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2021 Digital marketing predictions for small businesses

January 19, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Through all of the turmoil, key marketing trends emerged that will impact the way small businesses operate in 2021.
  • From catalyzed digital transformation and conversational marketing to AI’s application and data privacy emphasis, these are some themes that will serve as pillars for marketing success.
  • Five predictions for how these trends will play out this year.

In 2020, small businesses were forced to be nimble to grow and survive. As a result, more small businesses accelerated their digital transformation efforts to quickly and effectively reach customers online.

Through all of the turmoil, key marketing trends emerged that will impact the way small businesses operate in 2021. Here are my predictions for how these trends will play out this year:

1. Small businesses put their foot on the gas to digitally transform

According to the Small and Medium Business Trend Report from Salesforce Research, one in three small business leaders said that the pandemic has accelerated their digitization initiatives, and more than half of growing small businesses said technology drives their customer interactions. Brick and mortar small businesses that once depended on a physical presence adapted to the times and pivoted to ecommerce. Even farming businesses that never established an online presence set up integrated payment systems and chat services to better serve customers.

This year, small businesses will continue their path to digitalization and invest in building and maintaining an online presence. There will be a greater emphasis on tracking the entire customer lifecycle journey online and using data to inform decision making. This will open up more opportunities for small businesses to compete with larger businesses that operate in the same markets.

2. Conversational marketing takes center stage

During the pandemic, internet traffic has skyrocketed and more consumers are engaging in conversations with brands online. While this presents an opportunity for marketers, it also has created a unique challenge. Now, more than ever before, marketers are experimenting with conversational marketing to deliver personalized experiences and collect rich customer insights. With the release of cross-app communication features from Facebook earlier this year, it is becoming even easier for brands to reach customers where they spend most of their time.

In 2021, small businesses and successful brands will invest in conversational marketing to build brand loyalty and boost sales. Personalization will become key and brands that don’t offer customized communications for customers will fall short. As marketers and small businesses invest in conversational marketing, the adoption of instant chat and messenger services as communication channels will increase.

3. Machine learning and AI becomes practical for small businesses 

In the past, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been viewed as valuable technologies, yet only recently have AI and ML-driven campaigns become mainstream practical tools. Marketing automation is now smart enough to adjust messaging based on intent signals, but it relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to make this happen.

This year, artificial intelligence and machine learning will become more useful for small businesses, allowing them to quickly and effectively target and communicate with desired audiences online. Advances in AI-based chatbot services will take place and consumers will be able to engage in a rich two-way conversation, which will provide rich data and valuable insights for small businesses in 2021.

4. Data privacy pressures intensify – Small businesses should prepare

As big tech continues to draw more government scrutiny around how user data is pulled and managed, the demand for privacy protection and transparency from consumers continues to heighten. According to RSA, nearly half of Americans have had their personal information compromised by a data breach within the past year and according to a study by Cisco, 84% of consumers want more control over how their personal information is managed.

Digital marketing is no exception to this and as small businesses continue to fully digitize, they will be faced with the same level of scrutiny on how they manage consumer data. While sourcing data is an essential component of successful marketing, in 2021, small businesses will need to invest in implementing data privacy compliant processes and communicating those transparently to customers.  This becomes an even greater challenge as these small companies fight to survive in the current economy.

5. The market demand increases for all-in-one digital marketing platforms

The demand for all-in-one digital marketing platforms has increased significantly within the past year as more small businesses are engaging with their customers online to drive sales. This has led to widespread innovation across multiple industries including food and beverage, fitness, farming, retail, and more. Larger companies are also turning to these platforms to efficiently manage all of their marketing needs in one place.

As the demand for these platforms continues, more businesses that offer complementary solutions will become partners with companies that offer these solutions to address the market demand. Integrations for payment, sales, helpdesk, and contact management services will become even more powerful and easy to use. Other integrations will also be established to help small businesses streamline their digital marketing operations. As more businesses invest in providing helpful solutions for these platforms, a thriving ecosystem will be established where the services offered for small businesses continue to increase in value.

Looking ahead

To succeed in 2021, it will be vital for small businesses to focus on creating seamless customer experiences online. The small businesses that excel in this area and harness the power of creativity will become stronger than ever before.

Steffen Schebesta is CEO at Sendinblue.

The post 2021 Digital marketing predictions for small businesses appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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These Are the 17 Must-Watch TV Shows of 2021

January 7, 2021 No Comments

From Marvel hopefuls to mind-bending dramas, here are all the series you’ll need to keep an eye on this year.
Feed: All Latest


One Free Press Coalition Spotlights Journalists Under Attack – January 2021

January 5, 2021 No Comments

This month’s focus is on Zhang Zhan, who had been posting reports from Wuhan since early February. She was arrested in May.
Feed: All Latest


Google Page Experience update is all set to launch in May 2021 – Webmasters, hang in there!

January 5, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google plans to update its algorithm in 2021 to include a factor called Page Experience.
  • This includes existing Google Search signals such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.
  • It also includes metrics in Google’s Web Vitals to do with a site’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.
  • For site owners and others, understanding these signals and making the necessary changes should be a priority.
  • Among the steps to take are optimizing for mobile, improving page speeds, CTAs, and alt text for images.

We’re sure you’ve heard about Google’s announcement this summer. Yes, they’ve made another one. In brief, they said that they’re going to update their algorithm in 2021 to include a factor called Page Experience. This is going to be an important element that has an impact on rankings.

As part of this initiative, they’ve launched Web Vitals – a series of benchmarks essential to measuring and enhancing the user experience on the web.

