As reported recently in the NZ Herald, new research commissioned by NZ On Air has highlighted the further dramatic growth in reach of the various online video/AV media channels. 

While this is not a new trend, the Where Are The Audiences? study – conducted by research agency Glasshouse Consulting – does shine a helpful light on Kiwis and our viewing habits, especially where digital marketing is concerned.

The ever-expanding reach of digital

The growth in share of digital channels comes as no surprise, given the all-but-constant presence of connected devices in our lives. Increased device processing power, more intuitive apps, improved high-speed/WiFi connectivity and lower costs have all contributed to audiences’ willingness to stream video content. Peripheral devices like the Google Chromecast, used to broadcast content streaming on a computer or mobile device to a TV, have also made more viewing formats available to more people.

Importantly, the survey covers social media as well as paid TV streaming services like Netflix and Lightbox. Primarily social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram now not only host their own video content, but also provide a funnel into more specifically video-focused sites like YouTube. 

In fact, YouTube is now the most popular channel, site or station or channel among Kiwis, with 51% of all viewers in this country watching daily. (TV1 came in second with a very impressive 44%.) This YouTube figure covers all video content viewed on the site, from short clips to full-length TV episodes.

What’s the catch?

The important distinction when considering online viewing habits is between pay-TV content like Netflix, and free platforms like YouTube and other social channels. While pay-TV channels are growing in popularity, they tend to be ad-free as part of their value proposition.

The opposite is true of social media. With the exception of YouTube Premium, which is not wildly popular compared to the behemoth free version, social media channels are built on the premise of being free to users, while offering advertising space to generate revenue. In this sense, they could be considered to be replacing traditional free-to-air TV. 

How do I make the most of this?

Where digital marketing leaves traditional TV behind, of course, is in the targeting. 

While the free-to-air TV audience is in fact sitting stable (at 35% of total viewers watching daily), offering some perceived ongoing value, ads broadcast on these channels can only be tracked in broadest audience categories. 

By contrast, digital video ads (shorter and often cheaper to produce than a standard TVC) can be far more targeted towards specific groups of customer. By using the demographic tools of each social media site, plus the ubiquitous Google Distribution Network, you can reach specific groups according to an ever widening set of factors like age, gender, location, interests or even cultural group. And on top of reaching a growing number of traditional TV-watching audiences, you can also be seen by social media users whenever they check Facebook, read their email or watch a quick viral clip on YouTube. 

So how do you put your best foot forward with video content as a small business? This we will cover in our next blog, with some expert tips on both planning and execution. 

In the meantime, to get the more out of your digital advertising dollar, get in touch with Ark Advance today.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a Google tool called Life Events, which interprets people’s search activity to anticipate what they’re likely to do in the near future.

When you think about it, that’s a bit of a superhero power to own. Marketers love to know what people are doing right now. Knowing what they’ll do soon is like taking that ability and dialling it up by a factor of 10. It means you can get the jump on your competition by connecting with those customers before anyone else does, but without investing months or years of relationship building to make the sale.

In 2017, when Life Events was still in nappies, the range of life events (eg, moving home, buying a car) that it could predict from people’s online behaviour was limited. Since then, like any healthy child does, it’s grown bigger and more able.

In the process, it’s become especially useful to any marketer who sells into the home.

Life stages that Live Events can now alert you to include:

If you’re wondering how big a deal this is, the short answer is it’s a really big deal. Traditional marketing targets demographics – millennials, baby boomers, and so on. But that model’s becoming more outdated thanks to tools like Life Events, which use machine learning to predict what people will do in the near future based on what they’re doing now (or just did).

In the words of one blog writer, if you’re still targeting millennials, you might as well be targeting buyers by their star sign. “Consumers going through life events are much more likely to have similar purchase needs than consumers that are merely in the same age, gender or income demographic,” said research company Networked Insights.

Sonos, a company known for pretty cool home sound systems, saw these results from life events targeting:

If you market products for the home – anything from cat food to high-end electronics – and are considering spending money on search advertising, stop now. Your competitors are doing that already, and all you’ll achieve is being listed alongside them in search results. That’s not bad – but you may be able to do much better.

Talk to us about Life Events. It may be a great way to get a serious edge on your competition and boost sales by identifying people just before they’re ready to open their wallets – at a time when your competitors are still ignoring them, the poor fools.

Online marketing has changed the world, especially for the small to medium business.

Being able to target your goods or services specifically and directly to your customers has revolutionised advertising and they way people do business.

