How to Ruin Retargeting For the Rest of Us

The courtship of two singles in a bar is a strange and unique human experience. Think about all of the pickup lines and anti-pickup lines that have been a major part of our national culture since reproduction was invented. The careful line that people have try to skate when approaching someone in a bar is a balancing act between “I want to give you the impression that I have an interest in you physically, yet I don’t want to appear cheesy and overanxious.” This balance typically denotes extreme failure or success for singles the world over.

This very same balance, interest versus over-anxiousness, manifested in design, could make the difference in your behavioral retargeting ads. The resurgence of display advertising has been led by the precision of behavioral targeting—in essence, we can now serve impressions to only those potential consumers that we actually care about.

There are 3 major benefits in launching this type of behavioral advertising:

1. Stimulate return visitors to your site

2. Drive otherwise “lost” sales

3. Create the “They’re Huge” effect

Most people forget that #3 is a real and powerful thing. The “They’re Huge” effect is the consumer phenomenon of established credibility when an internet marketing company, or any advertising agency, is seen advertising on their most trusted and visited websites. Because credibility and authority are such critical factors in influencing buying decisions, we see this as the cornerstone benefit of all retargeting campaigns—which should be thought of in the same light or priority as all other metrics. Trust, on the very same Internet that has a spam rate as high as 75%, has been completely relied on by on-site activity in the past to influence consumer willingness to buy.

Internet Consumer Trust Model

Internet Consumer Trust Model

http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol5/issue2/jarvenpaa.html

The Internet Consumer Trust Model (above) as well as hundreds of other theses already written and hypothesized illustrates just this. The motive of this post is to really pick apart retargeting design strategy from a standpoint of trust and apparent value of the “They’re huge effect.”

The natural tendency of designing new media banner ads is hard to resist for some creatives. They not only want bigger, better, and flashier, but also to reduce the user to a set of targeting filters. Trying to outsmart your target brings creatives to launch ads not unlike the following:

The concept of this retargeting banner is to directly address the targeted prospect and pull back the virtual shade on their marketing initiative. In a nutshell, this banner tells a consumer: “you can’t escape us; we are everything that consumers have come to fear on the Internet.” And with the oxygen expelled from prospects’ lungs at the moment of realization that they are infected with some new strain of web-pig-flu, trust flies right out of the window.

If consumers know they are being targeted, they slam shut like a Washington clam. The way marketers can further perpetuate the sensation of mistrust is to unveil their strategy right smack dab in people’s faces.

Stick to the basics, folks. Whether you’re trying to earn valuable trust from a potential date or a retargeting prospect, one thing holds certain and that is that you should never reveal that you are aiming toward a conversion.

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Advertising, Media 2 Comments

Google Press Announcement 9/08/2010 –LiveBlog

This is eVisibility’s liveblog for the Google Announcement on 9/08/2010. Coverage officially starts at 9:30 AM PT.  Please follow this feed as we continue to update prior to the event and during the coverage.

As reported in yesterday’s Google Press Release post, the announcement has been made that there will be an announcement today.  All of the constituents of Google-ville have been left to wonder.  Will it be a major update with real-time search, Google TV, HTML5 or perhaps a curve ball from left field?

9:24 AM Currently the live feed has a repeating video that resembles the takeoff pattern from the Space Mountain at Disneyland.  Maybe this is a foreshadow to the launch of a fiber optic solution for Google TV.   It is wishful thinking as I could certainly use that service.

9:28 AM There was a lot to be said about the interesting Google logo patterns over the last few days.   Some have wondered if this is a clue that HTML 5 will play a major role in the ‘new’ Google.  Then again, it could be just a fanciful way to hearken that a major announcement is imminent.  I joke with coworkers that with the liquidity that Google has, they should buy an island and start a country.   It’s the most profitable endeavor on the grandest scale you could ever partake in.

9:30 AM It looks like we are just about to begin, the feed is working really hard to connect.  If you would like to also listen in you can catch the Google feed at http://www.youtube.com/google

9:33 AM I’ve just been sent a link by a cohort with a description of a product called ‘Google Instant’ which claims to substantially reduce the time it takes to perform a search.  I hope he didn’t just send me the end of the movie Pelican Brief right as I sat down with my popcorn.

