The Whole Working-From-Home Thing

I don’t buy Apple products, but I’m generally a fan of their ads. Their newest video-ode to the “Work From Home” (WFH) culture is a sequel to their “Underdogs” spot from last year (see below). 

As a reflection of the 2020 working reality, the protagonist crew is collaborating remotely. This is a compelling product promotion couched in a character-driven story of our plucky (or not-so-lucky) coworkers against their nemesis, the dictatorial boss, as well as Mike from Finance.

And regardless of whether you’re an Apple fan or not, the story does a humorous job of highlighting how technology facilitates team productivity when working anywhere with an internet connection.

Critics of the ad harp on the representation of the oppressive corporate leadership that drives the plotline of underlings working to accomplish the impossible for the demands of an overbearing boss. But it’s so obviously presented as tongue-in-cheek that such reprovals are more reflections of the complainers’ sense of humor (or lack thereof) than a failing of the scriptwriters or those signing the video production paychecks.

Apple has once again established the makings of an entertaining series.

For further context re another of Apple’s humorous TV ad series, visit their “Get a Mac” campaign from 2006-2009.

Most businesses do not have the budgets to produce and distribute messaging on this scale, but Apple’s examples do serve to represent how creativity can make advertising more engaging.

YouTube Video Upload Specifications and a Bit of History

Uploading videos to YouTube is easier than ever, primarily because the platform accepts a great variety of video lengths, as well as the majority of video formats.

In brief, any YouTube user can upload videos up to 15 minutes long. However, users who have a good track record of complying with YouTube’s Community Guidelines may be offered the ability to upload videos up to 12 hours in length (or 128GB, whichever is less), as well as live streams, which requires verifying the account, normally through a mobile phone. This even includes high-quality video formats, such as 4K.

But it wasn’t always that way. Back in the earlier days of YouTube, only low-quality formats and shorter videos were acceptable. For more info on some of the history of YouTube video upload specification, scroll down further. For now, let’s get to the current specs.

Supported YouTube File Formats

A video file format normally consists of a container that holds video data, separate audio data, subtitles and additional information such as the type of video compression used. Technically, the last items on the list, DNxHR, ProRes, Cineform, HEVC (h265), are compression technologies (codecs) and not video container formats themselves. Nevertheless, YouTube includes them in the following list anyway, likely for simplicity’s sake, so we’re including them as well.

  • .MOV
  • .MPEG4
  • .MP4
  • .AVI
  • .WMV
  • .MPEGPS
  • .FLV
  • 3GPP
  • WebM
  • DNxHR
  • ProRes
  • CineForm
  • HEVC (h265)

YouTube Recommended Resolution & Aspect Ratios

‘Aspect ratio’ describes the proportional relationship between the width and height of video screens and video picture elements.

YouTube states that “The standard aspect ratio for YouTube on desktop is 16:9. If your video has a different aspect ratio, the player will automatically change to the ideal size to match your video and the viewer’s device.”

Hence, the following aspect ratios are all the same (16:9), which represents the shape of a high-definition TV. But the actual size (resolution) of the images are different, as depicted by their pixel lengths horizontally and vertically. A bigger image size is associated with higher quality video.

  • 2160p: 3840×2160
  • 1440p: 2560×1440
  • 1080p: 1920×1080
  • 720p: 1280×720
  • 480p: 854×480
  • 360p: 640×360
  • 240p: 426×240

The ‘p’ in the name, such as ‘1080p’ refers to ‘progressive scanning‘ to differentiate from ‘i’ (not recommended by YouTube) which means ‘interlaced video,’ usually associated with TV.

Following are how three of the above resolutions and aspect ratios relate to each other.

A Word on Video Length

How long should your video be? Just because you can upload a video to YouTube that is longer than 15 minutes in length, should you? The short answer is “it depends.” For more info, visit What’s the Best Length for an Internet Video?

