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Driving Business Performance

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Auction-based Merchandising: KPI doesn’t mean ROI "This time last year I had the pleasure of attending the annual iProspect Client Summit in Las Vegas. Two key lessons from that event still resonate with me. The first is that consistently betting on black at the roulette table is an expensive and novice approach to the game. The second is the major theme of the conference, as announced by iProspect’s President, Jeremy Cornfeldt: that no company should “ROI themselves out of business.”

The phrase stuck with me, not because It was not a shock statement, but because it got to the core of a basic business truth. When you consider the idea closely, the fact is that anyone can achieve a profitable ROI. Anyone! The secret is not so secret, simply sell a handful of products and quit while the ROI looks good.

However, a positive ROI figure is not enough to keep a business afloat. Sales volume is also key. When we see client brand briefs for Amazon and Criteo (formerly Hooklogic) in which the KPI is said to be “ROI driven”, we challenge the statement. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

We know that brands derive value from the consumer behavior called “webrooming” (researching products online and purchasing offline) and that this trend is experiencing steady, year-over-year growth. In fact, a whopping 46% of US 18-24 year-olds webroom via a mobile device. However, because the association between this activity and corresponding offline sales are rarely captured, ROI calculations can't include these figures and are therefore a less accurate reflection of reality.
Over-focusing on ROI can also limit where you appear on retailer sites. A brand’s aim should be to increase consideration and grow market share for your product within category. There are a few ways to achieve this, but looking at market share shift reports or organic SKU position as a result of the advertising is a great way to start.
Brand ROI targets are easier to achieve on brand sites and through the likes of Google shopping leading to a brand’s own ecommerce store because the discoverability of competitors you face in those spaces is fairly static. However, on a site like Amazon in addition to competitors, you also have fluctuating product prices for your product and competitors’ products. You also have third-party competitors and products that may offer Prime delivery. Throw in some seasonality and you’ve got a minefield that makes it almost impossible to maintain static ROI, let alone improve ROI.
You also need to be able to accurately define the ROI you are looking at. Do you take into account that ROI figures on Amazon and through the Criteo network do not use the same attribution methodology? That Amazon’s ROI figure is not restricted to the sales of only the product you promote? For example, if you’re promoting a certain specification of essentially the same product, Amazon will group together similar sales. (This is not helpful if a 64GB version is more profitable that the 32GB product you needed to increase sales.)
Finally, ROI is no good unless you are looking at incrementality. Any financial director being asked to sign off on a marketing budget will require proof that the sales figure you are seeing would not have been attainable organically without marketing budget.
With over 50% of US audiences starting their product search on retailer sites (rather than search engines, brand websites, or blogs), companies that embrace and prioritize share-of-voice and category-share KPIs, are the ones that will learn the most about customer behavior on retailer sites.

Brands that also evaluate their branded ecommerce sites with less of a focus on immediate purchase ROIs and more of a focus on customer life-time value (LTV) will get even further ahead. Even though a brand website should, in theory, be able to offer the least expensive price, that isn’t always the case. This is because retailers can run special deals by discounting their own margin. Even if price parity is achieved or you have an even lower price than any reseller, you still have to be able to beat the one- or two-day delivery that’s included with Amazon Prime, and that’s no easy feat for most brands. Instead, consider offering lifetime care of product or extra add-ons that make the purchase more attractive to the consumer and – more importantly – give you the potential for future upselling through CRM methods."

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New Google Local Ads for Mobile Help Advertisers Increase Relevance "Starting this month, Google is rolling out a new paid ad format in search results called local search ads. Available only for mobile, this new ad is triggered by queries that show local intent (e.g. queries that use terms like “near me”, “stores”, “dealers”). Advertisers who currently use location extensions and Google My Business will be eligible to serve ads in this new mobile space. Currently this local ad unit can serve on up to 30% of search traffic for keyword queries with local intent.

Local search has been growing immensely with recent data indicating that an estimated 84% of consumers search using local, “near me” queries. This impressive rise in local search activity is driven by both brands’ continued adoption of mobile search ads and entry into voice search. iProspect found that 52% of all paid search clicks in 2016 were mobile.

We are already seeing the impact of this new ad unit on mobile search traffic. Over the past thirty days, one iProspect retailer saw 6% of their overall mobile traffic leading to the product details page, and 2.5% of traffic generating calls to the store. Since this product is in its infancy reporting options are limited. If this unit is found to be a success Google will likely increase reporting capability in the future.

