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What’s New in AdWords Search Advertising (SEM): Volume 2

Have you noticed some changes lately in your AdWords account? If not, you’re in for a treat!  Google has officially started rolling out the new AdWords user interface, with confirmation that it will be available to all advertisers by year end. Here at True, we have noticed that this new interface has only become available to our larger accounts, while many of our smaller size accounts are still operating on the original interface.While Google has not provided any specific criteria on the order of how they roll out this new feature, it is safe to assume they are starting from the top and working their way down the ladder with regards to account spend.

For those who have not yet had the opportunity to explore the capabilities of this new interface, here are a couple features we have taken note of:

Call Bid Adjustments

Looking to drive more phone calls from mobile search campaigns? I know we are. Here at True, we have multiple clients with a primary conversion point being to connect with potential customers over a phone call. On top of that, Google cites that “on average, calls convert three times better than web clicks.”

The good news is that we now have more control over how frequently we want our call extensions to show up with our ads using bid-adjustments. They can be found under the new “Advanced bid adjustments” section at the campaign level.

Promotion Extensions

As the name suggests, this new ad extension gives you the ability to display a promotion within your search ad. You are able to set these promotions during an occasion such as a holiday or special event, or a specified date range you’d like to promote your product or service offering. Additional fields include “Promotion type” which is either a percentage or monetary discount, the item name that is being discounted and the “Promotion details” such as a promo code or order exceeding a certain dollar amount.

Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like:

This new feature opens up some exciting new opportunities to further entice users to click, especially within the consumer products industry. We expect this new feature will contribute to increased CTRs as other ad extensions have already proven to do, so stay ahead of the game and take advantage of these before everyone else does!

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Household Income and Parental Status Targeting

Google is making it pretty clear to advertisers that they are striving to provide the most extensive demographics information as possible to empower us to deliver the most personalized ad experience we can (even if it is a little creepy). This new reporting and targeting feature can be found under the Demographics tab, which summarizes this information in a clean format for advertisers to analyze and make adjustments on. While household income could previously be applied exclusively through location targeting on the previous AdWords interface, this new feature makes it much more applicable through bid adjustments and routine optimizations. Likewise, parental status demographics was also available on the previous interface, but only on the display network. With these new features, advertisers can now use this information towards search campaigns.

Here’s a sneak peek:

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What’s Next?

During the Google Marketing Next conference back in May, several announcements were made regarding additional new features being rolled out in coming months such as in-market audiences for search and Google Attribution, their newly developed product. While they did not give exact dates of release, it looks to be a 2017 update.

This is what we know so far, but keep a close eye on your accounts this quarter and let us know if you see anything new! In case you missed it, check out our AdWords Search Advertising Volume 1 and feel free to contact us anytime if you need help with digital marketing.

 

The “3 C’s” Toward Integration: Coordination- Part 2

Not too long ago, I introduced the “3 C’s” — as a pathway toward integrating communications, or at least realizing the benefits of integration. The first “C” is communication, where we reach out to one another to share information about our activities and solicit some feedback. The second “C” is coordination.

The definition of coordination is bringing into a common action, movement, or condition (slightly adapted from Merriam-Webster). I expand that definition like this: Coordination means mutual sharing of information that leads the parties to in some way alter that information, or its planned distribution. For example, you and I might discuss our respective goals and what we’re doing to fulfill them, and then alter our plans as a result of that discussion.

For example, at National City, we’d started communicating across our business unit silos, and realized that one of the units was planning a communication at the same time another unit had a major management announcement. In our discussion, the latter unit asked if the former could wait a couple of days to avoid conflict. That used to be a recipe for a turf war, but because we’d discussed the need to coordinate and agreed, the two units came to an agreement in short order.

That sequence got replayed a lot — the units would make a few changes to messages, timeline, or even audience to accommodate each other. It made for a much more harmonious team, but also made it easier on the audiences, who didn’t have to try and absorb multiple messages and priorities. It also had the ancillary effect of sharpening and making more consistent the business unit and corporate messages.

There were a couple of times when “corporate” needed to insist on changes, but prior to the onset of our communication meetings, we might not have even known something was coming from the business units, let alone have the chance to offer suggestions to better focus the messages. We also made our own adjustments from time to time — in particular, stepping in when a unit’s distribution got moved up and conflicted with our own activity.

