With the most arduous restrictions of COVID-19 behind us (for now), New Zealanders are starting to spend money again – most notably on domestic travel and home improvements1.

But while we are able to resume local travel and trade freely in the community, it’s inevitable that showrooms and previously packed-out home show events will see a decline in traffic.

So what to do, when demonstration is a key part of your sales process? This is where the online virtual showroom, or visualiser, comes into its own. Once a clunky concept of first-generation “virtual reality” technology, today’s photographic and digital advances make it possible to create a much more realistic online showroom experience for your potential customers – in some cases, with an edge over the original.

Seeing is believing

An obvious hurdle of the online environment is that people can’t touch what they’re buying. While this has not proven to be a barrier in retailing smaller items like clothing and books online, the burden is greater for bigger purchases like flooring or custom cabinetry.

The upside, however, is the power to create an experience that brings your customer’s vision to life. High definition photos of carpet or timber may only give a close approximation of colour and texture – but seeing it run down a hallway (their own hallway, depending on the technology) or built to their own specifications can be a powerful way to turn a budding idea into an action plan. The Tile Warehouse’s Visualiser tool offers the option for users to upload a photo of their own bathroom or kitchen, as well as preset room layouts.

The comforts of home

For all the benefits of a showroom to the vendor – the hands-on experience, the home turf advantage – the reality is that you still have to get the customer in there. This is harder now than it has ever been, and smart businesses are seeing the opportunity to meet the customer where they are.

While you may lose that immediate ability to drive a decision on the spot, a customer who can take the time to weigh their options may be much more receptive to a more collaborative, soft-sell approach. You can still communicate, whether that’s by email, phone or another preferred medium, and once they have indicated an intention to make a purchase, that communication can likely be a lot more direct. Kiwi company Kowhai Roofs lets customers upload a photo of their own home to check out colour options with their Kowhai Colour Visualiser tool.

Seamless integration with digital marketing

Consumers of all goods, now more than ever before, are online. Whereas before COVID-19, having a high-performing website was a competitive advantage, it is now becoming all but essential to staying in business.

Fortunately, your advertising and the native content you publish can now provide a single-step journey into your showroom environment. Although we take it for granted, the difference is stark;  magazine ads and billboards rely on a lot of other factors falling into place before they get a customer to your door. Flooring company HARO is featured by construction clients in regular Instagram posts, linking a wider audience who can then visit their site and try the HARO Room Visualiser.

If you invest in advertising, then invest in your site – the relationship is hand-in-glove and will ensure that the customers you want will be most likely to come to you.

1  Tony Alexander NZ Spending Survey

In this issue, ARK Advance founder and GM Chris Price takes a deeper look into his crystal ball of online marketing. What do you see, Chris?

“Well, after another year in the business and now 17 years in this space, I can list for you the most obvious topics that I think are worth some planning time in 2020. 

“These are ideal for when you first come back from holiday, with the sand still behind your ears and a brain that is fresh and ready to fire.”

Advertising costs per click are going in only one direction

“And that is up, up and away. More of your competitors will enter the online space, if they are not already lining up around you. Each and every one will be fighting to get the optimal position, so the bids will rise and with that, so will your costs for clicks. I would budget for a 50% increase in 2020. 

“This means that with a $1,000 monthly budget, your 1,000 clicks at $1 could go down to 666 clicks at $1.50 with a freeze on your budgeted spend. A third of your traffic falls by the wayside, all due to rising competition.”

Stand out or blend in

“Those who decide to stand out from the competing crowd have a better chance of fighting this increase in costs, with increased conversion rates. 

“Without clear segmentation, product development and targeted messaging, general service businesses – from plumbing and electrical to accounting, law or graphic design – will struggle to do anything other than grab less traffic, or pay more for each lead. 

“By contrast, more focused businesses will segment their marketing and go after specific audiences, with messages and offerings tailored just for them. This approach can turn conversion rates on their head and help your business ride this rising click-cost with a smile.”

