What Google’s 2019 Keynote Announcements Mean for Marketers

Google announced some major improvements for both Ads and Shopping at their 2019 Keynote address. From linking and bidding optimizations to new options for audiences and product comparisons, marketers have a lot to look forward to in 2019. We’ve combed through the address and come up with five essential takeaways that likely will impact the marketing industry over the next year.

Impact on Ads

Gallery Ads were introduced, allowing marketers to include 4-8 images and a 70-character tagline for each image in their paid search ads. This is the first time that imagery has been integrated into traditional search ads and will greatly increase both the size of the ad and its ability to capture viewers’ attention. Images will be especially beneficial for brands in the food or consumer packaged goods space, as buyers can get a clearer idea of the product straight away. Though the end destination is still your website, these ads will likely change how Google defines a click on your ad.    

New Audience Type

Custom Affinity and Custom Intent audiences will be merged and renamed to “Custom Audiences”. This will be helpful for creating an audience type (such as “hiking enthusiasts”) that contains the best of both audience categories and using that audience across both Google and YouTube ads.

New Ways to Bid

Going forward, there will be a new bidding type that is focused on maximizing conversion value. It weighs different conversions against their values and optimizes bids accordingly. This means that marketers will be able to choose different conversions and conversion values at the campaign level, providing more flexibility with conversion tracking. Campaigns can even be optimized for conversions like for in-store visits.

Simplified Video Ads

Later in 2019, Google will be rolling out a new automated way to create YouTube’s six-second bumper. When a video is submitted, the platform will use machine learning to grab out 3-4 six-second clips that can then be used as bumper ads. Marketers will retain final control over these clips and the audio used for them, making this an easy way to engage with viewers your way while reducing time investment.

Changes to Google Shopping

Google Shopping will be experiencing some of the most exciting changes, according to this year’s keynote. A new Google Shopping site will roll out, which will allow users to see hundreds of products side by side with the option to purchase from online retailers directly through the Google Shopping interface. Users will be able to buy a product they see directly from a YouTube ad as well, and later this year the optimization will expand into Google Images.

Google is ever-changing – but keeping ahead of the curve is what MAKA does best. Contact us at hello@makadigital.com and we’ll use our industry experience to help you ride Google’s wave into your most profitable year yet.

When to Put a Hold on Paid Media

Paid media – PPC, Paid Social and Display, specifically – is one of our core services.  Along with SEO, these channels are what we do day-in and day-out for the world’s best lifestyle brands.  It’s what we’ve done collectively for over 30+ years.  And through those years, we’ve rarely seen a time and a place where Paid Media doesn’t make sense in a media mix.  But once in awhile there is.  If any of the following are happening to your website, you may want to rethink Paid Media in your current mix:

  • Your conversion rates are less than .5% and you can’t quickly prioritize Conversion Rate Optimization

  • Designing custom landing pages for paid media traffic is quite expensive for you (expensive, not just inconvenient)

  • The macro-level trends that affect your business are on the decline

In these cases, paid media dollars can be a lost cause.  The reason is either you can’t convert that traffic into customers to get an ROI or no reasonable level of paid media will reverse traffic declines at the macro level.  So, what do you do in these cases?

Search Engine Optimization

Use this time to double-down on SEO.  If macro level trends that affect your business are on the decline, now is the time to pivot with new content optimized for more viable keyword markets.  Create new content, optimize and amplify that content to help improve in rankings, and began to rebuild.  Now is also a great time to have a soup-to-nuts SEO audit done on your site to ensure no technical issues are impacting your traffic now or in the future.

And more SEO traffic means better bottom-line profitability that you can then use to reinvest back into your .com revenue with paid media.  It’s not that you’re giving up on paid media all together, it’s just a matter of prioritizing and resetting.

Conversion Rate Optimization

If conversion rates are your problem, do the housekeeping on your website to get customers from one step to the next all the way down the path to purchase.  Start with your homepage for the biggest impact – is your most important message above the fold?  Do you have clear and prominent calls to action?  Are your products showcased and put into context for visitors that don’t already know who you are?  Don’t stop there.  Evaluate your category pages, your product pages, your cart page and your checkout page.  We’re big fans of Hotjar to get some first-hand views into what areas of the site users are getting stuck on. 

And when the time is right, you fire that paid media back up and go after that much improved ROI.  Need help prioritizing your media mix?  We’re here for you:  hello@makadigital.com

Making the Most of Content Marketing for Your Retail Brand

We recently had a discussion with a large retail brand that is looking to leverage content marketing to reach new prospective consumers.  Their specific inquiry:

As [we] begin to place more emphasis on adjacent interests (food, travel, music, etc.) for our target customer - how should we think about content in this context? How can we make our site a destination of this type of content and make it stickier and more relevant to our customers?

The team rallied and formalized our thoughts in the following stance:

As you know, many of the digital marketing channels available to us as retailers are product-driven. But through a thoughtful process, digital marketers can flip that on its side and lead with content.  The “thoughtful process” is comprised of a few pillars. 

Pillar #1: Solve the perceived pain points of your target demographic.  For example, if you’re a footwear brand, maybe one of your target demo’s has the pain point of wanting to DIY their own shoe designs but they don’t know where to start or are seeking inspiration.  Go Live with an underground hip-hop artist customizing a white pair of Jordans.  Then leverage that Live to create evergreen blog posts, social posts, YT videos, snippets for SnapChat, etc to continue to reach prospects and build traffic.  Doing so will serve the search engines and build your cookie pool for product retargeting down-stream, revenue growth during major sales events, and for email opt-ins

Pillar #2: Leverage micro influencers to build reach that matters.  Some of us are huge Peloton fans and one a fan-favorite instructor is @RobinNYC.  Adidas, Burning Man, and a few other brands do a fantastic job of leveraging her and her platforms to push their messages in a way that entertains me as a follower and stays true to her personal brand.  Those two brands probably wouldn’t reach us any other ways, or at least not in such a credible way.  Not that you’ll find many of us at Burning Man.  #introvertproblems

Pillar #3:  Go outside of the typical realms of product advertising (Google Shopping, Brand PPC, etc) and live in the spaces that are content driven like Pinterest, IG, blogs and even Snapchat, depending on your target demographic. 

What ways have you leveraged content marketing for a traditionally strong retail site? Let us know in the comments!

Striking Distance Keywords: the often over-looked SEO tactic with the biggest payoff

Leverage Striking Distance Keywords in your Search Engine Optimizations

Most SEO audits are very thorough, cover all the important SEO factors, and the payoff can be experienced for years to come.  Our SEO audit clients are continuing to have year over year SEO traffic increases of 30%+ from audits done over three years ago.  But they can be costly. 

