- Since shelter-in-place rules were enacted, the way people use the internet has changed. They’re consuming more media and increasing web research and browsing.
- Paid search strategy is not one-size-fits-all. Each vertical must be treated differently, as some industries like ecommerce have seen improved performance while others have seen a declined performance.
- A pandemic is not the time to cut ad budget. Instead, investing in advertising now should pay dividends when the market normalizes.
- Ensure your ad copy is appropriate for the landscape. That means even going back to a campaign that started before the pandemic to update any language that isn’t applicable to the current landscape.
- Marketers must stay flexible and agile during this time and monitor what’s working or not working and creating a quick plan to adjust.
When COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S., marketers scrambled to figure out how to respond. Sudden work-from-home mandates, cancelled business trips, postponed conferences and frozen budgets threw a wrench into usual expectations and plans. Users’ needs and online behaviours have changed in tandem, forcing marketers to meet them on their new terms.
Search is more important than ever now because people are spending almost all of their time at home and online, consuming media, researching, browsing and shopping. According to Forbes, total internet hits have surged by 50% to 70% with people under lockdown, while 32% of people say they are spending longer on social media. Hours spent in non-gaming apps are up as people turn to TikTok, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter to keep entertained, connected and informed. To stay relevant in these turbulent times, it’s imperative that marketers maintain their paid search presence while adjusting to the needs of the moment.
Vary strategy by vertical
While no industry is immune from the impact of coronavirus, businesses are affected differently and should adapt their paid search strategies accordingly. Industries like B2B and ecommerce have seen improved performance, while industries like travel and healthcare have struggled with poor results.
The fact that healthcare is struggling may seem paradoxical, given the overwhelming need for healthcare services right now. While hospitals are busy with COVID-19 patients, people who don’t have the virus are avoiding medical centres, hospitals, and non-essential medical services like bariatric surgery and physical therapy.
Users are shifting their searches for their healthcare needs. Notably, people under shelter-in-place orders are seeking to receive care while staying in their homes. eMarketer published data from CivicScience which found that between February and March 2020, the number of U.S. adults who reported intent to use telemedicine rose from 18% to 30%. As a result, healthcare providers have to switch their offerings – along with their messaging – to emphasize virtual and telehealth services. The same is true for many restaurants as they pivot to pick up or delivery only.
The situation is different for B2B companies
The situation is different for B2B companies, which have longer sales cycles. While businesses like restaurants are worried about running out of money now, B2B companies are concerned about how they’ll fare months and, in some cases, years from now. The instinct may be to cut down on marketing budgets to save money, but extreme changes in paid search strategies can have long-lasting effects on performance. During this time, it’s important B2B companies continue filling the funnel and building brand awareness to alleviate large sales gaps that can occur later in the year.
Financial service-related searches are surging
Financial service-related searches are surging right now as people explore their options for economic relief like loans. Many companies in this space are smartly increasing their ad spending and shifting the bulk of it toward campaigns that push their best performing service lines. The same is true for ecommerce companies, especially those that sell household products and cleaning supplies, loungewear, cooking equipment, workout gear and entertainment items like board games and puzzles. Shares of Hasbro, for instance, have soared. For these companies, the adjustment is less about the offerings and more about the messaging.
Don’t stop advertising when times are tough
There are universal principles for how to optimize paid search strategies that apply to marketers in every industry. The first is not to neglect paid search, even during difficult times. The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) recently ran a survey which found 81% of large advertisers deferred planned ad campaigns and cutting budgets due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of those surveyed, 57% said they had decreased budgets greatly or somewhat due to the virus outbreak; however, cutting out advertising or marketing completely can make the road to recovery more challenging.
Experts advise not to stop advertising during a downturn. Evidence from recent economic downturns like the 2008 housing crash show that companies come out stronger in the end if they continue investing in brand awareness. According to Google, “Even in categories where consumers have pulled back spending right now, creating a branding impact now will have a halo and pay dividends when the market normalizes. Research and historical examples of economic downturn have shown this to work.” It’s important to keep investing in your brand and branded keywords, regardless of industry. The last thing an organization wants is competitors monetizing on branded search results.
Every cent counts these days. Not only is paid search cost-effective with a low barrier to entry, but it also enables companies to be extremely agile. A company can get a campaign up and running pretty quickly, run tests, collect data and easily alter the messaging as things change day-to-day. Marketers can also see the results of engagement, click-through rates and conversions in real time, so they know whether their investment is paying off. COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation, so testing and learning are critical during this volatile time in the market.
