Local Retailers Win When They Optimize for Local Search

modifiedA related article entitled “Local Search Marketing, Accuracy Trumps Distribution” may be viewed on CMO.com

Retail success has long been largely dependent on physical location. Selecting commercial space requires consideration of many factors including demographics, socio-economics, competitive proximity, traffic patterns and more.  Multi-location retailers apply a great deal of strategy when opening a store.  Mall retailers will swap locations when premium space becomes available so that they are more visible to consumers passing by.

Today, however, location means more than capturing the passer-by.  Location also means being found by the digital searcher.  70% of consumers research local products and services on a desktop and then use their mobile device to get where they want to go.  A consumer that has decided to visit your store is in buy-mode.  Will they find you?  Did you take steps to ensure that a consumer would know that you changed locations in the mall?  Will your store be located where the “X” marked the spot?  Is the premium location really premium if a consumer shows up at the doorstep of another business instead of yours?  How much revenue will you miss out on?

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Unlock the power of location data (part IV – sample case study)

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In August of this year, LocationInsight rebranded as Placeable to strategically align the mission of the company with driving enterprise advertisers to become placeable. Following suit, we have released several case studies that demonstrate the results that enterprise advertisers have experienced after becoming placeable.

The third case study example is a global financial transaction company with an inadequate conversion rate of online to offline customers at the location. With more than a half-million locations, this was a significant problem. Continue reading

Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide

Ted Shergalis is chief product officer and founder of [x+1], and he contributed Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide to iMediaConnection this morning.


Ted’s experience in working with marketers should be significant and therefore I would guess has relevance to the topic.  What concerns me, however, is the generalization with which he describes the silo organizational structure between his clients’ external marketing (media buying and advertising) and customer marketing (web site management, etc.).  Not only does Ted confirm that the teams working on these two functions are usually physically separated but so too are the technologies they use.


External online efforts – media planning, buying, ad serving, email marketing, mobile, search and analytics – are all operating independently from site-side efforts –  like landing page optimization, content management, eCRM, site analytics. 


First, let’s gain a little perspective here.  Ted is from [X+1].  Their whole gig is about optimizing conversions and customer penetration within a site.  Furthermore, they also tout their skills at connecting these two silos together.  Their Media+1 and Site+1 products connect Ad Serving and Site-Side optimization together like an adhesive to offer marketers a cohesive view from the external efforts through to the internal efforts.


I am not going to dive into those two products here much.  Media+1 is basically the former Poindexter ad server, a tier-two player with a couple of marquee clients that has been folded into their primary core competency which is what the Site+1 product is all about.  The rebranding of the company from Poindexter to [x+1] has enabled them to carve this great niche in the industry and now they partner with tier-1 ad servers like DoubleClick when strong ad serving is required or when major clients are on the table.


Anyway, I know I bitch and moan when people get on iMediaConnection and self-promote, so I can’t criticize ted here for not mentioning [x+1], but I like it when people also give us some direction.  In other words my narrow rules say its okay to mention your company so long as you do it in context with other companies as well.  Serve as a resource and not a self-promotional artist.  In this case, however, maybe Ted didn’t feel he could come up with anyone else that could do it like [x+1] J


One thing that comes to mind, however, when I read his characterization of the outward and inward marketing silos is how the head of marketing in those organizations must be failing.  Online is a component of marketing.  If the org is big enough to have a head of interactive – s/he is failing.  If it is not that big and it has a head of marketing alone, then s/he must be failing.  I say this because in this day and age there are too many different ways to pull these two efforts together and if they are not talking to each other the problems are obvious, the tension will be thick as butter and the questions that can’t be answered about the performance of the organization will be more significant than the performance that can be measured.  Intelligence will recognize that there is a major problem.  So I wonder either, (a) if Ted has really screwed-up clients or (b) he is using his worst clients as examples in his articles or, (c) the type of opportunities that I am encountering represent more of what is out there than what is not.


Is it really that screwed up on the back end of the curve?


External online marketing needs to tag web sites and calculate data.  So internal marketing has to get curious about what is going on.  Internal marketing is using analytics to track internal behavioral and CMS to maximize conversions.  A Director-level person who oversees these two units has to be gathering data from both groups and must begin to get curious about the relationships between the two – this would represent common sense intelligence.  If not, then stupid people are running a lot of marketing organizations.  Maybe that is a truth.  But I am meeting a lot of intelligent people.  I work on the front of the curve too … so maybe I work with smarter people … but I think our industry as a whole is comprised of people on the top and front-end of the curve.  I think that a lot of people struggle with these problems, but I also think that the technologies are in place or are being put in place to take maximize.  As always, time is the limited resource.


