainly long tail keywords will not generate a substantial amount of search volume.  In many cases, shorter-tail terms aren’t specific enough for these businesses, and will lead to high costs for too many unqualified leads.  In the case of a business with a niche market, SEO may be a better avenue for investment, to ensure you are gaining visibility on these same short-tail terms, without the high costs associated with unqualified traffic.  If these happen to be terms that seem too broad, it’s not as much of a risk because you aren’t paying for the click with SEO.  Relevancy is always important to consider, however it will pay off more in the long run to target broader terms that actually generate volume organically, than to run paid marketing for inefficient short-tail terms or low volume long-tail terms.

Though these are just a handful of considerations for determining your search marketing budget allocation, we hope this helps you get started in thinking about the best avenue for your company to take.

If you’d like to learn more about how Synapse SEM can help you improve your paid search or organic strategy, please complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

6 Rookie SEO Mistakes Bringing Down Your Content Marketing Strategy

Business owners, CMOs, marketing VPs – step up to the plate.  If your website is falling below page one in Google, or struggling to rank at all, you may feel like your digital marketing efforts are at a loss.  You may be losing quality traffic and qualified leads or sales to your competitors.  You may be lacking the online visibility you need to stay afloat.

When rankings fall short, online visibility suffers—and vice versa.  According to a recent Hubspot survey, the top-three positioned results on a search query receive over 60 percent of all search clicks.  And on average, 75 percent of users do not scroll past the first page of organic search results.

Google uses an ever-changing algorithm to rank the most relevant, credible websites first on their SERP.  Today, there are well-over 200 “ranking signals” used to determine whether you will rank above your competitors in the search results.  And these signals are constantly evolving.  The question is, how can you keep up?  Amongst a content-saturated web, how can your website stand out?

Right now, you may feel like you are doing all that you can to get your website to the top of the SERP – stuffing your content with highly-searched keywords, assigning link-building exercises to your marketing team, churning out blogs on a weekly basis.  Yet still, the return on your investments is minimal.

If you feel like you’re losing the game of SEO, it may be time to step back and review the bigger picture.  Consider what you are focusing on, but also what you may be missing.  Evaluate your SEO strategy and ask yourself how it ties into your other marketing campaigns.  Does it at all?

To help guide your digital marketing efforts, Synapse SEM has compiled six of the most common SEO mistakes we’ve seen bring down content marketing strategies:

SEO Mistake #1:  There is no relationship between your content marketing and SEO strategies.

Perhaps one of the greatest strategic mistakes you can make when it comes to search engine optimization is keeping SEO a standalone strategy.  SEO is just one key component to search engine visibility – and it cannot be successfully executed without quality content and the foundation of a solid content marketing strategy in place.

While very different entities, SEO and content marketing in fact go hand-in-hand.  It is search engine optimization that will help your content reach target audiences, your content that will influence your readers, and your content marketing plan that will ensure those users either convert or come back.  You cannot successfully have one without the other.

Recent studies have shown that content marketing leaders experience nearly 8 times more unique website traffic than non-leaders today.  To be a content marketing leader, you must do more than produce content.  You must produce consistent, quality content that engages your target markets.  You must marry this strategy with your SEO efforts in order to properly distribute your content to the right buyers, just as they are looking for it.

SEO Mistake #2:  You are not using data to plan your content.

As a business leader, you want each piece of content on your website to both appeal to as well as engage potential buyers.  That said, you must plan your content accordingly.  Before scheduling your next whitepaper or blog posts with your content dev team, try looping your SEO and SEM team into the conversation.  Together, work on planning content around the keyword phrases that will most benefit your target markets.  Which phrases have converted in the past?  Which keywords generate the most volume and the most interest?

SEO Mistake #3:  You are missing the competitive mark.

When is the last time you checked in on how your competitors are ranking?  Next time you find yourself in Google, take some time to do so.  In an incognito window, manually search some of your highest priority and competitive keyword phrases.  Are any competitors ranking above your website?  If so, what are they doing that you are not?

There are several SEO tools that can be leveraged to get competitive in the organic SERP.  Ahrefs, for example, is a backlink checker and competitor research tool that will actually show you how many more inbound links you need to rank above your competitors for a particular keyword.

Competitors’ SEO rankings can be used as a creative content and SEO advantage.  On one hand, you can see how they are structuring their meta tags and webpage content, as well as what types of content they are creating: whitepapers, infographics, blog posts and more.  Even more, you can use competitor websites to discover new keyword themes that may be lacking in your current content efforts.  Talk to your SEO team about which tools can be used to “spy” on your competitors’ organic keyword sets.

SEO Mistake #4:  You are overlooking gaps in your content.

Content gaps are ancillary keyword themes that are currently lacking on a given website.  They can be identified by evaluating competitor websites, looking at your current organic rankings, and determining where you have the most ranking opportunity.  Are you ranking on page 2 in Google for a high priority keyword theme?  This may be because you do not have enough supplemental content to support it.  Identifying this gap and building out keyword-centric content accordingly, can help you push organic rankings.  All the while, it can serve as a great effort to produce fresh and relevant content for your audience.

Doing a comprehensive content gap analysis will allow you to identify major ranking opportunities and returns for your website.  If you are ranking at the top of page 2 in Google for the keyword ‘marketing software’, for example, you may consider creating a clear-cut content plan around that keyword theme.  Any supplemental ‘marketing software’ themed content you publish, then, will help you gain more relevance on that keyword and boost your SEO rankings to page 1.

SEO Mistake #5:  You are relying too heavily on high-volume keywords.

Another all too common SEO mistake is an overreliance on high volume keyword rankings.  While extremely important for organic (and therefore, free) traffic, search volume is only one of many KPIs to think about when reviewing your SEO and content marketing strategies.

If you are optimizing your webpages for only high-volume, competitive keywords, and getting frustrated with the lack of results, this especially pertains to you.  We know—it can be easy to get caught up on high-traffic keywords when optimizing your website content, but keep in mind that a lot of traffic does not always mean quality traffic.

High volume does not always mean more traffic, either.  Let’s say you are trying to rank for a generic keyword phrase that has an average of 100,000 monthly searches.  Remember that thousands of other websites may be trying to rank for this keyword phrase, too.  If you do not have a high domain authority, you may get lost amidst bigger names and more distinguished brands.  And if other authoritative web pages (say, Wikipedia or Capterra) are taking up page one for a given query in Google, your chances of ranking are little to none.

So rather than going after the generic term, target keyword phrases where competition is comparable.  Try to tailor your optimizations to very specific and relevant keyword themes, even if it means sacrificing some search volume.  Often, it is these keywords that bring more quality traffic and will drive your online lead generation.  In fact, you may actually see an increase in qualified traffic by implementing this strategy.

SEO Mistake #6:  You do not have a sound internal linking strategy in place.

You can churn out content for your website every single day, but without interlinking all that content together, your efforts may fall short.  Internal linking is a crucial part of an SEO strategy as well as a content marketing plan for several reasons:

For one, internal links help users navigate your website.  Through the use of internal links, you can direct users to priority pages on your site – such as an asset or a demo page – and lead them to conversion.  If you create a great Buyer’s Guide eBook, for example, you can use blog posts and other related content to direct users to the download page.  This internal linking approach not only users, but also contributes to your business and larger lead generation strategy – by directing relevant, qualified contacts directly to contact and download forms.

