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It’s only human nature to try things that other people are doing because it feels like a good idea and/or the right thing to do. In many instances, the outcome is either neutral or positive. However, in today’s online marketing world, just because someone is doing it, doesn’t make the outcome “good”. In contrast, it could actually backfire (both financially and reputation-wise). Let me explain.
When Facebook rolled out their advertising platform, everyone wanted to get in on the action. After a few years of “trial and error” trying to figure out the algorithm, it became clear that this was a potential money-making machine for advertisers. However, it didn’t take long for these same advertisers to see that their Ad dollars increasing while their Cost/Conversion skyrocket. It was this outcome, that started everyone to second-guess the benefit of this new PPC alternative to Google Adwords (now Google Ads)
Personally, many of my clients over the years wanted to try Facebook ads and frankly who wouldn’t? It was an amazing feeling where an advertiser could target pretty much anything they wanted. (Men 55+, Divorced, like Fine Scotch, NY Yankees and watches CNN). However, that honeymoon didn’t last very long. It was not based on strategy or setting inaccurate expectations, it was simply not cost effective and actually started to hurt their reputation. Clients would take a hit based simply on comments given by competitors and/or disgruntled people. It was this experience that quickly changed the minds of not only myself, but also the client. It was this combination of poor performance along with reputation issues that made them feel even more skeptical this new platform. However, over the years there’s been (1) one silver-lining and that is identifying which clients could benefit the most from this hyper-targeting platform.
In conclusion, as an Agency or Freelancer it is entirely OK to say to a client NO to Facebook Ads or at the very least say we should do a “test” to evaluate it’s potential. In candor, it all depends on the advertiser’s audience along with sensible strategies and agreed upon success metrics.
It’s interesting seeing patents from Google that focus on eCommerce topics. The last one I recall had Google distinguishing between products and accessories for those products in search results. I wrote about it in Ranking Search Results and Product Queries.
New Product Lines in Product Search
A new patent from Google is about when new products appear in existing product lines, like a laptop that comes with more Ram or a bigger hard drive, or a camera with a zoom lens that it didn’t have before.
This patent is about determining in product search whether a query is looking for a particular product line, from within a specific brand.
Searchers frequently search for products offered for sale. Google is trying to understand the intent behind shopping-related search queries.
For Google to be able to do that well, it has to understand different aspects of product categories. This can include such things as:
- Whether a product as an association with a brand
- Whether a product is in a specific product line
The patent tells us it is essential to detect terms designating product lines from within product queries from searchers.
That includes associating detected product line terms along with their corresponding brands, to let Google keep up with new product lines and retiring product lines soon after changes occur.
Under the new Google patent is a process aimed at determining product lines from product search queries:
- A product query might be classified to identify a product category
- A brand may be identified for the product query
- The brand may be chosen from a list of known brands for the product category
Unknown Product Lines
The patent tells us that unknown product line terms may be identified within a product query.
A metric may indicate how well the unknown product line terms correspond to an actual product line within the brand.
The metric may be compared to a specified threshold. The unknown product line terms may be designated as a new product line of the brand if the metric compares to the specified threshold.
A product search may be performed using the product query. Product search results may be returned according to the product search.
This product lines patent can be found at:
Detecting product lines within product search queries
Inventors: Ritendra Datta
Assignee: GOOGLE LLC
US Patent: 10,394,816
Granted: August 27, 2019
Filed: December 27, 2012
Systems and methods can determine product lines product searches.
One or more computing devices can receive a product query of search terms. The product query may be classified to identify a product category. A brand may be identified for the product query. The brand may be selected from a list of known brands for the product category.
One or more unknown product line terms may be identified within the product query. A metric may be computed to indicate how well the unknown product line terms correspond to an actual product line within the brand. The metric may be compared to a specified threshold. The unknown product line terms may be designated as a new product line of the brand if the metric favorably compares to the specified threshold. A product search may be performed on the product query. Product search results may be returned according to the product search.
High Precision Query Classifiers
This patent shows Google trying to identify new products and product lines, so it can distinguish them from older product lines.
Interestingly, Google is looking at search queries to identify products and product lines. As the patent tells us:
Product lines associated with product brands may be determined from analyzing the received product search queries.
