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Tag: Performance

Intel’s 2018 Core i9 CPU Offers High-End Performance for the Masses

October 8, 2018 No Comments

The 9th generation of Intel’s Core series helps firm up the foundation of the PC resurgence.
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How to blend performance and branding for a Q4 boost

September 18, 2018 No Comments

Q4 is right around the corner, and that means digital marketers need to be on top of their game in planning, building, executing, and converting. But when you are looking to really scale revenue and new customers this holiday season, you’ll have to incorporate some branding strategies.

Now, I work for a performance digital marketing agency, so everything we do is always tied back to the question, ‘Well, is it improving performance?’ So when I say branding, I’m talking about the avenues that will allow you to get very targeted so that you can be sure you are hitting relevant audiences for your business. Better yet for performance marketers, there is a way where (to some extent) you can measure the effects these branding plays have on performance (I’ll get to that in a bit).

In this post, I’ll break down channels to test for branding, and then I’ll talk about how to measure the performance of those branding channels/campaigns. Let’s get started.

YouTube

This channel has huge reach, and it’s a great way to cast a wide net and get exposure for your brand. The biggest downside with YouTube is that, if you’re not careful, you can spend a lot of your budget ineffectively.

Here are a few targeting recommendations to effectively get in front of the right audiences and have a positive impact on performance:

  • In-market audiences – With this targeting, Google identifies users who are actively shopping for certain categories. Additionally, if you know the demographics of your target audience, you can layer on gender and age targeting to get more selective about the folks who see your ad.
  • Custom intent audiences – You can also take things one step beyond in-market audiences and develop your own custom intent audiences. With custom intent audiences, you enter a list of search terms that align with what your ideal audience uses to find your product/service. Google will then use that list to define and reach the ideal audience for your business; this lets you go beyond Google’s predefined audience segments and reach people as they’re making a purchase decision.

Instagram stories

What makes Instagram’s stories feature so great is that it takes advantage of all of Facebook’s granular targeting capabilities, which means you can get right in front of the specific personas you want to target (including interests, demographic, behavioral, as well as lookalikes and custom audiences). You can also get specific with the devices you want to target, so if you know, for instance, that your core purchasers are typically iPhone users, you can limit targeting to those devices.

I would recommend initially starting off with your top-performing Facebook audience and refine testing from there.

Native advertising

Native is a great way to deliver your ads to massive audiences who are in the mindset of consuming content. Native offers tons of channels: Outbrain, Taboola, Yahoo Gemini, etc. My recommendation is to start with Yahoo Gemini – in particular, the following ad types.

Yahoo mail ads appear within your Yahoo mailbox. You can leverage Yahoo’s capabilities to target by age, gender, interests, and custom audiences. Typically, I recommend targeting users interested in your competitors as they would be highly relevant; that, coupled with layering on age/gender data, will get you close to the personas you want to go after.

Additionally, as you test across Yahoo’s wider network with native, one highly recommended ad format to use would be carousel ads, which come in either desktop or mobile format.

Desktop carousel ads allow advertisers to show a more premium format for their ads:

Mobile carousel ads allow advertisers to use up to 5 images to tell a visual story:

One caveat: not all sites are set up to take carousel ad formats. The sites that are set up for carousel ads tend to be higher-quality properties, so it’s a nice bit of self-selecting when you put carousel ads into play.

How to measure branding performance

Okay, now that you’re casting a wide net and building awareness for your brand, how can you quantify the value of those efforts? Although it’s not easy to assign value to every aspect, we’ve found some strategies to be helpful.

One technique we use is by tagging our ads with utm parameters, indicating the channel, campaign, targeting and ad that a user is coming through on when they click the ad.

Then we develop remarketing campaigns or ad sets specifically targeting our brand awareness efforts. (For example, we remarket specifically to those who have clicked on our Instagram Story ad.) This separates our brand awareness efforts within our remarketing campaigns, which allows us to quantify conversions (and conversion rates) of those who have been exposed to our brand via our broader branding initiatives. It’s not perfect, but it helps us define how successful our branding efforts are.

With users brought in through branding campaigns, it’s important to remember that the buying journey can be longer – even if you’re a retail brand in Q4. If you’re looking to capitalize on your user base for the holiday season, there’s no time like the present to bring in this new audience and get the nurture/remarketing engine running.

Search Engine Watch


How a Customer Data Platform can improve AdWords performance

November 21, 2017 No Comments

According to Hochman Consultants (2017), the average cost of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is increasing – with the average cost-per-click in 2016 being nearly double that of 2013.

When you consider the fact that Google processes over 2.3 million searches per minute (Business Insider, 2016), this is hardly surprising.