Hold on. What is Page Experience, anyway? And do you really need to add to your overflowing to-do list? Let’s take a closer look.

The page experience in a nutshell

Page experience includes all aspects of how users interact with a web page and how good or painful it is for them. (In your case, we hope it isn’t the latter!)

This includes existing Google Search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

It also includes metrics in Google’s Web Vitals. Currently, the focus is on three facets: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. 

  1. Loading, in this context, measures perceived load speed. That’s the point in the page load timeline when the main content is likely to have loaded.
  2. Interactivity is the time from when a user first interacts with a page – a click or a tap, for example — to the time when the browser begins processing that interaction.
  3. Visual stability has to do with preventing annoying and unexpected movement of page content.

Google's Page Experience update explained

Source

You may already have optimized for some of these factors. According to Google’s own earlier research, as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases by 123%. Ouch!

Google's Page Experience update explained - page speed stat

Similarly, as the number of elements on a page goes from 400 to 6,000, the probability of conversion drops by as much as 95%.

Now, Google is bringing these and other aspects together under one umbrella that is going to have even more of an impact on organic search results.

Visual indicators of page experience

Google has also stated that by next year, they will introduce a visual indicator to designate those search results that meet all of their page experience specifications. 

They’ve done something like this in the past, too. You must have observed, for example, AMP icons as well as slow and mobile-friendly labels.

If this indicator is displayed prominently in search results, there are good chances that users will prefer these sites over others. 

While Google is yet to announce the shape, size, and position of such indicators, it’s a mark of how seriously they’re taking their forthcoming page experience guidelines. 

This means that all of us should start planning from now itself.

Hold on. Page experience isn’t everything.

Now, you may have read this far and decided that the most important thing is to fix all of the above parameters. And you’ll see your traffic zoom.

That won’t necessarily be the case. (Although we hope it is!) You see, content is still king. Everything starts with that.

As Google themselves point out in their blog,

“Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content.”

However, you can rest assured that when there are many pages that are similar in relevance, your improved page experience will make all the difference in search results.

Why you should pay attention to this algorithm update 

The fact remains that the new page experience metrics should be taken seriously by developers and all those involved in optimization strategies to improve search rankings.

To begin with, if your user experience is seen as being in the top bracket, visual cues will guide consumers and browsers to your page over the others.

Google itself is pretty clear about the increased weightage they’re going to give to page experience. After all, a terrific page experience lets people get more done and increases engagement.

It seems evident that those pages which fall below the new benchmarks are going to be left behind in the rankings. This means a significant drop in traffic.

Google already considers hundreds of aspects to determine rankings. The inclusion of page experience lets them guide people, so they can access information more easily and enjoyably.

For site owners and others, understanding these signals and making the necessary changes should be a priority.

Otherwise, you run the risk of your page being ignored. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

Let’s start with a bad page experience

Before we get down to understanding how to improve page experience, let’s understand what a bad page experience is.

  • Slow page speeds: You know how frustrating it can be to click on a search result and then wait for a page to load. It may be a few seconds, but it feels like an eternity. Chances are, your consumers feel the same way and are put off.
  • Bad structure and design: Even if the page loads quickly, there are times when it can be confusing to navigate. This could be because the design is cliched or just puzzling. There could be too many pop-ups. There could be no proper content structure. Looking for information here could be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
  • Lack of engagement. Unfortunately, too many websites simply assume that their only purpose is to sell. But today’s consumer wants to be engaged with, wants to be entertained, and wants to be understood. That’s why empathy and likeability are important factors.

The steps you can take

There are more than six months to go before these changes take effect. As a webmaster, you have more than enough time to prepare. And there are no excuses for not being ready.

As a site owner or stakeholder, you can take the advice of Aja Frost, head of content SEO at HubSpot. This is what he says: “I think this gives you good ammunition to go to your web team or your performance team and say, ‘Hey, you know, Google…[is] going to release this in six months, and so we need to focus on it.’

Here are some things to consider.

  • You can start by gaining an understanding of the metrics that Google is going to use. For now, these are LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift), and FID (First Input Delay). Google itself provides explanations and standards of measurement, which are useful in gaining mastery of them.
  • Based on this, you can then conduct a site audit. Optimize for these new ranking signals, especially factors such as page load speeds, responsiveness, UX, mobile usability, and security. There are a variety of tools that you can use for this. For example, Google’s online mobile-friendly test, as well as Page Speed Insights, which play the role of performance checkers across all devices.
  • As you know, it takes several individuals working together to create a high-quality website. It’s time to bring these stakeholders together and discuss how this algorithm update is going to be handled. The SEO, UX design, and IT teams should be in perfect alignment when it comes to future goals and actions. You could start by asking them if they’d prefer coffee or tea, and then get the meeting started.

Expert tips to boost page experience

Until now, you’ve received a broad overview of Google’s announcement, what it means for developers and other stakeholders, and some initial steps you can take to prepare.

This is all very informative, but is there anything you can do right away? Yes, there is.

Here are some granular details as to how you can enhance page experience like a boss.

1. Optimize for mobile search

In Q3 2020, mobile devices generated 50.81% of global website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50% mark since the beginning of 2017.

Google's Page Experience update - How to continue to rank - Optimize for mobile

Source

Clearly, these numbers can’t be ignored. Google’s algorithms, too, primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.

If you haven’t already, you should get your page mobile-ready by reducing code, leveraging browser caching, and reducing redirects.

The webpage design should be simple and responsive so as to appear attractive on smaller screens. Site structure, too, should be optimized for mobile.

