What if we had a crystal ball that could reveal what our target audiences were really thinking, a tool that wasn’t skewed by bias or prejudice and would reveal our target audiences’ true priorities?
While this would undoubtedly make all our lives much easier, surely this type of tool does not really exist. Or does it? With its dominant position in the digital space, Google has been collecting user data over the past 10 years and has gradually begun to make it available to users, usually at no charge. These tools allow advertisers to see what keywords users are searching, what sites they typically visit and can help gauge interests over time.
When used as a complement to the research tools we already leverage for our clients, these free tools can provide both support for existing audience profiles and can provide new ideas and insights surrounding user behavior and interest.
Before We Begin
Before we dive into this world of mind-blowing insight, a few points of caution are worth reiterating to ensure the data are used properly. First, these tools are, more often than not, best used as complements to the existing tools we have at our disposal, such as comScore, Nielsen and Scarborough. Their information, while sometimes able to stand on its own, is best used to add additional insight to these well-known and respected data sources.
The data from these tools are best taken not from one, but from many of the tools. Each will provide its own perspective and view into search, and it is only upon the combination of these different perspectives that a comprehensive conclusion may be drawn.
That being said, please open your mind to the possibility that these tools might not reveal anything at all. Sometimes an audience is too small or an interest is too specific for any tool to reveal meaningful and useful data. So these tools are not meant to serve as silver bullets when other data are lacking. Lastly, the data gained from these tools might be too general or have too many possible interpretations to reliably present as justification when presenting a media plan. Knowing all this, let’s take a look at what Google has to offer.
AdWords Keyword Tool
The AdWords keyword tool is usually the first tool used by the Click Here search team in generating keywords for upcoming and existing campaigns. It provides us with recommendations, based on actual search traffic from Google’s network, generated from a smaller list of keywords that we submit. The main value in consulting this tool is its ability to not only provide ideas for additional keywords and research ideas, but it also provides valuable statistics for the suggestions it provides. For example, entering “summer lawn projects” calls up a list of related searches including “scotts lawn care” and “miracle grow fertilizer.” Besides providing some additional competitive information, these results also show that far more users searched for the Scotts term, which could indicate less interest in DIY projects. Give the keyword tool a try here: http://bit.ly/dkrMYM.
Google Ad Planner
Google’s Ad Planner is primarily an online display planning tool that makes available a wealth of user data that are searchable with a variety of different criteria. For the scope of this article, I will be focusing on the keyword feature, which allows you to specify keywords your target audience may be using and identifies websites they may be frequenting. Along with the suggested websites, the Ad Planner provides information for each site, including demographic data, reach and monthly traffic, that are all based on data from Google’s network. For example, entering the keywords “house painting” and “home improvement” will call up sites like acehardware.com and lowes.com along with useful data on each site. In addition to these larger and more well-known sites, the Ad Planner will also suggest smaller, more specific sites that might not show up in tools like comScore. By sifting through these results, you can begin to understand a bit more about the behavior of potential users in your target audience.
Google Wonder Wheel
While perhaps not as exciting as it sounds, the Google Wonder Wheel has stuck around for a reason. Found as a link at the bottom left of any search results page, it allows you to follow a logical line between search queries by showing you related keywords to one that you enter. The tool derives its name from the way this information is arranged, with your term in the center of the wheel and the suggested keywords as the spokes surrounding it. Clicking any one of the “spokes” will move that term to the center and show additional related keyword suggestions, allowing you to move through a logical sequence of potential keywords. In addition to providing these connections, it can also provide you with additional ideas for your research. Give the Wonder Wheel a spin from any Google search results page.
These are two tools that provide essentially the same information, so for the sake of simplicity, only Google Insights, the more robust of the two tools, will be covered here. Google Insights for Search allows for keyword search volume to be seen across time. In addition to showing trending data, Insights also allows for the customization of the time frame, geography and number of search terms plotted simultaneously. Keeping with the home improvement theme, entering “home improvement” in the search box shows a slightly negative trend in search volume for this particular term since 2004. Along with this information, Google also provides regional data on where the term is being searched the most, as well as suggestions for other terms that are exhibiting above-average search volume for the time period. Two useful applications of the Insights information are spotting seasonal trends and identifying regional-specific interest, which can be useful when crafting plans for clients that might not have a presence nationwide or are trying to reach a certain area of the country or world.
Google AdWords Placement Tool
This is the only Google tool that requires an active pay-per-click (PPC) search campaign and gives some visibility into where our ads are appearing on Google’s Content Network. These are listings that look just like PPC search text ads, but instead of being triggered by a keyword search on Google.com, they are triggered by site content that is contextually relevant to the keywords in our campaign. Information from this tool can be very useful in understanding, like Google Ad Planner, where the users we are targeting might be consuming content online. These sites may provide additional insight into the target or provide you with additional ideas on where these users can be found.
