Norbella Event Recap: SMX West 2017

July 10, 2017


Norbella Event Recap: SMX West 2017


SMX West is a 2-day search focused conference located in Seattle, Washington from June 12-14.

This conference was a celebration of mathletes as we divulged into the ins and outs of all things Search Engine Marketing. Sessions were fast-paced and catered to a more “advanced” crowd of search marketing specialists.

Day 1 Summary:

Google/SEM Keynote Conversation:

Google & SEM

  • Session started with an open discussion with Jerry Dischler, Adwords’ VP of Product Management highlighting current market trends and the state of search currently. Explaining how “consumer demand and expectations have gone up in past few years, especially with mobile” Dischler walks us through the three primary areas of focus for AdWords in an attempt to react to these high demand consumer focused behaviors:
    • Audience Targeting – introducing new targeting methods and expanding on past practices
      • Users have more assisted experiences, better ads, and instantaneous access whenever wherever. For this, audience has become the most powerful aspect of search
      • In-Market Targeting: This will be introduced this coming fall in order to help ensure advertisers are displaying the right message to the right customer at the right time.
    • Mobile – improving experiences via AMP to reduce LP load times
      • Suggests 50% of users abandon a website with a loading time greater than 3 seconds – each additional second of load time adds a 20% drop in conversion rate
      • Amp allows advertisers to easily optimize from A/B LP testing and not worry about things such as Destination URLs
    • Measurement & Attribution – this is the year we move away from last click Dischler explains. Google has rolled out various attribution models however the focus of the coming year will be in particular the data-driven attribution (DDA)
      • Dischler emphasized the importance of new attribution measurement especially in this age of multi-channel data
    • Another topic with heavy emphasis was machine learning and where that leaves SEM “searchies”. Whereas in the past, searchies obsess over the high amount of control, moving forward we’ll focus more on the “inputs” of data and allow AI to produce effective outputs. Does this put us out of jobs in the future? NO! We will just see a shift in our overall approach. Things like:
      • Justifying marketing expenditures
      • Matching our audience with the correct creative elements
      • Shifting customers from poor to GREAT!


Bing & SEM:

  • Steve Sirich, General Manager and Marketing Sales Leader at Bing explained new products/announcements at Bing as well as things to look forward to in the future. Note: He unabashedly admitted to the “Fast Follower” role to Google, so many new initiatives are not so new to search
  • Bing and LinkedIn: Sirich explained although no specific announcements at this time, we can look forward to integration here and the future will be bright and ultimately, LinkedIn will provide more reach opportunities and a deeper understanding of audience across the two channels
  • Similar to Google, Bing highlighted major points of interest: Mobile and Audience targeting
    • Mobile – by the year 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected and 50% of searches will be voice-based. Sirich expressed opportunities in bots, conversational search traffic, and increased AI capabilities
    • Audience targeting is a main focus for Bing, piggybacking on Google with Custom Audiences and In Market search audiences
  • When asked the similar question if AI will take the job of SEM Marketers, Sirich felt strongly that search is the backbone of these technologies and we are the influencers who will lead the CMOs


The Mad Scientists of Paid Search

  • The panel began with pop tart slides and exciting conversation surrounding exact match cose variants. As a back and forth between phase-ins and phase-outs, Google recently announced in March 2017 the reintroduction of exact match close variants. The worry here? None! There don’t seem to be any large deltas before/after, except for tablet. But who uses tablet anyway?
  • The discussion continued with a new take on Search from a PhD Biologist perspective who also is searching to find the “signals in the noise”. We debunked causation and correlation in terms of drop in life expectancy in US around 1918. As most would guess the cause to be WW1 as the likely cause, further inspection into male vs female death rates suggested that men were not significantly higher, leading us to find a more likely culprit – The Spanish Influenza. When relating this to our SEM campaigns, we see the importance of going beyond our educated guesses and dive deep into scientific data to find our WHY?


