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?).

Learning a Digital World: Marketing Through the Eyes of a Newbie

Hey, everyone! My name’s Amy, and I’m MAKA Digital’s newest intern. I’ve been with the company for about three months now (has it already been that long?!), and it’s certainly been a wonderful (and overwhelming) summer. When I first came to MAKA I knew very little about the world of digital marketing, and now, just three short months later, I’ve become an expert on all things digital marketing. Well, I like to pretend I have, anyway. Maybe I’m not there yet, but I’m certainly on my way. Today I’ll be sharing with you some things that I’ve learned and how it will help your experience as our client.

I entered the doors of MAKA a fresh-faced college graduate with a degree in English and journalism. I could write, I was somewhat adept at social media and I knew a bit about SEO. That’s where my digital marketing experience ended. Soon, though, I was thrown into the world of PPC and CPC and B2B and myriad other acronyms I’m still trying to keep straight.

I first started learning about search engine optimization and the ways in which Google factors keywords, site navigation, link quality and much more into its algorithms for ranking websites. It was a lot to learn, and it opened my eyes to how amazingly complex SEO is. I had always assumed that Google ranked websites using a magic combination of faith, trust and pixie dust… I’d never actually realized that it was much, much more complicated. I suddenly understood why my personal website only ranks third for a Google search on my name (and I began to understand what I can do to improve that!).

There were a lot of things that surprised me about SEO. One thing in particular was the frequency with which companies try to manipulate Google’s system. Most websites increase their organic website ranking through dutiful and time-consuming keyword research, SEO audits, internal and external link building, affiliate programs, and more. Some websites, though, think they can skip all that busy work and get their pages to the top of Google, fast. They do this through “black hat” SEO techniques, which involve spammy practices such as paying for links on websites that have nothing to do with your site. An infamous case of this comes from JCPenney, whose products turned up at the top of Google in 2011 even for seemingly generic searches like “tablecloths.” This happened because their products were unscrupulously linked on hundreds of thousands of completely unrelated and underhanded websites, thus tricking Google’s algorithms into thinking they were credible and relevant product pages. When JCPenney’s tactics were discovered, the company was stripped of its superior Google ranking, and it would be a long (and nearly impossible) climb back to a respectable ranking.

I faced a long climb, too, when I started at MAKA. Besides SEO, I also needed to learn about paid search engine advertising, Facebook and Instagram ads, content writing and more. It was certainly overwhelming at times, and throughout this experience I knew I had to grasp all the do’s and don’ts of the digital marketing industry so I would never make mistakes like JCPenney’s. That’s not to say I haven’t made any mistakes. I definitely have…and I’ll probably make more in the future. But, because I’m such a newbie to the world of digital marketing, I can see everything with a beginner’s perspective. My viewpoint is very similar to that of our clients, who have often dipped their toes into the world of digital marketing but still have lots of questions. With the help of my co-workers (who, I assure you, are much more knowledgeable than I am) I’ll do my best to answer those questions, and I’ll probably ask a few of my own, too. I can understand our clients’ confusions or concerns because I’ve experienced them too during these past three months. Because of this, I know that we can figure everything out together. All it takes is a little trust… and maybe some pixie dust.

Hate Speech and the Google Display Network

What’s Going On

Recently Google has come under fire over allegations that the company is not doing enough to ensure that ads are only being displayed along with appropriate content. Specifically in question is Google’s policy regarding hate speech.

To be eligible to display ads from the Google Display Network, a website needs to comply with a variety of content and technical requirements. Among these requirements, Google states that pages with Google ads may not contain or link to:

Hate speech (including content that incites hatred or promotes violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity), harassment, bullying, or similar content that advocates harm against an individual or group.

Google AdSense Program Policies

Although these policies exist, recently there has been debate over whether Google is doing enough to enforce them. After discovering that their ads were being displayed next to potentially objectionable content, several major advertisers including Verizon, AT&T and Johnson & Johnson have pulled their ads entirely from YouTube and the Google Display Network.