The patent refers to a “high-precision query classifier,” which is the first time I have seen that mentioned anywhere at all.
How does a “high precision query classifier” work?
As described in this patent:
- A search query may be automatically mapped to a product category
- A list of known brands within the product category may be used to identify terms within the product query specifying the product brand
- Similarly, a list of known category attributes may be used to identify terms within the product query specifying attributes of the product being searched
Attributes of Products
The patent provides some examples of attributes for products:
- A number of megapixels for digital cameras
- An amount of RAM memory for laptop computers
- A number of cylinders for a motor vehicle
Product Query Forms
We are told that the forms that a product query may take may vary a bit, but we are provided with some examples.
A product query could take the form “[B] [PL] [A].”
In such a query form, one or more terms [B] may indicate a brand that is a known brand within a list of known product brands, and one or more terms [A] may indicate attributes that are known attributes of the category. One or more unknown terms [PL] may then be identified as a potential new product line. Such an identification may be strengthened where [PL] is in a form associated with product lines. The identification may also be strengthened where [PL] is found with brand [B] frequently over time within various product queries. The identification may be further strengthened where the terms [PL] are infrequently, or never, found with brands other than the brand [B] throughout many product queries over time.
A metric is calculated by comparing what might be the attributes of products from a new product line, with attributes of an actual product line associated with a brand.
This metric may consider the number of unique product queries containing the terms [PL] having the correct structure and/or category along with the extent to which [B] dominates among every query that has a brand preceding [PL].
Why would Google be looking at Queries to learn about new product lines from brands instead of from product pages that describe the attributes of products?
Identifying Product Lines
How this identification process may work:
- Software for product line resolution may identify product lines associated with brands for product categories determined by the query classifier
- Product line resolution may use a category attribute dictionary and a product brand dictionary to establish pairings between brands and product lines
- The product query and the determined brands and product lines may then be provided to a product search engine
- The product search engine may then provide search results to the searcher
- The query classifier may map the product query to a product category
- Product line resolution can use product category information with the category attribute dictionary and the product brand dictionary to identify terms from the product query about specific product lines relate to product lines
- The unknown terms identified by the product line resolution module for a category may be fed back into the category attribute dictionary as attributes for that category
- Each identified product line may also be related to a particular brand listed in the product brand dictionary
- The product brand dictionary can provide a list of known brands within various product categories
- The known brands may be used to determine and resolve terms associated with product lines within each brand
- The product line terms may then be used to identify a potential new product line
The identification of a new product line may be strengthened:
- When unknown terms information is in a form associated with product lines
- Where the unknown terms are found with a brand frequently over time within various product queries
- Where the unknown terms are infrequently, or never, found with brands other than the brand identified throughout many products queries over time
Identifying When Unknown Terms Maybe in a form associated with product lines
Here are some observations about the form of product lines:
- Product line terms generally start with a letter
- Product lines generally contain few or no numbers (differentiating product line terms from model numbers or serial numbers
- Product lines may be related to a category or a brand (One brand may generally have single word product lines while a second brand may use two-word product lines where the first word relates to performance and a second word is a three-digit number
These kinds of patterns or forms about product lines could be used to associate unknown terms within a product query as product line terms.
Using a Category Attribute Dictionary to Resolve Product Line Terms within Product Queries
The category attribute dictionary can provide a dictionary of attributes associated with various product categories and brands.
Terms from the category attribute dictionary may be used to resolving product line terms within the product query.
When unknown terms are often found within product queries along with brand information, those unknown terms could be seen as product line terms associated with a specific brand. When known attribute terms are found in the category attribute dictionary to be consistent with brand [B] or the category associated with the product query by the query classifier.
Product Query Processing
The patent includes this flowchart to describe the process behind the product search patent:
Where does Google Learn about product lines?
The patent doesn’t mention product schema, or merchant product feeds. It does tell us that it is getting a lot of information about product lines from searcher’s queries.
Google also collects information about products and product attributes from web sites that sell those products, in addition to looking at product queries, as described in this patent.
Collecting such information from site owners may be the starting source of much information found in the product and category dictionaries and product attribute categories that are mentioned in this patent.