It’s not “measure more”, but measure right

“Everyone has Google Analytics on their website: at last count it was over 85 million. Some of your smart competitors will have it correctly configured, and a smaller group of these will know what the data means. But very, very few of these will follow their clicks through to quotes, on to confirmed leads and through to actual closed sales. The further your digital advertising data capture goes into your sales process, the fewer of your competitors follow you. “

Privacy is a growing concern

“Already Google is telling us that some of the targeting features we used in 2019 are not going to be available in 2020, due to their privacy changes. Finding people who are “similar” or “lookalike” to your converting audiences will be harder, so don’t rely too heavily on these tools for volume in the future.”

Trust is an asset you can build

“This year we have hammered the point of seeking customer reviews. We ran a webinar on TrustPilot, and talked frequently about the value of providing a tool on your own site to garner more reviews from your clients. 

“One of our clients was an early adopter, and started gathering reviews in January 2019. Now after less than a year, they have over 1,800 customer reviews with a 4.7 out of 5 score through TrustPilot. Conversion rates have climbed as a result. 

“These reviews are not going anywhere – they are there forever. It will take their competitors around the same time to reach this point, by which time they will have even more. Start building your reputational review assets in 2020.”

There are no $3 leads anymore – so make your sales super-slick

“I don’t think there ever were… but on a recent call, a client said that they would love their sales leads to be at $3. I shared that their maths was never going to support it. Their clicks were already around $6, and with the top budget conversion rate they could hope for at 10%, they were looking at $60 and up. 

“When your sales process is slick, these numbers can work for you every day of the week. However, when it’s a leaking bucket with a mess of an overall conversion rate, these same numbers can drive you to financial ruin fast.”

Interested in planning 2020?

“Like you, we at ARK Advance will be back in 2020 with fresh minds ready to test some fresh thinking. Our services can help you take these points, and more, into your digital marketing plans for 2020. 

“Whether you need an independent voice of reason, or one to drive your plans with the details of implementation – both options work for us.”

Interested?  Give us a call today.

They are run by separate companies, but wouldn’t it be great if the insight you build in one could be transferred to the other? 

As competitors, Google and Facebook do try to operate within their own silos in maintaining a competitive advantage. However, here at ARK Advance, we are keen to make 1 plus 1 equal 3 by using the knowledge stored by one company to make the other perform better for you.

Here are a couple of strategies that can help you build a bridge between the giants of Silicon Valley.

Do more of what works

First up is how you target your audiences, and the messages and imagery you use. Your audience targeting in Google could work well in Facebook, and vice versa. For instance, Google might tell you that your ads are working well in YouTube or the Google Display Network, for those targeted in Auckland who are renovating a new house. You should be able to find a similar audience in Facebook using their audience selection tools; we have covered this in our previous blog about Google Life Event targeting.

Likewise, your Facebook advertising manager tells you that certain images and text could be performing well in Instagram. Why not test these within the ‘responsive display ad’ option you can use for Google Display? 

Get smarter with data gathering

Next up is remarketing, and how learning from one can help the other. 

The integration between Google Analytics and Google Ads is super-smart, allowing us to remarket to site visitors according to a whole bunch of factors like page visits, demographics, traffic sources and more. (For more on remarketing, check out our September blog post Good Things Take Time.) Facebook is a bit more rudimentary, only allowing us to build audiences according to the pages people actually look at. However, we can form a bridge here too.

Let’s say that you have a landing page on your site that is specific to a certain Google Ad campaign, with its unique audience target. From here, you can build a remarketing audience list out of the visitors who landed on this page, and “feed” this through to Facebook. The initial targeting could have been unique to Google – say, through prior search behaviour – but now through the basic remarketing of Facebook, you can gain the benefits of this unique Google feature through the Facebook channel as well.

Sound interesting?  

Call us today if you would like to learn more about building the bridges of Silicon Valley.

In our last post, we touched on the topic of tailoring your marketing message to resonate with particular audiences. This is a challenge in itself, and even more so when your competitors’ ad is going to be right alongside it for comparison. No pressure!

