Monthly Archives: March 2017

Blue Apron could deliver an IPO in 2017, but should it?

March 31, 2017 No Comments

 Meal kit makers Blue Apron may be preparing to file for a 2017 IPO, according to Reuters. The report says that the food startup has hired bankers from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup to this end. The whole thing has stirred up quite the conversation over here at TechCrunch, and we’ve been arguing amongst ourselves about the likelihood that the Blue Apron IPO happens soon, or… Read More
Startups – TechCrunch

Study: Why do marketers still struggle with innovative search tactics?

March 31, 2017 No Comments

Many marketers who are seeing flagging returns from their search marketing campaigns might wonder what they’re doing wrong – especially if they’ve already got best practices like accurate site descriptions and keyword optimization covered.

But a new study commissioned by Microsoft’s Bing and search agency Catalyst, and carried out by Forrester Consulting, may have some light to shed onto why marketers aren’t realizing the full potential of search.

The study, whose findings are written up in a whitepaper, ‘Prioritize Search to Maximize ROI of Marketing‘, found that more advanced search marketing tactics like local inventory ads, voice search optimization, sitelinks and schema markup have low adoption by marketers, who may not even know about them.

In addition, marketers struggle to properly integrate search with other channels in order to take advantage of the demand which they themselves have created.

“We too often see advertisers spending significant dollars in, let’s say, TV, and then failing to fully fund their search campaigns,” says Rob Wilk, Vice President of North America Search Sales at Microsoft.

“So if a consumer hears a message somewhere and then decides to search on Bing to get more information, many times the advertiser isn’t present, and that consumer ends up taking a different path than what the advertiser would have desired.

“In a worst case scenario, consumers come to search and end up clicking on a competitor ad. Think about that for a moment – clients are spending their dollars to line the pockets of competitors.”

So what do Bing and Catalyst think is keeping search marketers from tapping into the full potential of their campaigns, and how can they go about addressing the problem?

Challenges in allocation and attribution

The study’s findings drew on online surveys of 300 US-based marketing agencies and B2C advertisers, together with Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data.

Wilk explained that Bing and Catalyst commissioned the study to “better inform the market about the importance of looking at search not just as an individual, effective marketing channel, but to clearly articulate the benefits of closely aligning all media spend in concert with search advertising investments.”

Overall, respondents to the survey gave a high rating to the ROI they receive from search marketing, with 74% of respondents who were investing in search giving its ROI a rating of “excellent” or “good”.

However, 53% of marketers cited cross-media attribution as one of their top three challenges in budget allocation, with another 53% citing a lack of data to inform strategy; 44% also cited measurement as one of their top challenges.

“Competing business demands force marketers to rely on hard attribution data to develop and support their cross-channel investment strategies,” notes the study.

“Unfortunately, their attribution models today do not necessarily paint an accurate reflection of the consumer engagement with cross-channel touchpoints, which inhibits them from moving budget fluidly from channel to channel.”

Kerry Curran, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Marketing Integration at Catalyst, adds:

“The majority of the data supports that consumers consistently use and value paid search, and marketers find it to be a strong ROI driver; however, adequate budget allocation is still a challenge.

“With competing business demands and attribution data that does not measure cross-channel impact, paid search marketers are struggling to fully invest in their programs.”

Search marketers still aren’t being innovative enough

Those of us who keep close tabs on search innovation and strategy – or comment on it – are fairly familiar with concepts like retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA), voice search optimization, ad extensions in paid search listings, schema markup, and so on.

But for the majority of marketers, advanced tactics like these go far beyond what they would use for their campaigns. When asked which of a range of tactics their company used or was planning to use in 2016, only 34% of marketers reported using ad extensions; 30% used Product Listing Ads (PLAs); and 28% used retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA).

Just 28% of respondents reported using voice search optimization in their campaigns, 27% said they used sitelinks, and a dismal 17% reported using schema markup. (Findings like this shed light on why, even now, less than 1% of websites are using schema.org vocabulary to mark up their webpages).

I asked Wilk and Curran why they thought that marketers weren’t going the extra mile with their search marketing tactics. Was it due to a lack of expertise, or perhaps just budget and time?

“It’s all of those reasons,” replies Wilk. “Doing all of the tactics well in search requires constant learning, constant testing and of course constant optimization.

“These days, all marketers are being asked to do more with less, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. So in a world of squeezed time and resources, clients and agencies are forced to make trade-offs, and often the tactics mentioned tend to get a lower priority.

“Eventually clients do get to these things but every query we see, whether it’s voice, on desktop or mobile is a perishable good. That “magical” moment of someone expressing clear intent comes and goes in an instant. Getting ahead of these trends, and sticking to them, is where the return on investment lives.”

Curran adds: “There are so many advanced search tactics already available, and as search engines continue to innovate, they continue to release new options and update existing features.