Are you a lawyer specialising in immigration? Boom, a simple Google search of “immigration lawyer” will allow local people to find you. People know what they want and you have done the work to ensure you’re easy to find.

But what if immigration is just part of what you do? What if you also help immigrants find their first job in the country too? An immigration lawyer isn’t the first place someone would look when searching for a job.

What do you do if people aren’t looking for your services, even though they might be interested in them? How do you reach people online when they’re not specifically looking for something?

Discover your ‘unreachables’

By conducting extensive market research into your customer’s and client’s personas, you can build up a profile of what they need or what they might be interested in. These people are your ‘unreachables’ – the group that are part of your market, but have remained out of your grasp so far.

If you already offer these services or products, then ask yourself why your unreachables don’t know/want your product. Are you on the right platform for them? Are you appealing to the right demographic? Who do they go to instead of you?

Laser guided marketing

Once you figure out who your unreachables are, you’ll be able to target them online.

Targeted Google Ads can use factors such as age, geographical location, gender, relationship status, interests, education and prior search activity to zero in on the people you are trying to attract.

So to go back to our immigration lawyer example, if you want to appeal to those who have just arrived in the country and are looking for a job, then single, 18 -35 year olds with a post-graduate education who are searching terms that fit their specific needs.

Understand your audience

In a perfect world, we would have all the money we need to market to each and every potential client or customer. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t like that – we need to pick and choose where we spend our marketing budget.

The best way to get value for money and to attract new customers is to know your audience. As you develop a closer relationship with them, you may begin to recognise similar customers who could also benefit from your service or product. That’s when your business starts to grow.

Attracting new customers is the lifeblood of any company, and finding ways to sell yourself to people who otherwise wouldn’t consider you is an essential part of marketing.

Ark Advance can help you reach new clients who you would have been otherwise hidden from via this type of targeted marketing. Contact us today for more information on how this could work for you and your business.

Vive la difference – even if it’s a tiny one.

So after a lot of hard work, your website is on the first page of Google’s search results.
Congratulations, it’s not a simple task. The problem now is that it is surrounded by your competitors. Will it stand out?

Online marketing is a unique beast. The internet can sometimes be the only time you’ll find your name sitting right alongside that of your competitors.

In the pre-search engine days, we wouldn’t have to explicitly state why we’re different, just what we do and how we do it. Now anyone searching our product or service is faced with a list of companies which present themselves as doing all the same thing.

Why it’s so difficult in today’s world

We live in an age of product and pricing parity, especially for small / medium businesses. There’s no longer a unique selling point for many companies – there are simply too many competitors doing the same thing.

You sell scented candles online? Well there’s a 99% chance your competitors sell the exact same candles. You offer a carpet cleaning service? Well there’s no reason why your vacuum does a better job than anyone else’s.

With a level playing field for everyone, it’s up to you to find the difference when it comes to your business, even if it’s a tiny one.

Ok, you and your competitors sell the same scented candles, but when it comes to packaging aesthetics, you can’t be beat. And sure, any cleaning company will do a good job, but do the others offer carpet shampoo that’s guaranteed safe for pets?

The little things will make a difference to your business, but it’s up to you to find them, focus on them, and then leverage them in your marketing.

Three ways to differentiate

So how do you stand out from the crowd? What makes your website the one a customer should click on? Depending on what your business does, there are three points of differentiation to consider.

Product differentiation

This is the general area that most B2B marketers and consumer marketers spend the majority of their time and dollars. Simply having a better product than your competitors means you will stand out. This may take the form of the latest features, technology, performance, or efficacy.

It sounds easy, but everyone’s trying to make their product the best on the market, and even if you do manage it, your competitors will probably just copy you, so you need to let everyone know you’re the original and best.

Service differentiation

Outstanding service isn’t just doing what you promised, it’s going above and beyond what you promised. This includes all the aspects behind the scenes too, from training to ease of ordering. Showing potential customers why your service is better than your competitors can take the form of outstanding testimonials or 5-star Google reviews. People need to see the results of your service, not just your promise that you’re better than everyone else.

Relationship differentiation

There’s no point talking about how you pride yourself on your customer service – every business claims this. No one says, “Our customer service isn’t great, but our product is pretty good!”
Customers will return to you again and again if they feel valued. Taking responsibility for you clients’ overall experience will bring its own rewards, and the little things that you do which others don’t will go along way to your success.

Find Your X Factor

Whatever you choose for your point (s) of differentiation they must be both clear and easy to understand. If you can’t explain why your different from your competitors in a simple sentence, then you need to rethink your sales pitch.