2. Improve page speeds

According to recent research that confirms Google’s findings, a delay of one full second in loading can decrease conversion rates by 70%. Just one second — shorter than the time it’s taken to read this sentence.

There are several ways to not lose out because of frustrating delays. As per Google, the best practice is just three seconds. 

One way to do this is to minimize HTTP requests. That’s because the components on the page, the longer it takes for it to render. You can combine files to overcome this.

Further, asynchronous loading files can speed up pages. When a browser loads a page, it moves from top to bottom, and you can use this to your advantage.

Other aspects include examining the operation of JavaScript loading and server response times. Don’t forget to also check on compression, caching, and, importantly, image file sizes. 

3. Separate CTAs

Optimizing for mobile and improving page speeds are the first steps to take, as they have a huge impact on user experience. However, there are other factors that can further improve interaction, not to mention the conversion rate.

One of these is the Call to Action or CTA. Virtually every site has these in some form or another. Consumers are requested to take specific actions, from subscribing to updates, signing up, asking for an appointment, and, of course, making purchases. (Let’s not forget that.)

Google's Page Experience update - How to continue to rank - Use separate CTAs

Source

The trick is to realize that consumers have different frames of mind at different points so as to be able to customize your CTAs, accordingly.

They should be short, specific, and clear about the action needed. Ideally, they should include a benefit. Think of what the consumer will get out of the interaction. Is it to be enlightened, to succeed, or to solve a problem?

The design of CTA buttons is important, too. Naturally, they should be bright, correctly-shaped, and properly positioned.

Think of that as your own call to action.

4. Use Alt Text for images

We’ve already touched upon image compression as a way of providing an optimal loading experience. But there’s another factor involved when it comes to experience as well as page ranking.

This is called an alt text. It’s used in an HTML code, and it describes the appearance and function of an image on a page.

Such alt tags will be displayed in case the image file isn’t loaded so that users understand the context. Such descriptions are also used by search engine crawlers for indexing, and this helps in rankings.

These alt text descriptions should be short, specific, and ideally with a keyword. This will go a long way in helping your site’s organic search results.

Finally, this can’t be repeated enough: Focus on the content

This is something we’ve touched upon earlier, but it’s so important that we want to remind you once again.

It sometimes happens that people get so caught up in the metrics and technical issues of SEO that the most important element gets pushed to second place.

Quite simply, good content will always play a critical role in determining page rankings. It should be simple, it should answer a need, and it should be unique.

It’s when you have such content, and then optimize it for Google’s algorithm updates, that you’re going to see your ranking zoom to the top.

Aayush Gupta is Sr. Manager, Brand & Marketing at Uplers. He likes to stay on his toes when it comes to marketing and doing things worth risk-taking. He loves traveling and exploring local cuisines. In his free time reading books with coffee is all he wants.

The post Google Page Experience update is all set to launch in May 2021 – Webmasters, hang in there! appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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What to expect from SEO in 2021?

December 30, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The pace of technological advances and progress in the SEO sector isn’t slowing down, and you should expect major changes and updates in 2021.
  • Google has already announced two algorithm updates slated for March and May 2021.
  • There are various trends for SEO in 2020 like UX SEO and feature snippets which appear to become more prominent in the upcoming year.

From the humble beginnings of the Internet and online advertising, we’ve reached an era where the Internet is an essential communication tool, and online advertising is valued at more than 400 billion dollars a year, more prominent than even the TV ad industry. The global pandemic only accelerated this trend and pushed more companies online. So, what can we expect out of SEO in 2021? Which trends should we be looking forward to? Which changes will impact the industry? In this article, we’ll discuss the main trends we expect to have an impact and change the direction of SEO in the coming year.

Direct changes to search engines

SEO is entirely dependent on the major search engines, primarily Google. Any changes to Google’s modus operandi, algorithm, and priorities will have direct, wide-ranging impacts on SEO in 2021. These changes lead to losses in billions of dollars for some businesses while leading to gains of billions of dollars for others. It is important to be aware of the upcoming changes and how to best prepare for them.

#1 Page experience as a ranking factor on Google [May 2021]

As of May 2021, you should expect what Google dubs as “page experience signals” to be a ranking factor. The page experience refers to the way the visitors feel as they interact with the web page. It is determined by a multitude of attributes from mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and the others. These were already ranking factors previously, but they’ve been more institutionalized and work within the “page experience” framework. Furthermore, Google is introducing Core Web Vitals as part of ‘page experience’. They’re considered to be user-centric metrics that try to determine the quality of the user experience. These user-centric metrics will measure the loading speed (Largest Contentful Paint), interactivity (First Input Delay), and visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift). The first two items that go into Core Web Vitals seem quite self-evident, so it doesn’t seem like a good idea to spend more time explaining them in this article.

Although, the third item might confuse some people. Visual stability refers to how much the layout shifts and jumps around. For example, imagine if a button tracks your mouse and jumps around whenever you get close to it, this is quite a self-evidently bad user experience, and this variable aims to capture this. The self-advertised purpose of adding an explicit page experience ranking factor is so that Google can provide higher-quality, more engaging content to its users. Considering the variables that it takes account of, a website with a high page experience score will load faster, be more interactive, more stable, more secure, more mobile-friendly, and much more. These all combined, admittedly, will lead to a superior experience.

Get featured in top stories without AMP

Another purpose of the introduction of the new page experience ranking framework is to make non-AMP content eligible to appear in the Top Stories feature for mobile phones. It is one of the main ways websites drive traffic to their content from mobile, so this could be a significant change that would disrupt the rankings of many websites on mobile. This change will also roll out in May of 2021, which makes May a hell of a busy month for SEO specialists.