That generated trust and credibility and permitted us to gain valuable visibility to an important business unit priority. Coordination is a logical follower to communication, and it sets the stage for the next part of our 3 C’s — collaboration.

Integrating Communications with the Three C’s: Part 1

There’s substantial scholarship in the area of integrated communications, both against it and for it. The thrust of the argument is whether all communication functions are aiming toward an eventual marketing outcome — driving sales. I’ve frequently said that all marketing is communication but not all communication is marketing, but that could be a style preference: for too many marketers, all stakeholders look like customers, and all channels look like megaphones — I don’t want to “sell” to employees, community leaders, governmental officials, et. al., nor do they want to be “sold” to.
 
I fully recognize the elegance of a unified approach to communication strategy. We heartily recommend just that, so that even if we’re not all in the same department, at least we can have common objectives.
 
There are many benefits to integrating communications, but actually pulling everyone into the same department can be challenging, and we have to guard against efficiency getting the best of tailoring messages and methods to our audiences (stakeholders) and business objectives. So how do we realize the benefits of integration without necessarily integrating?
 
I’ve got a process: The 3 C’s — Communication, Coordination and Collaboration.  I want to give each of these the appropriate amount of attention, especially regarding how you measure, so I’ll tackle the first in this post, then write some more on the others.
 
Communication seems so easy and basic, but it isn’t.  I’m aware of two organizations – large, global, complex — where you learn very quickly that the various communication functions aren’t talking to each other very much at all.  In particular, matters of budget, strategy and tactics take place in isolation, siloed-off from the beady eyes at “corporate.”
 
In short order, that leads to inconsistency in go-to-market (we can be consistent and still have appropriate tailoring), and lack of appropriate visibility and strategic alignment. At National City Corporation, a regional bank now part of PNC, we were in the thick of the financial crisis.  The communication team was distributed — a relatively small corporate department, with the business units (Private Bank, Corporate Bank, Retail and Operations) hosting their own departments.
 
Given the crisis circumstances (anyone remember 2008? Me too), we needed to speak with one voice, to provide leadership and strategic understanding, to know what employees and customers were talking about.  So, we instituted a daily conference call for communication leads across the company. We started discussing these matters — not with an eye to seize the conversation and dictate strategy, but to better understand the situation and provide guidance.
 
Within five meetings, our working relationships improved. Within a month, we agreed to meet in person and work through a strategic process to better align our groups. Three months in, we were able to cut the meetings to weekly, because we’d started cooperating on many communication opportunities.
 
Communication opens doors — but only when it’s done with a heart for authentic improvement and understanding, not power grabs and dictates. More on the rest of the 3 C’s in later posts.

3 Ways to Stay Productive at Work This Summer

Warm weather is finally here and with that comes all the joys of summer: BBQ’s, swimming, vacations, late sunsets, baseball games – you name it! But one thing that tends to creep up during this time is a lack of productivity at work. And can we blame you? Absolutely not. When the weather outside is beautiful, and yet you’re stuck inside behind your desk, it’s hard to stay focused. Follow these tips and you’ll be outside in no time!

  1. Take a Sunshine Break: We all get caught looking out the windows, especially in the summer. Try the 50/10 rule where you work on a task for 50 minutes and follow that with 10 minutes of a mental break. During that 10 minutes, you could go outside for a quick walk around the building and get a little dose of vitamin D. You wouldn’t believe how beneficial a quick outside break will be for your productivity and happiness.
  1. Drink More Water: The never-ending pot of coffee at work is a great perk, but the downside is that you’re probably not drinking enough water. Even if you’re only slightly dehydrated, it can cause cognitive side effects and mess with your work capacity. Try swapping out a few cups of joe for a big glass of cold water to stay hydrated and focused.
  1. Manage Time Wasters: We all check our phones and access social media sites constantly throughout the day. While it’s great to keep up with your friends & family while they’re on vacation, you certainly aren’t helping your productivity. If you don’t have the willpower to *not* check your phone, there are several tools that can help! Selfcontrol will block access to specific websites like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail- all set by you, for whatever period of time you think will be best for your productivity. And if that’s not enough, Freedom will disable your Internet connection completely for the specific time frame you choose.