With the Google Display Network and Facebook, your ads are discreetly snuggled away from your competitors’, in the same way that newspapers rarely place directly competing brands together.

By contrast, in Google Search ads, your advertising is placed directly next to your competitors’. There is a maximum of four ad slots at the top of a Google results page, and if you’re one of them (which is good) you will have up to three competitors’ ads alongside yours. And when it comes to the pure Google search results, there’s nowhere to hide – your result will be coming up right next to your competitors’. So how do you survive, and thrive, in the world’s biggest comparison engine?

Consider the context

Firstly, your copy needs to be written for the context it will appear in. For Google Search, it’s a given that it will be seen alongside others. So look at what the other players in your market are saying – see what’s being shown, and create a message that stands out, rather than blends in.

Keep it fresh

Naturally, anything you publish will automatically be seen by your competitors and your prospects. For this reason, it’s important to refresh your content regularly, and in response to what’s around you. For instance, when the opportunity arises, a reference to a relevant high-profile event is a good way to keep your content current. It’s a moving feast, so don’t worry if that’s a daunting prospect: the ARK Advance team are primed to take on this task if you need them!

Put yourself in your customers’ (various) shoes

Targeting specific audiences to see your ads will help make your message stand out. For instance, for exactly the same search term you could write one version of an ad for men, and one for women. Or one to be seen on a mobile device, versus one on a desktop – or one for someone who has already been to your website versus one for someone who has never heard of you before. The more clearly you can define each potential group, the more appealing you can make your ads; with the added bonus that these subtle nuances are harder for competitors to locate.

As we covered in our last blog, this is especially important when you’re looking at your cost per click. When you’re casting a wide net to potentially cheaper leads, you need the kind of ad that can capture the attention of someone who may only have a vague awareness of your offering. Encouraging them to imagine your service in their life – whether that’s business coaching or spa pool installations – is a good broad-brush approach that allows them to fill in the gaps with their own desires. 

By contrast, when you’re paying more per click to retarget people who, say, already came to your site and partly filled out a contact form, you can be much more direct in encouraging them to take action. They’ve already had the idea to buy – you just need to roll out the red carpet. 

Crunch the numbers

Lastly, of course, if your measurement systems are correctly set up, you will then be able to see which messages perform the best: which ads are getting customers on the phone, submitting their online forms or filling up their shopping cart. 

At ARK Advance, we consider it our mission to help you hone your story and get it where it needs to be. For expertise in all of this and more, talk to us today.

There aren’t fifty, and likewise there isn’t just one “weird tip” for digital marketing success. Here are five metrics that can help guide the improved performance of online marketing for your service business. 

Surprise surprise, the majority come from your ability to track a lead straight through to a sale. That is, it’s more than just a single website stat. Refer to our earlier blog post on the value of doing this.  

How do you manage your sales leads? Let’s start with those stats, to see how analysing your leads en masse can help you increase the effectiveness of your marketing. 

1. Number of leads required to get to a sale 

This is one straightforward way to measure the quality of your online connections. How many contacts made through digital advertising do you need to talk to, or present to, to make a sale? Is this number going up or down? This simple metric helps you gauge the return on your marketing spend, and evaluate and refine the relevant channels. 

2. Average sale value 

Out of those leads who become customers, what is their average sale value? Are you bringing in the right type of new customers, or are there small orders coming in when you want larger ones? This is another indicator of your leads’ quality and value. 

3. Conversion rate of your website 

Now we get back to the website and its performance, which of course still plays a role. This is your main “shopfront”, even if you’re not selling physical goods. Monitoring changes in your visitor traffic, and how many of those visitors become leads, will help to guide future developments.  

4. Allowable marketing cost per lead 

As the quality of your leads improves, and thus also the effective quality of your customers, you can afford to spend more to get each new customer. This important progression can allow you to enter online marketing channels that may have been too expensive before.  

5. Allowable cost per advertised click 

When this measure moves upwards, it’s a sure sign that all the above factors are working well for you.

