CBPO

Analytics

Three Ways to Get Data Out of Silos and Into Your Marketing Strategy

August 16, 2017 No Comments
There are a lot of ways to organize information. And the bigger a company is, the more complicated it can be for employees to find the right data, let alone know how best to use or share that information to make more-informed decisions.

Chances are that some data is “hidden” in silos across your company. According to new research from Econsultancy in partnership with Google, 86% of senior executives agree: eliminating organizational silos is critical to expanding the use of data and analytics in decision-making.1

If teams don’t talk, or if your organization doesn’t have an integrated data strategy to harness marketing, customer, and advertising data, information and ideas won’t flow freely. Here are three ways to break down data silos and get your organization on the path to a more collaborative, data-driven culture.

1. Make data accessible — to everyone
If you have work to do to get your data house in order, you’re not alone: 61% of marketing decision-makers struggled to access or integrate data they needed last year.2

The first step to making data more accessible is to outline a data strategy that identifies data owners and key points of contact for each information source. Next, define how to integrate data and related technologies, and provide standards and processes related to data security and privacy. Include guidelines for sharing data internally.

Democratizing access to data and insights enables employees at all levels to check their gut — and that leads to better results. The same Econsultancy study found that marketing leaders are 1.6X as likely as their mainstream counterparts to strongly agree that open access to data leads to higher business performance.3


Watch our on-demand webinar featuring new research and best practices in marketing data and analytics strategy from Google and MIT Sloan School of Management. 


2. Champion the value of data-driven insights over gut feelings
Once data is made available to marketing managers and business decision-makers, make sure you champion a data-first mindset with your team. Using data effectively is a key differentiator for marketers who are ahead of the curve.

While a documented data and analytics strategy can provide a guide for all employees, support from the top helps set the tone. Nearly two-thirds of leading organizations say that their executives treat data-driven insights as more valuable than gut instinct.4

C-suite buy-in and other champions across the company help reinforce a data-driven culture by giving teams stuck in silos a nudge to collaborate and share analytic insights. Even better, this environment should give teams the incentive to align or share goals since data is core to campaign plans and marketing strategy.

3. Educate stakeholders on how to interpret the data
Having access to data is great, but if employees don’t know how to use it, the insights will remain isolated and unused. Consider this: 75% of marketers agree that lack of education and training on data and analytics is the biggest barrier to more business decisions being made based on data insights.5
If a team is empowered with the right learnings, it will proactively integrate data rather than push it aside. Set up brown bag sessions or internal trainings, or provide employees access to self-paced learning modules.

Finally, consider pairing the “data evangelists” and data storytellers within your organization with different team members to identify areas of focus based on relevant business goals and the biggest opportunities.

Download the Econsultancy report, “The customer experience is written in data,” to learn how successful brands put data at the center of their marketing strategies. 

1, 3, 4, 5 Google/Econsultancy, “The Customer Experience Is Written in Data”, U.S., n=677 marketing and measurement executives at companies with over $ 250M in revenues, primarily in North America; n=199 leading marketers who reported marketing significantly exceeded top business goal in 2016; n=478 mainstream marketers (remainder of sample); May 2017. 2 Google Surveys, U.S., “2016–2017 Marketing Analytics Challenges and Goals,” Base: 203, marketing executives who have analytics or data-driven initiatives, Dec. 2016.
2 Google Surveys, U.S., “2016–2017 Marketing Analytics Challenges and Goals,” Base: 203, marketing executives who have analytics or data-driven initiatives, Dec. 2016.


Google Analytics Blog


7 things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform

August 12, 2017 No Comments

Ecommerce has been growing steadily in popularity for the last 10 years. Online sales jumped up nearly 15% last year across the board, and they’re predicted to only increase in the future. If you’re starting a business and selling products and/or services, an ecommerce site is crucial in order to capitalize on this explosive online sales growth.

While you could hire a web developer to get your business started, those costs can inhibit your ability to grow rapidly. Opting for an already-developed ecommerce platform saves you time as well as money.

The double-edged sword, however, is that there are tons of options available to you—how do you know you’re choosing the right one? This article outlines some things you’ll need to consider when you’re looking for the best ecommerce platform for your business.

1. Pricing and Payment

The first thing you should consider when searching for an ecommerce platform is the price. Whether you’re a small business just getting started or an already established brick & mortar business moving online, you need to know exactly what you’ll be paying.

Almost all platforms will have a monthly fee. Depending on the type of platform you get (self-hosted vs. hosted) the costs may vary. You should also consider the processing fees that will be associated with the platform. Don’t sacrifice the things you’ll definitely need for a cheaper price. Try to weigh the pros and cons of each to get the best for your budget. Below is a great chart of just a few of the top platforms from Ecommerce-Platforms:

You should also consider how your customers will be paying. Some platforms don’t offer the ability to pay via third party vendors (such as PayPal). This could end up being a huge inconvenience for your customers – a  frustration which can lead to shopping cart abandonment. Don’t take this risk; decide which forms of payment you’ll accept first and remember this when you’re looking at the different software.

2. Integrations

Another factor you should consider when looking at ecommerce platforms is their integrations and plugins. Most platforms, such as Shopify, will have plenty of tools for you to run your business. Your business needs will be a determining factor when deciding on the plugins that will work best for you. When looking at the different platforms, think of what tools you’ll need or already use for your business.  Here are some of the most popular types of plugins that you should look out for:

  • Accounting plugins to help with sales, taxes, revenues, and profits
  • Email marketing tools to help you keep in contact with your customers
  • A platform that helps you reward your customers for using your products
  • Apps to help with shipping your products

3. SEO Friendliness

Ecommerce businesses are not exempt from working on their SEO. In fact, it can be highly beneficial to have your store rank high in search results. You want your customers to find you when they’re searching for products like yours.

