The Digital Advertising Trend in 2016 That Will Mean Success

It seems that every day there is a new AdWords update, a new feature, a trend that you simply cannot go without. Of course, everyone has an opinion about the ‘right’ way to do things, the ‘right’ trends to follow.

The question remains, what is right? How do you succeed in digital marketing in this ever dynamic and constantly developing world.

With so many things being thrown at us it is getting difficult to work out what we should be doing. Added to that, chances are you are seeing the competition do one thing and you start to wonder whether you should get on that bandwagon.

What is the next trend you should jump on? Is there even one?

Google even understands that today there are so many new updates and changes that it has its own newsletter to sum up all its newsletters!

Here is the dilemma: If we get 5 best practice newsletters then what is the best practice? What do we tell our clients? What do we tell the marketing manager? Where does the budget go when there are so many factors to consider?

The big issue lies in how we have had search and AdWords drummed into us over the past decade. It goes something like this:

  1. People search with intent (generally because they have a problem that needs to be solved)
  2. You show them an ad that tells them how you can solve their problem.
  3. They click the ad and visit your website.
  4. They see that you have the solution to their problem.
  5. People buy.

We all like this process. It’s clean and easy to understand.

The issue is that it’s a lie. Only 1% of people would do the above. The actual path to purchase is much more complex.

How much more complex? The average number of searches a user needs to make before making a decision is now 12. 12!

The above 5 step theory worked well when there were only a handful of options available to the consumer.

Why doesn’t this work anymore? There are many reasons people don’t buy like this anymore. First there are a whole lot of people competing for the same space. More businesses are online selling products and services than ever before. As a consumer, it’s also far easier to do your research online, whether you are on a desktop, mobile, watch, mini iPad, normal iPad, bigger iPad, smallish iPad that makes calls and everything in between.

Both these reasons and many more lead to one thing; options. Lots and lots of options.

I can’t even look up “buy turtle enclosure” and get a straight answer as to which one I need. I get presented with at least 17 options within the first second of my page being loaded:

turtle enclosure options in google

Welcome to the Paradox of Choice

The issue we are all suffering from is what is known as the Paradox of Choice. This theory was developed by American psychologist Barry Schwartz in his book, aptly named: The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less. 

The basic thinking behind having options is that the more options there are, the more choice people have. Choice leads to freedom and freedom leads to autonomy. Naturally people with autonomy and freedom should feel more comfortable about the buying process and therefore can make better and more informed decisions.

What Barry Schwartz found was that it actually lead to the opposite. Due to the copious amounts of choice consumers now have, there has been an increase in anxiety around making a decision.

If you have 20 minutes or so I strongly suggest you watch the video below. If you don’t then save this page and definitely come back to it another time to watch the video. It’s absolutely worth the watch.

A similar conclusion was found by Sheena Iyengar from Columbia University where a stall was set up to taste test jams from Wilkin and Sons Jams, known for its elaborate and exotic jam flavours.

The first test was giving to people who had 24 flavours to taste. The next group, a week later, was given 6 jams to taste.

More people stopped to try the jams when there was more on offer however how many people actually bought was alarming. When people taste tested the 24 flavours and had seemingly all the jam options in the world, only 3% bought jam. Of those who stopped to taste test the limited selection of 6 jams, 30% of them made a purchase!

This goes completely against the theory that the more options you give people, the more likely they are to buy.

I’m sure you have experienced the sensation of sitting down at a restaurant and getting a menu that is pages and pages long, with hundreds of food options.

I’ve had this situation many times before and since there are so many delicious options I end up not really knowing what I want. I sit there and stare at this monstrous menu. I end up trying to choose between 3 dishes which I would like to eat equally. My only way out is to be put on the spot and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.. or toss a coin.

However put just 5 things on the menu and I’ll make a choice quickly, with little anxiety and in most cases am very happy with my choice.

This paradox is why the old 5 step system of digital advertising doesn’t work anymore. There are simply too many options and consumers are not inclined to make immediate decisions.

Imagine that was you looking for a simple turtle enclosure and got the results you saw in the example above? Would you go and buy straight away? No. You would naturally be inclined to do some research and try to work out which product is the best for you.

Armed with this knowledge, how exactly do you succeed in online advertising in 2016? You need to understand a few things and I will go through each.

Understand Intent – Source the long tail

You have heard about long tail before and how important they are for your digital search efforts.

We have found in our own studies that over 70% of conversions came where there were 3 keywords or more.

