by Melodie Hilton | Mar 8, 2021 | thoughts
With the CCPA fresh on the books just over a year ago, California voters again tightened data privacy rules with the passage of the CPRA in November 2020, leading the nation in legislation that criminalizes the breach of certain data and security rules.
Layered with Europe’s GDPR, companies who conduct business on the Internet are already seeing changes in information that comes from partner and traffic sources, like Google and Facebook. Smaller online businesses are sure to be impacted by these rules for their own customer data, as well.
Most of what constitutes personal data is pretty obvious, and businesses by-and-large know what they need to keep safe and available for review and deletion.
The CPRA has removed the 30-day timeframe for businesses to fix violations prior to being liable for administrative fines of up to $2,500 (or $7,500 for infractions involving kids 16-years or younger) for each intentional violation.
A business can also be sued for statutory damages by an individual (or class action) if a violation is not cured within 30 days of receiving notice. There’re two caveats. One, if the business has not implemented, and is not following reasonable security procedures and practices. At that point, implementing those practices after a breach is not considered a cure. You have to have a security system in place before the violation.
Two, no notice is required prior to an individual initiating pecuniary damages or in breach of a written agreement between the business and the consumer.
Those fines are to be used to bankroll a new Consumer Privacy Fund along with $10 million a year that will be pulled from the California general fund. This new agency is to be up and running no later than July 1, 2021, though the legislation becomes operative on January 1, 2023, and pertains to information collected by a business after January 1, 2022.
Businesses who are impacted
Companies who do business in the State of California and who:
- Have annual gross revenues in excess of $25,000,000
- Buys, sells or shares the personal information of 100,000 consumers
- Derives more than 50% of revenue from selling or sharing consumer information
- And newly added: Any business that volunteers to be covered by the legislation 🙂
Even if you are a small business and don’t obviously fall into any of the categories above some pundits think the new definitions of “sharing” data could make even small businesses liable for compliance.
The Elephant in the Room – Digital Ads and Tracking
Those new definitions on sharing include the use of “cross-context behavioral advertising” which are your cookies, pixels, and ad IDs. And here’s where things get really murky.
- Does even a small business engaged in minor advertising run afoul of the sharing limits if their ads use cross-context behavioral data?
- How do safe harbors – which allow a business to create contracts with their partners to provide assurance of compliance – provide protection from liability?
- And how exactly will cross-context behavioral advertising be permitted under the new laws?
There are a number of things underway. For instance, Apple is beginning to force app users to opt into tracking options by placing a prompt on log-ins. This change was followed by a very public throwdown by Facebook who responded with several major changes in its data collection and delivery for its advertisers.
You already are seeing some businesses provide an option to California consumers to “Do Not Sell/Do Not Share” my personal information, specifically for cross-context behavioral advertising and as an extension of new data privacy policies. This will become regular practice for all websites, soon.
We’re not sure we are bothered by basic and long in-practice advertising functions. Behavioral marketing has been around for a while. Even remarketing (where ads eerily follow you from website to website) doesn’t seem like crazy stalker ex-boyfriends – more like your mother constantly reminding you to brush your teeth – annoying, maybe helpful, and harmless.
But it does cross the line when so much information is available about us online that our secret fears can be exploited by nefarious individuals wishing to influence elections or worse. Add to that the anonymity in ad purchasing and you do have an opportunity for corruption. In the past, large ad buys were done person-to-person. Not the online, self-serve model that is so prevalent today.
Steps are being taken. Over the next three years, we are going to see less data available, more transparency, and more legislation/compliance. What we hope we don’t see is small businesses slapped with fines for innocuous infractions. Much like what happened with ADA when businesses were sued for $10,000 for a missing alt tag on a logo living on a three-year-old press release hidden deep on their website.
And this is where the heavy lifting is going to come into play for businesses: an already complex landscape poised to explode with legislation – added to the hoops your business partners (ie: Facebook, Google, Apple) are going to put you through – in order to ensure compliance across all.
Has your domain been verified? Has your account been verified? Are your admins using two-factor authentication? Are your ads rejected because you violated “community standards” (for instance you used age targeting on a real estate ad – that’s against Fair Housing laws). What happened to your analytics?
Data privacy and data security needs to be part of a digital landscape that is changing with light speed. Keeping up with it is going to be hard. And will sometimes seem foolish (remind us again, why we need to include targeting to an 18-year-old for a $1,000,000 commercial building?).
If you are struggling with getting your advertising live, or understanding your new analytics give us a call. We’re on the front line on these changes and can help lead you through the agility course of interface changes with a minimal <insert facepalm emoji>.
by Melodie Hilton | Dec 22, 2020 | thoughts
Should you bid on your name?