In response, Google has issued a statement asserting that they will be expanding their content review team, as well as developing new AI and machine learning based tools to increase their ability to review material in a timely manner (Expanded Safeguards for Advertisers). Additionally, Google announced plans to release a new escalation process though which an advertiser can report a policy violation and quickly get the content in question reviewed.

What Ad Types This Affects

This discussion only concerns image, text and video ads served through use of the Google Display Network, and does not extend to text or shopping ads displayed on the Google search engine results page.

What You Can Do

MAKA Digital currently uses all available content filtering options to prevent our clients’ ads from being displayed next to content that does not reflect their brand values. This includes restricting ads from showing on sites with certain classifications, for example those with profane language or featuring sexually suggestive content, as well as actively restricting individual sites we have reviewed and determined to be inappropriate on a case by case basis.

Our ability to control where ads are served is limited by the native functionality of the Google AdWords interface.  Since Google currently does not guarantee that their review process will catch objectionable content 100% of the time, we similarly cannot guarantee that your ads will never be displayed on a site that does not reflect your brand values. Where and when an ad is displayed is determined by a complex system of targeting that is specific to individual users, and it is simply impossible to predict all potential combinations and outcomes.

Option 1: Continue to invest in advertising on the Google Display Network, and allow existing and future safeguards to protect your brand. Existing practices and policies are extremely robust, and do a great job of identifying objectionable content. Although a small percentage will inevitably slip through the cracks, this is unlikely to have any negative effect on your brand.

Option 2: Pull spending from the Google Display Network until further notice. This is the only way to guarantee that your ads do not ever show on a site that you may find objectionable. MAKA will continue to monitor changes in Google’s policies and tactics, and will make periodic recommendations based on the potential risk involved with reinstating Google Display Network advertising. If you choose to go this route, MAKA will work with you to identify an action plan of alternative advertising methods to maintain your brand’s share of voice.  

In closing…

MAKA is here for you. We want to encourage a transparent dialogue about how your brand is represented in the digital space. If you have any questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to us directly so we can discuss your needs in detail, and craft a comprehensive action plan.

The Impact of the Latest Facebook Algorithm Update:  What Does it Mean for You?

There is no denying that Facebook can be a large player in your marketing mix, helping to generate awareness, driving traffic to your site, and growing revenue.  But in the same breath, Facebook's latest algorithm changes make getting your message seen increasingly difficult.  So, what can you do about it?  First, let's take a walk through the history of Facebook's changes.

History of the Facebook Algorithm:

  • April 2014:  Facebook updated the algorithm and your organic reach (reach without boosting posts) dropped from about 20% to about 2%.
  • January 2015:  Facebook enacted a new rule for business pages.  This rule state that if a business page posts something overly promotional in nature, you’ll see even less organic reach.  Why?  Facebook conducted a survey in which their users said they want to see less promotional content and more from friends and pages they care about. What is “overly promotional content”?  Your posts might get classified as ‘overly promotional’, and thus reach is reduced, if:
    • They are posts that are created for the sole purpose of pushing people to buy a product usually determined by including a link out to external websites, or 
    • If you include calls to action like “click here”, “shop now”, “call us”, etc., or
    • If you promote contests and giveaways pushing people to enter to win (doesn’t apply to ads, organic posts only)
  • June 29, 2016 & carrying into 2017:  Facebook announced another algorithm update and changed the newsfeed to prioritize posts from family and friends.

As a result of Facebook’s algorithm changes, Facebook is reducing reach for business pages, community pages, and groups.  

What can you do about it?  

Implementing three key strategies will help you weather any Facebook storm and ensure strong traffic to your website:
1.    Maximize your Organic Reach:

  • Creative, unique and authentic content is the only way to maintain the organic reach.
  • Facebook is positioning themselves to be a major player in the video space.  Native videos are being given preference by Facebook.  Make sure you are utilizing this content format – it is HOT right now and will get you reach up to 5x or more that of other content types.

