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WordStream has some impressive employees in our ranks: from industry influencers to marathon runners, from analysts to authors. The Employee Spotlight series aims to highlight the talented individuals who work here. Each month, we’ll be featuring an interview here on the blog and on our social accounts.

For this month’s Employee Spotlight, we’re featuring Ben Bernard. As a senior specialist on the Customer Success team, Ben works with clients on all things paid search. He also started PrideStream, an employee resource group here at WordStream with a mission to make our office a more inclusive environment for people who identify as LGBTQ+. We talked with Ben about his clients, PrideStream, grave goods, his tidy desk, and more!

How did you hear about WordStream? Why did you want to work here?

I was in the midst of job searching when one of my very good friends was in a management training class with our own Leslie Signor. She told me that she met this awesome person who worked at a company called WordStream. I helped start a menswear company, and at the time had been working there for about four years. I worked with the CEO on paid search campaigns a little, enough to get me interested in the industry. I have a liberal arts background, so I wanted my next job to let me develop a hard technical skill. I looked up WordStream and thought it sounded like a really cool place, so I ended up reaching out to Leslie and applying to work here.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I really enjoy working with advertisers. I love seeing the passion that they bring to running their businesses more effectively and more efficiently. Advertisers also have a lot more insight into what's important to them and what their goals are going to be. On the professional services team, we conduct at least an hour a month of consulting for each of the clients in our book of business. That means that we have a smaller book of business than my SaaS team colleagues. I’ve been here for two years now, but I still have a handful of clients who have been with me since I started, so we’ve gotten the chance to do a lot together.

What was your favorite class in school that you feel like you’ve used at work?

I studied anthropology and archaeology, so there's not really any direct connection I can make without really trying to stretch it. I loved exploring the connection between material culture of today versus material culture of the past. Grave goods was one of my favorite topics—I still find the items people choose to bury with their loved ones fascinating.  

Generally speaking, though, communication is huge in my job. Having an understanding of how people interact with one another and considering why they make the choices they do is extremely relevant. Being able to perceive how somebody will react or being able to have the foresight to predict how they might is incredibly useful. I believe I’m able to think more deeply on those things because I studied anthropology and sociology. This skill has helped me build and maintain positive relationships. 

What’s the best thing you’ve learned on the job?

Beyond learning the technical skill of PPC management, I’ve been able to hone my data and analytical chops. In my role, I’m required not only to collect and analyze account data myself, but also to break my analysis and my process down for my clients. I have no formal training in data analytics, but I’ve learned so much from doing it myself and being required to explain everything succinctly for my clients.

Ben with one of his clients, John Wolffe of Jennco Solutions.

Anything you’ve been working on at work that isn’t client-centric? 

Yes, I helped start PrideStream this spring, and I’m on the leadership board for this employee resource group, or ERG. Right around the time of the acquisition, we learned that Gannett had an ERG for their LGBTQ+ employees, and a group of us knew we wanted to start something similar at WordStream. SaaS companies can be comprised of mostly straight white cis men, which doesn’t always foster the most inclusive environment for people who identify as LGBTQ+.

We wanted to make WordStream a welcoming place for all employees, visitors, and interviewees, and our leadership team was supportive of that. Initially, we attended Gannett’s meetings to figure out how the group handled membership and meeting, and how they planned events. Once we were ready to start PrideStream, my co-leader Derek Smith and I approached VP of Customer Success Polly McIsaac to be our executive sponsor, and we met with Women of WordStream leaders for advice on running an ERG.

So far, we had a kick-off event with a screening of a video made by the Trans Literacy Project, we hosted a movie night, and we marched in the Pride Parade as a company for the second year—and the largest Pride Parade Boston has put on so far. Coming up we're hosting a book club discussion of Leah on the Offbeat and planning a speaker for National Coming out day on October 11.

What’s your workspace aesthetic like? Minimalist? Homey? Neat?

It’s pretty neat. I'm a Virgo, so I like everything in its place. I have a few fidget toys that I use when I'm on a call, but I typically make sure that they're back in their place before I leave.

I have a few different types of crystals on my desk for good energy—I like to also make sure that nobody else touches those so they don't absorb other people's energy. I also try to dust my desk about once a week to keep it sparkling.

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work each morning?

I turn on my computer, and then I say hey to Kelley, because she sits behind me and is usually in a little bit before I am. I really love the pod where I sit.  There's a really comfy chair that happened to land there when we moved seats last time, and it’s magnetic in drawing people in to talk about work or to chat about their weekend—it really runs the gamut from managers to new associate hires, too. Our pod is friendly place to ask a question or just take a breather.

The pod squad.

You need to put your head down and get some work done asap. Do you have a go-to song? 

I don’t really listen to anything in the office. My job is so collaborative, and I can learn something new just from overhearing people talk next to me. That’s incredibly valuable, so I don’t want to miss that. If I need to do work, I can focus on the task and ignore everything else going on around me. 

What’s your go-to lunch?

I have to eat at noon on the dot, especially because I don’t eat breakfast. I hate messing with my lunch schedule. Sometimes, I'll have friends who are at conferences in the area and ask to meet up for lunch, but I can’t do it unless they meet during my schedule. I always have a call at one p.m., and I typically have a call that ends at noon, so I have exactly one hour to figure out what I'm going to eat, go get it, eat it, and then prepare. Lately, I’ve been bringing lunch, which makes it a little easier. Last week, I made a big pasta salad over the weekend to bring in each day.

But if I’m buying lunch, chicken tenders from Star Market are my go-to. They’re so good.

What’s the first concert you ever went to?

I can’t remember my very first concert but I did go to a Taylor Swift concert that Bieber opened for. So that was a while ago! 

If you didn't work in digital marketing, what would you do?

Easy, I’d be a SoulCycle instructor.

What's your favorite thing to do to relax when you get home each night?

I change into athleisure right away. I like the transition out of my work clothes.

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Imagine this: You have a nice ecommerce store with your digital marketing efforts focusing on bring in new leads. Your website has clear calls to action with the occasional promotions to draw in new customers. You have active social media accounts that promote your brand story and latest products. You monitor your lead generation and conversion rates, optimizing for new customers to make a purchase.

You do all this so you can maximize your sales. But, in reality, you need to be thinking of the bigger picture.

The strategy above definitely works, but the issue with it is that it is only focusing on acquiring new customers. If you really want a more sustainable marketing strategy, you need to include your existing customers into the picture through loyalty marketing.

In this guide to loyalty marketing, I’m going to share what loyalty marketing is, why loyalty marketing works, and how to use this strategy to keep your customers coming back and to grow your brand overall.

What is loyalty marketing?

Loyalty marketing is a strategy that encourages your customers to do repeat business with your company again and again. Most often, these strategies involve incentivizing purchases and building up customer loyalty—but more of those specifics in a minute.

Why loyalty marketing?

Loyalty marketing focuses bringing back and retaining existing and past customers with initiatives and incentives—which is better for your business. Here’s why.

Customer acquisition is expensive

How expensive? According to Forrester Research, about five times as much as it is to retain existing customers!

According to data from Forrest Research, it costs five times as much to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones.

Think about all the steps you need to take before a potential customer decides to buy from you. You have to make them aware that your brand exists, tell them what you do, and explain why you do it better than other brands. Then you have to convince them to take the first step in checking out your website. Once they’re on, you have to impress them enough and provide a seamless user design flow to help make purchasing easier.

Now, imagine you were trying to convince an existing customer to buy from you again.

You could easily skip most of the steps where you educate them about your brand. Since they already know you and have first-hand experience with your products, you can just jump straight to giving them a good deal.

When comparing the customer acquisition cost, or CAC, of a new customer to an existing one, it’s clear than focusing on existing customers makes better financial sense.

Of course, a business cannot survive on just its existing customers. But that being said, if you don’t already have a solid customer loyalty strategy in place, we suggest you spend more effort thinking about it.

It’s easier to sell new products to existing customers

Engaging existing customers is not only cheaper, but also easier. Existing customers already have prior knowledge and experience with your brand, so it seems easier to convince them to buy from you.

And this has been backed up by data.

According to the book Marketing Metrics, the probability of companies selling to an existing customer is 60-70%. On the other hand, the probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.

Global research and advisory firm Gartner Group also released a statistic on customer loyalty that stated 80%of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.

These statistics show that customer retention is inevitable in the long-term profitability of your company and is something you should focus on right away.

How to use customer loyalty to grow your brand

Customer loyalty is tricky because customers are not bound by anything to stick with you. A loyal customer can jump to another brand for a ton of different reasons. Another brand may be more accessible, or they may just want to change and try out a new brand. Or perhaps there is a better promotion around the corner.

But there are customer loyalty marketing strategies you can use to make sure your customers are sticking around for as long as possible.

1. Solicit customer feedback

It’s normal in business for customers to come and go. But as marketers and business owners, our duty is to minimize the detraction rate as much as possible.

Before you try to retain your customers, you need to understand why they are leaving. And it’s important to ask the flipside of that question, too: Why are your current customers staying?

There are few different strategies to get your customers to give you this feedback.

