10 Eye-Opening Facts About Marketing Budget Allocation

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in Advertising
10 Eye-Opening Facts About Marketing Budget Allocation

Every two years, The CMO Survey asks hundreds of senior marketing executives hard-hitting questions about their marketing performance, hiring, and budget allocation to track industry changes and predict new trends. 2017 marks the 19th administration of this survey, so there’s plenty of comparative data to dig into.

Last year, 349 U.S.-based marketers participated. The majority of those who responded to the survey (over 90%) work at the VP level and above, which means they were asked the questions everyone wants to ask: “How big is your marketing budget?” and “Where did the marketing dollars go?”

As expected, ad dollars are shifting to digital as more consumers buy online, and marketers plan to invest more in marketing analytics to close the loop between marketing spend and ROI. In this article, we’ll look at the highlights of The CMO Survey’s data from 2017.

1. Marketing budgets represent 11.4% of company’s overall budgets

Marketing’s share of the overall firm budget grew from 8.1% in February 2011 to 11.4% in August 2017, according to the CMO Survey.

marketing budget as percent of overall budget

Source: The CMO Survey

2. Marketing is the key revenue growth driver for over 30% of companies

According to the survey, the marketing organization now leads not just brand, advertising, PR, social media, and promotion activities, but also revenue growth (34.3% in February 2017 and 29% in August 2017). There’s no comparative data to see how the revenue function has grown over time (The CMO Survey only added this question in 2016), which will be interesting to track in the next few years.

3. Marketing spend as percent of company revenue wildly varies by industry

Education, consumer goods, and transportation sectors spend more on marketing as they see a higher return on investment (one assumes that construction, manufacturing, and energy sectors kept the money for R&D). Marketing spend as percent of company revenues is highest for education sector at 18.5% (compared to just 2% for construction).

marketing spend as percent of company revenues

Source: The CMO Survey

4. 72% of marketers are investing in marketing analytics

When asked “What’s in your marketing budget?”, 72% of marketers mentioned marketing analytics. Marketers are also planning to spend on social media, research, and training.

marketing expenses

Source: The CMO Survey

5. CMOs will spend 18.1% of overall budgets on marketing analytics in three years

As more businesses use marketing analytics to guide their business strategy, marketers are making larger investments in marketing analytics. The current marketing spend is 5.5% of total marketing budgets and expected to grow 18.1% in three years.

marketing spend on marketing analytics

Source: The CMO Survey

6. B2B marketers will invest more in their team’s education and training

Compared to other sectors, marketers in B2B plan to spend more on “developing knowledge about how to do marketing” and “marketing training.” Consumer marketers, on the other hand, are open to spend a little more on consulting services.

how much marketers invest in learning and education

Source: The CMO Survey

According to the report, the investment in continuous learning is especially generous in banking, service consulting, and technology sectors.

7. Marketers are shifting media dollars towards digital

Digital marketing spend in consumer goods will grow 18.6% while traditional advertising spend will drop by 1.9%, according to the survey. As more ad dollars shift to digital, traditional media advertising spend is expected to drop across all economic sectors. The drop is most noticeable in the B2B sector (-3.6%), as marketers go online to reach buyers who now tend to make decisions based on extensive online research. Digital spend is increasing fastest for B2C (+18.6%) as e-commerce continues to grow.

ad spend digital vs traditional media

Source: The CMO Survey

8. Marketers predict social media spend to grow by 89% in next 5 years

Social media spend as percent of overall marketing budget is currently at 9.8%, but marketers plan to boost its share significantly (up to 18.5%) in next 5 years. Consumer brand marketers lead the change, with 25-40% growth in social media spend expected in next year, according to the survey.

social media spend predictions

Source: The CMO Survey

9. …But marketers are generally really, really bad at predicting their spend numbers

Actual versus predicted social media spend as percent of marketing budget varies as much as by almost 10%. For August 2017, marketers predicted to spend 19.5% of their budgets on social media and ended up spending a little less than 10%. For the past 3 years, the social media’s share of the total spend varied slightly by just 1-2%.

social media spend

Source: The CMO Survey

10. And most marketers struggle to prove the impact of social media on their business

social media impact on business

Source: The CMO Survey

45% of marketers say they are “unable to show the impact yet,” while 38.6% have “a good qualitative sense of the impact, but not a qualitative impact.” Only 16.3% of marketers are confident in their ability to justify social media investment. This number is down by 4% from 2016, which either means that the impact is getting more difficult to prove — or marketers are finally opening up about the challenges of marketing attribution.

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Turning the Tables on YouTube Audiences

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Advertising, Search
Turning the Tables on YouTube Audiences

Audiences were all the rage for advertisers and marketers in 2017. No longer just a tool for social media or display network marketing, audience targets became a major focus in paid search as well. From Customer Match to Similar Audiences, In-Market and Custom Intent, the focus for SEM has already begun to shift away from the “what” of your product or service to the “who” of your prospective clients and consumers.

YouTube Viewer Audiences for Search

Amid the flurry of audience targeting options being released and expanded nearly every month last year, one unique type of audience targeting in AdWords slipped in under the radar: YouTube Viewer Audiences for Search. This new targeting enables YouTube remarketing audiences for RLSA to retarget video viewers in search.

In this post, we’ll dig into this audience type in hopes of revealing why every paid search specialist ought to be taking advantage where possible.

To guide our exploration, we’ll draw upon the words of Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot:

“To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products” (emphasis added).

Why YouTube Advertising and/or Content Promotion is Worthwhile

As digital marketers, we tend to be very excited about the first part, and very ambitious about the second. Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to connect to the users who are already shopping for our product or service. The goal is to be smart and cohesive in accomplishing the task of marketing both in the “learn about” and “shop for” stages. So let’s first spend a moment on why YouTube advertising and/or content promotion is worthwhile in its own right.