Anyway, placing these two efforts together is just common sense.  This is why behavioral targeting has become so popular.  This is why lead generation advertising is becoming so popular.  This is why landing-page A/B testing with companies like CoreMetrics is gaining so much attention.  None of these initiatives can happen without internal marketing being at least engaged.


First party ad serving requires the marriage of internal and external marketing.  Maybe that is part of what is so unique about where my projects have taken me.  I sit in meetings with people who know each other, and look at each other and we work together to figure out ownership.  eCRM or site-side analytics will set first party cookies for external marketing to target with the ad server.  Media Planning and buying will set strategy based on the customer profiles that internal marketing establishes.  Creative is built accordingly.  Ad serving targets new and existing customers in real-time.  Leads and prospects and existing customers are all driven back to the site(s).  Internal web site management receives users and pushes them into different directions based on cookie variables and eCRM records transactional patterns while site analytics records behavioral patterns and sets new cookies for future targeting.  New customer profiles are created and new segments are built for future re-targeting and the cycle continues.  With first party ad serving and the marriage of first party ad serving and site side analytics, you have the integration of internal and external marketing within an advertiser.  Everyone works together with a product like DirectServe™ and WebSideStory.


But there are other ways to do this too.  If internal and external are coordinated by a single leadership role, they should be made aware of the benefits of each other’s efforts.  And in my experience they usually are.  Ted could have shed some light on how different technologies can be used to do this in his article, because I think he did a good job at challenging us to question whether our organizations are functioning properly or not.  If you are falling prey to the problems ted describes, what do you do about it?  I guess you can call Ted.  But first you should have some idea as to how you should diagnose your problems.  Then you should have some directive as to who you should call, in addition to Ted, for some insight.  You can’t get all of that from one article I know.  But I’ve given you some thoughts.


Evaluate your chain of command.  If you are the head of the organization, challenge your people to construct an information flow chart to see what they each can capture and then line the two groups up and see where they connect.  Ultimately this is about the acquisition of new leads, conversions and the growth of customers. 


Your external marketing team needs to be empowered to attack the market with tools that will enable them to generate new leads and re-target existing customers simultaneously, since both will exist within any pool (website) upon which they advertise. 


Internal marketing needs to have the capacity to capture both audiences when they come in, continue the messaging strategy, leverage CMS to position the appropriate content and leverage the knowledge gained by the ad serving process (what worked and what did not work) to maximize the conversion rates on prospects and the recurring revenue opportunities on existing customers. 


Finally internal marketing needs to convert the knowledge it gains through its conversion processes into media decision-making recommendations for external marketing so that the cycle can continue specifically with regard to re-targeting existing customers.


Reactionary with insight

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Predict Your Audience’s Preferences, Digging into [x+1]

[x+1]‘s VP of product development, Howard Fiderer explains in iMediaConnection how to make consumer data actionable so that you can tailor users’ experiences to their tastes on their very first visit in Predict Your Audience’s Preferences.


 


For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, [x+1] is the former Poindexter.  Originally a primary ad serving company, Poindexter raised an eight-figure round of private financing in March of 2005 and used the funds to re-define the company from product, to target market, to brand.  Starting with adapting the mathematical formula x+1, Poindexter reset itself in the marketplace.  “We’re using this as an opportunity to mark a stake in the ground for a category we’re trying to define, marketing optimization,” the company’s CEO Toby Gabriner told ClickZ News in April 2005.  [x+1] proposed to focus on advertiser-marketing within the advertiser’s site while maintaining their advertising business, or ad serving business.  Ideally, they saw the opportunity to integrate the two products into a prospect-drawing and customer-targeting model as the ideal go-to-market.


 


First problem to overcome, Poindexter’s ad server was not viewed as a tier-one ad server in the market.  Although it had respectable market share, their reporting capabilities were commonly considered to be sub-par.  Major advertisers like American Express, who had termed contracts with Poindexter, complained about the lack of report diversity and the limitations of data availability.  Other agency users also had issues with their reporting, when their advertiser clients forced Poindexter on them.  That was the model for Poindexter, they sold to the advertiser so the agency would have to use them. 