Some of the most important factors when looking for an SEO friendly platform include:

  • The ability to add a blog to your website
  • The ability to use your own domain name
  • The ability for customers to leave reviews

You can learn more about SEO for an ecommerce website here.

4. Mobile Friendliness

Did you know nearly 60% of searches are done from mobile devices? Often those searches continue on to a purchase from a mobile device. This means its important to look for platforms that allow customers to easily access your website as well as make a purchase on their mobile device. Below is a great example from Shopify:

5. Customer Service

A key aspect of any business is its customer service. As the experience provided by traditional brick-and-mortar businesses is based in a physical store, they typically have more control over how smoothly their business runs.

Ecommerce is a whole different ballgame; software outages and server downtimes are often out of your control, and will prevent any of your customers from accessing your business. Odds are that at one point your servers will crash at the worst possible moment. This can affect both your revenue and your brand image.

Having someone to call at any time to help you get things up and running again is a huge factor when you’re looking at ecommerce platforms. Take a look at each platform’s customer service—are they available 24/7? How are you able to reach them? How many levels of support are offered, and what does each cost? Think about these questions and make sure you ask them before you decide on your platform.

6. Security

No one want to enter their credit card information on a sketchy website, which is why security is becoming one of the biggest concerns among consumers. While most software today will have robust security as standard, always check to make sure your platform supports HTTPS/SSL for a safe and secure checkout for your customers.

Also, make sure that any platform you choose is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant. BigCommerce explains more here, and below is a screenshot that gives you a taste of what it takes to become compliant:

7. Scalability

All business owners hope their business will grow in the future, but you may not know to what extent. Nonetheless, it’s important to look for a platform that will scale along with your business.

You don’t want to pay for features and storage that you’re not using when you first start out. You also want to keep up with higher demands as your business takes off. Choose a platform that you can scale to your business size and that won’t charge you outrageous fees for doing so.

The Takeaway

Starting any new business is challenging, but moving away from the traditional store front to an online version can be a little daunting—especially with so many options for you to start with—which is why choosing an ecommerce platform is so difficult for many business owners. Figuring out what your store will need as you grow and keeping up with trends is a challenge, but it is well worth it in the end to create processes that work and will scale with your business. Knowing what to look for ahead of time makes choosing a platform an easier process and can help you find success!

What features do you look for in ecommerce software? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda at AmandaDiSilvestro.com.

Search Engine Watch


A world without “(not provided)”: How unlocking organic keyword data leads to a better web

August 9, 2017 No Comments

Beginning in 2011, search marketers began to lose visibility over the organic keywords that consumers were using to find their websites, as Google gradually switched all of its searches over to secure search using HTTPS.

As it did so, the organic keyword data available to marketers in Google Analytics, and other analytics platforms, slowly became replaced by “(not provided)”. By 2014, the (not provided) issue was estimated to impact 80-90% of organic traffic, representing a massive loss in visibility for search marketers and website owners.

Marketers have gradually adjusted to the situation, and most have developed rough workarounds or ways of guessing what searches are bringing customers to their site. Even so, there’s no denying that having complete visibility over organic keyword data once more would have a massive impact on the search industry – as well as benefits for SEO.

One company believes that it has found the key to unlocking “(not provided)” keyword data. We spoke to Daniel Schmeh, MD and CTO at Keyword Hero, a start-up which has set out to solve the issue of “(not provided)”, and ‘Wizard of Moz’ Rand Fishkin, about how “(not provided)” is still impacting the search industry in 2017, and what a world without it might look like.

Content produced in association with Keyword Hero.

“(not provided)” in Google Analytics: How does it impact SEO?

“The “(not provided)” keyword data issue is caused by Google the search engine, so that no analytics program, Google Analytics included, can get the data directly,” explains Rand Fishkin, founder and former CEO of Moz.

“Google used to pass a referrer string when you performed a web search with them that would tell you – ‘This person searched for “red shoes” and then they clicked on your website’. Then you would know that when people searched for “red shoes”, here’s the behavior they showed on your website, and you could buy ads against that, or choose how to serve them better, maybe by highlighting the red shoes on the page better when they land there – all sorts of things.”

“You could also do analytics to understand whether visitors for that search were converting on your website, or whether they were having a good experience – those kinds of things.

“But Google began to take that away around 2011, and their reasoning behind it was to protect user privacy. That was quickly debunked, however, by folks in the industry, because Google provides that data with great accuracy if you choose to buy ads with them. So there’s obviously a huge conflict of interest there.

“I think the assumption at this point is that it’s just Google throwing their weight around and being the behemoth that they can be, and saying, ‘We don’t want to provide this data because it’s too valuable and useful to potential competitors, and people who have the potential to own a lot of the search ranking real estate and have too good of an idea of what patterns are going on.

“I think Google is worried about the quality and quantity of data that could be received through organic search – they’d prefer that marketers spend money on advertising with Google if they want that information.”

Where Google goes, its closest competitors are sure to follow, and Bing and Yandex soon followed suit. By 2013, the search industry was experiencing a near-total eclipse of visibility over organic keyword data, and found itself having to simply deal with the consequences.

“At this point, most SEOs use the data of which page received the visit from Google, and then try to reverse-engineer it: what keywords does that page rank for? Based on those two points, you can sort of triangulate the value you’re getting from visitors from those keywords to this page,” says Fishkin.