“While the advanced tactics can drive campaign improvements, alignment between the search engines, paid search teams, and brand is required to roll out and test new tactics.

“In addition to the intricacies of day-to-day management, search marketers need to prioritize the opportunities, budgets, and resources to allow for testing in a manner that provides statistical significance.”

What can marketers do to improve their search campaigns?

It’s one thing to pinpoint where the problems might be, but if marketers want to take concrete steps to improve their search marketing, where should they begin?

“One – prioritize their search budget,” says Rob Wilk.

“Two, when running media campaigns – especially expensive TV commercials – marketers need to make sure they have strong search campaigns so that consumers can easily engage with the brand and find what they are looking for via search engines.”

“Three, make sure they have full alignment across all channels. Marketers must keep their ear to the ground when it comes to search.

“We have billions of moments every month where consumers express their desires, and marketers must tap into this wealth of data to inform marketing decisions in terms of what message to deliver, to whom and in what way.”

The search industry is constantly innovating, and it might seem overwhelming for marketers with limited time and resources to try and keep on top of developments. However, as we’ve seen, there is a large number of advanced search tactics available that most marketers aren’t taking advantage of.

Investing in even one of these tactics could prove to have significant benefits for search marketing ROI, which would pay dividends in the long run.

Search Engine Watch

The enterprise strikes back

March 31, 2017 No Comments

Light saber over NY Stock Exchange. You might have missed it amidst Snap’s noisy consumer debut, but enterprise-facing IPOs put points on the board during the first quarter of 2017, even more than their consumer-focused siblings. In fact, the group may be set to dominate the year’s offerings. For startups working to sell to large corporations, their investors and their tens of thousands of employees, it’s… Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch

Senate intel hearing details Russian social media disinformation tactics

March 31, 2017 No Comments

 The first half of Thursday’s Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russian disinformation campaigns wasn’t quite as fun as watching James Comey squirm his way around classified intel in the House, but it did provide some valuable context on Russian cyber methods and social media campaigns. Read More
Social – TechCrunch

How Google May Rank Websites Based Upon Their Databases Answering Queries

March 30, 2017 No Comments

NASA Computer

Imagine that some sites might be ranked by Google based upon how their databases might answer queries. A patent from Google refers to this approach as one that looks at database service requirements to rank large sites such as sites that cover products, jobs, travel, recipes and movies. Such sites might include some static pages that provide examples of the capabilities of their databases, such as being able to provide answers to queries such as: “Brand X Cameras for less than $ 300.00”.

The patent provides some examples of the types of sites that are covered by this patent:

Many websites for which data available in resources store the data in large databases of structured information. For example, job search websites may have respective job databases, and respective resources (web pages) that include forms to search the databases. Likewise, recipe websites have respective databases for recipes, and movie websites have respective databases for movies. Requesting information for a certain recipe or movie causes the website to query its respective database and generate a webpage that presents the information in a structured format.

The patent tells us that most search engines do not account for the abilities of databases of such sites to respond to particular queries, which may make Google different from those search engines. The patent says:

However, many scoring algorithms do not score the search capabilities of a database when determining the relevance of a resource generated from data stored in the database. As a result, the search engine may not identify data that are particularly relevant to a query, and/or identify particular search capabilities that are available to the user that issued the query and that may help the user satisfy his or her informational need.

Imagine that Google may rank sites based upon “a service requirement score for the database.”

That service requirement score would be a measure of an ability of the database to fulfill the service requirement, which would enable it to respond to a query. I just wrote a post that described how Google is working to create a database of questions and answers to those, to show as “people also ask” questions, in the post: Google’s Related Questions Patent or ‘People Also Ask’ Questions. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that Google is saving up questions that might be asked about Jobs, Travel, commerce, movies, and recipes, and trying to determine which sites might be best at answering those questions, and ranking those sites on their ability to answer questions with different parameters, such as “a recipe for X that is under 1,000 calories.”

Advantages Under this Patent

The patent provides a couple of examples of advantages of using the processes described in this patent that are practical and helpful:

Websites need not generate multiple “optimized webpages” that are optimized for particular instances of queries to ensure that the website is identified in a search result. Instead, the underlying capabilities of the website database and the authority of the website are used as metrics to surface websites and databases that are of high quality with respect to a particular query. This reduces the overall cost of website management, and provides users with data that are more likely to satisfy the user’s informational need than the optimized webpages.

The systems and methods can utilize the conceptual schemas of the databases to provide additional information for queries that may not otherwise be derived from the queries. For example, a user that types in the search query [Brand X cameras under 300] may be searching for Brand X cameras that cost less than $ 300. The user, however, may not know that the “Q” models of Brand X cameras are prosumer models that each retail in excess of $ 300. Thus, by use of a product database, the search engine may determine that “Q” model are each in excess of $ 300. Thus, the search engine may modify the query with an operator that excludes the “Q” models, e.g., [Brand X cameras under 300 OP:NOT(Q)], or, alternatively, modify the query to emphasize resources that include reference to Brand X models that are priced under $ 300. The search engine thus surfaces fewer resources that include extraneous information, thereby satisfying the user’s informational need more quickly than if the extraneous information were provided.