If you can’t yet afford a soup-to-nuts SEO audit, auditing your “striking distance” keywords – keywords that have the potential to rank on page 1 – and  improving those can have a nice payoff, bumping up revenue steadily.  To audit these keywords:

1.       Go into Google Search Console, Performance Report

2.       Add in Impressions, Clicks, Avg Position and CTR

3.       Download the Report

Sort the report by impressions and filter for all keywords in position 9 through 13.  These are your striking distance keywords.  They represent the biggest opportunity to get on page 1 with a bit of elbow grease, thus increasing your traffic.  Go through this report keyword by keyword and visit the pages that are ranking for each of those keywords and see what optimizations you need to make to improve rankings.  Often the optimizations with the biggest payoff are the following:

1.       Build more internal links to that page.  Blog posts, footers, navigation, and product descriptions are examples of places that can link back to the target page.

2.       Optimize page titles to include the target keywords

3.       Improve meta-descriptions for your target keyword.  This in and of itself won’t improve your rankings, but it can help improve your Click-Through Rates which gets you more traffic while your other optimizations take effect.

4.       Improve on-page text to include more of your target keyword.  Readability and flow is the first priority, so don’t use keywords too many times that they sound unnatural.  But sometimes a bit more keyword usage can help.

Doing this practice once a month will begin to have steady, noticeable improvements in your SEO traffic, which then allows you to invest more in paid media traffic and channels that grow your brand over the long-term.  Don’t have time to do this?  Drop us a note at hello@makadigital.com and let’s discuss options to meet your SEO needs and budget.

Facebook and Instagram broke… did your performance break too?

It’s not uncommon for up-and-coming brands to be built with strong influencer and organic social media strategies. But if you took a hit in performance when Facebook and Instagram broke last week, it’s time to diversify your marketing mix.

When brands have strong influencer and organic social performance, that tells us a couple things. First, it tells us that the product is remarkable and likeable, which often means getting a consumer to purchase isn’t the problem. In fact, it’s probably a strength and one that lends itself to a strong ROI once you do begin to do paid media like Google ads, display ads and the like. Second, it tells us that there already is a groundswell happening for your products and now the challenge is to find new customers, which also is solved by diversifying your marketing mix to include paid media channels.

Recently, we talked about not building your castle on rented land. If Facebook and Instagram going down reinforces anything, it’s that point. A well-rounded marketing mix for any brand, but especially an emerging brand, is usually 50% paid channels, 25% owned channels (email lists, direct traffic), and 25% earned channels (PR, SEO, bloggers, influencers, organic social). If your brand isn’t quite there yet, it’s time to double-down on paid media, SEO, and building your email lists. We’re only going to see social performance drop more over time as Facebook continues to optimize its algorithm for paid exposure.

Not sure where to start? Reach out to us for a free consultation – katherine [at] makadigital.com

2 Secrets Brands Can Take from B2B to drive Direct-to-Consumer Revenue

Maybe you have a healthy marketing mix, you’re well-invested in all areas of the funnel, your organic search is dialed-in and your promotions are acquiring new customers (not just recapturing existing customers). But you still aren’t hitting your goals. What’s next? The B2B space holds a couple key secrets we see brands not leveraging:

Secret #1: You don’t have a “value ladder”

Follow me on this example: Your local dentist might send out a postcard to her ideal demographic offering a free cleaning. You come in for the free cleaning and while there, she mentions that your teeth are looking a little stained and he could whiten them while you’re there. You agree and while she’s whitening them, she notices that you must have had braces as a child and it seems that your teeth are shifting again. So she sells you into a retainer. And over the course of the return visits, you buy an expensive toothbrush, opt for cosmetic surgery, etc etc.

The point of this example is that every business, brands included, have a value ladder to nurture customers through to incrementally increase revenue. What’s your value ladder?

Image courtesy of Russel Brunsen, author of  DotComSecrets.

Image courtesy of Russel Brunsen, author of DotComSecrets.

Secret #2: You’ve only got one main product offering

Using our dentist example, maybe your revenue isn’t increasing because you only sell retainers and you’ve maximized those potential people. What’s next? You need to create (or oftentimes just reposition) products that get people into your door – the free cleaning and whitening services level people. And once you’ve tapped out all of those folks, and now you need to create a “cosmetic surgery” – that is, a high-end – package.

We worked with a very well-known national boutique fitness brand that did this extremely well. They had an online workout membership you could subscribe to. And the next upgrade was an in-studio class package. And after that, the next upsell was prepaying an annual studio membership. And for the handful interested, they offered an ultra-exclusive in-person wellness retreat hosted by the founder of the company.

How can you create packages and reposition products to create entry, mid-tier, and high-end offerings to ensure incremental revenue?

Are You Treating Search as Shelf Space?

Hey, Katherine Romero here, co-founder of MAKA Digital. Much of my career prior to agency life was spent building footwear brands in the digital space. The company I did that for was wildly successful and had a strong sales team whose job was to sell into the Nordstrom and REI’s of the world. I remember in one particular sales meeting, the CEO gave an insightful speech about what it takes to build a brand at traditional retail spaces. It took:

  • Having compelling POP – bright and colorful, eye catching, and have attractive people in the photography

  • Having eye-catching products – color pops, unexpected designs, collaborations

  • Knowledgeable sales people – people that can hype the benefits of your shoe vs the competition

And more, but those were the key points. This speech didn’t sit right with me, though. For a company with brands that have a strong Direct-to-Consumer channel banking double margins, why in this decade are we still counting on building brands firstly through wholesale and retailers? They are a key component of a holistic business, don’t get me wrong. But that can’t be central focus.

The New Shelf Space

Some of the most successful D2C brands out there understand that Google is the new shelf space. And dominating that shelf space is the key. Dominating doesn’t happen by just ranking well organically. That’s the first step, sure. But you really need to dominate that SERP with all the other tools in your tool belt. If you’re taking up page 1, that’s that much further you push your competition down the page and that’s that much more market-share you take.


Dominate with:

  • Google Ads: Text ads, shopping ads, and extensions

  • Your website: Rank as high as you can, have clear site architecture and get sitelinks taking up serious SERP real estate

  • Your social properties: Get your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds ranking well. Yelp too if you have a brick-and-mortar presence. YouTube as well if your brand lends itself well to YouTube

  • Your affiliates and partners: Feed top keyword data to your extended sales force and help get their content for your brand ranking on page 1

  • The Brand Panel: populate it with as much info as possible, upload compelling imagery, create posts, and populate some of the Q&As.

It’s rare that we find a brand that is approaching search with the mentality as traditional retail shelf space. (Nestle Waters, of all companies, gets it… talk about a boring, traditional retail brand.) But when they do, traffic shoots up, sustainable growth happens, and bottom-line profitability is often improved.