Video Quality

Video quality means different things. For this paragraph, we’re not talking about the quality of the content or the quality of the lighting or audio or camera placement or how well focused the camera was or was not. We are simply referring to the technical quality of the video file itself. In brief, the higher video quality you upload to YouTube, the better quality available to viewers. But viewers will not necessarily see the same quality that you uploaded. YouTube will provide a level of quality appropriate to the internet speed of the viewer in addition to the size of the viewer’s screen. In other words, just because you upload a 4K video does not mean viewers will see a 4K video. For example, instead they may see a 240p video if that is most appropriate to their internet speed and/or size of their viewing device.

A Bit of YouTube History

YouTube was founded in 2005 by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, who were early employees of PayPal. The platform originally offered videos at only one quality level, displayed at a resolution of 320×240 pixels.

In March, 2006, a ten-minute limit was introduced after YouTube found that the majority of videos exceeding this length were unauthorized uploads of television shows and films.

On October 9, 2006, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in Google stock, and the deal was finalized on November 13, 2006.

In March 2008, a ‘high-quality’ mode was added, which increased the resolution to 480×360 pixels.

In December 2008, 720p high-definition (HD) support was added. Also, the YouTube player was changed from a 4:3 (standard TV) aspect ratio to a widescreen 16:9, which reflected the future of high-definition video and TV viewing.

In November 2009, 1080p HD support was added

In March 2010, YouTube began offering online streaming video.

In July 2010 the 10-minute video upload limit was increased to 15 minutes.

In Dec 2010, YouTube began allowing users to upload videos of unlimited length.

In October 2014, YouTube introduced videos playing at 60 frames per second, in order to reproduce video games with a frame rate comparable to high-end graphics cards

In March 2015, support for 4K resolution was added, with the videos playing at 3840 × 2160 pixels.

In 2016, YouTube discontinued the ability to upload ‘unlimited’ videos and instead limited the ability to upload videos up to 12 hours in length (or 128GB, whichever is less).

In January 2019, YouTube said that it introduced a new policy intended to stop recommending videos containing ‘content that could misinform users in harmful ways.’ This invoked controversy since is necessitates censorship in terms of what represents misinformation.

As of October 2020, YouTube is still the second-most popular website in the world (since 2008), behind Google. And of course, Google owns YouTube. So Google benefits from a large share of our planet’s search volume, which is what fuels their advertising revenue.

Video and TV Interview Tips

Getting interviewed as a guest on a TV talk show or a video program is easy, isn’t it?

You might think it’s the interviewer who has the tough job. The person asking the questions is the one that is supposed to be in charge and keep things moving along, ideally in an interesting fashion.

Well, there are a few things to know about being interviewed that can make you look better on camera. In fact, failure to abide by some of these points can make you come across poorly. (I’ve produced some programs that we ended up not broadcasting, simply because the guest violated one or more of these points and we didn’t want to publicly present the guest in an unbecoming manner).

8 Tips For a TV Interview Guest

1) The main point is being relaxed enough to come across naturally. That’s sure easy to say, but for some folks that’s their main hurdle. A good interviewer can help the guest be comfortable, but even so, some folks freeze when the cameras goes on. If that is a potential problem for you, one thing to do is put all your attention on the interviewer and focus on the conversation, which should help you ignore the cameras. If you are able to take a short walk before the interview, that can be beneficial. (However, be sure to coordinate with the Director or Floor Manager, as you may be asked “not” to go away if it’s too close to starting time.)

2) Knowing the material that you are going to be interviewed about is another way to support coming across naturally. However, even if you have a list of “talking points” from the interviewer beforehand, don’t try to memorize what you will say, which can make you appear stiff and unnatural. Just answer the questions as you would in a regular (off camera) conversation.

3) Related to the first point, even if you aren’t afraid of cameras, lights and TV studios, generally speaking, you still don’t want to look into the cameras when they are rolling. Simply look at the interviewer (and not the cameras) in the same manner that you would anyone else you were having a conversation with. Note: There are certain instances when a person will intentionally look into the camera. For example, the host of the show “may” look into the camera to speak directly to the audience at the opening and the closing of the program, but that generally does not apply to a person being interviewed. Even if that were desired for some reason, you would be specifically requested to do so. However, that would be rare.

