Tag Archive for Google

By Kelli Diveley, Senior Search Manager

Facebook recently put on a big show to announce its new pages and media placements for brands. Brands now have more opportunities to connect with customers on the social network. But how can brand websites, owned social media properties and search work together to engage consumers?

Having the ability to drive consumers to a website and a social presence, such as a Facebook page, can ultimately enhance your search marketing campaign. Giving consumers the ability to choose where they access brand content leads to the best user experience and ultimately ensures all efforts are contributing to the brand’s business objectives.

Social vs. Search in brand relationships

While Google still ranks as the most visited site in the United States, Facebook is second in terms of frequency but first when it comes to time spent on site. According to Nielsen, in November 2011 Americans spent almost 7 hours a month on Facebook, more than three times higher than the amount of time spent on Google or YouTube.

Google, Yahoo and other search engines are the first place people turn to when looking for more information. Facebook on the other hand is a true destination, whose success has been driven by its ability to build a digital community where people go to share links, pictures, and connections with brands for which they have an affinity.

Consumers’ expectations of a brand on Facebook are much different than expectations of a brand’s website. A study published in December 2011 by CMO Council found that 67% of consumers “like” a brand for exclusive offers, 60% are looking to share their experience, and 57% are looking to find other “unique” experiences. In contrast, consumers visit a brand’s website because they believe it is a reliable source for product and service information. A Nielsen and NM Incite study recently found that only 15% of consumers prefer getting product information from a brand’s Facebook page, while 50% prefer to get this information from the brand’s website.

Getting your plan together

Search marketing can play a role in the promotion of a brand’s social presence by promoting a Facebook initiative within the paid search landscape.  Before allocating a portion of a search marketing budget towards promoting a Facebook presence, it is recommended that two preliminary steps are taken.

First, a social listening program should be executed to understand what consumers are saying about the brand and the category to determine the type of content the target audience would be interested in on Facebook.

Secondly, to fully understand the value of a brand presence on Facebook a measurement plan should be put in place to define the value of interactions such as likes, shares and comments. According to a report released by eVoc found that 47% of consumers who have “liked” a brand say this action has had no influence on their intent to purchase.

How to make it work

With a measurement plan and consumer insights from the social listening campaign in place, a strong search strategy to support Facebook efforts can be put into motion. There are two recommended solutions that brands can use to bolster Facebook efforts through paid search.

The first option is to provide a site link directing searchers to “like” the brand on Facebook. Site links are shown on the majority of branded searches and on average between 10-40% of searches for non-branded terms. This is a great way to integrate Facebook alongside other calls to action and it can be funded from existing paid search budgets.

Another option is showing a completely separate ad for Facebook in search results. Below is a mocked up example for Neutrogena, which shows the main ad for Neutrogena.com and an additional ad promoting their Facebook page in the paid search results on the right. While this strategy would likely result in incremental cost, it would increase a brand’s ownership of the search results page.

Keep your customers’ needs top of mind

An approach that gives the consumers the ability to choose where they access a brand’s content is optimal.  Forgoing a website in favor of a Facebook-only approach may result in a less than optimal experience for a consumer, and an even poorer result for a brand.

This strategy assumes that a majority of a brand’s target audience utilizes Facebook for product or shopping research purposes. Additionally, Facebook does not provide brand marketers the ability to accurately track the effect of third party media, making it difficult to determine if efforts are successful, whereas all actions taken on a brand’s website can be tracked.

It is best to utilize Facebook to augment a consumer’s brand experience, not replace existing channels such as a brand website. While there is a lot of potential upside in executing a successful Facebook strategy, a strategic framework needs to be in place to help ensure all efforts are contributing to the brand’s business objectives. At the end of the day, search’s role within the digital ecosystem is to provide consumers with easy access to the right brand content, whenever and wherever they are looking for it.

If you’re an online marketer, chances are you are aware of the growing usage of mobile devices within search.

As of June 2011, Mobile impressions account for 12% of total search impressions, up nearly 100% year over year, and roughly one-third of cell owners say their phone is a smartphone.  As a result of this exponential growth, these cellular devices have become the focus for marketers within the past year, but a new area of opportunity is on the rise: tablets.

Tablet usage accounts for one-third of non-computer traffic worldwide. This behavior has greatly impacted the health and pharmaceutical industries. With tablet use, gone are the days of 2 AM doctor wake up calls to run to the hospital. With custom applications, doctors and physicians can review x-rays and patient records right from their tablet devices without ever leaving home. More and more doctors are carrying tablets around the hospital. Sharing patient charts and records has become more personal within the clinical setting with tablets. Physicians are not only utilizing patient record and x-ray applications, but utilizing search engines for conditions and treatments to recommend for their patients.

So, how do we effectively utilize tablets in our digital strategy?

Google AdWords offers a few campaign targeting options for tablet devices. Users can target all mobile tablet devices on Android, iOS and webOS platforms, or any combination of the three. Google also offers the option of targeting specific mobile carriers.  Landing pages, keyword mix, messaging and budgeting can then be controlled and crafted specifically to your audience and their viewing interface.