According to eMarketer in 2017, monthly digital video viewership in the U.S. averaged more than 221 million individuals (81.2% of U.S. internet users). Internationally, Western Europe contributed another 219 million viewers of digital video monthly (68.2% of Western European internet users).

monthly digital video viewership in the U.S.

Think about YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine…you name it. It’s not hard to believe that so many of us are voluntarily consuming digital video at least once a month.

On the other hand, eMarketer’s projections for the next 3-5 years also show that viewership growth in the near future will be consistent but marginal.

Essentially, we are seeing that the market for digital video is nearing saturation in terms of consumption. Of course, this means that the market for video advertising is only going to grow more competitive as we all begin to compete for the same placements: to get in front of these valuable, attentive eyes and ears.

Using Video to Directly Populate Audiences

It’s time to turn the tables, think outside the box, and stay ahead of the game.We shouldn’t just value digital video as an ad format for retargeting website visitors or driving new website traffic for subsequent remarketing and direct ROI.

We don’t even need to argue for YouTube’s potential to “lift Branded search traffic” anymore. Video can now be used to directly populate viewer audiences for targeting on both Search and Display.

digital video as an ad format for retargeting website visitors

As Lee Odden (CEO at TopRank Online Marketing) once stated: “Content is the reason Search began in the first place.”

This is where we connect how people learn about and shop for our products or service. If vast digital video consumption is doing the “teaching,” then our Search remarketing must be ready to capture subsequent “shopping” moments for those users.

Making the Case for YouTube Advertising

Before a YouTube Viewer Audience strategy can successfully be executed, we first need to have some kind of presence on YouTube to generate views. This requires some kind of content strategy, video content production, and of course, some level of financial investment and buy-in from company decision-makers (which may or may not fall into your job description).

To help out those who need to justify an investment in YouTube advertising, we’ve compiled a group of statistics relating to the reach, device use, geographic locations, demographics, and user behavior associated with YouTube advertising.

Beyond the stats, though, the real need for video advertising comes from the reality that we no longer live in a world of easily defined, two-dimensional sales funnels. Buyer journeys are now a web of touchpoints from multiple devices and media, each as unique as the associated prospect. Skilled marketers must be prepared to address and nurture each of these users, at all times and on all platforms.

Data suggest that users consult YouTube for help with products and services before, during and after the decision-making process. Thus, YouTube can be an active player in all stages of the conversion funnel or buyer journey.

Video Content Strategy

So, to stay competitive and create the best buyer experience for every customer, a video content strategy is truly necessary. Without it, all that potential revenue and engagement is wasted. Not to mention missing the opportunity to capitalize on YouTube Viewer Audiences.

If the above stats aren’t enough to convince your company heads, you can always ask them to consider a new perspective for YouTube advertising: a low-risk channel for feedback that cooperatively assists more traditional video marketing efforts. You can also utilize earned actions KPIs and YouTube Viewer audience behavior to show that YouTube ads are successful.

Identifying and Building YouTube Viewer Audiences

For the purposes of this discussion, we won’t dive into the step-by-step of how to link a YouTube channel to Adwords or how to create a remarketing list. Rather, presented below is a framework for approaching your YouTube Viewer audiences by building personas associated with each. There are three foundational audiences that I believe every AdWords account will benefit from building, applying, and observing: “Website Strangers,” “Acquainted Visitors,” and “Non-Converting Fans.”

1. Website Strangers

These are users who have viewed at least one video from your channel (you can decide which videos to include/exclude based on your channel content). This means they have some familiarity with your brand. They have not, however, visited your website or completed any kind of conversion action. Thus, visiting your website is a clear next step to take in their customer journey.

Target these individuals with a Website Visit invitation. This might be in the form of a Text Ad on Search, or an Image or Responsive Ad on the Display network. Depending on your typical sales funnel, a website visit might lead directly to a conversion action, or it may transition the individual from a “Website Stranger” to an “Acquainted Visitor.”

2. Acquainted Visitors

These are slightly lower-funnel than “Website Strangers,” because they have engaged more directly with your brand. These are users who have visited your website once or more, or who have engaged more deeply with your content than simply viewing a video or ad. It may be that they liked or commented on your video, or even visited your channel page.

Because these users have an even greater familiarity with your brand, they can be directly targeted with a low-risk conversion invitation. That may mean signing up for an email newsletter or promo code, creating an account for later conversion, downloading a whitepaper, submitting a request for more information, or something else specific to your industry.

3. Non-Converting Fans

Lastly, it’s important to address individuals who engage more deeply with your content, whether by subscribing to your video channel or becoming a brand ambassador by sharing your content with others. They have already engaged with your website but just haven’t taken the step to convert.

These are users ideal to target with Discount or Promotional conversion offers. You might take advantage of Countdown ads in Search to increase urgency, apply a percent-off discount to your headline, or highlight some other offer to help close that deal.

3 types of youtube viewer audiences

Looking at these three foundational audiences, you can see that each is quite easy to compose. There is a lot of power in data collection and targeting capabilities for not a lot of effort on your part. A few sub-audiences built into a combination audience and you can quickly set yourself up for success.

Time to Put it All Together

Once your audiences are created, you can start applying them to your established Search campaigns for observation (or “bid only,” if you refuse to switch over to the new Adwords UI). This allows you to see how your Viewers are engaging with your current keywords and ad copy.

Utilizing AdWords ad customizers, you can also implement audience-specific messaging with IF-functions in your ad copy. As you monitor and quantify your audience behavior, you can then make informed decisions about bid modifiers or campaign structure to best address these YouTube viewers and nurture them in their decision-making process.

In addition to Search campaign application, do not forget the potential to utilize YouTube Viewer Audiences with Display campaigns. You might run a YouTube Viewer retargeting campaign for your Acquainted Visitors or Non-Converting Fans.

