On a rainy spring afternoon several years ago, I was pounding the pavement in Manhattan’s Internet advertising district when I looked out from beneath my umbrella to see a large billboard atop a nearby office building. “Welcome to Silicon Alley” the large note read above a comparatively-small company logo blurred by the rain on my glasses. I remember thinking later, "Must be a really nice guy running that firm."
DoubleClick has been “unlocking the power of smart marketing" for as long as I can remember. This month, it will release an integrated search engine marketing (SEM) tool into an already powerful arsenal of intelligent online advertising solutions. The billion-dollar search engine advertising industry is about to have a big new player in the SEM program management sector.
Internet advertising has changed quite a bit since I received that hospitable welcome to New York -- so has DoubleClick. However, a few things haven’t, like a stern commitment to leadership in the industry, strong tools and the guy running the show. I caught up with the “other Kevin Ryan,” DoubleClick’s CEO, last week to get his take on all things search and on the new search tool they have in store for us.
SearchTHIS: What’s your take on all this search craziness, i.e. the explosive growth of SEM?
Ryan: For me it’s not so much craziness. The fundamentals of search and Internet advertising are very strong and search as a subsection of that is doing extremely well. It is very simple, clean and somewhat easy to use. I think it is actually part of a broader trend. I can remember five years ago being on television and being interviewed and being asked questions like "C’mon, how come none of these Internet companies are making any money at all. Why is that?"
I think it is relatively early. Most of these companies are three years old and fundamentally the sector is going to be extremely profitable. Now, the vast majority of Internet companies are making a lot of money, generating lots of cash, are justifying decent valuations -- and search as a component of that is growing very nicely.
SearchTHIS: It sure is, and it’s providing at least one of us with a living, or two, maybe one and a half. Never mind. The big question I am getting from everyone now is, why has it taken DoubleClick so long to get into the space?
Ryan: The part of the space that we would like to play in and like to be a part of is more on the tool side of buying and the bid management side of helping people buy search. The reality is while search is a big market, the bid management sector is still relatively small. The largest player in the bid management space in terms of pure technology sales probably did less than $5 million last year.
SearchTHIS: The choices are a bit limited, but so are ad serving choices, yes?
Ryan: Right, and it [paid listing management] is very fragmented so when people ask why are we so late to enter the space, when no one is generating more than $5 million right now, it is still very early. If we wanted to enter the paid listings market, yes, it would be a bit late, but that’s not our intention.
SearchTHIS: On that note, what do you think of all the bad press sponsored listings are getting? For some reason, people have been led to believe that search listings should be unbiased oracles of information.
Ryan: The beauty of the Internet is that no one is forced to do anything. What’s happening is there are a lot of different product offerings. Sponsored listings are just one of the product offerings. If consumers feel it works well and feel like they should use it, of course advertising should be disclosed. But that’s it. At a certain point, it’s not that much different than the yellow pages where anyone can buy a full-page ad and have a bigger ad than a competitor. Does that hurt the credibility of the yellow pages? I don’t think it does. Advertising is part of the competition there.
SearchTHIS: Agreed, we are clearly sharing brainpans on that one. At the Insight conference, I overheard a few non-search adopting advertisers saying things like, "We are going to wait for DoubleClick to enter the space before we do anything." What are some of the plans you have to separate yourselves from existing competitors in the paid search program management business? No pressure.
Ryan: Well, what you’ve heard independently is something we have certainly been hearing from clients. It’s flattering that they’re waiting for us and a great reflection on our client relationships. We’ll be launching in the second quarter and everyone will be able to take a look at the tool at that point. I think the real challenge across the industry is that the bar is being raised all the time on search management. In the beginning, maybe an advertiser would have a couple of hundred words, now they are buying hundreds of thousands, or even a million words, on multiple search sites. You can’t do that manually anymore and technology has to solve that so the challenges over time are even as big, or bigger, than ad management.
The specifics which people will need include helping understand the ROI process and adapt to the bid process as often as possible and have as much of it as possible be done automatically. They also want to compare how the hypothetical keyword pencil would be performing on Google versus Overture or Espotting or others and have the process be very seamless. We have at least 10 years of growth left, easily.