But what can marketers do to ensure that they can attract customers on this increasingly competitive channel, while avoiding these burgeoning costs?

In my previous two articles, I looked at how to stop Google AdWords campaigns from failing by using a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to gain a holistic overview of customer behavior, and how data-driven attribution with a CDP can supercharge your paid search.

In this article, I’ll outline five ways that a Customer Data Platform can improve your AdWords performance and ROI by keeping costs down and attracting new business.

Content produced in partnership with Fospha.

1. Data accuracy

Many businesses continue to struggle with optimizing their keyword bids. The simple reason for this is the fact that, regardless of how modern and advanced your bid management platform is, inputting inaccurate data can hinder success – and be costly to your business.

A Customer Data Platform gathers, integrates and centralizes customer data from various sources to give marketers more control of, and visibility over, their data. This data-driven approach stitches together the customer journey, and uses attribution to accurately assign credit to various marketing channels based on their importance in the path to conversion.

Without this true view of their data, businesses are missing the accurate value of their different channels. They also risk making poor decisions about which marketing channels are beneficial, and which are not, which might result in budget being taken away from a channel which has a huge role in the path to conversion.

With more accurate data, Customer Data Platforms are able to highlight the true value of keywords – allowing your business to pinpoint high and low performing keywords and campaigns, and optimize their spend on paid search.

For instance, with a more accurate data source, Fospha were able to help a client identify that 50% of their keywords weren’t contributing to any conversions. Check out the full case study here.

2. Optimize

Manual bid management can be a laborious task, but with the help of a bid management platform to automate the process, this becomes a quick, effortless and efficient process. The next step lies in super-charging the capabilities of this platform. And the answer lies in an accurate data source.

Combining the power of the Customer Data Platform to discover high and low performing keywords across all channels through this data, with the automation of a bid management platform, enables spend on poorly performing keywords to be quickly reallocated – resulting in an improvement in ROI.

3. Real-time access

Unlike most other Customer Data Platforms, Fospha facilitates real-time interactions for bidding, helping reduce and eliminate the amount of wasted clicks on incorrect audiences. A Customer Data Platform integrates seamlessly with bid management platforms like Kenshoo and Marin to support these real-time interactions, such as bidding on ad clicks.

Real-time access through a Customer Data Platform also enables marketers to automate their bid management through advanced machine learning.

4. Personalization

Marketers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of moving away from keyword-based marketing, and towards audience-based marketing. However, they can go one step further – making a move towards people-based marketing.

This is no less of a necessity with your bidding strategies. Understanding your audience is crucial, and by utilizing a data-driven attribution model, a Customer Data Platform provides you with a granular understanding of a single customer. From here, you are able to use your data to optimize your targeting and increase conversions by offering more relevant content to your customers.

In addition to this, keyword performance is largely dependent on types of devices used. It is important to boost keywords that do better on mobile and to suppress those that do not. Marin found that by adjusting bids for mobile, their clients enjoyed 10% higher CTR and 2.5% lower CPC than those that failed to do so.

A Customer Data Platform is able to detect these optimized conditions and adjust your bid management strategy accordingly.

5. Bidding strategies

Defining your bidding strategy can drastically improve the performance of your paid search campaigns. However, in order to reach a truly optimized level, different keywords, audiences and goals will require different bidding strategies.

A Customer Data Platform gives you a granular view of all your marketing channels to ensure the strategy deployed is custom to each specific need.

 

Content produced in partnership with Fospha. Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Microsoft earnings beat expectations thanks to strong cloud performance

July 22, 2017 No Comments

 Following its longstanding tradition of reporting quarterly earnings for its fourth financial quarter of the year in July, Microsoft today announced non-GAAP revenue of $ 24.7 billion and GAAP earnings per share of $ 0.83 (and non-GAAP earnings per share of $ 0.98) for the last three months. Operating income was $ 7.0 billion non-GAAP. Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch


How video impacts mobile web performance and UX, part 3: detecting and remedying issues

May 26, 2017 No Comments

Video has become an important tool in the marketers’ tool box. Video storytelling is a useful and increasingly popular way to engage customers.

But if your video doesn’t work properly or cripples your website or app performance it will become a major frustration to customers, marketers and techies alike.

In the previous two parts of this column on data and download speed and autoplay and audio we learned:

  • Video dominates mobile data traffic
  • When implemented correctly, mobile video should not impact the speed that pages load on a mobile device
  • Mobile users start to become impatient after waiting just two seconds for a video to load; by 10 seconds a fifth will have given up.

This column will explore how to detect, avoid and remedy issues with videos to give your viewers the best possible experience with your video content and keep them engaged and watching your videos.