For almost as long as there have been search ads—Oct. 23, 2000—the question has loomed as to whether or not you should serve ads to those individuals whose search query is your brand name. It’s a common question we get asked.
So, let’s get right to it. Buying branded keywords for your search engine marketing ads is a good strategy for most businesses. And here’s our top four reasons why:
- Organic results combined with paid brand keywords see 89% more clicks than organic listings without ads.
Organic + Ads = RESULTS
The burning question is: will my ads cannibalize my organic search clicks? In other words, am I paying for something I would have received for free?
A well-known study of more than 400 paused ad accounts found that a full 89% of the traffic generated by search ads was not replaced by organic clicks when the ads were paused. Combining both the ads and organic brand efforts returned significant CTR.
- 70% of the people who searched on you don’t make it to your website.
Even if you rank first place in organic search for your branded keywords, clicks to your homepage are only estimated to be about 20% to 30% of the available traffic.
Having both ads and organic results on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) helps you to better dominate the available real estate.
There are multiple reasons: organic results are often pushed down well below the fold, and users need to scroll past competing content to get to your one organic listing.
Google and other search engines are increasing the real estate for ads, creating multiple types of ads, and giving ads lots of features to entice searchers down the paid path. All these new ad types – shopping ads with images across the top of the page, and text ads below—push down the other new features Google has added over the years.
So, if Google can’t get you to click on an ad, then they would like to answer the question for you with a no-click search.
What’s a no-click search? That’s where Google pulls enough data onto the SERP to answer the search query without sending anyone to a website. Things like scraped answers and featured snippets (that helpful list in the middle of the page that might be titled “People also ask”), along with the knowledge panel (images and content pulled from sources like Wikipedia) can take up lots of room and push your organic listing out of sight.
- Branded keywords are usually some of the best priced terms and often convert much higher than generic terms.
Your Ads Have Power
Does it just chap your hide that search engines are playing favorites with people who buy your brand name? We totally get it, but there are some real good reasons to pay for your brand keywords.
Your ads have very tailored messages that speak directly to your customer’s needs and you can send those customers to landing pages like your online store. Your organic listing content is pulled from your meta description or contextual information on your page, whichever appears to best answer the query. You don’t get to choose.
People who search on your brand name, and click on your ad, are individuals who are interested in your product. They convert more easily, and in higher numbers, than those who came to your pages via generic search terms. And these keywords are usually very well priced.
- Are you in a competitive sphere? If yes, it’s likely that your rivals are bidding on your name with the hope of plundering your traffic and swiping your customers.
You know what they say: Nature abhors a vacuum. Even if you don’t buy your brand keywords for search ads, your competitors will.
One client who Buzzgen started a search campaign for had heavily advertised in print, but not previously search. Many businesses, however, had stepped in and were buying the brand’s name as a keyword and offering everything from competing experiences, to wholesalers who were reselling the brand’s experience. So, while the company was successfully investing in building its reputation, others were using that cache and traffic to divert the customer to their own product.
In our experience, almost all of our clients benefit from a brand keyword search campaign. Brand keyword search ads deliver multiple benefits from higher click through rates, higher conversions, lower cost, and a stronger competitive posture.
Have questions about creating a customized brand search campaign for your company? We’d love to assess your position in the market to see if buying your brand’s keyword is right for you.
by Melodie Hilton | Oct 19, 2020 | thoughts
Timing for your holiday marketing has always been important, but it might be critical this year. Large economic and political impacts are coupled with the probable loss of last-minute in-store shopping. Remember people who used to do all their holiday buying on Christmas Eve?
It’s no secret this year, that e-commerce will dominate. Click & Collect is expected to hold the line for the small, hometown retailer (okay Target is betting on that also) while Amazon wants to walk away with the majority of the e-commerce pie.
- 39% of consumers typically start their holiday shopping before November
- Prime Day, Oct 12-13 is the expected kick-off of the 2020 holiday season; and over-achiever Amazon is hoping to corner the online market for your holiday budget
- Election day hoopla will impact the price and volume of holiday advertising, reaching a fever pitch November 3
- In 2019, Cyber week (or Cyber5) had 3 of the top holiday e-commerce days
- 2020 predictions are that 50% of online holiday shopping is expected to be finished by Cyber Monday – November 30.
- Click & Collect will likely peak in the seven days before Christmas.
- And interestingly, 68% of shoppers plan to continue buying after December 25.
Clearly there is going to be increased digital competition and consumers are still less confident with the ongoing economic impacts of the coronavirus, albeit bored from long-term social restrictions. And some pundits say with holiday travel down, holiday gift budgets will be up.
