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Decompose your ads, not your brand

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Raise your hand if you would like to advertise for your brand without knowing what the message will be? A lot of people probably remember Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) gone bad with the fancy syntax {KeyWord:OrElse}. It was a prime example of the dangers of automation, and maybe it was back then when ads started decomposing. I will always remember the eBay ads that would appear on practically any search query you could imagine. Search for “Dirty Thoughts,” and an ad would offer “Dirty Thoughts for Sale.” Or how about “Athletic Sweat” or “Vampire blood?” I think this is my favorite:

And there are even more examples including Free Dead Cats or ads inciting users to Meet Dead Singles.

At the time, I thought eBay had a special deal with Google to target just any keyword, but looking closer, I noticed many of them had the little “aff.” mention in the ad, showing they were affiliates rather than eBay itself. Affiliates are good for volume but not for branding.

Today, digital marketers have become accustomed to working with automation and dynamic ad composition. As an example of this, the creative process on Facebook is composed of four stages: identity (brand), format, image (or video) and text. The ad composer then allows the digital marketer to view what the composed ad will look like in each placement.

Beyond that, you simply can’t picture what the end product will look like.

Google has also progressively decomposed ads on its’ network into individual elements. Recently, on Google Marketing Live, a new type of ad was launched, the Discovery Ads. These ads are dynamically composed based on titles, description and images and are displayed on three different Google properties: Youtube, Gmail and Google Discover. Google recommends you to provide as many variations of each element as possible. Google can also scan your website for images, you can add them manually, or if you don’t have any images available, “try searching for stock images.” The machine will take care of the rest.

Do I need to say this? If you care about your brand and about the user experience – then don’t!

You don’t “look for stock images” when you are within the Google platform creating an ad. You will have done the thinking and the image search for this, working with other people, and in a structured process. And if not, that is where you need to step up and build a better process for building dynamic ads.

But it gets worse

Google also announced a new machine-learning based ad feature called the “Bumper Machine.” I like the dreamy nature of that tool and the vision on which it was based. It will take existing video ads and turn them into six-second long “bumper ads” to put in front, or at the end of a video on Youtube. It is a fantastic technological achievement, but does it really cover a need? The intention behind it is positive: help advertisers overcome the pain of having to create a new video format for Youtube when they already have one (longer version) of the video. It is, however, a complete disruption of the creative process and a mechanism by which the story and the message from the original video are also recomposed.

I asked one of the speakers at the SMX London conference, Roey Rafael, a Youtube ad specialist for Envato, what his thoughts were on this new solution. He already optimizes videos to convey a full story within the first five seconds, so that he can benefit from free impressions using the TrueView type of ad so he won’t be using it.

We cannot ignore what is at hand, however. Ads are continuing to be decomposed into individual elements and dynamically recomposed at the time of visualization, as ads become contextual, multi-format and personalized. As for the eBay example cited above, letting loose technology can have some unexpected and undesirable effects on the end-user.

Leading teams are building brand consistency

In my company’s research, we surveyed leading paid search teams and we asked the participants how “brand consistency” was being managed. The responses were encouraging, as a majority were actively building this with their clients or stakeholders.

But a number of them said this was not in their area of responsibility and relied on other departments or their clients to ensure brand consistency.

Is your process optimized for ad composition?

Creative disruption and ad decomposition are here to stay. And despite my warnings above, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing – we simply need to organize for it. This comes down to rethinking the way brand assets are put together and how communication channels are used. The “Bumper Machine” is there for a reason – advertisers didn’t prepare six-second ads and therefore, they can do it with the bumper machine. But in the future, they should build video ads with various outputs: six seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 90 seconds. This requires a different creative process, with a focus on the input rather than the output. Essentially it is one story to be told in various time frames from various angles and with various formats of output.

For images and messaging, the same philosophy should apply. Image selection should focus on the values they express and be made available in various formats and resolutions. And once the values are reflected in the images, they should also be carried by the various communication workers in an organization. Communication is increasingly transcending the entire organization – think about employee advocacy which a lot of organizations are striving for. Have you prepared your employees for carrying the values of your brand? Are you empowering them?

My favorite metaphor for an ideal communication process is that of the hologram. In a hologram, every pixel of the 3D image holds a representation of the entire image. The brand can be seen from many angles and with many nuances, but the image remains consistent from one communication instance to the other. From one ad to the next, even shifting devices or changing channels, the image remains consistent.

We have work to do.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Anders Hjorth is the author of the Search Strategies Report and the founder of Innovell, a digital marketing insights consultancy researching trends in digital marketing. As a pioneer in SEO, one of the first Google Advertising professionals and the co-founder of several agencies: Relevant Traffic (search marketing), BDBL MEDIA (biddable media) and AZNOS (content marketing), he has a broad and long-running experience across SEO, paid search, social media, content marketing and programmatic. Anders was also COO for GroupM Search across EMEA. Anders is also active as a member of various awards juries and advisory boards.