However, data analysis and processing have come a long way since 2011, or even 2013. One start-up believes that it has found the key to unlocking “(not provided)” keyword data and giving marketers back visibility over their organic keywords.

How to unlock “(not provided)” keywords in Google Analytics

“I started out as a SEO, first in a publishing company and later in ecommerce companies,” says Daniel Schmeh, MD and CTO of SEO and search marketing tool Keyword Hero, which aims to provide a solution to “(not provided)” in Google Analytics. “I then got into PPC marketing, building self-learning bid management tools, before finally moving into data science.

“So I have a pretty broad understanding of the industry and ecosystem, and was always aware of the “(not provided)” problem.

“When we then started buying billions of data points from browser extensions for another project that I was working on, I thought that this must be solvable – more as an interesting problem to work on than a product that we wanted to sell.”

Essentially, Schmeh explains, solving the problem of “(not provided)” is a matter of getting access to the data and engineering around it. Keyword Hero uses a wide range of data sources to deduce the organic keywords hidden behind the screen of “(not provided)”.

“In the first step, the Hero fetches all our users’ URLs,” says Schmeh. “We then use rank monitoring services – mainly other SEO tools and crawlers – as well as what we call “cognitive services” – among them Google Trends, Bing Cognitive Services, Wikipedia’s API – and Google’s search console, to compute a long list of possible keywords per URL, and a first estimate of their likelihood.

“All these results are then tested against real, hard data that we buy from browser extensions.

“This info will be looped back to the initial deep learning algorithm, using a variety of mathematical concepts.”

Ultimately, the process used by Keyword Hero to obtain organic keyword data is still guesswork, but very advanced guesswork.

“All in all, the results are pretty good: in 50 – 60% of all sessions, we attribute keywords with 100% certainty,” says Schmeh.

“For the remainder, at least 83% certainty is needed, otherwise they’ll stay (not provided). For most of our customers, 94% of all sessions are matched, though in some cases we need a few weeks to get to this matching rate.”

If the issue of “(not provided)” organic keywords has been around since 2011, why has it taken us this long to find a solution that works? Schmeh believes that Keyword Hero has two key advantages: One, they take a scientific approach to search, and two, they have much greater data processing powers compared with six years ago.

“We have a very scientific approach to SEO,” he says.

“We have a small team of world-class experts, mostly from Fraunhofer Institute of Technology, that know how to make sense of large amounts of data. Our background in SEO and the fact that we have access to vast amounts of data points from browser extensions allowed us to think about this as more of a data science problem, which it ultimately is.

“Processing the information – the algorithm and its functionalities – would have worked back in 2011, too, but the limiting factor is our capability to work with these extremely large amounts of data. Just uploading the information back into our customers’ accounts would take 13 hours on AWS [Amazon Web Services] largest instance, the X1 – something we could never afford.

“So we had to find other cloud solutions – ending up with things that didn’t exist even a year ago.”

A world without “(not provided)”: How could unlocking organic keyword data transform SEO?

If marketers and website owners could regain visibility over their organic keywords, this would obviously be a huge help to their efforts in optimizing for search and planning a commercial strategy.

But Rand Fishkin also believes it would have two much more wide-reaching benefits: it would help to prove the worth of organic SEO, and would ultimately lead to a better user experience and a better web.

“Because SEO has such a difficult time proving attribution, it doesn’t get counted and therefore businesses don’t invest in it the way they would if they could show that direct connection to revenue,” says Fishkin. “So it would help prove the value, which means that SEO could get budget.

“I think the thing Google is most afraid of is that some people would see that they rank organically well enough for some keywords they’re bidding on in AdWords, and ultimately decide not to bid anymore.

“This would cause Google to lose revenue – but of course, many of these websites would save a lot of money.”

And in this utopian world of keyword visibility, marketers could channel that revenue into better targeting the consumers whose behavior they would now have much higher-quality insights into.

“I think you would see more personalization and customization on websites – so for example, earlier I mentioned a search for ‘red shoes’ – if I’m an ecommerce website, and I see that someone has searched for ‘red shoes’, I might actually highlight that text on the page, or I might dynamically change the navigation so that I had shades of red inside my product range that I helped people discover.

“If businesses could personalize their content based on the search, it could create an improved user experience and user performance: longer time on site, lower bounce rate, higher engagement, higher conversion rate. It would absolutely be better for users.

“The other thing I think you’d see people doing is optimizing their content efforts around keywords that bring valuable visitors. As more and more websites optimized for their unique search audience, you would generally get a better web – some people are going to do a great job for ‘red shoes’, others for ‘scarlet sandals’, and others for ‘burgundy sneakers’. And as a result, we would have everyone building toward what their unique value proposition is.”

Daniel Schmeh adds that unlocking “(not provided)” keyword data has the ability to make SEO less about guesswork and more substantiated in numbers and hard facts.

“Just seeing simple things, like how users convert that use your brand name in their search phrase versus those who don’t, has huge impact on our customers,” he says. “We’ve had multiple people telling us that they have based important business decisions on the data.

“Seeing thousands of keywords again is very powerful for the more sophisticated, data-driven user, who is able to derive meaningful insights; but we’d really like the Keyword Hero to become a standard tool. So we’re working hard to make this keyword data accessible and actionable for all of our users, and will soon be offering features like keyword clustering – all through their Google Analytics interface.”

To find out more about how to unlock your “(not provided)” keywords in Google Analytics, visit the Keyword Hero website.