Internal links also help search engines better crawl your domain.  Failing to internal link to pages within your site architecture can make it nearly impossible for search engines to index your pages accordingly.  To put it simply, if you do not have a single link pointing to your page, search engine crawlers will not be able to reach it nor rank it.

One of the greatest benefits of internal links is that they help disperse link equity across your domain.  Through internal links, you can build any given page’s authority and therefore its chances to rank in the organic SERP.  Keyword-rich anchor text on those internal links further supports this approach. By using target keywords in your hyperlinked text, you can tell crawlers what a page is about and increase your chances to rank for a given query.

When it comes to digital marketing, it is the little things that make all the difference— There are hundreds of ranking factors determining how your business will stand in Google; what feels like the slightest mistake could be all that it takes to weaken your rankings and push your competitors ahead.  That said, it is very important that you are aware of – and equipped to address — these common SEO mistakes.

To learn how Synapse SEM can help improve your content marketing strategy, you may complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

Enhanced CPC vs. Manual Bidding Test

Many search marketers may be afraid to admit it, but we aren’t always perfect. There are always some things that can be done better but great search marketers know when to admit these faults and allow for a little help. Recently we learned that Google AdWords had recently adjusted their enhanced CPC bidding strategy to be more effective. For those who aren’t aware, AdWords describes enhanced CPC (or ECPC) as “a form of AdWords Smart Bidding that uses a wide range of auction-time signals such as device, browser, location, and time of day to tailor bids to someone’s unique context.” ECPC uses about half your campaigns’ traffic to make bid adjustments of up to 30% of your Max. CPC bid. All of this is done with the purpose of driving more conversions and/or improve efficiency.

Our initial thoughts when hearing more about the ECPC bidding strategy were very positive. The fact that AdWords would leverage many signals (like browsing history and relevancy) to make real-time adjustments seemed like a perfect fit for many of our client accounts. We decided to test ECPC bidding with one of our e-commerce client accounts, where we optimize the campaigns using first-click attribution from Google Analytics (currently ECPC works off of AdWords data only).. Below we discuss how we set up the test and our initial results and findings.

How to Set up Your Test

Currently we handle most of our bidding efforts through manual adjustments. We leverage historical, seasonal, and many other data points to help make effective bidding decisions. So we decided to test the enhanced CPC bidding strategy directly against our standard manual bidding. This required us to set up a test in AdWords leveraging the Drafts & Experiments tool to set up an A/B test. The goal was to allow half of our traffic to be only affected by ECPC adjustments and the other half to only be affected by manual bidding. Results for each traffic segment would then be reviewed against one another.

To get statistically significant data, we ran this test for 4 weeks. The length of time will vary client to client, but based on our client’s traffic volume we felt 4 weeks was a sufficient length of time. We also decided to test in various markets, both domestically and internationally.. Our hypothesis was that because of its ability to leverage numerous data points, the ECPC bidding would outperform manual bidding.

Initial Results & Findings

While the ECPC bidding strategy can be set to optimize for either AdWords conversions or Google Analytics conversions, we decided to have ECPC optimize for AdWords conversions. This is because we currently optimize our campaigns for first-click interaction from GA which can’t be imported to AdWords. We were interested in seeing what type of results we’d get so we moved forward with the test anyways. Please find our test results below:

Domestic Market Results:

International Market Results:

When looking at Google Analytics data, the manual bidding strategy significantly outperformed ECPC bidding.  For the domestic market, the ECPC segment conversion rate was 41% lower than manual bidding and the international market’s conversion rate was 30% lower than manual bidding.

When looking at Google AdWords conversion data, performance varied between markets and bidding strategies. For domestic, conversion rate was mostly flat but international was oddly up 39%.

What was most interesting was the fact that front-end metrics like impressions, clicks, and CPC were very even between the two bidding strategies. These were very questionable results because the front-end data was so even between the two testing segments, but there was significant variation when referencing the eCommerce data.

Since our test was relatively inconclusive, we decided to end the test for the holiday season to maximize this account’s performance. We plan to relaunch this test in more domestic and international markets in Q1 and update our findings. We will also be opting into cross device conversions and extending the period we run the test for. After internal and external discussions, these factors along with seasonality could have led to unfavorable results for the ECPC bidding strategy.

Another important consideration when evaluating ECPC, is the attribution model the conversion data is leveraging. Currently, ECPC only has the capability to optimize using AdWords’ conversion attribution or GA’s last non-direct click attribution. Both attribution models are limited and don’t value the source of discovery. Therefore we are focused more on GA’s first-interaction, which ECPC can’t leverage. This is a major reason why we have a hard time trusting the results of the ECPC test.

If you were interested in learning more about the enhanced CPC bidding strategy, please look out for our next blog scheduled to be published next month. For all other inquiries, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com  or by phone at 781-591-0752.

How to Grow Your RLSA Campaigns with Similar Audiences

If you are a Google advertiser you have, without a doubt, been plagued with the client’s request of “How do we grow more traffic?” Growing traffic for any search engine marketer isn’t exactly a difficult task. You can increase bids, target new locations, or switch up your match types. You can launch Display or Remarketing campaigns, using image ads to capture new users.  Let’s face it, growing PPC traffic is easy, but, growing efficient PPC traffic is not. In the end, we all want more conversions, but for the same or lower price. All the above strategies need to be fine-tuned, tested, and matured before anything is deemed successful. We are all familiar with Display and Remarketing campaigns.  However, the more untouched strategy of RLSA campaigns may be the secret solution to growing traffic efficiently.  Recently in May, Google unveiled new additions to RLSA campaigns to further enhance performance.

What is an RLSA Campaign?

RLSA is essentially remarketing for search campaigns. This Google feature lets you customize search ads and bids to people who have already visited your site. You can choose which visitors (non-converters, etc.) automatically are added to your RLSA remarketing list.  Marketers then have the opportunity to develop campaigns, knowing that the targeted user has already visited, and is already interested in your product.  There are two basic ways to target users using RLSA.

  1. You can replicate your existing keyword set and increase those bids knowing that the user is typically more qualified. According to Google, industry experts recommend being as aggressive as using a 100% bid multiplier on your keywords. The chart below shows an example scenario of a keyword in a regular search campaign versus the same exact keyword in an RLSA campaign. Even though Avg. CPC increased by roughly 100%, we saw a 253% increase in conversion rate, leading to a much stronger ROI. Users are more likely to convert, because they have already demonstrated interest in your product.

Google Similar Audiences

  1. The second strategy marketers implement with RLSA campaigns is bidding on more generic keywords, knowing that the user is already interested in their product. For example, if you are running a paid search campaign for a luxury jewelry store, you may want to avoid bidding on the term “earrings”, because it is too broad or vague. However, if you know the user has already visited the earrings page of your site, you can bid on a term such as “earrings” and develop custom ad copy and send that user back to a specific PPC optimized earrings page. RLSA campaigns are also often used to promote discounts and promotion codes via the ad copy to interested users.

How to Grow Your RLSA Audiences:

The one limiting factor of RLSA campaigns, is that your search remarketing list can often times be small. If you are enabling the “target and bid” option for your ad groups, a user must hit your site, and then do another search while matching out to your assigned keywords within a set time period.

You may have noticed that every time you create a remarketing list, whether it be display or search, Google creates a “Similar” audience.  This look-a-like list consists of prospective users that contain the same interests as other users who have visited your site. In May, Google announced that these “Similar” audiences are now available for search campaigns.  Google assigns users to these lists by looking at the query behavior of each site visitor.  For example, say someone visited your site by searching “hotels in London” and converted. Google would then scan queries of other relevant users to assess their overall quality. If someone searches for “best things to do in London” or “where to stay in London,” Google would consider them to be a relevant candidate for a Similar Audience.  Users only remain on a Similar Audience list for 24 hours to ensure the highest amount of relevancy to your product.

