Category Archives: Website

Behaviors That Matter: Personalization Based on Data

The importance of a personalized web experience cannot be overstated. In a world where customers already know their data is being mined, they don’t just expect personalization, they’ll avoid experiences that don’t deliver it to them. In other words, if my social media platform exists, I expect to be served ads that are relevant to me, and I expect websites to know what I want even before I do. After all, all of my information is already out there – isn’t it a brand’s job to use it in a way that benefits me as a customer?

Data is the key to successful web personalization, but oftentimes it isn’t used in the most effective manner. It’s vital to set up the correct set of variables that is most relevant to your brand. This can be done by looking at the traffic and engagement you already have on your website, and working backwards from there.

Ask. What patterns are emerging here? Where am I finding trends?

Look at the most popular pages on your website. Determine where that traffic is coming from, and what those users have in common. Your own first party data is the most valuable insight you have because it’s a direct line to your audience. Their actions and origins give you the recipe you need for success.

Target. Determine your targeting variables.

These should be based on the answers you find to the questions above. Variables could include things like location (are most of your users in a few concentrated areas, or more spread out?), device, customer history, and time spent navigating your website. Pay attention to how users interact with every individual webpage or post related to your brand. Mine your data and discover who is always close to clicking the “purchase” button but never does, who buys frequently, when they visit and whether it’s spurred on by a particular event. For example, a customer who visits your site to make a purchase most often around the 15th or 30th of every month may make purchases relative to pay day.  Variables like these  will help you personalize content and experience for multiple audiences.

Personalize. You know your audiences, so talk to them.

When personalizing the content or ads you serve up to your audience, testing is important. Run multiple ads, try out taglines, test headlines and subject matter in your blog posts and social media. There is no magical “one size fits all” personalization guarantee, but thorough A/B testing can help you find the right fit for your audiences.

Introducing the Big Book of Digital Marketing

IgnitionOne and Netmining proudly present the Big Book of Digital Marketing. This all-inclusive resource provides marketers with an overview of the latest trends and fundamental changes in the marketing landscape, a compilation of articles and thought leadership from recent months. Use it as a roadmap to marketing success in 2015. This gorgeous guide is now available as a free download here:

Get fresh insights on topics including:

  • Understanding Ad Tech
  • Mastering Programmatic/RTB
  • Using a DMP with Cross-Device Customer Data
  • Navigating in the Marketing Landscape
  • Best Practices for 2015

This hefty edition is loaded with information designed to help digital marketers and agency rock stars stay on top of their game. Download your complimentary copy now.


Are You Ready For Google Shopping Campaigns?

Google plans to migrate all remaining legacy Product Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns to Google Shopping beginning in August 2014. Here are some questions to ensure you’re ready.

What are the differences between the old PLA campaigns and Shopping Campaigns?

The Ads – Shopping Ads are still PLAs. The big difference is that now you don’t have to know precisely what is in the Product Feed to create valid groupings. AdWords now connects your Merchant Center feed to your AdWords account in a way that lets you drill down into Google’s category taxonomy to create Product Groups, or you can use other feed attributes such as Condition or Brand, or you can use custom labels to define your target set of products.

Product Groups = Product/ Targets – Each AdGroup in a Shopping Campaign consists of one optional ad (this is the promotional text that will appear with every product ad served from the group) and one or more Product Groups which determine the eligibility of products to be served based on more easily-defined parameters. Don’t let the rebranding of these campaign assets throw you off.

No Keywords – These are not keyword campaigns. They will behave differently and you will want to experiment to find the best way to structure your Product Groups. A simple start should include using Google’s product category taxonomy to group like products. Next break those groups down using additional attributes, such as Condition or Brand, or your own custom feed attributes. You can, however, add negative keywords to your campaigns to avoid unwanted impressions.

Google has provided several learning opportunities for marketers, including basic and advanced webinars:


Are your product feeds optimized for Shopping Campaigns?

Where the old PLAs used adwords_grouping and adwords_label fields for organizing your product targets, Shopping Campaigns introduces the availability to create up to five custom labels that can be used in conjunction with Google product category, brand, item ID, condition and product type to create Product Groups to be targeted.

These attribute filters can be combined and stacked to tailor your feed to meet your needs. Start with the highest level of categorization and break the category down to more granular levels. Your Product Groups are bid at the most granular level specified.


Do you have a plan for measuring the performance of Shopping Campaigns and comparing them to old PLA campaigns?

Gathering benchmarks now will help you see where differences may exist between Search Product Listing Ads campaigns and the new Shopping Campaigns.

Fortunately, Google has introduced some additional impression share and benchmarking metrics that will help you understand your place in the marketplace, too. Benchmark max. CPC and CTRs gives you an idea of the performance of similar product ads in the marketplace.