The Display network can also be a channel for inviting Website Strangers to your landing page. By breaking down your audiences to consider YouTube engagement as well as website behavior, you have the power to show much more tailored creative to these subsets of your prospect list.

And of course, once you have your audience lists established and your retargeting strategies in place, be sure to stop back here and share your thoughts. We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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How to Interview a New PPC Agency [Infographic]

Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 in Advertising
How to Interview a New PPC Agency [Infographic]

Properly vetting a new PPC agency is just as crucial as if you were interviewing candidates for a senior-level position. You should be asking a lot of the same questions, requesting similar proof of experience, and doing the same research, like you would a job candidate.

An effective PPC agency is a true partner who’s looking after your best interests and working to excel your business, not an entity that’s interested in the bare minimum in exchange for a paid invoice. Whether you’re poised to hire your very first agency, or need to make some changes to what you’ve currently got going on, there are essential characteristics you should look for, and qualifying questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line.

Characteristics To Look For In An Agency

Before you can carve out your list of questions for your potential new PPC agency, you have to nail down the attributes that are most important to you, the team, and the company.

1. Experience in your business’s field + size

An agency who’s been there done that will be much more valuable than one who’s learning alongside you, or worse, demanding a ton from you as they try to get ramped up. The best agency is one who has experience with one of your competitors. Also be sure the agency has dealt with budgets similar to yours. If they’re used to working with piles of cash, it could be challenging for them to yield favorable results with less money.

2. Continuing education

We’re preaching to the choir here, but it’s always worth it to point out how quickly the world of digital marketing moves. You want to make sure the agency is aware and excited about that aspect of the space and attending conferences, as well as partnering with technology companies that will help you get the best return on your investment.

3. Ambition

This characteristic touches on continuing education but goes a lot farther and deeper. You’re hiring an agency so you don’t have to do the work yourself or bog down your team with it as they try to focus on other internal initiatives. You want to make sure you’re getting an agency who doesn’t need babysitting or constant direction and who will work hard and independently to bring you good news.

4. Ability to work together

Some companies might call this a “culture fit.” You want to make sure the PPC agency sees the relationship as a partnership, not a serve and report or limited communications relationship. You’re not interviewing for your new best friend, but you should expect a lot of interaction with the agency and your assigned team, so you want to set yourself up for a pleasant, non-combative experience.

5. Responsiveness/communication style

This would certainly play a part in your ability to work together, but it’s such an important piece of the agency-client relationship that it deserves its own call out. You want an agency that is a true partner and who’s available to you when you need it. You also want an agency who communicates clearly and fully and doesn’t try to hide when progress falls short.

6. Proven track record

When interviewing for a new piece of business, everyone’s going to put their most impressive foot forward. As the interviewer, you want to make sure the agency has the walk to back up the talk. That can come from work samples, case studies, testimonials, and your own due diligence.

Questions to ask the agency

The questions part of the interview should be carried out in person or over a call, where possible. If the agency asks to see the questions beforehand or answer in written form, always ask for a follow-up call to review so you can dig deeper. Again, going back to this “hire” being as important as a senior level candidate, you’d never give a job prospect ample time to research and perfect his or her answers. A great agency won’t need time to come up with preferable answers, they’ll have the examples, stories, and proof readily available. Where applicable, ask for proof in the form of case studies, reports, and testimonials straight from the source. Don’t feel like you have to take the agency at their word. Just like a new candidate, you’d want to see proof of past work and talk to references.

  • Who will be working on my account or campaign?
    • During the initial courting meetings, the agency will likely send in the big guns, but not necessarily the people who’d be working on your account. This question will help you determine:
      • If the agency knows how to create teams to meet your needs, or if they’re trying to templatize solutions
      • If you’d be getting veterans or newbies and who might have certification on relevant platforms
      • What the agency plans on outsourcing, how many resources the agency plans on dedicating to you and if the value matches the cost

You should also ask how many other accounts each person is working on. This will reveal if your account will receive the time you expect and are paying for. Some analysts work in 100+ accounts, so do the math, and you’ll see your business only gets direct attention a few minutes per week.

  • Tell me about your process.
    • Getting a step-by-step overview of the day-to-day of how the agency plans on managing your campaigns will tell you a lot—which tools they’re using, how often they’re checking in on things, what their reporting looks like, etc.—including which parts aren’t handled by humans or internal staff. The answer to this question will also give you a glimpse into how the agency treats the client relationship.
  • Who are your other clients, and could I speak to someone there directly?
    • Want to make sure you’ll be happy with what you get? Talk to the people who are already working with the agency. Sure, the agency’s website might have glowing reviews and favorable case studies, but who wouldn’t put the most positive remarks front and center on the home page? Find out how long the company has been with the agency (client retention rate can speak volumes), what results have been like, how the relationship has worked, and any other questions that will help you decide if this is the best agency choice for you. On the list, you should also look for businesses in a similar (but non-competitive) vertical, and businesses with similar budgets, which tells you the agency truly does have the appropriate experience to handle your needs.
  • How long have you been in business, and what does your staff look like?
    • Dig into the backgrounds of the people who would be working on your account—where else have the worked, are they familiar with your industry, have they received accolades outside of the agency for work they’ve done? Younger agencies lacking senior experience are more apt to automate or outsource certain functions, too, since they don’t have the history or expertise a more seasoned agency would. You want to be sure you’re getting the right human attention and expertise, and not just paying someone to push buttons on a platform.
  • Have you or a client ever terminated a contract early?
    • In other words, have you ever been fired? Or on the flip side, has a client ever created so much trouble, they just weren’t worth it (and why?). Again, the relationship with your PPC agency is so imperative; you want to make sure you’re committing to the right match.
  • What tools or software do you use?
    • This will tell you if the agency is “outsourcing” too much, if they’re advanced in their approach, what your reports will look like, etc. You may also want to dig in more to exclusive partnerships they may have with platforms and the creators of PPC software. Those types of relationships can give clients a huge leg up, and also prove a huge amount of trust these key players have in the agency.

