10 Takeaways From Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report

2017 internet trends report

One of the most anticipated reports of the year is finally here! Each year Mary Meeker, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins ,Caufield & Byers, puts together an exhaustive analysis (355 slides) of the latest online trends. She just released her latest report earlier this month. After reading through all of the slides here are my favorite takeaways:

Fact #1

Smartphone shipment growth has dramatically declined since 2014 to just 3 percent this year, indicating that almost everyone who wants or needs a smartphone now has one. 

Fact #2

Investment in Ads on Mobile devices​ has increased significantly YoY coupled with the first decrease in investment in Desktop Ads. Just looking at this slide from the 2016 report vs the 2017 report Meeker put together you can see of the $22 billion opportunity on mobile there was in 2016 – advertisers have taken advantage of the opportunity. Slowly we are closing the gap between where consumers are spending time and where advertisers are spending money.

Fact #3

These are the ad formats that are doing well and how they are doing well (the important note here is a high-performing ad unit isn’t always the one driving the most revenue). Ads that are performing well and how: 

    • PLAs in Google- driving clicks (see fact 9 below)
    • Targeted Pins from Pinterest – driving product discovery + purchase
    • Contextual Ads from Facebook – driving direct purchases
    • Goal Bidding Ads for Snap – driving user action
    • Geo Targeted local ads (google) – driving foot traffic to stores
    • Incentive Based + Skippable Video Ads – positive interactions

Fact #4

Ecommerce growth is up 15% YoY in the United States.

internet-trends-2017-report-76-638

 Fact #5

While we may be very focused on the United States we can’t ignore the growth in China. Commerce grew 24 percent in China this year compared to 15 percent in the U.S., as China shifts to online shopping faster than other countries, led by giants like Alibaba with 570 million mobile monthly users.

Fact #6

Speaking of giants – if you haven’t been watching what Walmart is up to I highly encourage you to take a look. Walmart is seeing new online growth in the wake of its purchase of deep-discount site Jet.com. Beyond Jet.com Walmart has also acquired online speciality retailers such as:

  •  Hayneedle (indoor and outdoor furniture) 
  • ModCloth (women’s vintage inspired retailers) 
  • Moosejaw (outdoor retailer)
  • Shoebuy.com (shoe retailer)

Fact #7

Google and Facebook have a combined share 85% of the estimated $72B invested in digital advertising this year. This tells us where everyone is investing there money but is troubling that two major players dominate so much of ad spend that is out there. 

Fact #8

AdBlocking technology has increased significantly over the past few years, but almost exclusively on desktop with 18% of users in the US using an AdBlocker, and only 1% of users on mobile doing the same. (See slide below for a great visual of this) 

internet-trends-2017-report-18-638

Fact #9

Google PLAs now account for 52% of Paid Retail clicks on Google – up from just 29% only 2 years ago. 

Fact #10

Mary Meeker forms an interesting hypothesis about the future: The future of search is about pictures not keywords. In the future Meeker goes on to speculate that voice and imagery will replace typing.

These are just some of the many facts you can find in Mary Meeker’s great report. She dives into trends in gaming, trends in China & India and more.

Your New Homepage: The Branded Search

 

 

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If you’ve done a search in Google recently you’ve probably noticed there is a lot more going on on that SERP (search engine results page). As I mentioned in my last post, with the new beta test it looks like Google Posts also previously nicknamed by the SEO blogosphere  “local business cards” will be adding more engaging elements to a branded search.

A picture below depicts a branded search for “A Healthy Choice Spa” (a local business part of the beta test of Google Posts). The Google Posts take up prominent real estate right below the first organic spot. One thing not as obvious in this screenshot is the fact that the photos in this Google Post are in fact gifs, which you can check out here. Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.07.22 PMThe only thing that is more eye-catching on the page appears to be the local knowledge panel.

The local knowledge panel is just one part of the knowledge graph which been around since 2012 but it’s risen to prominence in the last few years. Whether it’s getting the latest score to a game, information on the election or even the answer to a common question Google will now answer it for you. Wikipedia describes the knowledge graph as:Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.10.37 PM

The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a wide variety of sources.

So you’re probably  wondering at this point will anyone ever get to my website if they get the answer to their question from Google?

There are few things to take into consideration.

