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Tag : digital marketing

Don’t Optimize for Quality Score in Google Ads

Sometimes you just have to let Google be Google.

Large, complex algorithms which pump out high volumes of decisions based in part on non-quantifiable inputs are almost inherently going to get things wrong sometimes. We see this as users of Google Search all the time: even when you provide detailed search queries, the top result might not be the best and not all of the top results might be highly relevant. It happens. We move on. That doesn’t mean the system is bad; it’s just imperfect.

Quality score in Google Ads has similar problems. It’s constantly making an incredibly high volume of decisions, and somewhere in the secret sauce of its algos it makes some questionable decisions.

Yes, Google Ads decided that a CTR of almost 50% was “below average”. This is not surprising.

If your quality score is low, there may be things you can do about it. Perhaps your ads aren’t as relevant to the search terms as they could be. Check the search terms that your ads are showing for. Does you ad copy closely align with those terms? Perhaps your landing page isn’t providing the experience Google wants. Is it quick to load? Mobile friendly? Relevant? Check PageSpeed Insights to see if there are things you can do to improve your landing page. Maybe your CTR actually isn’t all that high. Are you making good use of all the ad extensions?

But sometimes, as we see above, Google just thinks something is wrong when to our subjective, albeit professional, human experience everything seems just fine. That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Ultimately, you shouldn’t be optimizing for quality score. It is a metric, not a KPI. You should be optimizing for things like conversions, cost per action (CPA), and return on ad spend (ROAS), all of which you should be able to optimize effectively even if your quality score seems sub-optimal.

"Want to boost your ROAS? Talk to BioBM BioBM. We’ll implement optimized Google Ads campaigns (and other campaigns!) that help meet your revenue and ROI goals, all without the inflated monthly fees charged by most agencies. In other words, we’ll deliver metrics that matter. Let’s get started."

Avoid CPM Run of Site Ads

Not all impressions are created equal.

We don’t think about run of site (ROS) ads frequently as we don’t often use them. We try to be very intentional with our targeting. However, we recently had an engagement where we were asked to design ads for a display campaign on a popular industry website. The goal of the campaign was brand awareness (also something to avoid, but that’s for another post). The client was engaging with the publisher directly. We recommended the placement, designed the ads, and provided them to the client, figuring that was a done job. The client later returned to us to ask for more ad sizes because the publisher came back to them suggesting run of site ads because the desired placement was not available.

Some background for those less familiar with display advertising

If you are familiar with placement-based display advertising, you can skip this whole section. For the relative advertising novices, I’ll explain a little about various ad placements, their nomenclature, and how ads are priced.

An ad which is much wider than it is tall is generally referred to as a billboard, leaderboard, or banner ad. These are referred to as such because their placement on webpages is often near the top, although that is far from universally true, and even where it is true they often appear lower on the page as well. In our example on the right, which is a zoomed-out screenshot of the Lab Manager website, we see a large billboard banner at the top of the website (outlined in yellow), multiple interstitial banners of various sizes (in orange) and a small footer banner (green) which was snapped to the bottom of the page while I viewed it.

An ad which is much taller than it is wide is known as a skyscraper, although ones which are particularly large and a bit thicker may be called portraits, and large ads with 1:2 aspect ratios (most commonly 300 x 600 pixels) are referred to as half page ads. Lab Manager didn’t have those when I looked.

The last category of ad sizes is the square or rectangle ads. These are ads which do not have a high aspect ratio; generally less than 2:1. We can see one of those highlighted in purple. There is also some confusing nomenclature here: a very common ad of size 300 x 250 pixels is called a medium rectangle but you’ll also sometimes see it referred to as an MPU, and no one actually knows the original meaning of that acronym. You can think of it as mid-page unit or multi-purpose unit.

As you see, there are many different placements and ad sizes and it stands to reason that all of these will perform differently! If we were paying for these on a performance basis, say with cost-per-click, the variability in performance between the different placements would be self-correcting. If I am interested in a website’s audience and I’m paying per click, then I [generally] don’t care where on the page the click is coming from. However, publishers don’t like to charge on a per-click basis! If you are a publisher, this makes a lot of sense. You think of yourself as being in the business of attracting eyeballs. Even though to some extent they are, publishers do not want to be in the business of getting people to click on ads. They simply want to publish content which attracts their target market. Furthermore, they definitely don’t want their revenues to be at the whims of the quality of ads which their advertisers post, nor do they want to have to obtain and operate complex advertising technology to optimize for cost per view (generally expressed as cost per 1000 views, or CPM) when their advertisers are bidding based on cost per click (CPC).

What are Run Of Site Ads and why should you be cautious of them?