4) The interviewer may have some notes to refer to during the discussion, but you won’t. Unless you are specifically required to cite some reference as part of your interview, don’t bring notes onto the set. The information you are imparting as part of a conversational interview should come from your head, not prepared notes. In fact, bringing anything on the set can be distracting to the audience. For that reason, even if you are the author of a book, which is the subject of the interview, in many cases it will be the person who is asking the questions who will physically handle the book itself.

5) Short answers are best. Even though you may have a lot to say in response to a given question, you don’t want to speak more than a few sentences at a time. This keeps the dialog going back and forth, which makes for a more interesting program for the viewers. Also, unless you are confident that your program is being produced for a specialized audience, you will connect better with more viewers by avoiding technical jargon, as well as avoiding terms specific to your industry. Use simple language that will be understood by a broad audience.

6) If the video interview is being conducted in your home or office, instead of a TV studio, you’ll want to use chairs that do not swivel. Interviewees, in particular, tend to move when they are uncomfortable and this is noticeable on TV.

7) Another point about interviews in a home or office is that it’s best to use a room that has as little outside light as possible. Unless the Director specifically prefers to have natural light in the background, it’s trickier to balance the brightness of inside lights with outside light. Furthermore, outside light (daylight) has a blueish cast compared to most lights used inside, which would also require added effort to balance for the camera and lighting crew.

8) Get plenty of sleep the night before, so that you are well rested. Also, have a good meal beforehand so that you are well fed (but don’t eat so much that you become groggy). You may also want to have water readily available so you can start the interview without being thirsty.

BONUS TIP! If you are able to interject some appropriate humor at an apt point or two in the interview, that will help make the conversation more enjoyable for the viewing audience. However, unless you are a comic, or are doing a comedy show, there is no need to go overboard on the humor.

For most interviews, the idea is to keep things light. This can help, at times, even if the discussion is about a serious matter. (However, “appropriate humor” is the operative term here as well as good judgment).

By the way, if you are interested in how to dress, you may want to check out this article on What Clothes To Wear For A TV Interview.

It’s worth re-stating that the main idea here is to present yourself on camera at ease and naturally, which contributes to the ease and enjoyment of the viewing audience.

Copywriting Guidelines

Effective copywriting equates to your “salespeople in print.”

“Print,” in this case, may be a direct mail letter, an advertisement, an email, or web sales pages.

Does your copywriting reflect an experienced sales pro who will close the deal (or at least lead to a prospect)?

With the advent of 21st century marketing technologies, some businesses get lost in the means of getting a message out, rather than the message itself. Now, like ever before, focus on ensuring your messages generate leads or sales.

Sure, you still need to respect the dichotomy of marketing speed versus marketing investment. But you can increase the return of your marketing investment via good copywriting and message testing.

One of the advantages of writing offline direct mail letters is the imperative to make every headline, every paragraph, every offer, every guarantee, indeed, every word pay off. Having spent a number of years paying attention to and testing every detail of direct mail letters has etched that in my marketing psyche for eternity.

“Testing” ever detail by mailing out letters in small batches, with different elements, and meticulously measuring their resulting performance while building larger and larger campaigns is a necessity in generating profit in the offline direct mail world.

Although this requires good organization and detailed metrics, time and time again I’ve seen its importance in making a profitable campaign much more profitable, and/or making a non-profitable test completely turn around to become profitable.

Email is much less expensive and even easier to test than direct mail, and yet, outside of the ranks of true marketing professionals, it is not as frequently utilized.

COPYWRITING GUIDELINES

Although not intended to be a complete overview of effective copywriting, the following guidelines should be included in the testing and refinement of your marketing campaigns. (Many of these points can be incorporated into articles and blog posts, as well).