  1. The knowledge graph does not exist without websites from which to not only pull information but to confirm the “accuracy” of that information.
  2. For the most part the knowledge graph appears most on queries that are relatively broad questions or general questions without high user intent to take an action. That being said, if the user is able to find their answer more quickly this leaves more qualified users coming to your website. A good example of this would be to imagine someone querying a treatment for a medical condition. With a knowledge graph answer they can more quickly understand what treatment they need and seek out pharmacies or doctors to him or her attain that treatment.Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.19.32 PM
  3. Sometimes Google gets it wrong. Just today, a coworker brought to my attention that the knowledge graph was serving up a not so helpful quick answer. A query for fashionable jackets yielded this result you can see to the side here. So even as much as Google may try, in this specific instance the user is probably going to click on another result on the page.

While the knowledge graph is a tremendous part of the modern SERP, it’s just one part of a bigger picture. Now with tweets pulling into SERPs, Ads, local packs, organic sitelinks, and more (for which Moz has a great breakdown ) the SERP has become a much more engaging, user-friendly place. So friendly in fact that  I believe that the modern query, specifically the branded query, is the new homepage of your website.

It’s easier to type your business into Google than to navigate to or remember the exact URL. When a user does that search they can get your contact information, hours, reviews, and figure out the best time to visit you to avoid the crowds.

You may have sitelinks on your organic listing or your paid ad likely outlining your key service or product pages. In a lot of way your sitelinks have become your website navigation. If you’re running ads or if your number displays in your local knowledge panel  it’s even possible for the user to go ahead and with the tap of button on their mobile device call you. The best part is they never needed to go to your homepage! Your branded query sold your business to that user.

I view this shift in search that’s been underway for a while now as a tremendous opportunity to dominate your branded SERP. In fact there are more ways than ever to showcase your business in Google. This means investing in ads, updating your Google My Business listing and making sure the best pages are showing up in those first results. Google’s entire search business relies on there being websites to search for on a daily basis. Google wants to keep users on their search engine by creating a user-friendly search experience which at the end of the day is to your website’s benefit as well.  Besides if you don’t take advantage of your branded SERP, there’s always a chance a competitor will.

Link Building: The Art of Networking

If you think of your website as a person and their audience as their friends, link building is networking.  You want to make a connection and ultimately get that website to talk to their friends about you. In order to do this you need to be worthy of bringing up. What is going to incentivize your new connection to talk about you?

networking

Just as you tend to seek out friends with similar interests think the same way about your website. You want to find similar websites who complement your interests. Getting a link on a automotive blog is great if you’re a mechanic but kind of pointless if you’re a bookstore.

And finally remember “you are who you run with” so keep yourself in good company. Avoid low-quality sites, a few good friends is much better than 100 bad ones.

As you embark on building new connections I’ve compiled just a few of my favorite tactics to help you with your link building efforts, but there are plenty more out there:

  • Become A Source

Press Requests are one of my favorite link building tools because it’s all about connecting people.  A few sites, such as HARO and Source Bottle,  will connect you with journalists who are looking for you or your client’s insight on whatever they may be writing on. Matthew Barby has a great article on it which you can check out here.

  •  Give Credit Where Credit Is Due 

Look for unlinked mentions. My favorite way to do this is to set-up a Google Alert. If your brand is mentioned somewhere on the Internet Google Alerts will send you an email of the mention. Oftentimes it may be a mention in an article that mentions your brand but does not link to your site. From there you can reach out to the author, webmaster or editor to ask if they would include the link in the mention.

  • Exclusive Discounts

Everyone wants a friend who works for their favorite brand – that means access to discounted merchandise! You need to become that friend. Offering discounts can definitely catch the eye of a blogger who might want to promote the discount to their loyal readers. However it’s importance to keep relevancy in mind. The more relevant your discount to the blogger the more likely they are to want to promote it. A simple way to do this is having a custom promo code for that blog that this blogger can offer to their audience.

  • Go Back To School

A school website is often a very authoritative site on the internet, they have plenty of traffic, provide strong content, and have domain authority. Going back to our earlier analogy, educational websites are like a friend who has been in the industry over 10 years and has tremendous influence. There are some different ways to go about this one obvious way would be offering a scholarship. For instance you may offer $1000 essay scholarship contest and reach out to educational institutions to promote it. However, you can take the same idea from the third tip and apply it here. Plenty of colleges showcase student discounts on their websites. Giving a special discount to students adds value to their site and gets you a link on your site (not to mention a new audience).

college

All of this said, even after you get your link keep in mind that websites are people. Building a good relationship with a particular site is just like keeping up a friendship (it takes work).

