Tuesday, January 31, 2017

US Digital Marketing Spend will Near $120 Billion by 2021

This Forbes article not only forecasts the meteoric growth of digital marketing budgets, but it also details the macro trends that substantiate an increased spend on this type of advertising:

  • US digital marketing spend will near $120 billion by 2021.
  • Working budgets will give ground to non-working ones.
  • Millennial buying power will drive increased spend. 
  • Online video will see the most upward mobility. 

In summary, it's the Millennials. Millennials, as the author points out, collectively spend $600 billion each year, and as they (read: we) get older, their purchasing power increases. As "digital natives," Millennials primarily connect with brands online, and brands must be there to meet them where they are. Digital marketing budgets are not only increasing, but the spend is becoming more targeted and sophisticated now that the industry has matured. That being said, however, digital marketing inherently must keep pace with technology and new developments in digital, so it is an evolving space that may require a certain amount of flexibility in the budget. In other words, as with anything digital, advertisers will continue to try to hit a moving target over the next five years. 


5 Digital Marketing Trends that will Die in 2017

This short, snappy list of predictions on Mashable outlines five trends in digital marketing that are set to fail this year. To recap, the five are:
1. Twitter
2. Big banner ads
3. Stock images
4. Fake reviews
5. Popup ads

Although the latter four did not surprise me, I was quite surprised to see that the author listed Twitter as the first "trend" to die this year. He correctly cites the platform's shrinking market share, but I would conjecture that its relevancy is at an all-time high given that the US president, the so-called "leader of the free world," uses the platform as one of his primary communication tools. Given this reality, I would imagine that there would be more eyeballs on the platform; however, perhaps most of those eyeballs belong to journalists. Rather than going to Twitter to read news on the president's latest utterance, perhaps social media users are reading the reactions to the Tweet on other platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. Unless Twitter becomes more relevant to the younger generation of social media users, it may be doomed to become a newswire that no one ever reads (and that no advertisers want to invest in).

In the era of sophisticated ad blockers that we find ourselves in, I would not be surprised to see big banner ads and popup ads give way to more insidious forms of reaching consumers, such as native advertising. Although native advertising holds the high potential of deceiving readers, I strangely prefer it over annoying banner ads, popup ads, interstitials, and the like that block content. I credit myself as being a critical reader, and I guess this new advertising tactic will test those skills. However, I consider myself forewarned of the extremely slippery slope that native advertising represents, especially vis-a-vis fake news.

Finally, in regard to stock images and fake reviews, the current zeitgeist of consumers craving authenticity may push advertisers to be more transparent and "real" in terms of how they engage with consumers. As consumers spend more time on social media, sharing videos and photos of their friends and family, the bar for advertising visuals most likely must be raised. Stock images not only appear "inauthentic," yet they look cheap and tacky, when they are ironically quite expensive. Moreover, as consumers solicit recommendations and product reviews from their friends and peers, they are more savvy about spotting fake reviews; and, it is a tactic that can backfire on a company as consumers search to procure products from more "honest" companies that are transparent about the virtues (and shortcomings) of their products.


Life Insurers "Like" Social Media Marketing

Below is a link to an interesting article that talks about how U.S. life insurance companies are heavily utilizing social media and digital digital to go after market share.

It comes as no surprise that traditional print advertising is estimated to decline for the life insurance industry (as well as companies across most other industry segments). By contrast, these same companies are increasing their ad budgets for 2017 in the areas of social media and internet marketing.

I found the commentary on ROI to be quite interesting.  With traditional direct mail campaigns, insurers use simple bar codes to help simply link ad dollars spent per mailer to actual sales (and in effect dictate future increases/decreased in marketing spend). In contrast, calculating the same ROI on social media dollars is much more difficult because of the challenge in tracking a customer’s life cycle in terms of where it began and how it resulted in an eventual sale. The article states how Insurers are going to have to "learn the hard way – through trial and error – what promotional strategies work." Thinking a step further, I could also see Insurers expanding their employer base to include marketing professionals outside the more traditional hires (i.e. FP&A analysts that track direct mail spend vs revenue) with an expertise in enhancing online ad effectiveness.



Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Optimize for SEO on a Small Budget

Ask L2: How to Optimize for SEO on a Small Budget

Since we have been talking about SEO during the last 2 lectures, I want to share another interesting post about how to optimize for SEO, and here are some key take-aways:

1. Respond quickly to up-and-coming trends.

2. For brands in retail: Improve organic visibility with Google maps, since a third of mobile searches are location searches—growing 50% faster in volume then searches on mobile. Besides some basic information, try to include photos, popular store times, and advanced features like 360-degree virtual tours and so on.