Remember, there are ten results on Google’s front page, not even including the ads. The reason you’re different from the rest must be there for everyone to see, relate to and then hopefully, act upon. Good luck.

Everyone loves making a sale, right? Well, pretty much everyone reading this blog does.

As for me, I’ve built a business around helping you do that. For all the different things Ark Advance does – help you climb up the search rankings, make it easier for visitors to take action on your website, increase the effectiveness of your AdWords campaigns – it all points in one direction. Sell more.

So what I’m about to say may sound like heresy. But stick with me as I explain myself.

Here goes. Trying to close the sale, whether directly or by generating leads, may be doing you more harm than good. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is back off a little.

I know that flies in the face of some sales philosophies. Power closing, the art of pushing through objections and resistance to a final sale, has its share of successful proponents.

But the best sales people, in my view, recognise that a successful sale is more than someone buying something. It includes the buyer being satisfied with their decision, and feeling happy about the pathway they took to get there.

How does that relate to you? Well, let’s say you have a landing page that’s all sell, sell, sell. Features and benefits are there in big, bold type, and the Buy Now or Submit button is not only a bright, garish colour, but it also flashes on and off like a neon sign outside a cabaret.

And let’s say that landing page really has been working for you. It’s been selling like crazy or generating more leads than you dreamed possible. Why on earth would you mess with a winning formula like that?

To answer that, let me tell you about a client who come to us recently from another agency.  They were used to pushing traffic onto the kind of landing page I just described (admittedly, I exaggerated a bit, but you get the drift). We said, “while your landing page is delivering results, we suspect you could do better – and do it without undermining your brand.”

That client boldly allowed us to create an alternative landing page that wasn’t designed to sell directly. Instead, it encouraged visitors to have a wander around the website, a bit like someone browsing in a store, checking out the merchandise. The risk was that once people had finished browsing, they’d simply wander out the door, without having bought anything or even given their contact details.

But that didn’t happen. What did happen was a 50%+ increase in lead conversions and a big reduction in cost per lead.  

How come? Simply because people often need more time or information or both before they feel comfortable committing. If they’re a website visitor, that means the opportunity to interact with your website – to “wander around the store” – first. Not always, but sometimes.

It’s worth testing. Worst case scenario, you build engagement, reduce bounce rates and increase time spent on your site – much like a good sales person asking questions and listening to the answers does.

And the best case scenario? Well, who wouldn’t love a 50%+ increase in lead conversions?  

If you’re a Go grand master, you may not like Artificial Intelligence right now. Not since the Google-designed AlphaGo trounced the world’s top player, Ki Jie, by 3 games to nil earlier this year. That came after it handed out a 4-1 beating to another top ranked player, Lee Sedol, in 2016.

Or maybe you will. The matches, while not good for the human ego, demonstrated something far more interesting and useful than that a powerful computer can out-think a puny human brain. I mean, that’s no longer news for anyone, right?

What they also demonstrated was that well-designed computing can also find whole new ways of seeing and thinking about problems. During the matches, AlphaGo played a number of moves that, to an expert, were obviously weak, or even bad. Except they turned out to be really strong moves.

And they were moves that a strong player wouldn’t even consider.

Now think about that. Mostly in business – mostly in life, in fact – we look for solutions in the same places we have in the past. While we may not know what the best solution to a problem is, at least we know where to look for it.

But AI is teaching us that that assumption could be totally wrong. And that has serious implications for Google Adwords.

See, most of the work you and we do in Adwords is based on refining what we already know. It’s a good approach: start with what seems sensible based on fundamental principles, test it, refine it based on results, test that, refine some more, and so on. If nothing else, it pretty much guarantees incremental gains over time.

But what if what we already know is only a fraction of what’s possible? “There are huge variations in a Go game,” said one expert after the Sedol/AlphaGo match. “We can’t even read 1% of them.”

Google is taking this result very seriously. It’s now seeing itself as an Artificial Intelligence company and transforming the way it delivers the right advertising to the right device for the right prospect. Its systems are learning (and it’s time to stop using quotation marks when we talk about machines learning) what approaches are likely to deliver the best results.

What are the implications for you (and for Ark Advance, for that matter!).

One important implication is that to take advantage of AI, you need to allow for a period of learning.  This will take as long as the amount of lessons your data can provide.   For example a website using AI to optimise its advertising to deliver phone calls will learn faster if the site delivers 1000 a week compared to 10.  