The process of updating information about products and product lines from product queries from searchers is a way to crowdsource information about products from searchers and get an idea of how much interest there might be in specific products.
Google can learn a lot about products from product data feeds that merchants submit to Google. Google is trying to get merchants to submit product feeds even if they don’t use paid product search, to make those products visible in more places on Google in Surfaces across Google as described on this Google Support page: Show your products on Surfaces Across Google.
We saw that Google is using product feed information to help it distinguish between product pages and accessory pages for those products as I wrote about in the blog post I linked to at the start of this post.
Google also describes product markup on their developers page Product. Google tells site owners that they should include that markup for their products because:
Product markup enables a badge on the image in mobile image search results, which can encourage more users to click your content.
By collecting information about products from product feeds, Product Schema, product web pages, and product queries from searchers Google is collecting a lot of data about products, which could enable it to be pretty good at providing answers to product queries, and to understand when new product lines are launched.
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President Trump is again testing Twitter’s stomach for misinformation flowing from its most prominent users.
In a flurry of recent tweets, Trump floated conspiracy theories about the death of Lori Klausutis, an intern for former Congressman Joe Scarborough who was found dead in his Florida office in 2001 — a freak accident a medical examiner reported that resulted from a fall stemming from an undiagnosed heart condition. Scarborough, a political commentator and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, is a prominent Trump critic and a frequent target for the president’s political ire.
The medical evaluation and lack of any evidence suggesting something nefarious in the former intern’s death has not been enough to discourage Trump from revisiting the topic frequently in recent days.
“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder?” Trump tweeted in mid-May. A week later, Trump encouraged his followers to “Keep digging, use forensic geniuses!” on the long-closed case.
A blow to her head? Body found under his desk? Left Congress suddenly? Big topic of discussion in Florida…and, he’s a Nut Job (with bad ratings). Keep digging, use forensic geniuses! https://t.co/UxbS5gZecd
In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Twitter expressed that the company is “deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.”
“We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
When asked for clarity about what product and policy changes the company was referring to, Twitter pointed us to its blog post on the labels the company introduced to flag “synthetic and manipulated media” and more recently COVID-19 misinformation. The company indicated that it plans to expand the use of misinformation labels outside of those existing categories.
Update: On Tuesday afternoon, Twitter quietly added a fact-checking link to two tweets from the president containing false claims about mail-in voting.
Twitter will not apply a label or warning to Trump’s recent wave of Scarborough conspiracy tweets, but the suggestion here is that future labels could be used to mitigate harm in situations like this one. Whether that means labeling unfounded accusations of criminality or labeling that kind of claim when made by the president of the United States remains to be seen.
In March, Twitter gave a video shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino and retweeted by Trump its “manipulated content” label — a rare action against the president’s account. The misleadingly edited video showed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden calling to re-elect Trump.
According to the blog post Twitter pointed us to, the company previously said it will add new labels to “provide context around different types of unverified claims and rumors as needed.”
Even within existing categories — COVID-19 misinformation and manipulated media — Twitter has so far been reluctant to apply labels to high-profile accounts like that of the president, a frequent purveyor of online misinformation.
Twitter also recently introduced a system of warnings that hide a tweet, requiring the user to click through to view it. The tweets that are hidden behind warnings “[depend] on the propensity for harm and type of misleading information” they contain.
Trump’s renewed interest in promoting the baseless conspiracy theory prompted the young woman’s widower T.J. Klausutis to write a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey requesting that the president’s tweets be removed.
In the letter, Klausutis told Dorsey he views protecting his late wife’s memory as part of his marital obligation, even in her death. “My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,” Klausutis wrote.
“An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”
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Nvidia’s top scientist develops open-source ventilator that can be built with $400 in readily available parts
Nvidia Chief Scientist Bill Dally has released an open-source ventilator hardware design he developed in order to address the shortage resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic. The mechanical ventilator design developed by Dally can be assembled quickly, using off-the-shelf parts with a total cost of around $ 400 — making it an accessible and affordable alternative to traditional, dedicated ventilators, which can cost $ 20,000 or more.
The design created by Dally strives for simplicity, and basically includes just two central components — a solenoid valve and a microcontroller. The design is called the OP-Vent, and in the video below you can see how bare-bones it is in terms of hardware compared to existing alternatives, including some of the other more complex emergency-use ventilator designs developed in response to COVID-19.
