The Funnel

This month in PPC! Top Headlines in November

A collection of the top PPC headlines that grabbed our attention this month.

The rise of the nanoinfluencers

The New York Times had a fascinating piece this month about the rise of nano-influencers.

Nano-influencers are people who have as few as 1,000 followers on social media, but are willing to advertise products on their social media accounts.

They have become attractive for companies wanting to push products precisely because of their lack of fame.

Compared to traditional influencers with followers in the millions, and micro-influencers with followers in the tens of thousands, nano-influencers often have little experience working with brands and are typically willing to agree to terms and conditions more favorable to companies.

Nano-influencers are also seen as being more authentic. A post by a nano-influencer can be hard to distinguish from simply another regular post among friends.

As such, nano-influencers have been shown to have better engagement levels compared to big name influencers, as the top segment of the influencer economy increasingly becomes saturated.

As the New York Times quotes: "There is such a saturation at the top...We’ve seen a real push to work with smaller and smaller influencers, because their engagement is so high and we have the technology to work with a lot more influencers now and track and measure what is and isn’t working."

At the moment, it seems these nano-influencers are an untapped resource in the digital economy. Companies are trying to snag them now while they are still cheap.

Instagram to remove fake likes and followers

Perhaps as a result of the rising popularity of influencers, Instagram is ramping up efforts to remove fake likes, follows and comments from accounts created by third-party services.

Instagram has long ago morphed into a platform for influencers to plug products in exchange for dollars. This has created pressure among users to artifically boost their Instagram profiles by adding followers, likes and comments. The more engaged followers an Instagram profile has, the more money people can charge per post.

The campaign to get rid of fake likes is Instagram's attempt to keep the integrity of its brand intact.

It follows similar actions by Twitter and Facebook to remove bots and fake news that damaged their reputations earlier this year.

Digital ad spend soars 23% to record-high $49.5 bln in H1 2018

Digital advertising revenues in the United States totaled $49.5 billion in the first half of 2018, up 23% compared to the same period in 2017, according to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers advertising revenue report released this month.

The near $50 billion digital ad dollars are a record-high and a testament to the growing importance of digital marketing.

The report singles out mCommerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands as fueling this growth.

Consumers are visiting brick-and-mortar stores less and less. At the same time, they are as willing as ever to engage with online-only brands.

Other key stats about the first half of 2018 include:

  • Digital video ad revenue grew 34.8% to $7 billion
  • Digital audio ad revenue grew 31% to $935 million
  • Mobile media spending rose 42% to 30.9 billion from $21.8 billion
  • Mobile search advertising increased 37% to $13.5 billion from $9.3 billion
  • Mobile display ad revenue grew 45% to $11.7 billion, making up 74% of overall display ad revenue
  • Social media revenue was up 38% to 13.1 billion

The report highlights one point very clearly: desktop ad revenue is declining at a massive rate. People are now switching to mobile, and this is changing their behavior online.

For example, new ways of searching for information have arisen, such as voice search and visual search.

Brands that adopt a long view should begin thinking about how to position themselves to attract search traffic with new technology.

You can read the full PWC report here.

Facebook in danger of repeating Yahoo blunder

A long piece by the Economist this month outlines the controverseries Facebook has had to face in 2018, including accusations of Russian meddling in the US 2016 elections, sharing the data of 90 million users without their consent and a data breach affecting 50 million users.

The Economist cites senior execs and industry analysts who say the company is in danger of repeating the same mistakes that Yahoo made in the early 2000s when the leading search giant threw away its leading position on the market to Google.

What problems is Facebook facing?

  • Executive turnover is high. Several top FB execs have announced their departures this year, including Instagram's founders, the co-founder of WhatsApp, and Facebook's chief security officer.
  • Employee morale is low. Facebook's negative press coverage is causing many employees to leave and work at less controversial companies. This may likewise force facebook to pay more to keep mediocre employees, putting further pressure on the stock price.
  • Usage numbers are down. Adults are simply not using Facebook as much anymore. Usage numbers have fallen 31% for Facebook among individuals over the age of 18.
  • Ads are becoming more expensive. Despite usage numbers falling, Facebook is raising prices for running ads on the network, which is annoying marketers.
  • Lawmakers are angry. Washington DC has accused the company of spreading fake news that significantly affected the results of the 2016 US presidential elections. Add to that the breach of personal data info, and the company is now as hesitant as ever with how it handles personal data. This could limit its ability to make money on that data in the future.