SearchTHIS: Speaking of growth, you are working with advertisers directly and have agency clients as well. Is this new wonder tool going to open up a new revenue channel for DoubleClick with perhaps, SEM firms and their ilk?
Ryan: I think it will. A lot of users of this product -- people who buy keywords are email clients like Procter & Gamble or Abacus, the catalog customers -- some of the biggest brands in the world. The best example in what you are referring to is that we currently don’t really work with a lot of the very small firms out there, mom-and-pops. Over time this is the one tool which may open up that distribution channel. If you look at our email and ad serving technologies we haven’t had the best product for someone who spends ten thousand dollars a year. We tend to focus on larger companies and this will open that distribution channel while creating opportunities to sell other products like site analytics.
SearchTHIS: Do you think there is potential customer base in small- to medium-size enterprises for DoubleClick?
Ryan: We’ll see. For the past few years we have definitely not been focused on them, we have been focused on providing more products to the same customers, the top two or three thousand marketers out there. However, this is a product that really adapts easily to clients of almost any size. In order to really reach them, we will need a lower cost structure and an easier to user product. The lighter version, if you will, of what I call the industrial version of a product, which would apply to larger organizations.
Next Week: Is DoubleClick building or buying? And how does the CEO of the world's leading Internet advertising solutions provider deal with living in the shadow of a search marketing pundit?
Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Kevin believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought-after personalities in online marketing. Kevin volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization and several regional non-profit organizations.
Meet Kevin Ryan at Ad:Tech May 24-26th, 2004 and the iMediaLearning Search Tour.
Return to Page 1
New entries into the search world happen every day, and there are a multitude of providers seeking to add value to the search experience. The continued growth of search behavior spells opportunity for investors, and the Google success story has made venture funds readily available.
The newest "wiki" made news this week as a solid entry into the search space. From the founders of Wikipedia, "Wikia" has arrived on the scene looking to capitalize on a much-needed niche increase in search efficiency by adding a social dimension to finding what you need.
Guided search is moving forward with providers like ChaCha that uses real live humans to help locate information. Answers.com is bridging the gap between content and search destinations.
Social search providers and other entries seeking to enhance the information-finding experience all want to solve the same problem: nullify the presence of search engine spam content while creating a more relevant experience for users.
While the enhanced experience is a smart move, it won't be enough to overtake Google, which has plans to revamp its algorithm again in order to dull the effect of content spammers. An algorithmic enhancement to retain the user base is a much simpler alternative to launching a new search site and trying to gain market share.
Real opportunity: a simple definition
Each new search venture has one goal in common: developing a solid revenue model that immediately coincides with a value-added user experience.
Google's help with identifying astral bodies has raised some questions about the search giant's motivations. Google has offered to help analyze the massive amounts of data (some 30 terabytes of data per day by some estimates) generated by the big looking glass. Of course, no revenue model has been established to monetize Orion's belt.
Question the motivation if you will, but in today's day and age, corporate fiscal and social responsibility have become a running joke. As you might recall, it was Google's mission to provide access to the world's data -- advertising arrived on the scene shortly thereafter -- and that model seemed to work out pretty well.
Google's power to influence access to the world's information has led to more than one critic (including yours truly) to stand up and take notice. Maybe Google's idea of leading the charge to invest in the future of the human race -- or at least to do something good in advance of generating revenue -- is the key to being number one and winning the hearts and minds of the searching public.
How content curation platforms work
There are a lot of websites out there offering curation-type services. They crop up and disappear with the latest craze. To get a clear sense of how a brand might leverage curation, we can break them down into categories.
Social bookmarking and news
Bookmarking services are the old-school tools of curation, having their start in browsers like Netscape. They've evolved dramatically since, with smarter features to match your interests to quality content. The best over the years have gone beyond saving and organizing articles by using social data to sort through noise and make better recommendations about content relevant to you. With the ability to follow interests, share, and "vote up" content, sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, and others have turned curation into communities. According to recent stats from AddThis.com, StumbleUpon is the current hot item.