Why would Google roll out this new unit? Consumer search behavior is constantly evolving. The fact that more and more consumers are searching on their mobile devices and utilizing voice search has led to a corresponding growth in local-intent queries. Consumers also expect a seamless and friction-free search experience that gives them instant access to the results they need. Users are already familiar with using the local 3-pack to find results. This paid ad with a native look and feel cuts down on friction by leading consumers directly to a store page, map, or call; and it ultimately provides a more relevant result to the user.

For retailers, this paid placement provides an opportunity to increase brand awareness and visibility in an area that was previously difficult to break into through organic search. This opportunity is especially important on non-brand queries for local retailers who would otherwise fall below the fold underneath larger brands and big box retailers.” Ultimately, the introduction of the new local ad units could shift the balance in an already competitive environment and eventually lead to an increase in mobile CPCs.

This local ad unit gives advertisers another way to tap into and respond appropriately to inferred intent. When we see the location-based phrases in a search query, we can assume the user is on their mobile device, on the go, and looking for a certain type of store. Smart advertisers will be proactive about treating these type of queries differently by:

Making sure location extensions are enabled
Ensuring Google My Business is updated and optimized
Customizing campaigns to capture keywords that could trigger this local unit
Adopting a mobile-first mindset that embraces the strategy of increasing mobile-bid modifiers to ensure auction dominance" #DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #LocalMarketing #MobileMarketingStrategy

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Amazon is on Google Product Listing Ads - Now What?
"To the dismay of retailers everywhere, Amazon recently took a step deeper into the world of digital advertising. As indicated in iProspect’s Q4 Paid Search Trends report, Amazon has returned to Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) for the first time since the platform transitioned from organic to paid search results in 2012. The online retail giant is already the top paid search advertiser in the world with a 35% share of the top 50,000 retail keywords. However, with PLA performance on the rise, it’s no longer enough for them to rely solely on text ads to drive revenue.

Our auction data insights across iProspect retail clients show that Amazon has a strong presence in most Google Shopping categories, including everything from apparel to home and garden. Anecdotal search query research indicates that – for now – Amazon seems to be focused on advertising lower margin products and items that are easier to ship, such as a kitchen mixer.

Concerns among Amazon’s retail competitors are ubiquitous and valid. To pretend this isn’t a matter for concern would be insensitive and ill advised. However, the situation might not be as dismal as it seems. There are strategies that retailers can implement proactively to lessen the blow, and there are also simple facts that should keep you from stressing out too much about going toe-to-toe with one of the world’s biggest household names.

The Problem

1. What will happen to my impressions shares and CPC? Whenever an enormous player like Amazon enters the market, it’s safe to assume that you’ll have to pay more if you want to maintain the same – or earn better – visibility. Across all of iProspect’s holiday performance data (which covers Amazon’s first appearance on PLA), we observed a 13% year-over-year (YoY) rise in CPCs and a consequent 4% YoY decrease in clicks. In addition, our big-box retail client has already taken a significant hit in impression share: a 16% YoY decrease since Amazon entered the PLA auction with the biggest declines in the home and garden and hardware categories – 62% and 37% YoY decreases respectively. Of course, it’s difficult to attribute these stats entirely to having Amazon as a direct competitor; but, given the timing, it’s hard to deny that the retail giant’s entry into the auction isn’t an important factor.

2. Can my brand compete with Amazon’s inventory and customer loyalty? Even though Amazon does have a huge catalog, the customer loyalty built via their incentive programs should be your biggest concern. Nearly half of American households are Amazon Prime members, a figure that has increased 35% since last year. Of these Prime members, 73% report that they are now shopping at Amazon more than they did when they first signed up for Prime. Google PLA currently doesn’t offer any program even remotely like Amazon Prime, providing little incentive for existing Prime customers to click on another retailer’s ad within PLA search results if an Amazon ad is present.

3. How aggressive will Amazon be on PLA? As previously mentioned, Amazon is already the top paid search advertiser in the world. The question now is whether they have plans to conquer PLA in the same way? Their strategy depends on which KPIs and business goals they’re looking to target, both of which are unclear at this time.

The Solution

1. Google PLA is still Amazon’s competition. Amazon once vowed that no matter how much they could make on PLA, they would never take the bait for fear of giving their top adversary too much of their hard earned money. Though they obviously didn’t keep that promise, it still wouldn’t be their wisest strategy to put too much of their inventory – and, more importantly, budgets – into PLA. The more products that appear on the platform (where customers can easily and instantly compare Amazon prices to those of competing retailers), the less incentive consumers have to go straight to Amazon’s site. Not to mention, Amazon would be paying for traffic they might have had for free anyway, given the loyalty seen amongst Prime members and the fact that 44% of all product searches begin on Amazon.