As mentioned before, these tools are best when used as complements since some of the data they provide can be difficult to interpret in a vacuum. By using the (mostly) free tools provided by Google and marrying them with other established data sources, you can gain additional understanding about your target audience that can help create and support better media plans. For additional information, please feel free to reach out to any friendly member of the Click Here search team.
As a Millennial, I sometimes have to fight against the stereotypes so lovingly bestowed upon my generation. Quite often, co-workers, clients and even my not-so-far-removed Gen X friends fall into the trap of quickly writing off my age group. In not so many words, we’ve been called a lazy, mush-brained generation that believes we deserve everything live-streamed to us on our iPads while we enjoy being served Four Loko from a silver spoon. Awesome mental picture, but it’s not true!
If you’ve read anything about my generation, you know that aside from being more “plugged in” and “digitally mobile” than any other generation group, we’re also very interested in being civically involved and like to support nonprofit causes.
A recent study released by the consulting firms JGA and Achieve found that, in 2010, 93% of 3,000 Millennials surveyed donated their time or money to a nonprofit organization.
Now, that’s a cool number, and I’m glad to see that my peers are supporting good causes. However, here’s a stat I found alarming:
Eighty-five percent of those who were not involved with a nonprofit in 2010 attributed “not having enough time” to their lack of involvement.
Not apathy, but TIME! “I swear I want to help someone, Nate – but I just don’t have enough time between work and friends and watching Netflix and laying out by the pool and catching up with ‘Gossip Girl’!“ Pweef – are we really that busy, or are those Boomers actually right about us? Are we just plain lazy?
Well, fear not, you technology-rich but time-poor Millennial! Below you will find a few useful services that have combined tech + charity in some pretty cool and innovative ways. So now you can become involved with a nonprofit without having to cut down on your monthly minutes at the tanning salon. Also, there are only five examples, so you still have time tonight to cruise YouTube for Rebecca Black parodies.
Support charity while supporting your shopping addiction.
Similar to Bank of America’s “Keep the Change” functionality, SwipeGood rounds up your credit card transactions to the nearest dollar and donates the spare change to the charity of your choice. There are currently almost 500 charities supported and more are being added frequently, so you’re bound to find a cause that will be worth your nickels and dimes. And in case you’re worried that you’ll accidentally blow your budget if you’re not watching your transactions, SwipeGood offers the ability to set a monthly limit.
Good for advertisers, great for charities.
SocialVibe bills itself as the leading social media utility that connects brands and consumers for the benefit of a charitable organization. Their platform is built on a pretty simple pay-for-engagement system where you interact with a brand’s advertising for a donation to charity – then you share with your social graph. It’s a dead-simple service that you can do on your lunch break or during Tuesday morning’s conference call.
A good reason for your tweets to stop being so lame.
HelpAttack! operates under the philosophy that giving back isn’t something we should only do when disaster strikes or when your company has their annual 5K – it should be ingrained in our everyday life. For many of us, our lives are just as much online as they are offline, so HelpAttack! allows users to pledge a small donation every time they update their social network. So with every scandalous spring break picture you post on Facebook or live tweet you send during jury duty, you can actually be supporting a great cause – one small donation at a time.
charity: water is a not-for-profit organization that sponsors clean water projects in developing countries. They are also an organization that supports grassroots involvement of its supporters to spread the word and garner donations. Their online portal makes it incredibly easy for one person to plan an event or campaign and encourage others to donate to it. Actually, just last month for my 24th birthday, I used this service to rally my friends to raise over $2,500 for a soon-to-be-built clean water project.
Do something productive while you’re bored on the Internet.
You’ve probably heard of this one before since it’s been around for ages – since 2007. FreeRice is a very simple online game that asks you to define a word for the chance to donate 10 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program. The sponsors of this program allow you to flex your brain while giving food to those who desperately need it.
So there you have it – five really simple, really easy and really great ways to donate your time or money to help a good cause. So you have no more excuses for not getting involved, OK?
Now be a good Millennial and retweet this article to all your followers.
Facebook Launches Groupon Competitor in 5 Cities
Facebook’s much anticipated “deals” platform has launched today in 5 cities: Austin, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco and San Diego. The new platform is not like the “check-in” based deals, but more of a Groupon competitor. Local offers will be sent via email as well as in the news feed.
We’re All Invited to the Royal Wedding!