9:38 AM We’re still awaiting the feed from Google, but in the meantime I’ve been picking at the Google Instant demo.  It certainly makes for a speedy retrieval of results.   The issue with reducing the speed of result retrieval maybe that consumers will be further trained to engage the organic listings rather than Paid.  I’m sure that Google has done it’s homework.

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Google Editorial, SEO No Comments

Google Press Conference Event One “You Won’t Want to Miss.”

Google press release to launch on Wednesday

Google is on the brink of announcing one of its biggest advancements in recent years. Trouble is, no one seems to know just what that advancement is.  Speculation has centered around Google’s search algorithm, with some suggesting that the way we search may be changed forever. However, Google has kept its cards very close to its, no doubt, diamond-encrusted chest and has so far been able to keep its big news under wraps.

Search engine optimization, as an entity, is forever evolving. Those smart, athletic, and physically attractive folks who work in the SEO industry recognize that any news from Google is worth paying attention to–after all, Google is essentially their office, employer, and god.  And this news, Google claims, is big.

However, it’s more likely that the announcement - which as been touted by Google as “an event you won’t want to miss”- will be a disappointment and more of a technical tweak than process overhaul. Still, there is enough of a buzz around those involved in the world of search engine optimization to suggest that the news will be worthy of note.  Whether it will have an effect on the structure of internet marketing companies is another question.

Time to speculate then, I think you’ll agree.

Google's new "doodle" a clue on press release details?

Google's new "doodle" a clue on press release details?

Well, there are a few clues as to what Google’s big announcement might be.  First is their latest “doodle” that was released today and features an array of different colored balloons that fly across the screen when you tease them with your cursor.  Some have theorized that this is to with the transmission of the first ever TV tube picture, which occurred on September 7–in 1927.  Another clue might center on the location of the press release–San Francisco’s art museum.  Art, balloons…What does it all mean?

We’ll find out tomorrow, and so will you by keeping track of our live blog.

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Analytics, Blog, Paid Search, SEO, Social Media, The Lighter Side of eVisibility, The Weekly Insider, Uncategorized, eVisibility News No Comments

Mobile Search Engine Optimization: The Cool Leading the Cool

Search Engine Optimization has hit molbile phones

“What do you mean you don’t have a Smartphone?!” This is the sort of bewildered reaction you are likely to get these days if someone finds out you use your pocket-sized communication device for something called “phone calls,” and not for tagging yourself in photos performing illegal acts. After all, Apple just sold over 2 million more iPhones (pretty cool), and Google claims that their consumers are activating around 160,000 Droid smart phones . . . every-single-day! Now that’s cool.

If you are one of the unlucky souls stuck with an ancient relic, insensitive to the need for real time-updating of Facebook profiles, you, instantly, are very uncool.

Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android have taken over the cell phone – sorry, cool people, I mean “Smartphone” – market, separating themselves with intuitive and original applications that combine to make their devices more lap top computer than mobile phone. Now you can check email, update social media, dabble in the stock market, book vacations, and play console-quality games, all from your pocket-sized phone—cool! But the versatility of these phones has created an opportunity. Internet marketing agencies, themselves extremely cool, have had to adopt a whole new angle of attack with this influx of smart phones, adapting their methods to be compatible not just with computers, but with phones as well. Suffice to say, the era of mobile SEO is well and truly here.

The power of internet marketing through mobile phones is clear: You are able to get your message through while people are making casual, yet specific searches. A person may be looking for a place to eat on their phone, and if your ad pops up, we’re talking instant impact. They may be looking for a sporting goods store or a plastic surgeon—anything you can imagine—creating opportunities for marketing with each gentle tap of a touch-screen keypad. The Smartphone has allowed for instant searches, at any time, in almost any place. People can act on the tiniest of impulses, or research a great initiative that might otherwise have been forgotten, along with so many other million-dollar bathroom ideas. It is this luxury of instant access, unrestricted connections to the World Wide Web that has opened the eyes of SEO experts across the world. And boy, are they peering hard.