2. Amazon’s exclusively online platform can’t establish a presence on LIA. Big-box retailers still rely heavily on the success of their brick-and-mortar stores, which is where LIA (Local Inventory Ads) can be a huge asset in the battle against Amazon PLA. While this ad type might not reap the instant gratification that PLA does, it can still be an effective tool for bringing customers to the store. Advertisers can rest easy knowing that Amazon will not be able to infiltrate this space.

3. PLA offers retailers an opportunity to capitalize on any pricing advantage. Though it’s not the easiest or most practical option to lower your prices, you can still work with existing PLA features to make your prices appear as competitive as possible. The sales price column is entirely optional, but including it in your data feed can help your product stand out as the better deal for shoppers.

So, even though the effects of Amazon entering the PLA auction have proven to be both very real and the driver of some rapid changes in the market, taking the time to optimize your data feeds, shopping campaigns, and presence on spheres not made available to Amazon has a strong potential to help your brand function at similar – or even better – PLA performance levels than it did before." #DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #ProductListingAds

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POV: 2016 Q4 Paid Search Trends Report "Last year was marked by the positive evolution and efficient growth of the Paid Search channel. Search engine changes and shifts in internal client strategies were major contributors. From decreased ad inventory on the desktop SERP, to ad format changes, to the continuing evolution of a mobile-first advertising focus and Google’s 2016 AdWords updates – paid search marketers were busy.

In 2016, iProspect clients were able to generate more traffic at a lower cost. This was an ideal outcome and a welcome change from the upward trend in cost-per-click fees that we have seen over the past several years. We noted that brands are seeing even more success from audience segmentation strategies. They are also prioritizing paid search coverage on mobile devices where the majority of searches now take place. Finally, brands have increased their measurement sophistication, which allows for a more complete and effective understanding of the benefits of a mobile-first approach.

Representing 1,300 Google AdWords accounts and over 176,000 active campaigns, our 2016 Q4 Paid Search Report is an analysis and overview of the trends and corresponding opportunities relevant for brands that are taking a strategic, performance-focused approach to paid search marketing.

Following are some key insights and recommendations for 2017:

52% of all paid search traffic is now from mobile devices. Mobile will continue to grow and steadily become the new norm in search advertising.
Mobile shopping spend is at an all time high. Recent Google product advancements prove that Shopping ads are profitable not just for advertisers but also for Google. Based on that win-win, we expect to see continued focus on this ad format in 2017 and beyond.
Retail trends are being driven by mobile and shopping patterns. As consumers continue to become more comfortable shopping on their phones and as more conversions are attributed to drive-to-store, we will see retailers continue to invest in mobile because they will be able to prove the value more definitively and accurately.
B2B customers are using mobile more than ever. In fact, total B2B paid search demand and investment both hit an all-time high in Q4 2016. These spikes were driven largely by mobile, which continues to grow in relation to the overall digital landscape.
The Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry is closely tracking with retail trends. The category experienced substantial growth in 2016 with budgets increasing through the holiday season. Outside of Google search trends, CPG advertisers are continuing to explore opportunities with Auction-Based Merchandizing through Amazon and Hooklogic. With the use of these additional partners, we expect to see CPG explore additional e-commerce opportunities while continuing to work out how to move the grocery shopping experience online.
We invite you to read all of our findings and act on our key insights today.

Download the full report here."
#DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #QuarterlyMarketingReport #DigitalTrends #PaidSearchTrends

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Research: How Google's Desktop Facelift Affects Organic Search Results "Search is a constantly evolving element of the customer journey. From the algorithms that define search results to the design of the pages that serve those results to consumers, the playing field is an ever-changing environment, which marketers must navigate wisely. Our initial research into the affect of recent changes to Google’s desktop results page indicates a greater emphasis on user intent, the importance of a holistic customer journey, and the value of including non-branded elements in a digital strategy.

Google’s Design Changes

On December 15th, 2016, Google rolled out a new desktop search interface that mimics their modular mobile user interface. To those unfamiliar with the mobile design, actually looks like, it consists of a tabular design that highlights search features in boxes. Imitating the desktop Knowledge Graph real estate, which appears in the right-hand rail of the search engine result page, these featured elements frequently feature Twitter carousels, People Also Search For, and Top Stories (vertical and horizontal design) modules. The Local Pack and Answer Box were two of the original features of the Google SERP that were primarily showcased in this manner, but this new layout creates a previously unseen level of design consistency for Google results.

