Saturday, January 20, 2018

Something SEO Marketers Need to Do in 2018

Several articles revealed the trends of SEO in 2018, especially the new SERP features, which brings  new challenges to the SEO marketers. The strategies and tactics need to be evolving to meet the transformative requirements of the new trends.  Here's something they might not want to miss for their 2018 plan.

Content consolidation to provide more information required by the new SERP features. Attractive pictures will be an inevitable factor, while keywords will need be reselected with the support of some Rank Tracker to achieve the optimum value.

Consumers'/Users' feedback became even important than before. The rating session and the ranking info show the popularity directly in the result page. Low rating will kill the conversion rate in only one second.

In-depth content in other prestigious platform matters a lot. The platform's influences would make the result appear at the first page, while the marketer need to leave some bandwidth to keep all these information updated and consistent.

Machine learning may require further customization. Once the technology can figure out more detail information or preference about the users, it required the content appeared to be more specific and relevant. The content mix might grow 


Extra Caution When Displaying Job Ads

It is totally reasonable for Target to send diaper ads to pregnant women, but pushing job posts based on age is more controversial. Corporate giants including Amazon and T-Mobile engaged in age discrimination by placing recruitment ads on Facebook targeting younger workers, according to a lawsuit filed by a communications industry labor union.

There is a vague boundary for how creative and customized can marketing job ads be. Facebook, one of world's largest marketing platforms, provides extensive flexibility for companies to decide who to reach. Theoretically, a perfectly designed job ads filter should only reach the candidates who are qualified to apply to that job - so-called micro-targeting. However, the accuracy is governed by laws against discrimination. While companies setting up the age filters are considered misconduct, Facebook's business model also contributed.

One thing Facebook can do is to remove controversial filters such as race, age and gender, especially for talent hunting posts. In addition, Facebook can change the fee structure to discourage discrimination.


Friday, January 19, 2018

New Ways for Amazon to Earn Money with Alexa

Monetization has been challenging for voice app developers across platforms, but Amazon has been making a concerted effort. While Amazon is an early leader with the most voice apps of any platform, the current monetization is limited in scope. As of now, the major monetization channel from Amazon on Alexa-enabled devices is more purchases from Implementing new monetization tools for Alexa skills is good for Amazon’s long-term success in the nascent voice assistant market. 

As a burgeoning platform, if customers had been bombarded with ads from the get-go, it’s unlikely that Amazon would have seen a tremendous success that it has. Now that it’s already in roughly 30 million homes, Amazon can slowly start tinkering with how to make more money using:

Subtle Voice Advertisements

  • Currently, users can order a Starbucks frappuccino, a pizza, or an Uber etc. from Alexa. But these are just skills and not advertisements.
  • Amazon is currently in talks with Clorox, Proctor & Gamble, and others to promote their products on Alexa and can use subtle voice ads to make more money
    • E.g. if user use Echo to re-order P&D laundry detergent, for instance, Alexa could suggest another P&G product, confirmed with a simple yes or no voice confirmation
    • Similarly, if user look for instructions on how to cook a recipe, Alexa could similarly offer suggestions for products he/she may find helpful
  • Currently, ads on the platform must use a completely different voice. In future, Alexa can herself suggest products blurring the lines

Promoting Certain Skills as Sponsored Skills

  • Alexa has access to more than 25,000 skills, about 53% of consumers use only one to three of them, while 14% of consumers haven’t even enabled a third-party skill
  • To drive greater adoption of Alexa, Amazon will need to provide more visibility to certain third-party skills. They can do this for exchange of money for sponsored skills

-       Revenue-sharing Model for Skill

  • In-skill purchases enable developers to sell premium content or digital subscriptions within their skills
  • Amazon can monetize the in-skills transactions via a revenue-sharing model between Amazon and developers

-       Using Amazon Payment Gateway for In-skills Purchases

  • The extension of Amazon Pay should allow third-party developers to accept Amazon Pay for in-skill purchases
  • This way Amazon can make more money from payment gateway