2.    Pay more money to Facebook:  

  • If you go to your Facebook page, it’s very likely that the first post you see is from one of your friends.  And it’s likely that the second post you see is a ‘sponsored post’ or ad. 
  • The goal of boosting posts is to get this coveted 2nd spot at the top of the feed and get seen nearly on-demand when users are visiting their pages and refreshing feeds.  

3.    Reduce your dependency on social media to grow your brand, traffic and revenue. 

  • Over 65% of consumer research begins with a search engine. 
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the act of leveraging Google’s free listings to get your business in front of ready-to-purchase clients. Ensure your website is optimized to rank better than your competitors in Google and other search engines.

For our full Point of View on this topic, which includes more detail and additional tips, download our PDF here. For help with digital marketing strategies for your business, drop us a line at hello@makadigital.com.

User Testing: The Tippy Test

Testing the user experience of your website is a little daunting. After endless hours of finessing your landing page call-to-actions, perfecting your cart experience, and prepping your order confirmation emails, you're finally ready to pull the traffic lever with some paid media traffic. But there's a nagging feeling in your stomach. It's the feeling that you just designed your entire website, or perhaps your entire company in a vacuum. 

Sure, you had meetings about it. A lot of meetings in fact. You and your fellow co-workers crammed yourselves into airless conference rooms and stuffed your faces full of wireframes on whiteboards. You argued, you clapped, you sighed. Until one day, you were finally ready to launch that big update. You tell yourself that if you get it out on time, you'll see traffic numbers soar, bounce rates drop, and conversion rates rejoice. Except every time your finger dances on the 'launch' button, you panic. Why? You panic because you just invested an enormous amount of energy and money in an echo chamber and have yet to see or hear what anyone outside of your company actually thinks about your new site experience. 

This, my friends, is where the tippy test comes in. Every summer, campers gather in boathouses stacked on sparkly lakes where they nervously grip their life preservers and wait on the dock for their tippy test to begin. A tippy test is when you take a canoe out into lake and purposely capsize it, then flip it back over, and hop back in. It's a crucial moment that determines your competence in the water. Are you ready to handle a boat on your own? Do you panic in that moment of uncertainty when you're treading cold lake water and awkwardly pushing the boat right side up? Or, are you at ease in this test of strength? In a singular moment, you either paddle back to shore with total confidence, or total insecurity. That's the very same resolve you get with user testing. 

User testing helps safeguard against getting out into the middle of the lake and realizing you never learned how to swim. In just a few short minutes, you know whether or not your new experience will sink or swim out in the wild. Before a project launches you're insecure. You need validation. You're vulnerable and it's easy to avoid criticism. It's scary to open yourself up to zingers, but once you send your site off to the user testing ethers, you'll come back with SOMETHING. Whether that something delays your launch for another week, or tells you you're a genius, at least you know you can float

If you're looking for help with user testing, or a fresh set of eyes for website conversion optimization, give us a shout. If you're looking for tools to do your own testing, we like to use User Testing. If you're looking for a great summer camp to do a tippy test, our hearts belong to Camp Dudley. 

Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

If you are running an AdWords account, chances are you’ve spent a fair amount of time looking through the search terms report to eliminate irrelevant traffic. It’s a good practice to continually monitor this report to make sure you aren’t spending money on traffic that won’t help you reach your goals. Although this is the standard way to use this report, you can also use it to uncover and resolve another potential issue in your account: keyword cannibalization.

What is keyword cannibalization?

In an ideal world, all of your traffic would come from highly optimized, exact match keywords. However, we know this isn’t realistic. In most of our accounts, we run a combination of exact and phrase match keywords and use a continuous optimization process to update our exact match keyword lists with search queries from the phrase match campaigns. Unfortunately, this creates a problem where Google will serve an ad using a phrase match keyword, when there was a better, exact match keyword available in the account. This is keyword cannibalization.

There are obvious ramifications to this (wrong ad, wrong landing page etc.) but the less obvious problem is the effect of quality score on your overall CPC. A phrase match keyword will almost always have a lower quality score than an exact match keyword, and therefore will almost always have a higher CPC. Cutting down on keyword cannibalization will therefore lower your account’s average CPC without modifying bids or sacrificing traffic.

