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How retailers can survive Amazon’s stronghold in Google search

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Retail marketers can’t out-Amazon on the paid Google SERP, but they can find white space.

Among the metrics that can help is impression share. It’s in the Google Auction Insights report for shopping and paid search campaigns.

Impression share is the percentage of impressions your ads received divided by the estimated number of impressions the ads were eligible to receive. Google determines eligibility based on a number of factors, including targeting settings, approval statuses and quality.

On the surface, impression share can help you understand whether your ads might reach more shoppers if you increase your bids or budget.

But a smarter way to use impression share is for gaining context into how your advertising environment is shifting. Evaluate it alongside other performance and competitive metrics. From there, use those insights to identify how to adapt your campaigns and bidding strategy to the changing competitive pressure.

Let’s take a look at the latest data and examples for how to go about it.

Amazon’s impression share in Google Shopping

We analyzed Google Auction Insights reports for a leading retailer in five verticals. These retailers all see Amazon as a regular competitor in Google Shopping and Google paid search.

The following chart shows the share of impressions Amazon has garnered over the last two years for Google Shopping auctions in which both the retailer and Amazon were eligible to serve an ad.

From this chart we can make a few observations. One is that Amazon’s impression share tended to increase as each year progressed, reaching a peak just before or during each holiday shopping period, and dipping sharply during Q2 2018 when Amazon briefly paused its shopping campaigns.

We can also see that Amazon’s share of impressions for categories such as office supplies and home improvement was consistently higher than its share for sporting goods or apparel.

Why the difference between verticals? In part it’s a reflection of each retailer’s search query universe and how much it overlaps that of Amazon. The home improvement and office supplies retailers likely share more of Amazon’s search query universe.

By contrast, a retailer who sells a lot of, say, North Face and Nike products might not see much competition from Amazon, because those brands are not available on Amazon. When consumers search using North Face- or Nike-branded terms, for example, Amazon could possibly appear in search results with ads for similar products. Still, Amazon would have a much lower impression on those items because of their lower relevance.

Ramping up apparel

Take a closer look below at Amazon’s impression share within the apparel category on Google Shopping over the past several months.

One takeaway here is that the hockey-stick growth aligns with Amazon’s private label surge. The company introduced seven new private label brands and over 150 Amazon-exclusive brands in Q4 2018, according to the TJI Amazon Brand Database. Amazon’s largest brand portfolio? Apparel and accessories, with over 80 private label and exclusive brands in the U.S.

Amazon’s impact in paid search vs. shopping campaigns

Looking at the same retailers in Google paid search shows a slightly different set of results.

Amazon has long been active in paid search. While it continues to experiment and fine tune its Google Shopping strategy, the company has a more established and consistently growing presence in paid search, as this impression share data suggests.

An outlier, however, is Amazon’s heightened impression share within the office supplies category. That trend aligns with Amazon’s push in the office supplies market over the past few quarters.

For another view of the data, let’s isolate Amazon’s impression share for each vertical.





Compete with Amazon, not against it

The best way to respond to Amazon’s growth is not to panic. Look at your bottom line and determine what, if any, impact Amazon is having on your business. Impression share is a metric that shouldn’t directly drive strategy, but rather provide context around the advertiser competition in your market.

At the end of the day, keep Amazon’s impression share in perspective. Amazon is influential, but retailers that know their business and customers can be well-equipped to handle rising impression share from competitors. Here’s how.

Know how to interpret impression share

Impression share can you help you determine your biggest competitors on Google, and how that landscape is changing. While you probably know your competitors overall for your business, that composition might differ in Google’s shopping and paid search channels. For instance, retailers that devote most of their digital marketing budget to Google Shopping could create strong competition for you on that channel, while creating little competition elsewhere. Use impression share to uncover new entrants or established competitors who are being more or less aggressive with their bids. Say your CPCs suddenly rise. Examine impression share to see whether a competitor’s heightened spending is a factor.

Understand a healthy impression share for your business

Your business, competitive landscape, and return goals determine an ideal impression share. If you’re up against deep-pocketed competitors like Amazon, an impression share of 10% might be healthy for your campaigns, as long as you’re driving revenue efficiently. If you’re achieving your revenue targets within your campaign’s return goals, there’s little concern about a few competitors outranking you.