3. For retailers and third-party sites: Invest in affiliate site pages and establish partnerships.


TV ads will come back and prevail?

“social networks don’t reign supreme anymore as the dominant mediators for online ads. Instead, they act like old-school television networks. In the meantime, the makers of old-school entertainment—companies like Disney and Fox—are acting a lot more like the Silicon Valley companies that seemed poised to replace them.”

This is how the author of this article envisions the near-future of advertising. I guess what he presents is, a hybrid advertising system where traditional ads and digital ads integrate and interpenetrate with each other.

I agree with him on this blueprint, however, I disagree with some of his arguments.

The author says online ads are accompanied with fake news, which fail to reach the target audience while at the same time, ignore the wider pool of possible customers. Hyper-targeting as a current trend will eventually be discarded and replaced by TV ads. Everything that’s old will be new again.

The thing is, I don’t believe the “hyper-targeting” as he defines—that focuses on one-to-one targeting only and neglects the rest of the society—will be the future of online marketing. Precision marketing is a trend now and would always be a trend. A brand can’t be built through talking to the whole world; it must find an effective way to communicate the right message to the right person at the right time and location.

In addition, the returning dominant TV ads, as he says, are “both far and wide.” In the near-future, when marketers know more about how to target TV ads, they would make TV ads that both target at a specific group of people and reach broader audiences. I can totally see this possibility but I just don’t feel that TV ads will prevail and overshadow online ads. Personally, the future of advertising would be an "ad mix" where the old-school ads and digital ads are integrated, and each was given full play to its strong point.


Interesting Tips for Marketers (according to latest Google financial results)

To piggyback on the great speakers we've had from AppNexus and Google last class weekend, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that broke down what Google's latest financial results and earnings call (22% increase in Q4 revenue) meant for folks in the digital marketing/ad industry.

Not surprising that Google's ad revenue was driven by mobile search, which marketers should continue to keep at the forefront of their strategies (especially as it relates to mobile friend web site presence, which helps boost favorability scores). There has certainly been a shift to mobile among consumers, and I think this is because consumer retail apps/brands have bolstered purchasing security measures, which re making the consumer feel safer when contemplating buying goods from their handheld devices.

However, I was surprised they attribute a big part of their ad success to YouTube. I personally have never clicked on an ad when viewing videos on YouTube, but apparently their original content strength and large ad campaigns (i.e. NBA opening night) has helped fuel millions of impressions/click-thru opportunities on the platform. Like everyone else, I am a big fan of funny viral videos, but it will be interesting to see if less tech-forward companies begin to enhance their "youtube marketing budgets" in order to try and fuel revenues.



Return of the TV Ad

I ran across the following article today: https://www.wired.com/2017/01/tv-ad-isnt-going-anywhere-going-everywhere/

The premise of the article is that hyper-focused, internet-based target marketing may run into some problems in the future. The argument is that focused targeting can be successful in selling products to existing customers but it does little to build a brand beyond this base. TV, on the other hand, reaches a broader market and as it catches up with the leading tech companies, may be a good way to reach both focused and broader markets. One could argue that hyper-targeted advertising works well for established brands but for new brands it presents a host of problems.

Although I don't have experience purchasing ads and measuring the results, I do feel that in most cases, the value gained is far from an exact science. In addition, a lot of ad growth for Google and FB is currently happening in the long tail of local advertisers so what happens when this market levels out and advertisers start getting better metrics on the effects of their spending? No matter what happens, I think we can safely say that Google and Facebook, which currently receive 2/3 of all digital ad spending, will have a difficult time maintaining/growing their share of the market in the future.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Do Organic Keyword Rankings Matter Anymore?

Keyword ranking is the most sought-after accomplishment in the world of SEO. Small business, as well as giants, would like their websites to be ranked higher in the organic results because of the lucrative benefits and lead opportunities associated with this position.

However, with the proliferation of paid advertising and universal research, as well as Google’s continuous efforts in providing customers with the results directly, the benefits and lead opportunities that ranking higher in the organic search engine can offer have diminished. As a result, marketers begin to question if it is worthwhile to invest an enormous amount of money and effort on keyword rankings.

In the old days, the only way to drive traffic and generate lead to a website without investment in paid advertising and email marketing is to increase the site’s ranking in the organic search results, but today things have changed. Ten years ago, the world was on its way to welcome the advent of social media and its influence on the business model. However, most consumers now have become aware of the marketing power of YouTube, and Facebook is starting to open itself up to the audiences rather than just college students, and blogging is starting to become the mainstream of sharing ideas and perspective. Due to the boom in social connectivity, businesses and brands suddenly have access to free channels that can help to attract new business to their websites.