If you find yourself staring out of your window at work more than usual, give these three tips a try to stay productive this summer. Have any tips that you’ve had success with? We’d love to hear them.

p.s. Team True is celebrating the summer with a Spotify playlist! Each team member submitted their favorite songs of summer for this epic playlist! We hope you enjoy it!

 

What’s New in AdWords Search Advertising (SEM): Volume 1

As digital marketers, we know so well that Google likes to keep us on our feet with frequent updates to their AdWords platform. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how vigilant you are when managing accounts. As a glass half full type of guy, I like to look at this as an opportunity to stay ahead of the curve and further optimize campaigns. Let’s take a look at two recent AdWords changes in 2017.

1. Changes to Exact Match

There was once a time when “exact” match keywords meant, well, exact match keywords. This is no longer the case. Back in March, Google announced that these match types will now be eligible to show for close variants including plurals, typos, abbreviations and adverbs. They can also ignore word order and function words such as “the”, “to”, “for” etc.

What This Means to Search Advertisers
This could be good or bad depending on how you look at it. One side might say this change is essentially giving advertisers less control over what search queries they would like to target, and as a result forcing them to be more diligent when checking their search terms report for irrelevant queries, and adding more negative keywords to compensate for the terms that otherwise would not have qualified for exact match.

On the flip side, this change could potentially open the door to missed opportunities. At this point, Google is very good at interpreting a searchers true intent. With that being said, a simple misspelling or word order could have previously hindered your ability to show up for exact match keywords that are highly relevant and match your intent. An example from Google is “men’s dress shirt” and “dress shirt men’s”. The intent of both queries is the same, and will now be treated as such.

The beauty of change in digital marketing is that everything is extremely measurable. As Google continues to roll out new changes, we will begin to see the implications they have on our accounts and how to properly optimize them with data-driven decisions.

2. Ad Rank Thresholds

For those unfamiliar with Ad Rank, it is Google’s method of prioritizing paid search results based on an advertisers maximum bid and quality score. What is a quality score, you ask? A quality score is Google’s algorithm that determines the relevancy of keywords, ads and landing page experiences. It also factors in click-through-rate (CTR), and is scored on a scale of 1-10. The higher your quality score, the lower your CPC. Here’s an easy example we like to reference:

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Source: wordstream.com

So, What’s This New Ad Rank Threshold All About?

The Ad Rank threshold is Google’s way of holding advertisers to a higher standard. As the total number of advertisers using AdWords continues to increase, we can expect continued quality control from Google to ensure they are providing users with the best experience possible. This means advertisers will need to meet minimum quality requirements in order to show on the first page of search results, making your quality score that much more important. Thanks, Google!

Another factor that comes into play when meeting this new Ad Rank threshold is max CPCs. As if increased competition in AdWords was not enough of a battle, there has already been speculation of this change leading to higher CPCs depending on the number of results matching a search query. Thresholds will differ by query type and can be weighted based on the number of keywords with high quality scores.

While Ad Rank thresholds are still rolling out, we can expect to see them take effect going into June. Keep a close eye on quality scores and average CPCs to find out if you’ve been impacted by this change.

Need help making sense of all this AdWords talk? Head over to our Search Advertising page and submit our contact form!

 

 

Internship Reflection: My Time at True Digital Communications

Today is our intern’s last day at True- and we can’t thank Bailey enough for all of her hard work the past several months. Here’s her reflection on her time at True!

Over the past 4 months, I have had the privilege to work with amazing people, clients and one very cute pug named Murphy. As the content intern for True Digital Communications, I learned more than I could have ever imagined. Believe it or not, as a True intern you are not sent on coffee runs or made to sort papers – although one day I did upload 1000 USB’s with marketing collateral for a client! At True, interns have the freedom to create content for clients, learn about digital marketing and become familiar with analytics. I was able to sit in on client meetings and connect with partners from all over the world. At True I didn’t feel like the intern, nor was I treated like one.  During my three days a week at True, although I wish it were more, I was not just an intern, I was part of the team.  

During my time at True, I learned not only about my profession but also a lot about myself. As a senior at Kent State, it was a very busy semester for me. Tackling 19 credit hours, my senior capstone, a job where I had to travel on the weekends and my internship, I was nervous that it would get overwhelming. I learned that having an internship you love made a busy schedule less stressful. I realized I love the agency setting. The upbeat ever-changing workload made me, a not so morning person, excited to wake up and go into the office. I learned that it is okay to mess up. This was my first real internship so there were times that I made mistakes. These mistakes gave me the opportunity to pick back up and try again.