But the road to effective mobile SEO is not easily traveled. In fact, it’s like rush hour, in LA. I could have gone with the Chilean death road analogy, but seeking out effective mobile SEO is much more frustration than danger. Sites require a lot of tinkering and patience to be transformed to a mobile site. A really effective mobile site needs to be optimized for search, display and use on a variety of mobile devices; however, there are some big problems. First off is cost. For many companies, particularly smaller ones, it is just not worth the investment for a mobile site. This is especially true if the company’s niche is unrelated to mobile searches. For instance, why would your local electric company truly need an optimized mobile site? To be cool? It’s simply not worth the money. Even now, with the current boom of the Smartphone, usage is still only a very small percentage of all web searches. Until that changes – which it likely will – companies can do without a mobile site.

Internet marketing agencies, though, have seized upon the potential for further growth in mobile searches and have gotten a jump start. The most powerful techniques being used to bring internet marketing to the smart phone world are through the use of CPA, or cost-per-action offers. CPA is basically a pricing model for online advertising, in which the advertiser pays every time a specific action – a purchase, survey submission, etc – occurs. And CPA offers such as “OfferMobi” present specifically-targeted CPA offers for smart phones, which could become the next biggest advancement in Search Engine Optimization.

In addition to CPA offers, Google’s multi-million dollar purchase of the Admob platform – simply put, AdWords for iPhones – created one of the world’s largest mobile advertising platforms, which claims to serve more than 7.1 billion mobile banner ads per month across mobile Web sites. Google says that Admob allows for an accurate prediction of the future in this market. NostraGoogle? We’ll find out.

But whether Google can really predict the future or not – it failed to predict that Facebook would surpass it as the most used site in the world – one thing is certain: SEO for mobile devices is presents an enormous opportunity, one that has yet to be fully explored.

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SEO 1 Comment

SEO: A Never-Ending (Almost) Story

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Is a Forever-Changing Industry

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Is a Forever-Changing Industry

Of all modern marketing strategies, few are as pliable, fast-paced, and prone to change as Search Engine Optimization. So unpredictable is this industry that internet marketing agencies are forever tracking the most relevant blogs to ensure they don’t miss out on the next game-changing development. Considering the nature of the business, then, it is easy to imagine the difference that a month, year, or decade can make to the process of “SEO.” So, if you’ll not mind humoring me, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane.

It’s the year 2000. Search Engine Optimization is in its fledgling stage, having sprung up as a method of online marketing at some point in the mid-1990s. At least, that’s when the process began being referred to as “SEO.” At this time, DMOZ was - and arguably still is - the leader in web directories and considered a much coveted opportunity for SEO back linking. Search engines commonly used a decade ago included Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, Snap, LookSmart, Go, and Hotbot—all of which are now at least redundant, if not long dead.  There was one other that stood out: Google. The year 2000 was the time that Google began to assert itself as the top dog in the realm of search engines due, in large part, to its much faster and more efficient spidering process. Still though, none of the search engines, including Google, were able to index dynamic URLs effectively, if at all. Plug-ins were not – and still, to an extent, are not – available to help read and translate dynamic URLs, an issue that remains a point of frustration among SEO experts to this day. One thing that was born in 2000 and has remained a staple of SEO a decade later is the importance of link popularity; specifically, the need for a balance between the quality and quantity of back links.

Next up is 2002, a year in which some predicted the death of SEO. That was until Google launched AdWords and changed the face of internet marketing forever. Offering pay-per-click and site-targeted advertising for text, banner, and rich-media ads, AdWords is the feather in the cap of Google’s empire, and today contributes a large majority of the company’s multi-billion dollar advertising revenue. Google AdWords is a product of 2002 that is still very much alive today, unlike: Yahoo Directory Submissions, which hiked its price up to almost $300 a year, and is now a seldom-used resource; Paid Inclusion in Google, which was done away with in 2006; and search engine minnow AltaVista, which was basically doomed before 2002 even hit the calendar.