  • Avoid dense copy. Sections with lots of words and very little white space are visually uninviting. Chop dense copy up into smaller sections.
  • The introduction of your message should be a short sentence: One or two lines at most.
  • Keep most of your paragraphs short, including one-, two- and three-line paragraphs.
  • Consider some one-line paragraphs that directly engage the reader’s attention, such as, “Have you ever had that problem?” Or, “What would happen if you tried this?”
  • Your copy should be presented in a way that a reader can scan your email or sales page and still get the message. This is accomplished by subheadings, underlines, boldface type and italics. Of course, effective use of hyperlinks also emphasizes certain text.
  • “Effective use” of hyperlinks needs to be carefully considered, as it can direct readers away from your sales message. On the other hand, adding hyperlinks that all lead to a shopping cart or sales page can result in increased response.
  • Use of bullet points and indenting is another way to break up the presentation of copy, add more white space, and feature important points.
  • Adding a “P.S.” is an effective way to summarize the most important points of a message, since more often than not, a reader who is scanning your copy will read the final “P.S.” (This is also another good place to include a link to your shopping cart or sales page).

Copywriting will make or break an offline marketing campaign as well as an email or online sales presentation or marketing campaign. Ideally, you would hire a professional copywriter to assure the best results.

Regardless of whether you hire a pro, or study further on the subject yourself, analytically testing and refining your copywriting elements will lead to better responses.

Isn’t that why you’re reading this?

Ten Lead Generation Models

Pay-for-Performance Video Advertising

Generating an ongoing flow of sales leads is the most fundamental component of marketing for every business that requires new sales to sustain itself and/or for established businesses that want to expand.

Lead generation includes any, or a combination of, the following:

Broadcast Advertising: Infomercials are a prime example here. Not only is an obvious product being sold, but that sale results in a valuable lead for additional and similar products. Such products may be sold by the same company and/or the lead may be sold to other companies that sell similar products. (Radio advertising would be another aspect of broadcast media).

Online Lead Generation: This is a very rapidly growing and evolving arena as new methods for online lead generation are tested and other ones are refined to produce greater results. Online lead generation includes pay-per-click models; search engine optimization activities; video marketing and advertising; downloading free (or paid) information in exchange for lead info; responding to surveys; registering for online services; webinars; in short, any way that you can observe or imagine how to inspire an individual to enter their name and email (or more info) online could be a component of lead generation. Some businesses may want to look into pay-for-performance lead generation opportunities, as well.

Direct Mail: Lead generation through direct mail still works today, even though, for those of us over a certain age, the amount of junk mail we receive each week has been reduced, primarily because of the rising mailing production costs. That means becoming effective at direct-mail lead generation can make or break a lead-generating marketer, since the costs demand critical attention to testing, comparison and refinement. In my opinion, this is a fantastic proving ground for the development of any marketer worth his/her mettle.

Event or Trade Show Marketing: This is a traditional form of formal and informal lead generation. The formal aspect of this is represented by all the ways that exhibitors desire to engage attendees at these expos. The informal aspect of trade shows is represented by the nature of many professionals who attend such conferences for the purpose of establishing new business leads through personal networking. And of course, nowadays, online events have become part of the lead-gen mix.

Seminars or Training: You name it, and there are entities who provide seminars and training sessions for popular subjects, such as health, finance, insurance, software, marketing, etc. The seminars may be low cost or free and/or may be an important revenue stream in and of themselves. But for many such activities they primarily exist to generate leads. In recent years there has been a trend towards greater use of telecommunications, which includes teleseminars, and webinars, especially as an important aspect of online lead generation. However, in this paragraph, I’m primarily referring to its more established offline activity which is still a workable lead generation channel for some markets.

Publicity and Public Relations: Getting people to call your business through mentions in the press is a very effective way to not only generate new leads, but it’s also a way to bolster each and every other method, too, since independent media lends greater credibility to your business. For some businesses, online press release services have become a primary driver of new leads.

Whitepapers or Product Literature: Requesting free information from a company is a classic lead generation strategy that has been prominent forever and is one of the earliest methods on this list that was translated over to the online world. Because it is so commonly utilized, it is most effective with significantly unique and valuable research and/or some very creatively presented information to make it stand out in your industry.

Email Marketing: Lead generation using email is still effective, even if somewhat less so than the past. When done well, it can be among the lower cost channels to identify and convert leads into sales. Of course spam is universally vilified, and we are not talking about that. We’re talking about email marketing, as a subset of internet marketing, whereby prospects are offered something valuable in exchange for their email address so that you can follow-up with them with more emails, about their interest and also advise them about your products and services.