Here is a simple process using excel and AdWords Editor that will let you simplify the elimination of cannibalization.

1.       Export all search queries

a.       In the AdWords web interface, go to the keywords tab and click to the “Search Terms” section.

b.       Download this as a CSV, and open in Excel.

2.       Remove all exact match and excluded search terms

a.       Apply a filter to the second row.

b.       Filter for only exact match lines.

c.       Delete these lines.

d.       Now do the same with “excluded” lines.

3.       Clear the Added/Excluded column

a.       We’re going to use this column shortly, so it needs to be blank.

4.       Export all exact match keywords.

a.       Go to the keyword tab in the AdWords web interface, and create a filter for only exact match keywords.

b.       Export this as a CSV, and open it in Excel.

5.       Clean up the Keyword Report

a.       Delete the first row and column, so that the keyword list starts in cell A2.

b.       Use Find & Replace to remove the brackets from around the keywords.

6.       Use vlookup to identify cannibalization

a.       On the search terms workbook, in the Added/Excluded column that you cleared, use vlookup return the campaign from the keywords report of the search term on each line. Your formula should look kind of like this: vlookup(SearchTermCell,KeywordWorkbookA2:KeywordworkbookB10000,2,false) This is identifying if any of the search terms have an exact match counterpart in your account, and telling you which campaign that counterpart is in. Any lines that return a result are experiencing cannibalization.

7.       Create your negative upload list

a.       Filter the Added/Excluded column to exclude anything that returned “N/A”.

b.       Copy the remaining lines onto a new sheet, then delete those rows on the original sheet.

c.       On the new sheet, delete all but the Search Term, Campaign, Ad Group and Match Type columns.

d.       Change the order of the remaining columns to this: Campaign, Ad Group, Search Term, Match Type.

e.       Rename Search term to Keyword, and change the match type in all rows to Exact.

8.       Load your negative list into AdWords Editor

a.       Open AdWords Editor and download recent changes.

b.       Click to the negative keywords section, and click “Make Multiple Changes”

c.       Copy and paste your negative list into the dialogue box, make sure the column headers are correct, and click process.

d. Accept the changes, post to your account

This process checks your search queries against your exact match keywords, identifies those that are cannibalizing existing keywords, and creates exact match negatives in the non-exact match campaigns to eliminate the problem. Doing this about once a month should be sufficient for most accounts to have a positive effect on your account’s overall CPC.

If vlookups and keyword match types gives you a panic attack, drop us a line, we're here to make your life easy. 

Setting Up Shared Negative Lists in AdWords

What is a shared negative list?

Shared campaign negative lists allow you to apply a single list of negative keywords to any number of campaigns in your account. These lists sit in the Shared Library with audiences, bid strategies and budgets.

Why use this versus campaign or ad group level negatives?

Often, a query that needs to be blocked from one campaign will match to another, especially if you are running phrase or broad match keywords. Unless you predict this and proactively add the negative to all campaigns the query could potentially match to, the query will simply match to a different campaign until you catch it there. You will end up chasing the query through your account, wasting money for weeks depending on the frequency with which you add negatives.

The process of adding campaign or ad group level negatives from a search queries report can be tedious and time consuming, so repeating the same process multiple times is a waste of time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere. By creating and maintaining shared campaign level negative lists, you will only need to address each category of queries once, with minor ongoing updates.

Immediately following this process, you will most likely notice a drop in impressions and clicks – this should correspond with an improved click through rate and increased efficiency due to the elimination of irrelevant or underperforming queries.

Create Your Lists

The first step to creating shared negative lists is to do the keyword research, just like if you were starting a new campaign. The difference is you are looking for related, but unwanted queries that you will need to block. You can find these in a few places:

·         What you know:

o   You probably already know of a few to start with from working with the account. Is there another company or product with a similar name? A non-branded term that Google considers synonymous with your brand name or category modifiers? List everything you can think of to get started.