The chart below depicts front end metrics comparing RLSA, Non-Branded Search, and Similar Audience campaigns.  As you can see, the Similar Audience campaign generates about 100% more volume than the traditional RLSA campaigns.  Although the differences in ROI are drastic between the two campaigns, the Similar Audience campaign is actually directly in line with our regular Non-Branded search campaigns in terms of ROI.

Capture2

RLSA campaigns can be a great and effective way to boost overall site traffic in an efficient manner.  When implementing, paid search strategists should consider utilizing Similar Audiences to further grow traffic and capture a wider and more relevant audience.

If you’d like to learn more about how Synapse SEM can help you improve your paid search strategy, please complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

The Impact of Google’s Latest Mobile Updates

Earlier in August, Google unveiled multiple changes to their mobile market that will significantly impact overall paid search marketing strategies. First, cross device conversions will now automatically be tracked under all conversions within AdWords.  Second, Google will be making long-awaited changes to their device level bidding. Both of these updates will allow more control over the mobile market, as well as the ability to attribute mobile performance more appropriately and make more informed decisions.

Although mobile traffic is on the rise, customers are constantly researching before they buy, and often times, this research can occur on multiple devices.  For example, if you are looking to purchase a new camera, you may do some initial research on your mobile phone during your work commute, but then finally take the plunge, and purchase later that day on your desktop.  According to Google, 61% of internet users, and a whopping 80% of online millennials will start shopping on one device, and then purchase on another. When using AdWords conversion tracking, the purchase from the example above would get attributed as a desktop conversion.  However, in reality, that purchase was initiated on a mobile device. Cross device conversions allow for proper tracking and the understanding of where conversions are coming from.  As of September 6th, Google is now automatically tracking cross device conversions within all conversions in AdWords.  Cross device conversion tracking is likely to cause paid search marketers to see the true influence of mobile, which is often under-valued.

Now that we are able to see to real impact of mobile performance on our campaigns, Google’s latest announcement is going to allow marketers to cater their marketing strategies to revolve more around mobile performance.  Previously, users were only allowed to adjust their mobile bids, by applying a blanket bid multiplier to campaigns or ad groups, while desktop and tablet bids were grouped together.  In the next few months, Google will be unveiling a brand-new strategy which will allow users to set baseline bids regardless of the device.  Therefore, bids can be set specifically for mobile, with desktop or tablet bid multipliers applied vice versa. Users will have the ability to adjust bids up to 900% for each device. Now, advertisers can create mobile, desktop, or tablet specific campaigns with unique ads and bids designed to target specific markets.

These two new Google updates go hand in hand in letting paid search marketers have a deeper understanding of mobile performance for their accounts, with the ability to actually take action on their strategies.  Cross device conversion tracking lets us realize what keywords or ads perform best on certain devices, and soon, we will be able to fully optimize our bids based on this data.  And last but certainly not least, perhaps the most long-awaited change, is that we can finally set negative bid adjustments on those pesky tablets.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can more effectively leverage a mobile bidding strategy, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

The Ins and Outs of Competitor Keyword Bidding for PPC

One of the greatest things about PPC is that if there is a query with enough search volume, you can likely bid on it. Not only that, but you can have your brand showing front and center on a search engine results page for that query as well. That is just one of the benefits of bidding on your competitor’s branded or trademark terms because it allows you to get right in front of prospective customers and persuade them to consider your product or service instead. When done right, competitor keyword bidding can be a profitable venture for a PPC strategy. In this blog, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of competitor keyword bidding as well as the tactical and strategic best practices to maximize results.

Pros and Cons

Before you consider identifying your top competitors and increasing bids on their terms, it’s important to weigh the positives and negatives of this strategy.

Pros:

Incremental leads/sales – When scaling a PPC account, it’s important to consider all options when looking for keyword expansion opportunities. Look no further than your competitors’ branded terms! Unless specified through a contract, it is not against the rules to bid on these types of terms. By doing so, you open up the opportunity to appear for relevant traffic and attract potential prospects away from your competitors. While conversion rates may be lower, this is still a great way to drive more leads/sales through your site.

Branding potential – As mentioned in the preceding section, your ads will be distributed to many prospects who are already relevant to your business because they are looking for an organization very similar to yours. This provides a great branding opportunity while your potential customers are in a critical consideration phase in the purchase funnel. Make certain to leverage engaging ad copy but be careful when using specific trademark terms in the messaging or risk ad disapprovals.

Cons:

High cost-per-click – Depending on your account average CPC is, you may run the risk of seeing higher click costs when running a competitor campaign. This is due in large part to the fact that you will likely have low Quality Score on competitor terms, which will inherently drive CPCs up. If you currently run PPC campaigns for your site, you know that your branded CPC is always of the cheapest. This is because your ads are most relevant to your site which is why your Quality Score on those terms will be strongest. It’s this exact reasoning as to why your competitor keywords will see a low Quality Score and that’s due to the relevance of your site to those terms.

Negative relationships – Would you like it if your competitors started bidding on your branded terms? Didn’t think so. Another potential con is negative relationships that you might begin with your competitors when bidding on their terms. They may reach out with a cease and desist letter or they might start bidding on your branded terms to try and drive up your CPCs. While certainly a negative, the gains from bidding on your competitors’ terms might outweigh the issues here.

Strategic Best Practices

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons to competitor keyword bidding, it’s time we talk about how to execute a successful competitor campaign.

Campaign structure: Separate your competitor keyword targeting into its own campaign. This will allow for easier optimizations. Other benefits are as follows:

  • Budget management – Ensure you are not devoting too much of your overall efforts to this one strategy. Setting a daily cap on how much you are willing to spend will help you stay on top of these campaigns.
  • Geo-specific targeting – If you are looking to minimize costs when it comes to competitive bidding, consider only targeting in certain higher priority regions. You’ll be able to still have visibility in top markets but you’ll not waste spend in less important areas.
  • Ad scheduling – Similar to geo-specific targeting, ad scheduling is another campaign specific optimization that can be used to manage costs. Use ad scheduling to only have your competitor campaign distribute ads at certain times of day or days of week that are most advantageous for your business.

Ad copy: An important consideration with competitor campaigns, is having the most engaging ad copy in rotation. Ideally, you should test a number of different ad variations. We’ve recommended some messaging considerations below:

  • Trademark variations: Instead of using a competitor’s trademark term, consider using a close variation that will still produce high Quality Scores but protects you from potential trademark infringement claims.
  • Inclusion of pricing – One of the best approaches when bidding on competitor keywords, is to include pricing in your ad copy especially if your prices are better than your competitor’s.
  • Competitive benefits – Does your platform deploy in under an hour and your competitor’s platform takes 24 hours? Do you offer free shipping and the competition charges $5.95? If your product or service has superior benefits, don’t be afraid to hammer that messaging home!

