2019 holiday checklist: Get your products in front of holiday shoppers

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In three weeks, consumers will have their devices in hand and be ready to line up at stores to continue their holiday shopping over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Will you be ready? We’ve made a list of recommendations and hope you’ll check it twice to help you dial up holiday performance. See our first pro tip below and check back next week for what’s next on the list.

Pro tip #1: Help shoppers discover more of your products through Merchant Center

The holiday season continues to be an important time for retail marketers and is growing more competitive every year. According to Mastercard Advisors, retail had its largest season ever ($853 billion) last year with ecommerce sales reaching their strongest growth in over a decade, at an 18.4 percent increase from the year before.

And while this year’s holiday shopping season is a week shorter than last year, there’s good news for marketers: research shows the period to influence shoppers starts earlier and extends longer than ever. 

To help you reach these eager shoppers, we’re introducing new features in Merchant Center to help you promote and sell your products this holiday season:

  • Expand your feeds to show on Shopping ads in 50+ new markets

  • Quickly upload your products globally through automated feeds

  • Strengthen your reviews with user-generated images for Product Ratings

  • Easily manage your inventory with the new Merchant Center experience and automatic image improvements

Reach more holiday shoppers around the world

70 percent of global consumers made at least one crossborder purchase according to a recent Pitney Bowes report. Promote the products you sell and find better qualified leads by putting your products in front of people searching on Google around the world. With Shopping ads now available in more than 50 new markets, and 95 total markets, you can expand your global footprint more than ever.

Start showing your products globally with multi-country feeds, which allow you to target multiple countries that share the same language by using a single feed in that language. For example, if you upload product information in German for Germany, those products may be automatically available to show in other German-speaking countries, such as Austria and Switzerland. You’ll just need to set up shipping and location targeting for these countries in your Shopping campaign in order to start promoting your products in these new countries.

If you don’t already have a feed, you can submit your products more quickly with automated feeds, available in all Shopping ads countries starting in November. Simply enable Merchant Center to crawl your website for structured data and extract your most up-to-date product information for your initial feed. 

Turn browsers into buyers with more visual reviews

A recent Google/Ipsos study shows that Google is the first place consumers go to research a purchase they plan to make. But beyond turning to search to read product reviews, shoppers are increasingly becoming inspired by images, with 50 percent of digital shoppers saying images helped them decide what to buy, according to Google’s Consumer Survey this year. 

To help shoppers feel more confident in their purchases, we’re introducing user-generated images in product reviews on Shopping ads. You can now include review images in your product review feeds, allowing customers to visually connect with what you sell through pictures of previous customers wearing or using your products. 

Mobile Mocks Holiday 2019

To get started, see our updated schema documentation, and ensure all images you submit are compliant with our policies for user-generated images. You can sign up for the Product Ratings program here. This experience is currently available on mobile in the US, with plans to expand across more Google properties and countries over the coming months. 

Manage your inventory across Google more easily

The new Merchant Center experience has been redesigned with clearer workflows, simpler navigation, and more program insights. You can use the updated interface to easily manage your products, like enabling automatic image improvements to remove promotional overlays on your product images to comply with Merchant Center policies. You can also discover additional opportunities to promote and sell your products. 

New Merchant Center

For example, you can opt your inventory into surfaces across Google in the US and India to allow your products to show across Google for free, including rich snippets in search results and product annotations in Google images. Surfaces across Google will be coming to additional countries before the end of the year.

Ready to get started? Get more tips and best practices for driving holiday sales.

October 31st 2019 Uncategorized

All the Fitbit activity badges

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Fitbit has discontinued their Fitbit One step trackers, which seems like a good opportunity to step back and reflect on wearing one for the last decade or so. I’ve enjoyed using Fitbit trackers, but the One devices seemed like they broke down way too often.

I’m pretty proud that I ended up earning all the activity-related Fitbit badges though:

100,000 steps and 800 floors in one day

In 2013, I ran a 50 mile race and I took 110,472 steps that day. I think I did some extra steps late that night just in case Fitbit ever increased their top step badge from 100K to 105K or 110K steps. The lifetime miles badge took care of itself as long as I wore my Fitbit. The same applied for the lifetime floor badge: I’ve climbed 73,383 floors in the last few years, and that badge tops out at 35,000 floors.

But the Rainbow badge was a little harder: 700 floors in one day. Climbing up Half Dome in Yosemite only got me 500 floors or so. At some point, I found myself in Washington, DC missing only a couple badges: Mountain (600 floors) and Rainbow (700 floors).