To illustrate some of the specific elements mentioned, here are examples of some of the new design elements:

The Research

Looking at 60 SEO clients spanning a diverse range of verticals and representing 60 million in weekly organic impressions in Google Search Console, our week-over-week comparison was an opportunity to see if Google’s change to desktop design impacted organic search results. Please note that we compared the weeks of November 28th through December 4th (and yes, this includes Cyber Monday) to December 5th through December 11th when the rollout officially began. Our results were as follows:

Week Over Week Variances



Average CTR

Average Position

Brand Keywords





Non-Brand Keywords





By far the most noticeable change was the 23% increase in impressions for non-brand keywords. This increase is likely responsible for the increased click-through rate and positions during the same time period. The increased impressions could have been driven by the increased prominence of the boxed elements, which appear to have preferred placement in the new design layout. This change could allow branded sites the opportunity to gather more real estate in the non-brand SERP if they have strong positions within social platforms and news outlets that offer the opportunity to expand content beyond their brand.
Brand saw a decline across the board on clicks, impressions, CTR, and positioning. While the data collected for our initial research may have been influenced in part by the increased traffic associated with Cyber Monday week, we did notice that the top stories and Twitter carousel appeared above the Local 3-Pack for a variety of top brand queries. While this may shift some visibility off brand websites, brands that increase their attention on the full consumer journey will still be able to successfully build a more satisfied and loyal consumer.
Additional Industry Insight

While we pursued these conversations and research internally, we also solicited input from our technology partner of choice, BrightEdge, asking them to weigh in on this recent change. Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge, responded with some additional insights:

“Google’s new desktop SERP is a sign of Google’s constant evolution of SERP results in line with changing consumer behavior. The linear customer journey no longer exists and is now fractured into hundreds of new ‘micro-moments’ where consumers are using multiple devices (desktop and mobile) to address their needs whenever and wherever they are. The recent desktop SERP layout indicates that they have changed their desktop version to match the mobile version.

Knowing that organic search results are different on desktop computers or smartphones is important because content that is believed to be optimized for high rankings on desktops may actually rank differently or poorly on smartphones. In fact, according to new research from BrightEdge, 73 percent of Google search queries show different results on mobile devices compared to desktop.

Rankings do vary depending upon SERP layout and this is why we recently introduced BrightEdge Intent Signal. Intent Signal is the first and only solution that actually helps search marketers understand and optimize for organic potential and measure what matters: traffic, conversion and revenue. Intent Signal automatically identifies which topics show organic results above or below the fold. It then goes a step further to tell you when your pages show above the fold – and are highly visible – and where you should focus your efforts to capture more of the organic opportunity in key moments that matter.”

Key Takeaways

While it’s still early to make sweeping assumptions about how this will impact organic search and SEO in the long run, we are confident that this latest Google design change puts even more focus on user intent on desktop. It’s also important to note that while the new layout has a tabular design that is similar to the mobile experience, that the occurrences and location of these rich results varies widely depending on device type. Overall, the design element changes emphasize the need for brands to:

Increase their touchpoints and truly be present in all areas of the consumer journey. Brands have almost innumerable opportunities to engage customers across a wide variety of search mediums including local, video, quick answers, images, maps, and more. A successful organic search strategy weaves these tools together to ensure relevant contact with the target customer, whenever and wherever he or she chooses to search.
Unlike a mobile result where users are most commonly concentrating on location-based needs, desktop search is an answer engine for users looking to expand their knowledge. Content expansion and long-form answer-based copy can boost visibility for improved Desktop CTR and overall conversion.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power and necessity of non-brand in your digital strategy. Non-brand searches are a great opportunity for brands to expand their upper funnel through quick answers. Quick answers build trust and authority that can lead to “new to file” increases in the future.
As always, the iProspect team will continue working to keep you ahead of the curve on the ever-evolving search landscape. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how you can activate these strategies for your own brand, please reach out to your SEO team to learn exactly how these insights and best practices can be applied to improve your organic search performance on Google’s redesigned desktop SERPs." #DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #SearchEngineOptimization

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Holiday 2016 looking good for Digital Marketers "The holiday shopping season is in full force, and if the headlines are any indication, things look super optimistic for digital marketers. “Cyber Monday Sales Jump,” says a Fortune article posted on November 29th. “Black Friday Limps Toward Oblivion as Online Shopping Takes Over,” says a Bloomberg article posted the day after Turkey Day. It’s no surprise that shoppers are getting savvier. After all, who wants to wait in long lines and fight for deals at brick-and-mortar locations? The chance to reduce the need for such inconveniences seems to be part of what’s driving the continued surge in online orders on Thanksgiving (the day before Black Friday). Some telling stats cited in the above articles include:

Sales on Cyber Monday were expected to finish up 10.2% from a year ago.
Online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose about 18 percent.
Revenue generated from mobile devices rose to $1.2 billion on Black Friday, a 33 percent surge from a year earlier.
Black Friday store traffic is down 3 percent to 4 percent, while online traffic is up 20 percent -- mostly on mobile device.
Now that Cyber Monday is behind us and the dust has settled, we wanted to look at some of our own data. Specifically, we wanted to review the year-over-year (YOY) changes in data for our larger retail clients over the period covering Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Here’s what we found.

Total Site YOY stats comparing 2016 to 2015:

Traffic: +8.94% YOY
Orders: +26.62% YOY
Sales: +21.48% YOY
Sales via Mobile Device: +41.85%
While these numbers are very positive, they don’t paint as precise a picture for marketers as we’d like to see, certainly not from a Performance Marketing perspective. To increase clarity and better understand the actionable implications, we need to drill down into the details. While we obviously can’t call out specific clients, we can share that the following stats are based on analysis of more than 900 million impressions and 23 million visits over the largest shopping weekend of the year.*

Paid Search:

Impressions: +0.91%
Traffic: +4.71%
CPCs: +3.39%
Orders: +8.08%
Sales: +0.88%
Product Listing Ads:

Impressions: +55.15%
Traffic: +22.5%
CPCs: +77.96%
Orders: +5.87%
Sales: +8.81%
Paid Social:

Impressions: +43.82%
Traffic: +80.17%
CPCs: -37.83%
Orders: +737.82%
Sales: +337.18%

Impressions: +25.94
Traffic: +2.07

Traffic: -16.88%
Orders: -0.83%
Sales: -2.84%

Traffic: +15.01%
Orders: +48.78%
Sales: +69.33%

The big news here is the increase that retailers are seeing in mobile sales and conversion rates. Adobe has quoted seeing YOY increases of 34% for the same reporting period; and our data shows increases even higher than that. As brick-and-mortar sales continue to decline, it appears that the digital increases will definitely be picking up the slack.

While some are reporting slower digital sales for “specialty shops”, that doesn’t seem to be consistent across the board. While some of our specialty retail clients saw more downstream traffic going to sites like Amazon and Target (according to Hitwise), strong PLA campaigns seemed to limit any negative impact from a search perspective.

Overall, YOY figures show that search performance remained strong and spend was consistent. CPCs for PLAs spiked sharply over this period, but on-going optimization across the other channels saw costs decrease or remain flat. Social continues to mature as spend continues to rise in the retail space. While SEO saw decreases in the three reporting metrics that we looked at, that channel actually had higher conversion rates than all others.

Some of the other trends and issues that we saw collectively across the teams include the following:

Most retailers were promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials weeks before the Thanksgiving break.
In some cases we had to pause marketing efforts as inventory ran out on Black Friday, and then restart campaigns on Cyber Monday.
Thanksgiving Day was strong, however in most cases we still saw best performance on Black Friday & Cyber Monday.
Black Friday had huge amounts of spend, but conversions didn’t come through until Cyber Monday.
The holiday shopping season is far from over, and retailers will continue to optimize their campaigns holistically throughout the month. We’ll be keeping an eye on all the numbers and doing additional analysis over the season. Make sure to come back for updates on post-holiday trends.

* We compared Thanksgiving Day thru Cyber Monday YoY (specifically, November 24 – 28, 2016 to November 26 – 30, 2015)."
#DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #HolidayMarketingStrategy

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The Rise of the Machines "“Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.”

While we may still be a few years away from the robot-filled world depicted in Terminator 2, artificial intelligence (AI) is already a part of our everyday life in other, subtler ways. In search, for instance, it already plays a vital role for both Google and Microsoft.

Artificial Intelligence

Did you know that 1 out of 5 questions asked on Google has never been asked before? Since Google processes over 2 trillion search queries each year, that means there are more than 400 billion search queries entered each year for which Google has never before served up search results. That is an almost inconceivable amount of data that has to be processed by the Google algorithms and engineers. With each day, it becomes more difficult to accurately interpret this vast amount of new data and serve relevant search. Enter artificial intelligence. While many company boards may still consider a presentation on the benefits of AI to be a futuristic distraction; since October 2015 AI has become part of the standard toolset at Google.