·         Existing negatives:

o   This will likely be the most lucrative source of negatives. These lists are often the result of many hours of optimization; take advantage of them! Export all existing negative keywords from AdWords Editor, and add them to your list.

§  To export all your negatives, open Editor and download recent changes. Navigate to the “Keywords, Negative” view at the account level, select all, then right click and click Copy. Now paste this into a blank Excel workbook.

·         Search Queries Report:

o   If your account doesn’t have extensive negative lists, then a search queries report is where you’ll want to head next. Jump into AdWords, click into the “Keywords” tab, then switch to the “Search terms” view. Set your time range to something pretty long, last 30 days should work, then download this view.

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o   Start by eliminating any queries you know you don’t need to add as negatives.

  •   Place a filter on the “Added/Excluded” column to identify all the “Added” queries, and delete these rows.

o   Now sort the list by impressions, and start digging. Mark any queries that you want to eliminate by highlighting the cell. When you’re finished, filter the query column by color and copy those rows to another sheet.

If you use all three of these methods, lump them all into one big list when you’re done.

Once you have your master negative list, you’ll want to group them into categories. This process will be the most time consuming and labor intensive, so block off an appropriate amount of time.

I usually think about the categories as the campaigns I want to apply the negatives to. For example, there could be a category called “Everything but Sale” which will include any and all queries related to sale. Applying this list to the whole account except the sale campaign will prevent any sale traffic from creeping into a non-sale campaign. There should always be a catch-all category that is applied to the whole account, and ideally there will be several other categories.

Now that the keywords are grouped into categories, you’ll want narrow the lists down as much as possible. Think carefully about what match types you want to use – the broader you can make the match types without blocking quality traffic the better. You want your list to block as much irrelevant traffic as possible with the fewest keywords possible. Keeping with the sale example, you can distill “clothes on sale”, “shoe sale” and “best sale price on gummy bears” into one negative keyword: sale, using broad match. Doing this correctly requires a pretty solid understanding of match types, so brush up here if you are a little rusty.

There are going to be some leftover negatives that don’t fit neatly into any category – these should be added individually at the campaign or ad group level.

Put those lists into AdWords.

When you’re finished creating your keyword lists, it’s time to put them into AdWords. Take a deep breath, pour a new cup of coffee and let’s finish this up.

Navigate to Campaign Negative Keywords under Shared library.

Click the “+ list” button, and put in the name of your first category.

You can use whatever naming convention you’d like, but I usually duplicate the names of the categories I created earlier.

Paste in the negative keywords, using the match type modifier punctuation. Click save.

To apply the list to the appropriate campaign, check the box next to the list’s name in the campaign negative keywords screen, and click “Apply to campaigns”. Select the campaigns you’d like to apply it to, and click save.

Repeat this for all of the lists you’ve created – then pat yourself on the back, because you’re done!

Except… not really.

It’s extremely important to monitor the account performance following this process. Keep in mind that it is easy to accidentally block quality traffic with negative keywords, and it’s difficult to troubleshoot. Keep a close eye on the performance changes that result – you should expect to see some positive changes, but be on the lookout for indications of something problematic. If you see something dramatic, it’s easy to go back in and remove the offending list from the campaigns until you can troubleshoot that problem.

Also, while it won’t hurt anything to leave the old negatives in the campaigns and ad groups, I like to delete negatives that are no longer needed. Wait a few weeks before you do this, in case you have to remove the new lists to troubleshoot. Once you’ve decided that the new lists are working as expected, go ahead and delete any old negative keyword that is covered by one on the new list. Once again, this is time consuming and requires a pretty good knowledge of match types, so plan to do it when you have an appropriate block of quiet time.

Ongoing Management

Now that you’ve done the work to clean up your negatives, it’s important to maintain them. Fortunately, that will be a lot easier now. When you are running search query reports, add negatives to one of the shared lists as much as possible – try to avoid adding them at the campaign or ad group level unless absolutely necessary. If you keep this up, you should see a dramatic drop in junk traffic through your account, improving click through rate, conversion rate, and quality score. 