DC isn’t known for its high buildings. I researched the Washington Monument (897 steps) and the National Cathedral (about 333 steps), but access was tricky and I’d need to climb either many times. Ultimately I decided on the New Executive Office Building, which I have access to because of my job at the US Digital Service.

That’s how I found myself on a Sunday morning in July 2018. I started a podcast as I walked up the steps to the 10th floor of the NEOB (pronounced like “knee-ob”). Then I took the elevator down, and started walking up the steps again. And again. Every so often I took a bathroom break or ate a snack, but mostly I walked while listening to podcasts. I ended up climbing 818 floors, which is basically walking up to the 10th floor about 82 times. Fitbit claimed I burned 4000+ calories that day.

Wait a second–the badge is only for 700 floors, so why did I climb 800+ floors? It took me about four hours and forty-five minutes to climb all those steps that day. Just in case Fitbit added a badge for 800 floors, I didn’t want the temptation to do re-do several hours of climbing.

Overall, Fitbit’s badges have probably pushed me to walk more, along with a goal to get 10,000 steps a day. As my current Fitbit One gets more and more creaky and unreliable, I might explore a less quantified self though. I’m finding myself posting less on social media. Maybe not every single thing needs to be observed and tallied.

October 21st 2019 Uncategorized

Investing in the next generation of measurement on YouTube

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Ad reporting and measurement is an important part of getting digital advertising right. We invest a lot to help our advertisers understand the value of running ads on services like YouTube. 

Advertisers use different tools to understand the effectiveness of their ad campaigns. One type, called pixels, has played an important role across the web for over a decade, but was built for a world of single screens, not for the ways many people watch YouTube today. While more than 70 percent of time spent watching YouTube globally occurs on mobile devices, pixels can’t report on the effectiveness of ads that appear in mobile apps. And many third-party pixels lack the privacy controls and user protections of newer technology. That’s why, for the past several years, we’ve been taking action to limit the pixels we allow on YouTube while investing in a cloud-based measurement solution called Ads Data Hub that allows our advertisers to understand the effectiveness of their ads in a secure, privacy-safe environment. 

Over the last year, we’ve been working with key measurement companies including Nielsen, Comscore, DoubleVerify, Dynata, Kantar and Integral Ad Science to migrate their services to Ads Data Hub. Once the migrations are complete early next year, we will stop allowing third-party pixels on YouTube.

Unlike pixel-based measurement, Ads Data Hub allows advertisers to understand how their advertising is performing across screens, including mobile apps, through aggregated insights from Google ad platforms, including YouTube, Google Ads and Display & Video 360. Because Ads Data Hub limits the use of user data, it adds another layer of privacy protection for users while still enabling marketers to measure their YouTube ad campaigns. 

Ads Data Hub

Over the past year, we’ve invested significantly in infrastructure improvements to Ads Data Hub to make it faster, easier to use and more reliable. This has allowed us to dramatically increase the number of advertisers and technology providers we can serve and the use cases supported in Ads Data Hub. Advertisers have run millions of successful queries to date. 

While there is still more work to be done, we think this change will be beneficial to consumers and advertisers. With the migration from pixels to Ads Data Hub, our third-party measurement partners will be able to provide YouTube advertisers with more comprehensive reporting and measurement, using technology that’s built to enhance user privacy. 

October 16th 2019 Uncategorized

The importance of SEO for small businesses

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Small businesses are nothing compared to what they used to be in the recent past as the Internet has revolutionized how small business owners conduct their business. It would be very hard to succeed by using the methods of twenty years ago, even ten years ago or less, as every aspect from running the accounting, showcasing the business, getting customers, etc, has radically changed in a short time period.

Nowadays a large portion of small business operations and marketing campaigns are done online. Of course every small business needs a website hosted at a solid hosting company, but this is just the first step as far as marketing is concerned. The second step which is much harder to implement is to get a consistent flow of visitors to their website.

Getting traffic, in other words visitors to their site can make or break a business. As many of these online businesses offer the same type of standardized service such as a plumber, a lawyer, an accountant or a carpet cleaner, one of the key for the success of an online business is to master traffic getting from online sources. As many of the service offers are quite similar to each other, the company winning a specific deal could be the one a potential buyer sees first on the Web.

What is online traffic?