Of course, there are many questions you could ask a PPC agency, and it’s smart to tailor your queries to match your exact needs. But, the six questions above get at the heart of what you’d want in a partner who’s essential to your business’s success.

Homework To Do On Your Own

The job’s not over once you’ve asked a few questions of potential PPC agencies. You’ve got a little bit of take-home work to do just to ensure you’ve done your due diligence. It’s unlikely a PPC agency is out to give you false information maliciously, but it’s good to do a little recon work on your own. In this case, a little bit of research can turn up the answers you’re looking for. Here are a few starter questions:

  • Is the agency recognized within the marketing community?
  • Does the agency have a presence at relevant conferences? Do they lead or speak at any of the conferences?
  • Has the agency written any respected books or articles? Do they share information freely through a blog?
  • Who are the leaders of the company, and are their thoughts and quotes solicited for outside articles?
  • Check sites like Glassdoor to see what employees have to say about working there. Unhappiness or resentment is likely to come out in someone’s work.

With all that being said, don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. Focus on the potential of this new relationship and have faith that when you come across the PPC agency of your dreams, you’ll just know.

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How to Write for the AdStage Blog

Posted by on Nov 24, 2017 in Advertising
How to Write for the AdStage Blog

Every week, I receive emails, Intercom messages, and DMs on my personal Twitter asking to submit an article to our blog at AdStage. Many come from good writers with interesting ideas. Most don’t get published.

Why? Here’re a few reasons:

People email me asking if they could “send me an article.” Look, I have no idea if it’s interesting or not until you send it.

People don’t introduce themselves or tell me why I should respond. It’s fine if we haven’t met; I love featuring new voices on our blog. This is not the time to be humble: tell me why I should help you promote your content to our subscribers.

People write high-level content that’s not directly helpful to our readers. We’re a PPC blog and love tactical articles and hands-on tips.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a professional writer to guest-blog for us. Our subscribers are busy marketers; they work at agencies and in-house, running PPC campaigns every day. If you have advice to share on how to make their job easier, we want to hear from you.

write for adstage blog

For example, our most recent guest posts focused on how to fix a failing PPC campaign or build customer personas with Facebook Audience Insights. Here are a few more of our favorites:

What Makes a Great Monthly PPC Report?

The 10 Best AdWords Scripts to Scale your PPC Accounts

Should your demand generation team be made up of millennials?

Our earlier post on how to submit a guest post to AdStage’s blog has all the details and instructions.

Ready to share your story with our 40k+ audience of PPC marketers and agency directors globally? Submit your pitch here.

12 Inspiring Instagram Ad Strategies for B2B

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Advertising
12 Inspiring Instagram Ad Strategies for B2B

Instagram doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you think about enterprise software and services, but it isn’t just for beauty brands and travel bloggers.

With over 500 million daily active users and exciting new ad types, Instagram ads attract over 2 million advertisers. The platform is at a lower ad load than Facebook, a much cheaper option than Linkedin, and a great medium for marketers to give B2B brands a personality and voice. 

Looking for ways to add Instagram to your paid social media advertising mix? Get inspired by these 12 examples from B2B brands.

1. Adobe: Announce a product update

Adobe InstagramAd 300x575

Product announcements, whether it’s a new feature or integration, can boost engagement, help acquire new clients, and reactivate existing ones. Adobe uses Instagram Ads here to announce its integration with Microsoft Teams.

2. Asana: Promote content downloads

Asana InstagramAd 300x575 Asana2 InstagramAd 300x575

Instagram Ads can be helpful in promoting your brand’s cornerstone content and acquiring new leads, especially if you use Instagram Lead Ads, which come with pre-filled contact forms to reduce friction. In this example, Asana uses Instagram Ads to promote its downloadable guide.

3. Canva: Showcase customer testimonials

Canva InstagramAd 300x575Canva2 InstagramAd 300x575

A good B2B marketing strategy builds credibility and trust. And what a better way to do it than with a customer testimonial? Canva lets the customer speak for the brand while adding a strong call to action to drive sign-ups.

4. ConvertFlow: Drive traffic to Product Hunt

ConvertFlowTeam InstagramAd 300x575

Product Hunt has built a great audience of early adopters and curious investors: a great opportunity for up-and-coming B2B brands to showcase their technical expertise and get some initial business traction. Here, Convertflow uses Instagram ads to drive traffic to its Product Hunt featuring.

5. Gusto: Give enterprise software a consumer brand feel

Gusto InstagramAd 300x575Gusto2 InstagramAd 300x575

Do B2B buyers make decisions based on rational thinking alone? How to build an emotional connection with the audience is something that B2B marketers can learn from their consumer brand marketing colleagues.  Gusto builds that emotional connection at scale by using relatable visuals in their Instagram ad.

6. Numetric: Build brand identity and thought leadership

Numeric InstagramAd 300x575Numeric2 InstagramAd 300x575

Numetric hits two goals here by 1) featuring their logo to boost brand identity and 2) building thought leadership with an industry report. Instagram Ads help get the logo in front of new audiences and promote content with lead forms.

7. Salesforce: Stay top of mind

Salesforce InstagramAd 300x575

Whether you’re buying shoes, a lipstick, or a CRM system for your team globally, the decision-making process is very similar. Who comes to mind first? To pole vault into people’s subconscious, frequency is key — across all channels. Salesforce uses Instagram ads to drive awareness and remind current customers and prospects about its brand through smart targeting.

8. Segment: Invite beta users

Segment InstagramAd 300x575

Public beta launch is often risky, because the first product release is rarely perfect. But here, Segment is likely using its beta launch to build interest and excitement among niche audiences of early adopters.