Looking at the graphic below, the cost per click was higher than the business could afford. However, as the lead quality improves –  only needing five leads instead of seven on average to make a sale, AND a conversion rate that goes up to 10% from 5% – this company can now purchase clicks at up to $2 each, while Google will “sell them” at 95c. 

So while there are no quick fixes, there are reliable ways to measure and enhance your digital marketing performance.

To find out how to harness the power of these metrics for your service business, talk to the professionals at Ark Advance today.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to advertising online, especially at the beginning.

You may start with a very clear idea and definition of what it is you’re offering; but as you further consider the diverse needs and viewpoints of your potential clientele, you might not feel confident in deciding which words or phrases are going to have the greatest impact.

Fortunately, help is at hand, in the form of Google’s own responsive search ads.

Let the “magic” work for you

When you’re creating a responsive Google search ad, for example, you can include multiple taglines, descriptions and definitions for your product or service. Google will then build your ad dynamically from these, according to which search terms, keywords and messages are most likely to lead to a conversion result on your site.

Similarly, with responsive Google display adverts, you can load up an array of image options, as well as the text behind those images. Google will determine – automatically – that this image works better with that headline, and so forth.

The beauty of this is that it’s a core part of Google’s functionality: they have invested heavily in this technology, so you know it’s a resource you can leverage.

Instead of agonising over a decision on what ad copy is best, you can leave it in the hands of your audience and the power of Google to determine which combinations work best.

Let’s get started – together

So, if you’re struggling to create a single ad or online identity that is all things to all people, try this approach instead. As your digital marketing partner, ARK Advance can help you formulate the best range of taglines, search terms and imagery to cover as wide a range of your potential audience as possible.

From there, it’s simply a matter of letting Google do what it does best – run the numbers automatically, to raise the profile of the best performing ad combinations, and minimise or eliminate the display of any poor performers. Once again, the ultimate outcome will be better performing ads and higher quality sales leads for your business.

If this sounds like something your business could benefit, contact the friendly ARK Advance team today.

Are you someone who is passionate about your business, but a bit more relaxed in tracking and analysing your sales leads?

While this approach is familiar in small business, it could be a handbrake to the future growth you are seeking.

The price of not being organised

I remember my accountant telling me about her clients who would turn up with a shoebox of receipts at the end of each financial year, asking her to run their accounts urgently based on this disorderly mess. It was urgent, because they didn’t know how much tax they owed.  Compare this to the operator who runs their business via Xero each month, and knows exactly where they stand financially.   

Few would think of the shoebox as an option these days.  However, it’s common for people to manage their sales leads with a similar level of disorder.  And the tax they pay in this case is spending too much on their marketing costs.

Start with what you have

For those of us who don’t naturally think systematically, the habit of tracking and measuring contacts sometimes isn’t an easy one to form. 

The easiest place to start is with a simple Excel spreadsheet. Each time a contact is made, either by phone or email, take a few seconds to make an entry on the spreadsheet with their name and contact details. At regular intervals, depending on volumes, you can then split these contacts according to whether they were good leads (resulting in a sale) or bad. 

This simple data set, when supplied to a digital marketing partner like Ark Advance, will consistently help to refine and target ads to where those good leads came from. 

For a relatively small investment, say $30 per month, you can then expand into using a CRM system. This enables you to keep a central repository of all your customers’ contact and transaction details, categorise them and automate handy tools like regular communications.

Assuming a growth mindset

At first this can all seem like extra process for the sake of it, but the real power of digital advertising lies in measurement.  

We touched on the concept in our earlier blog, Zero to Hero: Rate your leads for better performance. You’re in business, so you know you have to advertise – you are no doubt putting plenty of thought into who your customers are and where to find them. The next step is to find out what you are spending to reach each genuine customer, and which of your ads are the most effective. You can then be confident in focusing future spending on the media and messages that are bringing you the most business. 

There is also the benefit of simply being organised; a shoebox approach might work when you have five customers, but not when you have 50! So think big from the start.