Most online business owners understand the above principle about getting visitors to their website. There are a few powerful ways to get these visitors. Below is a list of the main channels to get online traffic for a small business:

  1. paid advertisement (google adwords, facebook ads, …)
  2. social traffic (facebook fans, twitter followers,…)
  3. email marketing
  4. video marketing
  5. organic traffic
  6. google maps

Every business owner will have his preference when it comes to his favorite traffic source, but let’s first comment briefly on the six sources of traffic just mentioned above.

Paid ads are paid of course, i.e. there is a cost attached to each visitor, and it can be high in some niches like the legal niche. Social traffic will require a social media manager just to constantly create buzz about the business, and it can be hard to keep on buzzing about some vanilla businesses, such as accounting. Email marketing requires special skills and not all products are well adapted to it. It will not work for a plumber, will it? Likewise for video marketing.

This leaves us with number 5 and 6, organic traffic and google maps, which are applicable universally to almost any small business seeking online traffic.

google results

#5 organic traffic means to appear in google search results so that potential buyers can see the company at the top of the result page, click on the link and visit the website. #6 google maps is similar to organic results, except the business will appear in the google maps area on the google page, as a google my business result within the map.

How to appear at the top of organic results or google maps? This is the question every small business owner wants the answer to. And the answer is that it is achieved using search engine optimization techniques, also called in short SEO.

What is SEO exactly?

Most small business owners have heard about SEO and some of them have even hired a SEO company to work on their marketing campaign in the past. But few of these business owners understand clearly what SEO is all about, or how well it works.

They somehow see the importance of SEO for their business, but many are not too sure about it.

The best way to think about SEO and its benefits is to get an idea of how much extra traffic a business could get by reaching the top 3 spots in google organic, or the top 3 spots in google maps, which is called the 3 pack, and is often the main visible part in google maps results.

It turns out in many cases an online business can double or even triple their online sales by consistently showing up at the top of the search results. The number one result in google results page gets more than ten times the number of clicks of the 10th result. People do not have the time to check lower results down to the 10th result. People do not like to check too many results, and they will just click on the first few results from google, or simply the first one sometimes.

So if an SEO company can help your website reach this top area on the google result page, as you can imagine your online sales will explode given the boost in traffic this will generate. This is why implementing the proper SEO strategy is so crucial for all small online businesses.

How can google maps help exactly?

google maps

What is newer in the field of search engine optimization is our #6 item: google maps.

Have you noticed that if you search for a pizzeria near you, you will see a map with the nearest restaurants offering pizzas? But if you search for other queries like “what time is it in New York now”, you will see no such map, just organic results.

This is because google will only display a local map when it is appropriate to do so, for example if you are looking for something that could be offered by a local business, like a restaurant, a hotel, a plumber, a car repair shop, etc. In other words google maps is nowadays the place users trust to find the local services or products they are looking for online. And this is what google is conditioning shoppers to expect to see when they want to make an online purchase.

So if your company does not show up prominently in google maps, as you can imagine your business will lose a ton of potential buyers eager to get your product. As a matter of fact this type of maps traffic is very “hot”, as these surfers have strong buyer-intent: they are likely to be really interested in purchasing a product very soon. They are the perfect type of visitors a business wants to attract.

This is why SEO applied to google maps is so important for small businesses.

How to rank in google

How to rank in google is a valuable skill of course given what we just explained earlier. SEO practitioners understand the complicated mathematical formulas and algorithms used by search engines. The expertise of these SEO experts involves optimizing websites in order to boost their search engine rankings.

It takes years for a SEO specialist to master such skills that they can later apply to the benefit of small businesses. As the search engines change their methodologies on a regular basis, they must always keep their knowledge updated in order to remain at the top of their game.

SEO can be very important to most small businesses, as it can multiply their sales significantly. As many surfers just click on the top results for a query with buyer intent like “plumber in West London”, a business able to rank at the top will get a ton of new visitors when surfers click on the first link they see.

Should a small business use a SEO company?

It is quite clear that SEO can play a fundamental part in the success of any small online business, be it by generating more organic traffic, or by producing new traffic from google maps where eager buyers are looking for an offer now.

Make sure to use a trusted SEO company that can deliver good results. SEO should be part of a long-term marketing strategy. It is not a gig done only once. It is part of a constant effort of optimization and maintenance of a business website.

Any small online business should hire a SEO service provider to bring their business to the next level. In a competitive online world, the business owners who understand the importance of SEO and know how to use it are the ones better armed to succeed on the Web.

October 8th 2019 Online Marketing, SEO