-       Personalized Advertisements while Streaming Music 

  • A lot of users are streaming music in Alexa using skills
  • Amazon can push usage of its own skill, Amazon Music and, leverage between-song advertisements


This Is Amazon's Master Plan to Become Profitable

Google and Facebook have been leading platforms to advertise, with massive amounts of data about customer behavior. The data they have and the ability to allow marketing campaigns target and acquire new customers have driven their revenue. Recently their has been a shift in Amazon being used not only for shopping, but also as the initial product search platform over Google and other search engines.

As online commerce has grown and many brick and mortar stores are known as "showrooms" for online retailers, so has online advertising. But if the preferred online advertising platform shifts to the retailer, it will change advertising efforts as well. The article mentions how some firms are already recognizing the trend and shifting resources to feature their products as they used to in physical stores. Will this shift see an increase in advertising in other online retailers? How can other stores monetize this to their benefit?

Google and Facebook will find partnerships and new methods to limit Amazon's growth in this area. Brands should look for strategic alignments with one of them to challenge their competitors that dominate Amazon's display ads.


Foursquare has clear identification of user intent


Years ago when Foursquare first came out, my friends and I used to use it as a social media platform to essentially announce to our friends what cool restaurants or workouts we were going to. I always wondered - "how does this app make any money?" When they spun off the check-in feature, I figured it was because people like me had largely stopped using the platform for that purpose, but were still happy to use it to create lists of places to go in our home city or elsewhere, read reviews and tips, and share those lists with our friends. Still, I didn't see how they would be making money without adding an advertising component to the app, given the service was free to consumers.

With over 50 million active users whose clear intent is to find a restaurant, workout, nail salon, etc. the digital marketing use case is strong. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the users to sponsored content, as traffic to those links will probably need to be supplanted with high ratings for that particular business.


Maybe Bing Will Happen

Whenever I hear someone mention Bing - Microsoft's search engine - I cannot help but think of the movie Mean Girls and the quote from Regina George: "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen... it's never going to happen."

As it turns out, for brands looking to place advertisements, they could be missing out on a large share of the market by utilizing Google's AdWords but not Bing Ads. While Google still dominates market share with 63.4% of search queries in the US, Bing makes up 22.8%. A powerful figure that stands out is if you skip using Bing Ads, you miss 1 out of every 3 searches in the US, as well as 59 million searches you cannot garner from Google AdWords.

If you're not utilizing Bing Ads, this untapped market can be an affordable addition to AdWords. Google's average CPC is noticeably higher than Bing, so not only will you get a more inexpensive CPC, but also will have less competition. Supplementing Google with Bing can do a lot for a digital marketing strategy in terms of both untapped audience and budget.

While it doesn't seem Bing will surpass Google as the top search engine, it would be foolish to ignore the site. Unlike the slang term 'fetch,' maybe Bing will happen. 


Hi Alexa

Today in class we learned about new methods of engineering in search such as voice interfaces. As of now, these are not entirely accurate, and users don’t use them as much as other ones due to their novelty, and potentially lack of precision on a fast-paced environment. Alexa, Amazon’s proprietary voice interface seems to be one of the most popular on the household device space and might be ready to step it up and compete with other dominant technologies such as Siri, Apple’s proprietary technology.

On January 19, 2018 Karissa Bell published an article called “Amazon updates the Alexa app so you can actually use Alexa.” The title itself insinuates that the application is not precise, or has not penetrated the intended user population. However, the article discusses the possibility of Amazon partnering with smartphone brands such as HTC and Huawei to incorporate the voice assistance technology on these phones. Additionally, Bell also finalizes her article saying that the company plans to roll out the application to Android and other IOS operated devices.