We need to be ready for all the drastic changes this change in the algorithm can bring. We can’t possibly ascertain its impact at this stage.

#2 Mobile-first indexing for all websites on Google [March 2021]

Mobile-first indexing is certainly not new, Google has been using it for more than several years. It was first introduced as an answer to a widespread problem: more and more people are using their phones to look up stuff and browse the net. The problem is that the mobile and desktop versions of websites don’t always match up in content, and Google usually only indexes one version, which traditionally was the PC version. This creates a mismatch between the rankings on mobile and the content on these pages. To alleviate this mismatch as it was becoming a growing problem due to the increasing popularity of mobile, Google decided to implement mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing refers to the practice of indexing the mobile version of the website first in Google’s databases instead of the desktop version. This would accurately gauge the amount of content on mobile sites and their relevance before displaying the results.

Going from an entirely desktop-first indexing scheme to an entirely mobile-first one would’ve been a massive step, however, and this is why Google has been taking years implementing this change. It started by allowing the option to webmasters to change their website indexing to mobile-first. It was followed by making mobile-first the default option for crawling new websites. The final and latest update is going to come in March 2021 when Google will start making mobile-first indexing the default option for all websites. This means that the way your website is indexed and the content that’s considered might change in March. It is hard to determine how big of an impact this will make beforehand, but you should expect some instability.

Thankfully, Google has published a basic guideline to ensuring the transition to mobile-first indexing goes smoothly on your website:

  • Make sure the content of your website is visible to Google crawlers and bots.
  • Ensure you fill out all the relevant meta tags on both the mobile and the desktop

versions of your landing pages.

  • Ensure that your mobile website loads quickly by enabling lazy loading.
  • Ensure that you are not blocking any relevant mobile-specific URLs in your robots.txt file.
  • Although it is hard to ensure identical content, you should try to have at least identical primary content on both versions.
  • Check the alt tags of both image and video embeds.

Wider SEO trends

Aside from specific updates to algorithms, we have prior information about, some wider trends in the sector that are going to change how we engage with SEO. Some of these trends have been going on for years and only just accelerating and others are new. Below, we’ll cover the most prominent ones.

#1 Voice search is becoming more and more prominent

Voice search was virtually non-existent just five years ago. Still, the development and proliferation of Alexa, Google Assistant, and a multitude of other voice assistants over the last few years have popularized voice search beyond our wildest dreams. According to data, voice search revenue will more than quadruple from 2017 to 2022 from just 2 billion to 40 billion dollars. This explosion in popularity presents opportunities and challenges to traditional SEO approaches. Just as an example, in voice searches, getting the first position is much more important than it is in traditional text searches. That’s why you need different approaches to capitalize on this new, emerging SEO arena fully.

#2 Feature snippets and microdata

Google is trying to introduce more and more types of featured snippets to its home page. These range from recipes to news and tutorials. These snippets aim to make searching faster for users and keep traffic on Google’s website. It is nevertheless beneficial for websites to implement it because you have a chance to be featured, which would drive a lot of traffic to your website.

Of course, getting featured doesn’t always mean you’ll see exponential growth in traffic, but data from Ahrefs shows it matters a lot! On average, getting featured means you’ll get, on average, around 8,6% CTR while the top ‘natural result’ will get 19,6% of the traffic. This is extremely impressive and shows that the featured snippet steals a substantial amount of clicks from the top position, which would get around 26% CTR in SERPs without a featured snippet. Although, you have to be careful about how Google features you. You should monitor your ranking and readjust your snippet and optimize it for more clicks.

#3 Non-textual content

As we move into the next year, we’re seeing an Internet saturated with blogs and landing pages. and it is becoming increasingly difficult to rank for noteworthy keywords with decent traffic. That’s why many SEO agencies are trying to expand their reach by diversifying the type of content they produce and publish. Infographics are one of the easier ways to create engagement and rank higher. Although, even they’ve been overused in recent years. A much more promising frontier for 2021 seems to be videos. These could be uploaded to Youtube as standalone content or embedded in your website too. It’ll help you gain more traffic from Youtube views, which seems way less saturated than Google’s traditional search engine currently. This doesn’t mean it is any less important. YouTube generates 15 billion dollars for Google each year. It is a platform you can’t afford to ignore.

It is also worth mentioning that there are specific video snippets on SERPs that you can only rank for through video content, and these video snippets are really prominent on search queries beginning with “how-to”, asking for tutorials, and other forms of educational content. They are prime real estate that you can potentially rank for with a reasonably produced video.

#4 UX SEO

The days where SEO was just about meta-tags and titles have long gone. Nowadays, SEO is an intricate subject that combines expertise from many different fields from marketing to software engineering and creative writing to achieve the best result. A recent trend in SEO that is gaining more and more stream is the UX SEO framework.

UX SEO refers to the practice of optimizing the user experience of a website to achieve better conversion rates and engagement. It isn’t only important that your site gets regular visitors, but it is also equally important to ensure that these visitors engage with your website. UX redesign success stories are almost limitless, for example, ESPN found out that just a homepage redesign increased their revenues by 35%. There is no reason why UX optimization could not be an integral part of your SEO strategy, and UX SEO gives you a framework to achieve this.

Conclusion

Each year, Google introduces more than 3600 small changes to their algorithms, and each year, trends emerge in this volatile sector that nobody has been able to predict. You need to continually keep up with the news to be on top of your SEO game, reading an article on the trends in the upcoming year isn’t enough. Nevertheless, I tried to make this article as comprehensive as possible, and you should be moderately prepared for the challenges ahead if you pay attention to all the trends that I’ve featured here.