Search Engine Watch


Ask a question, get an answer in Google Analytics

August 5, 2017 No Comments
What if getting answers about your key business metrics was as easy as asking a question in plain English? What if you could simply say, “How many new users did we have from organic search on mobile last week?” ― and get an answer right away?

Today, Google Analytics is taking a step toward that future.  Know what data you need and want it quickly? Just ask Google Analytics and get your answer.

This feature, which uses the same natural language processing technology available across Google products like Android and Search, is rolling out now and will become available in English to all Google Analytics users over the next few weeks.

The ability to ask questions is part of Analytics Intelligence, a set of features in Google Analytics that use machine learning to help you better understand and act on your analytics data. Analytics Intelligence also includes existing machine learning capabilities like automated insights (now available on both web and the mobile app), smart lists, smart goals, and session quality.

How it Works
We’ve talked to web analysts who say they spend half their time answering basic analytics questions for other people in their organization. In fact, a recent report from Forrester found that 57% of marketers find it difficult to give their stakeholders in different functions access to their data and insights. Asking questions in Analytics Intelligence can help everyone get their answers directly in the product ― so team members get what they need faster, and analysts can spend their valuable time on deeper research and discovery.
Try it! This short video will give you a feel for how it works:

“Analytics Intelligence enables those users who aren’t too familiar with Google Analytics to access and make use of the data within their business’ account. Democratising data in this way can only be a good thing for everyone involved in Google Analytics!”
Joe Whitehead, Analytics Consultant, Merkle | Periscopix

Beyond answering your questions, Analytics Intelligence also surfaces new opportunities for you through automated insights, now available in the web interface as well as in the mobile app. These insights can show spikes or drops in metrics like revenue or session duration, tipping you off to issues that you may need to investigate further. Insights may also present opportunities to improve key metrics by following specific recommendations. For example, a chance to improve bounce rate by reducing a page’s load time, or the potential to boost conversion rate by adding a new keyword to your AdWords campaign.

To ask questions and get automated insights from Analytics Intelligence in our web interface, click the Intelligence button to open a side panel. In the Google Analytics mobile app for Android and iOS, tap the Intelligence icon in the upper right-hand corner of most screens. Check out this article to learn more about the types of questions you can ask today.

Help us Learn
Our Intelligence system gets even smarter over time as it learns which questions and insights users are interested in. In that spirit, we need your help: After you ask questions or look at insights, please leave feedback at the bottom of the card.

Your answers will help us train Analytics Intelligence to be more useful.

Our goal is to help you get more insights to more people, faster. That way everyone can get to the good stuff: creating amazing experiences that make customers happier and help you grow your business.
Happy Analyzing!


Google Analytics Blog


Google Data Studio: New Feature Roundup

August 2, 2017 No Comments
The Data Studio team is constantly working on new features to improve the user experience for both report creators and viewers! In this blog post we’ll highlight some recent launches that you may have missed.

Filter controls: search 
Filters give report viewers a powerful way to slice data by specific segments. But filters with hundreds or even thousands of possible values to choose from were previously difficult to use, requiring scrolling through very long lists of filter items. We recently added a search feature within the filter component, letting users quickly find and select or deselect specific items.

Filter controls: single-select 
There are also scenarios when it only makes sense to filter a report on a single value, as filtering on multiple values would return confusing or nonsensical data. Report creators now have the ability to configure filters to allow for single-selection only.

Combo charts
New Combo charts allow users to create a line chart with a non-time-based dimension on the X-axis (previously only time-based dimensions were supported). The new component can plot a single dimension with up to 5 metrics, or 2 dimensions with a single metric. Learn more about Combo charts here.

Links in tabular data 
Tables in Data Studio reports can now display clickable links! This feature introduces a new type of interactivity, as viewers can now be redirected to to relevant content outside the report. To use this feature, report owners must use a data source containing a column of URLs. Data Studio will detect this column and assign it to the URL field type (if automatic detection does not work data source owners can also set the field type to URL manually). Learn more about this here.

Submitting and voting for new features
The Data Studio team will continue to introduce new features and product enhancements. Have a feature request? You can view requests submitted by other users, upvote your favorites, or create new ones. Learn more here.

Posted by Alon Gotesman, Product Manager, Google Data Studio


Google Analytics Blog


What does visual search mean for ecommerce in 2017?

July 29, 2017 No Comments

Since the early 2010s, visual search has been offering users a novel alternative to keyword-based search results.

But with the sophistication of visual search tools increasing, and tech giants like Google and Microsoft investing heavily in the space, what commercial opportunities does it offer brands today?

Visual search 101

There are two types of visual search. The first compares metadata keywords for similarities (such as when searching an image database like Shutterstock).

The second is known as ‘content-based image retrieval’. This takes the colour, shape and texture of the image and compares it to a database, displaying entries according to similarity.

From a user perspective, this massively simplifies the process of finding products they like the look of. Instead of trying to find the words to describe the object, users can simply take a photo and see relevant results.

Visual search engines: A (very) brief history

The first product to really make use of this technology was ‘Google Goggles’. Released in 2010, it offered some fairly basic image-recognition capabilities. It could register unique objects like books, barcodes, art and landmarks, and provide additional information about them.

It also had the ability to understand and store text in an image – such as a photo of a business card. However, it couldn’t recognize general instances of objects, like trees, animals or items of clothing.

CamFind took the next step, offering an app where users could take photos of any object and see additional information alongside shopping results. My tests (featuring our beautiful office plant) yielded impressively accurate related images and web results.