If your brand does not have a tablet optimized site, Google recommends targeting Desktops and Tablets in the same campaign, as user experience does not greatly differ from a desktop given most tablets’ screen sizes.  In fact, Google now automatically targets tablets within existing desktop campaigns. As with all things search, further segmenting campaigns can yield greater efficiencies.  Through segmentation, marketers can drill down to the most efficient device and carrier to allocate advertising dollars.

With growing consumer interest and usage, screen size and application offerings, tablet targeting is an asset to a brand’s digital strategy. Search trends continue to evolve rapidly each day and right now, tablets are the next big thing.

Recently, Google disclosed that they would be setting aside $500 million dollars to resolve a case with the Department of Justice.  While few details are available, it is known that the case revolves around whether or not Google knowingly accepted and profited from Paid Search ads submitted by illegal pharmacies based in Canada.

These types of accusations are not new to Google. In 2007, Google along with Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. agreed to pay a combined $31.5 million fine to settle similar accusations that they had accepted ads from illegal gambling sites. Google is also facing multiple investigations into possible antitrust and privacy violations in several other countries.

While Google has taken steps to avoid these types of accusations, they have historically had challenges with rogue online pharmacies.  In 2003, Google said it would stop accepting ads from unlicensed pharmacies to avoid legal action. In 2004, Google stated that they would continue to carry ads for Canadian pharmacies that sent medicines to U.S. customers.  In February 2010, Google updated its policy again, stating it would only allow ads from U.S. pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and from online pharmacies in Canada that are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. This latest accusation states Google knowingly profited from ads placed by illegal pharmacies. Google has stated they were unaware and that these illegal pharmacies were able to circumvent the barriers put in place to protect against these types of ads.

While it’s unclear of the scale to which these rogue pharmacies where advertising, removing them from Google will ultimately be a positive step for both marketers and consumers. For marketers removal of these advertisers will eliminate the competition for share of voice which drives up cost per clicks.  Without these pharmacies competing for keywords, legitimate healthcare marketers will be able to buy search terms for less money.  Consumers will benefit by eliminating the risk that comes with buying prescriptions from unregulated pharmacies, which lack the same types of controls to prevent prescription errors. So we could say the only losing party in this scenario is Google itself which will see a decrease in revenue.  Given the larger financial impact of fines and federal scrutiny, however, we can expect Google to be much more diligent in scrutinizing ads from online pharmacies which ultimately serves all parties – except illegal pharmacies – very well, indeed.

Ray Rosti, Search Marketing Director for Razorfish, provides consulting and strategy for clients to enhance their search engine visibility nationally and internationally, .

In recent months, the battle over online privacy and data collection has raged. Marketers cherish this data as a critical part of their advertising strategy while consumers and regulators consider the practice of data collection an invasion of privacy.  The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) released a solution in response to the FTC’s mandate requiring self-regulation within the industry to alert consumers when they are served an ad using targeting based on data collection.  These ads now contain an “ad-choice icon”  (right) that is clickable to an educational site on data collection and behavioral targeting and allows the user the option to opt out of ads served by that company or network.

In addition to The IAB “ad choice” icon, individual browsers are throwing their hat into the privacy ring as well.  Microsoft and Mozilla have announced that the newest version of their browsers will include a “do-not-track” option that allows users to opt out of all data collection.  Google has not announced this feature for Chrome.   While opt-outs at the browser level would seemingly allow for a one-stop solution for opt-outs, individual data companies must agree to abide by the “do-not-track” request before a user is exempt from data collection.  To date, none of these companies have publically agreed to comply.

While the IAB and NAI are attempting to create a bottom-up solution for privacy that places responsibility on advertisers and service providers, there is still the looming possibility of government mandates concerning online privacy.  John McCain and John Kerry have proposed legislation expected to reach Congress this month that would create an “online privacy bill of rights” that would go beyond individual agency self-regulation.  The bill would require user’s permission to share data as opposed to having users manually opt-out of targeting and data collection.

While Washington is in discussions with industry veterans such as Jules Polonetsky (formerly of AOL and DoubleClick) to fill the newly created role of Deputy Chief Technology officer, having the government pass legislation for an industry that is complex and constantly evolving seems futile.  Data collection and audience targeting is a complex system that should not be treated as simple practice that can be governed by a blanket of legislation that treats all data collection equally.  According to a study by The Center for Media Design, users do not view all personal data as off-limits, but instead, view data protection as a sliding scale.   Participants in the study were okay sharing data such as gender, birth date, leisure activities, and occupation, while information such as credit card, social security numbers, sexual and mental health and financial records were viewed as strictly off-limits.  Government legislation would limit data collection across all levels of this user comfort scale and eliminate much of what makes user experience online more convenient and customized.  While wide range opt outs would prevent data collection of sensitive topics, it would also eliminate practical functions such as username and password reminders or advertisements that are relevant to a user’s preferences. The process of data collection should not be viewed or regulated as a single entity.  The solution to online privacy will require deeper insight into what data users are concerned about protecting while still maintaining the customization and ease that users have come to expect from the internet.