Adrian Kempiak is CTO at Neadoo Digital – SEO agency. Adrian is a tech enthusiast, in the SEO industry for over 9 years. Consultations and audits for businesses from various markets. Responsible for running both worldwide SEO campaigns for ecommerce stores and local SEO for businesses worldwide (UK, USA, Australia, Spain, and much more).

The post What to expect from SEO in 2021? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Jingle all the way: What will 2021 mean to the advertising world?

December 26, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Despite the overall doom and gloom, some industries actually skyrocketed in 2020.
  • 2021 is supposed to dot some i’s and cross some t’s in the field of transparency and first-party data solutions.
  • Live streaming related to gaming and sports is a huge advertising-friendly zone that is expected to expand further in 2021.
  • Header bidding solutions for OTT and CTV, new attribution, and monetization features are the advertising technologies that will gather momentum in 2021.
  • AI and ML predictive algorithms will further revolutionize personalization in the advertising world.

Surreal, eye-opening, melancholic, thought-provoking… 2020 has been like no other year in this century so far, as those wearing t-shirts with an “All I want for Christmas is 2021” logo will eagerly confirm. And though there’s a lot to be done before all pieces of the 2021 puzzle can be put together, the upcoming year has many hopes to fulfill. No pressure, 2021, but you’d better be good! On this cautiously positive note, let’s briefly revise 2020 based on the insights from the ‘OTT Executive Summitbefore we can warmly welcome the upcoming year. Read on for foresight on the future of advertising.

Looking back at 2020

The reality of 2020 dictated new rules, values, people’s habits, and a new outlook on what “normal” was. Unsurprisingly, despite the overall doom and gloom, some industries, which fit in this transformed layout really well, actually skyrocketed. They say every cloud has its silver lining, and that was true even for 2020.

Take for instance CTV, whose ad spend increased by 19% this year, according to IAB, primarily due to the pandemic and mass lockdowns. 

“TV forever has been a top funnel media, a media that you used to drive awareness but not to drive purchase. What’s so interesting about Connected Television is that it gives an opportunity to be both, a powerful branding media as well as a media that is very appealing to marketers who are trying to drive actual outcomes,”

Scott Rosenberg, SVP/GM of Platform Business at Roku

Digital devices, including the CTV ones, to a certain extent, became the guardians of people’s mental wellbeing. This fact is backed up by the Leichtman Research Group’s report that counted 400 million Connected TV devices in the US earlier this year. 

Another curious outcome of the pandemic is the shift that occurred in the way viewers started consuming OTT content. Nielsen shared their insights on the growing trend of co-viewing, as people were tied to their homes and family members for a long period of time.

The developments of the Internet and 5G networks added even more points to CTV’s score, making the market magnetic for app developers. As a result, streaming soared, turning 85% of Americans into streamers, according to Roku. 

“Streaming for the first time is overtaking live TV,” Andrew Hare, Senior Vice President, Research at Magid Associates, Inc

In addition to the accelerated number of subscribers of existing streaming services, outlined by eMarketer, the industry has seen a true upswing in the launch of new platforms, like Apple TV +, HBO Max, Disney +, Paramount +, Quibi (currently shut down), and others. 

“The streaming war up until this point has been really between the Big Three [Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu], however, with the entrance of all these high profile services from Disney, Apple, Warner Media, NBCUniversal, and others we could be seeing a huge upset of the hierarchy moving forward. And the interesting thing is that a lot of these new services have taken different approaches, trying to tackle the Big Three,”

Steve Nason, Research Director at Park Associates

With a CTV viewing time growth by 81% in 2020, as per Nielsen, and the abundance of entertainment opportunities CTV has in its goody bag, consumers admittedly started to have fewer problems with ads. Provided that ads could be the only price they would have to pay for the content. 

“Consumers found our service and services like ours really viable. Ad-supported became a really good way of getting your news and your movies, and perhaps your content library,”

Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO at Xumo

“43% of US adults have paused a show they were watching to go purchase or consider the product that they just saw on screen. The conditions are very ripe between the consumers’ unwillingness to go to physical retail as well as more advanced ad products that can put the right ad in front of you at the right moment, have it be actionable,

Scott Rosenberg, SVP/GM of Platform Business at Roku

In fact, eMarketer’s Q3 report highlighted an increase in AVOD revenue by 31% in 2020. This means that well-established AVOD platforms, such as Pluto TV, Xumo, Vudu, Crackle, and Tubi, will soon have to share the space with many newcomers, willing to hit the jackpot by adopting AVOD or a hybrid model that combines SVOD and AVOD features.

“Two-thirds of all viewing time is on ad-supported platforms. For the first time 53% of people 18+ said they watch at least one AVOD service. 51% in the US tell us they would prefer an advertising-based free model versus a subscription with no ads or EST [Electronic Sell-Through],

Andrew Hare, Senior Vice President, Research at Magid Associates, Inc

Looking forward to 2021

Though mysteriously staring at the crystal ball to see the future is always fun, eMarketer shared a few clues to make anyone’s predictions a bit more grounded. Following eMarketer’s estimates, the CTV ad spends will reach $ 11.36 billion in 2021, which is around 40% higher than the year before that. Additionally, 2021 will bring a reduction in Connected TV CPMs due to a meteoritic rise of supply. Without having our heads in the clouds, let’s take a closer look at where this may take us from different perspectives of the CTV landscape.