You may have noticed that the above discussion of ad sizes didn’t mention run of site ads. That is because run of site ads are not a particular placement nor a particular size. What “run of site” means is essentially that your ad can appear anywhere on the publisher’s website. You don’t get to pick.

Think about that. If your ads can appear anywhere, then where are they appearing in reality? They are appearing in the ad inventory which no one else wanted to buy. Your ads can’t appear in the placements which were sold. They can only appear in the placements which were not sold. If your insertion order specifies run of site ads, you are getting the other advertisers’ leftovers.

That’s not to say that ROS ads are bad in all circumstances, nor that publisher-side ad salespeople who try to sell them are trying to trick you in any way. There is nothing malicious going on. In order to get value from ROS ads, you need to do your homework and negotiate accordingly.

How to get good value from ROS ads

Any worthwhile publisher will be able to provide averaged metrics for their various ad placements. If you look at their pricing and stats you may find something like this:

Ad FormatCTRCPM
Multi-unit ROS0.05%$40
Billboard Banner0.35%$95
Medium Rectangle0.15%$50
Half Page0.10%$50
Leaderboard0.10%$45
These are made-up numbers from nowhere in particular, but they are fairly close to numbers you might find in the real world at popular industry websites. Your mileage may vary.

One good assumption is that if people aren’t clicking the ad, it means they’re not paying attention to it. There is no other reason why people would click one ad at a much higher rate than others. Averaged out over time, we cannot assume that the ads in those positions were simply better. Likewise, there would be no logical reason why the position of an ad alone would cause a person to be less likely to click on it aside from it not getting the person’s attention in the first place. This is why billboard banners have very high clickthrough rates (CTR): it’s the first thing you see at the top of the page. Publishers like to price large ads higher than smaller ads, but it’s not always the case that the larger ads have a higher CTR.

With that assumption, take the inventory offered and convert the CPM to CPC using the CTR. The math is simple: CPC = CPM / (1000 * CTR).

Ad FormatCTRCPMEffective CPC
Multi-unit ROS0.05%$40$80
Billboard Banner0.35%$95$27
Medium Rectangle0.15%$50$33
Half Page0.10%$50$50
Leaderboard0.10%$45$45
By converting to CPC, you have a much more realistic and practical perspective on the value of an ad position.

Here, we see those really “cheap” run of site ads are actually the most expensive on a per click basis, and the billboard banner is the cheapest! Again, even for more nebulous goals like brand awareness, we can only assume that CTR is a proxy for audience attentiveness. Without eye tracking or mouse pointer tracking data, which publishers are highly unlikely to provide, CTR is the best attentiveness proxy we have.

With this information, you can make the case to the publisher to drop the price of their ROS ads. They might do it. They might not. Most likely, they’ll meet you somewhere in the middle. By making a metrics-driven case to them, however, you’ll be more likely to get the best deal they are willing to offer. (ProTip: If you’re not picky when your ads run, go to a few publishers with a low-ball offer a week or so until end of the month. Most publishers sell ads on a monthly basis, and if they haven’t sold all their inventory, you’ll likely be able to pick it up at a cut rate. They get $0 for any inventory they don’t sell. Just be ready to move quickly.)

The other situation in which ROS ads are useful and can be a good value are when you want to buy up all the ad inventory. Perhaps a highly relevant publisher has a highly relevant feature and that all ads up to an audience you want to saturate. You can pitch a huge buy of ROS ads which will soak up the remaining inventory for the period of time when that feature is running, and potentially get good placements at the ROS price. Just make sure you know what you’re buying and the publisher isn’t trying to sell their best placements on the side.

Lessons

  • Run of site ads aren’t all bad, but novice advertisers can end up blowing a bunch of money if they’re not careful.
  • Regardless of placement, always be mindful of the metrics of the ads your buying.
  • Even if your goals campaign are goals are more attention than action-oriented, CPC is a good proxy for attentiveness.
"Want better ROI from your advertising campaigns? Contact BioBM. We’ll ensure your life science company is using the right strategies to get the most from your advertising dollars."

The End Is Not Nigh (now let’s get serious…)

People love to decry the end of marketing. It’s a good attention-getter. While those who shout about the coming of the end of marketing from their soapboxes are usually guilty of lacking realism or using poor logic, they do make us think about the future and that can be a learning experience. Let’s take an example…

Knowledge @ Wharton recently published an interesting, albeit narrow-sighted and overly apocalyptic article about the end of marketing and what, according to the author, will be the very narrow opportunities to engage audiences that will remain in the future. The author does a very good job of identifying trends but a very bad job of predicting what the future will likely look like, but both the good and the bad provide important lessons and highlight valuable opportunities.