The old adage “garbage in/garbage out” can now be updated to “insufficient data prevents meaningful results” (with apologies to Isaac Asimov). Many Kiwi companies fall down in this area, and if you’re among them, you’ll want to chat with us about how we can help you build volume where currently none exists.  

A second implication is that we humans – Ark Advance included – will have to get used to not being the smartest “machines” on the block. But that doesn’t mean we’re not needed. AI can and does outperform us on many fronts, but humans are still needed to manage the technology and to ask the right questions in the first place.

The lesson here? The future belongs to those who embrace AI without fear, and with a willingness to learn what it does and doesn’t offer. That applies to website optimisation companies and their clients as much as anyone else. Yes, it’s confronting, but it’s exciting too.

Ready?

It takes guts to be in business. That applies regardless of whether you own the business or are responsible for some aspect of it.

I see clients display that courage often. It typically happens when we’ve conducted a review of Google rankings for a business that hasn’t been active in this area. In those cases, the results can easily come as a shock. 

Your first reaction to bad news like that might be an urge to run and hide. Somehow, it evokes memories of being graded at school – and learning that you’ve bombed a really important exam. You might experience disbelief. You might decide the news is so bad that doing anything about it is futile. I have seen both those reactions.

Here’s what I say to clients in those moments: “What if your competitors are also performing as you are, and what if they also react as you just did when they learn the reality?”

Here’s the fact of the matter. Most businesses in any given sector are performing badly in Google search rankings. What’s worse, their owners either have no idea this is happening, or show no interest in finding out. What’s worse still, when they do find out, a good number of them will decide the situation is beyond saving and then do precisely nothing.

So back to you. You’ve discovered your Google search rankings are crap. I say that’s great news! You had the guts to look, and you can now do something about it!

And here’s what you do.

First, start from wherever you are. Instead of focussing on whether you want to be in that place or not, you begin measuring your performance against that benchmark, rather than some ideal you think you should already have achieved. While you’re at it, stop beating yourself up about being where you are. You have the guts to be in business and have your performance measured objectively. Hats off to you.

Second, adopt a long term view. Life, business and high Google search rankings are all long games. Small gains add up to massive gains over time. And small gains aren’t hard work; they just take a little persistence. Given you’re in business, I think it’s safe to say persistence is one of your strong points.

Third, have an expert (hint, hint) support you in mapping out a way forward. If they promise the earth in seven days, they’re not an expert – just someone with a god complex. Choose someone who not only knows their stuff, but is willing to be transparent and straight with you.

Then roll up your sleeves and crack into it.

As I said, I’ve seen many clients do just that, once the initial disappointment has worn off. Some of them are now killing it in Google search rankings, and their businesses are screaming along.

All because, one day in the past, they heard some bad news. Which turned out, thanks to their courage, to be great news indeed.

In my last blog, I talked about the importance and value of visitors who return to your website having not engaged with you on their previous visit.

Having those people return is generally a good thing, since they’re more likely to buy or engage with you than even existing customers. And that means you want to know, as far as possible, the journey they took that led to them returning to you and which interactions played how significant a role in their decision to return and even buy. This takes us into the complex world of attribution modelling. Basically this is correctly identifying the traffic source responsible for every conversion your website receives.

Now you might be thinking that the ad that was most effective was the last one a visitor clicked on to return to your site. But that ignores the important role of all the other clicks this person made before that. For instance their journey could start with a paid click (from a product based campaign), followed by an organic search click, a social media remarketing click, with this torrent of clicking ending with another paid click (now from a brand name campaign) before they visit and buy.

The default attribution model Google AdWords applies places the conversion in the bucket of traffic responsible for the last click. That being the brand name AdWords click in the last example.

Obviously this causes inaccuracies when people are bouncing in and out of your website through various streams of traffic before they convert. By analysing conversions through the lens of Last Click those responsible for kicking off the buying behaviour are naturally de-optimised over and above those which close the sale. And you can’t close what you don’t start so revenue slides – downwards.

Thankfully Google AdWords offers several more attribution models to pick from. To compare to Last Click there’s First Click attribution. Here there’s total emphasis on what starts the journey. It’s another extreme weighting but now at the other end of the journey. Which is why the next four are where the money is.

Linear attribution shares the credit for the conversion equally across all clicks. Whereas Time Decay gives more credit the closer a clicks occurred to the moment of conversion. Then Position-based gives 40% of credit to the first- and last-clicked ads and corresponding keyword, with the remaining 20% spread out across the other clicks, while Data-Driven (the geek option) distributes credit based on past data for this conversion action (assuming enough data is available).

Confused yet?