Conversion Optimization: Turning Quick Wins Into Winning Streaks

  • In this panel we took a deep dive approach into proper testing and optimization practices that can drive to insightful and actionable takeaways. The first approach includes a six principles of optimization and growth:
    • Strategic Business Alignment: We must write down our business KPIs and objectives so everyone, EVERYONE is on the same page
    • “Culture of optimization”
    • Customer-Focused approach
    • Data driven research
    • Scientific testing process
    • High-velocity testing
  • Thus leading to a 5 step CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) process:
    • Step 1: Growth Plan – Clarify goals and map KPIs
    • Step 2: Strategic Assessment – Gather assumptions, run competitor analysis and find how we position ourselves against competition
    • Step 3: Conversion Research: done in 4 parts
      • Heuristic Analysis: Find what is broken – Where exactly do we test?
      • Quantitative Research: Analytics, attributions, DMPs, Behaviors, and insights
      • Qualitative Research: Understand the motivation, the WHY of the UX
      • Develop Hypothesis, and test!
    • Step 4: Roadmap Development: Aggregate data points by creating hypotheses and identifying key testing opportunities
    • Step 5: Iterative Testing – Pinpoint exact problem by testing specific reasoning
      • If the test fails, use this gained information to leverage additional testing!
    • In full, creating measurable hypothesis, and performing granular testing to very isolated variables, combining data driven results with contextual variables to find conversion growth in optimizations
    • We next heard from CEO of Conversion Optimization and AB Testing company, Invesp, who cited Google Adwords studies which suggest only 13% A/B tests succeed – 12 step approach on how to make these test successes:
      • Heuristic analysis
      • Qualitative analysis
      • Quantitative research
      • Competitive analysis
      • Identifying problems
      • Conversion framework analysis
      • Prioritizing problems
      • Creating a conversion roadmap
      • Creating a hypothesis
      • Creating new website design
      • Conducting A/B testing
      • Post-test analysis
    • The main takeaway from – Even a failed test is a research opportunity for the next test!


Taking Audience Targeting to the Next Level

  • Our panel discussion began with digging into the advanced targeting methodologies for GDN (Google Display Network) – the idea of going beyond the traditional site based targeting (showing ads on websites that share relevant keywords) and focusing on audience-based targeting
    • Digging into these advanced targeting methodologies we discussed creating audiences based on Placement targeting (specific websites you already know is relevant to your product); topic and affinity targeting; audience targeting to follow our specific audience around site; and in-market audiences to reach users ready to purchase
  • We then focused on audience based and the “march toward people-based marketing” and targeting people based on what we already know about through Google’s 2015 Customer Match audience type
    • Although restrictions are tight for customer-match (Privacy policy must disclose customer information is shared with 3rd party, audiences must be made up of at least 1,000 identifiable emails, and emails can only be obtained 1st hand by advertiser) gains are large averaging double the conversion rate at 1/3rd the cost
  • So how do we use this Customer-Match audience type? We discussed specific tactics to use Customer-Match to reach success
    • Gmail Sponsored Ads: target users who have “unsubscribed” from regular mailing list to continue to show up in emails; cross-sell or sell “add-ons” for example if we know the user currently has a checking account with our bank, send them advertisements to open our cash back rewards credit card
    • Adjust ad messaging: create audience-specific messaging as opposed to stereotyping demographics (recent study is 40% of women don’t relate to the women they see in ads)
  • Although Customer-Match reach is small (around 5% of advertiser clicks) layered with a more prominent audience targeting methodology like RLSA (accounting for 15% of advertiser clicks) leads to a powerful people based targeting mechanism
  • Our last panel discussion focused on the use of negative audience targeting in order to shape the desired audience – thus excluding our unwanted audiences (previous lead, poor site engagement, career page visits, and overall persona misfits)
    • This allows us as search advertisers to organize audiences in order of importance and exclude audiences down the hierarchy