More importantly for brands, it offers advertising based on the content of the image. However, despite the early offering, the app has yet to achieve widespread adoption.

A Pinterest-ing development

newer player in the visual search arena, image-focused platform Pinterest has what CamFind doesn’t – engaged users. In fact, it reached 150m monthly users in 2016, 70m of which are in the US with a 60:40 split women to men.

So what do people use Pinterest for? Ben Silbermann, its CEO and co-founder, summed it up in a recent blog post:

“As a Pinner once said to me, “Pinterest is for yourself, not your selfies”—I love that. Pinterest is more of a personal tool than a social one. People don’t come to see what their friends are doing. (There are lots of other great places out there for that!) Instead, they come to Pinterest to find ideas to try, figure out which ones they love, and learn a little bit about themselves in the process.”

In other words, Pinterest is designed for discovery. Users are there to look for products and ideas, not to socialize. Which makes it inherently brand-friendly. In fact, 93% of Pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases, and 87% said they’d bought something because of interest. Adverts are therefore less disruptive in this context than platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where users are focused on socializing, not searching.

Pinterest took their search functionality to the next level in February 2017 with an update offering users three new features:

Shop the Look allowed users to pick just one part of an image they were interested in to explore – like a hat or a pair of shoes.

Related Ideas gives users the ability to explore a tangent based on a single pin. For example, if I were interested in hideously garish jackets, I might click ‘more’ and see a collection of equally tasteless items.

Pinterest Lens was the heavyweight feature of this release. Linking to the functionality displayed in Shop the Look, it allowed users to take photos on their smartphone and see Pins that looked similar to the object displayed.

In practice, this meant a user might see a chair they were interested in purchasing, take a photo, and find similar styles – in exactly the same way as CamFind.

Pinterest Lens today

What does it mean for ecommerce brands?

Visual search engines have the potential to offer a butter-smooth customer journey – with just a few taps between snapping a picture of something and having it in a basket and checking out. Pinterest took a big step towards that in May this year, announcing they would be connecting their visual search functionality to Promoted Pins – allowing advertisers to get in front of users searching visually by surfacing adverts in the ‘Instant Ideas’ and the ‘More like this’ sections.

For retail brands with established Pinterest strategies like Target, Nordstrom, Walgreens and Lululemon, this is welcome news, as it presents a novel opportunity for brands to connect with users looking to purchase products.

Product images can be featured in visual search results

Nearly 2 million people Pin product-rich pins every day. The platform even offers the ability to include prices and other data on pins, which helps drive further engagement. Furthermore, it has the highest average order value of any major social platform at $ 50, and caters heavily to users on mobile (orders from mobile devices increased from 67% to 80% between 2013-2015).

But while Pinterest may have led the way in terms of visual search, it isn’t alone. Google and Bing have both jumped on the trend with Lens-equivalent products in the last year. Both Google Lens and Bing Visual Search (really, Microsoft? That’s the best you have?) function in an almost identical way to Pinterest Lens. Examples from Bing’s blog post on the product even show it being applied in the same contexts – picking out elements of a domestic scene and displaying shopping results.

One interesting question for ecommerce brands to answer will be how to optimize product images for these kinds of results.

Google Lens, announced at Google’s I/O conference in May to much furore, pitches itself as a tool to help users understand the world. By accessing Google’s vast knowledge base, the app can do things like identify objects, and connect to your WiFi automatically by snapping the code on the box.

Of course, this has a commercial application as well. One of the use cases highlighted by Google CEO Sundar Pichai was photographing a business storefront and having the Google Local result pop up, replete with reviews, menus and contact details.

The key feature here is the ability to connecting a picture taken with an action. It doesn’t take too much to imagine how brands might be able to use this functionality in interesting and engaging ways – for example, booking event tickets directly from an advert, as demonstrated at I/O:

The future

Many marketers think we’re on the brink of a revolution when it comes to search. The growing popularity of voice search is arguably an indicator that consumers are moving away from keyword-based search and towards more intuitive methods.

It’s too soon to write off the medium entirely, of course – keywords are still by the far the easiest way to access most information. But visual search, along with voice, are certainly still useful additions to the roster of tools we might use to access information on the internet.

Ecommerce brands would be wise to keep close tabs on the progress of visual search tools; those that are prepared will have a significant competitive advance over those that aren’t.

This post was originally published on our sister site, ClickZ, and has been reproduced here for the enjoyment of our audience on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


New Data Studio Data Control

July 26, 2017 No Comments
Today we’ve made it dramatically easier to view your Google Analytics data in Data Studio using the new Data control. When a report is created using the Data Control, all viewers can see their own data in the report, without creating anything.

Check out these quick video to see this feature in action
Try it out now! 
We added the Data control to these templates so you test it out with your data:  

Overview Report

Ecommerce Template

This feature is great if you:
Are an agency or large organization with access to many Google Analytics views and do not want to create a Data Studio report for each view. For example, if you have a set of charts and data you monitor every day, you can now build a report in Data Studio with those charts and data, add the Data Control, and quickly go between any of the views you have access to, allowing you to monitor your entire business very fast.

Are a large organization with many websites across: different brands, different regions, or different business units, and want to unify reporting and KPIs across your entire organization. Now you can build a template report in Data Studio, add the Data Control, and share the report across your organization. Every user will be able to see their data, in your curated report.

The data control is public for all users.

Read the Help Center for more details on how to use it.

If you build an exciting report, please submit to our gallery, so we can showcase it.

Posted By Nick Mihailovski, Product Manager, Data Studio 


Google Analytics Blog


What do we know so far about Google’s new homepage?