Advertisers face problems with Facebook's other businesses too, like Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. On Instagram users are increasingly using Stories over the Newsfeed which offers less opportunities for advertising. On WhatsApp and Messenger the company has been hesitant to introduce ads because fearing this could alienate users.

In fact, it was Facebook's plans to eventually roll out ads on WhatsApp that led to the departure of WhatsApp's co-founder.

All of these problems taken together are why Facebook is increasingly being compared to Yahoo.

Cyber Monday biggest shopping day in history - Amazon

Cyber Monday was once again the single biggest shopping day in Amazon's history, the company said in a press release on November 27.

According to the company, Amazon customers worldwide ordered over 18 million toys and more than 13 million fashion items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday taken together.

Other important stats include:

  • Small and medium-sized business sales grew 20% year-on-year on Black Friday.
  • Over 180 million items were ordered online on the Turkey 5, the five shopping days immediately preceding and following Thanksgiving.
  • Over 4 million toys were ordered on the Amazon mobile app on Black Friday.
  • The best selling products across all categories were the newly-released Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K and the Fire 7 tablet with Alexa.

Pay BuzzFeed to invent new products for millennials

"Companies make a thing, then tell media companies, ‘Please tell the world about this...It should work in a more collaborative fashion. We should say, ‘Here’s what we think the world needs. Can you make this?’"

Bloomberg ran a piece this month overviewing BuzzFeed's attempts to find new revenue sources in a digital ad world dominated by Google and Facebook.

Instead of companies going to BuzzFeed to advertise already existing products to millenials, BuzzFeed now tells you what kind of products its readers would like to have and which currently don't exist.

Several companies have used the service specifically to help their businesses cater toward millenials. BuzzFeed helped a plant-care giant create a product to get millenials gardening. The company helped a beauty company create lip gloss that was also a fidget-spinner toy.

The idea is brands go to BuzzFeed to help develop a product and then agree to spend money advertising on the website. Other online newspapers like the New York Times offer a similar service.

But BuzzFeed's young readership gives the company a unique window into the mind of millenials. And therefore the platform could prove attractive for brands that want to appeal to a younger generation of buyers.

Bing updates Expanded Text Ads

Bing made several changes to its ad platform this month. In particular, the search engine updated its Expanded Text Ads feature.

Expanded Text Ads now allow users to create longer text ads with the goal of improving engagement. An expanded text ad can now include up to three headlines in its title and two descriptions of up to 90 characters.

Bing releases Competition Tab

Another Bing Ads update included the release of a new competition tab that provides detailed analytics and insights on your competitors.

The competition tab consists of two sections. The first section is Auction Insights which give visualizations of your campaigns that you can then compare with your competitors. You can segment the data by device type, day of the week, or even hour of the day.

Once the data is filtered, you simply type in the name of a competitor and see how their campaigns measure to yours.

The second section of the competition tab is recommendations. Here Bing uses machine learning to suggest different ways to optimize your campaign to perform better than your competitors

Bing also added a Performance Targets feature this month designed to make it easier for you to track how well your campaigns and ads are performing. The Performance Targets feature lets you set weekly or monthly spending, clicks and CPC targets on groups of campaigns and create forecast reports to show you whether you are on track to meet the targets set.

Bing Ads Scripts to help automate repetitive tasks on your campaigns

Finally, in an attempt to make life easier for PPC marketers who waste countless hours performing time-consuming tasks managing campaigns, Bing Ads Scripts are now being developed to help marketers automate many of these processes.

Currently only a beta release, the feature will allow users to perform customized actions in the following areas:

  • Managing campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads
  • Monitoring performance metrics
  • Managing negative keyword lists
  • Extracting data with final URLs
  • Searching with filters
  • Making changes across multiple accounts at once.

Bing will also let you reuse Google Ads scripts by simply copying and pasting them.

Google releases new Smart Bidding tool

On November 15 Google released a new smart bidding tool called Target Impression Share.

The tool is designed to maximize the amount of search ad impressions you can get against your competitors. The tool will automatically set bids for you to achieve a defined ‘share’ goal. The tool is set at the campaign level.

This is Google’s first smart bidding tool concentrating solely on reach and awareness.

Instagram adds three new shopping features to target the holidays

In the run-up to the November-December holiday shopping season, Instagram introduced three new shopping features this month on its platform.

The first is saving to the new shopping collection allowing users to save an item to a shopping collection they can refer back to later after tapping a product tag in Stories or Feed.

The second is shopping on business profiles which will now display a shop button that users can click on to see all the products the business offers and details such as price, name, release date and more.

The third is shopping in videos which allows products to be displayed in videos. Customers can then click on the shopping icon that will show featured products connected with a video.