Running the numbers

When you’re in control and have an established routine for data capture, you can really start to look at where each dollar is going.

Working with measurable data, for example, you can find out the maximum you will want to pay for each lead. Let’s say you make a sale out of every 10 leads, on average. If a sale is $1,000, and marketing is $300, no lead can cost more than $30 and be profitable. So in this case, we can tell Google to only give you only conversions/leads if they are less than a $30 spend.

If you find that 1 in 10 leads produces a sale, after a few months, you can also find out what ads gave you the customers, and which didn’t. 

A few simple steps can place the power of your own data in your hands. To get started, get in touch today – it’s our job to make it easy. 

Imagine you hire, at some expense, a highly rated and expert staff member to transform your business. Do you bring them into the fold, ensuring they have access to all the information and tools they need?  Or do you thank them for joining you and then seat them in the basement with an offline PC?

Like any other resource (especially human), optimisation partners like Ark Advance can deliver better results when we are in the loop and informed, rather than working in isolation. This doesn’t need to involve long meetings or complex reporting – in fact, it’s usually as simple as pushing one button.

Last month, we launched two new feedback tools for our clients to use in strengthening the performance of their online marketing. These tools rely on our clients working with us in partnership, by letting us know the quality (i.e. sales potential) of each enquiry generated by their various advertising efforts.

Let’s start with phone enquiries, which can range in quality from a momentary whim to a ready and willing purchaser. As you may know, we are able to track when a phone call is made by someone linking from one of your marketing campaigns. This allows us, for example, to know that we sent 200 phone calls into a company directly from their Google ads. 

Impressive as that may be, we have now extended this capability further. Now, when the call terminates, our clients can quickly use their phone to score the quality of that lead. This score is then automatically fed back into their advertising system, so that we can adjust where their future ads will go and tune their overall digital marketing presence to generate more high-quality leads.

The same applies for leads that come from forms submitted through the website. As well as knowing which ad brought them there, we can also allow our clients to score the quality of the lead, quickly and easily online, so that they’re likely to get more solid business leads and fewer tyre-kickers in future.

By using these feedback channels, our clients can begin to analyse and target their ad spending more accurately, based on actual sales likelihood.

Chances are, you’re not that business that hires an industry guru and then parks them in the basement. So talk to us about how these new tools could work for you. With a few very easy steps, providing feedback on your leads can increase the value of every ad you buy, and generate more satisfying sales conversations.

If you’re of a paranoid disposition, a recent AdWords announcement won’t be helping matters. In April, Google let advertisers know that if they didn’t optimise their ad groups themselves, Google would do it for them.

Ad suggestions are ads created by Google on your behalf. And, unless you tell Google otherwise, Google will include those ads into your ad rotation.

But don’t get too freaked out.

First, ad suggestions are variations of your current text ads, not entirely new ads. So Google’s not about to make up some weird ad copy on your behalf.

Second, ad suggestions come with distinct benefits, especially for people who are either too busy or can’t be bothered to pay too much attention to their AdWords account.

The first benefit is a lift in clicks and conversions. Google’s research has shown that ad groups with three or more “high quality” ads can get 5% to 15% more clicks or conversions as long as ad rotation has been optimised. If you don’t give your AdWords account a lot of love and attention, allowing Google to contribute could be a good idea.


Don’t let your ego get in the way

Ad suggestions don’t come from humans – they’re a function of Google’s machine learning technology. So yes, you will be allowing a machine to tell you how to talk to your customers.

Essentially, Google will crawl your current content, such as landing pages and current ads. Thanks to having access to more paid search advertising data than anyone else on the planet, they have a deep understanding of the key metrics behind what gets clicks and what doesn’t, including ad copy, calls to action and trigger words.

Increasing your click through rate obviously benefits Google, as it increases their revenue. But it benefits you too.


What to do next

If you’re happy to pass the reins to Google, you don’t need to do anything. As long as your campaign’s ad rotation settings are set to “Optimize”, ad suggestions may appear and could, in all likelihood, bring more qualified traffic to your door.