Best practices for paid search
For any marketer thinking about how to adjust during COVID-19, here are a few best practices for how to optimize paid search.
1. Pivot messaging
Messaging needs to be both accurate and appropriate for the current landscape. Confirm that messaging is updated with current business hours and offerings, and revise CTAs away from messages like “Visit in-store.”
2. Keep an eye on the tone of messaging
Is your copy appropriate or empathetic? An ad for booking a vacation package could feel out-of-touch. Customers will be turned off by companies that seem like they are trying to profit or gain from the pandemic, so craft communication to focus more on brand identity and values. Businesses can also use marketing to let customers know how they are responding to the pandemic. A construction firm or ecommerce company could talk about safety practices for workers, for example.
3. Adapt offerings to what your customers need
As mentioned above, healthcare companies are moving to telehealth, restaurants are moving to pick up, delivery and B2B companies are repurposing content planned for conferences into virtual webinars. Marketers should be connecting with customers virtually to let them know how you are supporting them.
4. Adapt your strategy to your customers’ changing digital behaviour
During the quarantine, desktop usage has increased. Conversely, the rise of remote work conditions and people being less on-the-go has caused mobile search traffic to decline by nearly 25%. We’ve all become accustomed to a mobile-first world, but given the predominance of desktop, it’s especially important to ensure all search ads and landing pages are optimized for both mobile and desktop.
This pandemic has caused so much of what used to be normal out of the window. Whereas before, marketers might have used a multiphase process for developing campaigns that involved planning and back-and-forth and feedback, now they have to act fast to keep up with the rapidly changing world. Marketers need to craft campaigns that are affordable, cost-effective and agile – and that means paid search.
As marketing and advertising professionals, we’re all trying to figure this out together as we go. There is no roadmap or rules, but there’s no doubt that staying flexible and using this time to connect with customers is a smart strategy.
Brianna Desmet is Media specialist at digital and demand gen agency, R2i.
The post COVID-19 has altered paid search: How marketers can adjust strategies appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Aluminum and iconography are no longer enough for a product to get noticed in the marketplace. Today, great products need to be useful and deliver an almost magical experience, something that becomes an extension of life. Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML) is the latest embedded software technology that moves hardware into that almost magical realm, where machines can automatically learn and grow through use, like a primitive human brain.
Until now building machine learning (ML) algorithms for hardware meant complex mathematical modes based on sample data, known as “training data,” in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. And if this sounds complex and expensive to build, it is. On top of that, traditionally ML-related tasks were translated to the cloud, creating latency, consuming scarce power and putting machines at the mercy of connection speeds. Combined, these constraints made computing at the edge slower, more expensive and less predictable.
But thanks to recent advances, companies are turning to TinyML as the latest trend in building product intelligence. Arduino, the company best known for open-source hardware is making TinyML available for millions of developers. Together with Edge Impulse, they are turning the ubiquitous Arduino board into a powerful embedded ML platform, like the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense and other 32-bit boards. With this partnership you can run powerful learning models based on artificial neural networks (ANN) reaching and sampling tiny sensors along with low-powered microcontrollers.
Over the past year great strides were made in making deep learning models smaller, faster and runnable on embedded hardware through projects like TensorFlow Lite for Microcontrollers, uTensor and Arm’s CMSIS-NN. But building a quality dataset, extracting the right features, training and deploying these models is still complicated. TinyML was the missing link between edge hardware and device intelligence now coming to fruition.
Tiny devices with not-so-tiny brains
Box CEO Aaron Levie has been working to change the software world for 15 years, but the pandemic has accelerated the move to cloud services much faster than anyone imagined. As he pointed out yesterday in an Extra Crunch Live interview, who would have thought three months ago that businesses like yoga and cooking classes would have moved online — but here we are.
Levie says we are just beginning to see the range of what’s possible because circumstances are forcing us to move to the cloud much faster than most businesses probably would have without the pandemic acting as a change agent.
“Overall, what we’re going to see is that anything that can become digital probably will be in a much more accelerated way than we’ve ever seen before,” Levie said.
Fellow TechCrunch reporter Jon Shieber and I spent an hour chatting with Levie about how digital transformation is accelerating in general, how Box is coping with that internally and externally, his advice for founders in an economic crisis and what life might be like when we return to our offices.