However most advertisers seem to be demanding traffic and exposure to broader terms simply because it ‘sounds good’. Such an approach is intuitive but counter productive and inefficient.

It’s understandable that if you are selling used cars you would want to appear for the term ‘used cars’. However with the laser targeted nature of our advertising mediums, namely search, this doesn’t make any sense.

It all goes back to the options that are available but also where that user is in the buying cycle. You have 2 things working against you:

  1. People are at the start of the buying cycle and are not ready to commit to making a purchase
  2. People are given more options than they know what to do with, so naturally they will need to research and refine.

Taking advantage of the long tail allows you to leverage two factors (position in the buying cycle and options) and use them to your advantage.

Further down the purchasing cycle, a more refined search such as “used 2014 Toyota Prado” is most definitely long tail. It shows us a user who is both at the end of their decision making process and who has already gone through many of the options. These are the people who you want to find and attract.

The big problem with long tail is that they are often very difficult to identify. There are infinite ways someone could type in a long tail term and different ways someone can phrase the sentence. This means there are thousands and thousands of relevant search queries you can tap into.

You don’t want to (and can’t possibly) figure out each and every one of them and the good news is, you don’t have to. Here are 3 simple ways we can identify long tail terms based on real data:

1. Search queries – When you are running search campaigns, keywords only really give you one part of the picture, especially if you are running phrase and broad match options. However using broad and phrase allows you to look into the search query data. Search query data defines exactly what people are typing in and will identify those profitable long tail keywords.

2. Dynamic Search AdsDynamic search ads are a great ‘catch all’ campaign you can run. Basically what they will do when run in conjunction with other search campaigns, is find queries that are relevant to your business and are not already being triggered by other search campaigns that are running. It effectively ‘catches’ traffic that is relevant but otherwise, you would not have received.

Guess what? A lot of the traffic it catches are those long tail queries you would never have thought of! Its a perfect way to identify long tail terms and in many cases can prove to be a profitable campaign.

3. Tools – Third party tools can be great for finding long tail keywords. Tools such as our favourite, SEMrush, can give you great insight on your competitors campaigns. However not all is what it seems with the information that they give you and luckily for those searching for the long tail, that’s a good thing.

Let’s do some research into the website I get the following results in the ‘Top Paid Keywords” section:

ameritrade top paid keywords
ameritrade top paid keywords
What we need to take note of here is that the ‘Keywords’ that we are given are not actually keywords at all. They are queries. If you dig deeper into the terms some of the ‘keywords’ are very obscure and of course, many are long tail. Again these are not keywords the company is bidding on, these are simply the queries that trigger the ads to show!
We can use these queries to start understanding more about how people search instead of guessing the keywords. This is a great way to expand your long tail keyword selection even when you are not running ads.

Understand Path to Purchase

Those that truly understand a users path the purchase will win. The long tail looks at those towards to the end of the path the purchase. However in many industries it may actually be too late to win a customer over that far into the process. There is a good chance that their purchase decision is refined both consciously and sub-consciously.

I have presented to advertisers and agencies over the years about paths to purchase and how important it is. The example I always come back to is that of Huggies.

What do Huggies sell? Nappies right? Well lets have a look at their advertising and website.

I do a search for ‘Huggies':

huggies nappies advertising

Looking at the above search results, if you have never heard of Huggies, you would be forgiven for not knowing what what Huggies’ core business is. Do they provide baby information? Pregnancy advice? Parenting advice? Nappies even?

Well we all know they do Nappies but why don’t they promote it? What are they doing? Let’s have a look at their website to get more insight:

huggies nappies website example

Again, very little mention of Nappies. So what’s going on?
Huggies are extremely clever in their marketing approach. They understand the paths to purchase, their users, the sales cycle. Their goal is to get in even before a couple becomes pregnant and nurture that person right through until the birth date and then after.
Naturally a baby will need nappies. After Huggies has done it’s nurturing thing, all the parents can think of is ‘Huggies’ so when they go to buy nappies there is only one brand top of mind.
Other brands struggle to even get an sniff in (no pun intended.. actually.. maybe) because the Huggies brand has been engrossed for close to a year or more with that person. Brand recognition and more importantly brand advocacy is through the roof and to so many loyal consumers, there is no other option.
Advertisers who can become the Huggies of their industry will win the digital race. Those that look beyond the sale and start the journey early and successfully nurture potential clients will win.
How you can ‘do a Huggies’
Huggies has obviously been around for a long time and simply having its brand awareness and affinity among your audience is not easy. Saying that there are ways to nurture your audience.
The first thing you need to do is understand them. Each industry will have a different path to purchase and knowing yours will be your first step to identifying the marketing mix that works best for your industry.
I have discussed paths to purchase in more detail previously however it is easy to do some research on your own industry as Google has already dug into the data for us. You can check out the customer journey to online purchase here.
Once you have a gauge of what the purchase path behaviour is for your industry, you can then start building your multichannel marketing mix that works best for your industry.
Remember when you are building out your marketing mix that those that think outside the box and ‘nurture’ the market best will win. This means that not only do you need to stay front of mind but you also have to be ‘go to’ for everything in your industry. Huggies is the go to for mothers. You are the go to for…