I worked with a knowledgeable team who gave me advice and feedback on my work and offered me valuable tips about my future. I feel as if I have met lifelong mentors during my time at True. I have acquired connections that I will hold onto forever and each member at True has taught me something different. Whether it was a recommendation on an insight post, how to sort through data on an excel document or even where the closest Chipotle was – everything I learned in my four months was positive advice that will help me in my future.

Although my time here flew by, I learned a lot along the way and am thankful I was able to be a part of the True Digital family. I want to thank everyone for making me feel important and preparing me for my future ahead. Oh, and don’t worry, I’ll be back to visit. I’ll miss Murphy too much not to.

We’ll miss you, Bailey! Best of luck in all of your future endeavors! 

Meet True’s Summer Intern

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Meet Latisha, our new content intern for the summer! In this blog post, she tells us more about her PR experience so far, what she likes to do in her free time and where she sees herself in the future!

Name: Latisha Ellison

School: Kent State University

Major: Public Relations

Year: Senior

Other internship experience: Flash Communications, a student-run agency located in the Kent State University Communications and Marketing office. We write stories for the Kent State homepage and the faculty and staff e-newsletter.

Do you have any hobbies? Does trying different red wines and binging the latest Hulu original count?

What are 3 fun facts about you? I celebrated my 21st birthday in Barcelona.  I became an aunt at the age of 5. I’ve seen all three queens live, in person (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj).

What’s your favorite snack? Popcorn and M&Ms

What do you hope to gain from your internship at True? I hope to gain a better understanding of how an agency operates and a better understanding of how to measure social media’s impact on brand growth.

What made you interested in an internship at True? I knew that a lot of the focus is on digital communications (surprise!) and I want to learn more about being digital and to gain and expand on those skills. I also heard there was a really great collaborative culture at True, which is something I’m looking for in a company.

Where do you want to be in ten years? I’m a firm believer that no matter how hard you try, life has its own agenda for you, so I have no idea where I’ll end up. Hopefully I will be at a purpose-driven company working with a passionate team, and hopefully working with a local nonprofit in some capacity.

Welcome, Latisha! We’re so excited to have you on our team!

 

The “Marketing” Connection to Internal Communications

There’s a brewing problem in marketing, and the solution to it might be staring back at us across our desks at the office.

When you’re making a decision about a product to buy or service provider to hire, how do you do it? For years, if you knew someone who worked at the company, you’d ask them. Social media has expanded that network from your first-level contacts to people around the world. Sites like GlassDoor, Great Places to Work, Indeed and many others offer first hand reviews from the people behind the scenes.

In response to this development, some companies are trying to bring marketing techniques to bear. They launch campaigns to encourage social sharing by employees, going so far as to script tweets and Facebook posts. They might target specific sites and ask employees to write reviews about how terrific the company and its products are. This is a mistake.

The connection between “marketing” and internal communications needs some work. At a regional bank some years ago, we reported to the marketing department, and our principal internal client looked at a newsletter one day and exclaimed, “These are like, articles!” Patiently, we agreed. They indeed are articles, collections of sentences and paragraphs that inform, inspire and motivate. What she wanted were ads. Brand-connected images with cutlines, graphical illustrations…things that evoked mood rather than information.

We wound up somewhere in between, but the lesson I took away from that experience was that marketing and communications weren’t the same thing. Marketing is based on an exchange relationship – you give us money, we give you stuff. That dynamic lends itself to the high-visual, low-detail world of advertising.

But internal communications needs context and detail alongside the motivational, emotional feel of marketing.  That’s not to say it always is textual, or that it’s always lengthy. The sort of relationship IC is about is a communal relationship – the sense of getting people to identify with the organization, its mission, its vision and its values. When that sense of identification is well established, employees are more satisfied, happier at work and more fulfilled. They tell others. Organically.

Developing identification relies on building comprehension, understanding and commitment, and that means managers and supervisors play a crucial role. Manager communication effectiveness is highly correlated to those factors, according to research Dr. Julie O’Neil of Texas Christian University and I conducted a few years ago.