Happy networking and hopefully your site turns out alright when Google decides to free the Penguins sometime soon. 🙂

Smart Goals In Google Analytics

I was excited to find out Google has announced and started rolling out  smart goals last week. This new feature is a valuable tool for many small to medium sized businesses who don’t have a way of tracking conversions on their website.

Smart goals are a type of goal within Google Analytics. So what’s so smart about these goals? For some websites you may not have a thank you page or any sort of goal that you can set. This is where smart goals are valuable. Smart goals use machine learning in order to pull data from other websites to determine which visits to your site would likely convert. By pulling data from those thousands of websites (which by the way are anonymous at this time) Google is able to determine what behavior on the site correlates with users converting. An example of this might be a user spending over 10 minutes on your site while also navigating to 4 or more pages.

Another aspect of this new feature which makes it incredibly compelling is the fact that it is relatively easy to set up by setting it up within Google Analytics (please note smart goals are only eligible in your account if you have your Adwords account linked to Analytics). There is no need to add a piece of code to your site, a task that might hinder many small businesses from being able to track conversions in the first place.

One you have smart goals set up you can then pull the data into Adwords and optimize for smart goals as your conversions.

In my opinion, smart goals are a win for Google in two respects. First, by being able to show some form of conversions Google gives many of those small and medium business advertisers a chance to see the return on their ad spend (potentially for the very first time).

Second, indirectly Google is further aiding businesses in improving their user experience on the site. Even if a small business owner doesn’t change a single thing on their website if they know that their existing landing pages convert better on 5 specific keywords out of the 100 keywords they have in their campaigns, that advertiser is likely to focus future spend on those 5 terms. This in turn drives the most targeted traffic to their site, which at the end of the day is what Google wants for users clicking on ads.

It’s also good to see such a valuable feature ,aimed at benefiting mainly small business owners, roll out not long after the not so local-friendly Google+ update around Thanksgiving.

4 Facebook Advertising Strategies For Local Businesses

Facebook Advertising is an ideal platform for local business owners because of its low cost and local targeting capabilities. Furthermore, Facebook friends tend to live and work near you. Therefore, for the most part, your Facebook newsfeed is a “main street” of sorts in your town’s digital world. Similar to putting up a billboard on a local highway, Facebook Advertising can allow a small business owner to quickly get his or her brand in front of a whole community.

But wait – what about investing in pay per click ads in which you can go after people already looking for your service? While Facebook can definitely target users a great deal, it is a different platform than a search engine. People go on Facebook to connect and share with their friends. As a result, people are spending more time on Facebook: currently, the national average is 40 minutes per day. Therefore, it’s completely possible that your ad could appear multiple times on an individual’s Facebook page, each of those times building your brand awareness in a similar fashion to that billboard you see every day on your way to work.

You may, in fact, be showing your ads to someone who already has a barber they go to, but then again… would that same person likely be looking for a barber in a search engine? With a compelling FB ad, you can get your brand in front of that potential customer who would not have found you otherwise.

After working with dozens of local small businesses as well as a few national brands, I’ve noticed what works for a national client doesn’t always work for the local ones. In order to create that compelling Facebook ad, I’ve compiled 4 strategies to help a local business owner.

  1. Take Advantage of Local Awareness Ads

Local Awareness Ads were really one of the first methods in which Facebook truly made it clear that they were an advertising platform for local small business owners. This ad objective – which is actually titled “reach people near your business” in Facebook Ads Manager – is definitely one worth taking advantage of if you are a local business.

The greatest advantage comes from the fact you can make your targeting hyper-local, targeting Facebook users as close as within 1 mile of your business. In contrast, traditional Facebook advertising location targeting only lets you get as granular as targeting a particular city.

This feature is great to capture individuals who may be dining near your business, working near you, or even traveling in the area. In the above ad, we call out the fact that the user is nearby. The user’s proximity to your business makes the ads automatically personalized to your user at that exact moment. G/O Digital surveyed users and found that 60% of users looked at a local business’ Facebook page before they visited that local business. This indicates there were quite a few users looking on Facebook prior to visiting a particular location.