1. Transparency

Privacy concerns have consistently been the internet’s stumbling block. Users want to know who collects what data and for what purposes. Looks like a few years after the introduction of GDPR, 2021 will finally dot some i’s and cross some t’s in this area. Since Google announced its plan to opt-out third-party cookies from the Chrome browser, the advertising world has been restlessly trying to come up with a new unified first-party data approach for all its channels. As advertisers aim to secure their access to consumers, direct deals via PMP (Private Marketplace) or PG (Programmatic Guaranteed) punched above their weight. And though these are effective ways of reaching audiences, they risk leaving smaller players out of the loop. In the meantime, the connected TV arena moved the question of transparency from high priority to critical. Hopefully, 2021 will bring some clarity to unified solutions for delivering first-party data to advertisers. Alternatively, we have good chances to watch further fragmentation of the market (which is not good) stitched together with progress in addressability (which is good).

2. Investments

Streaming of all shapes and sizes continues to soar, and 2021 is expected to reveal its potential even fuller. Live streaming, especially related to gaming and sports, offers marketers a unique opportunity to reach out to a growing segment of esport streamers and watchers, who in 2020 constituted 92% of the US and UK Generations Z and Y populations, based on the data from GlobalWebIndex. Certainly, anchoring consumers at home did oil the wheels and contributed a great deal to this trend. Outside of sports and gaming, another streaming playing field, that is gaining momentum as we speak, is certainly AVOD. A snowballing effect with which streaming services sprang up made watchers tight-fisted and less opposed to ads. This tendency is likely to stay the course. Therefore, if there is a perfect time and place to make the most of advertising budgets, it will undoubtedly be streaming in 2021. 

3. Formats

Provided that customers’ attention span was eight seconds in 2020, as stated by Oracle, it’s obvious that capturing this attention will only get harder for brands with time. This is where engaging formats will come in handy. Browsable galleries, shoppable ads, carousels, TV-to-Mobile elements, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), these are just a part of the mantra for all advertisers out there. The only way to walk customers through all the stages of the funnel is to stay creative, up-to-date, and make their experience lightweight, yet memorable. As for the channels, it’s worth going out on a limb and adopting an omnichannel strategy that will include DOOH (Digital Out-of-Home), which has been rocking the boat of digital advertising for quite some time now. Given that consumers are expected to spend much more time out of their homes to make up for 2020, if/when restrictions are relaxed in 2021, experimenting with new formats would be the way forward.

4. Advertising technologies

Due to the fact that programmatic, as a transaction method is going to reach $ 5.72 billion in 2021, according to eMarketer, the talks about scaling up header bidding solutions for OTT and CTV have a clear rationale behind them. This technology will enable buyers to access dynamic auctions, while publishers will be able to send ad requests to multiple buyers and improve their monetization results. Furthermore, 2021 will surely expose marketers to more attribution and promotion opportunities, be it showcasing customer journey for OTT channel owners with the Attriboost analytics software or providing across-the-board monetization capabilities through Allroll’s self-serve platform. Staying at the forefront of the AdTech innovation curve will open doors to windfall profits.

5. Intelligent automation

A recent focus on a minimized face-to-face human interaction fuelled interest in automation powered by AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning). This ultimately sowed the seeds of acceptance and made these technologies more approachable for businesses. In the context of Connected TV, the advancements of AI-led to the kickoff of ACR (Automatic Content Recognition), which originated from smart TV players, for example, Samba TV, Samsung Ads, and LG’s Live Plus. Their predictive algorithms create an additional layer of personalization for CTV viewership. Taking into consideration how personalization is worshipped by marketers, beyond a shadow of doubt, ACR will play an important part in the CTV industry in 2021.

Takeaways

The time to say ‘goodbye’ to 2020 has come. Digital space, in line with the rest of the world, has gone through a lot of rethinking and reinventing, demonstrated resilience and agility, trying to foresee and comfort consumers in every single shift in their behavior. These changes, however, mapped a whole new outlook for 2021. Data privacy, investment opportunities, engaging formats, advertising, and automation technologies will run the digital world in 2021 in an even more exciting manner than before. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s go!

Alex Zakrevsky is the CEO of Allroll marketing platform for CTV/OTT channel owners. Innovator, product lover, CTV, and programmatic enthusiast. He believes that the quality of the product always wins.

The post Jingle all the way: What will 2021 mean to the advertising world? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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B2B paid search forecast: What to expect in 2021

December 12, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google surprised marketers with a few changes in 2020 – an updated search query report, new ad extensions, and new audience targeting, to name a few — which forced advertisers to adjust their SEM strategies and tactics in order to maintain or increase their ROI.
  • B2B advertisers are testing and investing in different campaign types besides the traditional search and display campaigns, and are seeing good performance with Discovery Campaigns.
  • In the wake of the changes Google made to the search query report in September, Dynamic Search Ads can complement existing search campaigns and improve CTR, CPC, and ROAS.
  • Expect to see higher adoption of auction-time bidding, dynamic extensions, and dynamic search ads.

2020 was a tough year for many industries, but for the B2B industry, demand remained strong. Paid search budgets increased in many cases, as B2B companies invested more in digital marketing. The end of Q1 hurt performance, but things started to normalize in Q2, and we observed the usual seasonality the rest of the year.

In addition to the pandemic, Google also surprised us with a few changes – an updated search query report, new ad extensions, and new audience targeting, to name a few. All such changes forced advertisers to adjust their SEM strategies and tactics in order to maintain or increase their ROI.

After an eventful 2020, here are 6 PPC trends B2B advertisers should watch in 2021:

1. SEM campaigns diversify 

Given the high competition in the B2B space, advertisers need to differentiate themselves in order to get their target audience’s attention and drive demand. B2B advertisers are testing and investing in different campaign types besides the traditional search and display campaigns. B2B advertisers are seeing a good performance with Discovery Campaigns – with CTR higher than display, and CPL more efficient than search – so we expect them to increase their investment in this campaign type in 2021.