What marketers should be doing instead of thinking of employees as one more set of influencers to exploit is to partner with internal communicators to support managers and supervisors with solid tools, techniques and information to help them lead, guide and better understand their employees. Improving the communication environment will help expose issues and problems, develop solutions, innovate and generally make for a great place to work

If that happens, organizations will reap the rewards of a motivated, engaged workforce – which helps the organization win in the market.

How to Get Value Out of an Internship – Whether You Get the Job or Not

Are you a college student? Take a seat and let me tell you how it is.

Just some advice from the one that does the hiring. An interview is a great opportunity for professionals to not only get to know students, but for students to find out as much as possible about the company. Plus, just an interview can give you a gauge of whether or not you like corporate, nonprofits, agency or the other million options.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you enter a business, enter with confidence. You know who you are there to meet with, so show that. Also, dress professionally. I know True has a relaxed culture but I appreciate someone who comes dressed for the job they want. Work! Also, bring extra copies of your resume and work samples, but I’ll hit on that a little later.

My pet peeves that are a must from interviewees: Ask questions. Please, please, please ask questions. Some good ones are:

  • What is the favorite project you’ve worked on?
  • Have you ever had an instance that you didn’t know what to do or recommend? What did you do?
  • What is your favorite part of working at XYZ? What’s your least favorite?
  • What will I be working on?
  • Can you show me some work you are doing right now?

Bring work samples and extra resumes. Don’t just bring them but show them off! I want to see them but it’s also a bit of a test because I’m not going to ask you every time to see them. Work them into the discussion about your resume. Own it! Writing is key to any marketing, public relations and even analytics internship. Good writing is a lost art form and we want to see you can write to a key audience and know the right messages.

That leads me to one that may seem picky – but make eye contact. And act enthusiastic! If you don’t seem to care, I’m not going to hire you, because you don’t fit into True’s culture. Also, send a thank you. You pick the best way but I really love to get snail mail… (hint, hint)

At the end of the day, I have to tell people no. And that’s the no fun part. We can have 10 good applicants and interviewees but we only have one spot. Get the most you can out of an interview. If the interviewer tells you to keep in touch and follow-up for additional help or advice, do it. We don’t tell everyone that.

Keep in mind that someone telling you “no” is certainly not the end of the world so keep your head up, and keep on shining!

Conference Recap: PRSA Counselors to Higher Education

It’s my first PRSA Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit, and it shall not be my last. In my new role at True Digital Communications, I lead the education practice, so these are some of MY PEOPLE! It was terrific, and here are five reasons why, along with some commentary.

  • Some universities get the concept of integrated communications, and some do not. Marketing, public relations, community relations, alumni and internal communications should be working together more consistently. Common planning would help a lot, and it would make measurement easier. These things might be out of the communicator’s control – as with a lot of organizations, if you’re a member of the leadership team, you’re in better shape than if not.
  • Universities who feel unprepared for the coming communication convergence know they need help. Integrating comms can be controversial, so stepping through the process of opening up lines of communication, coordinating among the comms functions and collaborating as opportunities avail seems to be recognized as a path forward. We need to watch out for the belief that we, as PR people, are somehow above the marketing function. It’s true that we often have different objectives and audiences, but we also can play a vital role in improving advertising and marketing performance, and contributing to other university objectives. “All marketing is communication, but not all communication is marketing” is a truth, but that doesn’t mean we’re “better” than marketing.
  • Communication measurement is a continuing developmental need. There’s a fair amount of “output” measurement, but still a disconnect (with a few exceptions) with business impact measurement. Attribution of a “lead” is part of the problem. What leads came from comms and what from marketing? Why does that matter? We’re all on the same team, right? We hope we’re on the same team (see above…) Measurement is as much about improving planning as proving value — let’s have clear objectives for our measurement as well as for our programs.
  • Internal communication in universities is an increasingly pregnant problem. (Like it isn’t in other organizations? ROFLMAA!) But who’s responsible for it? Anyone? Anyone? The comms function should include internal in its planning – and find the faculty, staff and administration leaders to partner with to improve it.
  • Crisis preparation and response is probably the dominant issue universities are grappling with. Some universities have well-prepared, trusted advisors, and some neither. Crises occur, and yes, we have to respond. We also should do solid research (including environmental scanning) that help to identify potential crises in advance.

Good information, good discussion — good food and beverages! Thanks for making the True Digital Communications crew feel so welcome. We appreciate it!