Our interview was broadcast on YouTube and we have included the embed below.
Just a note that Extra Crunch Live is our new virtual speaker series for Extra Crunch members. Folks can ask their own questions live during the chat, with past and future guests like Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, GGV’s Hans Tung and Jeff Richards, Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz and many, many more. You can check out the schedule here. If you’d like to submit a question during a live chat, please join Extra Crunch.
On digital transformation
The way that we think about digital transformation is that much of the world has a whole bunch of processes and ways of working — ways of communicating and ways of collaborating where if those business processes or that way we worked were able to be done in digital forms or in the cloud, you’d actually be more productive, more secure and you’d be able to serve your customers better. You’d be able to automate more business processes.
We think we’re [in] an environment that anything that can be digitized probably will be. Certainly as this pandemic has reinforced, we have way too many manual processes in businesses. We have way too slow ways of working together and collaborating. And we know that we’re going to move more and more of that to digital platforms.
In some cases, it’s simple, like moving to being able to do video conferences and being able to collaborate virtually. Some of it will become more advanced. How do I begin to automate things like client onboarding processes or doing research in a life sciences organization or delivering telemedicine digitally, but overall, what we’re going to see is that anything that can become digital probably will be in a much more accelerated way than we’ve ever seen before.
How the pandemic is driving change faster
Which one does Google care about more? How to use demographics to decrease cost, increase click share, and be rewarded by Google.
Read more at PPCHero.com
- Many ecommerce stores struggle to boost conversions because 75% of people abandon the cart never to return.
- Speeding up your ecommerce conversions seems hard, but it isn’t. Using scarcity, urgency, and exclusivity to influence your potential customers into buying can significantly improve your conversions.
- Let’s have a look at five quick and lesser-known ways to speed up ecommerce conversions.
Fortunately, there are techniques to reduce cart abandonment and increase conversion rates. Let’s have a look at five quick and lesser-known ways to speed up ecommerce conversions.
1. Understand and fill the need gap – Scarcity, urgency, and exclusivity
Understanding scarcity, urgency, and exclusivity can be one of the best ways to influence your potential customers to make a purchase.
While the three terms are related to one another, the way they are implemented is different.
In scarcity, you inform customers that there are a limited number of items of a certain product left in the stock. And that you’re not sure when the product will be available next.
In urgency, you simply add a timer that says “order within the time limit to avail the offer”. Once the deadline is over, the customer won’t get additional benefits, such as a discount or free shipping.
Here are four ways to work around scarcity and urgency
- Let customers know that the product is exclusive and is manufactured on small batches so they might miss a unique item by not buying it right away.
- Highlight that the offer ends in a few hours/days.
- Let shoppers know how much time is left before they miss same-day shipping.
- Indicate how many people have bought the product (and are viewing it in real-time) to indicate that the item is in demand. This will make buyers feel a greater urgency to purchase before it gets sold out.
In exclusivity, you reward the customer if they make a purchase within a set timeline. Sephora, for instance, promises a free exclusive gift to customers on their birthday month. When the customer purchases something either online or in-store, they are entitled to receive a birthday gift from the brand.
2. Reduce price shock
Most of the people abandon carts during checkout because the extra costs, such as shipping and tax, are too high. To reduce cart abandonment and improve conversions, reduce price shock.
Is the shipping free? No. How much will it cost? Is there any tax associated with the purchase? Yes. How much will the customer have to pay?
Let your customers know all the other prices associated with the product upfront. Don’t just add these at the time of checkout. You will need to calculate the volumetric weight for each product to display an accurate shipping price. If you ship your products internationally, you will also need to know import fees for each country you’re exporting your products to.
You can reduce price shock by a couple of ways
- Avoid increasing the product’s price at the last moment, that is, during checkout.
- Highlight shipping costs and taxes on the products page. If you can’t calculate taxes or shipping fees up front, add a disclaimer stating “shipping and tax will be calculated during checkout”.
3. Allow guest checkout
More than 26% of shoppers don’t complete their purchase because the checkout process was too long or complicated.
Having people register on your site is great, but it can negatively impact your conversion rate. Sometimes all a customer wants is to place the order as soon as possible.
You will have their name and email address when they complete the transaction anyway.
Major ecommerce sites offer guest checkouts to streamline their checkout process.