Dally’s design, which was developed using input from mechanical engineers and doctors, including Dr. Andrew Moore, a chief resident at Stanford University and Dr. Bryant Lin, a medical devices expert and company co-founder, can be assembled in as little as five minutes, and is small enough to fit in a Pelican case for easy transportation and potability. It also employs fewer parts and uses less energy than similarly simple designs that adapt the manual breather bags used by paramedics in emergency response.
Next up for the design is getting it cleared by the FDA under the agency’s Emergency Use Authorization program for COVID-19 equipment, and then seeking manufacturing partners to pursue large-scale manufacturing.
- ClickZ and SEW hosted a virtual briefing, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Automotive Industry & Marketing with Trevor Hettesheimer, Manager, KPI’s, Analytics, Search & Planning at Volvo.
- There has been a sharp drop in automotive sales compared to the 2020 forecast in January, which predicted 16.8 million in total sales and 13.4 million in retail sales.
- As a result of nationwide shutdowns combined with an oil price war, automotive industry sales were down 41% in March 2020 compared with the previous year.
- To help mitigate the impact on its business, Volvo took inventory of their U.S. dealerships and assessed who could remain open for sales and service.
- They then assessed what dealers could do business online and brainstormed ways they could safely deliver cars or allow consumers in lockdown to have their cars serviced.
- Hettesheimer noted that the most significant drop in sales would likely be April at 60-80% below what was initially forecasted at the start of 2020.
- Based on the pre-virus forecast, Volvo decided to cut all planned media spend for April and May, except for paid search which is based on consumer intent. They audited their ad copy and messaging to ensure it made sense in the current business climate.
- Volvo is constantly monitoring the state of the economic recovery across the U.S to inform when they decide to relaunch their advertising.
- Hettesheimer summarizes four key steps that businesses can use to inform their marketing decisions: take inventory, review all messaging and adjust as appropriate, capture demand with search marketing, and take note of changing search behaviours and tailor content accordingly.
We recently hosted a virtual briefing as part of our new Peer Network series on the impact of COVID-19 on the automotive industry and marketing with Trevor Hettesheimer, Manager, KPI’s, Analytics, Search & Planning at Volvo.
Trevor has spent over two decades at Volvo US in a variety of different roles. He began his career as Volvo’s Global Marketing Analyst and helped to bring their first SUV to market, the award-winning XC90.
Hettesheimer currently focuses on reporting and presenting predictive analytics based on Volvo’s KPI’s. Hettesheimer is also responsible for Volvo’s paid search marketing and SEO activities in the US.
In the briefing, which is part of our new Peer Network initiative, Hettesheimer shares insights and data on how COVID-19 has dramatically changed business at Volvo.
The impact of COVID-19 on the automotive industry
In order to understand COVID-19’s impact on business in the US, Hettesheimer and his team consult a key resource available from Bing, the COVID-19 Tracker, which provides real-time reporting on how the virus is tracking in the U.S.
“The coronavirus is truly a human tragedy at a global scale,”
“There are 2.1 million confirmed cases and growing worldwide, with over 144,000 deaths. This is really impacting every nation on the planet. From an economic standpoint, many economists agree that the world is facing the most serious challenge since WWII ended.”
Hettesheimer went on to note that while the government stimulus package of 2 trillion dollars will stem the initial economic tide of the virus, more money will soon be needed as the crisis drags on.
“As marketers, even how we’re working has seen drastic change,” says Hettesheimer.
“While Volvo is already an innovator in the automotive sector with a well-established remote working and distributed workforce even before the setup, we’ve never had 100% of our employees working from home at the same time.”
Volvo’s headquarters are just outside of New York City, which was still the epicentre of the virus at the time the briefing was recorded. Their factories in the U.S. and Europe temporarily shut down and this, combined with the remote work environment, has had a significant impact on the way Volvo has been approaching company collaboration and marketing. In looking at the automotive industry pre and post-virus, there has been a sharp drop in the automotive sales forecast.