First, the trends. No reason to discuss these much because most should be more or less obvious to anyone reading this.

  1. People would rather listen to other people than brands.
  2. People are going to greater lengths to avoid the onslaught of advertisement.
  3. Marketing technology “cannot truly understand the complexities of consumer intent” and therefore hitting the trifecta of the right message on the right channel at the right time is exceedingly difficult. (This I would actually say is up for debate. It’s a gray area. A discussion for another time, perhaps…)
  4. Marketers are overwhelming digital channels, further driving users to avoid marketing out of simple necessity. See point #2.

And here are the author’s four corresponding points of how he envisions the future:

  1. “As consumers bypass media with greater ease, the social feed is the wormhole to the entire online experience.”
  2. “As consumers outcompete marketers for each other’s attention, every piece of media contained in the feed is not only shareable, but shoppable.” – basically, he’s arguing that social channels become capable of performing transactions.
  3. “As the individual controls the marketing experience, communication shifts from public to semi-private.” In other words, people move from things like Facebook to things like Snapchat, where there are fewer ads and more privacy.
  4. Only two types of marketing will remain: discounts / sales and transparent sponsored content.

These predictions amount to a wild fantasy.

The most obvious flaw in the author’s reasoning is that somehow a completely shoppable social media ecosystem would evade the rules that everyone else has to play by – namely that when marketing becomes overwhelming, the audience will block it out or leave. This also ignores the plain fact that the large majority of the things that people buy are not found organically via social media. There is no shortage of people who shop. Decisions may be influenced in the social sphere, and perhaps some impulse decisions both begin and end there, but those are the exception; the overwhelming majority of purchasing decisions do not occur entirely within the social sphere and that would not change if social channels were empowered with transactability.

The real world contains a great deal of equilibrium. The ability to target people and their ability to tune it out is a balancing act. It is a cat and mouse game. Technology works both ways, and as new channels and technologies are born there become more ways to reach customers. However, as channels are flooded, the impact of each individual effort diminishes. Marketing self-regulates by decreasing its own ROI as utilization of any particular channel increases.

So What Will the Future of Marketing Look Like?

There are definitely many channels that will continue their trend towards ineffectiveness. It’s increasingly likely that audiences, fed up with maddening digital display advertising techniques, continue to adopt ad blocking technology and erode the potential of that channel. Email, while still rated as a high-ROI channel, is looking like it may have a perilous future as email service providers become better at filtering out promotions. Social media will certainly take on a larger share of permission-based marketing, but it will remain a risky business to rely too much on “rented” audiences. Increasing utilization of content marketing will continue to add noise and, in turn, increase its own cost by requiring better and better content to obtain the inherently limited resource it seeks to obtain: the audience’s attention. Increased use of social media may, if adoption increases as we project, fall victim to a similar effect, limiting brands’ ability to market effectively using social channels.

Not all developments will be bad. A decline in interruption tactics will lead to a fundamental shift in how marketing is viewed from a tool to generate demand to a mechanism to deliver value to audiences and a source of strategic advantage. Customer-centric resources and other owned platforms will proliferate as companies seek new ways to deliver value to customers while increasing the affinity level between customer and brand. These companies with strong brand affinities will create sustainable advantage for themselves as they shortcut and compress the customer decision journeys. Additionally, new and yet unknown channels will develop, and at increasingly rapid pace. Consider that until about 20 years ago, no digital channels existed at all. Accelerating technology development will continue this trend and also enable more personalized, coordinated, and targeted marketing in a manner which is more accessible and usable by companies of all sizes, budgets and capabilities.

I’m not going to try to pinpoint detailed specifics – I’m not claiming to be a psychic and it would be a waste of your time to read simple conjecture – but there are things that we can be fairly certain of given current trends, a bit of logic, and a hint of foresight. Marketing isn’t going anywhere, and while in the future it may not look quite like it does today, it will still be something that Philip Kotler would distinctly recognize.

"Marketing is a race, but unlike the 200 meter sprint there aren’t any referees that will call you for a false start. Get a jump on your competition, charge forward on the path to market domination, and start leveraging the next generation of marketing strategies today. Work with BioBM."

Personalized Experiences

The image below is of a Target which is near me. It shows what you would see if you just walked in the exterior doors of the Target. Can you think of any problem with this?

Providing a single generic experience for all customers increases the duration and complexity of their experience (or purchasing decision!)

You could walk in that Target looking for a sweater, I could be looking for toothpaste, and someone else could be looking for an end table. Regardless of our very different reasons for being there, however, we’re presented with the same initial experience. That’s not helpful.