Provide channels for feedback using social media

When customers use your products, they will have an opinion about it. The best way to know how they feel about it is to provide channels which they can use to inform you. These opinions can be helpful in different ways.

Some opinions can be potential reasons for them leaving in the future, or they could be feedback from experienced users on how to improve the product.

Nike is one great example. The company handles customer support and feedback on Twitter using a separate handle, reacting quickly to queries in real time.

Image via Twitter

Previously Nike Support, Team Nike handles all support tweets for the brand. The response is extremely quick, and it’s polite and professional. This reduces the affected customer’s frustrations, and the public medium encourages other users to approach them if they need to.

What’s great about Team Nike is how quickly and easily accessible it is.

Image via Twitter

Listening to your customers’ feedback is the best way to figure out how to improve your products. Since they use your products, they are in an even better position to provide feedback than you!

Most customers will not give feedback unless it becomes a problem, so always be receptive to the few that do. Their suggestions may just be the thing you need to perfect your next product!

Use customer satisfaction surveys

Social media channels like Twitter serve as an option that customers can go to when they need help. To gain better insight into how your customers feel, you have to be proactive in asking for it.

Customer satisfaction surveys are a straightforward way to collect feedback from your customer base. When sent at the right time (e.g., a few days after delivery or after commencement of a service), customers will not find it intrusive and will be ok with leaving a comment.

Airbnb sends out a request for customer surveys after a booking and promises it’ll only take three minutes.

Another example comes from an instance where a customer wants to leave. Email marketing service Mailchimp provides an easy one-question survey that you can send your customers should they decide to unsubscribe from your emails.


The most important thing when sending out survey requests is to keep the survey as easy and short as possible—only a few questions max and opt for multiple choice. Customers don’t really have anything to gain from this, so the least you want to do is make it a hassle for them to complete.

Ask for a review (especially for mobile apps)

You can also ask for a customer review after a transaction. Unlike most feedback or survey responses, reviews are public, so they help other potential customers with their decision making.

While negative reviews may deter others from buying, it’s important to be open to criticism and remain neutral when asking for a review. Few will trust a company that chooses to censor their negative reviews.

Some companies choose to incentivize customers who do leave a review. Apple does not allow review incentives for apps on iOS, as they feel it counts as review manipulation. While it does encourage people to leave a review, it is important for you to emphasize that they are not obliged to leave a five-star review to earn a reward.

You want to encourage your customers to leave a review, not necessarily a good one.

Blackbox, a mobile game on iOS, used incentives and cute copy to encourage users to leave a review.

It did remove the incentives after Apple made a stand against it, but this is nonetheless still a good example of how to ask for reviews.

The most important thing about asking for reviews is when you are asking. You want to give your customers enough time to have familiarized themselves with the product or service. In the case of a mobile app, you also want to make sure you do not ask it when they are in the middle of something important.

2. Celebrate your most loyal customers on social media

After you have given your customers a voice to express their feedback and experiences, you want to make them feel special for supporting you!

Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter give users a channel for identity expression, where they can showcase their thoughts and actions to their networks and beyond.

These platforms also provide a great way for you to encourage customer interactions through user-generated content (UGC). Social media contests and giveaways incentivize customers to interact with the brand and promote it through their networks.

Australian skincare company Frank Body uses Instagram to engage with and celebrate its users. Customers are encouraged to share photos of themselves using Frank Body products for a chance to be featured on the official account.

The company also hosts frequent contests and giveaways to reward those who participate using those hashtags.

Image via Instagram

Besides the chance to win contests, being featured on your favorite skincare company’s official Instagram page is also very rewarding. So celebrate the winners of your social media contests or giveaways to give them extra social currency and reward them for their support. They will gladly tell their friends about it and about your brand!

3. Incentivize repeat business with reward programs

As mentioned earlier, sometimes customers can be loyal to you but jump over to another brand that is cheaper or newer. Loyalty is dynamic; you have to keep giving customers a reason to come back. That’s why it’s important to have other means to draw them back apart from your new products.

Having a loyalty reward program is a concrete way to encourage customers to continue to patronize your brand.

Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is a legend among loyalty programs. According to Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media at Sephora, 80% of all their transactions today come through their Beauty Insiders program.

The Beauty Insider program has several features that make it a really effective loyalty program.

Firstly, it offers different tiers based on how much customers spend, with different accompanying tier rewards.

This gives customers a reason to keep buying from Sephora.

Next, it makes customers feel special by giving birthday promotions and personalized product recommendations. Birthday girls and boys from the higher tiers can choose to have free makeovers and free product shipping. That’s one more reason to clock those loyalty points and climb up the tiers!

It also has a quiz that customers can fill out to get personalized product recommendations.

This is great for customers who aren’t sure what they need and are confused with Sephora’s massive product catalog. This also gives customers a sense of exclusivity and personal touch which they will not get at other cosmetic stores.

Lastly, Sephora customers can enjoy free makeup classes where they can learn new skills and meet new people. This helps customers feel that they are getting something valuable in return for their support.

The key to an effective loyalty program is making your customers feel super special when they buy from you. Whether it’s birthday deals, exclusive promos, or free classes, make it your focus to let your customers feel like they have earned something truly special with your brand.

4. Encourage loyal customers to spread the love with referral programs

Loyalty programs and referral programs are sometimes thought to be similar, but they serve different functions. Loyalty programs incentivize customers to purchase from you repeatedly, while referral programs incentivize customers who get their friends to buy from your brand.

And the bridge between retaining existing customers through loyalty marketing and acquiring new customers comes from referral programs.

Customers who love a brand will naturally share with their friends through word-of-mouth. Referral program encourages that behavior with incentives for both the advocate and the referred friend.

Baby sleeping toy company Riff Raff & Co. is a good example of how referral programs help to retain customers as well as acquire new ones.

Its referral program rewards advocates with its core product for free if they get five of their friends to buy one. Parents will share their experiences and what products are good or bad for their children. It isn’t difficult for them to share their referral links to a product that has helped their children sleep better.


While Riff Raff & Co. chooses to reward their customers after five referrals, you can always choose a mechanic that makes sense to your business. You can also decide whether you want to give a cash reward, discounts, or whatever you please.

Loyalty marketing is about valuing your customers

At the end of the day, customer loyalty goes beyond social media engagement, giving out loyalty points, or referral rewards.

It’s about acknowledging your customers as people you value greatly and appreciating them for their support.

These examples and tips listed above will help you to have genuine interactions with your customers. When customers know that a brand appreciates their feedback, and puts their concerns before pure profit, they will have huge respect for you and will support you even more!

About the author

Samuel Hum is a writer for CandyBar and ReferralCandy.

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Did you know that 64% of couples share their engagement on social media with a few hours? To say social media has changed the wedding industry would be an understatement. Planning a wedding used to rely on the phone book, referrals from others, and wedding planners. Nowadays, it’s Google searches, Pinterest boards, and Instagram discovery. Social media has become the go-to resource brides and grooms planning their weddings.

“Couples live their lives on their phones, in apps and online in front of their tiny mobile screens. That fact is changing the way in which couples (and really all of us) approach projects, research, tasks, messaging and transactions,” says the Knot. “And while planning a wedding is far more complicated than ordering a necklace on Etsy or ordering a car to the airport, the digital landscape is shifting behaviors and the weddings industry is susceptible to all of it.”

I can personally endorse Instagram as being a truly influential space, as I’m in the process of planning my own wedding this coming August. One thing that Instagram is incredibly useful for: wedding photographers.

In this post, we will dive into how wedding photographers can use Instagram ads to grow their brand and find new clientele. But first…

Why Instagram?

The average Instagram user spends 53 minutes per day on the platform according to recode. I would guess the average bride-to-be spends even more time on the platform!

To validate my hypothesis I decided to chat with my own wedding photographer, the very talented Lindsay Murphy, a wedding and portrait photographer specializing in intimidate, playful, and emotional love stories.

“I would say that approximately 60% of my wedding inquiries come from people finding me through Instagram,” says Lindsay, “As a photographer, displaying imagery is high on my priority list, which is why Instagram is so key!  It’s also been instrumental in connecting to other wedding professionals.”

Clearly, Instagram advertising is a great channel for your industry! But if you are new to Instagram or if you’re a wedding photographer looking to take your Instagram strategy to the next level, you've come to the right place. Here are eight super-effective ways to create beautiful and effective Instagram ads for wedding photographers.

1. Keep things consistent

Every wedding photographer has a unique style and brand, whether they realize it or not. For Lindsay, her brand is coastal candid shots that show of the emotional side of a couples love story. For another photographer it may be Southern charm that displays the joyful and playful side of a couple’s relationship.

Whatever your unique brand is, it is important to not only define it, but to embrace it. This means keeping every single Instagram advertisement consistent with your brand style and voice.

“I try to stay consistent—not only in the timing of my posts, but also in keeping with my brand,” says Lindsay. “I think that maintaining consistency in your feed and stories is definitely key.”