9. Sentient: Distill complex technology in a simple message

Sentient InstagramAd 300x575

Tech marketing is often about making the complex simple. San Francisco-based Sentient technology chooses not to speak about AI, ROI, and funnel optimization to their Instagram audiences. Instead, they post a picture of a magician.

10. TripActions: Capture the mobile consumer

TripActions InstagramAd 300x575

This ad caught me at the airport, so A+ for smart geo-targeting, and bonus points for the attractive creative that perfectly captures every business traveler’s love for caffeine.

11. WeWork: Location, location, location

WeWork InstagramAd 300x575

Instagram Ads are perfect for reaching local audiences. The account profile will show users where you’re on the map and help them find you while they’re out and about in your area. WeWork layers on detailed relevant targeting on top of location to woo startup enthusiasts to their SF coworking space.

12. OverOps: Jump on the meme bandwagon

Overops InstagramAd 300x575

When done right, taking a trending meme and applying it to your brand is the fastest way to resonate with audiences on Instagram. Hipchat was one of the first B2B brands to leverage memes in their print campaign back in 2011 (albeit not very successfully). Instagram is a better medium for memes, with one caveat: their lack of originality means you’ll need to double down on the fun.

Finally, if you’re looking to benchmark your Instagram as performance, grab a free copy of our quarterly report by clicking on the banner below.


Why Your Agency Needs Branded PPC Reports

Posted by on Oct 25, 2017 in Advertising
Why Your Agency Needs Branded PPC Reports

Back in 2013, Golden State Warriors’ star player Steph Curry was a part of the Nike family, not Under Armour, as he is today. So what happened? As ESPN highlighted in this story, during a meeting with Nike’s marketing team, not only did someone mispronounce Steph’s name, but a PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably still in the deck because the pitch Steph was getting was a repurposing of what they’d already shown to Durant. *Cringe* According to a Morgan Stanley analyst, Curry’s potential worth to Under Armour as of 2016 was $14 billion. That is one costly mistake. So if you ever have any doubt about the power and effectiveness of branded reports and presentations (and triple checking the info they contain is correct), remember the story of how Nike lost one of the best NBA athletes in history.

white label URL for branded PPC reports -- AdStage

Though you’re probably not running reports and creating presentations for celebs like Steph, giving your clients the same amount of respect is equally important. Adstage’s Reporting feature allows you to customize reports with branded logos and share dashboards through branded URLs. And once set up, it happens automatically every time you generate a report. Here are a few reasons you should consider using branded PPC reports with your clients:

1. Clients Want to Feel Like They’re the Only One You’re Servicing

It’s kind of like when you first start dating someone. You assume they’re also seeing other people, but you’d rather not know about it. Same with clients – they want to feel like you’re going steady from the moment you kick off the very first project. Generic-looking reports feel like they could be for anybody. A one size fits all solution, when they feel they’re needs are unique to anyone else’s. A branded report and custom URL gives the impression that Client A is the only one in the mix, not just one in a pool of many.

2. Fosters a Closer Relationship

Some companies would rather keep everything internal, but budgets or politics prevent that. Make clients feel like you’re a part of internal workings with reports that look like they came from the inside. A report that looks like it came from in-house will make clients feel like you’re on top of the day-to-day just as much as if you were sitting in the next cubicle over. If a client updates their logo, be sure to update what you have on file, too. Showing something that’s old could be as offensive as using the wrong name…

3. Helps Build Trust in You and the Data

An unbranded report can quickly look like a copied and pasted mess, especially if you’re using a series of dashboards and throwing everything into a blank deck. Putting your client’s name on every page and sharing via a custom URL will give them confidence the data they’re looking at is truly theirs; not something that was accidentally carried over from a template, a la the Steph Curry story. You never want a client looking at numbers asking “Are you sure these are ours?”

4. Look More Impressive

In this report for the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., you can see how just the inclusion of a logo helps give the report on the right a more grounded and professional feel. Think of it as the difference between receiving a piece of junk mail addressed to “Resident” versus a handwritten letter with your name on it.

Branded PPC reports with customer or agency logos -- AdStage

Even if your agency is small, branded reports and URLs give clients the impression you’re working with a robust team. Branded reports and URLs also make it look like you spent way more time drafting the report than you probably did. Little do they know it’s an automatic piece of the pie when generating a report through AdStage.

5. Shows You’re Taking the Whole Job Seriously

From end to end, branded reports show clients you’re not only interested in delivering results, but you’re also prioritizing their best interests throughout the entire process by providing them clear, understandable reports created just for them. Even if your numbers are the best your client has ever seen, don’t think that permits you to present a haphazard report. And conversely, if the results are less than you’d hoped for, a professional-looking report shows you’re not giving up or deterred and that you’re continuing to prioritize success.

Agencies run multiple reports per day for various clients, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Adstage makes it easy to create a branded experience with a few simple clicks. No going to great lengths to add additional cover pages, headers, or footers to reports, or working with web dev to create specific URLs. Check out how you can get started providing a white label experience for your clients.

Good On Retargeting? Here’s What’s Next

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 in Advertising
Good On Retargeting? Here’s What’s Next

Just when you thought you were on the bleeding edge of digital marketing because your retargeting capabilities are set up and humming, a report from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by e-commerce data company Criteo, says it’s time to build on that if you don’t want to fall behind. Aw, the life of a marketer in the digital age, right?

The report surveyed 152 marketers across industries, and focused in on “performance advertising (also known as performance-based advertising),” which is defined as “advertising whose objective is to drive a specific action and where advertisers only pay when that action, such as an acquisition or sale, is completed.” Probably sounds pretty familiar, and is something you’re doing day in and day out.

Why Use Performance Advertising?

