Omnichannel shoppers collide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, setting new records

Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to gain cultural significance across the US and the globe as shoppers and retailers deepen their relationships through enhanced technology, stronger/more personalized deals and a singular online-offline approach. As for 2017, all major metrics trended up, including click volume, mobile purchases, foot traffic and overall sales. Cyber Monday 2017 marked the biggest shopping day in US history, with over $6.59B in sales, including a record-breaking $2B in mobile sales.
Bing (my employer) also saw strong positive trends, with a YOY jump in clicks across Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the entire month of November. In the US, clicks were up 9 percent (cross-device) between Black Friday and Cyber Monday when compared with the same time period in 2016, and we also saw clicks up 12 percent YOY for the month of November. The rise in clicks is likely due to large retailers who extend Black Friday deals earlier and later — a

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PPC agencies will play these 4 roles when automation takes over

Earlier this year, I wrote about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are driving automation in PPC and then again about how Google’s latest wave of AdWords innovations is driven largely by these same technologies.
As the move towards automation accelerates, how should agencies and PPC managers update their strategy? What processes will they need to remain competitive? And what can they really expect from automation tools in the market today? I’ll cover all these topics in a series of upcoming posts, so I’d love to hear your ideas. But today, let’s begin by looking at what roles humans and agencies will play in PPC. .
1. Agencies will teach machines to learn
Now that machines can learn, they certainly will surpass humans, right? The reality is that machine learning is still very dependent on humans. We program the algorithms, we provide the training data, we even manipulate the training data to help the machine get it right.
Machine learning often

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Four brand-building activities that lay the foundation for SEO

At Google’s inception, one innovation differentiated it as a search engine: It used information gained from off-site sources to inform its estimation of the relevance, importance and quality of pages in its index. Originally, this source of off-site information was the network of links found by crawling the web.
Nearly two decades later, in 2017, with countless other rich data sources at its disposal, Google uses a more diverse and sophisticated set of data to determine just how big a deal you really are in the marketplace. In my experience over the past 10 years working in SEO, Google has always been pretty good at making this determination, and the signals have become harder and harder to fake over time.
At this point, the most efficient and sustainable path to making your company look like it is a significant player in the marketplace is to become a significant player in the marketplace. What does that mean for SEO folks?

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2-step methodology for dealing with PPC performance downturns

The most important thing I’ve learned from my 15 years of PPC experience is that sooner or later, account performance will take a downturn. When that day comes, we must be prepared to deal with the consequences of performance not meeting expectations. These consequences could range from stakeholders losing trust in your abilities to receiving ultimatums to “fix performance or else,” and worst-case scenario, someone else being brought in to take over the paid search program you’ve spent so much time and energy building.
Performance downturns can be very stressful and put you on the defensive. However, having a solid methodology for responding when performance is bad can help instill confidence that you have what it takes to turn a negative performance situation into a positive one.
This article discusses a two-step methodology for confronting underperformance in a way that helps you garner trust with your stakeholders and instill confidence in your ability to manage PPC accounts through the

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Are you changing keyword bids too often?

The AdWords advertising system utilizes an auction-like process to decide which advertisers’ ads get to show and in which order. By bidding higher or lower, you can appear at higher or lower positions — depending on what your competitors are bidding.
Account managers use many approaches for setting and tweaking bids over time, and bid optimization is one of the oldest features in the SEM software industry. Automated bidding can work great, but many account managers (particularly agencies and consultants) have neither the budget nor the inclination to pay for an additional system to help them manage their AdWords account, so often the account managers must set bids themselves, which can be a daunting task.
I recently audited a large enterprise account and saw that the account manager had been very busy making bid changes, every three days or so, for the same keyword in many cases ($2.00 –> $12.00 –> $8.00 –> $15.00). Frankly, it looked pretty crazy.

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Four key holiday paid search trends to keep an eye on

During the holidays, there are a million different data points advertisers can look at to see how paid search is performing throughout this crucial shopping period. Depending on business goals and the type of products sold, which of those data points are most important for a particular site can vary widely from one brand to the next.
That said, there are a few overarching trends that apply to many advertisers and which help to set the stage for performance expectations over the coming weeks. Here I’ll outline four interesting paid search trends I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Will Black Friday continue to close the paid search sales gap on Cyber Monday?
Black Friday is for doorbusters. Cyber Monday is for online deals. That’s the way this thing is supposed to go, right?
The lines are blurring on those distinctions, with Black Friday Google paid search sales growth far outpacing that of Cyber Monday last year.
Paid search sales growth from 2015

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9 reasons why search marketers have been at the cutting edge of marketing technology

As marketing functions increasingly rely on technology, Scott Brinker, aka “Chief MarTech,” laid out nine reason he believes search marketers are poised for leadership as marketing becomes increasingly technology-dependent in a keynote presentation at SMX East in New York City last week.
Search marketers, of course, employ any number of tools and technologies in their work, and the industry has spawned hundreds of products and solutions. Brinker outlined how the work of search marketers touches 22 of the 49 categories he has identified in the Marketing Technology Landscape infographic he has been compiling to track the growth in marketing technology companies.
Search marketers engage with the marketing technology categories circled in blue.
Brinker, program chair for the MarTech Conference series and editor VP platform ecosystem at HubSpot, highlighted the core functions of search marketing — testing, analysis, conversion optimization and so on — that encompass the overlap of marketing, technology and management.

With more and more companies creating the role of chief

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5 ways to sell more this holiday season with Google’s updates to shopping ads

With the biggest e-commerce days of the year just around the corner, it’s not too late to take advantage of some of Google’s newest ways to help you sell more stuff online.
Attract users earlier in the buying process with showcase ads
For consumers who are further along the path to an online purchase, Google is good for finding the best price and doing more in-depth research, but it traditionally hasn’t been the best place to help consumers make choices earlier in their decision process.
But with Showcase Shopping ads, Google is delivering a better discovery process for these shoppers. This ad format was introduced in limited beta in 2016 and is now available to every retailer. The idea behind it is that it allows advertisers to use a mix of lifestyle images and products to showcase its brand for generic e-commerce searches where ads for specific products wouldn’t be relevant.
Showcase Shopping ads allow retailers to promote their brand to

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The nitty-gritty paid search account health check: Part 2

Welcome to the second and final post in a two-part series about paid search account audits. If you haven’t read the first post, be sure to check it out here! Without further ado, let’s dive right into the good stuff — the remaining analyses standing between you and a perfectly manicured paid search account.
Keywords and negatives
Keywords are essentially the building block of your search campaigns, so needless to say, there’s always room for an audit. Here are some things to review:

Are there any keywords that are spending money without converting?

I look at this in different time frames, including the past 30 days or longer time frames, such as “all time,” because there could be keywords flying under the radar that may not be spending money quickly but that are slowly spending — like a small leak that can do damage over time.

Are there any keywords that are below the first page bid?
Are there keywords that haven’t really

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How to capture urgent leads with call-only ad extensions

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If you find yourself facing an overflowing toilet, you’re not going to deal with it from the confines of an ergonomic desk chair. There’s no time to sit in front of the computer and do your due diligence. Unless you happen to be deft with a plunger and a snake, you’re going to pull out your phone and look for a qualified problem solver as quickly as possible.
But what happens when that first search result is nothing more than a phone number and two disjointed phrases, an incoherent mess reminiscent of what’s clogging up your pipes?
You’re going to skip to the next item on the SERP in search of a solution.
If you’re the plumber, how do you fix this problem? How do you make sure the person with the overflowing toilet calls you and not your competitor?
Today, I’m going to dive into how the recent addition of ad extensions to call-only ads can help you

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