The patent is:

Resource identification from organic and structured content
Inventors: Trystan G. Upstill and Jack W. Menzel
Assignee: Google Inc.
US Patent 9,589,028
Granted: March 7, 2017
Filed: March 16, 2016


Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer program products for structured content ranking. In an aspect, a method determines a service requirement from terms of a query, the service requirement being one of a plurality of service requirements fulfilled by databases; determines, for each of the databases, a service requirement score for the database, the service requirement score being a measure of an ability of the database to fulfill the service requirement; selects databases based on the service requirement scores; generates data responsive to the service requirement based on the terms of the query and one or more of the selected databases; and generates, from the data identifying resources that are determined to be responsive to the query and from the data responsive to the service requirement, search results that include first search results that each identify a corresponding resource that was determined to be responsive to the query.

SEO Based Upon Database Capabilities

This patent describes how sites might be ranked based upon their ability to answer questions from searchers instead of just how well optimized those sites might be based upon information retrieval relevance scores and link-based importance scores. We don’t know how much weight Google might give to a database service requirement ranking, but chances are, considering Google would be trying to find the most helpful sites, that may be considered an important metric. The detailed description for the patent starts off telling us this:

In some implementations, the search engine ranks results using a first ranking algorithm and based on non-semantic search terms, e.g., [nursing jobs]. The search system then accesses database information that describes the content and capabilities of website databases to determine which of the databases can fulfill a database service requirement. For example, if the query is [nursing jobs in Palo Alto over 100,000], the search system will identify jobs databases that have geographic and salary parameters that includes the values of “Palo Alto” and “100,000” or more. Using this information, the search engine may promote (or demote) search results referencing resources of a website that includes a database, and/or revise the query to include a constraint to filter out (or emphasize) resources that include certain terms.

The patent provides a definition of a service requirement:

a service that is requested, either implicitly or explicitly, by a query. For example, for the query [nursing jobs in Palo Alto over 100,000], the service requirement is a job search. Likewise, for the query [LAX to SFO] (or [Flights LAX to SFO]), the service requirement is a flight search.

Search Results Using Website’s Databases

The website databases may have different parameter types depending upon what kind of content is contained in the site. For instance:

…a flight search database may be configured to receive parameter values for the following parameter types: origin location, destination location, times and dates. Likewise, a job search database may be configured to receive parameter values for the following parameter types: location, job category, and salary.

These database parameters may be responded to by different parameter values, so

a particular job database may be tailored to only nursing jobs in New York and thus, the parameter value from the parameter type “Nursing Category” may be limited to specific nursing categories, e.g., Cardiology, Cardiothoracic, Hemodialysis, etc.

If Google is aware of the different parameters and values that respond to queries submitted to a site’s database, it can show those database results right in search results, as shown in this screenshot from the patent:

Database search results

I haven’t seen any search results quite like this yet, but it seems to be something to keep an eye open for.

Google may exclude some results from a query if they don’t fit what a person might have searched for as shown in this screenshot from the patent:

This makes search engines more like something that is searching a web sized database. This may be part of the future of SEO.

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Google’s Update To Close Variants: 3 Ways To Combat Even Less Exact Match

March 30, 2017 No Comments

With the rules changing again on exact match, here are 3 ways to adjust your campaigns to alleviate changes to the keywords and search terms reports.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero

Facebook pivots into Stories

March 29, 2017 No Comments

 In its biggest change in a decade, Facebook is evolving from text and link-focused sharing to the visual communication format it admits “Snapchat has really pioneered.” Starting today, all users will soon have access to the new Facebook Camera feature that lets them overlay special effects on photos and videos. They can then share this content to a Snapchat clone called Facebook… Read More

Mobile – TechCrunch

Facebook pivots into Stories

March 29, 2017 No Comments

 In its biggest change in a decade, Facebook is evolving from text and link-focused sharing to the visual communication format it admits “Snapchat has really pioneered.” Starting today, all users will soon have access to the new Facebook Camera feature that lets them overlay special effects on photos and videos. They can then share this content to a Snapchat clone called Facebook… Read More
Social – TechCrunch

Google Play pilot test in U.S. introduces a “free app of the week” section

March 27, 2017 No Comments

 Apple began offering a “free app of the week” back in 2012 as a means of highlighting some of the App Store’s best titles, and encourage users to start downloading. Google, belatedly, is following in Apple’s footsteps with its own newly launched “free app of the week” section on Google Play. However, we understand that Google has not yet committed to make… Read More

Mobile – TechCrunch