Is Display More Important Than Search for Your Advertising Campaign?

In the lead up to GDPR, one of the things that came up most when chatting to our clients was whether or not the Google Display Network – and display marketing in general – was suddenly going to be unusable in their digital marketing strategies.  Amongst the hundreds of articles, blogs and tweets discussing the effects of GDPR on display advertising I came across an article claiming that the era of the Display Ad was at an end.

In a nut-shell, the article suggested that internet-weary consumers are becoming less receptive than they used to be to the so-called “interruption-driven” model of visual-based ad servers. This can lead to an effect known as ad fatigue – the“numbing” of users to your marketing efforts over time.

Ad-fatigue can affect display marketing campaigns, but it can also be seen with search marketing and even traditional platforms like print and television advertising. So why aren’t we reading more articles foreshadowing the death of advertising across all of these mediums?

While I don’t completely disagree with the report’s conclusions, I find it difficult to accept the idea that an entire subsection of digital marketing is dead – especially given that I keep seeing display marketing success stories here at Mackerel Media. I suspect people just don’t realise the huge potential of Display Network advertising has for most businesses when used correctly.

Building Brand Awareness with GDN

For the most part, advertising campaigns which rely on the Google Display Network are used for building Brand Awareness across the internet.

Let’s build a worst case scenario: an e-commerce business using just one piece of ad-creative across the entire Google Display Network in a “scatter-gun” fashion. Whilst the adcopy may be “on-message” for our brand, this method would mean Google could theoretically place our advertising banners or MPU’s wherever there is display inventory available, regardless of the page’s topic or our advertiser’s desired outcomes.

As any digital marketing agency worth their salt will tell you, this is an extremely inefficient use of your campaign budget – supposedly $7.4bn was wasted on Display in 2016 – and one that is unlikely to bring any real success. Plus, even in our hypothetical scenario, we’re still at the mercy of user-apathy and the dreaded Ad-fatigue.

For this all too common situation, the report is correct – this type of “anything & anywhere” display advertising campaign has already come to an end –  today it is more difficult than ever for marketers to create this type of campaign on the GDN, and other display networks are beginning to follow suit.

Opportunities for Brand Activation

The implicit message of the report – which highlights that the average display network CTR is only 0.35% – is that display adverting doesn’t receive enough clicks, and a low CTR means that a campaign is failing.

On the Google Search Network – which determines intent via a user’s search query – such a low CTR would often (but not always) be cause for alarm. Due to the very nature of display campaigns however, impressions are often very high – after all, there are near unlimited websites where an advert may be chosen to appear. With this in mind, I’d argue that 0.35% is a positive performance for any display campaign.

Don’t forget, there is a myriad of targeting options that allow your display campaign to reach a better defined and more effective audience, thus increasing the likelihood of a user clicking your banner advert or MPU. Google AdWords users can target specific page placements (such as ones you know your key audiences frequently visit), topics that relate to your services or even product keywords.

Google’s Display Network targeting options have become more sophisticated than ever.

It’s All About “Where” and “Who”

Let’s use one of Mackerel Media’s own clients as an example: Working in a competitive market space, CTR for our client Display network campaign was 0.21% – lower than the 0.35% identified as being “not enough”. An important factor here however was wherethe adverts appeared on the Google Display network – Placement Targeting had allowed us to identify and target websites which were frequented by internet users who had been identified as “most-likely-to-convert”, whilst Google’s Affinity Placements automatically chose similar websites to further increase our reach whilst still remaining within our target “converting” audience. At the same time, multiple ad-creatives were offered to combat the effects of ad-fatigue on impressions – each with a slightly different USP.

This large-scale, targeted Display Network advertising campaign with multiple pieces of adcopy available across an 18-month period resulted in around 10,000 clicks to our clients landing pages. Our total spend during this campaign was about £8,000, giving an Average £/Click of £0.80. For the same number of clicks on the Search Network, where an extremely competitive market means CPC is higher at around £2.00, 10,000 clicks to site would have cost an eye-watering £20,000 – a massive increase in cost for the same amount of traffic to the same landing pages.

Here we can see that a properly targeted display campaign with engaging creative can allow any company to successfully reach a large number of potential customers with a relatively low CPC. The message here is that getting in front of the right audience will trump large impression numbers any time.

Quality not Quantity

We can see that a properly targeted display campaign with engaging creative can allow any company to successfully reach a large number of potential customers with a relatively low CPC. The message here is that getting in front of the right audience will trump large impression numbers any time.

What the report fails to acknowledge – and something that our clients have been pleased to hear – is the use of audiences, dynamic and remarketing campaigns that take advantage of the Google Display Network’s ability to accurately track users across their web journeys. Even post- GDPR, we can learn a huge amount about a users behaviours, interests and most importantly – their intentions.

With careful analysis of our targeting options and user behaviour, we can make sure that a user – whether they’re brand aware or not – see’s your advert at the right time, and the right place for them to make those key decisions that benefit your business.

Mackerel Media isn’t ready to give up on Display Advertising just yet.

AI & Voice Searches: The Future of Digital Marketing?

Last week, the digital marketing world descended on Mackerel Media’s hometown of Edinburgh for Turing Fest 2018, and we were there to bring you the latest developments in digital marketing!

Across six digital marketing experts – one clear theme emerged time and time again: Google’s growing fondness of AI lead search results, specifically the use of voice recognition technology and the effect it will have on how we as digital marketers are able to advertise clients in the changing Search Engine results space.

While the scale of voice searches is a bone of contention between digital marketers – even here in the Mackerel office there are differing opinions on how commercially useful they actually are right now– one thing is undeniable: with the growth of ‘smart’ voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, 50% of all searches made by 2020 are expected to be initiated by voice and powered by machine learning.