Apart from allowing customers to purchase without an account, they have also added the option to “create an account” on the checkout page.
If you are sceptical about completely eliminating the need for the registration to complete the purchase, you can test the option for a few days to see how guest checkout impacts your conversions.
4. Follow up on abandoned carts
It is essential to follow up with customers who browsed products, added it to their cart, and left without completing the transaction. That way, you will be able to understand the reason for cart abandonment.
One of the best ways to follow up with potential customers is by sending emails to remind them that they have left something in their cart.
Around 45% of people open cart abandonment emails, 21% of them click on the link, and 50% of people end up buying something.
ThemeIsle, a sister site of CodeinWP, sent a series of three emails to users who abandoned their cart over a period of five days.
They changed the subject line every time and saw a surge in email clicks.
- After 60 minutes: Subject line “Forgot something? It looks like you have items in your cart”.
The result: 50% of emails were opened, out of which 21% received clicks.
- After 24 hours: Subject line “What’s that in your shopping cart?”
The result: 41% of emails were opened, out of which 3% received clicks.
- After 5 days: Subject line “Are you sure? One last reminder about the items in your cart (including a 10% welcome discount).”
- The result: 39% of emails were opened, out of which 8% received clicks.
When sending emails to potential customers, follow the best copywriting practices to increase the chances of conversion. Also, add the images of the products and offer incentives, such as a discount coupon or free shipping, to entice users into taking action.
GoDaddy sent me an email when I saved a domain in my cart but didn’t purchase it. The email had a promo code offering 30% off on anything new for a limited time to tempt me into purchasing a domain immediately.
5. Highlight Your Return Policy
Many ecommerce stores don’t highlight their return and refund policy, but you should. More than 50% of customers read the return policy before buying from a website.
Customers want assurance from ecommerce stores that if the product isn’t as they expected, then they would get their money back. So, ensure that your return policy is clear and concise. It helps in building trust with your potential customers.
There are two ways to highlight your return policy:
- Adding it on the product’s page.
- By creating a separate landing page that contains everything you would like your customers to know about the return policy.
It would be great if you can leverage both ways. There is a limit to what you can include on the product’s page, so people who want to know more about the policy can visit the landing page.
Speeding up your ecommerce conversions seems hard, but it isn’t. Using scarcity, urgency, and exclusivity to influence your potential customers into buying can significantly improve your conversions.
Allow prospects to checkout without having to create an account to streamline their buying process. Show all the price (shipping, tax, and others) right on the product’s page to reduce price shock. Follow up on abandoned carts through email and highlight your return policy to build trust and confidence with customers.
The post Five quick ways to speed up your ecommerce conversions appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
- The latest broad core algorithm update, called the May core update, is making headlines in the SEO world.
- It was launched early May, but all leading digital marketers and webmaster community agree that it’s one of the biggest Google algorithm updates.
- Award-winning digital agency, MintTwist’s SEO Manager shares a bunch of tips to survive and thrive in light of the new Google update.
The latest broad core algorithm update, called the May core update, is making headlines in the SEO world. It’s the second update of 2020, but the last one didn’t cause as big of an impact as this one.
It was launched early May, but all leading digital marketers and webmaster community agree that it’s one of the biggest Google algorithm updates.
Research of SEMrush connects this update to change in search intent after the pandemic. Queries that were once intended for just information may now be looking for a service or product on search engines.
That’s why industries like Travel and Real Estate that were already suffering due to lockdown and restrictions were most affected by the May core update.
On the other hand, News, Sports, and Entertainment sites saw an increase in their traffic after the release of this update. Their online channels were already booming as people have more spare time during the lockdown and May core update gave it a boost.
Other leaders of the digital marketing world also shared their insights on this new update that wasn’t contrary to those of SEMrush and brought new information to light. His tests show that sites with the following issues faced up to 10% decrease in their traffic.
- That don’t update old content
- Have thin content
- Have SEO errors like duplicate meta tags
Likewise, the websites that were wary of these issues experienced growth in their traffic.
Google faced criticism from a lot of webmasters for rolling out an update during COVID-19 outbreak. While digital marketers are offering their resources worth thousands of dollars free of cost, it released such an update to make these difficult times more difficult.
Hundreds of Webmasters shared their experience with May core update on WebmasterWorld explaining why they might have suffered or survived.