July 22, 2017 No Comments

Google has released a new, feed-based mobile homepage in the US, with an international launch due in the next two weeks.

This is perhaps the most drastic and significant update of the Google.com homepage (the most visited URL globally) since Google’s launch in 1996.

The upgraded, dynamic entry point to the world’s biggest search engine will be available initially on mobile devices via both the Google website and its mobile apps, but will also be rolled out to desktop.

Let’s take a look at what’s changing and how, as well as what it might mean for marketers.

What’s different about the new homepage?

Google’s new homepage allows users to customize a news feed that updates based on their interests, location, and past search behaviors.

On the Google.com website (via a mobile device), there are now four icon-based options: Weather, Sports, Entertainment, and Food & Drink.

The ‘Weather’ and ‘Food & Drink’ options can be used straight away, as they take the user’s location data to provide targeted results. The ‘Sports’ and ‘Entertainment’ options require a little more customization before users can benefit from them fully. Without this, Google will just serve up popular and trending stories within each category.

In the example below, I tapped on the ‘Sports’ icon, then selected to follow a baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Based on this preference, Google then knows to show me updates on this team on my homepage. The results varied in their media format, with everything from Tweets to GIFs and videos shown in my feed.

This means that rather than encountering the iconic search bar, Google logo, and the unadorned white interface we have all become accustomed to, each user’s feed will be unique. As I start to layer on more of the topics I am interested in, Google gains more information with which to tailor my feed.

On the Google mobile app, based on my selection above, my homepage looks as follows:

This is quite a big departure and is an experience we should expect the Google.com website to mirror soon. For now, the latter retains enough of the old aesthetic to be recognizable, but the app-based version is more overt in its positioning of suggested content.

The trusty search bar is still there, but users are encouraged to interact with their interests too. The interface is designed for tapping as well as typing.

Sashi Thakur, a Google engineer, has said of the launch,

“We want people to understand they’re consuming information from Google. It will just be without a query.”

It is essentially an extension of the functionality that has been available in Google’s Android app since December. Google will also continue to use push notifications to send updates on traffic, weather, and sports, based on the user’s set preferences.

Why is Google launching this product now?

Google has struggled to find a significant commercial hit to rival its hugely lucrative search advertising business. That business relies on search queries and user data, so anything that leads users to spend more time on Google will be of significant value.

The same motive has led to the increased presence of Google reservations, which now allow users to make appointments for a range of services from the search results page.

As Google stated in their official announcement, “The more you use Google, the better your feed will be.”

Users type a query when they have an idea of what they want to find; Google is pre-empting this by serving us content before we are even aware of what exactly we would like to know. By offering a service that will increase in accuracy in line with increased usage, Google hopes users will get hooked on a new mode of discovering information.

This also allows Google to incorporate a number of other initiatives it has been working on, such as fact-checking and Google Posts.

You’d be forgiven for wondering whether Google is trying to find its way into social media again. After the demise of the short-lived Google+ platform, Google has seen Facebook grow as a credible threat in the battle for digital advertising dollars.

Facebook’s algorithmic news feed has been a significant factor in its rise in popularity, and with Google Posts incorporated into this news feed, there are certainly elements reminiscent of a certain social network in Google’s new homepage initiative. Readers may also recall the launch of iGoogle in 2005, a similar attempt to add some personalization to the homepage.

That said, it seems more likely that these changes have been rolled out in response to recent launches from Amazon than as a direct challenge to Facebook.

Amazon has made an almost dizzying amount of product announcements and acquisitions of late. As a pure-play ecommerce company, their rapid growth will have been cause for consternation at Google and there is a need to respond.

Of particular interest in relation to the new Google feed is the very recent launch of Amazon Spark, a shoppable feed of curated content for Amazon Prime members. It is only available via the iOS app for now, but it will be launched on Android soon too.

Spark is a rival to Instagram in some ways, with its very visual feed and some early partnerships with social media influencers. It is also similar to Pinterest, as it encourages users to save their favorite images for later and clearly tries to tap into the ‘Discovery’ phase that Pinterest has made a play for recently.

Amazon has also launched its ‘Interesting Finds’ stream, which works in a noticeably Pinterest-esque fashion:

Google has taken aim at Pinterest with its ‘Similar items’ feature and its revamped visual search technology, which feeds the new Google Lens.

In Google’s announcement of the new homepage, they make use of the verbs “discover” and “explore”. Both Amazon and Pinterest have tried to shape and monetize these phases of the search-based purchase journey; Google evidently thinks its homepage needs to take on a new life if it is to compete.

Will it open new opportunities for marketers?

Almost certainly. We should view this as a welcome addition to the elements of current search strategies, with a host of new opportunities to get in front of target audiences.

Google is not launching this product because of any existential threat to its core search product, which still dominates Western markets:

Source: Moz/Jumpshot

The update should encourage a shift in user behavior. As people get used to the new experience, they will interact with Google in new ways and marketers need to be prepared for this.

From a paid perspective, we can expect to see new options open to advertisers, but not in the immediate future.

Amazon has two innate monetization mechanisms within Spark: users have to sign up to Prime (for an annual fee) to get access and, when they do, they are served a shoppable list of results. It comes as no surprise when we are on Amazon that we will be asked if we want to buy products.

That is not always the case on Google, where the initial purpose of the news feed is to gain traction with users and encourage them to spend more time within the site.

Options for sponsored content and (almost inevitably) paid ecommerce ads will come later, once a large and engaged user base has been established.