Staying front of mind and nurturing

You may understand the concept of marketing on multiple channels but what will actually work and where do the opportunities lie? I can’t say what will actually work as that is up to testing and measurement to define, however I am going to put together a list of approaches that I feel are cost effective and achieve nurturing and acquisition goals.

I will break this list up into 2 mains sections, nurturing and acquisition.

Nurturing refers to building a case and affinity towards your brand while acquisition refers to the sources that are more likely to lead to a sale of lead acquisition.

If you have used the Think with Google paths to purchase builder you will have noticed how it was divided into ‘more often an Assist Interaction’ and ‘more often the last interaction’. Well I’m just defining these as ‘Nurture’ and ‘Acquisition’.

Nurturing Phase vs acquisition phase

Nurturing phase options

This is where you need to nurture your prospects and get them to engage and ultimately love your brand. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this effectively:

1. Remarketing – The most obvious way is to stay front of mind by being there visually. People notice remarketing and although many have become accustomed to being followed around, it doesn’t mean its not effective.

The best type of remarketing is that which is not trying to gain the sale and can be found in the campaigns where the focus is on specific nurturing. Promoting a download of a document or whitepaper, a webinar, more offers or deals that related to that user and their behaviour.

Those that simply remarket with the same message to the same people will not succeed in this game. Targeted, specific and nurture focused remarketing is what will win and guide people along the path the purchase.

Word of warning: If you look at the paths to purchase data rarely will you see display towards the end of the spectrum. However understanding the onsite behaviour of those you are marketing to will enable you to gauge what part of the spectrum they have come from.

For example if someone has downloaded your white paper, been to your website 6 times and visited a product page several times is in the market to buy. However a person who just visited your website is most definitely at the other end of the spectrum and still needs nurturing.

Knowing user behaviour and where they fall in the spectrum is the key to successful remarketing. It may not always be a nurturing tool but it should never be a blanket one size fits all channel.

Koozai have a good post on the types of segments that you should consider when it comes to remarketing.

2. Content – I’m not talking SEO here or a traditional ‘content is king’ rah rah. I’m talking about content amplification and building your industry clout. Sites with great content have an advantage; they can be perceived as an authority.

Huggies are most certainly not the authority on how to get pregnant. An obstetrician/gynaecologist is most certainly a greater authority however in the online space it doesn’t really matter.

Huggies discuss issues and to most people, know considerably more than they do. And that’s the catch; they become perceived as the authority (rightly or wrongly) and users gravitate towards that. It builds trust and when people trust a brand, they are more likely to make a purchase due to it.

Creating awesome (not good but awesome! content) on a consistent basis will position you as an authority in your field.

Here is the catch with content, just having that content on your site isn’t enough. You need people to read the content and the fastest growing and ultra effective answer to that is content amplification.

Over the past 2 years we have seen an influx in content amplification networks that can effectively post your great content on authority websites, doing a lot of the hard work around execution for you. Outbrain and Taboola are a couple that spring to mind however there are others. Essentially they do the same thing and if you have great content and target the right audience then your nurture campaign can flourish.

Personally, I think these content networks are sleeping giants in the digital marketing space. Cheap clicks, super effective and a real challenge to standard display. The good news for advertisers is that its still relatively untapped however that will soon change. It’s time to jump on the content amplification bandwagon.

Social – Social is one of my favourite ways to nurture our audience. Very rarely will it fall in the acquisition section outside of impulse products or stuff that is heavily ambassador driven.

Social, both targeted and remarketed, can keep that journey flowing and consistent across channels. Social puts your brand in a comfortable and familiar market and associating your brand with friends, social events and interests is powerful.

Direct Display – like social, Display rarely falls into the acquisition phase of a persons purchase lifecycle. Also if you are not retargeted and going out ‘cold’ then it will most definitely fall very early on in the nurturing phase.

