This blog is a modest small-tier blog. It does not get too much traffic (much to my chagrin) and therefore expecting the blog to monetize is too much. However, I have steadily written my thoughts and opinions on this … for the past 7-8 years now.
Looking at such a long time range allows me to study how blogging and blog monhersetization has changed over the years. Especially now with mobile form factors being the main devices that users tend to consume content with.
One of the major shifts in online advertising that I have observed recently is the rampant use of re-marketing campaigns of late.
What are remarketing campaigns?
I like to think of remarketing campaigns in the form of a popular ad campaign that Vodafone (then Hutch) ran in India.
This brilliant ad campaign that was run in India talks about how the network follows the user and ensures that the telephone network is always available to the end customer. Keep in mind those were the days when network connectivity was a major issue.
Re-marketing campaigns are very similar, instead of the network, its the ad network that follows and ensures that the user is targetting off different websites who are running ad inventory.
If done right, remarketing campaigns can be seen as a serendipitous, even.
For example, let’s say if I went to a Flipkart or Amazon to purchase a particular product, and then I added the product to my cart, because of that particular action, I could be included in a Remarketing audience, and this audience is then shown an ad across different Display Networks. One of the most popular display networks out there is the Google Display Network (GDN).
However, this is not the only display network, there are multiple networks out there who can provide the same facility to the marketer.
It’s all about the spends for Display Networks
Now, you have to realize that for all Display networks and even for Social Media sites, the primary revenue model is advertising. That means, they want to grab more and more wallet share of the brand. A few years back, Google was ruling the roost in India, however, Facebook is now giving Google AdWords a run for its money.
Therefore, whenever a new feature is available on one network, the other ad networks simply duplicate the feature. Did you know that at present if you wanted to run Remarketing campaigns you could do so Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube? The list goes on, and the ability to create Custom Audiences and Lookalike audiences is also available across all channels.
Simply put, all the old and new marketing networks out there are willing to provide the features that marketers need in order to target (and re-target) their customers.
So where does that leave us?
Over zealous re-marketing
It leaves us with a whole bunch of over zealous marketers who want to get in front of the user and keep bombarding him/her with their offers. No matter what.
Take this case, I recently visited a website that was being promoted by a known agency. I was doing a routine check of their tag implementation. Satisfied that most of the obvious issues were taken care of, I left the site. Notice, there was no purchase intent.
Now, everywhere I go, I am being bombarded with impressions of this site. On Instagram, on Facebook, on GDN. Cute, but am I going to click on the ad? Not really. Are these impressions wasted? Yes, on me, they are.
I never intended to buy!
Is such a bombarding of the user the only mechanism to deliver results?
So what can be done to make remarketing more effective?
As a marketer who is in charge of running these remarketing campaigns, there are a couple of things that you could immediately do to reduce the spends and therefore increase the efficacy of your campaigns.
Put a frequency cap on each of your creatives. If I am not going to click on your ad the last 20 times, theres a snowflake’s chance in hell that I will click on the ad the 21st time!
Create remarketing campaigns based on user actions on the site, and not just a blatant site visit. If I have done certain things on the site that indicates my intent e.g start filling a form, downloaded a brochure, done an add to cart, etc, then it makes sense for me to be included in the respective remarketing list.
Exclude the users who have already converted from your remarketing lists. If you do not do this, then the ads would also be shown to users who have already converted. Thereby wasting a lot of impressions. If you don’t do this, then its just plain lazy.
Plan your remarketing campaigns on paper first before, think through the entire process and then kick-off the campaigns. Most of the time, remarketing campaigns are launched after the firsst set of campaigns, since you need visitors to be included in your remarketing lists. That means, you have time to plan and think through. Don’t waste that time.
If after all this, your remarketing campaigns still don’t deliver results, do let me know!
After thought on Remarketing campaigns
In the day and age where individuals online are slow to wake up to concept of online privacy, we as marketers often don’t realize that remarketing campaigns being done to death can turn a meeting of chance into oh-my-god-the-brand-is-stalking-me kind of feeling.
The next time you are thinking of remarketing, do tone it down a bit please.
Google AdSense has been around for more than a decade and a half now, this along with DoubleClick for Publishers allows website owners to monetize their traffic.
One of the key challenges in this was to figure out the optimum ad placements without impacting readability and user experience of the site. This trade-off that the publisher had to do was to decide on the different ad slots to create on the web page, and then balance that with the Revenue Per Thousand Impressions (RPM) metric that the digital advertising industry is so familiar with.
In order to help publishers out, AdSense had experiments where you could test different ad layouts and figure out the best layout to monetize the site.
So what has changed now?
This is the applications of artificial intelligence which gives programs the ability to discover new rules and learn from experience without additional programming. So that means, for newbie publishers instead of having to figure out by themselves what ad formats work and what ad placements work for them, you can apply machine learning and let the platform learn on its own.
What that means, is that the publisher is now free to focus on content, and let the AdSense platform figure out the best way to monetize that content on the ad network.
With every new feature, comes a series of disclaimers. Machine Learning requires a lot of data to get things right. If you are a small site such as this blog, then it will take a long time for AdSense to optimally figure out the right ad formats and the proper ad placements.
Having said that, here’s a very simple way using which you can get started with Auto Ads in AdSense.
Setting up Auto Ads
In your AdSense console, in the Ads section you will now find a Auto ads menu item. Click on this, and get started with the setup wizard that’s present there. If you want to know how to embed the Auto ads code in your site, Google also has a helpful support article here.
That’s it! Once the code is setup in your website, you choose the formats you want to add (I chose everything) and let it run.
So far, the results haven’t been that great. However, time will tell if applying machine learning gives great benefits for the publisher.
What benefits should one look at?
Ultimately, it boils down to increasing the aggregate Revenues per thousand impressions metric (RPM). That’s what I’d look at, I would also look at the Click through Rates (CTRs) to go up.
India has the second largest online population (at 354 million), beating that of the United States (at 266 million). We are still miles to go from China’s 650 million.
However, with the largest population based in the world, and with the highest rate of Internet penetration in the developing countries, India is seen by many online businesses as the geography to target.
There are the naysayers and folks who debunk the entire populace as freebie seekers and saying that thirld world economies are not there yet. However, when it comes to e-commerce, India clearly has shown great traction.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is often becoming the de facto traffic generating mechanism for people who have the pockets. This, in addition to the fact that Google is really aggressive about its growth in the Indian markets puts Google Adwords right up there in the strategy of any digital marketing executive.
I have been working on the Adwords interface for the past 18 months or so now and get excited whenever I discover a new and useful feature in the web app. One such awesome feature is the single keyword bidding tool.
Where do you find this?
You find this feature in the Keywords interface of any campaign. Be sure that you have enough data points (works for a weekly period for most of my keywords).
The tool is only available if you are selecting one single keyword at any point of time.
There is a small bar graph icon for the keyword bidding tool, now simply select this keyword and view the bidding and competitors.
What can you do with this?
This data is good, but what can one do with this data? Well, this gives you a wealth of information –
How many people are you competing against (for eg. I did not expect ask.com to be running an ad on this keyword)
How are you doing vis-a-vis your competitors in SEM (yes, we are beating the crap out of the rest ;-))
The approximate budget spends of your competitors
A bit more research on the landing pages can help you identify what your competitors are doing right and you are doing wrong
This is one fun tool that the folks have Google Adwords have churned out.
Economics teaches us that when information is provided to everyone, then the wealth extraction within the market is at a maximum. The adwords bidding is one such great example, wherein me (and all my competitors) have the same access to data. The two players who will end up benefiting the most after the correct usage of this tool are bidders who take fast decision and Google.