Some of this may be obvious to you, but in the context of the report’s findings, it’s helpful to take another look at the benefits of performance advertising. Namely, it’s the new normal. According to the report, “Over half of customers expect digital media to work well for them all the time and across all devices, which is a shift Forrester refers to as ‘always-addressable customers,’ and these customers have the power to abandon companies that fail to deliver.” For that reason, nearly 50% of responders say they use retargeting and are now doubling down on personalized advertising. And of course, as mentioned above, if you’re not keeping up with current industry trends – like performance advertising – then you’re falling behind.

Marketers Are Moving Quickly

It seems like just yesterday the industry was abuzz about retargeting, and now it’s commonplace. Forrester’s study found 54% of marketers surveyed are already on to the next thing – delivering advertising content that is personalized for their customers, including product recommendations, personalized offers, and other content at the customer level. And they say it’s paying off. The graph below shows how “enhanced retargeting marketers” (for the report’s purpose defined as “marketers who have invested in at least two capabilities to enhance their retargeting efforts.”) feel about their efforts.

retargeting in performance advertising

That retargeting is being applied across devices, channels, and customer objectives. 46% of respondents say they’re already retargeting across multiple devices and channels, including mobile web, mobile in-app, email, and social platforms.

Next “Need To Have”– Cross-Device Personalization

There’s always a “next” in digital marketing, isn’t there? When going up against other companies with a similar offering which also have a good grasp on digital marketing strategies, personalization can be a powerful, and often crucial, differentiator.

The study found that 22% of marketers can target customers based on a single view of the user across devices and channels today, and over half will be investing in cross-channel retargeting capabilities over the next two years (check out the graph below). Marketers say they feel customers are already demanding it, and it’s just a matter of them catching up to give customers what they want.

retargeting in performance advertising

Integrating Performance Ads is Necessary, But Not Easy

If it were easy, 100% of the study’s respondents would be using performance ads. The study found the most common challenges included integrating various customer data sources, overcoming a lack of internal skills or knowledge, maintaining customer data quality, and getting funding for the program, as seen in the table below:

retargeting in performance advertising

But top-performing marketers aren’t letting anything hold them back and are dedicated to investing in capabilities like delivering campaigns seamlessly across devices, expanding retargeting, and extending enhanced features to a wider swath of marketing efforts. More than half are preparing to build in-house teams and systems to manage the programs going forward.

How Are Marketers Measuring Success?

Most are still improving their approach, with 70% saying they plan to get better measuring their ad spend effectiveness and 64% saying they will invest in better integration of CRM with attribution/marketing performance.

Attribution modeling remains the standard for now. The report showed that 76% of marketers and 84% of enhanced retargeting marketers used at least some form of attribution to measure their campaigns. Of the attribution approaches, predefined rules-based attribution was most common.

But top-performing marketers aren’t letting anything hold them back and are dedicated to investing in capabilities like delivering campaigns seamlessly across devices, expanding retargeting, and extending enhanced features to a wider swath of marketing efforts. More than half are preparing to build in-house teams and systems to manage the programs going forward.

Most Important Finding: Don’t Get Left Behind

Probably not a surprising conclusion, but the report emphasized the importance of retargeting, and soon, cross-device personalization advertising. The marketers that are performing well, and will continue to perform at the top, are those that aren’t letting anything stop them from moving quickly to give customers what they want.

Other key conclusions from the report include:

  • Don’t stop at retargeting. Figure out how to keep innovating to the next level, and assume the competition is right on your heels.
  • Cross-channel is crucial. Customers expect your messages to follow them across devices.
  • Use data to prove to key team members the potential and efficacy of performance advertising. Twenty-eight percent of respondents stated that making the business case to executives/management was a significant hurdle to adopting their program.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The study found the most common approach saw marketers managing their programs cooperatively with agency partners.

One of the biggest questions marketers are always asking is, “What do customers want?” According to this study, customers are speaking loudly and clearly. They want relevant, personalized messaging that delivers a seamless and cohesive experience across devices. Now it’s up to marketers to make that happen.

You can read the whole report here.

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7 Simple Steps to Boost PPC Results with A/B Testing

Posted by on Sep 27, 2017 in Advertising
7 Simple Steps to Boost PPC Results with A/B Testing

Every successful PPC campaign starts by finding the right combination of targeting, bidding, and creative copy. As soon as you find success with your campaigns, you’ll want to start optimizing them to increase results. One way to increase performance is to run A/B tests to find what works, and then scale it.

In this article, we’ll break down the process for running run A/B tests in your PPC campaigns.

1. Define the Success Metric

The first step is to define the metric that will determine the success of your tests. This success metric will help you develop your test hypothesis and separate the winning variation from the losing one.

Here’re the metrics you can use to measure the results of your PPC A/B tests:

  • CTR (Click-through-rate)
  • CPC (Cost-per-click)
  • Cost per Conversion
  • Conversion rate
  • CPA (Cost-per-action)
  • ROAS (Return on ad spend)

Which metric should you choose? It depends on what you are trying to find from your tests. There’s no right or wrong metric; rather, there are the right metrics for the goal.

For example, if you want to see what specific attributes make people click on your ads, then CTR is the best metric. If one of your experimental ads gets a higher CTR than the control, you know the attribute you are testing is driving the increase, assuming everything else is the same.

Action step:

  • Write down your test goal.
  • Pick a metric that is closest to that goal.

2. Define Your Hypothesis

Behind every successful A/B test, there’s a clear hypothesis. The more clear the hypothesis, the better the outcome of your test. In the simplest terms, a hypothesis is a prediction of your test. In a hypothesis, you define what you will test, what the possible outcome is, and why you think so.

Chris Goward, CEO and Founder of conversion optimization agency WiderFunnel, puts it this way: “A hypothesis is simply a question you can ask of your target audience or test sample.” Creating a test hypothesis is easy. In his book You Should Test That, Chris provides a simple structure to create one:

Changing [the thing you want to change] into [what you would change it into] will lift the conversion rate for [your conversion goal].