Quick tip

When launching Discovery Campaigns, be patient. Let them run for a couple of weeks without making changes as the bidding algorithm is learning during that period and you will see fluctuations in all metrics. After that, you can prioritize the audiences that are performing well. Performance improves consistently after 4-5 weeks of launch.

2. Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) gain in popularity

DSA campaigns will become even more popular with B2B advertisers after the changes Google made to the search query report in September 2020. Now that the report includes only terms that a significant number of users searched for, and with advertisers losing visibility into low-volume keywords that drive traffic and can generate leads, DSA campaigns offer an efficient way to find new keywords. Their search query reports can help reveal gaps in keyword coverage. DSA can complement your existing search campaigns and improve CTR, CPC, and ROAS.

Quick tip

For lead generation accounts that have strict lead and CPL goals, create separate campaigns for DSA so you have more control over the budget. Start by targeting your SEM landing pages so you can have some control over potential queries and headlines.

3. PPC managers embrace automation

More B2B advertisers are using automation tools and machine learning in order to improve performance, increase efficiency, and save time. Some of our favorite automated features – automated bidding strategies, responsive search ads, and the optimize ad rotation in Google Ads – will continue to gain popularity in 2021. We should also expect to see higher adoption of auction-time bidding, dynamic extensions, and dynamic search ads as B2B advertisers seek to optimize and scale their paid search campaigns.

Quick tip

When evaluating automated bidding strategies for lead generation accounts, don’t worry about higher CPCs as you will likely be paying more for higher quality clicks. If you are seeing a high volume of leads at a low CPL, you are going in the right direction. And always set your target CPA based on the last 30 days’ average, even if it is higher than your goal. Otherwise, you will see a decrease in lead volume.

4. YouTube ad investment increases

Online video ads have become more important for B2B marketers during COVID-19 times. B2B buyers are using online video ads more often to inform purchase decisions: 64% of B2B buyers have increased their use of online video and 51% have increased their use of search, according to eMarketer.  We expect B2B advertisers to increase their YouTube investment in 2021 and to launch video campaigns both to generate brand awareness and to generate leads. In addition, B2B advertisers will invest more in creating video content — and YouTubes’ new betas will make that content easier to create.

Quick tip

For a full-funnel video strategy, prioritize videos that are 6-, 15- and 30-seconds long as short videos engage users the most. Also, avoid salesy videos and try to create videos that show the personality of your brand so you can connect with your audience.

5. Mobile investment drops

Lower mobility driven by COVID-19 has decreased the number of mobile buyers while increasing time in front of computers, leading to strong desktop growth. During the pandemic, paid search desktop traffic is up 60%, while mobile traffic has dropped 7% compared to the pre-COVID period. Moreover, the conversion rate for desktop has increased by 4% while the conversion rate for mobile decreased by almost 19%. 

Quick tip

Leverage automated bidding strategies to save time and prioritize the devices that are performing best. And don’t forget to look at the assisted conversions report when evaluating mobile performance if you are still using last-click attribution.

6. Paid search messaging becomes increasingly customer-centric

B2B buyers are looking for new solutions as they accelerate purchases, and are expecting more from their solution providers according to the 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Study. So, we’ll see more ads from B2B companies highlighting features, functionality, customer support services, product training, and implementation support in order to attract and engage B2B buyers. For successful SEM campaigns, promoting relevant content that speaks to industry needs will be a must.

Quick tip

If you have lead generation campaigns and prefer to drive traffic to a landing page with a form, use site links and callouts to highlight the additional services or training you have available for your customers.

With new campaign types and messaging to test, and more automation features and tools at hand, 2021 promises to be fun for B2B advertisers.

Lucia Rodas-Estrada is Senior Search Director at Merkle | DWA.

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2021: The Year You’ve Been Waiting for & What You Need to Prepare

December 9, 2020 No Comments

With all of the unexpected events of 2020, how can marketers possibly prepare for 2021? Industry leader Carrie Albright shares her guide for 2021 prep.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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The Google page experience: What you need to know and five steps to prepare for 2021

December 2, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google page experience metric goes live in 2021.
  • Rewarding pages that offer a better user experience.
  • The signal measures a site’s performance, security, and mobile-friendliness.
  • To prepare for 2021, get a fast web hosting service, optimize your content for mobile users, and install security measures (firewall, SSL, etc.).
  • Avoid pop-ups and whole screen banners that restrict the visitors’ access to content.

The newest search ranking benchmark that’s cooking in Google’s development lab is the Google page experience metric. 

In short, this upcoming metric aims to measure (and rank) the overall responsiveness and user experience of websites that show up in Google’s search results.

Google plans to introduce this metric alongside the current ranking factors. However, there isn’t an exact date announced when this metric goes live.

As Google’s developers officially state in their blog:

“The ranking changes [Google page experience] described in this post will not happen before next year [2021], and we will provide at least six months notice before they’re rolled out.”

You still have plenty of time to react. However, we suggest planning ahead and implementing some of the best practices as soon as possible.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect from this ranking update and how you can prepare your site from the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective.

Elements of the Google page experience metric

Google is mainly building the new metric upon the Core Web Vitals that their Chrome team launched earlier this year.

The overall goal with Google’s page experience metric is to ensure the Google Search users are getting a mobile-friendly, safe, and straightforward browsing experience.

Let’s look at each element that contributes to the page experience metric.