Digitally, that is. Live-streamed on YouTube and the official royal website, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding this Friday is predicted to be viewed by 2.5 billion global viewers. Not only that, but fans are encouraged to follow along via every existing social media channel including Twitter (@ClarenceHouse) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheBritishMonarchy). This NYTimes piece succinctly states that “historians will surely look at this interactive, multimedia, multichannel, cross platform extravaganza as the melting point of private and public.”
Nintendo to Launch New Wii Console in 2012
Nintendo announced Monday morning that it plans to launch a successor to the Wii in 2012. Little is known about the new console, which is reportedly known internally as Project Café. The company will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo in June, 2011.
Storify Now Available to the Public
It’s getting hard to keep up with all the social media data around the latest events, but Storify aims to help people filter that data. Using the Storify Web site, people can find and piece together publicly available content from Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. They can also add text and embed the resulting collages of content on their own sites. During a private test period, reporters from The Washington Post, NPR, PBS and other outlets used the service.
Everyone seems to be buzzing about QR (Quick Response) codes these days, as they’re popping up at an increasing speed everywhere from Best Buy stores to fashion magazines. So let’s take a moment to review what they are, who is using them (both consumers and brands) and note some strategic recommendations for developing a campaign that includes this technology.
What Is a QR Code?
A QR code is one type of a two-dimensional barcode that anyone with a camera on their phone and the appropriate mobile app can scan and use to access data. Most often, this data gives more information about the product, whether it’s pricing, how the product works or any other relevant educational and/or entertaining information. They enhance the overall customer experience by enabling quicker and easier knowledge, while also increasing engagement with the brand. According to research conducted by MGH, they are most commonly seen on products, in magazines and on coupons. Here are two examples of 2-D barcodes: (1) integrated within a Richards Group print ad for Ram and (2) included next to a product tag in a Best Buy store.
While there have been more than 70 different types of tags developed, QR codes and Microsoft Tags are two primary tags to know about in this space. QR codes are open source and readable by all tag readers (including ones often preinstalled on Androids), whereas Microsoft Tags are proprietary and only readable by a Microsoft Tag Reader. However, Microsoft Tags offer rich tracking metrics, including location data, and can be customized to match your brand identity, like the one below for Dentyne Ice that incorporates their campaign within the code to attract users to scan and watch the witty video on YouTube.
How Many Consumers Are Scanning?
With all the hype around mobile scanning, it’s important to take a step back and note that according to MGH, 32% of smartphone owners have scanned a code, which translates to less than 10% incidence among all mobile phone owners. But with eMarketer predicting smartphone penetration to increase from 28% to 43% by 2015, we can expect scanning behavior to increase as well. Not surprisingly for a new technology, users tend to be more affluent, so the use of these codes in campaigns is best suited for brands that appeal to a more upscale, tech-savvy consumer. It’s also important to note that according to a Compete study, Android owners are the heaviest users of barcode scanning apps, so this should not be developed solely for the iPhone.
1. Provide a strong call to action with an explanation of the scanning benefits. Why should a consumer take the time to do this? What will they get out of it? This Home Depot print ad is a great example of doing just that.
2. Include (a) instructions on how to get a code reader and (b) the URL to the mobile site for consumers who do not have scanning capabilities (remember, more than two-thirds of mobile phone owners do not own smartphones).
3. Enable sharing capabilities. If you have people scan to watch a cool video featuring your product, why not encourage them to share it on Facebook or via email?
As someone who almost started a career in the magazine industry but was ultimately drawn to digital instead, it’s fascinating to see the two media intersecting as they are right now with this technology. True integration at its finest, and it will be fun to see it continue as consumer adoption increases.
Amazon Introduces Cheaper Kindle with Ads
Amazon has sold loads of Kindles ever since it decided to introduce a wi-fi only model and drop the price to just $139. Now, the company is taking its low-priced-Kindle initiative a step further by introducing on-screen ads to its lowest-price model, allowing the company to drop the price by another $25. The ad-supported Kindles will begin shipping on May 3.
Is Social Traffic Worth Less Than Search?
A new study by Outbrain shows that visitors to a website that come from search are more engaged than those that come from social media sites. Where most people that land on a page by clicking a link their friend posted leave after reading that one piece of content, those that are exploring through search are more likely to explore additional content.
A Search Engine for Online Ads
There’s been a high price tag on tools that allow brands to see competitive online ad creative and dig deep into online spending and planning strategies. Moat is a new free search engine without all the bells and whistles, but a focus on discovering online ad creative.