Not sure where to start for your brand? Let’s talk! katherine@makadigital.com

Instagram and Facebook strike again - what brands need to do to take back control

Instagram has made some changes in the last week that’s affecting every brand we’ve been in contact with. Reach has tanked yet again, followers have been lost, then gained back, then lost again, and engagement is dropping by the day.

It’s time to diversify.

A key trend we’re seeing happen for brands starting as early as January 2018 is that brands that had been built on organic social strategies like social influencers, great content and authentic engagement with their audience can’t get by with those same strategies any more. They’re important still for sure, they’re just not pulling in the same magic they once were.

We love organic strategies, and you should still too. Organic is part of what builds a profitable marketing mix that can sustain for the long-haul. And organic is what gives ground cover to test new things with marketing dollars, fail, iterate, and eventually find those veins of gold.

You can’t build your castle on rented land.

Social Media platforms will only continue to cut brands’ organic performance

Social Media platforms will only continue to cut brands’ organic performance

2019 is only proving further that the social media platforms will change on a dime and brands need to take back some ownership if their revenue growth from these giants. If you haven’t invested in long-term, sustainable SEO it’s time. If you haven’t focused on email list growth, it’s time. If you’re not leveraging the earned media your PR team is getting it’s time.

Cyber Five 2018 Is A Wrap — Here Are The Biggest Insights We Gained

We’ve made it through another Cyber Five (the fancy term for the shopping bloodbath between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday) and the MAKA Digital team is breathing a sigh of relief and catching up on our ZZZs. Though Cyber Five was crazy, as always, it was also the best one yet—revenue numbers were higher than last year nearly across the board, and we gained worthwhile insights and learnings to be applied next year, the best of which we’ll share here.

Insight 1: Launch Campaigns Earlier to Compete with Large Retailers

Most of our clients’ campaigns launched at 12:00 a.m. on Black Friday in their respective time zones. But those who launched days before, or even just hours before, saw powerful revenue numbers come through before the clock even struck midnight. One client made 6% of their total Cyber Five revenue on Thursday night just by launching around 10:00 pm Pacific rather than 12:00 am Pacific. Our major takeaway here: As the biggest retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, push their Cyber Five campaigns earlier and earlier into the week, other companies are smart to follow suit and launch their campaigns on Thanksgiving or even test launching on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Insight 2: Make Mentions of the Sale in Homepage Meta Descriptions

It’s a common strategy to include mentions of Cyber Five sales in paid search and shopping campaigns, but another channel that can benefit from this practice is organic search. During Cyber Five we ran a test for one client in which we updated their homepage meta description to mention their weekend sale, and this updated text received a click-through rate that was a full percent point higher than their traditional meta description. A word of warning, though—updating meta descriptions is dependent on Google’s bots and how fast they can crawl your website and update the new text in Google’s search results. Reverting back to regular text after the sale is also dependent on Google’s bots again crawling the site in a timely fashion, which leaves the potential for the sale-themed meta description to still be live after the sale is over. The best way to combat any confusion this may cause is to emphasize the timeframe of the sale within the text, such as “Shop our biggest sale of the year, through Cyber Monday,” or something similar. You can also force Google’s bots to crawl your site through the “Fetch as Google” link in Google Search Console, though it’s still not a complete guarantee that all text will be updated immediately.  

Insight 3: Holiday-Themed Imagery Performs Better Than Traditional Imagery

Within the social media campaigns that ran over Cyber Five, we saw stronger responses to any imagery that was holiday-themed. If you’re not sure which holidays your customers celebrate, feel free to stick with a general holiday aesthetic—gift wrapping, lights, snow, pinecones and berries, or even just a red, green, gold or blue color scheme work well. Anything that’s outside of your traditional creative imagery will signify to viewers that this ad is something special and worthy of their attention. For us these holiday ads generated click-through rates that were roughly double our traditional ads.

Insight 4: More On-Site Payment Options

The option to check out with PayPal is ubiquitous across the internet by this point, but there are many other payment options that are worth considering if they’re not already implemented on your website. Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Google Pay are some of the big players in the space, and the options will only grow as digital eCommerce expands. Though there are fees with any third-party payment tools, they can help to increase both checkout conversion rates and customer trust, as a study by Bounteous showed that 40% of shoppers feel more secure purchasing from a site with multiple payment options.  

In addition, if you carry products with high price points, consider offering financing options on your website, such as paying for the product in multiple installments. This will cause the product to appear cheaper and can help overcome any reservations customers may have with the pricing.


Now that we’ve shared a few insights, we’d love to hear what you learned this Cyber Five. Drop us a line at hello@makadigital.com, and in the meantime, we’ll be gorging ourselves on sugar cookies and peppermint bark. From the team at MAKA Digital, happy holidays.

Google's New, Bigger Ad Format — Is It Worth The Hype?

It’s been three months since Google changed the world as we know it (or maybe just our world) by announcing a new wave of changes to its advertising platform. These changes included a new paid search ad format called responsive search ads (RSAs), and here at MAKA Digital we were excited to dig in and try them out, as they were built to allow for bigger headlines and descriptions than traditional ads, as well as an automated way of testing which ad text is the most successful.

Tell Me More.

There was a lot that initially seemed worthwhile about RSAs. Larger headlines and descriptions are never a bad thing for enticing viewers to click on your ads—they provide more information about your brand and they take up more real estate on the search results page. These ads also allow you to give Google a group of different headline and text ads, and Google will dynamically serve these in different combinations until it finds the combination that leads to the best click-throughs and other metrics. Google said that in early tests RSAs had led to higher click-through rates, and all these factors combined seemed to make them a slam dunk.

What’s the Catch?

When we first launched RSAs in isolated campaigns, the outlook looked good—during those first few weeks, they showed higher click-through rates and lower CPCs than traditional ads. Fast forward to several months later, though, and the prognosis doesn’t sound as great. Since those first tests we’ve run RSAs across several client accounts, and the results have changed (read: performance staled in a big hurry). Click-through rates are still occasionally higher, but often only within campaigns focusing on brand-related keywords, and sometimes even then they’re not any higher than traditional ads. And they haven’t led to a significant change in conversion rates, either. This a phenomenon that’s been echoed industry-wide.

So What Happened?

This turn toward low performance seems counterintuitive. Why wouldn’t bigger ads/longer text lead to more clicks? We’re not sure, but it seems it has something to do with Google dynamically optimizing for the best-performing text combinations—this appears to have caused click-throughs to worsen, not improve, indicating that Google’s bots are simply not as adept as human marketers in judging which text is truly the better performer. Google also has not offered much help in analyzing its selected combinations of text within an ad, with only impression data available to view here rather than click-throughs or conversions.