2003 saw the beginning of WordPress. This was bitter sweet for both SEO people and the search engines as it allowed for a flood of blogs to populate the internet, but also created an instant breeding ground for spammers. Spam became an epidemic for at least a year after. Google’s release of AdSense didn’t help either, as it led to the creation of millions of “made-for-AdSense” websites that would plague search engines for years to come.

In 2004, something incredible happened: SEO experts suddenly became internet marketers! A glut of spam generated in 2003 paved the way for the year of “professional SEO.” Internet marketing agencies were now responsible for much more than just the ranking of a client’s site, forcing them to expand their general marketing endeavors—essentially allowing for massive growth. Paid inclusion was still extremely popular, and 301-redirects – the process of permanently moving a site while retaining all search engine rankings – were becoming contemporary facets of SEO. 2004 was also the year that Google established its role as the ONLY search engine worthy of note. Simply put, Google became the undisputed source for all searches, making it the number one target for website rankings through SEO.

2005: The launch of Google Analytics. Search Engine Optimization would be forever changed by Google’s latest addition to its line of free services which allowed the user to generate detailed reports about the traffic that was visiting a given site. Analytics was designed to be used by marketers, rather than webmasters, and quickly took off. It is now the most widely used website statistics service in the world. Analytics is used in conjunction with Google’s 2002 addition, AdWords, allowing the marketer full access to data on sales, lead generation, page views, and conversions. In no uncertain terms, the process of measuring SEO success had been reshaped, and remains largely the same today. In ’05, Google also launched its “nofollow” link attribute that allowed people to differentiate between paid and non-paid links in a search engine. It basically served to combat blog comment spam, but SEO experts began attempting to use “nofollow” in their optimization of website architecture—with mixed, but mostly muted success.

2007 saw “targeted traffic” begin to take hold as more and more people involved with SEO started to recognize that it is far superior to random, non-specified traffic. Search engine optimization became more driven by targeted traffic and its specific benefits—that is to highlight the importance of targeting long tail keywords, promoting quality over quantity in terms of visits.

A forum for like-minded SEO experts was launched in the form of “Sphinn” which allowed people to share their theories on search engine optimization in a semi-competitive environment in which other users get to vote on their favorite articles. Sphinn is still going strong today, and has become a source of forward-thinking, industry-altering ideas, and has presented a very passable road to recognition for up-and-comers in the world of SEO. 2007 also saw paid links take another beating at the hands of Google. Toolbar page ranks were secured for non-paid links even further, roughly to the level they are today.

’07 was significant for one of the modern behemoths of internet search, Wikipedia. Wikipedia was able to hit two million articles of information, and was, by now, ranking for almost everything. As domain authority began to eclipse all other SEO factors, Wikipedia quickly became the go-to site for nearly any search. The importance of domain authority was clear, changing SEO tactics forever.

Social Media Playing Bigger Part in SEO

Social Media Playing Bigger Part in SEO

In 2008, social media – which had been gathering momentum since 2004, when Facebook joined MySpace and began the race to become kings of social networking – made its way to the fore. Facebook, of course, won that battle. However, another site joined the ranks in 2006 and quickly made social media relevant for SEO purposes, grabbing the attention of internet marketing agencies the world over. Twitter had arrived; this “microblogging” service rapidly transcended the reaches of established social media (which was mostly used by young people and restricted them primarily to interaction with friends) and gave a public forum for celebrities, professionals, and teens alike to share their thoughts with a diverse – and potentially infinite – network. Of course, any self-respecting internet marketing agency began using social media long before Twitter, but the emergence of such a social media phenomenon paved the way for a whole new sector within internet marketing. Now, anyone looking to market a website absolutely must use social media as one of their main resources. With around 130,000,000 Google results for the term “social media marketing,” it is clear that social media’s place within the world of search engine optimization strategy is very much solidified, and in truth, is only getting stronger.