Telemarketing: In the United States, telemarketing was restricted way back in 2003 with the opening of the National Do Not Call Registry, which gives consumers the opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls they receive. Regardless, the list only applies to residential phone lines and not business lines. As well, telemarketing can be conducted to residential lines for political organizations, charities, surveys, and for existing business relationships.

Social Media: Lead generation through social media channels is noted separately here, even though it is an online activity. Social media merits a special mention because social media channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., command such a large amount of Internet traffic. They have become a force independent of search engines and offer their own paid advertising opportunities. An important point to note is that for most businesses nowadays paid social media advertising is much more predictable at lead generating than just maintaining a social media presence and posting content.

Conclusion

Whether you are generating leads online or offline, the necessity for testing, monitoring, comparing and refining are the factors that will determine the best results from any lead-generation campaign or model.

Simple Email Lead Generation Flow Chart

There are many ways to generate leads. Heck, there are many ways just to take advantage of online lead generation, which is only one component of all the channels that can be used to drive leads to your business. (Check out Ten Lead Generation Models).

In the world of online marketing, incorporating email into a lead generation campaign would be considered a mature practice, since it’s been so thoroughly and routinely utilized going back to the 90’s. (I began my email marketing career back in 1995 and have never stopped.)

The accompanying graphic of a simple email lead generation flow chart depicts the flow of a stream of Internet visitors moving through a website, getting sorted into segmented databases and leveraging those databases to maximize marketing leads and sales.

Free Offer in Exchange for an Email Address

It all begins with some kind of offer – and it’s typically a free offer. This can be as simple as a free download that would be valuable to the targeted market segment. The download could be a PDF, or an audio program or a video, or even a multi-part email educational “course.”

The offer should be something desirable for your target audience. As an example, if you were generating leads to cultivate financial service clients, you would offer something of value to those types of clients. If you were offering leads to potential students for educational products or services, you would need something that specific target audience needs, and it should also relate to the product or service you are selling.

Regardless of what the offer is, it should be emphasized that it needs to be valuable. Over the years it’s gotten harder and harder to inspire visitors to part with their email address in exchange for downloadable information, and if what you provide is not truly deemed valuable by the recipients, then you will have lost the opportunity to convert those visitors into new customers. In fact, they might not be interested in anything you have to offer at any time thereafter.

Conversely, if you truly delight them with your offer, they may be inclined to consider that if you provided that much value for free, you’ll probably provide even more value for your paid products or services.

Do You Really Need More Info Than Your Visitors’ Email?

By the way, the more information you ask of your visitors, the less of them who will respond. Of course all marketers typically want as much information as possible from their potential leads, but that’s not always the best practice. In other words, if you ask for more info than their name and email (such as their phone number, and address, etc.) many visitors will decline your free offer.

It’s more acceptable to simply ask for name and email. Some marketers only ask for an email (and no name), knowing that the more visitors that they convert into their database, the more FUTURE opportunities there will be to get more contact information, and more importantly, MORE SALES.

Lead Generation: Quality vs. Quantity

Some marketers are willing to accept less potential leads, and instead, ask for as much information as they believe is necessary to qualify a lead upfront. This is simply a business decision. Do you want a larger volume of leads? Or do you want a more qualified stream of leads?

However, this particularly flow chart highlights a process that attempts to gain a higher quantity of leads AND a higher quality by guiding visitors through an initial two-step process. It’s simple and gives visitors more control over their experience while gaining more demographic information for the marketer.

More specifically, the initial offer in this example only requires name and email. However, once that is provided, an optional survey is presented, which has several qualifying questions, and also makes an optional request for a phone number. Since a visitor can choose whether to provide their phone number or not, most that do enter their phone number, can be considered to be amenable to a sales call. (Especially if you make it clear that someone will contact them if they leave a phone number).

By the way, if you want to make this simple flow chart even simpler, then the survey can be dispensed with.

