T3 Ways to Improve the Efficiency of Your Facebook Spend

By Wes Fossile, Associate Director, Client Growth, Varick

The appeal of Facebook as an advertising channel emanates from its simple, self-serve capabilities as well as it’s ability to granularly target audiences based on known affinities. That said, the simplicity and ease with which a brand can advertise on Facebook can be deceptive.

While Facebook positions itself as a “set it and forget it” platform, that doesn’t necessarily mean advertisers should be hitting the auto-pilot button on these campaigns. Here at Varick, when new or potential clients ask us to audit the effectiveness and efficiency of their existing efforts on Facebook, we typically uncover a great deal of waste. Here are three areas where brands need to be more diligent in their Facebook efforts.

 

Rethink Audience Network

When setting up a Facebook campaign, advertisers understandably gravitate toward the company’s “recommended” placements option. The problem with those recommended placements is that it disperses placements across the entirety of Facebook’s opportunities, and that includes Facebook Audience Network. Despite the relatively low CPMs seen through Audience Network, our audits typically reveal that these placements do very little to drive campaigns toward an advertiser’s goals. Brands need to be willing to switch off the “recommended” setting within Facebook and roll up their sleeves to focus on the placements within Facebook’s ecosystem that drive real results against their goals.

 

Move Beyond Standard Reporting

Of course, when you turn off auto-pilot to refine campaigns in a way that will improve results, you need to be able to truly understand where you’re seeing results, right? In this regard, Facebook’s default reporting settings can be problematic when trying to understand impact. For example, it is not possible to cut the data by age and gender while also diving into platform  and placement. However, it is possible to overcome these challenges by breaking out campaigns for the specific platforms you are running on. By easily labeling your targeting within your campaign naming conventions, you will be able to gain additional insight that would not be available otherwise.

Once you’re able to understand the results of your Facebook campaigns, broken down according to both placement and audience, you can then begin to truly optimize. With that in mind…

Get Specific with Optimization Efforts

On Facebook, we see far too many advertisers optimizing to engagement—likes, shares, comments, you name it. But if you optimize toward engagement, you’re not optimizing toward the audiences who are most likely to buy your product. Instead, you’re optimizing toward the small percentage of people who engage with everything they see on Facebook.

With optimization, as with placements and reporting, advertisers must resist the urge to fall into the tempting path of least resistance. Get down to conversion-level events. Understand where those most important conversion events are happening within Facebook’s ecosystem, and with whom. Be willing to get your hands dirty. Facebook is a powerful platform for advertisers, but the real competitive advantage on this platform belongs to the advertisers who are willing to switch off the auto-pilot.

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The Power of 6%: The Growing Importance of Paid Search

By David DeSimone, Associate Director, Client Solutions, at Varick

Recent claims by Google’s chief economist that search is “really a tough business” elicited plenty of industry eyerolls, including my own. After all, it’s hard to find much pity for a company that brings in $136 billion in revenue a year and clearly owns the paid search segment of the digital marketing industry.

Google’s desire to appear hard-pressed in the search world is understandable, given the growing anti-trust scrutiny coming its way right now. But from an advertiser standpoint, it’s worth taking time to better understand the reality behind today’s paid search landscape, as it has implications for how brands and agencies think about and spend within this important category. Here are three things to keep in mind:

 

6% isn’t piddly—it’s extremely powerful. 

Google’s economist justified his “tough business” sentiment with the notion that Google “can only sell 6 percent” of its search real estate. That seems to make his point at a high level, but if you dig a little deeper, it doesn’t hold much water. While Google might have us believe it’s just “giving away” 94 percent of its search real estate, that mere 6 percent it retains is everything when it comes to search. This is particularly true on mobile screens, where paid search garners more than half of all clicks. Overall, organic reach in search is at the lowest it’s ever been.

 

Google makes the rules. 

Also, keep in mind that if Google truly had financial troubles in the search realm, it could simply rewrite the rules. If 6 percent real estate monetization isn’t enough, there’s nothing keeping the company from increasing that to 9 percent. Rather, in 2016, the company killed off its right-hand rail inventory and hardly missed a beat. The company might make such moves as an apparent service to its users, but make no mistake: Google sets the expectations for user experience, and it does so with an eye toward the bottom line. In fact, after the search giant killed off its right-hand rail, other search engines eventually had to do the same, just to keep pace with the new user expectations that Google set.