Search Engine Watch


The 2-step guide to driving sales with Pinterest

July 19, 2017 No Comments

There are millions of people on Pinterest, searching, pinning, and sharing – so it’s important to recognize its potential for building awareness and filling the top of the funnel, particularly for ecommerce companies.

This blog will discuss a couple of recommended targeting types within Pinterest to help fill the top of the funnel and essentially build up your audience. From there, once your audience is built out, we’ll run through how to actually capitalize on these new users to drive sales.

Let’s jump in.

Use Pinterest to fill the funnel

Pinterest has some specific features that are highly effective for building your audience. These include:

Keyword targeting

You can leverage user intent by targeting specific keywords that users are searching within Pinterest.

For example, if you are a trendy clothing brand that sells sweaters, you may want to target “trendy sweaters” and have your ad (in Pinterest lingo, your promoted pin) show up in the search results and related pins.

Interest targeting

Pinterest will determine a user’s interest based on the pins they have engaged with and saved. Your ad (promoted pin) will show up in the user’s home feed or relevant topics feed.

A Promoted Pin on Pinterest

“Actalike” targeting

This is similar to Facebook’s lookalike targeting; you can upload a customer list and Pinterest will target audiences similar in behaviors, traits, and characteristics as that customer list. Our recommendation is to start off with your top customers – for example, your highest-LTV or AOV audiences.

I would initially recommend prioritizing the Actalike and keyword targeting as they tend to be more effective at getting in front of highly relevant audiences. But by leveraging any or all of the targeting options, you’re discovering and engaging with new, relevant audiences and driving them to your site.

That said, make sure your expectations are aligned. You should not expect to see Pinterest as a lever for immediate purchases, but more as a longer-term play where you’re developing an awareness and building your audience to hit later via a few different methods below to actually drive the sale.

That said, let’s talk about how to…

Convert Pinterest engagement into sales

Now that you’ve engaged with your audiences via Pinterest, you should be capturing those audiences for remarketing purposes.

First, to be smart with your remarketing efforts and truly understand the value of Pinterest, you should make sure every link on your Pinterest ads include a tag that labels it as Pinterest. You can use UTM parameters or anything else, but essentially you want to make sure that you can identify these audiences that have come through from Pinterest and segment them out.

You can then create specific audiences within both Google and Facebook (for example) that have come in through Pinterest. (E.g. url contains ‘utm_source=pinterest). Now you can separate out these audiences, and as you use them in your retargeting strategies, you can understand if the Pinterest audiences you have built are actually converting into sales.

Speaking of converting, I’d recommend the following methods:

RLSA (remarketing for search ads)

Layer your Pinterest audiences onto existing search campaigns and add a higher bid modifier. These audiences have already visited your site and developed a familiarity with your brand. If they end up searching for your product, you want to make sure your ad appears high in the search results to remind them of your brand, pull them to your site, and entice them to convert.

One RLSA strategy I’d recommend is to create a separate “broad” RLSA campaign where you can bid on head terms, and broader but still relevant terms that you normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

For example, you typically may not bid on a term like “womens clothing” because it is so generic and has heavy competition, but given the user has already visited your site, you can create an RLSA campaign, layer your Pinterest audiences, and bid on the term.

The thought behind this is that by serving your ad on this more generic keyword, you are reminding them that you sell women’s clothing. Since the users have been to your site, they’ll have a sense of if it’s worth visiting. Essentially, this is way of getting in front of relevant eyes without doing significant harm to overall efficiency.

Dynamic remarketing

You can do this on both Facebook and GDN where ads include the product the user has visited on the site (as well as other relevant products). The usual segmentation caveats apply; you want to make sure you’re segmenting by time lapsed since the visit and depth of site pages reached and bid accordingly.

Remarketing for shopping

Make use of your audience list by layering it onto your shopping campaigns. Again, the goal here is to bid more aggressively so you can ensure your ad shows up for the audiences who have engaged with your Pinterest ad, visited the site, and developed familiarity with the brand. You’ll typically see higher CVRs for these types of audiences.

The main takeaway here: if you’re not investing in Pinterest, you’re missing out on engaging a robust, potentially high-ROI audience. The platform itself has come a long way in adding marketing-friendly features and reporting capabilities to position itself as a long-term player. Get on board now; the traffic’s not getting any cheaper.

Good luck!

 

For more on how to integrate Pinterest into your sales strategy, check out our visual guide to Pinterest advertising.

Search Engine Watch


Five important updates to Google semantic search you might have missed

July 15, 2017 No Comments

What is semantic search? Broadly speaking, it’s a term that refers to a move towards more accurate search results by using various methods to better understand the intent and context behind a search.

Or as Alexis Sanders very eloquently explained it on the Moz Blog,

“The word “semantic” refers to the meaning or essence of something. Applied to search, “semantics” essentially relates to the study of words and their logic. Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding a searcher’s intent through contextual meaning. […] Semantic search brings about an enhanced understanding of searcher intent, the ability to extract answers, and delivers more personalized results.”

Google is constantly making tweaks and changes to its documentation and features linked to semantic search. Many of these involve things like structured data and Schema.org, rich results, Knowledge Graph and so on, and the vast majority go unannounced and unnoticed – even though they can make a significant difference to the way we interact with search.

But there are some eagle-eyed members of the search community who keep tabs on changes to semantic search, and let the rest of us know what’s up. To aid in those efforts, I’m rounding up five recent important changes to semantic search on Google that you might not have noticed.

100% of the credit for these observations goes to the Semantic Search Marketing Google+ group (and specifically its founder Aaron Bradley), which is my source for all the latest news and updates on semantic search. If you want to keep in the loop, I highly recommend joining.