The top ways people share online by far are the Facebook "like" button, Facebook wall posts, and tweets. While sharing is super important to anyone's content marketing strategy, posting a link to friends is not exactly curation. A "like," for example, does not give you the ability to categorize and save an article. It simply means you deemed it worthy of showing up in your newsfeed for your friends to see. Similarly, with Twitter and LinkedIn sharing, once it has made its way through the feed, it's like a fish that got away. Sharing happens in many forms and formats, and the value of how and where things are shared will depend on your target audience.
Aggregation and syndication networks
Platforms that are built for posting and reposting -- and reposting and reposting -- stuff from anywhere are excellent for viral sharing. A good example of this is Tumblr, where you can post original content or in one click "reblog" other people's content. Photo sharing has become the trend in 2012, with the rise of Pinterest and other photo-centric aggregation websites such as Trap.it and TheFancy.com. Image-rich experiences bring about new ways brands can connect with their audiences while driving traffic back to their websites where these images are hosted.
On the following pages, we'll take a look at eight ways your brand can get in on the action.
1. Become a curator creator
This tactic is strictly for warriors because it takes time, diligence, and a step outside the marketing box to become one with a community. Becoming a curator will mean rolling up your sleeves to create your own Pinterest board or other social network profile. There's more to it than slapping your pretty little logo up there and waiting for all the people who should be so blessed as to be graced by your brand to come falling at your footsteps. You will actually need to become a worker bee in the community, contributing, making friends, and consistently showing up.
Be prepared to show appreciation for other's content, instigate public two-way conversations, and post stuff that would make any direct marketer cringe in disgust. Sure, if you're Urban Outfitters, customers would love to see a trendy chick trouncing around Coachella in the latest fashion. But they do not want to see a blinking "buy now" button. Most brands will need to get really creative about what entertainment value they can offer communities in these channels. On the bright side, it gives marketers the opportunity to communicate on a grass-roots level. Are you ready for the challenge? Go forth, warrior.
2. Create an interest-based content strategy
As marketers, we tend to base our communications around products and target markets. To be an awesome content curator or creator, you'll want to push that into the back of your mind and focus on interests. This can be accomplished with some listening, observation, and information collection on what your customers care about when they aren't out buying your product. Then, align their real-life interests with your brand position.
Once your interest-based segments are established, go through your existing content assets to determine what can be repurposed and, yes, curated toward their topics. An excellent example of this is what Whole Foods Market Austin did with its Pinterest boards. I'd argue food is love, but technically it does not sell hot kitchens, love, or recycling. With about 145,000 followers between these three boards alone, Whole Foods Market Austin seems to have a good understanding of who its audience is and how to align its brand to them. I couldn't help but follow.
3. Optimize for popular sharing topics
As a brand, all this might not make sense at first. If you put on your creative cap (in fact, get out of the office and have a brainstorm), you can easily develop content to meet the mainstream. Pay attention to memes and make Photoshop your best friend. How about a rainbow treatment on your product? A "What a unicorn would do if he worked in our office for a day" blog post or...well, you get the picture.
4. Treat photography as being as important as copy
With the popularity of blogging, the written word has reigned king. The term "content is king" was not reserved for articles. Video and photography is as valuable as an article. Consider image blogging using WordPress or, even better, platforms like Tumblr so it can easily spread across the web.
When you're writing your next brilliant article, put time into article images so people are inspired to not only share the article, but also to pin it on Pinterest, which creates a traffic loop back to your website. This applies to product landing pages and shopping cart pages too. How can you better use lifestyle photography and stylized product images so they are "pinterestable"? Videos are pinterestable too.
5. Make something worth sharing
While you're thinking about how photography fits into your content plan, consider that it must be stripped of buttons and call to actions. A "banner" ad image just won't do. Content worth sharing -- whether an article, video, or image -- must connect with the sharer on an emotional level or provide a ton of value in their eyes and be something they'd be proud to pass off to their friends.
Whether it's a white paper or a how-to video, or a rainbow-inspired cupcake, find that connection and bring on the value. For curation, consider its lasting value and how it fits into popular topics and interest lists. When you see their eyes light up and they send it forward into their communities, you've done your job well. Consider the inspiration that Nike brings to people through simple posters.