Is budget set aside for your Shopping efforts, or is it lumped into your Search budget?

If at all possible, segregating your Shopping budget from your overall Search budget can help ensure you have more time and freedom to experiment with the new Campaign type. CPCs have increased as more and more retailers have adopted product listing ads and it will be important to be cognizant of how those changes will affect your overall marketing spend.

What Marketers Should Expect from the 2013 Holiday Shopping Season

It’s no surprise that ecommerce has seen incredible growth over the last few holiday shopping seasons, but soon we will see Internet sales exceed those of brick and mortar stores during this very spend-heavy time of year. According to Deloitte, for the first time ever, when it comes to purchasing holiday gifts, American consumers’ most likely destination to shop is the Internet.

The official kick-off for the holiday shopping season in the US is Thanksgiving Day weekend. From 2008 to 2012, the United States saw a 31% increase in total sales, both on and offline, during the five-day period (Thanksgiving Thursday through Cyber Monday). Between 2011 and 2012, online sales increased 15%, whereas brick and mortar sales increased by a mere 3%. Based on this very positive trend, the 2013 shopping season is sure to produce an increase in overall sales, but more appropriately, continued growth in online shopping.

Trends to Expect this Holiday Shopping Season:

  • Showrooming. This is the act of using one’s mobile device in-store to search for an item across the Internet at a lower price. This is an obvious disadvantage for brick and mortar stores, clearly benefitting ecommerce. According to an Accenture study, almost half of those surveyed said that the primary purpose for their cell phone use in-store was to compare prices. Of those, only 10% purchased the product in question at the brick and mortar store.
  • Promotions. This year’s holiday shopping season will be significantly shorter than usual, which is thought to put digital retailers at an advantage, as consumers will seek the convenience of online shopping in a condensed period of time. But this also makes competition among ecommerce brands greater, encouraging more offered promotions in order to gain as much spend as possible in a shorter than normal time period.
  • Mcommerce Growth. US retail mobile commerce throughout the year will reach $41 billion, up 68.2% compared to last year and by 2016, mobile transactions will account for a quarter of all retail ecommerce. The 2013 holiday shopping season is predicted to see 19% of all consumers making purchases on tablets and 18% on smartphones – in 2012, 15% of consumers bought items on their tablets and 14% on their smartphones. This reinforces the need for marketers to really amp up their mobile efforts as more and more of their customers are looking to the convenience of mobile online shopping.
  • Contrasting views regarding growth or decline in holiday spend. The government shut down prompted speculation that consumers would be hesitant to spend more this holiday shopping season than last year. However, the Google 2013 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study revealed that Millenials will spend 19% more this year than they did last year. Looking back, we have only seen an upward climb in spending, even during the recession, making it highly unlikely that sales will dip this holiday season.

In the meantime, brick and mortar stores are on the defensive and are attempting to regain lost business by increasing their operating hours over the weekend, including Black Friday openings as early as the evening hours of Thanksgiving Day! Many have invested heavily in mobile apps and advertising to accommodate in-store shoppers.

Aside from the convenience of online shopping, brick and mortar stores lack the personalization that consumers have grown to love within the digital space. In order to compete, many department stores have begun to adopt and implement the aid of mobile apps, ads and resources to tackle this obstacle. The 2013 holiday shopping season will reveal the successes of those efforts.

At the end of the day, it is inevitable that we will see growth in consumer spending during the upcoming holiday shopping season. It will be interesting to reflect on the how the above trends impacted that spend, as well as the distribution of spend between online and offline outlets. It is more important than ever for ecommerce and traditional retailers alike to leverage digital marketing in order to reach consumers where they spend most of their time.


Holiday Shopping Goes Digital

For the third year, IgnitionOne released its holiday shopping infographic, accumulating data from the last several Thanksgiving Weekends. The infographic sheds light on important statistics around the kick-off to the holiday shopping season, giving marketers an idea of what to anticipate for the upcoming holiday weekend. Ecommerce should expect yet another highly successful season, as more and more consumers look primarily to the Internet to make their holiday purchases.

Back-to-School Shopping Season: What Does it Mean for Marketers?

August is an exciting month for retailers, as “back-to-school” shopping is the second-largest season with about $84 billion in consumer sales. It is also an indicator for the performance of the holiday shopping season to follow, and helps retailers forecast their fourth quarter earnings, plan their fall advertising strategies and media buys.

As with every other vertical, the Internet has truly impacted the way people research, browse and ultimately purchase. This year, retailers have experienced yet more change in the shopping habits and patterns of their consumers. The NRF reported that the average family with children in grades K-12 has already completed 52% of their back-to-school shopping, up from 40% at the same time last year. This strongly supports that families are more-value focused than before, and are looking to take advantage of shopping opportunities that save them money. This year’s back-to-school shopping season started as early as four weeks sooner than usual, with 30% of online shoppers making back-to-school purchases two months before Fall 2013 classes start.