Landing pages: The last piece of the puzzle is converting traffic at a high rate, and that is mostly done with an effective landing page experience. It’s important to include iterations of your competitor’s trademark term if you can to ensure you are maximizing Quality Score too. Please find two approaches to developing an effective landing page below:

  • Conservative approach – If you’ve decided that bidding on your competitor’s terms is enough and you don’t want to bug them anymore, we recommend providing prospects a conservative landing page experience. This would be similar to your current strategy where the above-fold CTA is prominent but you have additional below-fold CTAs to engage users even further. Also, be sure to showcase messaging that makes you appear superior to your competitors.
  • Aggressive approach – If you are thinking about a more aggressive approach, consider a comparison chart that directly presents why your product or service is better than your competitor’s. This would include pricing and any other superior benefits side by side with the competitor’s name included in the chart. Insights from prior tests show this as a very effective strategy.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can more effectively leverage a competitor bidding strategy, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

What You Need to Know About Google’s Expanded Text Ads

In our latest blog post regarding expanded text ads (ETAs), we talked about the expected outcomes of running expanded text ads within your campaigns.  Now that we’ve had these ads live for a few months for several of our clients, we found some surprising results and unexpected outcomes.

When first launching this new ad format across our high volume ad groups back in July, we were not seeing the results we expected.  CTR was not significantly improving (and in some cases they were worse), conversion rate was lower, and most curiously – impressions for our expanded text ads were lower than our standard ads (even though we were set on indefinite rotation).  Given all the hype Google had created around this beta, we were understandably disappointed.

Our team spent some time brainstorming different ideas as to why performance was down for our ETA ads.  Were people confused by this new layout and unsure of whether they wanted to engage with these new ad formats?  Did the ETAs look too busy with the extensive text and double headlines?  Perhaps the display URLs that were automatically pulling in were not perfectly optimized in terms of URL structure, and thus looked strange within the ETA ads.  The performance indicator that truly had us baffled, however, was the low impression split for ETAs.  Unable to explain the discrepancy in impressions, our team did what any search team in crisis has learned to do: we called Google.

The Google representatives we spoke to confirmed that prior to July 26, ETAs were not eligible to show 100% of the time.  Up through July 26, Google had gradually increased the percentage of impressions that ETAs were eligible to show for (i.e. 20%, then 50%, etc.).  On July 26, the update was made that allowed ETAs to show up for 100% of impressions, just like standard ads.  This piece of information made a big difference in how we were analyzing our ad performance.  Below, we’ve outlined the differences in ETA versus standard ad performance both before and after the update on July 26, when the ETAs became eligible to show 100% of the time.

Impression volume and CTR

Prior to the update in July, impressions were down for ETAs by 25-30% versus impressions for our standard ads.  CTR for standard ads was also not too far off from the ETA CTR, with less than a 15% difference between the two.  This was not in line with the expectations Google had set, which was an average 20% improvement in CTR for ETAs versus standard ads.  It wasn’t until after the switch on July 26 that impressions evened out for ETA ads (and in some cases even outweighed standard ad impressions).  CTR also improved for ETA ads after the update in July, (21% above the CTR for standard ads) finally meeting the expectations that Google had set.

Conversion Rate

Prior to the update in July which allowed ETAs to be eligible for 100% of auctions, conversion rate was down 5% for ETAs versus standard ads for our higher volume clients and ad groups.  Post-July update, ETA conversion rate actually outperformed standard ads by 10%.  While Google originally had not made any promises regarding shifts in conversion rate, it’s great to see that the longer ads are leading to a stronger rate of conversion.

Cost Per Click

Before the July update, ETAs still had more efficient CPCs, however the margin between ETA CPCs and standard ad CPCs only improved with the July update.  Prior to July, ETA CPCs were 11% more efficient than standard ads for our highest volume clients.  Once the switch was made in July, ETA CPCs were 17% more efficient.  Why could this be happening?  Potentially due to improvements in Quality Score with ETA ads now that more characters are allowed, which allows advertisers to more easily incorporate relevant keywords into their messaging.

There are still some mixed reviews out there on how expanded text ads are performing versus standard ads, but across our clients we have certainly seen improvements now that all ETAs are 100% eligible to show.  With Google permanently rolling out ETAs in October, it’s important for advertisers to begin analyzing performance on their expanded ads as soon as possible.  Synapse clients have certainly seen improvements, but it remains to be seen whether improved ETA performance will be able to stand the test of time.  If you tested ETAs when they first launched and were disappointed by the results, consider retesting.  The initial issues surrounding impression share have been resolved, and we’re seeing in many cases even better impression share for ETAs vs standard ads.

If you’d like to learn more about how Synapse SEM can help you improve your paid search strategy, please complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

Landing the Featured Snippets Spot in Google

Since its inception, Google has tried to satisfy searchers’ intent and deliver the most streamlined user experience. And with each update, each algorithm, each new feature, the search engine superstar gets closer to the mark.

Featured Snippets, first introduced back in 2014, are one of Google’s greatest strides in meeting searchers’ needs.  They replace syntax with semantics and offer the most relevant, convenient answers to each wanting user. So much, in fact, that many experts believe these little snippets of information are actually revolutionizing the entire search experience – including the way that we optimize for it.

Whether you are a business owner, digital marketing manager, SEO rookie, or all of the above, there is no doubt that Featured Snippets can offer significant organic opportunities for your website. And it can all start here.

This is your guide to Google’s Featured Snippets. This is your key to ranking above position 1 in Google’s first-page organic search results, to driving relevant traffic to your website, and to getting your brand noticed. Let’s begin with the basics.

What are Featured Snippets?

Featured Snippets are Google’s way of giving us fast answers to common questions, right in the search results. Often in the form of definitions, how-to instructions, and other answers/solutions, Featured Snippets are separate blocks of content that appear above the organic listings on the first search results page.

Featured Snippets present users with answers without having to navigate to a website. Extracted from a given web page, they contain a summary of an answer, a page title and URL, and a link to the corresponding source.

What are the Benefits of Featured Snippets? 

featured-snippet-mobileFeatured Snippets take up substantial real estate in Google’s SERP. For the mobile user, Featured Snippets can occupy an entire above fold experience. With all the space they consume, Featured Snippets practically scream to a searcher, “I can give you what you need!” or “Click me, I ranked above the rest!” In many cases, a user will respond.

Featured Snippets can double your organic real estate in the SERP:

In order to achieve a Featured Snippet, a website must rank on the first page of Google’s organic search results – anywhere between positions #1 and #10. This high ranking, combined with clear, quality content, tells Google that the website is credible and relevant enough to be positioned at the very top of the search results.

Those who are fortunate enough to earn a Featured Snippet rank not only once, but twice in the SERP. They rank in the Featured Snippet spot in addition to their listing in the organic results. When you rank twice on the first page of Google, you also look more credible to users, improving your page’s chances of being clicked.

In many cases, Featured Snippets show high CTRs and traffic spikes:

Many marketers debate the merit of Featured Snippets, claiming that they give users no incentive to click on a page. If the answer is placed right in front of users, and they get what they are looking for, why would they take the time to click through?

While seemingly a valid argument, these disbelievers couldn’t be more off. Substantial research surrounding Featured Snippets has proved that the standout located at the top of the SERP actually brings in more organic traffic and sees a higher click-through rate than its standard competitors.

SEO spearhead MOZ cites two noteworthy examples of Featured Snippets raising the charts: When Glenn Gabe lost their Featured Snippet position, they also lost over 39,000 clicks to their website in a two-week period. When HubSpot earned the Featured Snippet position on high-volume keywords, they experienced an average 114 percent boost in click-through rate:

hubspot-graph-featured-snippets-impact

On average, sources say that websites in the Featured Snippet spot will see a 20-30 percent spike in organic traffic, though some companies have experienced as high as a 516 percent traffic jump.