AOL has been in the news a lot lately. And this week, the news wasn’t pretty despite a year’s worth of acquisitions and partnerships that are meant to strengthen AOL’s position in the marketplace. The news: AOL (NYSE: AOL) hit a new 52-Week low of $19 and announced it will lay off 20% of its staff.

So what’s going on at AOL? Turns out: a lot. Since Google alum, Tim Armstrong, took over AOL in April 2009, AOL has been making bold moves with a vision for being a premier destination of quality content. A recently leaked internal AOL document showed how AOL’s display advertising revenue was getting dwarfed by competitor Yahoo!. (Article “The AOL Way” was leaked on February 22, 2011.) The document laid out AOL’s strategy and basically admitted that they were sorely losing the portal wars for display advertising. Therefore, bold moves may be the only way for AOL to grow, gain relevancy among younger users, and start capitalizing on their investments in order to gain more ad revenue.

Here is a brief summary of some of the recent goings on at AOL:

1. AOL launched Project Devil and Pictela. Despite its satanic name (not loved by clients), Devil and Pictela are new display creative formats that attempt to bring in a level of content, interactivity and relevance to consumers without asking them to click off to another site. See http://corp.aol.com/2011/02/28/aol-s-project-devil-and-pictela-pushdown-premium-ad-formats-name/. These formats were recently heralded by the IAB as “rising stars.”

2. AOL launched PATCH – according to the New York Times, Patch “is meant to fill the void in areas where struggling local newspapers have cut back on reporting, but much of their writing and news gathering is not up to the standards of what consumers get from their traditional news sources.” Getting into the local content business appears like another bold move aimed at differentiating AOL. However, there has been a tremendous outcry that AOL is employing a sweat-shop like mentality in its handling of journalists. (See http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201011/1907/ and their Editor in Chief’s response: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/webjournalist/201011/1909/).

3. AOL partnered with Everyday Health so that EDH provides all health content on AOL properties. Announced in January of 2011, the partnership replaces AOL Health content with  Everyday Health content. The  partnership will begin on April 1, 2011. While AOL’s strategy appears to be about delivering quality content (Patch, Huffington Post, etc.) to its users, it’s clearly stepping aside in the health and wellness space. From an advertising perspective, this leaves one less viable health site to consider which may make planning deals a bit easier (since AOL health traffic was never high) though may limit negotiation leverage as one less player is vying for ad dollars.

4. AOL purchased Huffington Post – This acquisition positions Arianna Huffington to lead the newly formed The Huffington Post Media Group which will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL Content, Including News, Tech, Women, Local, Multicultural, Entertainment, Video, Community, etc. Clearly, AOL is looking to bring in a younger, more dynamic audience. (According to Comscore, 60% of AOL users are 35+).

So will all these investments pay off? Wall Street isn’t sold, while we agency planners and buyers are intrigued. AOL continues to be a publisher partner on many media plans with some very strong results. Only time will tell if this new strategy will continue to grow its user base, bring in younger demos, and help AOL shore up more ad revenue.

Rewind, it is April 2009 and the FDA, in a surprising move, posted  14 warning letters to their site. The issuance of a warning letter is well within the scope of the FDA and DDMAC (Division of Drug Marketing and Communications) and would not, in and of itself be special, except for the fact that the ads discussed were sponsored paid search ads within Google, Yahoo or Bing and the issue at hand was the use of brand names by pharmaceutical companies in their search copy.  Specifically the issue was that you couldn’t have a branded search result from a Pharma company without the accompanying fair balance.  Once the letters were posted, pharmaceutical ads began disappearing from search results; companies pulled their ads to re-group and work with internal teams and agency partners.

In recent months, Google has created the Google pharmaceutical policy and a new advertising format to address FDA concerns: The Google Ad Format for FDA concerns.  Bing and Yahoo have not announced how they might approach the FDA guidelines.

The end result of this action was to reinforce to the marketing community that online advertisement is no different from other marketing media. It is not the media but the message. And treating branded searches like other media would result in a better experience for the consumer.

Is it a better experience?

It has been almost a year since the letters were posted and what is the result? Is there a better consumer experience or a better experience with the brand online?  I respond with an unequivocal, “no.”  Since within the health landscape only the pharmaceutical industry is regulated by the FDA, everyone except the owner, creator and provider of the branded product may use the product name as they will. So this action has created nothing more than a search environment where the consumer is protected from the only entities that are providing a worthwhile and efficacious treatment for their illness.

Removing manufacturers from searches related to their products in an effort to not mislead consumers is a slippery slope.  Let’s think about another regulated sector, say food manufacturing.   I would love to see a food manufacturer advertise their brand on Google, and in fine print have a warning label saying that a person “is at risk for e. coli if you choose to eat xyz product”, or something of the like. One could argue that this is a fair assumption and warning to the consumer. If the government is going to impose restrictions on one vertical to “protect” the consumer, then shouldn’t they implement the same practice across the board?

So, is the FDA really protecting the consumer? Are consumers really getting a better experience online?  I say no to both.It might have been a better option to discuss what the marketing industry can or could do before stating that they were using search in a way that puts consumers at risk.