Now Target is a little bit limited by the fact that they have physical stores. It’s not particularly easy – in fact it’s downright impractical if not impossible – to personalize a physical experience for every customer who walks into your store. You can’t exactly modify the physical store for every customer. However, you can readily personalize the experience in the digital realm. Despite this, even the largest life science tools and services companies fail to do so.

The world’s best e-commerce sites, such as Amazon or eBay, don’t have that problem. They use what they know about you, and also what they know about the products they’re selling, to try to get you from where you are to where you’re going as fast as possible. (Note this doesn’t only apply to personalization, although personalization is an important part.) However, you don’t need to be a billion-dollar company to personalize digital experiences. There are many tools that make website personalization accessible to mid-sized companies and even which make financial sense for small companies with a strong e-commerce focus.

As we’ve discussed in a previous report, research from the Corporate Executive Board has shown that increasing the simplicity of the buying journey can lead to an 86% increase in initial purchases of a product and a greater than 100% increase in the likelihood that a product or brand will be recommended. Helping customers solve their problems has been shown to elicit a more positive reaction than any other brand experience. Help your customers solve their problems in a simple, streamlined manner, and they’ll reward you with their business. Personalization is an important part of doing so.

"Looking to improve the performance of your life science company’s e-commerce site? Want to streamline your customers’ purchasing decisions and earn more of their business in doing so? Contact BioBM. We’ll help you implement practices which not only improve performance, but provide strategic advantage for your company over the competition."

New Paper: Superior Experiences

BioBM Consulting has published a new paper entitled: “Superior Experiences – How Small Life Science Companies Can Out-Compete Large, Established Competition.” This paper describes why customer experience can be a comparative strategic advantage for smaller life science companies and why many large companies fail to provide excellent customer experience, details the foundation for strong, branded customer experiences, and discusses what makes for an experience which imparts value onto the brand. Life science marketers who read the paper should gain a better understanding of some of the fundamentals of branding, customer experience, and how the two are closely tied to one another.

Keeping with BioBM’s mission of providing resources to the life science marketing community, “Superior Experiences” is available free of charge. To learn more about the new paper, to preview it, or to request a copy, please visit: https://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/

Why Remarketing Is Critical

Why Remarketing is CriticalIt’s part of my job to be very familiar with the life science tools sector. The need for familiarity commonly drives me to the websites of a number of different manufacturers – this has been especially true recently. However, if you were to ask me how many of those manufacturers presented me with their brand again after leaving their website, there are only a handful. Within that handful, however, I could name 100% of the companies. The rest? Maybe 25% to 50%, off hand, and only that many because I make a note of knowing my market.

This illustrates two key things. 1) Your brand (and product line) is much more likely to be remembered if you present it to your audience repeatedly, and 2) there is a surprising underutilization of remarketing within life science tools. The former is an opportunity. The latter is a problem, but could be an opportunity.

Most buying journeys in the life sciences aren’t completed in a single instance. With the exception of commodity-like items and repeat purchases, most purchasing decisions involve multiple “sessions” of consideration. In other words, scientists by and large don’t just sit down and buy something. They take time to consider and evaluate their needs and their options. A purchasing decision is more likely to last days, weeks or even months than it is minutes or hours. However, most demand generation-focused marketing campaigns are geared towards a customer taking action in a single sitting.

For instance, say a customer finds your company through search. (If a scientist is proactively looking for a product, there’s about a 45% chance that they performed a search as their first action within their buying journey.) Unless that customer is then sufficiently satisfied with where they are in the buying journey to take the next step then and there, they will leave. Without remarketing, that customer is gone. You’re left to sit and hope that the customer remembers you. With remarketing, however, that’s not a problem. You can present your brand, product, and / or message to that potential customer multiple times, reinforcing your brand and message to that prospect. This isn’t only applicable to search, however. The same could be said for any type of marketing or advertising – email, social, print, etc. – where the potential is there for the customer to go to your website, view some information, then walk away never to be seen again. If you think about it, that potential exists for just about any type of campaign.

Does remarketing sound complicated? It’s not. Remarketing does not require any fancy software or tools. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Google Analytics, AdWords, and the ability to paste a few lines of code into their website can set up remarketing. Even video remarketing with YouTube is easy to set up.

As with most forms of advertising, remarketing should be as targeted as possible given the practical considerations of audience segmentation. For instance, ads targeted to specific product lines which a customer viewed will generally more effective than a single, broad message to anyone that’s visited your website.