Google began working with AI by applying a deep learning approach to reinvent their search activity. This approach uses deep neural networks that approximate the web of neurons in the human brain, expanding a machine’s capacity for learning tasks. The system, nicknamed “RankBrain,” uses AI to process that data so the computers can understand and respond to it.

In the early stages, RankBrain certainly lived up to its hype. In an experiment that pitted the engineers against the new system, RankBrain had an 80% success rate (humans had 70%) when tasked with identifying which sample pages Google’s search engine technology would rank on top. Today, Facebook and Microsoft have also incorporated similar AI systems, with Facebook filtering through newsfeeds that compromise the homepages and Microsoft increasing capabilities for their search engine.

Virtual Reality

While AI and machine learning are creating rapid, behind-the-scenes in search, the question remains whether consumer interaction with search will also take a “futuristic” twist? All signs indicate that we are not far away from such a development. The holographic shark that appears to eat Marty in Back to the Future 2 is now a very real possibility; and while holographic sharks may not seem to be directly related to search, the connection becomes more obvious when you think about the opportunity for consumers to interact with search using holographs via tools like Microsoft’s HoloLens. (Expect Google Glass to be resurrected and include technology that is similar to what HoloLens is using.)

Voice Search

AI can integrate with technology like HoloLens in a number of ways, including using deep learning to identify voice commands directed toward Android phones and to recognize images of faces posted on Google+. Microsoft already uses AI-based neuro networks in a new Skype tool that instantly translates one language into another. Voice search/communication is evolving rapidly across a variety of platforms including Cortana, Amazon’s Echo, and Google Home. There’s no doubt that we are moving toward a scenario in which our communication with machines can be driven completely via a verbal interface. It’s only a matter of time until we are regularly interacting with search results using a voice-activated, holographic interface that allows us to swipe though PLAs (product listing ads) or sponsored product results while walking down the street or standing in-line at the coffee shop. Taking the concept one step further, is it all that improbable to think that these machines will evolve to a point where they can read our minds and serve relevant search results by tapping into our neurons? Computers (supercomputers) can already mimic the networks of neurons inside our heads, creating a system that is capable of not only analyzing information, but can also learn.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we are going to quickly need to start using AI in our everyday agency lives or allow ourselves to be replaced by machines? Of course, we won’t all be replaced by machines, but it’s very possible – even probable – that we will soon see an increase in digital assistants that will become part of our everyday search life. Think of the digital assistants that most of us already use every day: Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Google Now are all voice-search enabled and growing smarter with every interaction. Staying with voice search for a moment, it is predicted that voice search will make up 50% of all search activity by the year 2020. Because voice search is naturally more conversational and uses natural language, AI is the perfect tool with which to better understand consumer intent. The longer query strings associated with voice search (as compared to text) provide richer user data. In addition, AI will be able to understand the different nuances of conversational tone, allowing us to identify different intent signals and more accurately assess where the consumer is in the customer journey.

And those are just the tip-of-the-iceberg possibilities of one aspect of AI. It really is a brave new world filled with exciting new opportunities for consumers and advertisers alike."#DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #ArtificialIntelligence #VirtualReality #VoiceSearch 

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Streaming TV Search Results: Coming to a Set-Top-Box Near You

"On Sept 29, the FCC delayed the future of search – deciding to not pass the set-top-box (STB) plan they had been working on since January. As with any pending regulation, various stakeholders converge with all sorts of interests. Perhaps underneath everything is the long-standing “digital divide” perspective – an effort to bring technology such as streaming TV to the masses. Congress has already mandated accessibility via the ADA. In its plan, the FCC would add a layer of economic parity through the elimination of STB rental fees. Progressive groups are pushing the free and open internet angle. Diversity has a role too, around programming choices from content makers with less funding or filmmakers of color and other minority communities.

The Content Ownership Fight

But it wasn’t search that led to the delay – it was the battle over content ownership. Players like Google wanted the original “unlock the box” plan, in which paid content would be required to be streamed to STBs thus opening the potential for Google or Apple to place their branding and features on top of the content. Cable companies and networks fought for the revised “ditch the box” plan of requiring content to be played through Apps. If ABC owned a show, you would watch it on ABC’s App, with their ads, their resolution, their closed captioning and more.

If you search for the new show “The Grand Tour” on your Apple TV, you can’t watch it because Amazon owns the show, and Amazon does not have an Apple TV App. Under the FCC’s plan, Amazon would have to make an App for every format – including Apple TV – which is a great benefit for consumers who are frustrated with these competitive restrictions.