1. Core Web Vitals

Google developed the Core Web Vitals because the average user enjoys fast and seamless web surfing. They also created a Chrome User Experience Report, which you can use to evaluate your site’s current performance according to these signals.

Google page experience metrics

Source

The Core Web Vitals consist of three separate signals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – quickness of the largest content piece’s loading time.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – responsiveness to the user’s clicking, scrolling, and typing.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – visual stability of the page.

To tick a box in each of these signals, your pages’ LCP should be below 2.5 seconds, FID below 100ms and the CLS score less than 0.1.

2. Mobile-friendly site

Google already favors sites that are optimized for mobile users, and rightfully so.

Research conducted by Statista reveals that there are an estimated 3.5 billion smartphone users this year, with this number growing to 3.8 billion in 2021. It’s safe to say that sites that aren’t mobile-optimized will miss a lot of traffic. 

Therefore, it makes sense that Google only wants their search to display mobile-friendly sites.

3. Safe-browsing

Google puts a lot of emphasis on security and weeding out potentially harmful sites from their search results. After all, if the top search results harm users, it won’t look good on Google at all.

One of the signals with the upcoming page experience metric concludes if the indexed site contains any malicious or deceptive content. Some straightforward examples are malware, spyware, social engineering scams, and false information.

To get a sense of how this works, check out Google’s Security Issues report. You can also scan your website to see if any issues pop up at this time.

4. HTTPS

Following the security topic, Google also prefers secure sites with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. Visibly, the difference is between http:// and https:// (where the latter is SSL secured) in the website’s URL.

The SSL certificate’s job is to encrypt any data that travels between the user and the servers. Even if a cyber attack occurs, the hackers are unlikely to make sense of the data.

If you’ve used the Chrome browser, then you might have come across a security warning with a suggestion that the connection is not secure. This is mainly due to the site missing an SSL certificate.

HTTPS - Google page experience

Source

5. No intrusive interstitials

Last but not least, Google aims to punish sites that aggressively keep the visitors away from quickly accessing the content they are looking for in the first place.

The main culprits here are the pop-ups that cover the entire screen, are difficult to dismiss, or keep popping up while consuming the content.

However, disclaimers, cookie usage information, age-sensitive content confirmations, login dialogs, and reasonably sized banners aren’t going to affect your ranking.

Google page experience - Remove interstitials

Source

Five steps to optimize your site for 2021

Google’s new page experience metric isn’t going to substitute the current ranking elements. It becomes an additional ranking factor, but the most essential part from an SEO perspective is still the quality of the content.

Still, since the page experience metric IS going to affect the ranking results, it’s a great idea to know what you can do to prepare.

Here are a few steps you can take to get your site ready for 2021.

1. Get an excellent web hosting service

Your site’s performance is already one of the key ranking factors today. Either you have a server in-house or using a hosting service, it’s wise to make sure your site is fast and responsive.

You can analyze your site’s responsiveness with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool or use a website performance monitoring tool such as Pingdom.

Additionally, you can check out sites that gather and share performance data on web hosting providers.

Example website performance data

Source

2. Keep your page’s size lite

Images go hand-in-hand with today’s websites. However, overstuffing your web pages with visual content is going to make your site slow.

There are a few ways to approach this problem, depending on the nature of your site.

You can optimize your images and make them weigh less by using an image compressor such as ImageOptim. If your page is already content-heavy, consider spreading the largest items to multiple pages within your site.

Alternatively, you can use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as CloudFlare to cache your content closer to the visitor’s access point.

3. Optimize your site for mobile

As we proved earlier, the world is heading rapidly to mobile. It’s not enough for your users to access your content with their smartphones; they also expect your site to adjust to the smaller screens.

Therefore, your site needs to be mobile-optimized. 

The good news is that most modern website creation platforms, such as WordPress, already have mobile-friendly templates that don’t require extra coding efforts.

You can quickly test if your site is mobile-responsive by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly testing tool.

4. Install security measures

Website security definitely deserves a separate article to cover all the bases, but let’s only focus on Google’s perspective.

First, don’t knowingly add any malicious scripts or deceptive content to your website.

Secondly, protect your site from malware and other hacking attempts by adding a firewall. While it’s not clear yet if Google will check your site for a firewall, you should have one in place either way.

And finally, install an SSL certificate that encrypts your data since Google is already keeping tabs on if a site is secure or not. However, most of the modern hosting services already include an SSL certificate with their plans.

Overall, investing in website security is worth it for peace of mind and from the SEO perspective.

5. Tone down or remove large pop-up banners

Google considers anything that keeps its users from accessing the content they search for as a nuisance.

Therefore, a piece of straightforward advice – don’t put a giant banner on your site. Make the promotion more subtle, and you won’t have any problems with Google.

As a reminder, cookie information, age-restriction policies, and login dialogs are the exceptions. Although, please don’t go overboard with these either for the sake of user experience.

Google page experience - Remove large pop up banners

Source

In conclusion

Google’s page experience metric will become one of the search ranking signals in 2021, but there isn’t an exact launch date yet.

Still, you can start preparing your site for the upcoming changes. Even if it’s unclear how much weight this new metric has on the search results, offering your visitors a great user experience is a substantial value on its own.

Start by testing your site’s performance, security, and mobile-friendliness. The results give you a pretty good idea of what to tweak and add to your site.

However, remember that the most important ranking factor is still the quality of the content.

Gert Svaiko is a professional copywriter and mainly works with digital marketing companies in the US and EU. You can reach him on LinkedIn.

The post The Google page experience: What you need to know and five steps to prepare for 2021 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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