Does that mean that 2020 crushed our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? Or will FOMO morph into FONA (Fear of It Not Arriving – yes, we just made this up)? With a gargantuan online holiday expected, shipping cutoffs and a potentially overwhelmed delivery system could offer opportunities for those with brick and mortar locations.
So, with Prime Days and little-to-no holiday travel, Christmas is expected to come early. Buzzgen has some ideas to help capture the holiday magic:
- Getting ahead of the curve and offering your promotions and products early.
- If you are budget constrained, take a short break in ad delivery during the election.
- October product searches are expected to soar, so it’s a great time to start collecting your retargeting audiences
- And, it’s a great time to invest in retargeting ads
- Do you have abandoned cart emails set up? These emails usually see very high open rates, good click through rates, and bring in potential lost revenue
- Going to offer a December flash sale? Tease the promo as an email collection tool. For example: Sign up for our list and be the first to receive our holiday promotions
- Don’t have a Click & Collect strategy? There’s probably an app that works with your e-commerce engine. It might be as easy as installing new software.
- Don’t overlook at home celebration ideas, including food, alcohol, decorations, games, and family activities.
And as always, don’t forget about the basics:
- Fix any problems in your e-cart (when was the last time you ran a test?)
- How’s your site speed?
- You know we have to ask: Are you *really* optimized for mobile? Find out here.
- 67% of Consumers say good product images are “very important” in selecting and purchasing products, even more important than reviews and ratings.
- If you aren’t offering free shipping, now might be a good time to start.
by Melodie Hilton | Oct 5, 2020 | thoughts
I’ve always said that marketing is “iterative failure.”
The unique nature of marketing makes strategies and campaigns an ongoing exercise to build business, and not a series of individual races.
Every piece of learning pushes forward to the next phase of learnings. Those lessons include a few wins and lots of misses. Turns out red is no longer in season and green has replaced it; colorful images lose out to retro black & whites for six months then b&w is no longer in favor; polished videos are replaced with homemade, and new targeting emerges. The list goes on and on. Every once in awhile, however, we move from the realm of expected defeats into the domain of the true faux pas.
I would like to say, in looking back at what has been a solid career, that I have had more wins than losses. And that none of those losses were of epic proportions . . . except perhaps for one which was literally 10 feet tall.
I was hired by an international parent team to come into a rural winery to direct the marketing after an extensive rebuild and branding. There had been a LOT of cooks in the kitchen and many of the marketing projects were stalled in multiple committees.
One task that immediately fell to me was to get new creative on a billboard purchase. What seemed like a small and easy project was hampered at every turn by unexpected hurdles. When I approached the graphics vendor to sit down and design the billboard, they brushed me off saying I didn’t have the proper permissions to create the artwork.
I shrugged this off as a recalcitrant vendor and hired a small independent graphic artist and started looking for assets. I came across a file full of opening day party guests for the new tasting room and ascertained (in multiple) that I had the authorization to use those images.
In the pictures of people with half-eaten hors d’oeuvre plates, poor lighting, and jumbled crowd scenes was an absolute winner: a 30-year-old man sitting at the elegant firepit, leaning forward with a glass of cabernet sauvignon in his hand, a pensive look on his face lit by the flickering flames, and wearing clothes that just stepped from a vineyard. His flannel was folded up to the elbows, and there was a trace of vineyard dust on his boots. The crowd melted into the background behind him.
He was the perfect blend of the unique rural environment and the new, hip tasting room. The style of which destined to soon replace the mom-and-pop outfits that currently dominate the appellation.
He said everything I wanted to say. The image was placed, the text crafted, the hashtags removed by a micromanager, upper executives fast-tracked approvals so we wouldn’t have an empty billboard, and the huge graphics were printed.
I metaphorically brushed the dust off my hands and moved with alacrity onto the next stalled task.
While I was happily slaying other dragons, the small town (population 1,034) first gasped, then held their breath, then fell on the ground rolling in hilarity at what they saw.
And what they saw was the 10-foot-tall image of a well-known local vintner – who owned the neighboring vineyard and winery – being used to advertise a winery that was not his own.
My winemaker was apoplectic, my out-of-town marketing team in disarray, and I was met with sardonic applause at the next meeting of the local community marketing association.
Needless-to-say, the image was replaced lickety-split and I sent a case of wine over to the vintner for “modeling fees.” In the end, it didn’t damage the company’s reputation with the town, and it did break the ice with a group of people who don’t always ken to strangers.
It may seem like the obvious moral of the story is “haste makes waste,” but we turn-and-burn in marketing all the time. What I did learn is that penetrating the wall of a skeptical local team is a top-priority, first-steps requirement. Without having a vested team behind you – very quickly – you could be a newbie with a 10 foot tall mistake.
by Melodie Hilton | Sep 10, 2020 | thoughts
By now it is no secret that online shopping exploded during the pandemic. Now called “couch commerce,” consumers stuck at home turned to the Internet to fill pantries, set up home offices (and schools), get fit, and stay entertained.