While you can test many variables in a website, ad networks offer few options. This simplifies the testing process. To create a hypothesis, pick one ad variable, then define what specific thing you will test in it and what result you expect. The variables you can test in your PPC campaigns are the following:

  • Headline
  • Copy
  • Ad description (in Facebook and LinkedIn)
  • Image (in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter)
  • Sitelinks (in Google Adwords)
  • URL
  • Call-to-action

If you were to create a hypothesis for a PPC A/B test, it could look like this:

Changing the headline to feature our latest discounts will lift the CTR by 10%.

Although you can test just a few variables, you can create an unlimited number of hypotheses for each. For example, within just the headline, you can test adding discounts or social proof, mention the number years in business, among other things. You can get as creative as you want with your hypothesis.

Action steps:

  • Define a testing variable for each ad network you are going to run a test on.
  • Develop a hypothesis around the selected variable using the structure shown above.

3. Come Up with Test Ideas

Once you have defined your hypothesis, come up with as many test ideas as possible. Don’t worry if you come up with more than you can test because you won’t be using all of them. In the next step, you will see how to prioritize them.

For example, if you were to run a test on Facebook to see what kind of headline works best, you could test:

  • The unique selling proposition (USP)
  • The special deals or offers you have
  • The most popular products you sell
  • Key copy points and messaging
  • A customer testimonial
  • A specific result of a customer

To drive the point further, Melissa Mackey, featured in our recent article on the future of PPC automation, wrote a great piece about testing ad content.

Action step:

  • Take 15-20 minutes and brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Think about what things you could test for each hypothesis.

4. Prioritize the Test Ideas

Whenever you test your PPC campaigns, you will be effectively splitting your traffic and conversions in half. To make the most out of your budget, you must prioritize your test ideas, leaving only the ones that will have the highest likelihood of improving your campaign’s performance.

There are many frameworks you can use to prioritize your ideas. My favorite one is the ICE Score, invented by Sean Ellis, the founder of GrowthHackers. The ICE Score is made up of three attributes:

  • Impact: What will the impact be if this works?
  • Confidence: How confident am I that this will work?
  • Ease: What is the ease of implementation?

With this framework, you make a list of all the testing ideas (something you have done in the step before), and then for each one you define a numerical score from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) associated with each ICE attribute. Then, you would sum the three attributes and get a number for each test idea. Finally, you would compare the final number of every idea with each other, and the one that had the highest number would be the first one you would use in your test.

For example, if one of your ideas was to add the Scarcity principle to your LinkedIn ads’ headline, you could say the impact expected is 4, the confidence is 3, and the ease is 4. This would give the idea an ICE score of 11. If this was the idea with the highest number, you would test this idea first.

Action steps:

  • Using the ICE method, give all your test ideas from the previous step a numerical number for each of the three attributes.
  • Organize all the test ideas by the highest ICE score, and test the ones with the highest score first.

5. Define the Sample Size for each Metric

Before you start running your test, you must know what’s your sample size for each metric. You want to define the minimum amount of traffic (or conversions) any ad group should receive. After the ad group receives the set amount of traffic, you’d stop the test and analyze the results (which you will see how to do in step #7).

The amount of traffic you should set depends on your current numbers. For example, if you currently have an ad group that receives 500 visitors a day, you’d like to take 5 to 10 times that amount as a sample size. You want your ad groups to have enough traffic so that a single visitor doesn’t affect the overall results.

Also, you must make sure each ad group receives the amount of pre-set traffic (or conversions) before analyzing the results. If you defined a sample size of 500 conversions for each ad group, and one of them received 600 and the other one received 450, you need to wait until the latter reaches 500 to stop the test altogether.

Action step:

  • Define the minimum sample size for your metrics. You can use one of the countless sample size calculator tools on the web. Based on personal experience, I’d recommend you to use this one.

6. Run the Test

With your ideas and sample sizes in order, you need to start running the first tests. Don’t stop them as soon as you see a result or even if you hit your sample sizes. Wait for at least a week before you pause them. Many times, people behave differently depending on the day of the week. That’s why you should wait for at least a week.

After each ad group reaches the sample size, you can pause each test. This, however, doesn’t mean the testing is over. You must take the results of your tests and see if they are statistically significant. Choose a threshold that you feel most comfortable with (95% or 99% are the most common), and run them with an a/b testing growth tool, such as the one linked here from Kissmetrics. Take a look at the following example:

ppc a/b testing best practices

The first variation got 300 fewer visitors and 30 fewer conversions than the second one. Statistically speaking, however, the former beats the latter. Take notice of the fact the confidence level in this test is 97%. If my confidence level was higher – say, 99% – then I’d need to keep testing until I get statistically significant results. Only after every variation of your tests reaches statistical significance, you can compare the results. If they don’t reach significance, keep testing.

Action steps:

  • Based on your hypothesis developed before, start running the tests. Stop only after all your ad groups have reached minimum sample size.
  • Analyze the statistical confidence. If your results haven’t reached it, keep going until they do.

7. Analyze the Results

By now, you have taken the results of your tests and compare them with each other. If everything is OK, you will have a winner. But before you call it a day, you need to do a final thing. Take the numbers of your metrics previous to the tests and use them as benchmarks. Compare them with your current metrics and see how they compare with each other.

Also, take into consideration the timeframe of the test’s results. If you ran a test for 2 weeks trying to reduce your CPA, you must compare the result of that test with the performance of the CPA for the previous 2 weeks previous to the test.

Action step:

  • Compare your test’s results with your previous performance. If the new results are better than the previous ones, the test was successful. Otherwise, you’ll have to restart the process.


Any PPC specialist with some experience and skills can create a successful campaign. What’s hard is to replicate it in each one you run. Today, you’ve seen the specific steps you need to take to get you started with A/B testing for your PPC campaigns. Running them will help you discover the specific things your audience likes and you will know how to scale them down the road.