So Where Do We Go from Here?

At this point, we’ve taken to analyzing RSAs at an individual level—if one appears to be performing strongly for a certain group of keywords, we’ll keep it in place, and if it’s underperforming in another group of keywords, we’ll turn it off in favor of traditional ads. Though overall trends show that RSAs are not all they cracked up to be, every keyword group is different, and it’s worth weeding through for any black sheep. If you’re ready to turn off all RSAs, though, don’t be afraid—Google has promised that they won’t be sunsetting traditional ads, so they’ll always be a viable option to return to. Even better, traditional ads now offer longer headlines and descriptions, which is a great option to try if you’re not seeing success from RSAs.

In upcoming months we’ll be waiting for Google to fine-tune its dynamic text combinations and provide more metrics to compare these combinations, and maybe then we’ll give RSAs more weight. In the meantime, we’re appreciative that human marketing instincts have won at least one battle against Google’s all-powerful bots.

Still have more questions about RSAs vs. traditional ads? Did all the acronyms and metrics we mentioned sound like mumbo-jumbo? Give us a shout out at hello@makadigital.com and we’d be happy to talk it through.

New Business Page Templates and Audience Targeting Abilities Get You Closer to the Facebook Viewers You Want to Reach

Facebook has been giving us no shortage of changes recently—from limits on organic reach for businesses to new policies regulating political content. If you’re still trying to catch your breath from all this, we don’t blame you—but don’t let your guard down just yet, because there’s a new round of changes coming your way. Luckily, these are likely to be in your favor.

New Audience Targeting Ability for Organic Posts

You no longer have to pay to promote a post in order to target it to a specific audience. Facebook is now beginning to offer this ability to organic (unpaid) posts, through a feature called audience optimization. Although it’s not yet available to all business pages, you can check if it’s been rolled out to your account by via one of two ways:

If your page has less than 5,000 page-likes:

Click on the “General” tab of your page settings, and on the right side of the page, look for the “Audience Optimization for Posts” section, which should appear under the “Visitor Posts” section. If you don’t see it, your account likely hasn’t received it, so sit tight! If you do see it, you’ll need to enable it. Click the “edit” button in that section, and when the box expands, check the option to “allow preferred audience selection,” and save changes. You now have the ability to use audience targeting for organic posts.

If your page has more than 5,000 page-likes:

Write a post as you normally would on your company profile page, and then select the drop-down menu on the “Public” option—you’ll see a “New Feed Targeting” option with a target next to it. You can also choose restricted audience, which will show your post to certain ages and locations. This latter option is recommended if you’re a local business trying to limit your viewers to only your specific location, or otherwise trying to drive in-store results.

News Feed Targeting.png

So what are best practices for news feed targeting?

If you’ve run promoted (paid) posts to specific audiences in the past, you’ll want to choose the top-performing audiences here and apply them to your organic targeting. If you’ve never run promoted posts and don’t have audience insights, start from the ground up and test different audiences on your organic posts to determine which will perform the best. Specific interests are often better than broad (“high-heeled footwear” versus “shoes”) and brand interests can also be effective (“Lululemon Athletica,” etc.). Smaller audiences are typically better—if Facebook’s estimated reach for your audience is surpassing the 1 million mark, narrow your interest selection or apply age/gender/location restrictions to bring down reach numbers.

One thing to note is that targeted audiences are marked by Facebook as being “more likely to see your post,” meaning that the post can still potentially serve to people outside this interest targeting. This is not the case if you choose a restricted audience; here the post will serve only to those in that demographic or location. 

New Profile Templates for Business Pages

On the topic of company profile pages, there’s a big change happening there, too—Facebook is also rolling out a larger selection of profile template types to choose from. The full list of new template types features Services, Business, Venues, Movies, Nonprofits, Politicians, Restaurants and Cafes, Shopping, Video Page, and Standard. These are intended to offer tailored features for each page type—Movie pages will highlight showtimes, while Shopping is designed to showcase products. Business templates include places for special offers and job postings, and may be best for B2B companies.

If you’re not sure which template best fits your business, not to worry—as soon as they’re available to your page, you’ll be able to browse the features of each, and you can also change your template at any time. Visit your page settings and the “Edit Page” tab to browse and select a template.

Facebook Business Page Templates.png

You’re likely to receive an email from Facebook when the new templates are available to you, and your template may also be automatically transitioned by Facebook (only if you don’t take action on it yourself within a certain window of time).

With its wider selection of business page templates and new audience targeting features, Facebook seems to be trying to compensate for the hits businesses have taken in its recent algorithm changes. As you dive in, let us know how they’re affecting your business page, or reach out to us with any questions at hello@makadigital.com.

Video captioning is the easiest thing you can do to increase organic video views on Facebook — here's how.

Video from  Ellen DeGeneres

Video from Ellen DeGeneres

Did you know that 85% of viewers watch Facebook videos with the sound off?

It’s a staggering number, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, you’re often on Facebook during those “in-between” moments—while waiting in a doctor’s office, standing in a long line at the post office, or putting off that work project you really need to start.

And during those times you don’t necessarily want your volume to be blaring (especially if you’re watching your favorite “Company is Coming!” video for the umpteenth time).

This is why it’s so important to have captions available on all of the videos you create for Facebook.

It’s even more important when you consider that captions increase the accessibility of your videos, as many Facebook users have hearing disabilities that render closed captioning absolutely necessary for watching a video.

If you’re not convinced yet, here’s another statistic: captions can increase video watch time by up to 12%.

“But aren’t captions annoying?” many people ask. “What if they distract from my video?”

We believe that the benefits of video captioning outweigh the risk of them being distracting for some users. In addition, Facebook allows for the creation of captions that can be turned on and off at the viewer’s discretion, so they can be easily disabled. In fact, Facebook will even create these captions for you. Read more here on how to have Facebook automatically generate captions on video posts. This is the easiest form of captioning and the best for rookies; just note that it will likely require a bit of editing afterwards to ensure accuracy.

Another option for adding captions to your videos are SubRip (.srt) files, which is a manual form of captioning created by typing out your captions using time-stamps for each sentence. It’s time-consuming, but ensures exact accuracy. Luckily, SubRip files don’t require fancy programs or technical know-how; they can be created using Notepad and this guide. (Hint: make sure you follow this formatting exactly, including the spaces around the arrows. Otherwise Facebook may spit back an error when you try to upload the file.)

Image from  Facebook

Image from Facebook

If you’re using a video that’s on your YouTube channel, you can also download the YouTube-generated captions as a .srt file and transfer them to the Facebook version of the video. (Here’s how to download that YouTube .srt file.)