Featured Snippets are also highly prevalent:

Though Featured Snippets are not new to Google’s search results, they are becoming more prevalent. In their two-year lifespan, Featured Snippets have quintupled in frequency, and more than doubled over the last 12 months. Currently, they appear in almost 10 percent of all SERP content.

This is one of the primary benefits of Featured Snippets, simply that they are there. They are being utilized day-in and day-out, and judging by their recent rise in occurrence, it seems they are not going away. Websites and thought leaders must respond. Rather than letting other sites earn that top-notch position in the search results, they should fight for it. They should optimize their content for Featured Snippets, and subsequently snag that spot.

How Do You Win a Featured Snippet?

While over two-years-old now, Featured Snippets remain a mystery to a lot of search engine optimizers. Because in truth, there is no single formula for winning this position. There is no exact science to how Google pulls in Featured Snippets. Even more, there is no guarantee you’ll ever see your content featured. But because Featured Snippets are free, and often a shortcut to the top organic ranking, optimizing your content for them really can’t hurt.

The best way to build and optimize content for Featured Snippets is to first analyze current opportunities and see where you have the greatest potential. This means,

  1. Conducting keyword research: The best way to begin keyword research is to try to anticipate what your customers are searching for and what they want to know. Then, determine which of these are the highest volume queries, and which produce or have the potential to produce a Featured Snippet. How-to instructions, questions and answers, and definitions have the greatest propensity to get pulled in.
  2. Evaluating rankings and the competition: Many people believe that to earn a Featured Snippet, all you need to do is answer a question or create relevant content around a given theme. But as discussed previously, you have to rank on page 1 to even get to the point where Google will consider you for a spot. And to rank on page 1, you must be able to hold your own against the competition.

Consider this example. Say you want to earn the Featured Snippet for the query, “What is SEO?”, which produces over 33K searches per month. You have a strong domain authority of 54, but the websites ranking on page 1 for this term have an average domain authority of 80. Can you compete? Perhaps, but in the meantime, you may consider going after a less competitive, still frequently searched term such as, “How to optimize my blog for SEO” where the DA ranges upwards of 40.

If your content is not currently ranking on page 1, it does have the potential to get there. Quality backlinks improve domain authority, which in turn helps rankings. If your content is already ranking on page 1 for a target query, or has the potential to do so, then you are ready to optimize for the Featured Snippet spot.

Featured snippets are extracted from web pages that have clear, straightforward answers relating to a user’s query. That being said, it’s important to ensure that search engine crawlers and users alike can easily find and interpret the content. Some best practices for Featured Snippet optimization include:

  • Placing your target keyword in the page headers (H1, H2s, and H3s)
  • Formatting your content in structured lists (bulleted or numbered lists)
  • Sectioning content into a Q&A style format with clear questions and straightforward answers
  • Keeping content sections clean and concise (between 54 and 58 words)

With Millennial markets surging, mobile usage growing, and the demand for fast, quality content increasing, Featured Snippets appear to be Google’s way of meeting users’ needs. Businesses, websites, marketers—it’s time we follow suit. Step up to the plate and serve users’ a full course of the content they are craving.

If you’d like to learn how Synapse SEM can help improve search engine optimization on your website, please complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

What Role Do View-Through Conversions Play in the Display Network?

Just about everyone who has used the internet is familiar with seeing those pesky Remarketing ads. In fact, every time I tell someone that I work in the digital marketing field, it almost is directly followed by the same question, “Are you the ones that make those creepy ads that follow me around on every site?”

Over the years, I found that it is not just my friends and family who are annoyed about Remarketing ads, but CMOs and marketing executives are often asking the same question.  Does Remarketing really work? If someone visits a site, is seeing an ad in the corner of their computer screen really going to influence them to visit it again?

Remarketing campaigns can produce two different types of conversions.  The first conversion type is a direct conversion, where a user views a remarketing ad on a separate site, clicks directly on it, and then converts. The other, more controversial conversion, is a View-Through Conversion (VTC). This occurs when a user views a remarketing ad on a separate site, does not click on it, and at another time, navigates back to the original site through another channel (organically, directly etc.) and converts.

The question that then arises is, do VTCs really represent incremental sales and leads? How do we exactly know that the ad generated the conversion?  With VTCs, the individual can end up back on the original site, days or sometimes weeks after they first saw that specific ad.  What are the chances that that specific remarketing ad really prompted that conversion? How are we so sure that the user was not already planning on returning to the site? Additionally, a user may not have even seen the ad. Many times advertisements are located below fold on a site, or hidden away on side banners. It is likely that the user could have missed the ad completely.

Our agency set out to conduct an A/B test designed to prove whether or not VTCs are really influencing our performance.  To do so, our agency worked with Google to set up a PSA test.  Google carefully segmented our audiences into two groups: one group that will exclusively see an irrelevant public service announcement (PSA) advertisement, and another group that will see our client’s image ad. The audiences were set specifically so that there would be no overlap between who sees what ad.  Check out the results below:

Capture

Of all the users that were part of the remarketing list, and did not get remarketed to (saw the PSA ad), we generated 235 VTCs. Of all the users that were remarketed to normally (saw a client specific ad), we produced 306 VTC. Therefore, we can assume that our remarketing ads produced an incremental 71 VTCs (if we subtract 235 from 202).  The 71 VTCs makes up roughly 23% of overall VTCs (306). Of course this percentage will vary with each client and industry.

Capture

We can now apply this 23% to our total VTCs in order to more accurately determine the number of truly incremental VTCs.  For example, if in a given week, a remarketing campaign produced 133 VTCs, it is likely that 30 of those conversions are legitimate. If you are an ecommerce company, you can apply standard AOV numbers to calculate the expected incremental revenue that those VTCs added to your campaigns. Whether you are a strong proponent of VTC, or a skeptic, it is important to consider the findings of this test and learn that we can quantify the impact of VTCs.  These findings should be considered in reporting and they should influence optimizations within Display and Remarketing campaigns.  It is important that we do not neglect these forms of conversions that can sometimes be considered illegitimate or non-incremental.  Raising bids of display placements, keywords, or other targeting based on VTC volume has proven successful in impacting our overall client conversions.  Ultimately, we know that across Display and Remarketing campaigns some of the VTCs are incremental and some are not.  As advertisers, it is critical that we understand this rate of incrementality so that we’re properly attributing the correct value to each of our marketing programs.  Furthermore, each network and each campaign type (display vs. remarketing) may produce different rates of incrementality.  Therefore, it is important to test various networks and campaign types to understand how VTCs behave within each.

To learn more about Display and Remarketing strategy, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

Consider These Three Things To Succeed with Report Automation

Reporting, some folks refer to it as a necessary evil, and others call it a fundamental tool for business. No matter what your thoughts are on the matter, if you are reading this, it is because your reporting efforts are taking too much time, costing too much money, or are getting too complex. Hence, you have decided to look into efficient alternatives to make your organization’s reporting efforts easier. You may not know where to start or what to do, but you are not alone.

Part of my responsibilities in my current role is to help surpass current operational efficiency while contributing to the organization’s overall commitment to our customer needs and goals. Our reporting mission is not to provide a one-size-fits-all type of report but one that is carefully customized to each of our clients. This means that I am responsible for designing, developing, and testing our report automation efforts for every account that we manage.