Helpful Resources

  1. Facebook Ad Fatigue Best Practices — get ideas for your next test.
  2. Quick Guide to Writing Successful ETAs — learn the basics of writing ad copy that converts.
  3. 2017 Demand Gen Benchmarks — compare your ad performance with industry leaders.
  4. 2017 Facebook Ads Benchmarks — check out the average Facebook CTRs and how much your PPC peers are paying per click.

[The PPC Show] This Week In Ad Tech Headlines for Sept 11-15th

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Advertising
[The PPC Show] This Week In Ad Tech Headlines for Sept 11-15th

This week on The PPC Show, Paul and JD break down the top 7 headlines and trends in ad tech and digital marketing for the week of September 11-15th.



7 Major Updates for Facebook Advertisers

Posted by on Sep 14, 2017 in Advertising, PPC News, Social
7 Major Updates for Facebook Advertisers

What a week in ad tech! While Apple was putting on a show in Cupertino, Facebook quietly revamped its Ads Manager, rolled out several updates for advertisers, and even launched a new video chat app. Here’s a recap of all the major announcements:

1. Power Editor and Ads Manager Are Now One.

Starting this week, advertisers will begin to see an updated Ads Manager interface. Here’s what you need to know about this update.

  • No features lost.
    The updated Ads Manager will look just like its old version, plus all the features from the old Power Editor and Ads Manager.
  • Quick or guided: choose your favorite creation flow.
    Whether you preferred Power Editor’s quick creation or Ads Manager’s guided creation, you’ll be automatically opted in to the same workflow you used previously. You can change it anytime in the top right of the ad creation window.
facebook ads manager updates

The Power Editor Interface.


facebook power editor guided creation 2

Guided Creation in the new Facebook Ads Manager. Source: Jon Loomer

  • Automated drafts: review and publish.
    You’ll still have access to the Power Editor’s Automatic drafts feature. However, you will now manually review and publish all the changes that need to go live. Nothing to worry about: if you leave the updated Ads Manager with unreviewed changes, Facebook will show a reminder.
  • All campaign data insights and reporting in a single interface.
    The updated tool will allow advertisers to view and report on campaign data within one interface.

2. Lifestyle Templates to Mirror Print Catalogs

On Monday, Facebook announced a new ad format which allows users to shop directly from the Facebook ad. The new ads carry the look of a modern-day print catalog: not as glossy, but with the added benefit of interactivity, mobile reach, and less consumer friction. The new lifestyle format should appeal to the Pinterest demographics (Williams-Sonoma was among the first brands to test these ads in beta).

Instagram ads

Facebook Lifestyle Templates replicate the print catalog experience for mobile. Source: Facebook

3. Canvas Ad Format on Instagram

On Tuesday, Instagram announced the integration of Instagram Stories with Facebook Canvas. Canvas ads can now run in Instagram Stories.

What does it mean to advertisers?

  • The ability to capture Instagram’s younger demographics with full-screen experience on mobile
  • New features allow uploading organic stories as ads in Ads Manager
  • Broader reach: you can now run the same Canvas ads across Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network.
Instagram Ads

With 250m DAU, Instagram Stories are catnip to advertisers. Source: Instagram

4. New Rules for Branded Content and Instant Articles

On Wednesday, Facebook introduced monetization eligibility standards. Which means Facebook will now be more selective and cautious about Branded Content and Instant Articles. The new guidelines will control who is eligible to earn money on Facebook and what kind of content can be monetized. Starting today, the update will apply to videos and will extend to Instant Articles over time.

5. Third-Party Verification for Facebook Ads

You knew this was coming. Brand safety and ad fraud are major issues for advertisers. How do you make sure ads don’t show up next to questionable content? And who is clicking, a bot or a human? Facebook has been under scrutiny this year: first, fake news, and then inflated ad reach numbers.

To help assuage growing concerns, Facebook partnered with the Media Rating Council, the U.S.-based non-profit industry organization that reviews and accredits audience measurement services. Over the next 18 months, the MRC will work with Facebook in three key areas:

  • First-party served ad impression reporting
  • Third-party viewability partner integrations
  • Facebook’s new two-second video buying option.

To ensure advertisers have better control over brand safety, Facebook will work closely with third parties, such as DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science.

As Facebook is looking to make more ad money on its original content, these changes will be critical to rebuilding the network’s trust with advertisers.

6. Get Ready for Instant Videos

Facebook is testing a new feature called Facebook Instant Videos. Facebook Instant Videos download and cache Facebook videos to a user’s phone while they’re on WiFi so that they can watch them later on the go without spending their cellular data.

Instant Videos could be a game-changer for advertisers in the developing countries with a slow mobile Internet connection. For places where mobile data is pricey, and the network is weak, the new feature can level the playing field — at the very least when it comes to ads. For example, the average download speed on cellular in Afghanistan is 2.2 Mbps, compared to 4.4 Mbps in South Korea.

7. No More Instant Articles in Messenger

While it’s clear from some of the earlier updates that Facebook will continue to focus on Instant Articles (and videos), this ad format will no longer be available on Messenger —  for now. The truth is, as of now, Instant Articles are still not as publisher-friendly as Facebook wants them to be. Publishers report traffic issues; according to TechCrunch, advertisers have also complained about attribution: you can’t easily add UTM parameters to the end of Instant Article URLs. Facebook is collaborating with publishers to give them more control over their content, so maybe we’ll see a comeback.

… and a Bonfire

To top this week’s updates, Facebook also launched a new video chat app called Bonfire. The app mimics all the features of Houseparty, a social network popular among teens. Facebook’s copycat strategy is strong and already caused Snap’s earnings to plunge in the first quarter. Which app is next?

Tune in to hear the experts’ commentary on AdStage’s PPC Podcast this Friday.

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