Digital Marketing

Why Companies Should Start Investing in Native Advertising

Why Companies Should Shift Away From Programmatic and Lean Towards Native Advertising

Written by Dylan Langei

word cloud - advertising

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Sounds complex huh? Or at least very calculated, and it is. Programmatic advertising is driving digital media buying practices forward by combining rich customer data with algorithmically driven buying platforms to make digital advertising dollars more effective in reaching target audiences. Whew, that was a mouth full. Programmatic ads are purchased in an auction based method, with the buyer paying whatever price an ad is worth at that given time - using surplus amounts of data to figure out the perfect ad, the right person, and the right time. As you can see, programmatic ads improve targeting while also streamlining ad purchases and transparency when it comes to a transactions particulars. Due to its effectiveness, eMarketer estimates the programmatic ad space will quadruple to $8.7 billion by 2017. Fairly large market for those annoying sidebar ads on your Pandora station, but hey, they're effective.

What is Native Advertising?

Rather than throwing ads next to relevant content, native ads are integrated directly into the content - providing a look and feel of an editorial piece. The most common form of native advertising is publisher-produced brand content, which is similar to a traditional advertorial - essentially a paid placement attempting to replicate that of an article. Meh, still think native ads will just be a passing fad? Business Insider estimates the native advertising market to reach around $18 billion by 2017. Yup, that's about $10 billion more than programmatic advertising by 2017. Oh, so now you're no longer slumped over in your computer chair?

Where Will Advertising Lean?

Advertising is always changing, because users are constantly changing their buying behaviors and how they engage with businesses. Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that advertising will continue to move away from programmatic, and towards native. This does not mean I think native advertising is the eternal solution, but for now, it's very promising. Native advertising is less obtrusive, and feels more authentic. However, native ads can also be deceiving and pose potential problems for businesses. Even though native ads are meant to provide and feel like an editorial piece, they are still required to clearly state or display that the viewer is experiencing an ad. Failure to do so can destroy brand equity, and bring on legal implications. 

As a user of the internet and any space where ads may appear, wouldn't you rather experience a native ad than a programmatic one? That's what it's all about, user experience - businesses do not choose where advertising moves, consumers do. Personally, I prefer the native ad that is validated by a reputable podcast over a pop up ad that interrupts me from reading a blog post. But hey, I'm just one user.

Where Should Advertisers Migrate Their Ad Dollars?

NATIVE ADVERTISING. If you don't believe the numbers, just think like a consumer. What would you prefer? Nearly seamless integration of ads (native), or ugly boxes injected with advertising that is somewhat related to the content you're viewing (programmatic)? Also with the continuing surge of social media engagement, native advertising will continue to take over. It is very difficult to integrate programmatic advertising on social media outlets like Instagram (which has the most engaged user base), while a native advertising strategy doesn't seem too far fetched. 

Actually, native advertising is extremely prominent on Instagram. As seen above, Instagram has titled the post as "Sponsored" so the user base knows that they are ads. But the pictures and content are very native, in that they explain a scenario or a story - as an editorial would. These ads are not obtrusive, as an Instagram user can simply scroll right by them. They are also no where near ugly or clunky boxes of misleading offers. The growth of social media is the main reason I am fully backing native advertising, and you should too. Ready your troops, because native advertising is here to stay.

How a Google AdWords Certification Makes You the Modern Don Draper

The Fundamentals of the Google AdWords Exam and How to Leverage That in Your Career as a Digital Marketer

Written by Dylan Langei

What is Google AdWords?

Sounds like a board game huh? But no, Google AdWords is no board game - and we all know Google wouldn't develop a board game unless they had a chance at monopolizing the market. Google AdWords certification is a professional accreditation, awarded by...wait for it...Google. An AdWords certification allows an individual to be recognized as an online advertising professional. Who cares? Well businesses do. AdWords campaigns allow businesses to choose where their ad appears, set a budget they're comfortable with, and measure the impact of their ad. 

The Exam...Dun, Dun, Dun:

There are five sections to the Google AdWords exam, covering various aspects of online advertising, essentially making you an online advertising badass. OK, not as badass as Don Draper, but we can all dream. Here are the five:

  1. AdWords Fundamentals: This AdWords Fundamentals exam covers basic and intermediate concepts, including the benefits of online advertising and AdWords, and best practices for managing and optimizing AdWords campaigns.