The Search Fight

The less-considered battle on the horizon is around streaming TV search:

One of the biggest benefits consumers will see is integrated search. The rules would require all pay-TV providers to enable the ability for consumers to search for pay-TV content alongside other sources of content. Just type in the name of a movie, and a list will come up with all the places it is scheduled for broadcast and where it can be streamed (like Amazon Prime or Hulu).

Current streaming TV search isn’t very sophisticated, but there are aspects of integration already. Roku already offers up search results from multiple providers. Apple TV’s universal search is adding more sources to its mix, and Amazon features premium partner channel apps. But like the early days of the internet when websites were scarce, curating was a manual exercise with slight assists from technology. Right now, whether you use Apple, Roku, Fire TV or other STBs – or even Netflix and Hulu – content is limited to what they each provide through partnerships and relationships. It’s always been more about scrolling through curated lists of shows than true search.

The Role of Voice Search

The clunkiness of inputting text into a search box with your remote was probably the main hindrance to widespread adoption and usage of streaming TV search, but voice search is changing that. Every search has always had the potential to push past STB curations into deeper content, but only with voice can this be realized. This is the power and potential of streaming TV search. Voice search uses verbal inputs of text to both pull up results and activate things.

But voice search may not play well with integrated streaming TV search. If you ask Echo to play the latest Star Wars film, it will most likely know you’re talking about 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, but from which source will it cast to your Smart TV? Does Echo now have to say, “I can play ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ from your Amazon Prime account, but you can also watch it from the other providers on your screen,” and pull up a search result on the TV?

Sophisticated Search Results

So the real advantage for streaming TV search is the search results experience – because with more content mandated to appear for any search, more sophisticated ways of organizing and curating will be needed. If this sounds like search engines back in the 90s, it should. Advanced algorithms will be needed to find, access, sort, filter and rank – positioning current leaders like Google well since they’ve been ranking and curating videos over other content for years.

The big question here is whether any sophisticated search results experience can trump the existing habit to scroll and swipe our way through visual entertainment cards. Realistically, only a few major players are equipped technologically or financially to take on integrated streaming TV search – Google, Apple and Amazon and maybe Roku. One FCC Commissioner against all proposals is calling this the “Myth of Universal Search.” The real win however wouldn’t be simply owning search results, but also monetizing them.

Paid Ads While You Choose

Make no mistake, paid ads in streaming TV search results will happen. Whether you actively type or speak a search phrase or whether you open your device to the default “implied” results, there is real estate to plant an ad. Amazon is already placing featured premium channel upsells next to regular programming. Everyone will be clamoring for those top spots. In lieu of optimization, your meta data will be better found by search engine APIs (sound familiar SEOs?) and paid ads will be the preferred method for most.

Lots of opportunity exists here for innovation – visual search, algorithms, voice, recommendations, personalization, and ultimately ads. But only 1 major player – Google – has an existing ad network it could easily connect to streaming TV, and AdWords is precisely what made Google into an $85 billion dollar company.

Looking Ahead

Marketers should revel in this integrated search proposal that opens up a world of new criteria that could be optimized. STBs will now have their own SERPs, with paid content and free content. Whether there’s an obvious paid/free demarcation like Google does now, or something more hybrid remains to be seen. Ultimately this may portend that final frontier where TV’s aren’t for just watching, but are simply screens where everything happens.

Finally, here are 10 bold predictions for the future of streaming TV:

STBs will be given out for free by major players like Amazon, Apple, Google and Roku
Adwords will fully integrate with streaming TV, while other major players will develop banner-like ad solutions or direct paid partnerships. Google will win.
1 player will dominate the streaming device share in the same proportion as Google now does with web search (~80%)
Total instances available may be the new “Links” – if a show appears in 24 different apps, it must be popular
Content in an App already on your STB will get priority over content within an App you do not have installed (user experience)
Featured Snippets-like data will be pulled onto results pages – think Google taking Amazon X-ray’s actor information and surfacing it in the results
Price will be a ranking factor, as well as HD over SD quality
Awards will factor in – from Oscars to independent film awards – and will appear as prominently as rating stars
Users will control more of their own personalized results through interactivity such as swipe left/right or “don’t show me this again”
In the end, even if the FCC doesn’t pass a plan, Google will find a way to find all content anyways"

#streaming #Amazon #Netflix #search #paidsearch #SEO #SEM #digitalmarketing #digitaladvertising

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Leveraging in your Influencer Marketing Strategy ", with more than 133 million monthly active users, is one of the hottest mobile apps for teens and emerging Millennials. As described in the iOS App Store, is, “the #1 music video community … makes it easy and fun to create amazing videos and impress your friends. Simply select a sound and start lip syncing! Anyone can be an awesome singer with!”