Since I have already started with this project, I decided to share a some of my experiences in the hopes that they either guide you or help you save time. The main thing you must know is that you do not need a massive budget to make reporting automation work. You can make your automated reports as elaborate or as simple as you wish, and your outcome can be a very cool dashboard or a very insightful Excel file. Therefore, because the possibilities are endless, I decided to make these tips as general as possible while sometimes leveraging two of my daily go-to data sources to illustrate some of my points. Without further ado, these are the three key things you should consider:

  1. What are you trying to accomplish?

The design of your automated report is going to be directly proportional to the desired goal you wish to accomplish. There are several approaches to pull data, analyze it, and present it. Thus, an automated report whose goal is to minimize reporting turnaround times could look and interact substantially differently than one that aims to maximize accuracy or that will interact as a dashboard-like output. Therefore, in order to build the solution that fit your needs, you and your team need to ask: “What are we trying to accomplish? How are we measuring success?”

The most common answers to this question fall within the following verticals:

  • Turnaround Efficiency
  • Accuracy
  • Compliance & Monitoring of KPIs
  • Data Integration

Moreover, the more granular these answers are, the more effortless it will be to develop an efficient solution. It is important to understand that apart from the goal, a clear understanding of all team members and stakeholders of how the final output should look, feel, display, etc. will also be of tremendous value in the development stage.

  1. Have you considered how business requirements may impact your report in the future?

Business is ever changing and, consequently, reporting is as well. When making the design, potential short-term and long-term changes must be considered and consulting with someone who has prior experience with the particular stakeholder or industry may be very helpful to get a sense of how regularly and what type of changes are usually experienced. For instance, in the PPC space, stakeholders often shift their strategies, which entails launching, pausing, and replacing campaigns, ad groups, copy, and search terms – this can happen at any given point, and thus, reports need to be modified to display the active data. Proactively understanding changing business environments and integrating these into the foundational design of an automated report provide you with the flexibility and dynamism to adapt to unforeseen changes.

There is always going to be an unavoidable instance when new development efforts will have to take place to cater to the evolving needs in question. In prior opportunities, even with the most thorough design and use-case scenario preparation, I have witnessed how new business needs and business questions mean almost an entirely new deployment of the reporting infrastructure. Therefore, I always recommend thoroughly documenting the design process, specifically, any unique features or needs that have to be implemented, so that when a request for a major redesign comes in, you and your team will be able to leverage what you or someone else has done in the past. This can contribute to significant time savings and a much more tailored solution.

Keep in mind that with the documentation process, you should be able to respond to these questions for any step of your report:

  • Are all steps documented in full detail? If we were to revisit this design in six months, would we be able to remember where we left off?
  • Is there any particular step that is particular to this report? If so, have we documented how we overcame this challenge?
  • Is there another alternative to get the same result? If there is, have we tested it to determine which one may be better?
  • What tests can we carry out to ensure the design works?
  • After the data analysis, are there any gaps or questions left unanswered? (If your answer is yes, you should revisit the drawing board and do the necessary to close the gaps.)
  • Could you explain your design with a story? (This will help you see if your data relationship makes sense.)
  1. Have you looked into the quality, structure, complexities, and limitations of your data source(s)?

According to Google Trends, over the past five years, the number of searches for “Data Quality”, “Big Data”, and “Data Cleansing” have increased by 50% year over year (YoY). We all have heard about the power and uses that data can have in the workplace, social media, sports, human behavior analysis, etc. Most of us have seen some type of dashboard and even heard of visualization tools such as Tableau or Google Data Studio. However, not everyone knows the work that it takes to gather the data to use these tools properly.

One of the reasons for this is that every company has its own strategy and design for their OLAP cubes, databases, overall data sources, etc. Another reason is that none of the processes that happen behind the scenes are as engaging as a dashboard. Nevertheless, if you are looking to eventually have or maximize the power of these tools, you must not ignore your data sources.

To illustrate my point, let’s talk about two data sources that our reports tend to leverage: Google Analytics and Google AdWords. While in essence, these two are complimentary platforms and were built by the same company, they do not operate equally in a number of different scenarios, and each presents its own unique challenges. Thus, if you were asked to build an automated report that used both of these sources to show a client how his or her PPC and SEO efforts were performing, how would you be able to seamlessly integrate both of them for your stakeholder?

You have to create or leverage a data relationship. There are several ways to make this work, but I recommend using the following questions as a general guideline to help you determine your next steps:

  • Are the data sources inclusive? If so, how are they linked together?
  • What metrics are you trying to report on? Is there a possibility that both sources contain the same metric with similar or different results? If they are different, which one will you choose?
  • Are there any primary/unique ids that you could leverage to get more granular attribution? (I highly discourage anyone from using alphabetic fields as IDs to create data relationships.)
  • Are there any fields that only one of the sources has that could impact the quality or accuracy of your results?
  • How will you test the accuracy of the information? (This is particularly important since tools, like Google Adwords, change throughout the day and can generally present results that differ by up to 5%, depending on when you pull the data.)
  • Is there any manual entry involved with the process? What steps can you take to minimize human error?

Once you are able to determine the answers to these questions, you will be able to design an action plan that minimizes the vulnerabilities of each source. Finally, in some instances, you will find no relationships in the data, and you must find a way to create one. For instance, if you added to your report additional information from an organic rankings tool and/or social media performance, there will most likely not be a link between these sources and Google Adwords or Analytics. If you find yourself in this situation, you will then have to build a layer where you integrate these sources as you see fit, keeping in mind that, although there is no nexus amongst themselves, they all still are results that pertain to the same client or stakeholder.

I hope that you are able to leverage this information into your reporting automation efforts. From personal experience, being prepared to address these questions before diving into a report automation project will help you maximize the efforts invested, create a better final product, and facilitate management discussions so that you can move seamlessly with your process. Remember that you should always have a defined goal, be able to document and explain your design considering an ever-changing business environment, and finally understand the peculiarities of the sources you are leveraging for the report.

Happy Reporting!

 

 

Why Custom Landing Pages are More Important than Ever

“I’m afraid our paid search campaigns have plateaued; how do you expect to achieve the aggressive growth goals we have set for our account?” Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. As many can attest, you will find that most of the conversions and revenue you see from your campaigns will be driven by a core set of keywords. Ad copy testing, bid optimizations and keyword expansions are just a few popular tactics used to help our paid search campaigns reach their full potential, but are they enough? While these tactics are important in improving front-end performance for an account, customizing the landing page experience has always been one of the biggest opportunities to maximize performance. Read on to learn more about how we achieve efficient account growth through custom landing page development:

Increase Conversions & Visibility, Efficiently

Experienced PPC managers understand that in order to run a successful campaign, you must maximize conversions produced in the most efficient way possible. This is why custom PPC landings pages are now more important than ever. Specially, the improvements we saw to both conversion rates and Quality Score have helped our account reach new heights that we were previously unable to achieve. Please refer to the table below for results from one of our landing page tests:

Test Results A:

table a new

Our test was set up where all variables apart from the landing page were the same (keyword set, ad copy, etc.). If you refer to the table labeled Test Results A, you will observe that conversion rate was 44% stronger on the new page compared to the old page. This lead to a staggering 86% increase in conversion volume.  On a separate note, impressions were higher for the new page as well, which is something we’ll explain further on.