Database Marketing

This flow chart represents a simple, rudimentary and initial aspect of database marketing. In this example, ALL emails that are exchanged for the offer go into a central “All Prospects Database,” and those that give their phone number are segmented into a “Hot Prospects Database,” whom are immediately contacted via telephone as part of a sales process.

Of course, not all the prospects that are included in the sales process will be reached by phone and of those that are contactable, not all will turn into customers.

However, by way of the ongoing email follow-up campaign, which integrates more information about the topic that is of interest to the visitors (as well as additional marketing email messages), these follow up emails represent the crux of this campaign as they can continue on indefinitely until the subscriber buys a product or service or unsubscribes from the database.

Bear in mind that most prospects will “not” provide their phone number, which means the majority of conversions from inquiries to actual hot prospects will be a result of the ongoing email marketing efforts. It is only then, after those who are reading the emails get to know your business better, that they will select themselves into the “Hot Prospects Database” by contacting you to ask questions or to buy your product or service.

And the best part is that the entire lead generation process is automated up to the point that prospects enter the sales process. (If interested, you are welcome to contact me about which email services may be best for your business).

Email Lead Generation Conclusion

There is certainly more that one can know about online email lead generation, including testing the offers and landing pages, testing which survey questions yield the best results in terms of prospect engagement and qualifying the leads.

Furthermore, there is more that one can know about tuning the variables of quantity vs. quality of leads.

And there is definitely more that can be known about database marketing and lead segmentation, especially as it relates to gaining more demographic information from your email database as time goes on and as your readers receive more of your mailings.

But this simple flow chart does serve as an example of one method that can be used to construct an email lead generation campaign to increase your business profits.

How the Google Search Ad Auction Works

If you’d like a simple introduction to how your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) money is spent via Google Search Ads, the above video will suffice. However, at less than 6 minutes, it can only introduce the basics. The following article expands upon the basics further but still stays within the bounds of an introduction.

Bear in mind that most of the PPC ads we see online are display ads and not search ads. They both have their place in the advertising world and it would serve you well to understand the difference.

SEARCH ADS VERSUS DISPLAY ADS

Display advertising is what most of us intuitively consider when we think of online ads. That’s because display ads are similar to all the offline ads we are bombarded with each and every day. We see ads on billboards, ads in store windows, ads in magazines, ads at bus stops and ads directly displayed on the buses themselves. And of course, ads pushed to us on TV and even prior to the start of films at our favorite movie cinema. Unfortunately, some of these ads may be completely irrelevant to our life.

When we’re online we see display ads on social media platforms, on news sites, on weather sites and on a multitude of other websites that we visit. These ads are also pushed to us.

Display ads can be text only, or they can be picture ads or they can be video ads. Regardless, all these ads are attempting to attract our attention and get us to click on them, so that we will be transported to their respective websites to “Learn More” or “Buy Now.”

Display ads are everywhere. However, you will see Search Ads only in one place: When you are searching for something via a search engine, such as Google.com. Hence, display ads are considered as “push ads” and search ads are considered to be “pull ads.” That’s because we pull search ads towards us when we are searching. More specifically, it’s the keywords we use when searching via a search engine that pull ads towards us.

For example, if you search for red shoes, you will see the natural or “organic” search engine results that pertain to your “red shoes” query. But oftentimes you will also see ads related to your search query. Per this example, you may see ads about “red shoes.” Sometimes you’ll see several ads at the top and bottom of the search results page. Sometimes you’ll see one ad. And sometimes you won’t see any. But whenever you’re searching for anything that has commercial implications, such as shoes, you are most likely going to see multiple ads.

It’s worth repeating that you will only see search ads when you specifically search for something online. And the ads you see will be pertinent to what you are searching for.

Generally speaking, search ads are more expensive than display ads, at least on a per-click basis, because they are better targeted and they produce better results. Although display ads have their place in the online advertising world and represent the majority of ads we encounter, for the purpose of this article, we are talking about PPC search ads and the Google Search Ad Auction.

Continue reading “How the Google Search Ad Auction Works”

Facebook showed this ad to 95% women. Is that a problem?