Personally, I think this is a huge development for Amazon given that it will potentially capture market share on mobile, and eventually generate environments between home devices and cell phones. In addition, it allows its partners the ability to enhance this technology for users to dictate messages and operate with voice. I do think that it might need a couple more years for the technology to be accurate, and as a user, I would still prefer to text, or search instead of dictating due to my accent and multiple array of options that might take valuable time off, but for sure this technology has been invented and will disrupt how users interact with their devices, especially millennials.

Lastly, once the technology is tweaked and implemented, and also considering today’s notes from class, I am sure these emerging voice systems will allow and potentially redirect users to certain products. From a marketer’s perspective, I am sure that with time Alexa will potentially direct a consumer to purchase, and marketers will take advantage of these emerging search technologies.


Adidas Sneakers Double as a One-Year Pass to Berlin's Mass Transit

This article highlights the mutual benefits that can occur by offering a unique/interesting/remarkable trait in a more traditional product to create buzz. In an effort to incentivize a younger demographic to ride the subway, Berlin's public transportation authority partnered with Adidas to create a cool shoe that can double as a year long pass for the subway system. The implications for digital as it relates to both firms are relevant. For the public transportation authority, they have modernized a relatively arcane self-image and can use this as an opportunity to gain more attention online via search. For Adidas, they have connected a social good (improving environment via increased mass transit usage) to their usual fashion-oriented strategy.  The buzz will increase searches for things like "shoes that double as subway tickets" that they can take advantage of, which will improve their ability to target the right market and maybe even identify a new customer base.


Blog #2: Speed matters- Google's newest search ranking update and the impact of mobile on SEO

As mobile search begins to surpass traditional desktop search, search engines and website developers will need to evolve. Google is already adapting to this new environment as seen by their latest update. Earlier this week, Google announced that page speed is the latest factor to be added to its mobile search ranking criteria. Users will start seeing the effects of the "speed update" in July 2018. Although this change will provide mobile users with faster results, it will also encourage site owners to use Google's open source Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology which makes mobile websites faster.

The constant fight to stay relevant in the changing mobile world presents new challenges as well as new opportunities. Mobile smartphones provide opportunities to collect more data such as location for local advertising and camera/photo access for visual advertising and facial/object recognition. Lastly, mobile smartphones also present new competition from mobile apps and easier access to other website-based search platforms (e.g. Yelp or OpenTable).

Mobile search engine optimizers have a unique challenge due to the limited size of the mobile screen; they are forced to make sites concise, while also replicating the relevance and depth of the desktop web page in a limited amount of time.

Source: TechCrunch article - Google search update


Digital Marketing in Medicine

While digital marketing has been prevalent in consumer goods and tech for years, it's only recently catching up in the medical industry.  However, it is now playing a huge role in how patients, pharmaceutical companies and even physicians access each other and information.

Patients have more access to information regarding their illnesses, potential treatment options and physician information.  They, to some degree, are more informed users prior to stepping foot into the doctors office.  However, information can be a double-edged sword, especially in a complex field like medicine.  A little information can be dangerous whereas a lot of information can be helpful.

Physicians as well are able to utilize digital marketing to help increase their patient volume with websites such as ZocDoc.  More and more physicians are also creating websites and some even utilize social media (blogs or facebook pages or instagram feeds) to advertise their skills and practice and capture patients that way.

With the improvements also being made in tele-health, digital marketing will become even more prevalent.


Facebook Messenger's New Tools Are Game-Changing for Marketers

Facebook's Customer Chat allows brands to interact with customers through direct conversation. Allowing customers to be reached on mobile or website platforms with great effectiveness.

Facebook rivals Amazon and Google for marketing revenue but is also increasing its stake against CRM services as well. This will allow Facebook to continue to exert great influence on how marketers reach consumers and give brands an intimate way to direct their message. This will also force firms to increase engagement to compete for consumer dollars. The winning brands will deliver constant personalized interactions with a customer, coming to the customer instead of making customer search for them. The brand must also maintain a consistent message that does not change whether consumed on a subway ad or while using Facebook on your phone.