Groupon Acquires Whrrl Maker Pelago
Groupon has purchased Pelago, the parent company of location-based social app Whrrl, for an undisclosed amount. Whrrl will be shut down as of April 30th, though its CEO Jeff Holden said fans “would be right to expect that the ideas underpinning Whrrl and many of the inventions contained within may reemerge under the Groupon banner.” As part of the deal, Holden will oversee Groupon product development.
Google Gets Ready for Behavioral Ads in Mobile
Search giant and mobile ad provider Google is preparing to offer behaviorally targeted ads across its network of iOS and Android applications, as well as the ability to more accurately track conversions from handsets running on those platforms.
“Back in my day, son, we had to create all our wire frames in Visio! We had to link everything by hand if we wanted to create some kind of interactive version, or even hand-code them in static HTML…” – A 40-something information architect
Nowadays programs like Axure have made it incredibly easy to render small and medium-sized wire frame documents and interactive prototypes. While they can provide realistic, testable user experiences – there still are limitations, especially when creating a large catalog of pages or when the project has a quick turnaround time.
In Axure, the longer the list of pages, the longer the render time. One of our recent projects topped out at well over 100 pages. It took almost an hour to render a prototype. Even after all the work had been finalized and approved, the code Axure generated could not be reused by the development team. Developers still had to recreate the experience from scratch.
Recently, I was asked to create a set of wire frames and render a prototype for a client’s blog. There were numerous revisions to the documents, and development was left with a shortened timeline. For another client, I had to build an interactive prototype based on a 150+ page site map/content matrix. Axure was just too cumbersome.
So lately I have been experimenting with a new method of prototyping – building the prototype in the actual content management system (CMS) that my team’s developer will use to render the final version of the site.
For example, a client might use WordPress as the CMS for their blog/static page site. I simply created a default, grayscale template and built the prototype using a few additional plug-ins. Even if some pages will ultimately contain more robust toolsets, the page structures, template types, site map and naming conventions are already complete. Only the presentation layer, styles and additional features or custom scripting remain.
I’ve found this method superior for making changes on the fly while collaborating with clients. Change page order, move pages to another section, rename entire areas – no problem. Different navigation systems can be tested on the fly and rapid iterative designs are much more, well, rapid. And again, all of the code, databases and XML data can be reused for the final version of the site.
The primary benefit – time savings for both information architecture and development. The 150+ page site that might take several weeks to create in Axure took a few days. Still, I would not recommend this solution for every project. Axure is far more nimble for prototyping more experiential sites, and the supporting specifications generator can be easily printed for client and development review.
While the CMS method of prototyping has yet to be fully vetted and tested, several of my colleagues in development are eager to collaborate with me on this type of prototyping. I’ll post updates in this blog with a client-approved example later this year.
We’re always interested in hearing from talented people who are passionate about digital advertising. If you’re one of them, please let us hear from you.
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Digital Account Management (on site with client in Atlanta, GA)
Information Architect (freelance/temp-to-perm)
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As a copywriter, I try to expose myself to ads from all over the world. Brilliant ads. Ads that sell products in new and inventive ways. Ads that make me jealous. Ads that make me wish that I had come up with the idea first. The Internet makes it possible to easily share these advertising gems and see what the advertising landscape looks like beyond our borders.
I’ve found that lots of countries make wonderful ads these days, but as a whole, no country has a style quite as unique as Japan. By unique, I mean completely mind-bendingly insane. And I love it. The ads below illustrate my point.
Here’s a Japanese commercial for Dole bananas:
Hey, science, guess what? Bananas don’t grow on trees. They fly out of this banana-man’s nose and make sad people in parks smile. Awesome. And if that banana-man has a Facebook page, I’ll send him a friend request.
Even international celebrities have gotten in on Japan’s ad craziness:
Yep. That’s the governator’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) head exploding out of that woman’s hat to sell a Japanese drink. And once again, there’s maniacal laughter. Then the man who has seemingly never delivered a line with more than five words in his entire career busts out the drink’s tagline in Japanese. I think. Or maybe he’s yelling, “Get DOWN!”
So what can we learn from these Japanese ads? Well, I’ve seen similar ads featured on TBS’s “Funniest Commercials of the Year,” meaning that the humor does translate to our culture. Heck, Skittles recognized the power of crazy a few years back and has had the U.S. market cornered ever since. They’ve even taken their special brand of crazy and used it to create quite a social media conversation with more than 15 million of their closest Facebook friends.
Here’s an example of a recent interactive video they created:
It just goes to show that in our industry, inspiration can come from anywhere and when interpreted correctly can create a major impact for the brands on which we work. We just have to keep our eyes open and recognize brilliance when we see it. Arnold knows what I mean.