So how can you ensure your ads are consistent? Here are a few tips:

  • Use the same filters or other photo editing strategies to ensure the lighting and colors give off a cohesive feel.
  • Post around the same time(s) as often as possible.
  • Keep your copy consistent in terms of the tone and content.
  • Post on a regular schedule to ensure there are not any strange posting peaks or lulls.
2. Set the right objectives for your campaign goals

When configuring your Instagram ad campaign, you will notice that there are several objectives to choose from. Rather than choosing a random one, spend some time to reflect on what your goals are. Perhaps you are launching a new wedding photography business in a city you recently moved to. In this case, you may decide to launch a brand awareness advertising campaign. On the flip side you may be already established, but looking to grow your customer pool; in this scenario you may chose to run a conversion or lead generation campaign.

Choosing an objective wisely is key because different objectives come with different features and capabilities so make sure to be thoughtful in your choice. Keep in mind that it is ok to have several objectives, just ensure you are separating these into different ad campaigns so you can use the unique features and set a specific budget for each objective.

3. Prioritize location targeting, tagging, and hashtagging

Location, location, location! Every wedding photographer has one. Many are willing to travel, but more then likely you prefer to stay in a specific region or territory. It is also helpful to keep with tip #1 (consistency) to have specific regions that you focus on. For Lindsay, this is New England. For you, this may be specifically downtown Seattle or more broadly the Pacific Northwest. Wherever it is, make sure you are using all of the location specific features Instagram has to offer.

This includes locations targeting within your ad campaign. For instance, in ads manager when you are tweaking your audience targeting, you’ll notice an option to set up specific locations. To get fairly specific you can enter zip codes. You can also target by city, state, or region, but ensure you are targeting a specific set of locations so your audience is not too broad.

In addition to location targeting within your ad campaign, you should also be geo-tagging your post, and using location-specific hashtags.

“I always make sure to tag my photos with my desired market in and around New England,” says Lindsay.

As you can see in her post below, she also uses several descriptive location hashtags like #newenglandwedding, #jamaicapondengagement, #portandweddingphotographer. Doing this will help newly engaged couples discover her!

That's me!!

4. Target the newly engaged

Keeping on the topic of targeting, when configuring your Instagram advertising audience, you will notice there are many categories to choose from. This can be good and bad. If you get too narrow, you might be limiting your audience—but if you are not narrowing in on your target audience, your ads could show to a very irrelevant audience that is not in the market for a wedding photographer.

One really helpful and interesting thing you can do is targeting engaged couples. How? Just go to Audience > Demographics > Relationship > Relationship Status > Engaged.

Perhaps you want to get even more refined and target newly engaged couples that are even less likely to have found their wedding photographer. Under Demographics > Life Events you’ll find this option.

Lastly, you can refine your audience a bit further by targeting those interested in weddings. (As a future bride, I can tell you that the internet definitely knows this about me.) For this option, go to Interests > Family and relationships > Weddings.

With these specific audience filters configured your ads will be sure to show to your target audience rather then irrelevant single or already married people who have very little interest in hiring a wedding photographer.

5. Tag other vendors that appeal to your target audience

My mom loves to go on rants about how weddings have become an industry, and it was not at all like this when she got married many moons ago. I now see how true this is! But this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for those looking to promote their wedding photography businesses.

Now many people planning weddings collect stacks upon stacks of bridal magazines to read after work. Many follow The Knot, Wedding Wire, and other similar sites on Instagram to get inspiration for their own event. This is why tagging popular companies in the wedding industry can not only lead to new brides discovering you, but also potential partnerships with other vendors that could lead to a drastic increase in your customer base.

“Tagging as many fellow vendors, blogs, and/or clients in your photos is very important and helps you reach a wider audience,” says Lindsay.

Take this example from a Detroit-based wedding photographer. In every one of her Instagram posts, she tags a series of vendors like Louboutin World, Hey Bride, Brideside, or Wedding Day Magazine. It’s such an easy way to help grow your audience through the platform.

6. Use Instagram's carousel ad format

While single image ads might be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about crafting your first Instagram ad, there are so many formats to explore: videos, Stories, or carousel ads. It’s this last ad format that you’re definitely going to want to use.

While it is fun to explore and test different formats, for those in the wedding photography industry one super effective ad format is the carousel ad. Why? The carousel ad format allows you to create a magazine-like display where viewers can scroll through each image to see all you have to offer.

Take the example below from Mata Photo. Rather than just showing one shot for this special Bali wedding, the photographer was able to show off various angles, black and white vs. color, and different aspects of the celebration in a series of seven photographs rather than being limited to one single image. This is a great way to show your range and your style as a wedding photographer.

7. Don’t overlook Instagram Stories

The Snapchat-like feature, Instagram Stories, has continued to grow in popularity since their release. In fact, as of January 2019 Instagram Stories are used by over 500 million users per day, according to internal Instagram data. Stories are a fun way to interact because you are not making as much of a commitment with a permanent post that lives on your feed, but rather a story only lasts for 24 hours unless you save it in your “Story Highlights.”

Basically, Stories allow you to share a quick snippet of a wedding you recently shot or perhaps even a “behind the scenes” or “Q&A” to get known the photographer behind the business. This can really help intrigue leads and make them feel they’re making a connection with you through your story content.

“I’ve learned that keeping up with stories and showing more ‘behind the scenes’ content keeps people engaged,” says Lindsay.

And now you can even pay to promote your Instagram Stories to expand their reach to your target audience!

8. Set your budget for seasonal peaks

Last, but certainly not least, wedding photographers are keenly aware that their jobs are very seasonal depending on the climate they live in. For instance, a New England photographer like Lindsay is much busier with weddings in the summer compared to frigid, snowstorm prone winters. Yet, it is important to think through the planning process. Post-engagement, when do brides and grooms-to-be start looking for their wedding photographer? This is likely different based on the region you cover, but keeping this in mind can help you create an effective way to distribute your budget based on peak research/booking season.

It is also important to consider when your audience is most likely to spend time on Instagram. Perhaps from the weekday hours of 9:00AM until 11:30AM and 1:00PM until 5:00PM, they are less likely to be on the platform, and more likely to be working. But how about lunch hour? Or evenings? Or weekends? Take a look at when your website gets the most traffic, as well as other social platforms to get a sense of when future customers are most likely to be doing their research. This will help you build an effective ad schedule to only show your ads during peak time of the day, days of the week, and times of the year.

Make choosing a wedding photographer easy with Instagram ads

Planning a wedding is not easy, but finding a wedding photographer doesn’t need to add to the stress. Make it easy for future brides and grooms by using these super-effective strategies to expand your reach through Instagram advertising. In no time, you’ll be creating the most important photographs for newlywed couples that they will cherish for a lifetime.

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Display campaigns are extremely important if you are looking to grow awareness to fill the top of your funnel. And having potential new customers see your ads will definitely help. But I always want something more: I want to have users be able to engage with my ads.

People who engage are more likely going to be better candidates for the products and services. That means my clients are more likely to get more results—and quicker results—from these people than the ones who just see the ad. That's where Google Display Network’s engagement ads can help.

Here, I’m going to break down everything you can do with this display ad type in Google Ads, including:

  • How to set your campaign goal
  • How to set up engagement ads
  • How to attract even more people with customized engagement ads

Let’s get started.

Engagement ads need a specific campaign goal

Ever since Google Ads started pushing the campaign goals on all advertisers, finding out how to set up an engagement ad became more difficult. If you want to run an engagement ad campaign, you must select the “Product and brand consideration” goal. After you choose “Display,” you then will want to add your website URL into the third field as you can see below.

In case you were wondering, choosing the “Product and brand consideration” goal is the only way you can run or test engagement ads for your Display campaigns. That being said, let us understand the purpose of this particular campaign goal to make sure we are setting the proper expectations. When Google talks about goals in the new Google Ads experience, they define the “Product and brand consideration goal” as follows: The goal is to “educate users on your products and encourage them to explore exactly what you offer.” We all want as many goal conversions as possible. If you are looking for conversion boosting, this is not the campaign goal for you. But if you want to reach out to a brand new audience and see if they engage with your brand, this should be a campaign goal to consider testing.

Engagement display ad campaign setup: CPE bidding

For the most part, engagement display campaigns have the same setup as a typical display campaign. There’s one major difference that you need to know. There is only one option advertisers get for bidding, and this option is cost per engagement bidding, or CPE bidding.

CPE bidding is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Advertisers only have to pay for the ad when a user engages with the ad. Engagements occur with discovery ads when users choose to expand the ads by hovering the mouse over the ad.

Custom engagement ads target your audience better

Setting up an engagement ad can take much more time than a regular display ad you are probably used to making. If you are wondering why this is the case, it’s because Google gives advertisers the options to add many elements to this particular ad format. If you want users to engage with your ad, you want to have many elements on the ad a user can see and interact with.

Let’s go over the main elements you can add to your engagement ads to not only capture attention, but also drive potential traffic by thinking about your target audience while making these customizations.

*For the sake of this post, I’m creating a hypothetical ad. The images were pulled from Musician’s Friend, and the YouTube video I used was courtesy of Gibson Guitar.

1. Gallery and video cards

These are the main elements people who see your ad will interact with. You can choose up to 10 cards to add to your engagement ad, and they can be a mix of images and videos found on YouTube. While the image below does not show it, you can add multiple videos to the ad. Ecommerce advertisers can also add product feeds as an optional card. You just have to remember to select a product feed from your Merchant Center in the campaign settings.