As we have seen with other channels of targeted marketing, how do brands keep from becoming intrusive or overbearing with this new capability? Facebook works to keep the balance on their end, so they maintain their customers but brands must do the same.

Inevitably the channels to reach consumers will evolve. Marketing teams must adapt to this new opportunity while preparing to shift to a new method, all while maintaining brand integrity.


Facebook on News Feed

This week I had the privilege of attending AdExchanger's "Industry Preview," their annual conference devoted to content on what to expect in the year ahead for the Ad Tech/Marketing Tech industry. One of the more interesting discussions, given the recent press coverage around Facebook, was with Facebook's VP of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson. A nice recap is provided here.

Unsurprisingly the news about Facebook's changes to news feed, and increased focus on "meaningful interactions" has sent the advertising industry into a tizzy. Facebook is making a big push (I even got a notification at the top of my news feed the other day) saying news feeds will be more focused on close family and friends, so users see more of the content that they want to see and interact with. But where does that leave ads?

For their part, Facebook is assuring advertisers that "nothing is going to change," and I don't blame them. Advertising is an integral part of Facebook's revenue stream and they don't want to mess with that. With Amazon coming onto the ad scene like gangbusters, Facebook and Google have to do everything they can to maintain their top 2 positions in the market. If advertisers start seeing their ads aren't getting the same level of interaction on Facebook that they were before, they'll very quickly start moving their spend elsewhere.

The key here is about meaningful interactions. In a perfect world, this will be the push the ad world needs to focus more on making advertising beneficial and entertaining to consumers, not just the push to get clicks. In all likelihood this means increased spending on quality advertising content. This begs the question, if more spend on content leads to more engaging content, which leads to better user interaction and conversion on Facebook...then where does this leave small brands with small ad budgets?


The Rise of AI & Its Implications for Digital Marketing

The rise of algorithm-based customer experiences — like personalization and content recommendations using artificial intelligence — is forcing brands to deliver more personalized ad experiences as well. “In addition to segmentation, personalization, and content recommendations on the backend, artificial intelligence (AI) is going to become more of a front-end facet, determining and mapping customer journeys in such a way that prevents customers from having to re-explain their context every time they move into a new channel or contact within the organization,” says Gerry Murray, director of marketing and sales technology research for the International Data Corporation (IDC)

The implications for digital marketers? Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to ad targeting. Companies must now be prepared to deliver targeted ad experiences and develop a range of creatives that fit customers’ varying preferences and contexts.

While AI adds a layer of complexity to digital marketing in terms of ad targeting, it enables a greater deal of clarity and insights on the performance side. Companies are using AI to gather performance data to measure the efficiency of their marketing efforts, as well as their accuracy in targeting. This approach contributes to greater success for future campaigns, and enables digital marketers to better understand their customers — thus delivering a better experience.


A Step Further in P2P

Technology is one of the driving forces behind the creative destruction occurring in the financial services industry; and how financial services will be delivered to customers in the future is no doubt going to change.  Person-to-person payment (P2P) platforms allow people to “informally” transfer funds or make digital payment transactions with others using the internet or a smart phone. Companies such as CashEdge, PayPal, Venmo and Zelle have already found a niche as disruptors on this area, but the environment and opportunity is huge for other players who wish to act as disruptors for existing banks and other incumbents.

On January 18, 2018, TechCrunch published an article called “Varo Money Raises $45 million for mobile banking without fees.” According to the article, the company is focused on disrupting traditional giants especially by offering cost-effective and easy ways for consumers to transfer money simply. Backed by giant Warburg Pincus, and being FDIC insured, Varo Money also provides loans and is focused especially on the millennial population and targeting their needs. The founders are aiming growth for the company and expect it to become a national bank in the future. Clearly, and in my opinion, this farfetched goal, speaks about the need for change in this space, and the disruption made by P2P.