Jump to:

How to detect problems with video
How to avoid problems with video
How to remedy problems with video

How to detect problems with video

Detecting issues with video, audio or any other web or app issue a) can be straightforward; b) should be everyone’s responsibility, from the CEO down; and c) helps to keep agencies, techies and marketers on their toes.

1. Use it

Blatantly obvious – but when was the last time you checked out your site and videos from a bus, train or bar? Incentivize employees to use the site/app (during beta testing and routinely after goes live) and report issues and suggest improvements.

Check for:

  • How quickly did the site/page load? (Count the seconds)
  • How long did you have to wait for the video to start?
  • How good is the quality?
  • Does it stall / (re) buffer during playback?
  • Was it worth watching/watching to the end?
  • How do you feel about these conclusions?

2. User test it

Recruit customers and monitor their behavior and reactions as they use your web site, using different devices, networks and locations. Score against the above checklist. If this cannot be conducted in person use a remote service such as UserTesting.com.

User testing should occur at each stage of the development process. For more on why user testing is so crucial, see my previous column for our sister site ClickZ on Why user testing should be at the forefront of mobile development.

3. Test it

There are different types of testing, including:

  • Page performance – tools such as WebPageTest (free) show how/if the video is impacting how fast the page loads. It shouldn’t. The image below shows the WebPageTest results for how quickly Sam Dutton’s mobile video explainer on YouTube loads on a mobile device. The page took 6.6 seconds to load 809kB.
  • A/B testing – tests alternative experiences with different groups of web (or app) visitors. For example, test hosting the video on the homepage versus on a dedicated page.
  • Video testing tools – AT&T’s Video Optimizer (formerly known as Application Resource Optimizer) is a free-to-download tool used by developers (requires technical knowledge) to detect issues such as delays with start-up and the frequency and duration of stalls and optimum segment size.

Image shows the WebPageTest results for how quickly Sam Dutton’s YouTube video loads on a mobile device. It took 6.6 seconds to load 809kB.

4. Monitor it

  • Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, track visitor engagement with video – e.g. number of views, who viewed, how long, and with the webpage itself, including dwell time and bounce rate. See this introduction to using GA to assess video engagement.
  • Heat map tools, such as Clicktale and Crazyegg provide a visual representation of how users interact, or attempt to interact, with webpages and video.

How to avoid problems with video

Following best practices while creating/producing the video or coding the page, website or app that will host it should help avoid many of the common issues – videos that won’t play, are slow to play, or have broken playback.

Industry guidelines on mobile video are thin on the ground, considering the increasing popularity of the format. What guidance is available tends to be a bit techie and thus a turn off for non-techies.

The following recommendations have been compiled with the help of:

1. Make it worth it

There are many costs involved with video/audio:

  • For the producer: the cost of production and distribution; impact on web performance
  • For the network: the impact of network congestion
  • For the viewer, in terms of data consumption, battery life and time it takes to consume.

This makes it imperative that the video is meeting a known user need, contains quality content, is the right length, optimized in terms of bitrate, segments and compression.

2. Be aware: video is greedy; HD greedier; 4K much greedier

When it comes to bandwidth, standard video is greedy, requiring 0.5 Megabits per second (Mbps); high definition (HD) is five times as greedy as SD; and 4K is 30 times as greedy.

Cisco’s Usha Andra explains:

“Mobile video and multimedia applications have higher bandwidth and lower latency requirements than non-video applications. The requirements can range from a low of 0.5Mbps for standard definition (SD) to 2.5Mbps for high definition (HD) and over 15Mbps for 4K/ultra-high definition (UHD) downloads and much higher for virtual reality (VR). Latency requirements can range from 100 milliseconds (ms) to 15ms for UHD VR video applications.”

3. Know the limitations of mobile networks in your target markets

Even among developed telecoms markets, the capability of mobile networks varies considerably. Check the Cisco GCI Global Cloud Readiness Tool for an averages of each country.

The stats suggest that download speeds in the US and UK are 40% lower than Norway and South Korea, and 25% lower than Canada:

  • South Korea – download: 31.0Mbps; upload: 14.3Mbps; latency: 68ms
  • Norway – download: 29.1Mbps; upload: 11.6Mbps; latency: 40ms
  • Canada – download: 24.2Mbps; upload: 9.0Mbps; latency: 51ms
  • UK – download: 18.2Mbps; upload: 8.0Mbps; latency: 55ms
  • US – download: 17.1Mbps; upload: 10.0Mbps; latency: 88ms.