Our advice, however, is to stay as involved as you can in your ad copy. While it may not do you any harm to allow Google to tweak your ads, and may even do some good, nothing beats a personal commitment to performing well.

If you prefer to keep total control, go to your account’s settings page, expand the “ad suggestions” component and select “Don’t automatically apply ad suggestions”, then hit save.

As always, if you have any questions about this development or would like expert support in this area, give us a call or fire an email through. We’re here to help.

Sometimes today we take it for granted just how easy it is to search Google and find something online.

Want to order a pizza? Boom. The closest pizza place to your location, their website, and phone number. Easy.

However, it wasn’t always like this. For those of us old enough to remember the early days of home internet (read pre-Google), we conjure up images of Altavista, Compuserve and Ask Jeeves.

Google changed the game when it came to search engines, and what they did was so brilliant that 20 years later, not only do they have total domination of the industry, but we now use their name as a verb.

If you don’t believe us, Google it.

The challenge facing new businesses

Searching for a pizza is fine, but what if your business provides a service that’s a little more ambiguous?

That’s the challenge facing modern business and Google today. Subjects which are difficult to categorise can fall behind when it comes to search results, and it’s a problem.

Let’s just say for example you start a business helping people develop their own start-ups. What do people search for to find you? Business coach? Mentor? Advisor? Or do they type a question into Google; “How can I grow my business?” or “I need help with my business”.

It can be difficult knowing what people are searching for, and therefore what to advertise yourself as. If you’ve styled yourself as a “business guru”, and your rival is a “business coach”, which one of you is getting more clicks?

It all depends on what people are searching for in the first place.

Tools to help

We’ve found a great website to help with this problem.

SeedKeywords.com is a simple way to capture people’s intent when they search for something. It’s like your own market research campaign but is totally free!

It works in two simple steps. First, you create a scenario for a search query (the problem). Second step, you give this scenario to people and record their responses (the solution).

So, for example, let’s say you’re opening a Yoga/Pilates class in Grey Lynn in Auckland. What exactly would people type into Google to find you? There are plenty of options to choose from – Grey Lynn yoga, Pilates class Auckland, yoga class NZ – but which is the most common search query for your unique business?

Well, you start by creating the scenario: “You feel like trying out yoga or pilates – what would you search for?” and sending it out to people through social media, email, newsletters, etc:


And then as they answer the question, you see what they would type into Google:


It’s a simple as that. A fast, effective, and free tool to help uncover which search terms people are using. There are of course other ways to do this, but for a quick, inexpensive way to check your particular business area, it’s a great place to start.

Many purchases are bought on impulse, and according to a recent survey, over two thirds of people who did impulse buy, did so because they were physically standing in a store.

It’s a well-known marketing ploy; place inexpensive items near the checkout and people will tend to buy them. And it’s easy to see why. Standing in line, nothing to do but wait until the cashier gets to you, your brain is already in “buying mode”… what’s one little bar of chocolate or magazine in the grand scheme of things?

The point is, many people don’t realise they want something until they see it, but how do you recreate this online?

Finding your audience

Before social media, people only bought things online after specifically searching for them. Now it’s different. People can spend hours a day on the net, not looking for anything in particular, but just scrolling from one post to the next.

This is where targeted advertising comes in.

Google’s Custom Affinity Audiences allows you to target people based on behaviours. Remember, every click someone makes is recorded, so Google knows which websites people have been to (especially handy if they’re looking at competitors’ sites), which apps they have on their phone, the places they’ve visited, which cafés they eat at, and the gyms they work out at.

Taking all this knowledge, Google can make a pretty accurate profile of a person, and use this to target ads in their direction.

An example of how it works

Let’s just say you want to sell high-end trail running shoes to middle aged guys who have an unhealthy addiction to endurance events.

You can use Custom Affinity Audiences to zero in on the demographics of people who might buy those shoes.

So your Custom Affinity Audience may look like this:

Remember, this group of people won’t necessarily be actively searching for a new pair of running shoes, but when they see an ad for them, they are more likely to buy than just a random internet user.