After reading the article, I went into Varo Money’s website to understand how it works and try to identify the most relevant differences between the company and its closest competitors. The company is described as a no fee bank account. The previous success of P2P platforms was based on the plain understanding of the millennial population and the need for easy, convenient, and efficient money transfers. Varo Money seems to have taken this a step further and innovated into a more robust platform also adding a secure component and a financial backup.
While digital platforms become the primary source of payment and banking for consumers and traditional methods are stale or simply restrictive, convenience becomes a key player for the user. Digital clearly impacts the way users interact, and not only P2P platforms, but digital banks and wallets may eventually become building blocks for marketing as these sink into the daily lives of individuals.




Amazon Takes on Google and Facebook With New Ad Platform

Amazon's sacrifice of profit for the sake of growth may be a thing of the past. Amazon is now growing a marketing platform, and brands cannot wait to direct funds to it. 

Amazon's sheer audience size and their readiness to purchase positions this new platform very differently than Facebook and Google. Ad dollars are being directed to people who are already at the bottom of the funnel, making their impact and efficacy that much more powerful. 

Amazon's data on its customers includes not only their shopping searches and carts, but streaming services that combine to form a more robust customer profile. Knowing what customers are about to buy, what their preferred TV shows are, allows for incredibly targeted, and assumedly, effective, advertising. 

Of course, Amazon is taking it one step further, and analyzing its influence on purchases made off the Amazon platform. They see themselves akin to billboard advertising, as people are on their platform so much, the effects of an advertisement seen on Amazon is no different than driving by a highway billboard. 

Amazon has been very careful with their advertising up until now, not wanting to scare their customers. Time will tell how increased advertising will affect consumer behavior on the platform.


Facebook's Biggest Loser

Last week, Facebook made an announcement that it is making new changes to what you will see on your feed. They are revamping the kinds of videos, photos, articles and posts that you see most often, prioritizing what comes from your family and friends and playing down what content is coming from publishers and brands. Essentially, you'll hear more from your family and friends who have started lively debates in the comment sections of posts and less from links that may lead you away from the site. The driver behind this change is so visitors feel like they're engaging the people they know on the site, and Facebook is working behind the scenes on the algorithms that guess what you're interested in. 

While the underlying goal is that people feel more positive when they are on the site because they are communicating with people they know in meaningful dialogue, this situation doesn't come without winners and losers. There is definite potential to see more content that reinforces our own ideologies because we're interacting with those who think like us. While this may result in a more positive user experience (I mean, who doesn't like their opinions validated??), fake news can still spread when a relative posts a link with an inaccurate article and it receives likes and comments. That post is now prominently displayed. 

The biggest loser, however, is brands. In years past, third parties such as news outlets, brands, small business sites, took over huge swaths of your feed. Now, their huge marketing and branding opportunity will be scaled back, and many of these organizations rely on this outlet to reach people. De-emphasizing these posts will definitely hurt their brands, and the "chance to go viral" decreases. 

If you're like me and enjoy having access to your favorite brands and content: not to fear. With a little work, you'll be able to access your options in your News Feed and prioritize the pages of trusted brands and publishers you want. You can do this with friends, as well. 

While changes in Facebook's algorithms are nothing new, this one will have serious impact on brands and the company at large.


Another Prudent Step For Wechat to Go Commercial - Brand Zone

Wechat might be the most cautious brand in China in pursuing revenue, partly because the large quantity of users it owned. Early January, Wechat finally launched the new feature 'brand zone' which closed the distance of the last 'one centimeter' from brand to users in Wechat ecosystem. 12 world famous brands were selected to launch its brand zone first including Nike, Cartier, Lancome, LongChamp, Louis Vuitton, Guicc, Montblanc, Tiffany, Swarovski, Michael Kors, Zara and Starbucks. The new feature brand zone introduced a new era of wechat which completely opened its closed ecosystem for brands now. It now allows brand to integrate search, display, interaction and payment all together in the brand zone site. The brands could also redirect in their zone sites.