Just Sayin’

Why is there such a push towards voice activated searches? Well, according to Cindy Krum, one of Turing Festivals Marketing Track speakers, it’s simple: Google wants to rank more than just websites and present result in a way personalized to your interests.

This makes a lot of sense, and Google has already begun using AI systems to start organizing which videos you see on YouTube, which Apps get returned to you when you do a search and can even allow you to do smart searches through your photographs stored in the cloud.

To allow this to happen, Google has had to change the way it thinks about the information it stores, and how it organizes that information. Whereas previously, Google grouped information together based on the words and phrases a website contained, in a world where not every bit of information a user is searching for has a website, Google has had to change tact – and it’s doing it via AI that you and I are helping to program.

Jes Scholtz – another Turing Fest 2018 speaker – points out that we’re constantly helping to tweak machine learning systems into better understanding what it is we’re looking for, and we may not even realise it. Those thumbs up and thumbs down icons in Netflix? Each time you give a rating you’re helping Nextflix refine its algorithm designed to show you the content most relevant. Same goes with Gmail’s “Mark as Spam” button. None of this is new, but the way in which the data is interpreted is – the massive scale of data gathered plus the application of AI to incorporate many other signals such as the time of day you hit thumbs up, or where you are when you hit ‘Mark as Spam’ leads to a massive improvement in the quality of the algorithms.

Jes Scholz discussed the importance of Marketing in an AI World.

The End of the Website as We Know It?

So how does this relate to Voice Search? Well, traditional search engine results pages just aren’t suitable for devices that use voice technology to provide results to a query. Nobody wants to ask Alexa for places to buy a certain item only to be confronted with a list of 20 webpage URL’s read out one… letter… at… a… time…

What voice activated search results need to do is determine the most relevant piece of information for that search and return it right there and then, and they’re doing it through machine learning and combining that with their vast understanding of a users personal history, interests, behaviors & search intent.

We’re already seeing this type of ‘definitive information’ result being surfaced in the form of knowledge panels, direct answers in the SERPs and informational sidebar results. According to Cindy Krum, this type of search result has grown more prominent with mobile and voice results containing a knowledge graph answer climbing from 35% in 2016 to 60% in 2018.

Clearly, Google is putting a lot of emphasis on this type of result. Google’s end game, according to Cindy Krum, is allowing Google to become “the presentation layer of the internet”– soon, we might not need to see a product website to be able to buy, we’ll just do it directly through the Google results.

Good news for voice assisted searches, bad news for websites.

Hey Siri, What Do I Do Next?

The biggest question you might now have is how do we prepare for a world in which Google might not even consider our website before providing just one answer to a voice search?

One of the most interesting speakers at Turing Fest 2018 was Yoast’s very own ‘Mad Scientist’ Jono Alderson – who joined us on stage to explain how brands need to learn some important lessons from the pre-digital marketing era in order to succeed in the future.

Yoast’s very own Jono Alderson describes the power of ‘brand currency’.

Big brands have always relied on ‘story telling’ and relationship building with customers to position themselves at the forefront of their mind when decision making, and that is how brands of the future are going to stand out from the voice-search crowd.

Brands need to start thinking about how future customers may want to interact with their brand months or even years before the searcher even knows they want to buy a product. If Google knows a user has a documented history of interacting with a brands content, social media, pictures or other media, the more likely they are to consider that brand for a user’s personalised search result. The more a user knows and cares for a brand they’re presented with by Siri as a single voice-search result, the more likely they are to explore that search result further.

Jono Alderson calls this ‘brand currency’, and it’s invaluable in a world where AI powered voice search is dominant. If a searcher has no affinity with a brand, they’ll just search again and you may have missed the only opportunity you’ll have for that user to interact with your brand. What’s worse, is that Google could use its machine learning and AI to update its algorithm and push you out of that individual users ‘pool’ of potential search results in the future, having marked you as not of interest to the user.

How Do I Even Appear for Voice Searches?

It’s clear that Google see’s the future of search as hyper-personalised, AI driven results where even a single interaction with a brand can influence how a user is presented information, but we still need to make sure that we’re even eligible to be considered by a voice-search engine in the first place.

Thankfully, Google has already given us a suite of tools and platforms designed to specifically do that: Google My Business, Knowledge Graph results, Google Maps and a whole host of technical tools such as Schema Mark-Up and the Google Natural language API tool.

In a world where ‘on-the-go’ searches are becoming increasingly familiar – and where Google is able to collect vast quantities of data on the brands you interact with and what your feelings towards them are – what becomes the defining factor of whether a search result is presented or not is relevancy. Google now considers these ‘supporting’ pieces of information to be just as important – if not more so – than the content of a website or the products a brand sells.

If I do a voice search for “French restaurants near me”, guess what? The one which has its opening times and address listed on GMB is the one that a voice-assistant is going to return as my answer, because that’s the one I’m going to be more likely to go to. The same goes for e-commerce businesses which provide clear product prices or service providers who produce great knowledgeable content about their specific offerings. Again, Google is cutting out the middleman and giving us just the answers it thinks we want to see.

Do We Really Think This is the Future of Search Marketing?

To put it bluntly, if this is what Google is saying the digital marketing landscape is going to look like in the future, then it’s worth making sure we are prepared for a world where voice-searches overtake traditional text-based queries.

For the most part though, brands which take their digital marketing activities seriously needn’t worry too much. All of the tools Google has indicated may tip the balance of one search result appearing over another – such as Google My Business or Mark-up Schema – have already become part of most really good digital marketing strategies, and are easy to set up should you have forgotten.