Usha Andra adds:

“Please note that these are average speeds and latencies, which means many users experience higher or lower speeds compared to the average speeds. When the speeds and latencies are lower than what an application warrants, the end user experiences delay in video, garbled audio, etc.”

4. Home page or own page?

Few of the most popular sites, including those that have a strong video focus – YouTube, Vimeo, BBC and CNN – host videos on the homepage or category pages. These sites promote their videos on the homepage as image links (often with play button icon overlaid) and text links, which when clicked or tapped go to a page dedicated to that video.

Why? Keeping video off the homepage keeps it leaner and faster to load on mobile devices. See the Twitch example below.

5. Avoid autoplay

Forcing mobile web visitors to view video whether they want to or not, is:

  • Frustrating for the customer (especially when it happens in a quiet environment)
  • Prone to using up the customer’s bandwidth and battery life unnecessarily
  • Liable to slow down how quickly the page loads
  • Contrary to accessibility best practice (as it can interfere with the screen readers used by visually impaired people)
  • A common technique for artificially inflating video view stats.

There is a (vaguely plausible) argument that sites such as YouTube are an exception to the no autoplay rule. As the visitor is clicking through to the video on a dedicated page it is implicit that they intend to watch.

Consider Twitch, the surprisingly popular site where fans watch gamers playing video games live, captured in the image below. On the desktop homepage, Twitch.tv has a live game on autoplay, while on m.Twitch.tv, there are no videos hosted on the homepage.

Comparing the download size and page speed of Twitch homepage when downloaded to a mobile and desktop device on HTTP Archive (April 15 2017) delivers dramatic results:

  • Mobile homepage (with no video) took 5.8 seconds to load 354kB of data over 24 requests
  • Desktop homepage took 19.9 seconds to load 16,255kB of data over 275 requests. Of that, 11,827kB is video content.

Image shows the desktop homepage and mobile homepage of Twitch.tv. Desktop has a live game on autoplay, but there are no videos hosted on the mobile homepage.

6. Viewer experience (VX) and choice

Make sure the video and host page is intuitive. Let the viewer take control. Make it easy to:

  • Choose video quality – low quality, HD or 4K
  • Select and exit full-screen view
  • Change device orientation change
  • View and operate. Ensure the video fits the device screen and that buttons are intuitive
  • Allow playback when the device is offline.

7. Make the video accessible

To make video/audio accessible for:

  • Visually impaired people, provide a written transcript of the audio.
  • People with hearing impairments, provide subtitles.

For more advice on making mobile content accessible to a wide audience, the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines are an excellent resource.

8. Minimize video start-up delay

The delay to start-up is caused by two essential processes:

  1. The authentication process (including digital rights management).
  2. The downloading of the video. Video files are subdivided into segments. A sufficient number of segments need to be downloaded to the buffer (temporary store on the client device), before the video starts to play.

A delay is inevitable, but the video should be optimized to ensure delays are kept to a minimum.

As can be seen from the 2016 data from Conviva study below, videos tend to take longer to start on mobile devices, both on WIFI and Cellular, than Tablet or Desktop. It’s no coincidence that mobile has the highest proportion of exits per attempt.TAG: First graph shows video start up times for devices including Desktop 3.1 seconds, tablet cellular 2.9 seconds, mobile cellular 3.7 seconds, mobile WIFI 3.5 seconds. First graph shows number of exits as percentage of attempts for same devices including Desktop 12%, tablet cellular 16%, mobile cellular 19%, mobile WIFI 17%.

9. Keep the user informed

While the authentication, downloading and (re) buffering occurs, tell the user what is happening and/or distract them. Watching a spinning wheel icon can be frustrating.

10. Minimize video stalls

Stalls occur when too few video segments stored in the buffer to allow playback to continue. The video will not continue until sufficient segments have been downloaded (called re-buffering).

The key is to find balance between slow start and stalling, says AT&T’s Doug Sillars:

“The 2 biggest metrics for video are:

  1. Startup delay (how long from click to stream).
  2. Stalls (video stops, maybe a spinner).

These are (of course) interrelated.  If you startup too quickly – there will not be enough video stored locally on the device… and you might get a stall.  Or you can take too much data at the start (long startup delay), but have no stalls later.

There is a magic “Goldilocks” point in the middle – not too hot, not too cold – that balances the two factors.” 

11. Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size

Optimize bitrate, compression and segment size for the device and network connection.

  • Re-buffering typically occurs where the video is played at a speed, measured in bitrates (bits per second), that is too fast for the download speed (bitrate) of the network connection, so the buffer is emptied quicker than it is being filled.
  • Digital videos are divided into files, called segments, of 2 to 10 seconds, which are downloaded to the buffer and then played in order. Segments of optimum size for the connection will download, buffer and play faster.
  • A Codec (coder/decoder) is a tool for compressing and decompressing audio and video files. There are a number of different compression formats, e.g. MPEG-4, each with pros and cons. Different video quality and the client device/connection will influence choice of format.