  2. Search Advertising: The Search Advertising exam covers advanced concepts and  best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing Search campaigns.

  3. Display Advertising: The Display Advertising exam covers advanced concepts and  best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing Display campaigns.

  4. Video Advertising: The Video Advertising exam covers basic and advanced concepts, including best practices for creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing video advertising campaigns across YouTube and the web.

  5. Shopping Advertising: The Shopping Advertising exam covers basic and advanced concepts, including creating a Merchant Center account and product data feed, and creating and managing Shopping campaigns.

A Calculated Dive Into Google AdWords:

Google AdWords offers many benefits to a business aiming to gain some traction online with their ads. There are four that really sell this thing:

  1. Target Your Ads: ability to show your ads to reach your "buyer persona" and people with specific interests through keywords, ad locations, demographics, devices, and age/location/language.
  2. Control Your Costs: complete control over how you spend your money. AdWords does not require a minimum dollar amount, making the service manageable for small or large firms. Your business has the ability to select how much you spend per month, day, and per ad while only paying when a user clicks on your ad. 
  3. Measure Your Success: everything on Google AdWords is traceable - from click throughs to purchases - allowing you to see which ads lead to conversions and which do not. This leads to boosting the return on your investment (ROI) through an understanding of the analytics.
  4. Manage Your Campaigns: let's say you are in charge of overseeing 100 various ad campaigns. With Google's My Client Center (MCC) you are able to easily view and manage all of your AdWords accounts from a single location. Also provided is AdWords Editor, a free downloadable app that allows you to edit your campaigns offline, and then upload the changes to AdWords. 

Google also has one of the most extensive advertising networks, I mean, it's goddamn Google we're talking about. Google has two main networks - the Google Search and Google Display Network.  

  1. Google Search Network: includes the behemoth, which is Google Search, along with hundreds of other non-Google search partner websites like AOL. These sites all show AdWords ads that match search results. Say you're searching for running shoes, a Zappos ad might pop up on the side bar, since they are an online shoe company.

  2. Google Display Network: includes a collection for Google websites like Google Finance, Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube. These ads are matched to the content that is being viewed on that particular page. If you're watching a YouTube video on how to design logos on Adobe Illustrator, an ad for a design firm might be displayed somewhere on the page.

You might not believe this, but higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions. OK, the better ad position makes sense, but lower prices? This phenomenon will be explained in a second. The positioning of your ad is completely contingent on your Quality Score and Ad Rank. I would attempt to explain this, but I'll just let Hal from Google do the talking. I'm sure he gets paid more than me. Also, please notice the red stapler and comb over - and yes I am making a reference to Office Space.

Getting past Hal looking like Milton, he explains the AdWords Auction fairly well. Although a complex formula, it rewards businesses for putting together quality ads using a fair auction system. Love it.

Applying Google AdWords For a Client:

With a deep understanding of Google AdWords and certification in hand, the Don Draper's of organizations will see you as a valuable asset. Why? Well because EVERYTHING is moving online. Because more people are active online, businesses are moving online. Therefore, advertising is moving online. 

Don Draper would absolutely be scratching his head at this statement, but it's true, the internet is consuming paper advertising. Just read my A/BAMA blog regarding Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, and how he leveraged online advertising to beat out Mitt Romney. If the President of the United States is advertising online for his reelection campaign, you better be comfortable with the digital realm of advertising - or you'll end up defeated by your competitors. Being able to run and manage an effective ad campaign could increase a firms ROI, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and engagement with customers. These are all valuable assets to be able to bring to a business. Shoot, if you are able to effectively translate these benefits to clients and show success, you might just become the next Don Draper. 

To take the Google AdWords exam, sign up for Google Partners.

What Google and The Godfather Have in Common

The Fundamentals of Search Engine Marketing

Written by Dylan Langei

The Godfather, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime mob family of Don Vito Corleone. The Corleone's were the most powerful mafia family in New York City, participating and controlling almost all gambling, drug trafficking, and corruption. OK, Google is no mob family - and they certainly are not exploiting or indulging in corruption. But, Google does control and essentially own the Search Engine Marketing market - similarly to the Corleone family controlling and owning all illegal activities in New York City. You pay the mob to do business in their city, just like you have to pay Google to get noticed...well, anywhere online.

Why is Google the Godfather of PPC/Paid Search? 