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BrightLocal launches ‘Local RankFlux’ Google local algorithm tracking tool

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BrightLocal has launched a new free tool called “Local RankFlux,” designed to alert marketers to changes in local search rankings across multiple industries.

Exclusively focused on the Google local algorithm, it offers tracking for 26 verticals. The ranking fluctuations of individual industries can then be compared to the overall sample.

Tracking over 14,000 keywords. Local RankFlux tracks roughly 560 keywords per industry vertical in 20 cities, according to BrightLocal’s blog post. It “plots the ranking position of each business in the top 20 search results and compares that ranking to the previous day’s position to determine the daily change.” 

Source: BrightLocal

Changes in higher SERP positions (e.g., 1 – 2) are weighted more heavily and are treated as more significant than changes in lower rankings (e.g., 19 – 20) in its scoring. “Local RankFlux then multiplies the change in position between today’s and yesterday’s rankings by the weighting to create a total daily fluctuation. This total is then converted into an average based on the number of keywords that returned meaningful results^ and a score produced for All Industries and for each individual industry.”

Scores above 6 suggest an update. BrightLocal explains that scores between 0 – 3 indicate nothing meaningful has happened – given that there are regular, even daily fluctuations going on. Scores of more than 3 but less than 6 indicate a minor change in the algorithm, according to BrightLocal, while scores of 6 to 10 suggest a local algorithm update. The spike in the chart below (industry average of 6.1) on August 8 suggests a meaningful change in the algorithm.

Local RankFlux score: legal category vs industry average

Source: BrightLocal

In early August Google made a core algorithm update. But the last time there was a significant local impact was in August of last year (and possibly in June, 2019 after another core update). In August 2018, SterlingSky’s Joy Hawkins detailed the ways in which her small business customers were impacted by that 2018 core algorithm update.

Why we should care. This free tool will be a useful way for local SEOs to reality check against broader industry benchmarks, to confirm whether there was indeed a local algorithm update. Informally, a number of local SEOs praised the tool based on early exposure.

Take a look and provide feedback on whether it aligns with your observations and experiences. And be sure not to miss SMX East’s full–day track on local SEO and location-based marketing for brands.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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Google’s John Mueller on Where to Insert JSON-LD Structured Data

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In the latest instalment of the #AskGoogleWebmasters video series, Google’s John Mueller answers a common question about JSON-LD structured data.

Here is the question that was submitted:

“Is it possible to insert JSON structured data at the bottom of theinstead of the? It seems to work fine for many websites.”

In response, Mueller says “yes.” JSON-LD structured data can absolutely be inserted in either the head or body of the page. Just as the person who submitted the question assumed – it will work fine either way.

JSON-LD can also be inserted into pages using JavaScript, if that’s what happens to suit your pages better.

What’s the Difference Between JSON-LD and Other Structured Data Types?

Before answering the question, Mueller gave a brief explanation of each type of structured data and how they’re different from each other.

There are two other types of structured data in addition to JSON-LD. Here are the differences between each of them.

  • JSON-LD: A JavaScript notation embedded in a script tag in the page head or body.
  • Microdata: An open-community HTML mspecification used to nest structured data within HTML content.
  • RDFA: An HTML5 extension that supports link data through additional attributes added to existing HTML tags on the page.

Although all of these types of structured data are acceptable to use, Mueller has gone on record saying Google prefers the use of JSON-LD.



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Subdomain leasing and the giant hole in Google’s Medic update

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ConsumerAffairs provides buying guides for everything from mattresses to home warranties. But they also direct consumers on purchasing hearing aids, dentures, diabetic supplies, and even lasik surgery. Many have questioned the legitimacy of ConsumerAffairs buying guides, largely because top-rated brands often have financial relationships with the organization. ConsumerAffairs’ health content has been hit in the post-medic world, but now it seems they’ve found a way to circumvent the algorithm update by hosting slightly modified versions of their buying guides on local news websites around the country. Google “hearing aids in Phoenix” and you’ll discover just how well this strategy is working. Local ABC affiliate station ABC15 hosts all of ConsumerAffairs’ buying guides, including those in the health category, on their new “reviews” subdomain. So far, I’ve counted almost 100 of these ConsumerAffairs content mirrors. Despite cracking down on low-authority medical advice and subdomain leasing, Google seems to be missing this huge hack on their ranking algorithm.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Abram Bailey, AuD is a Doctor of Audiology and the founder of HearingTracker.com, the leading independent resource for informed hearing aid consumers.

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