This is the online version of impulse buying, and it’s a growing market.

Reach the people interested, not just the people searching

If, at this very moment, ten people are Googling “how to make choc-chip ice-cream” that doesn’t mean there are only ten people in the world who like choc-chip ice-cream.

The trick is to show all the choc-chip ice-cream lovers out there that you make the best version of it, and you’re selling it online right now.

There are more people thinking about their likes, hobbies and interests than are actually searching for something to buy, so target those guys and give them the option to buy, rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Ark Advance can help you set up and define your Custom Affinity Audiences, implementing them, and track your conversion rate.

And who doesn’t love chocolate-chip ice-cream?

About a year and a half ago, Google launched its rival to the Amazon Echo, a smart speaker called Google Home.

As usual, New Zealand has been invited late to the party, and officially Google Home hasn’t been released here – but it is available in Australia.

What is Google Home?

Google Home is a voice-activated smart assistant which uses AI and claims to have been designed to make your life easier.

It allows users to speak voice commands to a personal assistant, allowing people to play music, record TV shows, or hear the latest news headlines.

By saying “Ok Google” to activate it, users can then ask questions, or make requests, making it basically a verbal version of the Google search engine. It also doubles as a calculator, dictionary, or translator.

Testing it out at home

I recently added Google Home to our family environment and was surprised to see how far Artificial Intelligence has come in such a short time, particularly the voice-recognition technology.

First of all, the simplicity is incredible. From opening the box to Google accepting my commands and queries took less than 20 minutes.

I started using it every morning by saying “OK Google, Good Morning”. With this simple prompt, it tells me:

And it didn’t take long for everyone else to start getting the hang of it.

My wife likes to listen to the radio, but our house has poor reception. In the past she has struggled with Sonos being played through her phone, but now with Google home she simply asks it to play Radio Live and it does. She’s impressed enough to call it “pure genius”.

We also use it as a family. The weekly shopping list is saved on all our phones, and any item we remember we need throughout the week, we simply tell Google to add it to the list. The communal shopping list is updated on all our devices, and we can all see it.

From asking for phone numbers of companies, through to playing music by our favourite artists, Google Home has changed the way we live.

What’s the future hold?

What stands out for me with this new technology is how quickly it has progressed.

AI is moving at a striking pace, and instead of this voice command technology being 10 years away, it’s suddenly more likely to be only 3-5 years from becoming commonplace.

Instead of searching for a plumber online, simply asking out loud will get you the nearest one. How is this going to affect the way we search for things? Will these smart speakers make everything we know about SEO obsolete?

Only time will tell what changes are in the pipeline, but you can rest assured that Ark Advance is at the forefront of the curve when it comes to this new technology.

Each Friday, the team at Ark Advance gets together for a Show and Tell session, where we show off our best work to each other and also share insights and learnings into the world of online marketing.

You’d think that after more than two decades in this business I’d rarely learn anything new in these sessions. And you’d be totally wrong. Our field expands and changes so quickly that I walk into each Show and Tell fully expecting to come away with at least one new piece of useful knowledge, and I’m rarely disappointed.

One of the topics recently explored was the challenge of balancing paid advertising around keywords without cannibalising the work you’ve done to rank well through organic search.

Organic search results are those websites that appear on a search engine results page after someone’s typed in a search term. A lot of our work is in Search Engine Optimisation – that is, helping clients appear earlier in those results by finessing their web architecture and content against key search terms.

Paid advertising, on the other hand, is just as it sounds – sponsored ads that generally appear above the organic rankings. While that’s a great position to appear in, it can also be expensive. And when you’re already ranking high in the organic results, that cost could be unnecessary.

Or maybe not. It’s hard to say.

But there is a solution. Although most people know that AdWords reporting tools will tell you how often customers are seeing your ads, fewer people know about the Paid & Organic Report, which shows how often your web pages are showing in Google’s organic search results at the sametime as your paid advertising appears.

With this report set up, you can gauge how your paid advertising and organic search results are working together. And that means you can ensure your online marketing spend is being used efficiently.