Paid Search & Social: Twin Children of Different Mothers

  • The final session of the day focused on combining search reach with social reach to accomplish integrated wins between the channels resulting improved performance in regards of traffic, conversion rate at social engagement
  • We know there are positive cross-channel benefits between search and social, however, a discussed 7.9% lift in Google brand search impression peaking 3-4 days after a Facebook rush in the market
  • Using remarketing lists from social ads and layering these ads across Adwords accounts by leveraging sequential messaging allows advertisers to create a funnel within the low funnel world of Search
  • Jake Favaro from 3 Digital showed the relation between both paid search and social in how the drive traffic and efficiencies on mobile platform
    • Mobile accounts for 1/3 of spend for both search and social accounts, while mobile paid search returns an 11% lower ROAS from desktop while Facebook campaigns show 2.3x HIGHER ROAS than desktop
    • Catering remarketing lists with sequential messaging on these cross-device campaigns to make the most of the social environment while continuing to utilize desktop as key conversion drivers for paid search


Day 2 Summary:

Protecting Your Branded Keywords

  • It’s estimated that competitors running on branded keywords cost an average of 10% loss in clicks and a 20% increase in CPCs – so how can we fight back?
    • Enhance our list of branded keywords by including new combinations such as “brand +product name”, “brand +review”, “brand + discount”
    • Team up with partners & affiliates – identify small list of trusted affiliates and allow specific brand bidding while prohibiting other partners from doing so
    • File formal complaints with search publishes when competitors use brand terms in their ad copy and headlines


Powerful and Delicate Art of Targeting Individuals

  • The process of targeting individuals has evolved over time from Javascript to GTA – we are now in an era of restrictions imposed by search publishers to forbid advertisers from violating user privacy
  • In our multi-device world, the segmentation of our individual targets as cookies on desktops don’t necessarily equate to the same cookie on a mobile device
    • Around 65% of users start on a Smartphone while 61% continue on a PC/Laptop and 4% on a Tablet
    • There are three options to combat this cross-platform cookie problem in lieu of Google Analytics Data: Make a user log in; 3rd-party cookies like social plug-ins; and using existing data from marketing automation looks like Marketo


Winning Strategies for Amazon Marketing Services

  • After 2 days of conversations surrounding the advertising titans (Google and Facebook) we finally dipped into the “new kid on the block” and focused on the recently introduced Amazon Marketing Services
  • Amazon provides a variety of different services like Amazon’s general purchasing platform, Amazon Fresh, Prime Pantry, Loyalty program, and now their marketing service which drives traffic and captures engaged customers with highly targeted ads and is ran similar to a PPC campaign
  • Since Amazon’s Marketing Service is new to the market this is a good time to get it – competition is low (for now!) and CPCs are low to due bottom of the funnel searching
  • Remember! Relevancy is KEY for AMS so ensure product detail pages are optimized for search by focusing on the user experience


Welcome to the New Normal of Paid Search

  • Expanded text ads (ETAs) have officially replaced standard text ads (STAs) and have not yet yielded the 20% that Google promised us despite the increased character limit – once these STAs were removed from usage in January 2016 we can estimate that CTR has decreased
  • There are still ways for advertisers to increase this CTR, for example experimenting different language variants which when layered with geotargeting and demographic targeting can lead to a more targeted approach
  • In Google’s rollout with their new UI, they introduced more advanced Demographic targeting at the ad group level with added information of Household Income and Parental Status for Video & Display, as well as more advanced age targeting
  • The new Google feature to keep an eye on is customized ads for mobile devices with If functions which can work particularly well for remarketing audiences


After two long days of learning from other experts in the field the message was clear that search advertising isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

With the new people-based marketing focus, Google and Bing have introduced many new audience targeting strategies to help us as advertisers reach the right person, at the right time, with the correct ad messaging.

With many changes coming down Google’s pipeline, we should be willing and excited to test these new initiatives that paint a picture of our true audience that can and SHOULD be shared cross-channel.

With the new people-based marketing focus, Google and Bing have introduced many new audience targeting strategies to help us as advertisers reach the right person, at the right time, with the correct ad messaging.

With many changes coming down Google’s pipeline, we should be willing and excited to test these new initiatives that paint a picture of our true audience that can and SHOULD be shared cross-channel.