The booming of social media allows marketers and brands to cater to niche demographics with specific interests, focusing on the maximization of conversion rate rather than investing a huge sum of money to drive traffic with the hope that a particular portion of it might be converted to sales. Also, another problem associated with SEO is that anyone can click through to a website and leave it immediately without buying anything because the title tag and meta description do not align with its associated landing page' content. It is easy to establish followings through the use of social media, which can improve the brand's awareness, reputation, as well as drive website traffic.

However, as a business competing in a free market where customers have options, Google has to provide the most inclusive and fulfilling service, which can help to keep the customers back to its search engine. Google’s focus on the display of local search results, immediate answers and paid search ad has diminished the power of being top in the position of the organic search results.

Despite the declined visibility and CTR because of some search listings, organic rankings remain one of the most important ways for brands to build connections with new customers. SEOs and digital marketing specialists can maximize the conversion opportunities and drive traffic to their websites by creating quality content about particular concepts and phrases that their target audience would like to use or search for.

The secrets for achieving success in digital marketing is to maintain a campaign that mixes social media, SEO, paid advertising and other relevant channels together.


Google Mobile-first Index Kills the Desktop SEO

With the proliferation of mobile devices and the number of mobile searches conducted, Google finally decided to launch the so-called “mobile-first” index, which is going to change the way your site gets ranked in the search engine results pages (SERPs). To optimize the website accordingly, here is some information that you need to know.  

To begin with, what is a mobile-first index? Most of us may have the knowledge that Google crawls to the websites as a bot to surf around like a real visitor and follows links on the pages. The purpose of doing so is to add pages to the Google index which helps to better the search results. However, with the advance of the mobile-first index, Google not only visits your website as a desktop user but also as a mobile user. That is a distinction with a huge difference, negligence of such a huge shift may lower the rank of your website in the SERPs. 

The reason why we should care much about this shit is that your site will be presented differently on desktop versus on mobile devices. For instance, some links that appear on the desktop might not appear on the mobile version, which is terrible because Google bot will not trace links that are not there, thus lowering the rank of the website in the SERPs. Additionally, keep in mind that Google also uses other signals to determine the ranking of your website in the organic search results. Factors, such as slow loading speed, and incomplete texts will all affect the ranking.

Google mobile-first index also possess the capacity to read expendable texts, which is a new development. Putting content under a “read more” link used to result in that content not being indexed by Google. However, with the advent of the mobile-first index, content hidden in tabs and accordions will have the same weight as content that’s plainly displayed on the page. This makes perfect sense for mobile users since the texts might not be shown complete on a tiny phone or tablet screen, and that is the reason why companies do not punish webmasters who take advantage of those design features, which is a big win for SEO.
With the promising future of mobile-first index, is there any need for the desktop index? The answer is no. Currently, Google is running both indexes, and some users will see results from the mobile index, while other users see results from the desktop index. The reality is that people from both subsets have no idea which index they see results from. Google will slow down the desktop index and phase it out when the company feels more confident with the mobile index. But there is one thing for sure, mobile is everything. 

What if you don’t have a responsive website? The Googlebot can still index the desktop version of your site, even though it’s using a mobile user agent. But, anyone who’s serious about making a statement online needs a website that adapts to a mobile platform.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Middle-Aged Americans Beat Millennials in Time Spent on Social Media

Millennial Americans beat in time spent on social media by their parents? It sounds so untrue! How could…oh wait, I remember something……

What I remember is, when I was at home, I could say this sentence to my father like 3 times a day—

“Get off Wechat, Dad! You are addicted to it!”

Seriously, if this scenario is showing up in more and more families in China or America, it indicates something— that the middle-aged lavishes more time on social media might be a trend globally.

I actually understand my Dad’s addicted to Social Media. He used to be a tech-illiteracy people who used smartphones only for making calls. Then, after I created a Wechat account for him a few years ago, he immediately found the charm of social media and was tightly captured by it. For him, new media is so convenient and eye-opening.

Generation X and the older is not like millennials who were born with new media. For them, new media presents an unprecedented amazing world, where newcomers could easily get lost. Moreover, if they are not having a busy job or lifestyle, what could be the reason that persuades them out of this fantastic place?

Trouble for offspring maybe (I worry about my Dad’s eye problem all the time!) but opportunity for marketers definitely. I used to think it’s hard to reach the elderly through digital media in terms of communication channels. Now, since more generation X are on social media, marketers could also target this segment through its preferred social media platforms!