Another option entirely is to include imbedded captions in your video rather than generating them after the video is finished. These can be more aesthetically pleasing since they offer the opportunity to customize fonts, colors, and sizing, but they are also more time-consuming to build, and they aren’t able to be removed from the video if a viewer finds them distracting. Ultimately, imbedded captioning is recommended if your video includes dialogue that is difficult to understand (such as this anesthesia-filled teenager who’s just had her wisdom teeth out and is planning her wedding to Captain America).

Screenshot from   Seventeen

Screenshot from Seventeen

Think you only need captions if your video includes dialogue? Think again. Even narrated videos can benefit from captioning that allow viewers with their sound off to follow along. This written narration can be included on videos that highlight new technology, travel destinations, eCommerce products, or even just gossip about the royal wedding.

Screenshot from   Cosmopolitan

Screenshot from Cosmopolitan

Video captioning has become so popular that Facebook even offers it on live videos, which is generated through a third-party captioning service provider. And what about Facebook’s cooler cousin, Instagram? Strangely enough, Instagram has not yet fully boarded the captioning train. As of the writing of this post, Instagram does not offer the ability to generate captions for your videos or upload them as separate files, meaning your only option is to imbed captions into your video. Still, if running a long or dialogue-heavy video on Instagram this is recommended, especially as video becomes an increasingly popular post format on the platform.

The bottom line of video captioning is this: you’ve put time and energy into creating a quality video for your audience. You want as many people as possible to watch that video. That being said, why wouldn’t you utilize a reasonably simple (and free!) way to encourage more viewers to watch your video? If you’re not putting captions on your videos, you’re risking losing a viewer as they instead scroll toward another cat video.  

Still have questions about putting captions on your videos? Not sure which method is right for you? Reach out at hello@makadigital.com and we’d be happy to help.

What is the GDPR? What Your Business Needs to Stay Compliant

Disclaimer: this post was written in partnership with attorney Christina Scalera but is not legal advice. Please consult your legal counsel to ensure GDPR compliance.



We’ve all heard about the big data breaches. That time a-shall-remain-nameless retailer had its credit card numbers lifted (we forgive you). The (it seems like daily) emails we get from doctors’ offices, software providers and online shops that tell us, “Oops! Someone hacked our system and your data may be compromised.”

The GDPR was designed to help protect us as internet users from these breaches of trust. It is designed to do that in two ways: (1) it makes consent to use your name, email and other data optional, and (2) if there is a breach, it forces the site/shop to tell you within 72 hours, not months and months after a cyber attack or hack.


Even though this new General Data Protection Regulation is focused on European markets, there will be many businesses in the U.S. who will have to comply. Here’s how you can figure out if you are one of them:

  1. A reasonable amount of people who are on your email list or who visit your site are based in the EU (which includes the UK); or
  2. You use EU-based languages to market your goods and services; or
  3. Your domain name ends with an abbreviation that’s EU-based (e.g., .co.uk for the United Kingdom, .es for Spain); or
  4. You accept payment in Euros; or
  5. You target European countries for sales, including the United Kingdom.



Terms and conditions + privacy policy is something super fun, disguised as a bore-fest. Your terms and conditions tell people what is and is not allowed. For example, if you do not want people right-clicking and saving or sharing your images, that’s where this information would be housed.

A privacy policy is slightly different. It tells anyone who visits your site what information you’re collecting from them, from cookies to names and emails. It also tells your visitors what you do with this information.

The privacy policy has always been required by U.S. law, and setting up rules for your visitors (terms and conditions) has always been a good idea. It gives you something to reference for FAQs, like, “what is your refund policy?” and “can I use your images with credit?”

This step is nothing new for business owners, but having a GDPR-compliant privacy policy looks a little different than policies of yesteryear.

Action steps:

  • There are many templates and tool kits available online that will help you structure your terms & conditions and privacy policy to be GDPR compliant, such as this one from The Contract Shop
  • Here’s an online checklist you can reference to see if the remainder of your website is GDPR compliant (Please note that these templates and checklists are not affiliated with MAKA Digital).
  • Once you have updated your TCPP and website, it is best practice to email consumers about this update. 


Unfortunately, where Step 1 (see above) used to be enough, it no longer is under the GDPR. One of the major changes is the requirement that you get consent from the visitor when they opt-in to your communications and visit your website.

Action steps:

  • When a consumer from the EU opts in to receive communications from you, there is explicit language and checkboxes that now need to be included on your opt-in forms. Reference your document templates or legal advisor for approved language.
  • This consent has to be freely given, so online business owners will need to make sure any opt-in forms aren’t checked ‘yes’ by default if the visitor is from the EU.
  • For traffic coming from the EU, they need to be shown a notice about cookies used on your site.  This can be achieved by using a cookie bar that pops up a notification. Many website platforms also offer plugins to automatically detect EU visitors and show this notice.  If you are on a common website platform it is worth searching the app/plug-in store for a solution.


The truth is we only know how this thing is going to look and work in theory until the EU starts enforcing it, and we don’t know when that will be. While the GDPR officially takes effect on May 25th, it’s best to stay up-to-date on news even after this point to make sure your webstore is continually compliant. We’ll keep you updated on future news, and feel free to drop us a line at hello@makadigital.com if you have any questions.

Facebook's latest privacy changes — how will they affect your business?

What is going on with Facebook?

Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have had quite the news cycle in the past few weeks.  In summary, Facebook is currently in hot water for two key reasons:

  • Facebook is facing Congress over the sale and transfer of user data (without user consent) from a Facebook app developer to data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica in 2010. 
  • Facebook is also under investigation for the role they played in Russia influencing the US presidential election. 

How will it impact me as an advertiser?

For the purposes of this post, we are focusing on the Cambridge Analytica topic and its potential impact. In short, as we are writing this, there is not yet a significant impact to marketing capabilities and advertising performance on Facebook. Facebook has begun phasing out targeting options that use 3rd party data from data aggregators such as Experian, Acxiom, Epsilon, and Oracle Data Cloud.  This includes targeting options regarding purchase behaviors and profiles, such as those who own a Honda or frequently purchase fitness gear, for example. In upcoming weeks Facebook is also expected to phase out income targeting, as well as certain education and job title targeting. It is worth noting that these constitute a small subset of targeting options, and businesses using Facebook ads are still able to reach highly targeted, relevant audiences based on interests, geography, and other demographics. 

In the long term, we anticipate there will be restrictions around data policy, data access and targeting capabilities that will impact how ads can be delivered and to whom they can reach.  These restrictions may impact advertising performance.

For now, the social media marketing industry is very much in wait-and-see mode as this story is developing and unfolding daily.                                                                                                     

What should I do?