When you manually enter these cards, you can include additional information, or captions. This extra information for each card caption includes a title, a description, a call to action, and a URL. So, yes, the advertiser will pay per user engagement, but there is the opportunity to send users to several product pages on your site.

The captions for your cards allow you to describe your images in greater detail—and we’ll see an example later.

Another benefit of personalizing the captions is we get to create almost any call to action we want. Advertisers are not forced to choose from a pre-selected list of call to action buttons. This freedom can satisfy a variety of campaign goals whether you want to push product awareness or maybe just have people read a blog on your site.

2. Messages and calls to action

Now you may be thinking, “Wait. Didn’t we just add these elements in our cards?” Why, yes, we did. But the second section in creating an engagement ad includes messages and a call to action for the entire ad—not for each image of video card.

I like to look at the messages we can add as a combination of a promo and callout extension. What message do you want to put in front of potential customers that could make them want to engage with your ad and learn more about your offers? Start putting together a list of promos, offers, or value messages you would want to put in front of a new audience. Use this new collection as your first messages to test.

One final fact to note: You can rearrange the order of your messages and call to action elements. The order of which these elements are displayed goes from the sort order of highest to lowest. This means you should put your most important messages at the top of your list in the ad set up.

3. Image and style options

There are three more options advertisers have to customize their ads. These aren’t mandatory to start running engagement ads, but they are great ways to customize your ads even more. To access these three additional options, you have to click on the “More Options” link under your URL fields in the ad set up.

Header images

Add some additional branding by creating a header image to run on top of the other elements and cards you have added to your engagement ad. Here’s an example with the header image highlighted in red:

Invitation Images

To engage with the ad, the user has to hover the mouse over the ad for a couple of seconds before the ad expands. Initially, Google will take a preview of the ad as the main image, but the advertiser can import their own images to control the initial experience. Advertisers can add the most common display image ad sizes as the invitation image to control the entire engagement ad experience.

Custom Styles

With this option, you can change the colors, fonts, and themes of your ads. That’s great news if you have a boss or client that is very focused on making sure branding images and colors align with all marketing efforts.

So here is an example of what of the finished ads could look like…

Much more engaging than a typical display ad, right?

Attract more customers with custom engagement ads

Don’t get me wrong: Having a target audience see your ad is incredibly beneficial. But I prefer people to interact with my brand. A user who visits my site after engaging with one of my ads is, in my opinion, more valuable to me than someone who just visits my site from a regular image ad. They spent more time than other users to expand my ad, see what I have to offer, then still decided to click on my CTA buttons. I’d rather build remarketing audiences from these users first instead of basic site visitors from my other display campaigns.

So create a few different versions to see which ad elements users prefer to engage with the most. If you are focused on building a branded experience, give engagement ads a try to offer a different experience with your Display Network campaigns!

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Just last month, Google announced its newest changes at Google Marketing Live. And now that the dust has settled, I’m here to talk about what I believe to be the unsung hero of the day—the newest bidding control, campaign-level conversion setting.

In this guide, I’m going to go over everything you need to know about this new bid setting. But before getting into what’s new, let’s do a quick refresh of the pre-announcement conversion tracking era.

What is conversion tracking?

Conversion tracking is the method advertisers use to identify and record valuable actions to their business within their Google Ads account. By setting up conversion tracking, advertisers give the Google algorithm the information it needs to understand what drives success in an account.

How does the algorithm gather these signals?

Advertisers set their conversion tracking up within the measurement section in Google Ads:

These conversion actions can either be imported from Google Analytics or tracked via the Google Ads pixel. And regardless of how you track your conversions, advertisers can add as many actions they find valuable. Once these conversion actions are defined in the platform, Google will record a conversion each time a user completes one of those actions.

What does the algorithm do with these signals?

As your account builds up conversion data, the algorithm starts to learn about these successful signals. And as these learnings are significant, the algorithm optimizes your ad delivery as you are eligible for placements in the ad auction. Without this conversion data, the algorithm is blind to the information most advertisers care most about—growing their business or client’s account by optimizing their delivery from Google Ads.

Now, there’s one thing that will never change: Conversion tracking is crucial to a successful Google Ads account. However, there has always been a missing piece to the puzzle with the account level conversion setting: the ability to tell Google which conversion action is most important to a given campaign.

Enter campaign-level conversion setting

New bidding controls to help meet your goals” was one of the 10 announcements at Google Marketing Live. This announcement encompasses a few innovations, but campaign-level conversion setting stood out to me immediately.

So why did Google introduce this change to bidding? Google states that over 70% of their advertisers are using automated bidding today. And to that stat, they say:

“And while many of you have told us that Smart Bidding has helped drive better performance, you’ve also asked for more flexibility to reach your business goals.”

What is campaign-level conversion setting?

Campaign-level conversion setting is a way for advertisers to select which of their conversion actions the algorithm should track and optimize towards for a campaign.

So what’s different?

As I touched on above, with the account-level conversion setting, each of the conversion actions in a given account add together to populate your conversion metrics. Now, with the campaign-level conversion setting, Google is giving advertisers the ability to specify which action(s) should populate your conversion data. Meaning that this new setting simply gives Google more information about which conversion actions are most relevant to track and optimize towards. This means you can tell Google what’s more important for your business and your business goals.

Let’s take a scenario from our account to compare the two settings. Here’s an example of one of our ads with the goal to drive & convert prospects into a free trial:

Imagine a user clicks on this ad, visits our landing page, but navigates back to the site and converts on a whitepaper. With the account-level conversion setting, we would register one conversion—just the same as if the user converted on a trial. On the other hand, if we were using the campaign-level conversion setting with our free trial action, we would not count this behavior as a conversion. With campaign-level conversion setting, we are only giving the algorithm successful signals if a user completes a free trial.


Now, let’s take a look at this with a real-life reference: I have the objective to exercise with a sub-objective to run marathons. And yes, every time I set this objective I get this reminder from our very own Mikayla Wyman:

To achieve my main objective (exercise), I start to plan and track a variety of exercises as part of a training plan. These workouts include yoga, weight lifting, soccer, spin, kickboxing, and running. However, to make progress towards my sub-objective (marathon), I need to follow a specific calendar centered around my long-distance runs. While the variety of workouts will be beneficial during my training, completing my long-distance runs are the most crucial action influencing my ability to be prepared for the marathon.

Now, you might be asking ... how does this relate to conversion tracking? Well, what I’m trying to get to is that while I am training for my marathon, it is most valuable to track my runs as progress. If I track every work out—yoga, soccer, spin, and running—as a conversion, I’m not getting an accurate depiction of how prepared I am for the marathon. Therefore, while working towards this sub-objective, I want to operate under the campaign-level conversion setting—exclusively tracking and improving upon my runs.

TL;DR: Overall, while you may lose the quantity in conversions by switching over to the campaign-level conversion setting,  you should see an improvement in the ability to deliver the conversion action that you find most relevant for the campaign.

Setting up campaign-level conversion tracking

To start leveraging this new setting, you can navigate to your campaign settings and click into the conversion drop down:

Once you select to “choose conversion action for this campaign,” you will see all of your conversion actions pop up with the ability to select the specific action(s):

How does this new bid optimization perform?

If you can’t already tell, I was excited about the potential of this new setting and how it could perform with our account. So, right away, we put together a few experiments and I have some data to share.

Disclaimer: I am not disclosing the campaign/conversion action details, but this data is pulled straight from the respective tests in our account.

Campaign #1

Experiment: Campaign-level conversion setting with conversion action ABC



Conversion action:








Conversion action ABC

Segmented campaign by conversion action




Conversion action ABC



Takeaway: The new setting is beating the original by delivering a $20 lower CPA for the conversion action we’re optimizing for—these results are significant!

Campaign #2

Experiment: Campaign-level conversion setting with conversion action XYZ



Conversion action:








Conversion action XYZ

Segmented campaign by conversion action




Conversion action XYZ



Takeaway: As you can see, with this campaign, the new setting is not beating the original campaign. However, we have yet to reach significance and we’ve seen the experiment improve overtime as we set it up. Therefore, we plan to continue watching our experiment until we reach a confident significance.

What can you expect with campaign-level conversions?