10 Pro Tips for eCommerce Marketing Teams in the Final Days Before Cyber 5

Here are 10 tips we’ve learned through the years that if you nail in these final days, can make or break a very crucial Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday weekend.

  1. Exchange cell phone numbers with the vendors that cost you the most money.  Adwords teams, Retargeting vendors, Affiliate network reps and top affiliate account managers, Personalization vendors, marketing agency reps, technology providers, etc.  You never know when you’ll need to shift direction on your ads during the weekend and need immediate approval pushed through.  Or you find out Thanksgiving morning your link is broken on that affiliate’s site.

  2. You should have placements secured with your top affiliates by now.  If you don’t, huge miss.  Affiliate revenue can account for as much as 30% of your sales this key weekend. Don’t let it happen again next year. And immediately contact the movers and shakers to buy, beg, and bribe your way into any remaining placements. Bonus pro tip:  try your hardest to negotiate for increased commissions vs straight flat fees – your ROAS will be much improved.  But if you’re at the 11th hour, beggars can’t be choosers.

  3. On that note, you’ve sent all your affiliate creative on to them, right?  If you haven’t, get moving. They’ll be inundated with last minute requests and that leaves room for mistakes.  Mistakes will cost you serious money, so minimize your risk.

  4. Take retargeting CPCs up (you are bidding on CPC, right?!), way up.  Build as big of a cookie base in these final days as possible to cash in on during Cyber 5.  Of course, make sure you’re still driving profits so only take them up as high as your goals allow.

  5. Sale pages are ranking in Google organically.  Not only sale pages, but check your rankings for your top brand terms + thanksgiving/black Friday/cyber Monday variants + sale variants (sale, deals, specials, coupons, offers, promotions, promos, etc.).  The conversion rates on visitors coming through these terms can be upwards of 40% or better.  Are your rankings not that great?  Two fire drills to run:  1)  Get with your PPC team and buy your way to the top of Google; 2)Some quick-but-strategic internal linking could be a solution to bump you up a bit.

  6. Run a “site:domain.com” search on your domain and make sure things look copasetic. Fix any minor issues and keep an eye out for major ones (oh, ya know, like a robots.txt message!).

  7. Have your coupon-based promos uploaded into your Google Shopping campaigns for a “Special Offers” highlight.  This can drastically increase your CTR and of course conversion rates during this key time.  Don’t have any coupons?  Get creative.  Free shipping, free expedited shipping, gift with purchase, purchase with purchase, etc. are some ideas.  CPCstrategy.com does a nice write-up on how to enable Special Offers for your Shopping Campaigns.

  8. If you’re not in a code freeze, use these last few days to remove any marketing tracking pixels/tags not in use. They decrease your load times and removing them is sure to provide a better UX and possibly increase conversion rates.

  9. Give your IT staff the whole marketing team’s cell phone numbers. If your sites go down for any reason during Cyber 5, you’ll want to be nimble with your marketing plans.  Pause that email campaign that’s sending out, pause PPC spend, etc.  Think your site won’t go down?  Never say never.

  10.  Check your PPC budget caps across all the engines and make triple sure you won’t cap out at 9am on Black Friday!  No harm in raising them insanely high, if your goals are ROAS based.

Have some other gems to share? Let us know in the comments below or share with us at hello@MAKAdigital.com.

How SEO Insights Fuel Content Strategies That Solve Audience’s Problems While Driving Revenue

Every problem is an opportunity to make your audience happy. SEO insights are invaluable for identifying what content will drive revenue by solving for your audience’s problems. Those insights are a great way to identify customer pain points that not only surface in their online habits, but also manifest at other customer touch points throughout your company. Perhaps the very same issue that people search for also takes up a large volume of resources inside of your call centers, at retail or in the social space. Smart, insights driven content strategies can not only help solve those audience problems, but also provide a perfect opportunity for SEO, content, PR and social teams to work together to solve larger company-wide issues. In this presentation, we look at how to identify search insights from Google and how to use that information to create omnichannel eCommerce content strategies. Take a look at how we helped footwear giant UGG Australia use content to put their audience first with tightly woven content strategies.