Currently we believe the that positives of Facebook marketing still outweigh the negatives. We don’t expect brands who continue to advertise on Facebook to experience backlash from customers. However, you are the best judge of what is right for your business, and should you decide to move away from Facebook advertising, there’s myriad other options available to you in the digital marketing space, such as Google and Bing ads, Pinterest ads, and YouTube ads, just to name a few.  

Want to dive deeper into Facebook audience targeting or other digital marketing channels? We’re always happy to talk. Drop us a line at hello@makadigital.com.

Instagram Stories: The Quick and Easy Beginning Guide

While nearly everyone in the marketing world is working to adjust to Facebook’s new Explore Feed, the team at MAKA Digital is also diving into the other side of the social media giant—that’s right, Instagram. Specifically, Instagram Stories. We all use Instagram Stories to keep up with our friends and favorite celebrities (I’m here for Taylor Swift’s cat videos) but they’re also great for bringing more brand awareness (and conversions!) to your webstore. No matter whether you have a large or small Instagram following, Instagram Stories can be your next big lever to pull to engage your audience. Here’s why:

Instagram Stories boasts over 300 million daily users, according to AdWeek, while users typically spend 24-32 minutes a day on the Instagram platform. This is a huge, highly engaged demographic that shouldn’t be overlooked.

We’ve already seen some great performance from organic Instagram Stories for our eCommerce clients. Just take a look at these revenue numbers:

Instagram Stories Revenue Example.png
Instagram Stories Revenue Example 2.png

You can’t afford to be missing out on this. Here’s how to get started.  

What you’ll need:

For imagery:

  • Resolution of 1080x1920
  • Any amount of text is allowed in the image
  • Optional: A call-to-action encouraging viewers to swipe up (more on this feature below)

For video:

  • Video formatted as MP4 or MOV
  • Resolution of 1080x1920
  • Aspect ratio of 9:16
  • Max file size of 4 GB
  • Max length of 15 seconds

The “swipe up” feature allows you to send your viewer to a custom URL when they swipe up on your story (think product pages, event pages, etc.) Currently, the ability to add the swipe up feature is only available in organic stories if you have more than 10,000 followers.

Image from   Buffer

Image from Buffer

Best Practices:

Stay away from making your stories feel too much like a stiff advertisement. Most of your followers will view them in a line-up of stories from friends and other personal accounts, so you’ll want your stories to feel natural, raw and fun. This is the perfect place to use text and emoji overlays or filters like stop-motion and boomerangs. Here’s a guide for using all this and more in your Instagram Stories.

Because you have so little time to get your message across (Each segment of an Instagram story lasts a maximum of 15 seconds, and paid advertisements are limited to one segment) you need to skip the fluff and get straight to the message. Clearly state or show the purpose of the Instagram story, such as a limited time deal or new release, and make sure you include your brand name or logo so there’s no doubt as to who is displaying this message.

If you’re creating organic Instagram Stories that will be seen by your followers (aka people who are already familiar with your brand) give them something special and make them feel like they’re part of an insider’s club. Take viewers inside your office and shoot quick cameos from members of your team (just make sure they’ve had time to fix their hair) or offer behind-the-scenes footage into the production of your product. Make sure you’re highlighting the unique value of your product or company.

Launching a new product soon? Use Instagram Stories as a way to tease the new product in the days and weeks before the launch. Hitting up a trade show? Advertise the event and your booth number beforehand, and then do videos from the event itself. Have partnerships with social influencers? Try clips of them using your product.

Should you take the leap into paid Instagram Stories?

If you’ve seen strong engagement and some website traffic and revenue flowing in from your organic Instagram Stories, you’re likely ready to dive into paid Instagram Stories. Even better if you’ve already been running traditional Facebook and Instagram ads. It doesn’t matter how high your Instagram follower count is; you can push Instagram Story ads out to those beyond your followers.

When making Instagram Story ads, keep in mind that ads have to be kept to a 15 second maximum (if you’re running an image it will remain on the viewers’ screen for 15 seconds). You only get one 15-second segment, unlike organic stories, which are allowed multiple. (I know. Life isn’t fair.) For this reason it’s more important than ever to get straight to the point. Clearly state your call to action. If running a video, it’s best to include your brand name or logo at the end for viewers who don’t already know you.

Choose your objective before choosing your audience. If you want to use your ad to drive brand awareness, chose a prospecting audience that’s unfamiliar with but likely to be interested in your product. If you’re just looking to drive revenue, start with a remarketing/retargeting audience that’s been to your website or engaged with your social media profiles. We’ve found this audience is the best for following the Stories funnel down to a purchase.

A technical note:

When choosing the placement for your Instagram Story ads, make sure you choose mobile only. It’s unlikely that people will see your story on desktop, but there are ways to do it, and viewing on mobile will provide a better experience.

You're On Your Way!

And that’s it! Just remember to keep your Instagram Story fun, natural, and to the point. And if you have any questions—or have never touched Instagram Stories before and are feeling overwhelmed by all this data—feel free to reach out to hello@makadigital.com. This stuff is our jam and we’re here to talk you through it.

Facebook Announces Its Biggest Update: 7 Tips for Staying Ahead

On January 11th, 2018 Facebook announced big changes to the news feed as we know it.  With this update, content from brands and groups will now appear in a separate news feed entirely, called the "Explore Feed".  This essentially creates two news feeds now - the main feed where we all will continue to see content from family and friends, and the Explore feed where content from everybody else will appear.

"We are testing having one dedicated space for people to keep up with their friends and family, and another separate space, called Explore, with posts from pages" - Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed, Facebook

These dual feeds will undoubtedly cut organic reach even further for pages.  Organic reach is only around 2% currently.  In dual feed testing that began in European markets in October 2017, businesses saw organic reach drop again by two-thirds and with four times fewer interactions.

But not all is doom-and-gloom.  Here are 7 key tips you should begin implementing now to stay ahead, maintain (or even improve) organic reach, and make the most out of your Facebook dollars.


Tips for Organic Reach

#1:  Facebook will reward posts that encourage meaningful engagement

  • Save promotional content for paid ads.  Contests, giveaways and posts containing links to external websites are all posts Facebook considers as "overly promotional" and will therefore drop the organic reach these posts would normally have.

  • Post less, but offer more.  Posting multiple times a day will be less important and posting things of substance - usually things that entertain or educate - will be well-rewarded.

#2:  Target posts to specific audiences

While targeting posts is nothing new to the paid side of the Facebook house, it will be introduced to organic posts for the first time. For example, a clothing brand could target their organic posts in such a way where their page would appear be male-focused for a male user viewing that page and women-focused for women following that page. 

These posts should follow much of the same best practices for targeting as their paid counterparts, and will be rewarded with higher placement based off engagement and relevancy.    