 

The necessity of paid search is only growing. 

This all points to one overarching truth for advertisers: Paid search is becoming more important to brands’ overall digital marketing efforts. The rules of organic search—which Google also writes and can change at will—remain opaque. Organic SEO, while important, remains a long-term play that is a particularly hard nut to crack for smaller companies and brands. Although Google might have regulators believe otherwise, the world of search is becoming more and more of a pay-to-play proposition.

Competition for paid search placements continues to rise, as do CPCs. As the voice search and wearables markets mature, the search game will continue to evolve, and all signs point to it doing so in ways that favor Google’s paid search business.

Ultimately, search is not a tough business for Google. It’s a tough business for advertisers. It requires attention, expertise and—above all—continual investment. Are you planning and budgeting accordingly?

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Looking to Crack the Walled Gardens? Varick Gives Marketers an Unprecedented PowerPlay. 

By Jay Wolff, CRO, Varick

You didn’t have to be a hockey fan to appreciate the drama and tension that led up to last month’s historic Stanley Cup Game 7 victory by the St. Louis Blues, a team that had until now never taken home the cup in its 52-year existence as a hockey team. Similarly, here at Varick, we don’t think you need to be a hockey fan to appreciate a good power play either.

In hockey, nothing can drive a stadium crazy quite like a power play, which occurs when the opposing team loses a player to the penalty box, granting the other team a numerical advantage on the ice. In other words, a power play gives a team the ultimate opportunity to crush its competition.

For too long, our clients have been on the unfavorable end of a power play- operating with a player down if you will. Platforms like Google, Amazon and Facebook certainly offer a lot to marketers, but painting a unified picture across the three is still very difficult. I see our clients struggle to make a larger impact with their advertising dollars, get deeper, more meaningful insights, all while trying to outperform their competitors.

It’s time for Marketers to maximize their efforts across the big 3, and stop being at a disadvantage. Enter, the PowerPlay, our new service bundle that offers the unprecedented ability to combine buying, measuring and reporting across Google, Amazon and Facebook. Our clients gain the ultimate advantage by leveraging three powerful platforms in tandem, while their competitors remain locked into traditional siloed management of these vital tools.

Having the ability to drive more efficient spending, stronger optimizations, and better overall performance across platforms are what our clients have been asking for. By gaining a better understanding of the role each platform plays in performance, our clients are getting a true multi-touch optimization strategy. This means more accurate performance projections, more incremental conversion volumes, and the ability to optimize non-media-related conversions through organic activity.

With PowerPlay, Varick is fundamentally transforming the way that marketers operate within the digital ecosystem’s largest walled gardens. These days, advertising on Google, Amazon and Facebook is table stakes for most brands, with more than 70 percent of digital ad spend going to these important platforms in 2019. By uniting management of these platforms, PowerPlay enables brands and agencies to get more out of both their paid media investments and non-media activities. In addition to streamlining reporting across Google, Amazon and Facebook,

So tell me: Are you ready to capitalize on your PowerPlay? [Get in touch below!]

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Search Beyond Google: 3 Emerging Trends Every Marketer Should Be Watching

By David DeSimone, Associate Director, Client Solutions, at Varick

Given that Google maintains nearly 90 percent market share in this arena, I sometimes get funny looks when I talk to clients about exploring paid search opportunities beyond Google. “Why would I do that?” they ask. But search is far from a stagnant channel. How people search for information and products will undergo dramatic transformations in the coming 12-18 months. Let’s look at three emerging search trends that warrant close observation.

Amazon Rising

There are very few areas where Google has lost ground in recent years, but product search is one of them. Amazon’s ascent in the realm of paid search is just getting started. Advertisers should consider the following:

  • A brand’s existing keyword list in Google can translate seamlessly to Amazon. After all, people today are searching on Amazon the same way they search on Google—and that means unbranded as well as branded terms.
  • From a UI standpoint, Amazon remains in its infancy stage when compared to the buttons and levers Google provides to search advertisers—but that’s going to change. As Amazon’s UI catches up, the level of granularity available to advertisers will become borderline frightening.
  • Right now, Amazon’s search capabilities exist at the product level and are confined to its own site. But if Amazon decides to break the wall of user experience by drawing in third-party sources to assist people who doing higher-funnel research, that would be a (very plausible) game-changer for advertisers.