Test Results B:

We also reviewed impression share, Quality Score, and average CPC differences between the two pages, which can be seen in the following table:

table b

An interesting trend we started to see with our custom landing page test was that the impression split difference would favor the new landing page considerably. Our tests were set up so that each ad would have an equal opportunity to enter the auction, however we found that the ad with the new page was able to win more of those auctions and appear more often which increased its Impression Share. We determined that the new page’s ad was able to achieve this due to a higher Quality Score. Please refer to Test Results B where you can see that our results yielded stronger Quality Score (+17%) and Impression Share (+14%) with the new landing pages.  Lastly, and most importantly, we saw 19% lower CPCs when using the new page which lead to more efficient performance without sacrificing traffic.

Testing & Measurement Considerations

Before you go out and develop dozens of custom landing pages for your account, we strongly encourage that you test some drafts before moving forward with scaling out production. While we are confident that custom landing pages are applicable to most accounts, there may be some subtle tweaks that need to be made before you settle on a template that works best.

We recommend that you leverage AdWords Drafts & Experiments to test the impact your custom landing pages have on performance. Using Drafts & Experiments is especially important because it is the only way to ensure that each ad variation gets an equal chance to enter the auction and allows you to measure Quality Score and Impression Share for individual keywords.

Test Results C:

The following table displays the effects our custom landing pages had on individual keyword Quality Score, CPC, Position, and Impression Share:

table c

In most cases, we saw improved performance across all KPIs measured. While we expected to see Quality Score improve and CPCs to decrease, the biggest surprise was the increase in Impression Share we saw. This is why you saw impressions for the new page in Test Results A significantly higher than that of the old page. Where we were previously unable to increase bids to capture more Impression Share due to efficiency constraints, the custom landing pages allowed us to capture more traffic without having to increase our bids.  We explained this dynamic in one of our advanced PPC series articles.

If you consistently see that your new landing pages help to drive costs down and increase conversions, you know that it is time to scale out development efforts and implement these pages across your account.

Best Practices for Custom Landing Pages

Now that you understand why custom landing pages are now more important than ever and how you are going to measure their performance, it’s time to learn what goes into developing one. Two things need to be considered when developing custom landing pages; the page’s relevancy to a particular keyword theme and the page’s ability to convert traffic at a high rate.

To optimize a page for Quality Score, you must first determine your highest traffic keyword themes and design pages accordingly. Each page must be specific to that theme to ensure ad relevance is maximized. We typically recommend including a keyword-centric headline with an appropriate call-to-action above-fold. Then we recommend at least 4-6 iterations of that keyword be included on the page to ensure it receives a strong Quality Score. We also recommend a section of content be added to the bottom of the page (directly above the footer) 3-5 sentences long with the only purpose of helping improve Quality Score.

Next, you want to design the page for conversion rate purposes. We suggest having the primary CTA above-fold so it is clear to the user what next steps they should take. Credibility-builders like logos of current clients, trust badges, or testimonials will establish a sense of security and trust between the user and your organization. If an individual is not ready to complete the primary CTA, we then recommend including softer CTAs below-fold to provide a user with additional opportunities to convert.

Custom landing pages, which were once thought to be a routine addition to our PPC efforts, have become more important now than ever before. With their help we’ve surpassed our original expectations and delivered extremely strong performance to our clients.

To learn more about how PPC landing page strategies can drive more leads with greater efficiency, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

How to Drive Brand Engagement through Facebook Ads

Facebook is becoming too big to ignore.  The social media giant trumps all other social channels with more than 1.65 billion active users each month.  Over 66 percent of these users log into Facebook on a daily basis.  Each user spends an average of 21 minutes on Facebook each day.

What does this mean for you and your marketing team?  Facebook is the new marketplace for growing companies— It is a prominent outlet for business branding, a thriving field of potential customers, and a strong driver of customer loyalty.

You may be here because you’ve had trouble making an impression and reaching your customers in the past.  It is no wonder why.  This is a crowded landscape for advertisers.  According to Facebook, about 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared on the platform each day.  Not only this, but the majority of marketers see Facebook as a crucial asset to their business and bottom line.  With millions of business pages existing on the platform, odds are high that your competition is already leveraging social media for business engagement.  It seems that in today’s digital age, you can’t afford to give up or sit out.  Instead, you must stand out.

Competition isn’t the only challenge for businesses on Facebook today.  Recent changes to Facebook’s algorithm have made it so that commercial users will have a harder time of reaching their audiences organically.  In January 2015, for example, Facebook lowered the organic reach capability for business brand pages in efforts to limit the amount of promotional content appearing on users’ Newsfeeds.  With this change, Facebook encouraged business owners to leverage paid post promotions.

Facebook advertising offers several ways for businesses to achieve specific objectives, such as driving brand awareness/credibility, in-store sales, or mobile app downloads.  If you are new to Facebook ads, the platform’s “Boost Post” option is a great place to start your social marketing efforts.

facebook marketing strategies

“Boosting” is a fast and simple solution to increase the number of viewers who see your Facebook post.  And from a budget standpoint, the boosting option is one of the cheapest ways to get the most user engagement out of your posts.  Rather than only reaching users in your current network, boosted posts allow you to reach new followers and potential customers.  You can do this by carefully curating an optimal target audience and boosting the right posts at the right times.  Here’s how:

Ad Targeting:

Of the billion people scrolling through their Newsfeeds each day, how do you reach the users that are most likely to engage with your brand?  Facebook’s extensive ad targeting feature allows you to do just this.  In just a few clicks, you can choose the demographics that your boosted post will reach: age, gender, location, education, and interests are just some of the many targeting options.  You can set your audience as broad as all females in the United States, aged 16-30, who are using a mobile device, or as granular as all married females in New England who are interested in marathoning and have graduated with a college degree in Nutrition.facebook ad strategy

If you are a B2B company and want to target decision-makers at specific organizations, you can narrow your audience down by a user’s job title, workplace, and name of employer.  You can even target certain ‘Buyer Profiles’ such as “gadget enthusiasts” or Facebook users who have recently purchased software for their business.  You can also exclude customers of particular demographics.

Facebook also has an ad targeting feature called “Lookalike Audiences” that allows you to reach new users who behave similarly or have the same interests as your current customers and followers.

Facebook ad targeting best practices:  Refine, refine, refine.  Narrow audiences tend to be the most successful, so it is important to be very specific about who you want to reach.  Use Facebook’s Interest categories to target individuals who you feel will be most interested in your brand, and therefore more likely to engage with your posts.  Use the Work Demographic category to target specific companies or company sizes that would qualify a potential lead for your business.

Type of Content to Boost:

You may be asking, “Which content will drive the most results?” or “What type of content do users want to read?”  In my last blog post on Business Blogging Trends, I discussed the importance of high-quality content.  This holds true for Facebook ads best practices, as well.  Good content matters.  Users want solutions or to read something novel.  They want to be entertained or engaged.

From experience, we have seen that personalized posts such as testimonials or first-hand customer stories have proven to be successful on Facebook— Especially when photos, videos, or other media are incorporated.  We recently boosted a testimonial for a client and created a specific audience tailored to their target market.  Over its lifespan, that post reached over 144k Facebook users, achieved over 1,800 likes and 300 shares.  During that same timeframe, referral traffic to their website doubled.

With the right type of content, you can send qualified visitors to your site, get people talking about your brand, and become a trusted thought-leader in your industry.  And by tying those boosted posts directly or indirectly to downloadable assets, you can generate significant leads for your business.