Dig into click share, too

Click share is the percentage of clicks on your ads relative to the clicks they were eligible to receive. Analyze click share in combination with impression share to get a better sense of where your campaigns are weak and can improve. In paid search, if impression share is high but click share is low, your ads might be appearing for irrelevant queries. If the same situation is happening in Google Shopping, your products might be priced too high above the competition. Or, maybe competitors are showing promotions on their ads more often than you. Conversely, if impression share is low and click share is high, consider bidding more aggressively to increase impressions and earn even more clicks. Push products that have the best price for an easy win.

Use smarter segmentation

If you can’t simply increase budget as a response to competitors’ rising impression share, try this instead: Segment products into campaigns based on how much exposure you want those products to get. Increase bids in the campaigns containing the highest margin or best performing items. Or, create separate campaigns for branded and non-branded queries. In Sidecar’s 2018 Google Shopping Benchmarks report, we found that clicks from branded searches delivered 171 percent more ROI and a CTR four times higher than that of non-branded searches. Also, within Google Shopping, use negative keywords to filter queries and avoid wasting impressions on less relevant or low-performing terms.

Bring your mobile strategy up to date

Google Shopping hit a milestone in Q4 2018, according Sidecar’s research. For the first time ever, more than half of all Shopping conversions on occured on mobile devices. Google paid search wasn’t far behind with 44 percent of all conversions occuring on mobile in Q4. If exposure and brand awareness are among your goals for Google Shopping, you’ll get more bang for your buck on mobile where CPCs are cheaper and where Showcase ads are a factor. Those mobile impressions can lead to conversions on both mobile and desktop. Consider creating a separate campaign for mobile traffic if you haven’t yet. It will let you tune bids granularly to how your products perform on mobile.

Plan search and shopping campaigns cohesively

As the above charts show, metrics like impression share vary between shopping and paid search campaigns. You might find, for instance, that you face greater competition in paid search than Shopping. As a result, you might treat paid search as more of a bottom-of-the-funnel channel and focus spend on high-intent queries that have the greatest chance of converting. To complement that strategy, consider how you can fill the top of the funnel with Google Shopping—a channel where you already have an advantage in terms of exposure. You might be able to withstand bidding more aggressively on a greater swath of products to drive up impression share even more.

Evaluate a move to multi-touch attribution

Most retail marketers probably agree that last touch attribution is a fundamentally flawed approach in today’s omnichannel world. On the other hand, multi-touch attribution can empower you to measure performance across channels and gain an entirely new (and more accurate) view of your customers’ journey. While it’s certainly not a simple feat to shift attribution models, some retailers, like Moosejaw, are successfully making the move. The retail landscape is only becoming more competitive. A multi-touch model that aligns with your business and goals might be among the few, major ways you can uncover a new advantage to push shoppers through your marketing funnel.

By carefully coordinating shopping and paid search campaigns, you’re positioning yourself to achieve a full-funnel marketing approach. Put your customers first when devising any strategy for Google Ads, while keeping your competitors in view.


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

Steve Costanza is the Senior Analytics Consultant of Enterprise Customer Strategy at Sidecar. He analyzes digital marketing performance and strategic direction for large retailers across verticals, focusing on data visualizations and advanced account segmentation. He is responsible for deriving meaning from numbers and determining how to use those insights to drive marketing decision making. Steve is especially close to Google’s new innovations impacting Shopping and paid search. He has a master’s degree in data analytics and contributes to Search Engine Land as well as Sidecar Discover, the publication by Sidecar that covers research and ideas shaping digital marketing in retail.





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New site Hotspot Law like ZocDoc for lawyers

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Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.

Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.

Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.

The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.

“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.

Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”

Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.

Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly. Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”

He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.

For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking

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About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.

A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.

A suicide.

A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.

I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.

I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.

We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem

Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.

But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.

We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.

So we started talking.

I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!

Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.

Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.

And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!

We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.

It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.

I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.

In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.

I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.

Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community

I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.

Here is what they had to say:

Alexandra Tachalova:

“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.

I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)

Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.

I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”

Melissa Fach:

“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!

I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.

I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.

And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”

Steve Wiideman:

“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.

It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.

What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.

Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”

Danny Goodwin:

“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.

While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.

We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.

Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”

Kim Krause Berg:

“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.

I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.

In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”

Dave Davies:

“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.

Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.

Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.

We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.

We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’

The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.

There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.

It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”

Jeremy Knauff:

“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.

I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”

Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.

Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.

Keep being a force for good in our community.

Together we will make a difference.

Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking  

 

This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.

 


***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***



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20190718 SEL Brief

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