Videos and recipes are now accessible via image search

Earlier this week, Google made a telling addition to its documentation for videos, specifying that video rich results will now display in image search on mobile devices, “providing users with useful information about your video.”

A mobile image search for a phrase like “Daily Show Youtube” (okay, that one’s probably not going to happen organically, but I wanted to make the feature work) will fetch video thumbnails in among the grid of regular image results, which when selected, unfold into something like this:

You then need to select “Watch” or the title of the video to be taken to the video itself. (Selecting the image will only bring up the image in fullscreen and won’t redirect you to the video). So far, video rich results from YouTube and Wistia have been spotted in image search.

Google’s documentation for recipes also now features a similar addition: “Rich results can also appear in image search on mobile devices, providing users with useful information about your recipe.” So now you can do more than just stare at a mouthwatering picture of a lasagna in image search – you might be able to find out how it’s made.

Google’s documentation gives instructions on how to mark up your videos and recipes correctly, so that you can make sure your content gets pulled through into image search.

Rich cards are no more

RIP, rich cards. The term introduced by Google in May 2016 to describe the, well, card-style rich results that appear for specific searches have now been removed from Google Developers.

As identified by Aaron Bradley, Google has made changes to its ‘Mark Up Your Content Items’ on Google Developers to remove reference to “rich cards”. In most places, these have been changed to refer to “rich results”, the family of results which includes things like rich cards, rich snippets and featured snippets.

There’s no information as to why Google decided to retire the term; I think it’s usefully descriptive, but maybe Google decided there was no point making an arbitrary distinction between a “card” and a “non-card” rich result.

It may also have been aiming to slim down the number of similar-sounding terms it uses to describe search results with the addition of “enriched search results” to the mix – more on that later.

Google launches structured data-powered job postings in search results

Google has added another item to the list of things that will trigger a rich result in search: job postings.

This change was prefigured by the addition of a Jobs tab to Google’s ‘Early Access and partner-only features’ page, which is another good place to keep an eye out for upcoming developments in search.

Google also hinted at the addition during this year’s Google I/O, when it announced the launch of a new initiative called ‘Google for Jobs’. In a lengthy blog post published on the first day of the conference, Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained the advent of Google for Jobs as forming part of Google’s overall efforts towards “democratizing access to information and surfacing new opportunities”, tying it in with Google’s advances in AI and machine learning.

“For example, almost half of U.S. employers say they still have issues filling open positions. Meanwhile, job seekers often don’t know there’s a job opening just around the corner from them, because the nature of job posts—high turnover, low traffic, inconsistency in job titles—have made them hard for search engines to classify. Through a new initiative, Google for Jobs, we hope to connect companies with potential employees, and help job seekers find new opportunities.”

The new feature, which is U.S.-only for the time being, is being presented as an “enriched search experience”, which is another one of Google’s interesting new additions to semantic search that I’ve explored in full below.

And in a neat tie-in, reviews of employers are now due to be added in schema.org 3.3, including both individual text reviews and aggregate ratings of organizations in their role as employer.

Google introduces new “enriched search results”

Move over rich results – Google’s got an even better experience now. Introducing “enriched search results”, a “more interactive and enhanced class of rich results” being made available across Google.

How long have enriched search results been around? SEO By the Sea blogged about a Google patent for enriched search results as far back as 2014, and followed up with a post in 2015 exploring ‘enriched resources’ in more detail.

However, in the 2014 post Bill Slawski specifically identifies things like airline flights, weather inquiries and sports scores as triggering an enriched result, whereas in its Search Console Help topic on enriched search results, Google specifies that this experience is linked to job postings, recipes and events only.

According to Google:

“Enriched search results often include an immersive popup experience or other advanced interaction feature.”

Google also specifies that “Enriched search enables the user to search across the various properties of a structured data item; for instance, a user might search for chicken soup recipes under 200 calories, or recipes that take less than 1 hour of preparation time.”

Judging by this quote, enriched search results are a continuation of Google’s overall strategy to achieve two things: interpret and respond to more in-depth search queries, and make the SERP more of a one-stop-shop for anything that a searcher could need.

We’ve seen Google increasingly add interactive features to the SERP like new types of rich result, and Google Posts, while also improving its ability to interpret user intent and search context. (Which, as we established earlier, is the goal of semantic search). So in the recipe example given above, a user would be able to search for chicken soup recipes with under 200 calories, then view and follow the recipe in a pop-up, all without needing to click through to a recipe website.

Needless to say, this could be bad news for website traffic and click-throughs – even more than featured snippets, answer boxes, the knowledge graph, quick answers and other rich results already are.

Google makes a whole host of changes to its structured data developer guides

Finally, Google has made a wide-ranging set of changes to its structured data developer guides. I recommend reading Aaron Bradley’s post to Semantic Search Marketing for full details, but here are some highlights:

  • Guides are now classified as covering the following topics: structured data, AMP, mobile friendly design
  • Structured data has a new definition: it is now defined by Google as “a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.” The old definition called it “a text-based organization of data that is included in a file and served from the web.” This one definitely seems a little clearer.
  • Twice as many items now listed under “Technical guidelines”, including an explanation of what to do about duplicate content
  • There is now less emphasis on the Structured Data Testing Tool, and more on post-publication analysis and testing – perhaps Google is trying to get users to do more of their own work on structured data markup, rather than relying on Google’s tool?
  • All content types are now eligible to appear in a carousel.

Search Engine Watch