When to Boost:

There is such thing as strategic posting and boosting on Facebook, and a lot of that strategy lies in timing.  Studies have shown that the highest Facebook traffic occurs mid-week, between 1pm and 4pm.  The absolute peak of this traffic typically occurs on Wednesdays at 3pm.  These are the times that have shown the best click-through and share rates, providing you with an optimal window to reach more consumers and drive more traffic to your website.  If you plan on posting later in the week, you may consider boosting on Thursdays and Fridays, when Facebook engagement rates are 18 percent higher.

Facebook’s “Boost Your Posts” advertising option is a tool for businesses looking to boost engagement and credibility and attract new customers.  And if you still aren’t convinced, consider this: 41 percent of B2B companies and 62 percent of B2C companies that use Facebook have acquired customers because of it.

If you’d like to learn more about how Synapse SEM can help you improve your social media strategy, please complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.

Check Out Google’s Newly Launched Beta: Expanded Text Ads

In the latest shake-up in the world of AdWords, Google rolled out a closed beta for expanded text ads starting in Q2 of 2016.  This update came soon after Google’s last big SERP change when they removed the right hand rail ads completely.  If you haven’t yet received the details surrounding this update, then you’re probably wondering, what are expanded text ads exactly?  How will they benefit advertisers and businesses in the long run?  What are the best practices for using this beta to your advantage?  Read on to learn about the latest details and expected impact surrounding this beta.

What are Expanded Text Ads?

In essence, expanded text ads are exactly what they sound like.  With this beta, Google is giving advertisers 80 characters to work with in description lines (versus the current 70), 2 full headlines with 30 characters each (versus the current 25), as well as a display URL field that auto extracts the domain from the final URL and includes up to 2 separate paths (versus manual display URL input and 1 path).  Ultimately, this means Google is giving advertisers nearly 50% more characters to work with in the headlines and description lines alone.  Additionally, each display URL has 2 fully customizable paths that can be added in at 15 characters each, whereas previously advertisers were given 35 characters total for the entire display URL, including the root domain.

Part of Google’s new expanded text ad design is that there will no longer be two separate description lines.  The headlines will extend across the page (regardless of device) and there will be extra room to highlight your products or services.  Google updated the design for a more mobile-optimized experience, especially now that right hand rail ads no longer exist.

How will this benefit advertisers and businesses?

We already talked about how crucial it will be moving forward to secure those top of page results in our article about Google removing the right hand rail, and now that real estate will be more valuable than ever as advertisers expand their ads and take up almost 50% more ad space.  Google reports that the expanded ads have the potential to generate a CTR up to 20% higher than current standard text ads, depending on the way the account is set up.

Beyond the increased space to highlight products and services, advertisers will now have more control over what messaging appears next to their headlines.  In the current AdWords text ads, Google chooses when/where to display a description line next to the headline of your ad.  With Expanded Text Ads, you as the advertiser control exactly what line of text will now appear next to your headline.

Additionally, the display URL functionality that Expanded Text Ads brings will prevent ads from being disapproved by manual error of a display URL not matching up with your final URL domain.  Advertisers can also use the 2 new path features to better describe the specific landing page experience (and they have more room to make the display URLs keyword-centric for Quality Score purposes).

What are the best practices to use this beta to your advantage?

In line with current text ad best practices, advertisers will definitely want to ensure they’re maximizing their new character limits as much as possible, and not repeating the same messaging more than once (including within ad extensions).  Given how much these text ad constraints are changing, this may mean writing entirely new ad copy to fully leverage all the new features Google has to offer.  A good place to start given that ads will likely need to be re-written from scratch, is prioritizing your top performing ad groups.

With this latest beta following the decision to remove right hand rail ads completely, Google is pushing for higher quality top of page ads on the SERP, and Quality Score will be more important than ever.  With the highest ranking ads at the top of the page taking up even more real estate, maintaining top of page results will be crucial to generating a strong CTR (especially on mobile).  Google has not yet released the exact date it is fully rolling out this update, but this closed beta is expected to launch this summer.  A few of our clients are enrolled, and we’ll be testing and reporting back on results once the beta launches.

How Removing Silos Between Your Marketing And Technical Teams Can Help You Succeed In The SEM Space.

Search Engines are becoming smarter. Google, for instance, has recently shifted their model from connecting users to high-quality results, to also becoming a knowledge base in and of itself. The emergence of big data, predictive analytics, answer boxes, and knowledge graphs into Google Search has resulted in customizable results that aim to be more relevant to each user. While these improvements create significant value for the user, they represent a significant threat to companies and advertisers seeking to rank in Google results or advertise through AdWords. Corporations and advertisers have no choice but to adapt to these changes, to strengthen and continuously improve their digital assets to preserve their relevancy in the search and pay-per-click space.

Most parties looking to rank in or to conquer the SEO space aim to “beat the system” by – in other words, by increasing their monetary efforts to send out a message with the hopes that it is either relevant to an audience, or to Google. While that may be a fair strategy for some players, the key to success in this space does not originate solely from outreach, but rather from the alignment of your organization’s marketing and technical teams and the maximization of existing digital assets.

For instance, one of the main problems in the SEO space is digital dilution, which occurs when a site releases a high volume of uncategorized, unrelated or non-compliant content. This content can actually impact your organization’s website negatively, especially when the underlying code for the content is non-compliant with current content best practices or trends.

If releasing content keeps your company’s site relevant, how can new content actually hurt it? Well, this is not always the case, but the problem for most parties is that they consider their technical and marketing teams completely separate entities. Thus, the goals for each are independent and sometimes conflicting. For instance, let’s say that your organization is planning to launch a new website, so the organization gathers the marketing and development team. Since the goal is to create a new, high-impact website, do you think that their priorities will be the same?

Typically, the answer is no. Even as a developer and a search engine marketer myself, I often struggle to align my technical and marketing priorities in a scenario like this. The problem relies on proper communication and joint goals. However, the lack of communication does not fall on either team’s plate, but rather, a much broader underlying management practice towards IT workers that should not be surprising – some managers simply do not know how to manage a technical team. In late 2015 TinyPulse, an employment engagement platform published surprising results. Only 19% of all technical workers in the United States are satisfied with their jobs (versus a 22% national average).

The surveyor concluded that amongst the top reasons for their dissatisfaction, the one that stood out most is the lack of alignment within the company – meaning that these folks are unable to find where their roles fit in with the organization’s values, goals, etc. The second most common reason is a poor connection with their teammates – about 47% of surveyed IT employees claimed to have strong relationships with their coworkers, but in other industries, this number jumped to 56%.  Thus, your organization may comprise of a very talented technical team of both marketers and technical employees who are not reaching their full potential because of a lack of inclusion, aligned goals, and stronger bonds. It is up to your organization to build the bridges for mutual collaboration, because without it, each team will continue to work under their silo rather than a mutually defined goal.

Without alignment and inclusion, your organization will not be able to attain “win – win” outcomes that benefit not only the collaboration of these teams, but of the entire organization. An effective digital marketing campaign is relying equally on the messaging and on how the message is served, and the results are measured in increased leads and sales.  It is just that simple.  In the Search Engine Marketing space it is not your strategies that will not allow you to conquer this space, but rather the prevalence of communication and collaboration between your  teams.

I am a huge believer in professional ambidexterity. Every opportunity that I have had to expand my technical or my marketing knowledge has only made me a better professional and equips me with better contributions and insights for our clients. At Synapse SEM, we practice the same philosophy as a key component of our culture, and we continue to be successful where others fail because we understand the technical and marketing needs of the industry. As Google continues to update its ranking metrics, can assure you that by building a united digital marketing front, your organization will be able to succeed no matter how complicated or competitive the space becomes.