We, the users of Google, made them! As of December 2012, Google held a 65.2% share of web search volume worldwide, with 114.7 billion searches that month. Therefore, it's fairly important to have Google on your side. So if you want to reach your target audience, and they're completing on of those 114.7 billion searches, it is worthwhile to promote your search engine ranking and keywords.

Paid vs. Organic Search

My last blog post How SEO is Becoming Less Techy covers organic search, so I won't spend much time revisiting that topic. Paid search, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), is the various means of marketing for a website via search engines, and entails both organic search engine optimization and paid search strategies. Paid search allows you to pay a fee to have your website displayed on the search engine results page when someone searches for specific keywords or phrases related to your website. 

How Paid Search Works

The three main components of a paid search campaign are keywords, ads, and landing pages. These campaigns can be run through Google AdWords, one of the most successful paid search campaign services. 

  • Keywords: start out by giving Google a list of keywords, which then tells Google to display your ad when those keywords are searched for.
  • Ads: you must design ads that are relevant to the search query and attractive enough that the searcher feels inclined to click on them.
  • Landing Page: once you've gotten a searcher to click on your ad link, they will be directed to your landing page. The goal of this landing page is to get viewers to convert in some way.

Why Should You Run a Paid Search Campaign With Google Adwords?

Google AdWords is Google's online advertising program that lets you reach new customers and grow your business. You're allowed to choose where your ad appears, set a budget you're comfortable with (you only pay when the ad is clicked on - results based), and you can measure the impact of your ad. 

There are 4 reasons your business should run a Google Adwords campaign:

  1. Organic Rankings Are Volatile: one day you're in the top five for a high-priority keyword, and the next day you're nowhere on that search page. This is because of Google's constant algorithm updates and user-interface changes. With Google AdWords, once you have the right mix of quality score and budget, your ad position is fairly consistent. 
  2. Fairly Low Financial Risk: a campaign on Google AdWords has no minimum budget, can be cancelled at any time, and you are only charged when a user actually clicks on your ad. Therefore, your business is only charged for visits to your landing page, which hopefully lead to conversions. Google AdWords also doesn't require any financial commitment up front. Your business only pays when results are given (users click on the ad), which is a great test bunny for the keywords, ad style, and landing page you have chosen.
  3. Increase Click-Throughs: although clicks are not a measurement of success, they are a prerequisite for conversions. 50% of clicks generated by paid ads are not replaced by organic clicks when the ads are absent and the website has a first position organic search ranking. This shows that paid ads cannot be replaced, even by the best organic search ranking.

4. Increase Probability of Conversion: as stated in #3, click throughs do not guarantee conversions, but they sure as hell help. Some agencies report increases in conversions as high as 200 percent as a result of combining SEO and paid search. That is pretty remarkable, and 200 percent worth the cost of a Google AdWords campaign.

Example of an Effective Google AdWords Campaign

Elance used Google AdWords to promote web development & design on the platform WordPress. This is an effective campaign for 4 reasons:

  1. They have included proof and credibility to their ads (along with numbers) by focusing on the fact that they've had over 25,000 happy customers. That is a significant amount of clients that they've served, and looks very credible to a new customer.
  2. Elance integrates a compelling offer in the ad by offering "top design & development from $99." $99 to build a top-tier website? Sure I'll click on the ad to see what they're offering.
  3. They've also directed the audience to a landing page that is not their home page, but is a custom URL to reinforce what they're offering - "Custom_Design." 
  4. Elance slips in a call-to-action at the end of the ad, "Start Now!" so that users know what to do if they would like to take advantage of this great offer.

How UX/UI & Landing Pages Are Like Drunk People

The Essential Components of UX/UI & Landing Pages Analogized to Drunk People.

Written by Dylan Langei

WTF is UX/UI and why should I care?

Converging UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) is a difficult task faced by many companies. What a company believes they are presenting as an interface, may not reflect the user experience that they expect. A UX designer is primarily concerned with how the product feels - ensuring that the product logically flows from one step to the next. A UI designer focuses on how the product is laid out - visually communicating the path that a UX designer has laid out. This common misconception displayed in the picture above, illustrates that many people see UX/UI designers as solely performing one function, when instead they are completing a multitude of functions to reach an efficient user experience and user interface. Therefore, there are many behind the scenes contributions that must be made to integrate successful UX/UI. 