Compared to most of Tencent products, Wechat was the special one which seemed reluctant to go commercial. The first Wechat Advertisement was introduced in January 2015, four years after the debut of Wechat. Due to the large user base, Wechat tends to be very cautious in launching any new feature of Ads. After launching official accounts in 2012, the accounts number heavily. Wechat even changed the model to make all official accounts less visible and grouped together under the 'subscription' folder. The 'brand zone' move is significant, it signals that Wechat's new trial for commercial side.

Besides the 'Brand Zone', there are other existing advertisement within Wechat.

- Wechat Banner Advertsing

Wechat Banner Advertising is similar to other website banner ads. It normally appears in a Wechat Article.

- Wechat Moments Advertising
A Moments Ad allows advertisers to advertise within the Moments section, which is comparable to Facebook’s Newsfeed. It now offered different formats including text, pictures, videos, and links. Audience can even interact with the official accounts which posted the adevertising.

WeChat Key Opinion Leader advertising 
It means paying a popular WeChat blogger (either through a flat fee, a result-based fee or by giving away products) in exchange for a promotional post or a product placement on their WeChat account.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Are we in a digital content bubble?

Are we in a digital content bubble?

This author follows up on a study done by the Reuters Institute on the merits of seven media businesses, such as Business Insider, HuffPost, Mashable, Quartz, Vice, et al.

It’s no secret that many of the world’s largest digital publishers are operating at a loss; whether they’re backed by venture capitalists or offline revenue, many pundits think investors may someday lose their patience in what seems to be an unsustainable business model for many companies.

It’s not a new model -- we’ve heard plenty of stories about emerging Internet companies competing for eyeballs and future fanatics while they burn lots of cash along the way. As companies confront this question, some large newspapers are turning to a pay model (only a few - notably the most prominent ones - can make it work).

I thought this quote to be particularly interesting, especially in context of the data points provided:

Given that people do not seem willing to spend all that much time (about 8 minute per day in the U.S.) or money (8 percent of online news users in the U.S. say they have an ongoing subscription) on digital news — and given that news media compete head-to-head with large technology companies for both attention and advertising — should we expect to see the digital content bubble burst after 20 years of investment in which only a few have seen a sustainable robust return? Or is this just a shakeout, where the most vulnerable brands implode and others emerge stronger?

In the next few years, I suspect many brands will implode. The main sources of implosion will be some combination of failing to define a niche (horizontal media) and failing to implement revenue streams outside of advertising, such as membership fees, pay-walls, etc.


Account Based Marketing - New Phenomenon or Emerging Discipline?

Account Based Marketing - New Phenomenon or Emerging Discipline?

What exactly is Account Based Marketing? Marketo defines it as “an alternative B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account.”

While I think this definition is an accurate description of ABM, I would argue that it’s not really an alternative strategy. It turns out that a highly personalized sales and marketing strategy, based on an account-by-account basis, is not a new phenomenon. Ask anyone who has spent time marketing and selling into big organizations (e.g. F500 corporations, large financial institutions, etc.) with large average contract values, and she will tell you that this has been in her go-to-market playbook for a long time.

But, all of a sudden, it sounds like ABM is all the rage. In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 87% of B2B companies say “ABM has become extremely or very important to their overall marketing efforts.”

So, why all the buzz?

With a emergence of a so many effective and cost-efficient digital marketing tools, a personalized approach can be deployed much more easily than ever before. Thes edata collection, automation and analytics tools are so cheap that companies with much smaller average contract values (e.g. $15K-$100K) can now deploy this strategy.

However, just because these tools are out there doesn’t mean that anyone can do it. Hiring an excellent demand generation marketer is not an easy exercise. Having gone through the exercise at a prior company, it’s a nascent career field with far greater demand vs. supply of talent.

Once you attract the right talent, you still have to set the right metrics to measure effectiveness and integrate the sales and marketing teams. More on these issues in future blog posts!