12. Use adaptive bitrates.

Adaptive bitrate streaming creates and stores digital video at a number of different quality/speeds/bitrates. The video player on the client device requests the most appropriate of these based on a) network speed, b) device capability, and c) capacity of the buffer.

There are two types of adaptive streaming, DASH and HLS, because one industry standard that worked on all devices would be just too easy (find out more here).

13. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A content delivery network speeds up how quickly web media, including video loads and plays on a mobile device by reducing the that the video has to travel between the original web server – e.g. your webserver in California, USA and a viewer in Timbuktu in Mali – by replicating and storing the video on servers around the world.

According to BuiltWith, 53.8% of the top 10k websites use CDNs.

Akamai Edge, which was one of the original CDNs, founded in 1999, remains one of the most popular. According to BuiltWith, Akamai is used by 11.4% of the top 10,000 sites, followed by Amazon CloudFront at 4% and MaxCDN at 1.3%.

Graph shows the market share of CDN providers according to BuiltWith: Akamai with 58%, Amazon with 20%, MaxCDN with 7%, EdgeCast with 6%.

14. Host or embed?

Hosting websites on a third party network, and embedding the file, removes several headaches, including video compression, adaptive bitrates and engaging a CDN. This helps to explain why 15.2% of top 10k websites embed YouTube videos and 3.6% Vimeo, according to BuiltWith.

How to remedy problems with video / audio

1. Page weight or load speed issues.

Regularly check the key pages using a testing tool such as WebPageTest (this is the tool used by HTTP Archive).

If this highlights issues of excessive page weight, slow download speed, and it appears that video is a contributing factor (rather than oversized images or inefficient use of JavaScript), the options are:

  • Kill autoplay
  • Ensure the video is not preventing the page loading correctly
  • Move the video to a dedicated page (with a prominent picture and text link)
  • Use A/B testing to verify if this solves the issue.

2. Video fails or is slow to start or stalls during play

If the video performance is an issue, here are some troubleshooting tips to try:

  • Try loading the video to a dedicated video service such as Vimeo or YouTube. Compare the performance of the video on the third-party site, embedded on your site and with the self-hosted version to highlight if problems lie with the video, as opposed to the website, webserver or CDN (or lack of CDN)
  • Test the video with a tool such as AT&T’s Video Optimizer (requires development skills) to detect issues with video segmentation, compression, buffering etc. and fix them
  • Have the video re-edited to make it more concise; and optimized to improve bitrate and compression
  • Use or replace the CDN.

If video performs better on some devices and over different connections e.g. PC on cable versus smartphone on 3G:

  • Prepare a number of versions of the video in different formats, with different quality, bitrates and compression to suit the most common scenarios of device and network type
  • Use device detection to discover the client device, its capabilities and the type of connection to serve the most appropriate version of the video
  • Use adaptive bitrates.

Resources (and sources)

These resources are aimed at developers, but are useful for all (if you ignore the techie bits):

 

This is Part 3 of a series looking at how video impacts mobile web performance and UX. Read the previous installments:

Search Engine Watch


3 Ways To Segment PPC Keyword And Query Performance

January 1, 2017 No Comments

Basic metrics tell the story of paid search performance but what if you want to dig deeper? You’ll need to go beyond the basic segments and reports.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


google-adwords-featured

5 Things To Improve AdWords Performance In Under 60 Minutes

August 15, 2016 No Comments

Many of us don’t have the time to always be checking our AdWords accounts.

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Google Speed Suggestions

Improve your website’s performance with the new Speed Suggestions report

December 14, 2013 No Comments
Users prefer fast sites. And businesses benefit from it: faster sites tend to have lower bounce rates, increased customer satisfaction and better engagement. Site owners agree, and it shows in their actions taken to optimize site speed: we’re pleased to see from our own benchmarks over the last two years the web is getting faster (not only desktop, even mobile access is around 30% faster compared to last year).
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New Keyword-Level Impression Share Data: Hot Tips For Boosting Performance

July 31, 2013 No Comments

Google has just announced the release of Search Impression Share data at the keyword level!  Our search for tools that allow for the most detailed analysis has reached another mile marker. This will allow us to change our approach to impression share metrics (and the leveraging thereof)
Quick glance at what this means, exactly: We are looking at our individual keyword performance and identifying what impressions we’re missing out on and what we can do to remedy this.

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