How do I become a UX wizard?

UX Magazine illustrates four common practices successful UX Executives used, which were quite surprising and seemed unorthodox for the industry. The title "4 Techniques of Successful UX Executives" is fairly cliche, like an article titled "4 Ways to Become a Millionaire." But don't be alarmed, this is not a BuzzFeed article. Of course there are never just four simple steps to guarantee your success as a UX Executive, because then everyone could do it. But here's a good starting point:

  1. Study Those Around You as You Would Study Users: When we are so focused on the users, we sometimes lose sight of who we work with, our partners and stakeholders. In order to get an idea or opinion across regarding UX, take those people into account, along with your users.
  2. Study Isn't Enough - You Must Have Empathy: Once again, tracking back to UX leaders partners - as a UX expert you must be in tune with your partners day-to-day and their pressures and worries. What allows UX leaders to do this is listening to their partners concerns, empathizing with their pressures, and asking how you can help. 
  3. Take the Long View and Build Relationships: Once you have an understanding of empathy, you must leverage that to form trust and long lasting relationships with your partners. This means putting down your ego, and not be constantly combative, as it damages the chances of a long term relationship.
  4. Remember, People May Not Understand UX: Wait, what! I'm working in a field that people might not understand? Yes, unfortunately you are. But, this is a teaching opportunity. Understand your partner's world views and what resonates with them. Grasp that understanding and craft it in a way to introduce them to UX and engage them in the design process.

Why is a landing page essential to my conversion rate?

A landing page is like a first impression. You know when you go to a party and you meet an extremely intoxicated guy perspiring out of every gland in his body, and spit spraying out of his mouth after every enunciated syllable? Pretty hard to forget this fellow. The next time you see him, you put your head down and walk the other way. A bad landing page is like this drunk guy. No customer or person wants to interact with them, because they are annoying, sloppy, unattractive, and do not satisfy the customers needs. 

A killer landing page is like the cool guy from your high school. He's got his older brothers ID to buy all the booze, throws the coolest parties, and invites the hottest chicks. He maintains his composure during the party, incrementally drinks throughout the night, and never loses sight of optimizing his conversion rate. Get booze (UX path), throw a party (UX path), and end up with the cheer captain in his room at the end of the night (Conversion Rate) - a logical UX path. You meet this guy, and you idolize him. Girls are hanging all over him, because he embodies everything the "customer" wants. The cool guy analogizes an elegant and effective landing page by possessing fundamental components that it's customers' desire, and leads the customer directly to the conversion rate that the business, or cool guy, is looking for. It must be clean, simple-to-use, offer a clear call to action, robust incentives, design attractive, and click-ready.

What company has a  "sweaty drunk guy" landing page?

Please welcome Safety BLR, the sweaty drunk guy at the party. 

Safety BLR is a safety training & compliance company that simplifies compliance with state and federal legal requirements. They may simplify compliance, but they sure do not simplify navigating their website. There is no clear call-to-action, the page is cluttered with words, and there is unused space on the bottom right hand corner. We can assume Safety BLR's conversion is for you to buy their software, but the only call-to-action on this is the very tiny "Request Demo" and "Free Trial" at the top. This should be smack dab in the middle of the page, with a design that draws a customers eyes right to those links. 

What company has a "cool drunk guy" landing page?

Please welcome Karma, the cool high school jock who gets all the ladies.

Now this is a kick ass landing page. This page actually has a demo video playing at all times (visit link or click on the image above), displaying the products use. According to Mashable, including a demo video on the landing page can increase conversions by 10-20%. Karma does it flawlessly - while also providing a link to the full film right on the front page. They also make it very clear what their product does, by using the tagline "Take WiFi with you everywhere," while stimulating a bit of curiosity from onlookers. A potential customer might wonder, well how is this possible? I want to take WiFi everywhere! I am always going over my data plan! Right away Karma is solving a problem faced by many, while also providing easy call-to-actions in the top banner ("Buy Now", "How It Works", etc.). 

Lastly, I will leave you with a few reminders on how to establish an elegant and effective landing page:

  • Make it clean and simple-to-use.
  • Select a call-to-action that leads directly to your desired conversion using robust incentives.
  • Make it clear what your product is/does or provide an easy-to-see link that will describe what it does.
  • Don't be the drunk sweaty guy at the party.