This video describes some aspects of Facebook’s targeting and artificial intelligence features that advertisers leverage when initiating ad campaigns. Which, by the way, could also be pertinent to other AI-based targeting on other platforms, such as Google and Amazon.

Although it’s clear that when an advertiser is indicating targeting preferences for his or her ads, the intent is to present those ads to viewers who are deemed to be the most likely to be interested. However, according to research from Northeastern University, Facebook sometimes displays ads to highly skewed audiences based on the content of the ad.

What we don’t know and what this video doesn’t explore is this: Are the biases in fact rationally or economically correct or incorrect?

In other words, even if the targeting selected by an advertiser is not designating a gender bias (for example), but the Facebook algorithms and data science determine that a specific gender is more likely to find the ad relevant, is that good or bad?

As an advertiser, I like the idea of generating better results with the lowest cost.

Google Ads Conversion Tracking

One of the best things about Google Ads is that you can launch a campaign today and see new traffic to your website right away. But it won’t take very long to wonder “What is all this traffic doing?”

Especially since the majority of traffic who might be buyers of your products or services, won’t usually make a purchase on the first visit.

Certainly, there is a large volume of data that Google supplies in your account dashboard (where the ads are monitored), including:

  • how many times the ads were presented (impressions)
  • how many people clicked on the ads
  • Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
  • Cost per Click (CPC)
  • overall cost
  • and much more

As valuable as all that information is, the standard dashboard data can only measure what happens up to the instant someone clicks on an ad.

Yet, if you’re not also tracking what happens after visitors click on your ads, who then visit your website, you’re missing some significant information.

For instance, the standard dashboard metrics do not tell you how many visitors did make a purchase. It doesn’t tell you which ad or keywords resulted in a purchase (or conversion).

The good news is that Google opens up the door to much more information about your advertising traffic if you’re willing to invest a little more labor into installing some tracking codes on your website.

Google provides a free tool called “Conversion tracking” for this purpose. Installing this code on your website results in an ongoing tabulation of what happens after a visitor interacts with your ads, which is vital towards improving the performance of your advertising.

By the way, the term “Conversion” is a general word to represent any number of desired actions that support your marketing goals. The first type of conversion that comes to mind for many would be a sale, or any type of product purchase. However, there are many other conversions, such as someone subscribing to your newsletter, sending you an email, requesting a proposal, asking for a quote, calling your business, downloading a white paper, downloading your app, etc.

Regardless of which business goals are important to you, any time a customer completes such an action it’s called a conversion, and it’s to your benefit to have this information tracked and tabulated in your Google Ads dashboard to provide important insights into your advertising performance.

For example, you could find that certain keywords are costing a lot of money, but are not resulting in conversions. Hence, you could reduce your ad costs and improve your ad performance by eliminating the poor performing keywords or reducing your bids for them, while also raising your bids on the keywords that are resulting in conversions, so that you can get more of them. In other words, the more money you bid on a keyword the more that Google may present your ads to searchers using those keywords. However, that last statement is an over-simplification. For more info on bidding, visit How the Google Search Ad Auction Works.

The bottom line is that whether you are managing your own PPC campaigns or having someone else do so, you should ensure conversion tracking is set up and operating correctly.

Consumer Purchase Decisions: The “Messy Middle”

How do you make purchase decisions? It may be similar to others, even if it’s not an identical process.

Surely, you’ll use the internet for research. You may look up articles, user reviews, product or service comparisons and visit brand websites. You may find useful info on shopping platforms and perhaps recommendations on social media. And once you begin this process, you may start seeing ads following you around the internet that relate to your recent search history. And let’s not forget about discussions you might have with friends, family, coworkers, etc., as well as telephone or text conversations with brand representatives.

The “Messy Middle” refers to all the various decision inputs and paths we take from the moment we consider a purchase decision to the final purchase itself.

Although the specific paths in the messy middle will vary for each person, the above video presentation from a Google researcher breaks all these possibilities down into two categories of decision-making: exploration and evaluation.