6. Make it sharable
Making share-worthy content is the first step. The second is making it easy to actually do. This is simple. Add sharing buttons to your content on your blog, website, shopping cart, and email campaigns. People will do things that require one-click. If LinkedIn is your inroad to business, put a nice big LinkedIn share button next to your white paper. Add sharing buttons above or below your blog posts, case studies, and articles will encourage people to StumbleUpon, pin it, and Digg it. It does not require your brand have a presence in these social networks. You're just making it easy for your visitors who do.
7. Make friends with influencers
Social bookmarking communities can be tough to break into. And if you don't have time to become a warrior (reference to tip 1), then it's good to become friends with one. Extend your influencer outreach to leaders in Reddit, Pinterest, and Tumblr communities so that when you have something great to share, you've aligned with partners to help get your content out. Be sure to follow the same best practices you would in blogger outreach to approach them appropriately, build value, and develop the relationship.
8. Post from the inside
Behind-the-scenes photos and videos are gold when it comes to social sharing. Especially if your brand has access to celebrities. If not, no worries. People just want to get to know the people behind the brand. A behind-the-scenes of how the grocer picks fruit, your weird office culture, and the care that goes into making a product on the factory floor can all be interesting stories. The Ace Hotel focuses on travel interviews to build a story around its brand on Tumblr. Urban Outfitters mixes up its highly produced photography with the occasional modeling shoot image taken with a smartphone for Instagr.am and then syndicated to Pinterest.
Curation is inspiration. Whether you're using social bookmarking to StumbleUpon fame or simply adding a few buttons to your site to make sharing easy, step outside your box and get creative. It will be fun.
"Set of vintage paper notes" image via Shutterstock.
Real-time data reporting
One of the more exciting updates to Google Analytics is the introduction of real-time reporting. Found under the home menu, this is a first for Google Analytics: insight into what's going on at your site at this very moment.
After going to the home menu, you will find "real-time (beta)" as the first choice in the left nav. It expands into four sub-categories: "overview," "locations," "traffic sources," and "content."
"Locations" shows (as one might expect) the countries from which current visitors to your site are located; "traffic sources" breaks down how users found your site (referral, organic, etc.); "content" shows what specific pages (sections, blog posts, etc.) are being viewed at that moment; and "overview," as seen below, brings them all together, including the total number of active visitors on the site.
How might you use this data? It can tell you how traffic might ramp up and down at specific times of day, or, if you tweet a link to your site or blog post, you can use it to experiment and see if specific times for posting links work better than others. There's a lot of potential here. (It's also just kind of fun to watch.)
New search engine optimization insights
Among all the changes made in the Google Analytics redesign, the new search engine optimization data in the left nav. under "traffic sources" is a particularly helpful addition, and potentially game-changing. However, in order to view "search queries," "landing pages," and "geographic summaries," you must sync your Webmaster Tools profile with your Analytics profile. This is simple (assuming you're using Webmaster Tools, which you should be), and you will be prompted to do so when you try and access one of the search engine optimization menus.
Once that is done, you'll be able to view more robust information about search-related data than ever before -- queries users are using to reach your site, including potential impressions versus actual clicks and click-through rate (CTR); your top performing landing pages and their CTRs; where most of your visitors are located; and more. Use this data to help shape your SEO copywriting, your AdWords copy, even which pages you choose to highlight on your homepage. This is valuable information, and now easily digestible. Here's some sample "landing page" data:
There are now several ways to measure Google+ activity within Analytics.
Note the new "social" menu under "audience:"
Here, you can monitor all parts of your site -- blog posts or any other content -- that have been "+1'd," divided into the subcategories of "engagement" (how many visitors did and did not make a Google+ related interaction with your site), "action" (detailing your users' social source, which, for now, seems to always be Google, and what social action was taken), and "pages" (pages that received a "+1"). It is, of course, an incomplete social picture, but could prove to be an important addition.
And in the endThe analytics you take are equal to the analytics you make. Google Analytics is a great tool, but it's important to stay on top of and continually investigate. These four changes are just the tip of the iceberg. Explore on your own, try new things in Analytics, and enjoy it.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Analytics" image via Shutterstock.