Short on time? Here’s a 2 minute takeaway… 

1. Put the Other Fellow First Ruthlessly prioritize your customer needs above that awesomely distracting shiny “fun” project. Sure, it’s easy to get pulled by the new hero product, celebrity endorsement or attention grabbing content project, but it’s important to stay focused on listening to your customers. What are they searching for? Not only on Google, but also on your site. At bare minimum, use the Google Keyword Planner Tool and Google Trends. Start there, then…Start there, then… 

2. Solve Problems Once you’ve identified what it is that people are asking you for via search, begin your company wide quest to determine where else this problem surfaces. Are customers calling into your call center, showing up at retail, voicing their needs on social? Great. That means that you now have multiple manifestations of the same problem which builds the case for getting the time and resources to solve it. Now start solving and… 

3. Build Bridges With Cupcakes The more complex the problem, the more people need to be involved. Often, these issues sit in the grey area of “who’s job is it?” This can be a danger zone for the problem becoming everyone’s responsibility = no one’s responsibility. Or, it can also mean that you’re stepping on people’s toes because suddenly, you’re trying to develop content that touches upon other people’s turf. My advice here is similar to Facebook’s Jonathan Colman’s advice to “be empathetic”. The way to get people to help you solve your audience’s problem is to understand what’s important to them, what they’re measured by and what makes them happy. For me, chocolate cupcakes will do the trick. If you find people you need to work with, but they’re reluctant to be a team player, contextualize your case with what matters in their world. Let them know what’s in it for them and show them you give a damn about what matters to them. This means that you actually have to take the time to learn about them and follow up by showing them that you care. The thing is, when you start to learn about what’s important to people, you actually do start to care. Now, you’ve got employees across the organization who previously had no reason to collaborate, start to bond. Imagine the magic that can happen… 

4. Create, Measure & Share Success When that morning finally comes that your content is ready to share with your audience, it’s pretty damn exciting. It’s exciting because you know you’re delivering something that people actually WANT! You’ve solved their problem and now it’s time to deliver the goods. I urge you to take a lot of time in your planning phases to think about where to host the content, what channels to push it out on, what SEO (always back to SEO!) needs to be in place and who else in your company may need it. That planning phase is also the right time to identify what success will look like, what KPIs you’ll use and how you’ll optimize or course correct as you begin your content distribution strategy. So, let’s just say that all goes well. You’re audience loves you, your teammates are stoked and your dashboards are smiling. Now is the time to share the glory. Remember #3. It’s cupcake time. As you publicize the results of your insights driven content strategy, be sure to call out everyone that helped you. Make them shine in front of their bosses. It feels good. 

5. Keep Solving While it may be tempting to say “Ok, I’ve done my part to make our audience happy, now back to all that other stuff”, my advice here is to dig back into the data and see what problem you can solve next. I can guarantee that even the best of companies will always have audience problems to solve. That’s exactly what we did at UGG Australia. Once we’d created content that helped our audience take care of their boots and saw how successful it was, we continued on our quest to solve even more problems. We started looking at queries around sizing and fit, style suggestions, and out of date product searches. For each one of these incidents we were able to find stakeholders throughout the organization who benefited from the content and quickly rose to the occasion to put their audience first. It’s ok if you can’t come up with the perfect content solution in your first try. Be iterative. Try SOMETHING, listen for feedback and optimize until both your internal stakeholders and your audience tells you that you’ve nailed it. Sometimes, taking those smaller steps can be enough to get buy in and show your audience you value them and you’re trying to “get it right”. 

…Summing it Up Magic happens when you collaborate and use channels in nontraditional ways. Use SEO to identify search trends that serve as a launching off point for content, social, email and PR campaigns. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, every problem is an opportunity to make your audience happy. So go ahead, take a look under the hood and start up those conversations, your audience will thank you. After all, that’s what it’s all about in the first place.