  • Make sure the content of your organic post is closely matched to audience you target.
  • Run different versions of posts to different segments of your audience.
  • Focus on relevancy.
facebook targeting optins for organic reach.jpg


#3:  Think mobile first

Mobile makes up 88% of Facebook impressions.  With more daily users on the mobile platform than ever before, it is becoming absolutely essential to make sure everything from your post content to your image or video to your website landing page displays comfortably on mobile devices.  Content that is optimized for mobile will get stronger engagement and secure more time at the top of the feed. 

#4:  Video, video, video

If Facebook has been telling us anything, it is that it cares about video.  With the launch of “Facebook Live” and “Facebook Watch” over the past couple years, Facebook has been pushing video more than ever, and that does not slow down with this update.  Video posts garner by far the most engagement for pages, and will make up the majority of content we will see at the top of the Explore Feed.

  • Facebook Live is a free spot at the top of the feed.  Live videos appear in the “stories” bar at the top of the feed along with being announced in the feed itself.  Facebook has been pushing this medium over recent updates and will continue to reward successful use of the feature.  Find creative ways to go Live often and encourage your followers to get involved.   
  • Video completion rates will now determine how successful Facebook deems your video. A 30 second video that people are watching for 20 seconds is far more valuable than a 5 minute video people watch for a minute.  Think short, sweet and communicate your message right off the bat.  
  • Optimize for no-sound. With more people viewing content on-the-go in public spaces, the vast majority of content is being watched without sound.  Adapt videos to make sense with sound needing to be played and utilize subtitles for higher completion rates.
  • Videos with square aspect rations perform better than landscape or portrait videos as they are easier to consume on the mobile platform.


Tips for Paid Dollars

With organic reach falling by as much as two-thirds of its previous reach, Facebook is making advertising more important than ever for pages to get in front of their audience.  This makes strategic sense for Facebook - their ad revenue alone increased by 47% last year.  With the new update we can certainly expect to see ad costs increase as more advertisers enter the paid space.  So how can we make the most of our advertising budgets?  Here are a couple a strategies and tips that will be increasingly important:  

#5:  Optimize and manage ads for specific placements

While advertisements will still appear in people’s newsfeeds, Facebook has more ad placement options than ever before.  Sidebar ads and messenger ads being some examples of frequent places for promotional content to display to users.  By optimizing various versions of ads to fit specific placements, advertisers can prioritize themselves in these spots by being the most engaging ad for that placement.  This will ensure that ads appear in as many locations in the platform as possible.  

facebook ad placements.png

#6:  Encourage people to communicate with you directly via Messenger

A new ad objective that Facebook released late last year is the ability to have people message your page directly in Facebook Messenger via a call to action button in your ad.  This feature will be increasingly important as it becomes harder and harder for pages to organically get their brand in front of people.  This type of personalization is also exactly what Facebook is hoping will improve it’s user experience, and these types of ads will place very well when used correctly.

#7:  Hyper segmentation will be key to control costs

Facebook ads run on an auction system and that auction system is what creates the costs we all pay as advertisers.  With this dual-feeds update, there will undoubtedly be more bidders entering the ad space, driving up costs for everyone.  For our ad budgets to go just as far as they have in the past, or ideally even further, advertisers will need to manage their campaigns, ad sets, ads and audiences with a hyper-segmented approach.  Think lots of small well-defined audiences, lots of creative optimized for the various placements (mobile, Instagram, Stories, etc), lots of well-crafted messages tailored specifically to audiences.  This approach is in contrast to a "broadcast approach" many advertisers have gotten away with in the past, where one message/ad/creative unit could serve many masters with very little segmentation.

On a final note, we should except the dual-feeds to roll out first for Facebook in the coming months and then for Instagram in late 2018.

We love talking shop.  Reach out to us at hello@makadigital.com and let's strategize on your approach to social this year to leverage this change to stay ahead.

The Biggest Marketing Insight That Caught Our Attention In 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year in digital marketing—so much has happened this year, both inside and outside of the industry. While you’re trying to make sense of all the crazy headlines that filled the news during the past 12 months (and digesting all the cookies you ate at the office holiday party) we’re digging into events like a new Google AdWords interface, the overturn of net neutrality, and the ubiquitous adoption of voice-activated assistants like Alexa. That being said, we all know that digital marketing is ever-changing and will likely change even more in 2018. Advertisements pop up in new channels and places every day. But one thing that never changes is the need to understand and appropriately target your consumers. This is why our biggest insight from 2017 is the need to constantly create consumer-focused marketing strategies even when everything else in the industry seems to be changing.

Advertising now appears in Facebook messenger, Google Home and more—but it also has to become more granular in targeting consumers if it wants to remain effective, especially as many millennials and other shoppers become increasingly distrustful of traditional marketing. In 2015, 84% of millennials said that they didn’t trust traditional advertising, which may correspond to a drop in trust for media, business and government. People do, however, show trust for brands who work to establish a personal connection.

One of the biggest players in this new type of advertising game is Spotify. The music streaming powerhouse, whose listener base is 72% millennials, is able to dial in on consumer preferences through the kinds of songs consumers listen to and the types of playlists they make. The company tracks and analyzes all of this data to understand trends and remarket to their fanbase. At the end of every calendar year they send every listener an email linking to a customized playlist filled with that listener’s most-played songs (I was embarrassed to see how much I listened to the La La Land soundtrack), as well as a “Ones That Got Away” playlist highlighting similar tracks. As a consumer it’s ridiculously hard to resist clicking through the email to see and replay your year’s obsessions in music, and it caters to each person’s exact preferences. In addition, Spotify breaks down their strangest consumer habits to make these catchy billboard advertisements:

Photo from  Bored Panda

Photo from Bored Panda

Photo from  Bored Panda

Photo from Bored Panda

Spotify loyalists can all see their own music idiosyncrasies reflected in these ads, as well as popular cultural references. But the ads represent more than this—at their core they highlight the consumer, not the brand. They’re not shoving traditional “Buy now” messaging at the viewer. And this relates to Spotify’s overall brand goal—focus on people, not data points.

So how can you apply this idea if you’re not a multi-billion-dollar company? Here’s the answer: by listening to your customers. And one major step you can take to achieve this goal, if you haven’t already, is connecting with your followers on social media. It’s not enough to simply throw up a few Facebook posts and then turn a blind eye to the comments—make sure you’re actively responding to as many comments as possible, with gratitude for those that express loyalty and a genuine apology and assistance for those that express aggravations. You can even reach out to loyal fans with a personalized coupon, or engage in a Twitter conversation with customers (though we can’t all be as funny as DiGiorno Pizza).