  1. Exploration represents an expansive activity of seeking more information.
  2. Evaluation represents a reductive activity of narrowing down potential choices.

These two modes of processing information are not linear. Consumers often go back and forth between both modes and may execute both modes simultaneously.

SIX TYPES OF PURCHASE DECISION TRIGGERS

There are many ways we, as consumers, make purchase decisions. The above video focuses only on the following six factors that influence our choices.

  1. Category heuristics: The term heuristics means, “a way of solving problems by finding solutions based on your own experiences.” This represents how online consumers will find what they’re looking for on the internet. The process is facilitated by marketers using online descriptions of products or services that relate to consumer search habits. This boils down to the use of keywords that convey the features and benefits of the product or service which are most meaningful to searchers. As one type of example, if you sell red sneakers, and consumers are searching for red sneakers, but you have your sneakers described as scarlet shoes, fewer of those searchers may find their way to your product.
  2. Power of now: The speed of response to consumer needs informs consumer purchase decisions. Fast delivery influences purchase decisions, even when there’s no clear need for instant service. In other words, if there is any way you can speed up the way you can serve consumers, it should benefit your sales.
  3. Social proof: This may be old hat for many of us, but recommendations and reviews from others can be very persuasive. Wherever possible, add testimonials from satisfied customers.
  4. Scarcity bias: As one of the oldest purchase triggers we encounter, some of us may like to believe we aren’t influenced by this. But research confirms that as the availability of a product decreases, the more desirable the product becomes to buyers.
  5. Authority bias: Persuading consumers to buy your products can be bolstered by an expert or trusted source supporting your brand. This is another oldie but goodie in the marketing world. As one common example, to this day celebrity endorsement are still a workable way to boost sales. What’s newer in today’s connected world is the use of online “influencers” to recommend products. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth testing.
  6. Power of free: As part of eCommerce best practices, the use of “free” is so ubiquitous that in some cases it’s become expected. As an example, for those of us over a certain age, “Free Shipping” used to be unique. Now, many consumers have grown to consider it a right. Regardless, a free gift with a purchase, even if unrelated, can be a powerful purchase motivator.

Again, these are not a representation of all purchase triggers, and not everyone will be influenced in the same way by the above points: but they are common. More importantly, these are points that we can control, as marketers.

The above video presents the results of experiments that statistically identify the weight these factors can exert on purchase decisions. Watch the video for the full report, but here are some practical takeaways.

The experiments showed that even the least effective (make-believe) brand, still won 28% of shopper preference from the established favorite when the marketing presentation amped up the decision triggers. In the most extreme case, a (fictional) car insurer won 87% share of consumer preference when reinforced with advantages across all six decision triggers.

SUMMARY OF INFLUENCING PURCHASE DECISIONS

  1. Ensure Brand Presence.
    The data supporting this point alone may be encouraging to those who feel balked when competing against formidable and well-entrenched brands. Yes, they have clear advantages, but the fact is, just showing up to the marketing party can be productive. New competitors routinely take business away from well-known brands, including from consumers who have built-in biases towards their first choice.
  2. Intelligently (and Responsibly) Leverage Purchase Triggers.
    Even the most experienced marketers can fall into a pattern of using what has worked well in the past, at the risk of excluding fundamental factors that may work well in the present. The above purchase triggers should be continually revisited with new marketing tests for your specific products and services as an ongoing process of marketing and advertising optimization.
  3. Respect the Messy Middle.
    Ask questions. Listen to your prospects and customers. Analyze any available data that pertains to how your specific customers make decisions. Use that information to better support those types of customer journeys. For example, are your customers commenting favorably on your product demonstration videos? Which of your videos are generating the most views? Which website articles generate the most readers? Why did customers or clients choose your product or service versus the competition? The point is to reinforce every opportunity at your disposal to help customers find and select your brand.

The advent of the internet and technology has opened up your products and services to a broader market than ever before. But of course, it has also opened up the same opportunities for your competitors. It’s easier than ever for consumers to find what they need and want to make purchases. It’s up to marketers to ensure their products and services are favorably considered by those same buyers.