As you’ve read and seen in our performance, you can expect this setting to have the potential to improve your results. But, before jumping right into this new setting, you do need to consider the impact that the change will have on your account performance. The most noteworthy changes we’ve seen with the setting are:

  • Slow down in delivery: Because smart bidding requires significant data to deliver to your goals, the algorithm will enter a “learning period” for such a significant change. This means that the algorithm will need roughly 7 days to restart it’s data gathering and understand how this new signal impacts performance & it’s knowledge of success.
  • Change in CPA: as expected, with this new setting, you will only be recording conversions for your selected action(s). Meaning that you will record fewer conversions than you were before—which is likely to increase your CPA and decrease your conversion rate for your campaign. However, you should expect that as this campaign evolves it’s learning from the new setting, your conversion metrics should regulate.
Campaign-level conversions: What you need to know

Google’s new bidding control has the ability to improve the effectiveness of your campaigns using smart bidding.  While smart bidding is driving results for advertisers—you still need to review your account to identify opportunities to improve. Here’s what you need to keep in mind using campaign-level conversion setting:

  • Consider the volume of conversions for your selected action(s): Advertisers need to maintain a significant volume in conversions for the algorithm to effectively learn.
  • Adjust your bids: As noted above, it is likely that your CPA will increase with this new setting. You should consider increasing your bids to start and then lowering as you start to see performance regulate and improve.
  • Test it out in an experiment first: Without understanding how this change will impact your campaign performance, you can test the change in an experiment to minimize the impact on delivery. That’s what we’ve down in our in-house campaign, which has allowed us to maintain delivery while understanding if this setting is right for us.
  • You can’t leave it all to the algorithm: Even though you are using smart bidding with this setting, it doesn’t mean you can leave your campaign untouched. You still need to manage your campaign effectively and make optimizations to improve results.
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As a man who writes blog posts to feed himself, I feel qualified to make sweeping declarations about American society at large. For example: We, as a society, glorify impulsiveness.

The ambitious, overworked mother who suddenly walks out of an important board meeting to spend some quality time with her young daughter. The hopelessly romantic yuppie who runs out of his Boston brownstone and into the pouring rain to tell the barista at his favorite coffeehouse how he really feels. Kanye West scrapping a finished album and remaking the entire thing in two weeks for no apparent reason.

Oh, Julia. Always underappreciated.

Although this kind of behavior may pay dividends to your favorite dramedy TV characters or groundbreaking hip-hop artists, the same can’t be said for digital marketers—and that’s especially true for those of you incorporating video into your promotional repertoires.

Why? Because all great video marketing campaigns start with great video scripts. As I’ve learned first-hand over the course of this year, the amount of effort you put into pre-production (read: script-writing) is directly correlated to the quality of the end product.

Here are my six best tips for writing effective video scripts.

1. Identify your target viewer

When you first get the green light to create video marketing content, you’ll probably feel tempted to start cranking out scripts right away. Here’s why that’s a mistake: Without a crystal clear picture of the person you’ll be targeting with your videos, your content will lack focus. So the first step towards writing effective video scripts is identifying your target viewer.

Because you’ll be using your video content to attract and engage people qualified to become your customers, your target viewer should look practically identical to your buyer persona—the imaginary, thoughtfully crafted character who represents your company’s ideal customer. If you’ve already created a buyer persona, that’s great! Go ahead and use that person as your target viewer. If you haven’t sketched out your buyer persona yet, here are the basics.

The purpose of creating a buyer persona—who, although not technically real, is very much based on the characteristics and needs of real people—is to make your product or service more marketable. After all, if you don’t know who your product or service is for, your marketing messages will be ineffective—especially the messages communicated through your videos. Here’s the information you’ll need to create your buyer persona (and your target viewer):

  • Demographics: What’s their age, gender, occupation, relationship status, parental status, education level, and income bracket? 
  • Behaviors and interests: What do they do on a regular basis? How do they like to spend their free time? What matters most to them? 
  • Goals: What are they trying to accomplish? What’s their definition of success? 
  • Pain points: What’s keeping them from achieving that success? What problems need to be solved in order for them to succeed?

Only when you’ve answered these questions will you be able to write focused, effective video scripts that attract and engage the right people.

2. Write like you speak

If you’re anything like me, you’ll sit down to write your first video script with a somewhat reasonable yet entirely false thought floating around your head: Writing a script is basically the same as writing a blog post, right?

Nope. Although the goals behind video marketing and blogging are essentially the same—to build your brand, engage your prospects, generate leads, and so on—the actual, finished products they yield are drastically different. Simply put, what sounds natural in someone’s head as they’re reading a blog post does not necessarily sound natural as they’re watching a video.

The more natural the speakers in your videos sound, the clearer your message will be. Therefore, when you sit down to write a script, you need to write like you speak.

Shout-out to the Plain English Campaign.

Like most skills, this will develop with practice; the more video scripts you write, the more easily you’ll be able to write with a cadence that sounds natural when spoken aloud. When you’re just starting out with script-writing, however, you need to check yourself proactively and regularly. Otherwise, you’ll start the shooting process too soon and find that the script you were so proud to have written sounds really, really awkward. 

My advice? Read every single sentence back to yourself—out loud. If it sounds weird to you, it’ll most likely sound weird to your audience. Keep at it until you’ve managed to communicate your ideas in a way that comes across clearly through spoken word.

3. Keep your paragraphs short

Whether or not you have a teleprompter—we highly recommend them for those who have the budget—this tip is important. By dividing your script into a series of short, bite-sized paragraphs (we’re talking four or five sentences at a maximum), you set yourself up for a much easier shooting process when the time comes to bring your script to life.

Plenty of simple teleprompters are suitable for smartphones and tablets!

If you don’t have the budget for a teleprompter, dividing your script into small chunks isn’t so much a choice as it is a requirement. The more information you ask your speakers to memorize for each take, the more takes you can expect to do. Provided that you don’t have infinite time to produce your video content—and that your speakers don’t have infinite energy—you’ll want to make the shooting process as efficient as possible. 

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a teleprompter, limiting your paragraphs to three or four sentences each is still a good idea. True—reading from a teleprompter is far easier than reciting from memory, thus increasing the amount of information your speakers can successfully communicate in a single take. Nevertheless, mistakes happen. People stumble over their words. The more you ask someone to read during a single take, the more opportunities there are for them to mess up; the more they mess up, the more frustrated they get. In turn, greater frustration leads to worse performance and lower efficiency.

Bottom line: Short paragraphs make for easy shooting days.

4. Structure your information logically

Earlier, I argued that you need to write like you speak in order to clarify the information you’re sharing and improve viewer comprehension. After all, if your prospects walk away from your videos having learned nothing, what was the point of investing your time and money in the creation of that content?

The ROI of your video marketing efforts is tied directly to how much your prospects learn. Contrary to what you may assume, making educational video content isn’t a matter of simply sharing as much information as you possibly can. From a viewer comprehension perspective, just as important as the information you share is how you organize that information. Even the most insightful content is practically useless if it’s illogically organized.

Through writing both video scripts and blog posts, here’s what I’ve found to be the best approach. Once you’ve settled on the overarching topic of the video you’re creating, structure the script such that it starts with the most general information and gets progressively more specific and complex. Before you get into the nitty-gritty of whatever subject matter you’re tackling, make sure to give your viewers the solid foundation they need to fully comprehend everything that’s to come.

Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Start with the essentials and go from there.

Let’s use an example. Say you’re a marketer at a gym. You want to use educational video content to build the gym’s brand and connect with people interested in physical fitness—that is, people who make good candidates for gym memberships. For your first video, you want to talk to your viewers about protein shakes. If you were to dive straight into specific ingredients, measurements, and nutrition facts, that would be pretty jarring, right? To create a much more helpful and holistic learning experience for your viewers, you’d want to begin by talking about the pros and cons of protein shakes, when they should and shouldn’t be used, and so on. Only after you’ve laid that foundation should you get into the specifics.

5. Keep visual aids top-of-mind

When it comes to video content, most people want to see more than a static talking head. After all, a video that shows nothing but a person speaking for several minutes straight gets pretty darn boring. Plus, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that many people are visual learners. Without some form of images or graphics to accompany your speakers, your video content won’t be as effective as it needs to be to leave lasting impressions on your prospects. In turn, you won’t drive the ROI you’re looking for.

All that being said, you can’t shoehorn graphics into your videos purely for the sake of doing so; you should never include something that doesn’t legitimately enhance the viewer’s learning experience. To ensure that your use of graphics is seamless and effective, I recommend consciously creating opportunities for visual aids while writing your scripts. In other words, don’t write an entire script and subsequently comb through it in search of opportunities for visual aids. Instead, try to write with a cadence that naturally lends itself to the use of aids.

The genius of Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series lay in the use of visual aids.

As an example, let’s return to the hypothetical in which you’re creating video marketing content for a gym. Technically, when scripting the introductory section of the video about protein shakes, you could simply say “Protein shakes are divisive among the fitness community” and leave it at that. Alternatively, you could say “Regularly drinking protein shakes comes with a number of costs and benefits.” I’d argue that the latter is substantially better because it gives you an opportunity to naturally insert a visual aid—a T-chart, most likely.

One last point: Finishing a script and subsequently combing through it to find places to insert graphics is a pain in the neck. If nothing else, take my advice to save yourself a headache.

6. Create opportunities for shareable clips

My final tip for writing video scripts is related to the promotion of your finished products. Think about it: Once you have a polished video that’s ready for publication on your website and YouTube channel, what better way to drum up interest than by sharing short, enticing clips on social platforms like Twitter and Instagram?

Via Oberlo.

As is the case with visual aids, you should have social media clips at the top of your mind as you’re writing your video scripts. If you script an entire video without thinking about its promotion on social media, you’ll force yourself to find shareable clips after the video’s been shot and edited—so you’ll run the risk of working with sub-par source material. This, in turn, could lead to not-so-enticing clips and a lack of engagement with your promotional posts.