 


Actually, it was more of a resultant model.  Poindexter sold to advertisers because they were looking to sell their ad serving and their developing predictive customer targeting back-end solution.  They promised improved reporting but it was not coming fruition on the ad serving side for customers. 


 


A Perfect example with regard to reporting shortfalls is the concept of ‘view-through.’  A view-through is when a user sees an advertisement served by an ad server but does not click on it.  Later that user visits the desired landing page which is tagged by the ad server and can be measured back by the ad server as having seen that particular ad on the associated site (placement) where it has been displayed.  This is known throughout the industry as a ‘view-through’ and [x+1] can not measure it, or at least does not report on it to its advertising customers.


 


But what [x+1] was particularly good at was/is the site-side customer analytics and applying those anaytics for targeting.  Like Howard’s article describes.  This is what secured their relationships with large advertisers who were using their ad serving as well.  The conversion from Poindexter to [x+1] was incredibly intelligent because it was a migration toward their core competency.  Following the April announcement, rumors spread that [x+1] would be abandoning their ad serving business altogether.  However they have maintained their media+1 product line, which is their ad server.  With that, however, they are hardly ever encountered as a competitive bidder in the ad serving sales arena.


 


One likeable aspect of Howard’s article was that it was not self-promoting.  Howard opens the door to site-side predictive modeling and website customer conversion and retention but he kept it very high level.  In fact, it would have been nice if he had gotten more granular for us so that we could have a better understanding as to how to apply his concepts.  I never have a problem when people mention providers – even their own companies – so long as they mention competitors and highlight the best solutions without bias. 


 


[x+1] offers up two primary products: media+1 and site+1.  Howard’s article is focused on a capability delivered by the latter, a tool that matches messages and offers with audience segments to simplify and optimize visitor acquisition, enable a site to up-sell conversions and promote customer retention.  This of course is according to the [x+1] web site.


 


My experience, and the feedback that I have received from clients is that site+1 is [x+1] true wheelhouse offering.  As I have described, this is where their ability to enable an advertiser to confidently target excels.  Ad serving is a secondary competency.  In fact, [x+1] has partnered with ad servers like DoubleClick to allow an advertiser to take advantage of site+1 while working with another ad server.  If not already, I would expect integration with more ad servers to come.  Clearly the company respects to obvious stats.  The first is that people are not going to change ad servers to utilize site+1 – they are not going to adapt media+1, known to be inferior, just to have the ability to utilize site+1.  Secondly, if someone is already using an ad server – and DoubleClick represents like 50% of the market (good first partner to choose), then better to enable integration to open up a new customer base than to compete.


 


Reactionary with Insight

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Why Does Google Analytics Report Values That Are So Different Than Ad Servers and Site Analytics Counts?

I had a client call me today and ask, “Why do we need to use an ad server when we have Google Analytics?”  Actually, he was redirecting a client’s question and asking for ammunition, but the question was legitimate.  He wasn’t talking about ad serving per se, but reporting.


 


Google analytics enables an advertiser to measure counts like an ad server and site analytics software and yet the measurements yield very different results.  In fact, the results are always lower, enabling the client to conclude that they must be more accurate.


 


Hold the phones!  Wasn’t it just like up to four months ago that Google was guilty of 20-30% click fraud rates with its Adwords program?  Advertisers started complaining and dollars started shifting away from Google and towards MSN and Yahoo!.  When Marketing Pilgram broke the story in December 2006 the word “Click Fraud” was changed to “Invalid Clicks” and Google demonstrated that they had miraculously instituted a change that resulted in the double-digit error rates dropping to less than 2%.


 


So why are we trusting Google’s counts?  It would seem that Google has simply put some major filtering in place to cover their asses so that Advertisers aren’t getting overcharged any longer.  And now they are the more accurate source of counts? 


 


In the end, however, what Google counts and what the rest of the industry counts when it comes to banner advertising and site-side traffic has to be inherently different.  Just as it is with click-traffic.


 


According to Google: “Different web analytics products may use a variety of methods to track visits to your web site. Therefore, it is normal to see discrepancies between reports created by various products. However, we generally believe that the best way to think of metrics across different web analytics programs is to think in terms of trends, as opposed to numbers by themselves.”