So, why should you as a marketer care about this app? With Twitter announcing that they’re retiring the Vine app, here at iProspect, we’re predicting that the influencers who are popular on Vine will migrate to, potentially expanding the app’s user base at a rapid rate. For advertisers looking to target teens and Millennials, has a lot of potential, just not in the traditional advertising sense. Instead, its potential lies specifically within the arena of influencer marketing.

Although’s mission is to be a social network, they are technically a mobile app. Currently there is no official paid advertising available. “Advertising” or “marketing” on the platform today is based on partnerships with influencers who post or share organically.

However, the platform is still social in nature and it is likely (and we are hopeful) that it will follow Snapchat’s lead and offer paid advertising in the form of insertion orders followed by the inevitable self-serve ads API option. Therefore, while we recommend that brands think about and plan for as a social platform where we can engage with influencers, we also advise brands to keep their eyes open for paid advertising opportunities, should they become available.

What is the value of today?

The app is wildly popular with teens with more than 133MM users (called Musers) on the platform today and approximately 13MM new users joining each month.

The best way for brands to enter the space now would be through influencer campaigns and sponsored posts, rather than running their own pages. (This is also how Snapchat first positioned itself for brands.) Coca-Cola was one of the first brands to begin using the app this way, working with popular Muser “Baby Ariel” to seed their #shareacoke contest. Musers were asked to upload a post with #shareacoke to potentially win a FaceTime video call with singer Jason Derulo.

How can you get started?

First, we ask advertisers to take a step back and evaluate their overall approach to influencer marketing.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who am I trying to reach?
What am I ultimately trying to get the consumer to do?
Who influences those consumers?
Where are those influencers exercising their influence?
What are the natural consumer behaviors that take place on those platforms?
Do they tie into what you’re trying to get the consumer to do? How will I measure success?
If doesn’t seem like the right fit, consider other platforms or outlets like blogs, Instagram, affiliate networks, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, forums, or others.

If, on the other hand, appears to be a viable option, the first step is to reach out to relevant Muser influencers.

Brands must contact Musers individually. Most influential Musers list business emails in their bios, giving brands and their agency partners an easy way to initiate conversation about a campaign. However, it’s also important to note that a few popular Viners have also made it big on Vine influencers such as @Lucas and Marcus, @ColeLaBrant, @CameronDallas should be accessible through Twitter’s Niche program, and it’s possible to have them create content through Niche and post to in order to reach desired fans. And with Vine now gone, we predict that will grow even more, and more rapidly.

While other brands have not been early adopters of the platform, the music industry is quickly embracing There appear to be direct partnerships between labels and in order to feature new song releases, create “challenges,” and otherwise promote artists and their songs. This usually requires the artist to post from an official account to kick off the challenge, again working in an influencer capacity.

iProspect's influencer marketing approach is tied directly to business objectives and is rooted in performance. If your consumer insights are telling you that this will resonate with your target audience, let’s connect on how we get your influencer marketing strategy into play.

Anthony LaRosa, Lead, Paid Social, also contributed to this blog post."
#DigitalMarketing #InfluencerMarketing #SocialMediaStrategy #Musically

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iProspect recognized as Bing Ads Elite Partner "We are thrilled to announce that iProspect’s longstanding, industry-leading partnership with Bing has taken another step forward. Today, as part of the expansion of the Bing Partner Program, Microsoft has named iProspect as one of a select group of top performing partners to act as trusted advisors to their growing customer base for search advertising opportunities with the Bing Network.

As an Elite Partner to Bing Ads, the world’s number two search advertising provider, iProspect will continue to enhance the expertise and service provided to clients through exclusive access to training, marketing and technology development.

iProspect has been a leading advertiser on Bing Ads since the platform’s beta test (at the time named Microsoft adCenter) was launched in 2005. Over the past eleven years we’ve been fortunate to work hand-in hand with Bing to jointly evolve the platform and advance the search marketing practice through joint thought leadership, co-presentation at industry events, and dozens of direct feedback sessions where we collaborated directly with Bing developers.

This recognition of iProspect as a Bing Ads Elite Partner is not only an honor, but also represents the commitment between our two companies. Together we will continue driving search forward as we move into an exciting future populated by voice search, personal digital assistants, bots, and shaped by the ever-evolving consumer search patterns.

Thanks for the past eleven years of partnership, Bing—we can’t wait to see what the next decade brings!"
#DigitalMarketing #PerformanceMarketing #BingAds
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