Remember this discussion is a non-discussion if your traffic behaves and arrives and converts all within the same session. In that case, you can use Last Click Attribution and feel comfortable living in the land of the default setting. For the rest of us it pays to pick a model away from the two extremes to see how it alters your conversion reporting. Google AdWords allows you to compare a couple of models at a time. More often than not, the most suitable attribution model for those with bouncing /cross channel traffic will be Position Based.

So to recap. Let’s say a customer finds your site by clicking one of your AdWords ads. She returns a week later by clicking over from a social network. That same day, she comes back a third time via one of your email campaigns, and a few hours later, she returns again directly and makes a purchase. The Position Based attribution model may assign 40% credit to each of the Paid Search and Direct channels, and 10% to each of Social Network and Email channels.

Two last points. First, with greater insight comes greater precision. So if you do make the switch out of the extreme choices then get used to measuring conversions to at least one decimal place (24.8 vs 24 or 25).

Second, this can be as mind bending as it sounds. While the effort’s well worth it, you should definitely call us for a reliable guide through this difficult, yet highly rewarding, jungle to find the attribution path best suited for you and your website.

Everyone loves regular customers, and rightly so.

And if someone comes to your website but doesn’t do business with you, you at least want them to engage with you in some way, surely? By giving you their email address, for example, or requesting a free ebook.  All of that’s true, but it can obscure one other critical aspect of effective online marketing. You see, people who return to your website a second time, after initially leaving without engaging with you, are far more valuable on a per-head basis than even your existing customers.

Here’s one example: Returning website visitor transactions made up 48% of all US e-commerce sessions in the fourth quarter of 2015. The likelihood of a returning visitor actually buying was 15%, vs 7.6% for existing shoppers.

That’s right. Non-customers were twice as likely to buy as existing ones!

So here’s a question. What’s your strategy for converting unconverted website visitors into repeat visitors? And what’s your strategy for then converting those returning visitors into buyers or leads (that is, someone who gives you their contact details)? If you have a strategy, congratulations! You’re among a select minority.

If you don’t yet have a strategy, here’s a place to start. Ask yourself:

There are no obvious answers to these questions, and they’ll probably vary depending on your industry, your website, the services you offer, and a lot of other variables. That’s where we come in. We can help you track and understand visitor behaviour, even when those people are not on your website. Then we can work with you to develop strategies for increasing return and conversion rates over time.

Keep in mind that when someone returns, you must have done something right in the first place (otherwise they wouldn’t have returned!). So you’re not trying to fix something that’s broken; you’re out to increase its effectiveness. As always, if you’d like to learn more about this opportunity, call us and we’ll be delighted to explore it with you.

One last thing. According to RJ Metrics, the top quartile of worldwide e-commerce companies receive most of their revenue from repeat customers at the two-year mark. At three years, repeat customers account for more than 60% of revenue. So whatever you do, keep loving your existing customers!

Energy companies know that one of the best times to acquire new customers is when they’re moving home. The problem is, every energy company knows that, so every energy company targets people at this time.

But what if you could target people a few weeks or months before they move home?

Google, who know a thing or two about how to mine data to gain a marketing edge, recently introduced a tool that allows exactly that. In essence, Life Events interprets people’s search activity to anticipate what they’re likely to do in the near future. For example, someone who’s likely to move house in the next 12 months, say, will investigate mortgage rates or houses for sale. Someone likely to move much sooner than that might investigate moving companies.  

This is a serious addition to a marketer’s arsenal. The vast majority of people who use Google search results to drive business take a literal approach. That is, an energy company looking for new customers may devote a lot of its search spend to keywords like “energy company”, “power pricing”, and so on.

With Life Events, that approach will now come too late in many people’s decision making process. Marketers using only literal keywords will be gazumped by those using keywords that identify people earlier in the famous “pathway to purchase”. Those using Life Events will be able to use this targeting option in their YouTube and Gmail Ads.

Does that mean a literal keyword approach is about to become redundant? Not yet. Life Events has limitations, not least of which is that it only tracks data for people who are logged into their Google account when they’re conducting a Google search. That’s far from everyone – for now, anyway. I think Life Events is a potentially powerful tool well worth exploring, particularly if your product or service tends to be connected to particular life events. Travel agents and weddings, for example. Car companies and people about to graduate. Appliance retailers and people approaching retirement.

As always, talk to us for more information or if you’d like to test whether this is something you should take on. In the meantime, check out this two-minute video for a quick rundown from Google on Life Events, and this case study about how one Australian energy company achieved dramatic results by using Life Events intelligently.