The great thing is that display gives you the ability to choose the direction of your nurturing campaign. You can build the nurturing campaign out using your chosen marketing mix and easily start that journey with display, driving big volume and relatively low clicks costs.

A lot of advertisers make the mistake of expecting great positive ROI from display advertising campaign however with all the bombardment of ads, options and the fact that user is not searching with intent, trying to convert this cold user is wishful thinking especially if you are not a well known or trusted brand.

Email – Email is the perfect nurturing tool, giving you the ability to contact users any time with any message you want. You can target the message based on that users behaviour and you pay pretty much nothing to do it.

I would put this towards the latter part of the nurture phase as in order to build the list, in most cases you would have needed to effectively execute the above channels. Play around with the ‘Think with Google’ tool and you will see in most cases, Email is in the meaty part of the purchase path.

Broad Search campaigns (non branded) – you re probably surprised to see search here however we know that when it comes to broad terms, we see less of a conversion rate and generally higher CPA costs. With CPC’s only going to get higher and higher it is misguided to think of search as purely and acquisition channel.

In some cases it is best to regard some of the more generic search campaigns as part of the nurturing phase. You may get sales and conversions out of it however putting it in line with the nurturing elements will be a better bang for your buck moving forward.

Acquisition phase options

With a solid nurturing campaign in place the acquisition phase is relatively bare. Why?
You have done all the ‘selling’ previously and in most cases the decision is made. However there are a few things that you can do to ensure you are not picked off by a competitor at the last second.
Remarketing – I mentioned this earlier and even though remarketing is effective in the nurture phase it can also be affective to deliver the final inspiration for someone to take action.
Understanding your user behaviour is the key. Knowing that someone has visited your product page 6 times over the last 2 weeks is invaluable information you can use to offer a discount voucher in your remarketing activity to finalise that sale.
Knowing someone downloaded your white paper and attended 2 webinars is someone who is close to the end of the decision making process. Your remarketing efforts should reflect the fact they are well into the information gathering and nurturing process.
Long tail and branded search marketing – As mentioned earlier the long tail queries are powerful in regards to acquisition. The volume may not be great however once you have nurtured your users and they do a long tail query then the only thing stopping that sale is a failed payment gateway! Branded terms will also be very effective in generating acquisitions and anyone running branded search campaigns can attest to this.
Even if you have not nurtured the traffic, long tail keywords will still lead to conversions however the likelihood of these acquisition will grow proportionally to the effort you put into your nurturing. With the nurture campaign you effectively negate a lot of the effect the Paradox of Choice has on your potential clients.

Understand your traffic

If you don’t understand your traffic then all the above won’t do you any good. Basic traffic measurement such as visits & cookie based conversions will only get you so far and doesn’t cut it anymore unfortunately.

Those that will succeed will understand their traffic at different levels. They will understand who the users are and what they do.

Who they are – Knowing who your audience and their specific demographic. With all the targeting layers available in Social and Display, knowing your best performing demographics will drastically improve the effectiveness of all your digital efforts.

demographic segmenting

What they do – Knowing what they do online at all parts of the path the purchase channel is vital to track. Simply looking at these with basic cookie firing conversions gives you a very limited and largely ineffective view of your traffic.

With the path to purchase becoming littered with interactions, an advertiser who wants to succeed in 2016 will need to understand all types of attributions.

First, linear and last attribution should be measured as a minimum. This will help you know where each channel fits into the marketing mix. It will also help you give clarity around what is working and what isn’t. With standard Analytics defaulting to last interaction, understanding each channel based on attribution will help define your marketing spend in an informed manner.

Then there are those who will go that one step further and look at understanding user behaviours within each site interaction, stuff that Analytics does not (and cannot) do. We are talking about user identifiable information and behaviour over time.

Analysis tools such as KissMetrics will help you understand what your users actually do and how they behave on your site at an identifiable level.

This means you can not only work out how they ended up on your site, but further to that, work out common patterns to identify the types of users and particular actions that are most likely the make a purchase. This will help you find activation points that lead to better results.

2016 is the year where advertisers need to understand their traffic in order to develop the best marketing mix possible. It’s the year where creativeness in the marketing mix will come to the forefront and brute CPC and dollar spend force will take second place to tactical and measured campaigns.

It is the year where nurturing will be key to de-clutter and cluttered and over populated market place. Advertisers will need to be loved and trusted more than ever before.