If you consciously create shareable moments when writing your script instead, promoting the final video will become a whole lot easier and a whole lot more effective. Let’s return to the example of the protein shake video one more time. Sure—you could end the video by simply listing the ingredients required to make your personal favorite protein shake. However, a far more shareable piece of content would be a clip of you actually making that shake.

As you’re writing your script, regularly stop to ask yourself a question: “Will anything I’ve scripted so far make for a compelling social media post?” If the answer is no, make a concerted effort to change that. You (and your boss) will be happy you did.

Don’t mail it in when writing video scripts!

I get it: Writing scripts erases some of the luster of video marketing. There’s something really exciting about immediately getting behind (or in front of) a camera and simply creating. Sitting down at a laptop and thinking rationally about what’s going to enable the best user experience possible … not so much.

And yet, it has to be done. Whether you’re adopting video marketing as a channel so you can spread brand awareness or drive sales, you have to think really carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Considering the amount of time, resources, and expertise it takes to create high-quality video marketing content, you really can’t afford to wing it.

Thoughtful, meticulous video scripts are the key to delivering the best results you possibly can. Using these six tips, you should be able to do just that.

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Welcome back, everyone! For those of you in the US, I hope you enjoyed a restful 4th of July weekend. While we were grillin’ up hot dogs and failing to protect our skin, the online advertising world continued to change. Let’s run through the most recent updates you need to know about.

Facebook revives reach estimates for custom audiences

Nearly a year and a half after retiring them to investigate a privacy concern detected by researchers at Northwestern University, Facebook has announced the revival of reach estimates for custom audiences. Bolstered by new security measures that prevent the exploitation of user data, reach estimates will be gradually reintroduced to Facebook Ads accounts—on a randomized basis—between now and the end of the year.

A custom audience, for those who may not know, is simply a group of Facebook users who’ve previously interacted with your business in some way. When creating a custom audience, you get to decide which interaction you’d like to focus on. So, depending on your advertising goals, you can use your custom audience to target past customers, recent website visitors, or users who’ve engaged with your Facebook content.

Because you can take your targeting parameters in so many different directions, the potential reach of a given custom audience—that is, the number of unique users who see your ad—can fluctuate pretty widely. That’s why Facebook initially created reach estimates—to give you an accurate idea of how many unique users you’ll likely reach given the targeting parameters you’ve set. From a practical standpoint, this is super valuable information. Whereas a high reach estimate could save you from wasting your money on worthless impressions and clicks, a low reach estimate could indicate that your targeting is too narrow to be effective.

Google increases delivery of app ads on search

In order to expand the pool of consumers that app advertisers can reach with their paid search campaigns, Google has announced their decision to serve app ads to iOS mobile users more often. If you use Google Ads to promote a mobile app, you’ll see app installs and in-app conversions from iOS browsers included in your campaign reporting at some point this month.

As those of you running app campaigns (formerly known as universal app campaigns) already know, the search results page is only one of many places your app ads can show; Google Play, the display network, YouTube, and search partner websites are also fair game. According to last week’s announcement, however, only your search ads will be expanding to more users.

Although this isn’t a huge change, you should certainly keep an eye on the amount of money you’re spending each day. Because running an app campaign means allowing Google Ads to optimize your bids according to your goals, there’s always a chance of things getting out of hand. Watch your bids carefully over the next few weeks to make sure you’re not over-spending.

Microsoft rolls out new prominence metrics for Bing

Responding to demands for deeper insights into SERP visibility, Microsoft Advertising (formerly known as Bing Ads) has introduced a slew of new metrics for search advertisers. Explicitly part of the effort to achieve parity with Google Ads, these new prominence metrics aim to give Bing advertisers a better idea of how they’re performing on the SERPs and what they can do to optimize going forward.

Here’s the full list of metrics you’ll see in your Microsoft Advertising account this month—all of which will be available at the campaign, ad group, and keyword levels:

  • Top impression share: The share of impressions coming from the top of the SERP 
  • Top impression share lost to budget: How much top impression share you’re losing due to budgetary constraints 
  • Top impression share lost to rank: How much top impression share you’re losing due to auction performance 
  • Absolute top impression share: The share of impressions coming from the number one search result 
  • Absolute top impression share lost to budget: How much absolute top impression share you’re losing due to budgetary constraints 
  • Absolute top impression share lost to rank: How much absolute top impression share you’re losing due to auction performance

Via Microsoft.

An interesting note from the announcement blog post: Average position—which Google Ads retired earlier this year—is here to stay. According to Nahva Tecklu, the program manager who wrote the post, Bing advertisers have made it exceedingly clear that they’d like to keep average position as a prominence metric. This goes to show how divise Google’s decision was.

Instagram’s (slowly) bringing ads to the Explore tab

Aiming to better connect advertisers with users and to capitalize on its (still) growing popularity, Instagram has announced that they’ll be “slowly and thoughtfully” introducing ads to the Explore tab over the next few months. As of now, when a user clicks on an image or a video included in their Explore tab, the scrollable feed that opens up may include paid content from relevant brands. To begin, those brands will be hand-picked by Instagram to serve as guinea pigs for this new ad product. Later this year, we’ll get a broader roll-out to more advertisers.

Via Social Media Today.

This news follows close on the heels of Instagram’s decision to give Explore a pretty substantial facelift—introducing Stories content and redesigning the top navigation bar to encourage users to adopt Shopping as well as IGTV. Given that the majority of Instagram users check out their Explore tabs at least once a month—and given that the app as a whole has grown out of its reputation as a fun social media platform and emerged as a legitimate hub for ecommerce—its monetization makes complete sense.

While watching Instagram’s animation of how Explore ads work (shown above in pieces), I can’t help but think of another ad type that was recently introduced—Google’s new discovery ads. Although Instagram and Google are fundamentally different platforms, Explore and Discover are clearly designed to achieve the same goal: to connect users with content they haven’t seen before. Because users turn to Explore and Discover when they’re in the mood to discover new content, it follows that many of them would be open discovering new businesses as well. Essentially, both Explore ads and discovery ads enable advertisers to initiate valuable touchpoints and to introduce their brands to relevant audiences. From these high-funnel interactions, of course, come the sales all businesses need to succeed.

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Mobile marketing is extremely powerful, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with techniques that don’t deliver the results you were hoping for.

If that’s the case for you, then it’s time to think outside the box and look at alternative mobile marketing strategies to help you reach more people and convert more leads. So to help you out we’ve come up with this list of six mobile marketing strategies that are super effective but that you probably haven't considered using—either because you haven't thought about them before or because you assume they won’t work for you.

1. Hyperlocal targeting

Hyperlocal mobile marketing strategies include techniques like geofencing. Geofencing is where you mark out a specific geographic area with a virtual “fence”: if anyone with your app installed steps into your geofenced area, it will trigger a push notification.

An example of this is when Burger King geofenced rival McDonald's locations. When users entered the fenced area, they were sent a Burger King discount voucher. Cheeky but effective.

Now, only one in five businesses say they are using hyperlocal targeting. But this technique could be effective for a number of different business types. For example, a retail store can use geofencing to send product recommendations and notify users of any special discounts in the store right now. A taxi service could geofence airports and other travel hubs, sending a message asking if users are looking for a ride. A massage service could geofence busy cities and send reminders to commuting clients to book relaxing massages when they return.

There are so many ways to effectively use hyperlocal marketing, or geofencing more specifically, to drive user engagement.

2. Augmented reality

Concepts like virtual reality and augmented reality are relatively new, and many marketers don’t fully understand them.

Virtual reality is a simulated, immersive experience in which the user wears a headset that places them into virtual environment, like a museum or outer space.

Augmented reality is about projecting virtual elements onto real world scenes. This can be done via headsets and visors, or just by holding your phone up to the real world. Examples include Pokemon Go and Snapchat filters.

While virtual reality marketing tools like virtual showrooms are costly to create, you can easily add augmented reality components to your mobile marketing campaigns. You can use DIY AR tools like ZapWorks or Blippar to easily add augmented reality to your mobile campaigns.

For example, Domino’s Pizza used AR to help people visualise their different pizzas in their own dining rooms, a great way to set tastebuds watering!

Domino's New Pizza Chef with Augmented Reality! - YouTube
3. Vertical video and animations

Consider this fact: 94% of smartphone users hold their phones in a vertical position. But many videos and animations are designed for a square or horizontal format. That’s because we're used to seeing video and animations in landscape on TVs, cinema screens, and computers.

You can create a great user experience and drive engagement by creating vertical videos and animations specifically designed to work on mobile screens.

You can use an app like Animaker which is specially designed to make vertical animations in a really intuitive way. Research by Buffer has shown that vertical videos perform better on Facebook (96% of active users check Facebook via mobile) than square or horizontal videos, leading to cost per view reductions of up to 68%!

Vertical Video Maker - Make stellar Vertical videos in minutes! - YouTube
4. Target Bing and Yahoo users

So much of mobile SEO and paid search marketing is about focusing on Google, because it has the lion’s share of mobile users (95%). In contrast, Bing only has a global market share of around 1%. Yahoo, around 2%.

However, 33% of Bing search clicks are made via mobile devices, meaning it’s a great way to tap into the 137 million Bing users out there.