With this information, retailers, and more specifically ecommerce marketers, should consider beginning their holiday advertising about four weeks earlier than usual in order to accommodate the budget-conscious consumer. Analyst Liz Dunn of Macquarie Capital said that “business is suffering from an absence of clear fashion trends and is instead relying on the effect of promotions,” encouraging retailers to really take advantage of their digital strategies in order to usher in sales.



Mobile isn’t a device, it’s a channel, and marketers should be treating it as such. 79% of moms with children in school own a smartphone, and rely on them to get through their hectic days. Marketers should be enhancing their mobile campaigns in order to capitalize on these on-the-go moms who make most of the back-to-school purchases for their families.

Marketing Automation

Personalizing messaging on-site is a great way to grab the attention of your consumer and encourage them to convert then and there. Over the last couple of years, marketing automation tactics have become more widely used by marketers as a way to enhance lead generation and boost sales. Retailers that utilize content personalization and dynamic interaction across paid media and email are rewarded with stronger conversion rates.

Integrated Marketing

It goes without saying that if you, as a retailer, embark on a promotional campaign, then make sure the terms of that campaign are recognizable across channels. The same goes for integrated marketing, where all of an organization’s resources, goals, technology, data and measurement are aligned in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency and performance. Truly integrated marketing is equally as important as consistent messaging across campaigns.


So what if you can’t heed this advice for the almost-past back-to-school shopping season? Easy. Apply them to your holiday strategic planning. With about $580 billion in consumer spending to come in the latter half of Q4, these insights will help you get more bang for your digital advertorial buck. But start the brainstorming sessions with your teams now, because this holiday season’s shopping cycle will begin as early as late-October.

Tag Management: Keeping Clients’ Sites Elite

As a digital marketer in this day and age, one of the most exciting aspects of this industry is that our responsibilities span beyond the realm of advertising and media management, spilling into the spheres of analytics, data, and technology.  The performance buys that are the core of many a media plan (the ones that drive the best return on ad spend or highest volume of conversions) most likely would not happen (nor would a network or vendor run a campaign) without tagging our clients’ sites.  3rd party ad tags or “piggybacks” play an integral role –whether it’s for conversion optimization purposes, retargeting or dynamic creative (to name a few).  To take it to the next level, DoubleClick and other tracking or container solutions have given us the ability to design pretty sophisticated rules on how and when tags fire on our clients’ sites, ultimately helping our media strategies evolve to support the more complicated business needs of our clients.  This allows us to isolate high value users or repeat customers based on status, or specifically retarget to users who’ve hit the site only if they were last on say, Trip Advisor and they hadn’t been to the site within a month and have not received emails from your client.

Because we can cookie, track, segment and programmatically optimize, tagging comes with the job, but it’s a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly.  I was recently at a conference where the speakers were emphasizing the concept of the butterfly effect –how the perceivably miniscule motion of a butterfly flapping its wings could result in a monumental event, whether good or bad.  It’s one of those universally applicable notions, but in the context of tagging, the repercussions could range from hundreds of thousands of media savings in targeting just those high potential users to potentially slowing down the checkout process during peak conversion time aggravating 500 customers and losing $100,000 in revenue (not to mention the resources involved in figuring out which tag caused it and how it’s never going to happen again).  When something like this happens, nine out of ten times, the reason is that the network at fault was making secondary calls to another server to gain access to additional inventory sources, and it was actually the secondary tag that was to blame.  As much as you want to hold that vendor accountable, the client and their IT team will ultimately, and pretty rightfully, hold the agency accountable for opening up that wormhole in the first place.  So how do we better prevent and control the ugly second scenario?  The answer is by employing a tag management solution.

To illustrate how tag management works, I’ve created a fun little analogy (or at least I’d like to consider it this way).   Think about the client’s .com as the most elite VIP club out there.  Needless to say, the club owner would be Client X, the club manager would be Client X’s IT team, and they’ve hired a party planner and PR crew (in this case the agency) to manage their events and the guest list.  To keep things exclusive, the party planning team handpicks the guest list every single night.  You have to be on the list to enter, but the current bouncer is a rookie, and during an A-List event, he doesn’t ID patrons before entering, disregards the guest list, and the next morning TMZ reports that Justin Bieber was mauled by a dozen pre-teen fanatics.  This could have been avoided with proper tag management.