Bing’s Hidden Superpower

With only about 4 percent market share in search, Bing is disregarded by many advertisers today based on its lack of scale. But with 1.3 billion unique monthly visitors and a lucrative U.S. user profile (mostly people between ages 45 and 54, in households that earn more than $100,000 annually), it still warrants attention.

And then there’s Bing’s LinkedIn profile targeting. It’s always been hard for B2B marketers to distinguish professional interest from personal use or research inquiries within search. Bing’s LinkedIn profile targeting, though only in beta, solves for this by overlaying industry, title and company information over known searchers. For the right brands, this could be huge.

Voice’s Tipping Point

I’d be negligent to not mention voice when talking about search trends to watch. This is the area where I field the most questions but, to date, we have not seen brands embrace this medium in the same way they do with keyword targeting. Voice is still very much in test mode. But never underestimate how quickly these things can reach a tipping point. When voice search and shopping hit that point, the immediate spoils will go to the early adopters.

Without a doubt, Google still dominates the world of search. Brands must be there because, well, every other brand is—and therein lies the rub. It’s very difficult to get a leg up in traditional paid search through Google these days; it’s more about maintaining status quo. For those marketers looking for their next true competitive advantage, it can pay—literally—to think beyond Google.

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Digiday

How Amazon’s Sizmek Acquisition will Address its DSP Weaknesses

Over the pas several years, Amazon has been working to establish itself as a rival to Google’s dominant digital advertising business…

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Platform Watch: Amazon’s Latest Moves to Forge a Triopoly

March 2019 • Kait Boulos

Media platform conversations for the past decade have been dominated by two names: Google and Facebook, that infamous Duopoly. But recently around the same time, we’ve also started to hear a new name being whispered in these conversations: Amazon. Could the lurking giant really up its advertising game to become the third can’t-miss advertising play in the U.S. market? And if so, what does that mean for advertisers within today’s platform-centric world?

The past week’s headlines would suggest that, yes, Amazon is driving toward a Triopoly it can. And possibly faster than anyone expected. From an advertiser’s point of view, that’s not a bad thing. New points of entry to Amazon’s lucrative, well-known audience are welcome additions to the advertiser’s arsenal—particularly as it helps to disperse the overwhelming amount of audience control that resides with Google and Facebook alone. That said, it does require today’s marketers to expand their platform expertise beyond the now well-trod Google and Facebook interfaces.

On one hand, eMarketer just issued (another) upwards revision on Amazon ad revenue estimates for both past and future years. According to the research firm, Amazon ad revenue is expected to grow to $15 billion in 2020—nearly 10 percent of the U.S. digital ad market.

At the same time, Amazon is making interesting moves in the ad product realm as well. Just last week, the company unveiled Amazon Moments, a new venture that enables brands to reward customers when they reach certain milestones on their owned apps or sites. It’s an interesting spin on rewarded advertising that lets companies incentivize the actions that matter most to them (e.g., renewals, first purchases, etc.) by giving customers something they truly value (i.e., a discount or free item that shows up on their front steps in that well-known Amazon packaging).

Finally, it’s worth noting that Amazon’s moves into the Duopoly’s territory extend beyond traditional digital advertising. The company is also investing — and at last making progress — in the gaming world, with the recent unveiling of its New World multiplayer sandbox online game. Suffice it to say, Amazon has a lot of eggs, and they’re going in a lot of baskets.

At the same time, user attention is migrating away from Facebook, and Google is undergoing yet another brand safety crisis on YouTube. Increasingly, it would seem that the future of platform power extends beyond content alone (and the perils that come with it). Amazon gives us a glimpse of what a future platform titan might look like: one that goes beyond social media and entertainment to offer a unified platform that delivers complete experiences as its service.

As the concentration of power within the Duopoly continues to disperse, the need for both deep and wide platform understanding has become a top imperative for today’s media buyers. It’s a different world, and it takes a different kind of approach to drive brand awareness, customer engagement and revenue growth. At Varick, we are the Platform Media Experts. And we’re here to help.

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