Most companies are letting a lot of good prospects get away. These are prospects that have shown interest through the activity of going to your website and viewing particular content. These are prospects that can be targeted, but in most cases aren’t because companies don’t know who they are. By leveraging the power of remarketing, life science tools companies can stay in front of scientists who have shown interest in their brand and products, helping to ensure that they stay in consideration during the scientists’ buying journeys and, ultimately, increasing their conversion.

"Do you need BioBM to perform remarketing? I’ll be completely honest – you probably don’t. However, we make your remarketing better. We ensure your ads and messages are effective. We ensure your campaign is efficient. And we utilize all of our collective knowledge, skills, and passion to ensure that your remarketing efforts hit the ground running, to maximal effect. Let’s create value for your company together. Give us a call at +1 313-312-4626 or send us an email. We’re looking forward to sharing our knowledge with you."

New Paper on Decision Engines

BioBM Consulting has published a new paper which outlines the current problems facing scientists when attempting to make a purchasing decision, the negative impacts this is having on scientists, and how decision engines can be leveraged to create transformational change within life science markets. “How Decision Engines Will Reshape the Life Science Buying Journey” explains why information has become the enemy of purchasers and suppliers alike, explains what decision engines are and how they are already creating disruptive change in other markets, and outlines a general framework for creating decision engines.

All with all BioBM papers, “How Decision Engines Will Reshape the Life Science Buying Journey” is available free of charge to all those in the life science tools & services industry. To learn more about the new report, to preview it, or to request a copy, please visit: https://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/

User Testing & Conversion

Price comparison of Amazon Supply vs. other large life science distributorsI did a small study earlier this week to compare prices across six major US life science distributors (you can read about it here). Because of that, I had occasion to go through those companies’ websites and look for products. All of these companies are, by industry standards, fairly large companies, and all of them sell online. For some of them, online sales is a very significant portion of their revenues. I would bet that for most it’s their fastest growing sales channel. Yet most had glaring problems in their website. One had search results that blinded the user with bright yellow highlighted terms all over the page. Another had a high percentage of products that were not identified by their model number. Yet another had an annoyingly persistent “featured product” box that showed up front and center in the search results but never had anything in it. There was a search that seemingly only used “OR” logic for every word in the term – the more terms you added, the less relevant the results became.

These are glaring errors that hurt user experience, and they could be easily identified if these companies did user testing. This is an important point, as anything that takes away from the experience of using your website decreases your competitiveness by driving users away from your website (and likely to your competitors websites).

For those who may not be familiar with it, user testing involves someone who is within your target demographic and recording their interaction with their website. You usually give them a generic task to perform on your site and they speak their thoughts as they perform the task. The output comprises a series of screencasts with voice recordings which are then analyzed to find problems with the user experience or more generally find things that users like and don’t like (there are other techniques and tools that can enhance the output as well).

User testing is very common in many markets, but seems to be relatively uncommon in the life sciences. That may, in no small part, be due to the inherent difficulty in getting a group of scientists to sit down and do a user test, but we find that to be more of an excuse than a reason. User testing may simply not be in the culture of life science marketing, contrasted to it being fairly prevalent in B2C markets. Whatever the reason that it isn’t used, there is no good reason that it shouldn’t be used.

Anything that adversely affects user experience will have a negative impact on the purpose of the website – be it lead generation, sales, or simply progressing users through the purchasing funnel. User testing, especially in conjunction with website analytics, can be a powerful tool to improve user experience and the overall performance of your life science company’s website.

"Even if you have a new website, it’s important to gauge user feedback of it in order to improve user experience and increase conversion. User testing allows you to do just that. Contact BioBM and we’ll help you acquire and analyze feedback from scientists that will help you improve your web properties – and your sales."

New White Paper from BioBM

BioBM Consulting has released a new white paper: “10 Key Questions & 5 Powerful Rules for Life Science Marketers when Building an Online Community.” A critical read for any life science marketer that is considering the use of online communities for marketing purposes, this paper discusses discuss 10 key questions that life science tools companies should answer prior to undertaking the formation of an online community and also provides 5 powerful rules that companies should follow when building and managing such communities.

BioBM Principal Consultant Dr. Carlton Hoyt added:

Statement from Principal Consultant Carlton Hoyt

Online communities can be a very powerful tool for life science marketers, potentially putting large amounts of the target market at their fingertips while building or nurturing a leadership position in their field. Such undertakings can be very difficult, however, and can ever backfire if the life science company does not put sufficient thought into its development and ends up with a very visible failed effort. This paper will guide life science marketers in their development and management of online communities to help them create more value for their target audience as well as their company.

This white paper is freely available to all individuals in the life science industry. To learn more about the new paper, to preview it, or to request a copy, please visit: https://biobm.com/idea-farm/reports-papers/