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BOGUS DIGITAL MARKETING: Impressions Do Not Equal Sales

One of the most over-hyped metrics in the digital marketing world is the “impression”.  The idea is simple – if an ad is shown on a webpage or search engine result, it’s an impression. However, this can give advertisers a false sense of exactly how much their ad has made an impact.

Google has just put out their own stats, showing that 56% of ads aren’t seen. Nothing new to see here! But please keep wasting your money on CPM ads!

A comScore study in 2013 found that 54% of display ads are never seen. Maybe they were displayed on the page, but they were below the fold, or the person left the page before the ad was fully loaded, or a million of other issues.

This feels like the in-joke of the internet, a wink-wink between traditional agencies and publishers – those that sell display ads to unsuspecting clients and the sites that accept ad revenue. Both of these parties know that display ad metrics aren’t just inaccurate, they’re a hollow and not but ash.

Impressions have ended up being the “look how great we are!” measure that agencies that are more focused on trying to obfuscate what’s really going on so that they look good, rather than report on real results. It’s a big number and it looks amazing to say that your ad had 1 million impressions instead of the sad trombone of 10 clicks. This kind of reporting is particularly rife within so-called “traditional” advertising agencies, who are used to reporting on offline campaigns and are still struggling to understand all this internet stuff.

Impressions are also sacrificed to the altar of vague reporting metrics such as “brand awareness”.

We had a real-life example of this recently when working with a client who used another agency for their web design and marketing before talking to us. The client claimed that an ad had resulted in “brand awareness” due to the large number of impressions the ad received. But in reality, the creative was boring and blended into the site. There wasn’t even a call to action. Just because your ad had 1,000 impressions, it doesn’t mean that:

a) 1,000 more people know about your company.
b) 1,000 more people feel good about your company.
c) 1,000 people looked at your ad at all.

If you need to measure brand awareness, try measuring it on social media or count people visiting your landing page. Did someone talk about your brand on social? Did they go to your site, maybe sign up for your newsletter? That’s brand awareness! Someone glazing over your display ad on a web page that they viewed for two seconds isn’t brand awareness.

Someone glancing over your display ad on a webpage that they viewed for two seconds isn’t brand awareness.

(Facebook is also guilty of this. The “boost” button on page posts is paying per impressions, although they call it reach. Reach is also a poorly understood metric that’s becoming a stand in for impressions on social media. Buyer beware.)

How did we get here? In the beginning of advertising, we paid per impression. Billboards cost a certain amount depending on how many cars drove by. Nielsen ratings determined how much advertisers should pay for TV shows — sweeps weeks were how television shows inflated their numbers so they could charge more. We didn’t have a better way to measure things.

Then, the internet happened. Instead of thinking “hey, we can measure all kinds of things now!”, pageviews became the default metric of success because it was comfortable and nobody in advertising had to shift too much. You could say “this site gets 10,000 pageviews a day”, put down your client’s money and then tell them that they got 10,000 ad views. Just like buying a radio ad, right?

Pageviews should never have been the default measure of advertising. It’s resulted in awful clickbait headlines (You won’t believe what happens next!) and multi-page slideshows used by these types of sites. But pageviews are a metric that could be easily measured and sold to people who understood the old school of advertising.

What they didn’t understand (or willfully ignored) was banner blindness. Spend 5 minutes on the internet, and you’ll start to zone out the ads. Some pages make it hard by shouting at you, showing popups, and pushing giant page takeovers, but loud isn’t the new good. You can’t make someone want to pay attention to your creative that was recycled from a billboard. The internet is not just a cheaper billboard. If your ad isn’t compelling, if it doesn’t speak to me, then you might as well save your money and take yourself out for a nice dinner instead.

We can target based on behavior, what you’re searching for, your age, your Facebook interests, whether or not you already visited our site – a million different ways to show exactly the ad that you’ll be interested in at the moment you see it. But instead, most advertisers submit web page visitors to the blunt force trauma of multiple ad impressions, hoping for a nice big number they can show on their PowerPoint presentation the next time they’re at a client meeting.

People on the internet aren’t lemmings, just waiting around to be shown something flashy so they can jump off a cliff after it. We all see ads every single day, and we’re smart enough to decide what’s interesting and what’s just more crap to ignore. Recycled creative and scattershot advertising isn’t just lazy, it’s disrespectful to you and to your client. Reporting on impressions reinforces the idea that if you show an ad enough times, we’ll just have to give in to the message. And we all know that isn’t true.

Contact Us for a free website and social media presence evaluation and learn how we can help your business in the age of digital and social media marketing.