Screenshot from  DiGiorno’s Twitter

Screenshot from DiGiorno’s Twitter

In addition, see what others are saying about your company—either on social media or elsewhere—and take their thoughts into consideration as best you can. In the midst of A/B tests and influencer campaigns, make sure your consumer’s voice is still driving everything you do. Make sure your ads are tailored to them—and if you’re not sure how to do that while still maintaining a strong call to action, we’re here to help. Here’s to strong marketing performance—and customer relationships—in 2018.  


A Facebook Conversion By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

When you first dive into the world of social media marketing, it can be difficult to know how to analyze the performance of your ads and posts. Facebook in particular has a myriad of data to offer on every ad you run—everything from clicks to CPAs to the age and gender of the people viewing your ads. And two of the metrics we often consider to be the most important—engagement rates and conversions—come with their own set of difficulties. Engagement rates can vary wildly between picture posts and video posts, and conversion numbers are often reported differently in Facebook than they are in Google Analytics, another tool that’s often used to gauge the results of marketing efforts. So how do you make sense of everything? We’re here to break down these two common sources of confusion.

Why are engagement rates on Facebook videos so much higher than regular Facebook posts?

This is a question we often hear from our clients. Oftentimes they’ll run an organic or boosted post comprised of pictures or text, and see a much lower engagement rate on these than they do on videos, which can sometimes drive engagement rates as high as 70% or 80%. These numbers are a bit misleading, though, as Facebook counts a video engagement as anyone who views the video for 3 seconds or longer—a loose definition that’s fairly easy to reach. On the other hand, engagement for a picture or text post is defined as anyone who likes, comments, shares or clicks the post—here an action actually has to happen, rather than just passively viewing a video. This is the primary reason why video posts show such higher engagement rates than text or picture posts. Don’t spend too much time worrying if a text post comes back with only a 2% engagement rate in comparison to a video post that generated a 40% engagement rate—you’re comparing apples and oranges. Instead focus on comparing your posts to others of the same type.

Why do Google Analytics and Facebook show different conversion numbers?

This is another question we often receive from clients. Their Facebook dashboard will show 27 conversions generated from an ad they just ran, but Google Analytics will only report 11. Why is there such a discrepancy between these numbers?

It has to do with the way Facebook and Google Analytics track conversions. Facebook uses a method called view-through conversions, which counts a conversion as anyone who sees the ad and then later goes on to purchase, whether they clicked through the ad or not. So, potentially, a viewer could briefly see the ad on their Facebook newsfeed and ignore it, but if they Googled the company a few days later and made a purchase, Facebook would still attribute this conversion to that Facebook ad. Google Analytics, on the other hand, tends to be more conservative with their method of measuring a purchase. They only consider click-through conversions, which is defined by someone actually clicking on a Facebook ad and making a purchase after that click (It’s important to note that these can also include assisted conversions, which is when someone clicks through an ad, but then leaves the website and eventually returns to make a purchase through a separate avenue, like another ad or a Google search. As long as that initial click happens, Google Analytics counts it).

So which type of tracking should be given more weight? We typically consider the Google Analytics method more reliable, as it allows you to see exactly who clicked on an ad and ultimately made a purchase because of that click. That’s not to say that Facebook conversion metrics should be thrown away, but they should be taken with a grain of salt, because they make it harder to tell whether someone directly clicked on the ad or simply saw the ad, and, in this case, to what extent they really paid attention to the ad.

So, there you have it—now you can dig into these common metrics on Facebook with the confidence that you know exactly what they mean. If and when more questions pop up, we’ll be here to answer them. Just drop us a line at hello@makadigital.com.

Facebook Knows What You Did Last Summer (And A Whole Lot More)

During my time as a beginning marketing coordinator for MAKA Digital, I’ve developed an affinity for social media advertising. Like most millennials, social media is part of my daily routine, and I’m fascinated with the ways it connects our society in great (and not-so-great) ways. I get a strange sense of satisfaction from posting an ad for a client and then being served that same ad on my personal Facebook newsfeed the next day. To me it’s a tangible representation of something I’ve helped create. (Even if I still have a love-hate relationship with the program in which you create Facebook ads. It never fails to confuse me or work in a way I swear is different from the last time I used it.)

Now that I have an insider’s perspective on social media, I’ve come to realize all the fascinating—and creepy—ways it offers up audiences to advertisers looking to send out an ad. Every time you see a sponsored post or ad on your newsfeed, it’s not just randomized, or a coincidence—it’s targeted specifically toward you because of your activity on the platform and the pages you’ve liked. Facebook, for example, even keeps tabs on your online shopping habits. 

We’ve all browsed for something on the Internet, whether it’s shoes, a DVD set, or a specific kind of car. Over the course of the next few days, that exact product suddenly pops up in ads all over the web, including on your social media. The first time this happened to me, I felt a little unnerved. How did Facebook know that I’d been wanting tickets to Wicked, or that I’d been shopping for new winter boots?

This method of advertising is called retargeting or remarketing, and it’s actually fairly straightforward. Most ecommerce sites track your activity on their site through cookies, and that activity is stored in a database. They then create ads that dynamically fill with whatever items you’d been viewing, and then pay to serve those ads across search engines, partner websites and social media.

And that’s not even the weirdest way that the internet keeps track of your activities.

When an advertiser creates ads on Facebook, they can reach any number of highly specific demographics. You can be targeted based on your job title, estimated income level, or whether or not Facebook believes you to be a parent. There’s specific audience categories for “Fit Moms,” “Soccer Moms,” and even the ambiguous “Trendy Moms.” Do you have a close friend with a birthday coming up? There’s a category for that, too. There’s even a category for Facebook users who have recently returned from vacation.

So how does Facebook know all this? It’s due to the profile information you’ve provided, the life events you’ve posted, things you’ve liked and clicked on while using Facebook, and even the things you do and purchase on the rest of the web (again, often tracked by cookies and other mechanisms).

There’s even been the rumor that Facebook listens to your private conversations through your phone’s microphone and then uses those conversations to serve you tailored ads, but Facebook has since dismissed this claim, saying it only accesses your microphone when you record videos or use another feature that requires audio.

The moral of this story is that Facebook likely knows more information about you than you know about yourself. But this isn’t quite as bad as it seems—because it knows so much about you, it’s able to serve you relevant ads for products and websites that are likely to interest you. If you remove this capability the ads won’t disappear, they’ll just become much more random and disparate to your needs.

And, from a marketing perspective, this Facebook targeting allows advertisers to hone in on the exact groups of people who are likely to find our ad relevant and consequently click on the ad. This gives us the ability to place products in front of appropriate audiences, and it gives you the ability discover new products or return to those you’d been considering. My overall takeaway is that there are much worse things in the world than Facebook knowing you just returned from a trip to Cancún (How about some sunburn cream?).