Cable’s Challenge Isn’t Retaining Customers
Online TV viewing and Netflix may be causing some current cable subscribers to drop their service, but the bigger challenge may be for cable companies to convince teens and young adults to become paying customers once they have the income to do so.
ESPN Brings Free Live-Streaming to iOS Devices
Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, and Verizon FIOS subscribers with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch can now stream ESPN on their iOS devices. By downloading the free WatchESPN app from the Apple App Store and entering your cable TV customer information, anything broadcasted on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, or ESPN3.com is available wherever you are.
Three Ways Companies Can Reach Generation Z
Most of Generation Z can’t yet legally operate a car. Born between 1992 and 2010, some can’t even use shoulder strap seatbelts yet. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t actively shaping perceptions about products and brands. Nearly half of teens who use the Internet buy things online, more than four in five will use social networks this year, and 96% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 will use the Internet at least monthly.
YouTube Opens Streaming Floodgates
Not ones to be satiated by dominating the world of pre-recorded streaming videos, YouTube took a big step forward this week with the initial rollout of its live streaming product, YouTube Live. The new service, starting to roll out with select YouTube partners, hopes to attract thousands of content creators with the capability to live stream from their channels in the coming months.
Last week, Facebook introduced Facebook Questions, a new feature that allows users to pose questions to both their friends and the Facebook community at large. At first glance, it looks like it could have been called Facebook Polls. When a user asks a question through their profile, the multiple choice question shows up in his friends’ news feeds, where they vote on the choices available. Once a question is asked, it can be passed around to other networks of friends.
Here’s an example of a question that recently appeared in my news feed from someone who is a friend of a friend of a friend (12 times removed):
The launch of this new feature from Facebook is the social network’s response to a growing trend of online Q&A services. Yahoo! Answers was one of the first, where users posted questions anonymously and were answered by anyone who was following the topic. More recently, however, start-ups like Quora have attracted millions in venture capital funding for putting their own twists on the concept.
What Facebook offers that these services cannot is a place where everyone’s friends are already registered. While third-party poll applications have been common long before last week, many users have been hung up on the “permission box” that requires them to give the apps an all-access pass to their information. Questions, however, is fully integrated with Facebook, and no permission boxes are needed.
So what does this mean for brands? So far, we’ve heard of three different ways that brands can utilize the new feature:
Learn from Your Current Fan Base
The Questions feature presents brands with the opportunity to gain instant feedback from their fans. While, of course, it would not constitute official quantitative results, using Questions on Facebook is a great way to get a quick gut check on their efforts. Here are some examples from a recent Mashable article of ways brands and organizations can use Questions:
Ice cream parlors can find out what the flavor of the week should be.
A gym can find out what time is best for its new hip-hop yoga class.
Radio stations can determine the hottest concerts for the summer.
Manufacturers can do a pulse check on fans’ holiday shopping plans.
Increase Engagement with Current Fans
Questions is also a great way to engage with your current fans when you’re looking for more likes and comments. If the question is interesting enough, you may attract a larger percentage of your fan base. And it’s easier than ever to interact with your fans now, since no additional applications or permission boxes are needed.
Promote Brand Awareness among Friends of Fans
The Questions feature can also be useful beyond your brand’s page itself. When a fan votes on an answer, it is sent out to his whole network of friends, who can then pass it on by voting themselves. As people continue to vote, your brand impressions continue to multiply.
As with any social media execution, there are best practices on how to achieve your brand’s goals.
Tips for Brands Using Facebook Questions
Be General When Trying to Reach Mass Audiences
What types of questions resonate most with mass audiences? Questions that anyone can respond to, where people are curious to compare their opinions with those of their friends. These questions are the most likely to go viral through friends’ news feeds and increase your brand’s online impressions.
Be Specific When Trying to Learn
On the other hand, when your goal is to learn about your fans as a form of market research, be more specific with your questions to get the most useful responses. For example, if a brand asks its fans how often they want to receive updates, it would be best served by listing a specific number of times a week, instead of “a lot” or “every once in a while.”
Don’t Make It Too Serious
Don’t solicit feedback that will be too serious or negative in nature. A question like “What can we be doing better as a company” is an invitation for detracting comments. While the answers could be useful, remember that this is a public forum, not a focus group. Honest answers may come with bad publicity.
Monitor Write-In Options
As with any ongoing social networking strategy, brands should be proactive in monitoring negative and obscene comments. While Facebook Questions lets brands choose which possible answers to include in the multiple choice questions, fans do have the option to write in their own answers. This option can be disabled easily, but at the expense of limiting your fans’ input.