And Bing users tend to skew older, with 54% of them being over 45 years old. Over one-third of Bing users have household incomes of over $100,000, making them, on average, a wealthier demographic than Google users. Also, most Google users are under 44 years old. That means you're missing out on a whole generation of well-off Baby Boomers if you focus only on Google.

5. Voice search optimisation

Only 4% of US businesses are voice search ready.

This is largely because voice search is commonly seen as a fad, but the fact is that it’s here to stay, with voice searches set to take over 50% of all searches by 2020.

And right now, nearly a third of all smartphone users use voice search at least once a week and 71% of people under 29 use mobile personal assistants.

Google Assistant: Show Me... (Awkwafina) - YouTube

So what can you do? Here are a few ways that you can get started optimising your website for voice search:

  • Incorporate long tail keywords into your content that are phrased in the way people speak rather than the way people type. People tend to use as few words as possible when performing a typed search but are more long-winded when speaking aloud.
  • Make sure your business details are up to date because most voice searches are to find business locations on the go. Bear in mind people tend to use the phrase “near me” when looking for venues, so incorporate this into your SEO keywords where possible.
  • Answer common questions on your site. You can use a tool like Answer the Public to find popular question topics in your niche and then answer them in your content. Make sure you include the question above the answer in H2 tags so search engine crawlers can find them.
6. User-generated content campaigns

There are two big hurdles when it comes to creating effective marketing content:

  1. The time and creative energy it takes to create fresh, impactful content
  2. Convincing your audience that you are as hot as you think you are!

Well, user-generated content is a great way around this.

Firstly, this means you are effectively outsourcing a lot of creative work to your audience who are going to be creating marketing content for you!

Secondly, it means you will essentially be hiring a bunch of free brand ambassadors to spread the word about your business. And research shows that people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family much more than from brands themselves. 

You may not have considered using user-generated content strategies because marketers often think of themselves as broadcasters, broadcasting a pre-designed message to the masses. But in the mobile age, community-based communication is king. People power has finally come to marketing.

User-generated campaigns work great on mobile. Think about it: Users have portable content creating devices on them all the time. They can post photos, write text and film videos, then upload them instantly to social media. KitKat’s #HaveABreak campaign works in this way, encouraging people to post when they’re having a cheeky choc break.

Another great example of this is when Walkers asked their fans to suggest a new crisp flavour idea. Their Do Us A Flavor campaign had 1.2 million entrants, and the lucky winner’s recipe was used by Walkers!

And there you have it: six mobile marketing strategies you may not have considered yet. But they might just provide the tools you need to spice up your marketing and super-charge your brand growth!

About the author

Izaak Crook is the head of marketing at AppInstitute, a SaaS App Builder platform that allows anyone to create their own iOS and Android app without writing a single line of code.

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This post was co-written by Holly Niemiec and Conor Bond.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer’s in full swing. If you’re anything like me, the warm temperature and glorious sunlight has erased the appeal of anything that doesn’t involve drinking outdoors and listening to OutKast’s catalog on repeat.

As tempting as it is to grab an overpriced sixer and throw on Stankonia, you’ve still got leads to generate and sales to make. Even if you’ve created watertight keyword lists and razor-sharp lookalike audiences, something still stands between your prospects and your business: ad copy.

A beaut. Value prop, social proof, sitelinks—we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

At the end of the day, you need people to click on your ads—awareness campaigns on YouTube and the GDN notwithstanding. To be more precise, you need the right people to click on your ads. In order to make that happen, you need to elevate your copywriting game.

Next Wednesday, July 17, we’ll be diving deep into the strategies you can use to write your best Google and Facebook ads yet. Make sure to register for the live webinar to get our top eight copywriting tips and all the insights we have to offer! In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek: four tips to help you start writing better Google and Facebook ad copy today.

2 tips to write your best Google ads ever

Writing ad copy for Facebook isn’t quite the same as writing ad copy for Google—different platforms favor different techniques. For the webinar, we’ll be sharing four tips for writing better ads on each platform. For now, here are two of our best tips for writing irresistible Google ads.

1. Align your messaging with the customer journey

Google strives to serve users the most relevant search results possible. When judging the relevance of the various ads competing in a given auction, Google relies on keywords. In a nutshell, keywords help Google determine which ads are relevant to a particular query. That’s why it’s considered best practice to target specific keywords with your ad copy.

Now—I’m not about to argue that you shouldn’t include target keywords in your ad copy. However, I am of the opinion that keywords shouldn’t be your main focus when writing ads. Instead, you should be focused on meeting the unique needs of whoever’s searching for something related to your business—and that means aligning your messaging with the various stages of the customer journey.

Here’s what I mean by that. Across the pool of search queries triggering your ads, the users making those searches are at different stages in the customer journey—the path people take from the realization of a problem to the purchase of a solution. Whereas someone at the very beginning of their customer journey—known as the awareness stage—is mostly interested in learning more about the options they can choose from, someone nearing the end of their customer journey—known as the conversion stage—is far more likely to make a purchase.

TripAdvisor’s ad is perfect for someone at the beginning of their customer journey.

When evaluating the search results and deciding which one to click, users are guided by whatever it is they need to accomplish at that moment in time. Therefore, enticing users to click on your ads requires writing ads that help them do what they need to do. Often, this commitment to aligning your copy with the stages of the customer journey means being a bit more relaxed about keyword targeting. And that’s okay.

Think of it this way: Nobody clicks on an ad because they’re impressed by its keyword density. Instead, they click on an ad because it makes a compelling offer.

No time to read the rest of this post? Sign up for next week’s webinar here and you’ll get everything you need to know—no reading required!

2. Tell people why they shouldn’t click on your ad

Wait—what? Aren’t we here to talk about writing ads that entice people to click? Why the heck would I tell people to not click on my ads?

Because sometimes your ads will be triggered by people who are more likely to forge a friendship between Matt Barnes and Derek Fisher than become your customer. It seems absurdly obvious, but it warrants boldface text: You don’t want users to click on your ads unless there’s a chance they’ll eventually become your customers. Otherwise, you’re spending money on clicks that offer nothing in return. That’s … less than ideal.

In a perfect world, there’d be a surefire way to completely eliminate any chance of attracting unqualified clicks. Although, sadly, that’s not the case, there are copywriting strategies you can use to reduce the risk of those budget-draining clicks taking place. The most straightforward way to do this is using your copy to tell users who your product or service is for—thus communicating who it’s not for at the same time.

If you’re not a student, you wouldn’t click this ad, would you?

For example, let’s say your company sells specialty skin care products for women. In order to drive high-funnel website traffic and fill your remarketing pool, you’re bidding on the modified broad match keyword +skin +care +products. There’s a problem, of course: The ads you’ve tied to this keyword can easily be triggered by male users. Because your products are exclusively for women, you don’t want men clicking on your ads. So what do you do? Simple—you include the phrase “for women” in your ads’ headlines and descriptions. Although this tactic won’t eliminate all clicks from male users, it will certainly reduce them.

Want more tips for writing Google ads? Register for the webinar now!

2 tips to write your best Facebook ads ever

Although Google has certainly stepped up their audience targeting game over the past few years, Facebook is still the platform to use when setting your sights on specific groups of people. As powerful as that is, getting your messaging in front of the right prospects is only half the battle; the messaging itself is still extremely important. Here are two of our best tips for writing the best Facebook ads you possibly can.

1. Test, test, test

Being a digital marketer—or a business owner who moonlights as a digital marketer—means making assumptions. When we advertise in the Google search results, we assume that the keywords we’re targeting reflect the level of intent we’re looking for. When we create a Facebook custom audience, we assume that the users we’re going after will be interested in our offer. And when we write ad copy, we assume that it will resonate with our prospects.

We hate to break it to you, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes, the Facebook ad copy you’ve agonized over will miss the mark—as indicated by a low click-through rate (failure to entice the right users) or a low conversion rate (failure to ward off the wrong users).

Although you can’t get around making assumptions, you can turn those assumptions into valuable learning experiences. That’s why it’s crucial to run A/B tests

An A/B test, quite simply, is an exercise that compares the performance of two ads. Although you can use this strategy to optimize a range of Facebook advertising assets—your target audience, your call to action, etc.—A/B testing works especially well when refining your ad copy. Ultimately, you want to answer a single question: Does a particular style of messaging resonate with our audience significantly better than another style of messaging?

Changing “viral growth” to “10X more traffic” could move the needle. Only one way to find out.

Here’s a simple example. You’re just getting started with Facebook advertising and you want to find out which tone—casual or professional—your target audience prefers. For one week, you could target that audience with a casual-sounding ad. The next week, you could target the same users with a professional-sounding ad. If one version performs significantly better than the other, you’ve got yourself an actionable copywriting insight!

If you want more copywriting insights, make sure you save your seat for the webinar on July 17. This isn’t one you’ll want to miss!

2. Do your best to blend in 

Unfortunately, we’re going to be the bearers of bad news once again: Generally speaking, people don’t like being advertised to—especially when they’re just trying to post some photos or check in on their friends’ status updates. In fact, Facebook has taken this into account with their ad auction algorithm. The less engagement Facebook expects your ad to get—that is, the less Facebook expects your target audience to like your ad—the worse you’ll perform. 