Depending on your search terms this can play out a number of different ways. It may mean that when you appear both in organic and in paid the increase in traffic is greater than if you were just there in natural search.  Or – the worse case scenario – your paid advertising brings in no more traffic with it there or not.    

Setting up the report is a little tricky if you’re not tech savvy. You’ll need a free Google Search Console account for your website and link it to your AdWords account. This is one place – among many – where we can help you.

One everything’s set up, you’ll be able to view your organic search results right alongside the stats for your paid advertising (excluding Shopping ads or click-to-download ads).

The report can help you find potential new keywords for your AdWords account by identifying queries where you only appear in organic search right now.

You can also use it to improve paid advertising results and to monitor high-value queries for organic results.

And you can test a range of variables like website improvements, changes to bids, and different keywords. Over time, you should enjoy an increase in traffic for your most important queries at a cost to you that makes sense.

If this sounds a little high falutin’, it probably is. The bottom line is this: Google’s Paid & Organic Report will help you get more value out of your online marketing spend (we know clients who’ve discovered that matching high ranking organic search results with top ranking paid advertising can produce a 10 times increase in the number of clicks compared to when paid wasn’t there).  

The fussy stuff – setting it up and explaining how to use it – is our territory. Call us and we’ll get the ball rolling for you. The few dollars you spend now will repay you many times over down the track.

While we’re passionate about online marketing, the reality is that most businesses that sell online also have a bricks and mortar presence. Often, the physical store still accounts for most revenue.

If you’re in that camp, this article is for you. And it’s no accident that I’m writing it just after the silly season.

A new year means a new start- for parents with a child starting school, business owners ready for a revamp, or homeowners looking to refurbish- there is always shopping to be done. With that in mind, Google have just launched a handful of innovations designed to make it easier for shoppers to find what they want from you, and also easier for you to track shopper behaviour all the way from online into both your online and your physical store.

Let’s start with Showcase Shopping. This nifty tool lets you curate a collection of lifestyle images and products to help people browse your offerings while conducting a Google search. As you can see from the image here, if someone enters a fairly general search term – dining tables, say – the search results can include thumbnails of sponsored images. By clicking on any image they find appealing, the shopper can then look closer at the product and get more information about it.

This is powerful stuff. US store overstock.com has used it to triple its volume of brand searches and increase click-assisted conversions by just a whisker under a third.

That’s great for online shoppers, but what about those who like buying in store? Google will soon have that covered too with what they call “local inventory on the Google Assistant”. All the shopper has to do is ask Google where he can buy a product nearby, and voila! Results will pop up on their device’s screen.

How do you ensure your products appear on such results? Well, you’ll need a local product inventory feed – essentially, a product database, kept current and linked to Google Assistant. And before you know it, store traffic should start climbing.

Google is upbeat about the impact of these innovations, and probably with some justification. Its own research shows that “local and omni-channel strategies” drive an 80% higher rate of incremental store visits. What’s more, someone who clicks on a Google ad before visiting your store is more than 25% more likely to buy and, when they do, will spend an average of 10% more.

One of the great things about online marketing is its ability to help you measure and track behaviours and results. Surprisingly, Google’s also found a way to help you see how your online advertising translates into store visits, even when the store visit happens some time after the online view.

The key is collating a lot of data from users who’ve opted in to having their behaviour anonymously tracked. Google has extrapolated from those results to draw conclusions about the most likely links between online activity and later offline behaviour for all shoppers.

New or upcoming reports based on these learnings including a Time Lag Report (how long between clicking on an ad and visiting a store or taking another action), a New vs Returning Customer Report (understand how many store visits come from repeat customers and see how ads drive incremental visits), and a Demographic Report that links store visits to your existing demographic reports so you can see which groups of people are most likely to visit which stores.

These are interesting developments to say the least, and we’re not only watching with interest but also working with clients to help them use the new tools to their best advantage. If you want to know more about how this new development can drive your business forward, give us a call.

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.