Fast-forward a month later.  The party planners and the club manager put placing the best front door security team as top priority.  They hire an ex-CIA agent to man the front door.  He has the foresight and instinct to separate the good from the bad seeds.  Not only does he ensure that invite-only patrons come in, but rowdy and overly intoxicated persons are not permitted to enter, and high risk people are escorted out at the first sign of trouble.  In addition, connected patrons (friends of the A-Listers and even friends of friends) are not permitted to enter without first being screened by the club managers and party planners.   In this scenario, you can say that the proper tag management was in place.

Why Tag Management is Needed?

  • Numerous 3rd party vendor tags in effect
  • Site Crashes, Security Warnings, Slow Loading Pages  – due to any given “bad” tag or a multitude of unwanted secondary and tertiary tags  being calledClean and controlled process of 3rd party tag implementation
  • Streamlined tag firing and pixel logic
  • Data capture

Features to look for when considering tag management:

  • Asynchronous tag load of 3rd party data tags (for data collection purposes)
  • Streamlined site tagging – hierarchal tagging from a Category to subcategory page level
  • Logic-based data capture/tag fires
  • Localized Latency management – automatic tag load termination based on client-set time threshold + re-activation based on server stabilization
  • 24-hr support
  • User-friendly interface – easy to use for both Client Tech and Agency Ops teams

Agencies need to work closely with their client’s tech team and their ad ops team to select the right fit for the client.  Not all solutions are built alike with some prioritizing tagging and segmentation logic (Google Tag Manager) vs. latency and kill-switch technology (TagMan, Ensighten, Media Geeks, Satellite, BrightTag, Tealium).  Ultimately, it’s up to agencies and their clients to identify which benefits are needed from a solution to create accountability and keep the site and marketing programs operating optimally.

IgnitionOne has worked with a variety of clients spanning all verticals (travel, retail, entertainment, finance) to improve tagging strategies and employ and evolve processes to monitor tags in effect as well as minimize and prevent complications from 3rd party tags.  Our team is constantly surveying the tag management landscape to identify and recommend best of breed solutions that best address individual client’s needs.

When it Comes to Bid Optimization, are you ‘Book Smart’ or ‘Street Smart?’

In talking with prospective customers on a daily basis, I field a lot of questions about the science of bid optimization. But over the years, the nature of the questions has shifted from “can you” to “how do you” and have become increasingly complex, as search marketers grow savvier. And even though we’ve been optimizing search campaigns using predictive portfolio methodology since 2005, the marketplace has only recently widely adopted the approach.

Taking a trip down memory lane to when I first started working with IgnitionOne (then SearchIgnite), I thought I’d share my personal recollection of how bid management questions have gotten more sophisticated, tougher, and longer over the years.

But is there a point at which the evolution of our questions and understanding (or lack thereof) of bid science will actually come at the detriment of our campaign performance? And are we relying too much on automated bid science to drive performance?  Can bid and campaign optimization be completely automated by algorithms? Is an algorithm going to put me out of a job?  ARE ALGORITHMS TAKING OVER THE WORLD?!

Okay- maybe I slipped too far down the slope on that last one, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this. As far as we’ve come in our understanding of rules versus portfolio logic, I’ve noticed a surprising backlash against portfolio optimization tools lately. More and more marketers have been coming to me saying that they have portfolio tools, they understand how to use them (theoretically, anyway), but they…

  • Can’t customize them for specific business rules or campaign goals
  • Aren’t getting results as advertised
  • (and my personal favorite) Just don’t trust them

These are all valid points if you’re relying on a black-box algorithmic portfolio model to handle your bid optimization in a vacuum. So the question becomes:  when it comes to bid optimization, are you book smart or street smart?

If you’re book smart, you can probably whiteboard visualization for how your bidding technology handles keyword clustering for optimization. You have every bid completely automated with multiple portfolios across millions of keywords organized thematically, geographically, and by device (well, for now – thanks, Google…). You haven’t touched a bid in years, and you trust your little black box because it contains a revenue-crunching bid-busting algorithm. And it’s smarter than you (right?). Wrong!

But if you’re street smart, you know that you possess two forms of logic that even the best algorithms never will: common sense and foresight.  You know that the best performing campaigns are optimized against marginal cost to marginal return modeling, but you also demand transparency of the decision science. So when your algorithm is recommending that you bid down a keyword based on its rank return profile, but you know that you’re about to launch a promotion against that particular category of products, you can opt out of its recommendation without jeopardizing the relative performance of the portfolio.

So is it better to be book smart or street smart? Duh – both, of course! You don’t need to write your own algorithms, but please do remember there’s no such thing as a silver bullet when it comes to SEM, and even the smartest algorithms require human intervention every once in a while.

So ask yourself (and your technology provider):

 “Do I have…?”

  1. Transparency (into keyword level bid optimizations)?
  2. Input (over what data set(s) the algorithm is incorporating into the model)?
  3. Control (over individual keyword bid optimizations within the portfolio)?