Does this mean you should give up altogether? Of course not—Facebook advertising works really well. What it does mean is that you need to write ads that create a good experience for the users you’re targeting—and that means blending in with your surroundings. 

Believe it or not, writing Facebook ads that don’t disrupt the user experience is simpler than it sounds. All you have to do is think carefully about what your target audience wants to see. Remember what we said earlier about writing Google Ads copy that matches your prospects’ stages in the customer journey? You can use that same basic philosophy to create effective, relevant Facebook ads that blend seamlessly into your prospects’ News Feeds.

Not to get too meta on you guys, but … this is a great ad.

Let’s use another example. You’ve been advertising on Facebook for a little while now and you’re eager to introduce your business to a new crop of users. So you create a lookalike audience based on the people who’ve clicked on your ads in the past. Taking into account that this is the first time these users will be engaging with your business, asking them to sign up for a free trial of your product is a surefire way to not blend in; that ad would stick out like a sore thumb. Alternatively, asking them to check out a video or a blog post is totally appropriate—so appropriate that some users may initially realize that it’s an ad! That’s a winner.

Don’t forget to register!

As much as we believe in these four tips we’ve shared with you today, we’ve got so much more to say about writing effective ads on Google and Facebook. Tune into the webinar next Wednesday and you’ll get twice as many copywriting insights—on the house! If that sounds good to you, you can register for the webinar here.

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There’s nothing like spending hours perfecting your beautiful new display ad and sending it off into the wilds of the Google Display Network (GDN) and Facebook. You’ve got a big red button, a blue background (that universally appealing color, right?), and the word “FREE” in there five times. This ad is going to do great!

But then the click-through rate dropped by .5%? Huh.

I’ve designed at least a hundred display ads over the course of my career, so I’m all too familiar with the confusion and disappointment of seeing your ad go wrong when you theoretically followed all of the textbook rules to get it right.

Here’s the thing: Those textbook rules aren’t always right for your campaign or your company.  I’m going to share the seven biggest lessons I’ve learned so that you can get your display ad creative on track.

1. It’s not about the colors, it’s about the contrast

I can’t tell you how many blog posts I’ve read over the years that get into the great button color debate. What color button performs best? Well, I’m here to tell you once and for all, the definitive answer is orange.

Just kidding!

In reality, there is no hard and fast answer here, and a lot of it comes down to a) your audience and b) a little design principle called contrast. This study from Hubspot might, at first glance, appear to suggest that red buttons do perform better than green buttons. But a closer look at the page designs will reveal that both Performable’s logo and website used a lot of green. What contrasts well against green? Red.

So how do you take advantage of contrast in your ads? The easiest way to find opposite colors is to revisit our old friend, the color wheel.

Find the most dominant color in your ad, and move to the exact opposite end of the color wheel to find your contrasting color.

Need some help creating color schemes for your ads? There are tons of excellent free color palette tools out there, but some of my favorites are Canva’s Color Palettes and Adobe Color, which lets you select a complementary (a.k.a., opposite) color scheme.

The orange button pops against the blue background.

Color isn’t the only way to create a sense of contrast in your banners—you can also play with things like brightness, saturation, and scale to make your button stand out more. Heck, I’ve created high-performing banners that didn’t even have buttons, but we’ll get to that in the next section.

2. Keep it simple

Communicating your message in the simplest, cleanest way is critical for successful ad creative. After all, only 9% of display ads are viewed for more than one second, and that shrinks down to a measly 4% for over two seconds. If a prospect can’t immediately understand your ad, they’re not going to click, let alone remember who you are.

Below is an example of an ad that didn’t perform well for us.

The contrast of the button looks good, so why didn’t this ad do well? Let’s dive into the problematic parts of this banner (and for the record, I made this, so I’m allowed to talk trash about it).

For one, there’s too much copy here. Between the headline, subheading, button, and the “Safe & Secure” text, there’s so much happening that you don’t even know where to look first. The call to action copy itself is too ambiguous (and probably wouldn’t fly with Google’s current policies). And the visual theme, which could be compelling, is too busy for such a small composition.

Here’s how I would make this better today:

So much nicer, right? A concise headline with better value prop clarity paired with a more direct call-to-action and a cleaned up design makes for a much better ad.

3. Context is key

Have you ever taken a high-performing ad from one platform and moved it onto another, just to discover that same creative tanked on the other platform?

Yeah, ditto. That is why it’s critical to consider the context in which your ad will be displayed when you think about the design. When I first started at WordStream and was just beginning to get a feel for our brand, I was tasked with making some new sidebar ads for our Google Ads Performance Grader. I felt good about how clean and modern my ad looked. I was certain it would perform well.

In reality:

So what gives? What’s the magic ingredient at play here? I’ll give you a hint: It’s context! While that top ad might perform great on the Google Display Network (GDN), appearing on websites that have nary to do with WordStream, it did poorly on our own website because it felt too much like an ad.

We’ve found ads on our website tend to perform better when they work together to create a cohesive experience with the site itself. Otherwise, banner blindness comes in to play. Creating ads that blend in with your website is a great way to improve your clicks and conversions for on-site native ads.

Likewise, you may find certain ad formats tend to perform better on some networks than others. You might see great results with static images on GDN, but according to Facebook a combined approach of image and video drives the most conversions on their platform. And carousel ads tend to perform especially well for ecommerce businesses.

4. Copy and design = BFFs

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a copywriter. My brief desire to become a short story writer was quickly squashed by my 10th grade English teacher. Regardless, I recognize how important it is to have engaging copy in the display ads that I design. I’ve learned that it’s important to develop copy and design in tandem when planning an ad campaign.

Too many words will not only make a banner feel cluttered, but they will also make it much harder to effectively communicate your value prop. Less is definitely more when it comes to display ad copy. This banner redesign for Delta does a great job of stripping down the messaging to the most important parts (you can also see how they’ve improved their button contrast):

Source: Forbes

Concise ad copy is especially important when considering mobile views (not to mention cramming more than five words into a 320x100 banner is one of my least favorite tasks).

5. Use seasonality to refresh your creative

Aside from being great fuel for clever copywriting, utilizing holidays and seasonality in your ads is a great way to refresh existing campaigns throughout the year.

I’m not gonna lie and tell you this isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written.

Take the above ad I created for one of our guides–we have a standard ad we promote throughout the year, but for Halloween we decided to have a little fun and it really paid off. We saw a huge bump in click-through rate and conversion rate, and we were genuinely bummed to have turn it off after Halloween was over.

Just remember to be considerate of your audiences when making seasonal or holiday-themed ads. While it’s heating up for summer here in Boston, Australia is starting to cool off for winter—and your Fourth of July themed ad is likely to fall flat in geographies outside of the USA.

6. Take advantage of free resources

Not every business can afford to hire a full-time designer or wants to splurge on a stock photo subscription when they’re just getting started, so it’s a good idea to make use of all the great free tools that are available (hot tip—you cannot just pull images from Google and use them in your ads). In addition to the color palette resources I mentioned above, here are a few other free tools I can personally recommend.

Moat, the GOAT of competitive creative analysis

While Moat offers a paid product with more in-depth data, their free banner ad search tool is a FANTASTIC place to start if you’re looking for some creative inspiration. Simply type in an existing brand, and Moat will return with several examples of ad creative that has been run by that particular brand.

Be sure to use this information responsibly. Just because someone has done something, doesn’t necessarily mean it performed well for them. Consider this more of a jumping off point if you’re stuck.

Unsplash, for free stock photos that don’t suck

Even with access to a paid stock resource, I find myself occasionally browsing Unsplash, simply because the images are often superior to what I can dig up on your typical stock photo sites. The photography is high-quality and modern, plus it feels more natural than some of the stereotypical uncomfortably posed stock out there.

Am I the only one that cries when I eat salad?

WordStream’s Free Smart Ads Creator

We recently released a new free tool, the Smart Ads Creator. Though it’s a less robust version of what we offer in our software, the free tool is still quite powerful and will allow you to quickly and easily create a set of display ads from content that already exists on your website and social media pages. Depending on your goal (leads, brand awareness, or ecommerce), the Smart Ads Creator will choose a layout that’s right for your audience. And if you want to put some of my earlier advice to work, the colors, fonts, and copy are all editable after the fact, so you can tweak it to perfection.

7. Kill your darlings

My final tip is arguably the most important: Don’t be married to your ideas!

As a creative, I totally understand how easy it is to get emotionally attached to something you’ve poured hours of work into. Learn to separate what you think is good from what actually performs well, because this is something that will be different for every business and every audience. Maybe you think cats are hysterical, but your audience LOVES dogs—that’s totally ok (but cats are better).

Good art may be subjective, but good design is objective. How something makes you feel might affect another person in an entirely different way based on their individual upbringing and life experiences (this is why I take oversimplification of color psychology with a big ol’ grain of salt). Learn what your audiences like by testing new creative frequently, and set up A/B tests to help you nail down just what the secret ingredient is that’s making a campaign a top performer.

Designing high-performing creative can be hard, but don’t get discouraged—by testing and iterating often, you’ll start to notice patterns that you can use to inform your future campaigns and the process will feel a little easier every time.

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