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Video is Not Enough: 6 Ways to Drive In-Person Visits with Digital Marketing

Many designers are hopping on the SEO Video trend in 2017 and their clients take their word as the gospel truth and put all their marketing dollars into that basket without considering what the real effects are of ignoring other key items and options they should be taking advantage of.  Video has it’s place in digital marketing for sure, but with the rise of personal assistants such as OK Google, Siri, Alexa and the like Voice Search and Artificial Intelligence are going to be the key motivator for helping in-person sales when one can simply ask the assistant “What is available for family fun’ in ‘insert your town here’ or ‘Where’s the best place to eat’ in ‘insert your location here’ … ask and be told what you want to know.

It’s no secret that in-store traffic is valuable for most businesses. In fact, while the average website conversion rate is 2.35% across industries, for in-store traffic the average conversion rate is 33%. That is to say – if you can move that website visitor to knock on your door, there is roughly a 1 in 3 chance they will make a purchase. So how can you make that happen?

Here are six ways you can use digital marketing to drive in-person visits to your business location:

1. Optimize Your Website

Did you know that your user’s experience begins before a prospect even visits your page? User experience begins wherever on the web prospects find you. Everyday consumers turn to search engines like Google to find answers to what they are looking for. Some experts say that as much as 30% of all searches queries have local intent.

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, uses a knowledge of search engines and how they work to update and tweak your website to make sure you are easier to find in the search engine results pages. A secondary impact of a well-optimized site is a better user experience on your page. This is because when determining your page rank (where you land on the search results page), search engines account for everything from navigation, to page load times, fresh relevant content, images, media, and more.

In addition to a strong SEO strategy, a few things to consider for your website that can help increase in-store visits:

  • Online appointment scheduling – Appointments can be scheduled after-hours!
  • Calls to action – Make it clear what the next steps are. Ex: Visit us today!
  • Print-at-home and mobile couponsThat can only be redeemed in-store

2. Take Advantage of Paid Search

For searches with high commercial intent, paid listings still reign supreme. They receive preferred placement at the top of the search engine results page across Google, Yahoo, and Bing. We’ve already talked about local intent and how important it is to rank for these searches. How can you optimize your PPC campaign to be competitive for these searches and increase in-store visits?

Here are a few things to consider:

3. Get Smart About Social

Social media marketing yields hard-to-measure results. And with all the other aspects of your business that need to be managed, Twitter or Facebook may be last on your list. However, if you are not taking advantage of social media at all, you could be missing out on opportunities to drive in-store visits.

Facebook is a great place to start – it hosts a wide demographic of users in every geography and is relatively simple to use. You don’t need to post daily to be successful, but you do need to have a presence.  Here are a few easy ways to encourage in-person visits using Facebook:

  • Optimize your profile
  • Make certain your business information is accurate (including location address and hours)
  • Showcase positive customer experiences
  • Promote sales or store events with Facebook Ads
  • Share pictures of goods and/or services

4. Harness the Power of Mobile

With the advent of the smartphone, today’s world is smaller than ever. We are always connected; even while we dream. A recent study found that 71% of people sleep with their smartphones. You can take advantage of the amount of screen time prospects spend on their phones and tablets with mobile advertising. Geofencing is a cost-effective way to get in front of your local prospects while they are on the go. Whether you want to target a radius around your store, or even target local competitors directly, your brand can appear on the screen of users just steps from your door. And it presents you with another perfect opportunity to entice them with coupons or specials.

5. Don’t Forget Current Customers

When putting together a marketing plan designed to drive in-person visits, you cannot neglect your loyal customers. Returning customers are the most valuable segment of your business. They keep coming back to use your services time and again – increasing their lifetime value. And they also become brand ambassadors and influencers, recommending you to family, friends, and colleagues. Because returning site visitors are often already customers, retargeting is a great way to get in front of them again. Tailor your message for these ads to your repeat customers. Make sure it is seasonally appropriate and related to goods or services they may need in the near term. And don’t forget a call to action!

6. Claim Your Local Listings

Prospects often turn to the internet for directions and general business information. These are common searches before an in-store visit takes place. While your business information may be front and center on your web page, a prospect might not look any further than your map listing. Don’t make your customers and prospects jump through hoops to get to you. Remember your competition is at every turn trying to distract them. Loyal customers are less susceptible, but first-timers can be easily deterred by something as simple as not finding your store location the moment they need it. Make sure that you have claimed and verified your local listings. Focus on big hitters like Google My Business or Yelp. But don’t forget industry-specific listings such as Angie’s List, Home Advisor, ZocDoc, or ApartmentRatings.

Website traffic is important – and should still be a metric that you consider when evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. But in many industries, conversions or purchases are still made offline. That means if you focus your marketing on driving website traffic, you might not get the results you need. By taking advantage of the strategies listed here, you can drive more in-store traffic and watch your business grow.