The stock market crashed on February 20th after reaching record highs in early February and continued a precipitous drop through February 28th. Additionally, most global markets were impacted due to an oil price war between Russia and the OPEC nations led by Saudi Arabia. The lower oil prices threatened oil exporters like the U.S. with higher production costs.
As a result of this, automotive industry sales were down 41% in March 2020 compared with the previous year.
Impact of COVID-19 on Volvo’s marketing plan
The first step Volvo took in response to the virus, was to understand the scale and severity of its impact on their sales and service business. They took inventory of their dealerships and assessed who could remain open in some capacity for sales and who could remain open for service.
They found that, regionally, as many as 98% of Volvo’s dealerships across America were closed.
Volvo also assessed which dealers could continue doing business online for sales and looked at ways they could safely deliver cars to people or allow consumers on lockdown to get their cars serviced.
From there, they attempted to forecast sales in the new pre-pandemic landscape. They did this by looking at consumers’ ability to shop and at their finances. The assumption was that consumers who had the means to buy a car and the ability to leave their house to shop, would do so.
Volvo then attempted to determine the business impact of the virus through the end of 2020, designating four phases of retail sales assumptions as follows.
Using the above assessment, Hettesheimer noted that the most significant drop in sales would likely occur in April, with a potential drop in sales of 60-80% below what was forecasted at the start of 2020. The forecast for the remainder of the year was assessed as follows:
May/June: Second recovery phase where daily rates of new infections/death are at the peak or declining. Sales will still be down significantly, but at improved levels compared with March/April.
July through December: Third phase that will coincide with the consumer’s “new normal” – with infection rates/deaths significantly down and restrictions on businesses and consumers relaxing.
“Consumer behaviour will be changed for some time,” says Hettesheimer.
“Perhaps as a consumer or as a car dealer, you’ll think twice before getting into a car to perform service or buy a pre-owned vehicle.”
Impact of COVID-19 on search planning for 2020
Like many businesses, Volvo sought out ways to preserve capital in the current uncertain environment. The company tallied committed media funds versus uncommitted media funds and ultimately made large cuts to planned April and May media spend. This enabled them to control their profitability and cash flow in the short term as sales took a major downturn while enabling them to continue investing in the business over the long term.
Throughout April, all marketing channels are dark for Volvo at a national level, though there may be some local ads still running. There are two exceptions nationally.
- Channels where consumers come to Volvo based on intent (for example, search marketing)
- Organic social media properties
Volvo also assessed all in-market customer-facing messaging and pulled or edited ad copy and creative that did not make sense in the current environment. This included reviewing their website to make sure messaging matched current capabilities such as the ability to take a test drive.
“We looked carefully at our language on the website. One of the big changes we had to make, for example, was that all the hours of operation had to be changed in our ‘Find A Dealer’ directory.”
Volvo also reviewed its in-market offerings to determine which ones worked better online versus at the dealership, like the Volvo Concierge Program. This is an online chat service providing white-glove services for Volvo shoppers and customers that enable them to chat with a call centre person live, 24/7.
Volvo Concierge Home Page
Volvo is trying to anticipate when dealers will open again—and when consumers will start shopping for cars—by monitoring the state of the economic recovery across the U.S. This will inform when they decide to relaunch their advertising.
They do this by looking at a variety of data sources including Google Analytics, Google Trends, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) COVID-19 projection models, and state-by-state school closure updates.
Steps businesses can take to survive a global pandemic
In looking towards the future, Hettesheimer summarizes four key steps that businesses can use to inform their marketing and business decisions as follows.
- Take inventory—Use available data and resources to understand how your specific business will be impacted over the short, medium and long terms. Then apply financial analysis to help understand the impact on profit and cash flow.
- Review all advertising and marketing materials including paid ads and publicly available content (e.g., your website) and adjust the content, as necessary.
- Capture demand with search marketing.
- Take note of changing search behaviours and tailor content/ads accordingly.
“Be sensitive,” advises Hettesheimer. “Your customers are hurting right now. Let them know you’re there for them when they’re ready. If you can offer special financing or help them through a rough patch, do so, and make sure you mention that as well, but be humble.”
You can register to view the free on-demand briefing, “Impact of COVID-19 on the automotive industry” on ClickZ. You can also apply to join our Peer Network, a peer-peer networking forum for senior marketers.
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