 


Google presents that their tracking methods can introduce a difference in reporting values: Cookie-based tracking vs. IP + User Agent tracking.


 


Cookie-based tracking relies on a browser setting the cookie. If cookies are disabled, cookie-based analytics programs (such as Google Analytics) will not count the visit.


 


IP + User Agent tracking typically uses log file analysis for its data. Ad servers rely on this methodology. 


 


Another discrepancy that Google talks about is a resultant of first party vs. third party cookies.  “Because 3rd party cookies are set by a source other than the website being visited, they’re often blocked by browsers and security software. Google Analytics uses 1st party cookies.” 


 


Ad servers use third party cookies and therefore these may be getting blocked by Google Analytics.  That would represent a huge discrepancy between the ad server counts and the Google counts.


 


So Google and ad server and site analytics do it differently.  That makes sense.  Now back to my client’s question.  Why would you use an ad server when you have Google Analytics? 


 


For one thing, Google limits a site visit per user to one time every 30 minutes.  Ad servers, by comparison, would not filter such behavior, but would recognize the fact it is a unique visitor (using a cookie) coming to the page more than once.  So impressions would be counted separately from unique impressions.  Google would simply filter the multiple impressions out and give the unique impression.


 


My suggestion to my client was to convince their client to deploy a site analytics toolset so that there would be two third-party validations in place to offset Google.  People don’t seem to get the idea that even Google is proposing that “…the best way to think of metrics across different web analytics programs is to think in terms of trends.”  Especially when it comes to Google.  You get what you pay for … and you don’t pay for Google analytics.


 


Here is something else that we discussed.  If you synchronize your ad server and your site analytics you will get accurate – or actually identical counts.  For example, deploy a DirectServe™ Technology using First Party ad serving with a WebSideStory first party cookie and you will have a seamless pass through of data.  Impressions and clicks will go through to the site and the site will read the ad serving data – actually WWS will receive the data using the first party cookie – and the reporting will match up perfectly. 


 


Remember, DirectServe™ is a patent-pending capability of TruEffect and we are partnered with WebSideStory to implement this kind of solution so that was a plug.  But seriously if you want to put together the pieces this is how to do it.


 


The client also asked about bid optimization.  Hmm, another variable.  Love it.  Well WSS has Bid Opp and so that can easily be brought into the picture as well.  Using a first party cookie, the ad server can lay the cookie down on the user when they click on the keyword and associate the keyword and search engine with that user.  If that user is already carrying the cookie from the client, the ad server can add to the cookie the search variables that regenerated the visit.  Then the site analytics software can receive the data using the first party cookie.  Done.


 


Re-targeting is a wonderfully versatile capability.  My favorite part of the conversation was when he said, “oh…we’re already testing targeting with TACODA.”  Love it.  Obviously we discussed the event-based targeting aspects of TACODA and how it is based on anonymous occurrences.  He agreed that while the solution works well it is limited to their network and does not have the ability to leverage client data like what DirectServe™ has to offer – site agnostic, web-wide capacity that leverages client knowledge about customers for re-targeting.  He got it and agreed that we were talking about complimentary solutions … for now.


 


Anyway, back to Google.  I think it is key to understand that ad serving has all of its benefits from the perspective of campaign management.  And site analytics has all of its benefits from web site trafficking, modeling and analysis.  But what was at conflict here was ignorance of a client’s client.  If a client is going to use Google, they need to be educated as to why they are using and what they are using it for.  It’s kind of like using fuzzy glasses to read a book.  Or a better example is using your hand to feel your kid’s forehead to see if they have a fever.  It is a trending tool that gives you a relative indication, not an exact measurement. 


 


Google Analytics is great for the advertiser who wants to log in at 3am and see what’s happening.  I do that sometimes with my blog when I write a particularly contentious article – just to see if it’s triggered some reactions.  But my server logs are far more accurate than Google Analytics.  The counts are always 30%+ off.  Same with ad server reports and site analytics. 


 


Educate your client with the tools that are going to demonstrate real accuracy.  Use sales reports and revenue reports – post-click analysis – to demonstrate further discrepancies that translate into real value to the client.  It is possible to show the client where the diversion points in the direction of the ad server and site analytics favor.  Go the extra step and you will prevail.  If you have more than one client that will bring this up, prepare a document that you can use over and over again.  This problem is not going away soon.


 


Reactionary with Insight.

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