2009 brought much of the same, with Twitter and Facebook continuing to lead the social media reinvention of modern SEO and internet marketing. Microsoft and Google both signed deals with Twitter allowing them search engine access to “tweets.” However, in SEO, another question quickly arose: “Are you optimizing for Bing?” Claiming to be a different kind of resource than the other search engines, “decision engine,” Bing, became the latest plaything of tech giants Microsoft, who were rumored to have splashed over $100 million on elaborate advertising for the new search engine. And in a sense it paid off. Bing is sleek and stylish and appeals to the younger generations. However, the marketing dollars are sure to fade soon, and questions will remain as to whether Bing can hold on to its users. One became even more abundantly clear though—Google will not be supplanted any time soon.

So, here we are, then, finally back to modern times. We are literally (yes, I understand the proper use of the word, but this is a blog post, not an editorial) standing at the cutting edge of SEO advancements. Until tomorrow, that is, when it could change all over again. In order to spare myself the indignity of missing the most important SEO news of this year, hence leaving my words suspended in a purgatory of half-finished works, perhaps I’ll wait until December to write 2010…

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Analytics, Paid Search, SEO 1 Comment

Lebron James’ Toothbrush & Cavities: A Consumer Engagement Story

lebron_selleck_waterfall

Lebron James goes on TV to announce who will be the next in line for the opportunity to give him millions of dollars, and clearly we are all supposed to learn something from the process. Whether
it be how news-makers are controlling the news media (is that in and of itself new?) or how the King James phenomena is fully wielding the power of social media, something much larger than sports is occurring with the buzz leading up to and following “The Decision.” Part of what makes James’ recent strategy astounding are its similarities to recent and highly successful campaigns from Colgate and Mountain Dew. Oral care, heavily sugared carbonated beverages, and championship-less, non-clutch basketball players all can use the same tools to expand their business. The key to it all: Consumer Engagement.

The concept of consumer engagement is by no means new to the marketing world, but has
clearly taken on a life of its own via the web, and not without controversy. Engagement in simplest terms is the process of changing customers from passive, indifferent consumers of your product to active participators. It is in many ways a very ambiguous concept in terms of execution, but with incredible impact once executed. Adding clouds to clarity are the odd adages that follow it. For example, Gannet Media’s recent tweet “There is no shortcut to engagement, there is only engagement.” For the business owner that is about as helpful as Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try.” Luckily, considering the launch of Colgate Whisp, Mountain Dew White Out, and “The Decision” as case studies we can arrive at more substantive concepts.

Engagement is Achieved Through Multi-Tiered Approaches.

All three campaigns employed the big three: social media, video, and contests. Colgate Whisp’s
campaign outsourced viral video via CollegeHumor, used a Facebook game widget, and a photo
submission/rating contest with location based filtering. Mountain Dew White Out’s campaign was literally a campaign using voting on outsourced campaign commercials, a Twitter follower contest, and solicitation of label designs all towards the ends of having consumers decide which new flavor of Mountain Dew would be mass produced. LeBron James had a well timed launch of his Twitter account that generated 300,000 followers faster than any other account, a re-launched website, and a Facebook page with 2.5 million followers soliciting questions that may be answered during ESPN’s “The Decision” primetime special. What brings all of these multi-tiered approaches together is very simple in concept– a seamless narrative that integrates each platform and asks users to participate.

Engagement is Achieved By Allowing Consumers to be Part of Creative.

The risk, and therefore courage, behind a commitment to engagement comes from the fact that engagement cannot occur unless a company is willing to open its doors a bit. For Colgate this meant looking to often crude and vulgar content generators to create their viral videos, as well as to potential customers to create the “face” of their brand. Mountain Dew probably opened their doors the most by having their consumer-base literally choose what product they wanted and how they wanted it to look. For James his openness comes from his willingness to answer personal questions via his Facebook page. In the end it is about achieving harmony between your personal business goals and the goals of your customers. Participation for the consumer quickly turns into an individual investment into the brand. This investment turns into long term loyalty and a higher likelihood that the consumer will develop into an advocate of the brand.

What About My Business?

All three brands mentioned here operate with a marketing budget significantly higher than most businesses. That said the concepts employed can be achieved for businesses of any size and for a very wide range of budgets. Outside of implementation time there is nothing inherently expensive about each campaign. And of course, like all things digital, its nothing you have to do all by yourself.

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Advertising, Business X-Factors, Media, Social Media 1 Comment

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