One critique of local awareness ads is the lack of more robust targeting segmentation, which is often praised as one of the strengths of the Facebook Advertising platform overall. The lack of more robust targeting segmentation is in reference to the fact that, at this point, you are not able to specify beyond gender, age, and location whom your ads will show to for Local Awareness Ads. While it is true this targeting is missing, it stands to reason your audience size for an ad like this would be incredibly small.

Additionally, unlike the other Facebook ad objectives available, the ad objective for Local Awareness Ads is to go after people near your business. The local targeting is the main objective of the ad itself; therefore, it would be deviating from the point of the ad to include interest-based or behavior-based targeting.

Local Awareness Ads also allow you additional call-to-actions, namely “Get Directions” and “Call Now.” The reason the calls-to-action are a little different with this ad objective is because you are reaching customers who are nearby, oftentimes on a mobile device. In the example below, I included a “Call Now” button and indicated that the potential customer could call and book their service appointment within the ad text.

facebook local awareness ad example

 

  1. Use Images Of Your Storefront In Your Ads

When it comes to Facebook Advertising, images really are a crucial part of your ad. A lot of my clients obsess over what image they should be using in their ads. A few spend a great deal of money on graphic designers to bring to life what they think is the perfect image often times including a great deal of text. However, most of my local clients simply don’t have the resources to spend on creating a custom image.

One engaging image you can use without the help of a graphic designer – and one that most local businesses have – is a picture of your storefront. If you are targeting local customers, whether through a Local Awareness Ad or simply a city, chances are that the person has passed your business at some point. Seeing your storefront in the ad should immediately look familiar to them. Just as you scroll through Facebook and stop to look at a picture of your friend in front of a new car they just bought, you’ll immediately stop and look twice at an ad with a familiar place in the image.

This is one of those advantages that not all national brands can leverage and one that a local business owner should consider adding into their Facebook ad.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook actually has a 20% text rule for their ads. This means that if your image has over 20% text on it, it cannot be used in your ad. This rule exists because Facebook wants you to use engaging images not covered in text. They want this so much that they even provide stock photos within their ads platform. So don’t worry about all the text in your images – a high-quality photo is worth a 1,000 words.

  1. Provide Local Context In Your Ad Text

While you may be ditching text in your images, you can convey your message in your ad copy. In a Facebook ad, there are a few places to include ad copy, depending on which ad objective you choose.

What makes a local business unique is your proximity to your market. Leveraging this information in your ad copy is a no-brainer, but you don’t have to just take my word for it. A recent study found that 4 out of 5 consumers want ads customized to their immediate surroundings.

Consider including the name of the shopping center your business is situated in or even local landmarks near your business.

  1. Leverage Videos In Your Ads

Earlier this year Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg outlined the benefit in video ads specifically for small business owners. Sandberg spoke to the fact that video ads on Facebook present an opportunity for small business owners who might not have the resources to hire a film crew and buy a television ad. Sandberg has a point. Facebook, much like television, is a form of entertainment that has a large captive audience. Getting in front of that captive audience with a video that is engaging is a new ad format worth exploring.

But can a video ad on Facebook viewed on your mobile phone really compete with a television commercial on a 50-inch television? An interesting study, released this past June, actually examined the neuroscience behind viewing ads on a smartphone versus a television. The study found that people were more attentive and tended to feel more positive towards information presented on a mobile phone. I suspect part of the positive impact on those viewing the ads may simply be because the ads shown to users on Facebook may be more targeted to that specific user.

In order to begin introducing video ads to your local businesses’ Facebook advertising campaign, it’s good to go back to a point that Sandberg made reference to earlier: that you do not have to hire a film crew to put an ad on Facebook. Video ads can be completely unique to your business. A car dealership might highlight the inside of a vehicle in a video ad, whereas a bakery might show footage from the kitchen of a variety of pastries being made.

Keep in mind that this ad is showing up in someone’s newsfeed; therefore, you want engaging content that is going to catch a user’s eye. While you can include sound with your video, it’s important to note that 65% of Facebook video views occur on mobile phones. So take a second to think about where your users might be if they are on their mobile phone, such as waiting in line at Starbucks or taking a break at their desk at work. The user may not be able to listen to audio. That being said, having a video that can convey your message without sound is incredibly important.

In Conclusion

Whether you employ all or just one of these local Facebook advertising strategies, you will help your local business build brand awareness in the populous digital highway that Facebook has become.