While many messages show a negative response complaining about how their rankings have been destroyed, some reported a growth in their website traffic.
An update this big takes time to fully roll out. That’s why some websites experienced a temporary fall but got back on their position after a while.
This reminds us that Google updates are not for penalties. They are just to ensure that all webmasters follow their exact guidelines. Only websites that fail to follow guidelines suffer consequences.
On the other hand, websites that have built a strong and clean SEO foundation always benefit from these updates.
It means you can withstand these updates and, in fact, benefit from them. Now let’s get on to the SEO recipe to not just survive but use May core update to your advantage.
Follow EAT guidelines
The only goal of search engine updates is to provide the best results when users search a query. Google has published comprehensive webmaster guidelines to show what it expects from a website. In order to ensure that all those guidelines are met and the user gets exactly what he expects, it keeps improving the search algorithm.
It has released several major updates over the past decade, but was there a specific reason behind May core update? Many asked and that’s how John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, responded.
Like always, they didn’t reveal how the update works and only shared some vague hints, and that was all we needed.
Mueller said everything we need to know is in the first official tweet about the May core update, which linked to its blog about Google’s core updates.
That blog post highlights two things:
- Focus on content
- Get to know the quality rater guidelines and E-A-T
Some of the most important Google algorithm updates like the Panda update in 2011, Pirate update in 2012, and Fred update in 2017 are more than enough to scrutinize the quality of content.
Next, Google wants us to focus on EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
- Does your content show expertise in your niche? You will simply feed rewritten content to the visitors without any value if you are not an expert of your niche.
- Do you have an authoritative name? Reputation is a major ranking factor in SEO. People follow brands, and so does Google.
- Do users and Google trust you? Trusted sites easily rank – Wikipedia and Forbes are the best examples. You will always find them in top ranks even if the page has thin content.
Refresh old content
It is believed that sites with outdated content saw up to 10% decrease in their traffic after the release of the May core update. Some researches showed that sites, where old content was regularly updated, saw an increase in their traffic.
It was never a secret that Google prefers fresh content in its search engine results pages. Brian Dean listed the content freshness and magnitude of updates in his 210 Google ranking factors.
Content losses its relevance as it gets olds. Users want the latest and accurate information that is not possible with outdated pages.
- They are unlikely to rank and they affect the ranking of your overall site.
- If a page is ranked on SERP, it may lose its position if it’s not up to date.
That’s why it’s suggested to either update or remove outdated pages. You can ensure that almost every single one of your articles maintains top positions in SERPs for years by regularly updating content with fresh information, research, and surveys while removing unnecessary and outdated parts.
Build high–quality links
Many webmasters that suffered from May core update had low–quality backlinks. Low-quality links don’t necessarily mean comment spam or cheap directories.
Among many other characteristics of a bad link, it includes links from sites that are irrelevant, have low authority, or the content around link is not good enough.
Use of an irrelevant site, low authoritative site, or low-quality content as a source are some of many characteristics that make a bad link.
You should try to get backlinks from ranked articles, preferably posted by niche relevant sites. One high-quality link is considered better than a hundred low-quality backlinks.
Furthermore, ensure that no penalised or bad site is linking to you even if you didn’t ask for it.
Private Blog Network (PBN) is also no longer a good strategy. You can randomize footprints all you want, but Google algorithm is smart enough to identify them, and it doesn’t go unpunished.
Publish long-form, unique content regularly
Google asks for in-depth content and covers every aspect of the topic. You don’t always have to write a two–thousand–word page although it is more likely to rank.
What you need to avoid is thin content. Automatically generated, spun, duplicated or scraped content is classified as thin – in short, it has no value to offer to the user.
Websites with thin content also saw a decrease in their traffic and ranks as the May core update rolled out.
Some people use them as doorway pages, but they should never be left as they are on a site, either remove or update the page. Even John Mueller discussed this issue in one of his hangout videos and suggested to deindex thin content.
You should update any page that has short content or doesn’t have a keyword focus; it will give you an edge even after this new update.
Hopefully, these pointers will help you steer clear of the difficulties that the update could bring. Share your queries in the comments section. Bon appetite!
Sergio Arboledas SEO Manager at MintTwist. He can be found on Twitter @sergi_seo.
The post The perfect SEO recipe to survive COVID-19 and the May core update appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
The actor is reportedly working with director Doug Liman on the film.
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