There’s no indication this trend will abate before the 2020 holiday season. Experts are saying that consumers will congregate around promotions and by Cyber Monday 50% of online holiday shopping will already be completed.
This is the Year of Click-And-Collect
If you aren’t Amazon or Walmart, what are the things you can do to compete? The volume of purchases will put a strain on already busy shipping and fulfillment departments and vendors. Click-and-Collect is going to be a significant opportunity for local brick-and-mortar businesses. Letting customers know that they can avoid shipping delays by buying locally and picking up curbside will become a key holiday message.
Digital advertising is working right now — consumers are online at home on their laptops (vs mobile) in large numbers — direct email advertising to your customer list and retargeting website visitors are expected to deliver the top results.
What products will work with Click-and-Collect? Half of all consumer electronic purchases are now made online, so if you have any nexus products that support digital lives those should be promoted. Apparel (especially those cute outfits for all the summer events we did not attend) will continue to be depressed unless it is leisure and exercise wear. However, pundits have suggested promoting classic comfort and buying before next year’s rush.
Specialty food and alcohol are expected to loom large over house-bound holiday events. As will gift certificates for aspirational gifts.
The early appearance of Prime Day while not necessarily a bump for small businesses is expected to drive product interest across the board and should give you an opportunity to start building holiday purchase retargeting audiences from all those lookie-lous.
by Melodie Hilton | Sep 9, 2020 | thoughts
Ecommerce has grown 44% year-over-year for the second quarter of 2020. According to the US Department of Commerce, we have seen as much online buying in the past eight weeks as we have in the past 10 years.
Some products won the spending lottery right out of the gate, and hand-sanitizer, toilet paper, and antibacterial wipes really cleaned up <pun intended>. Home baking and gardening products surged, along with sewing machines, bicycles, and home office supplies. High demand brought shortages and long waits for delivery.
It created opportunities for some businesses that had both the right product and the ability to pivot.
At Buzzgen Media our clients continue to be in multiple stages of marketing response — endeavoring to plan for ongoing non-opens without hurting the next full launch. We have some rock stars in the pivot and adapt categories and we’d like to share some of their stories.
Dulles Glass & Mirror in Manassas, VA is one of the largest e-tailers of custom glass online. This is a bit unusual as the construction industry as a whole, and glass manufacturers and sellers, in particular, can still be strongly pen-and-paper based. We all have the image of a contractor who pencils out measurements on graph paper and scratches details in the margin for estimates of our home improvement projects.
Bahram Nasehi took over the business 12 years ago and deeply invested in automation – including maintaining his own technology department. He became the first custom glass retailer online and has recently “changed the world of shower doors” with an app that allows easy measurement and purchase of custom shower doors that are shipped across the US.
Once the pandemic hit, the technology team was tasked with finding products to monetize and bring in revenue. COVID-19 has changed the world of shopping, and as luck would have it, not a lot of glass retailers were online and Nasehi was fully prepared to pivot and cope.
One new product that was launched was the now ubiquitous glass guards that we see in retail and service workplaces. Dulles Glass was designing and building items that were helping to turn essential workplaces into safe environments for customers and employees. Nasehi says that local government programs were key in helping the business launch this product.
“Needless to say, you need a little bit of luck. We were given lemons during the pandemic, but our lemons were fresh and could be squeezed,” Nasehi said. He also noted that other businesses, including some he is involved with, are stalled and won’t be back until after COVID-19.
Dulles Glass has continued its pre-pandemic marketing activities. “Marketing strategy is the window to opportunity in any business. You have to be nimble; you have to be able to shift. You have to go after your opportunities and market them.”
As for the budget, Nasehi said that budget should be based on return. “If I am getting a 6 or 7x return, why would I spend only $100? You leave your budget open until it can’t bring in anymore (revenue),” he said. Staying in the market has had other advantages, with less competition digital campaigns have seen large CPC and cost per lead drops.
During the pandemic, Dulles has experienced a surge in new business leads and a reduction in advertising costs, by as much as 40%. We attribute this to the fact that many competitors pulled out of the market, thus lowering the media costs and reducing the competition.
Currently, Dulles Glass is re-tooling the glass guard campaigns as restrictions on COVID-19 and pandemic wording is changing (yet again). For a while, publishers were not allowing ads to use words that called out the virus making it particularly difficult for products that were safety-related.
Check out Dulles Glass & Mirror products and offerings, besides showers and custom glass, they offer gym mirrors, shelves, and tabletops, with free shipping nationwide.