A Rare Season of Honesty

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One of the interesting byproducts of this unique season is a call to honesty. I’ve often worked with brands that had a skewed or aspirational or ignorant or disingenuous view of where they sit in the marketplace.

I would hear things like:

  • “Our bags aren’t luxury. Some brands have $10,000 bags. Our bags are only $1,000. They are for middle America.”
  • “We make products for thirty-somethings.” When all of their sales were to folks over the age of 55.
  • “Our customer values quality over everything else.”

This season is laying bare those assertions. It is challenging what business owners and brand managers believe about their brands. The smartest managers are paying attention. But many others are simply angry and confused.

Do you sell comfort or style?

Is your product ‘essential’ in the eyes of your customer?

How loyal is your customer base?

These are all questions that are currently being answer - in a vacuum no less. It is an opportunity many of us hope won’t happen again for many, many years.

But it is happening now.

What are you learning about your brand? Reply and let me know.

🔎 Search

Small and mid-sized Google Ads agency partners to lose dedicated ad rep support

“We recently made changes to Google representative support for our small and mid-sized agency partners,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to Search Engine Land. “These changes are not related to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. They are part of a routine review where we evaluate our support level for all agency partners. Status as a premier partner does not impact their agency representative status.”

Those that lose dedicated agency support are directed to the general Skillshop training, blog posts and Help portal. Google ended support via social platforms at the beginning of the year, instead directing advertisers to an online form.

Barf. I don’t know a single Google Partner who was pleased with the level of support Google has provided. And it is only getting worse.

Google Temporary Closed Status Now Doesn’t Hurt Your Search Rankings

Google has posted an update on Twitter that now when you mark you business as temporarily closed, it will not impact your search rankings. Google said “keep customers updated on your status without affecting search rankings.”

Marketers surveyed say they would choose Google Ads over SEO if they had to

A survey by BestSEOCompanies.com, polled 1,000 marketing professionals and consumers (split almost evenly) and asked about the effectiveness of SEO vs. Google Ads according to several measures.

Marketers in roughly equal numbers found both SEM (90%) and SEO (87%) to be effective. Forced to choose one or the other, however, a surprising 64% said they would choose Google Ads, although SEO was seen as more affordable and sustainable than paid search.

The survey asked consumers about the trustworthiness and relevance of different SERP features and their engagement with those features. It also asked consumers about their inclinations to click on organic results vs. paid ads. While 84% said they frequently click organic results, only 45% said the same of paid-search ads.

The survey thus reveals a gap of sorts between these marketer-respondents and consumers. The fact that the marketers preferred paid search to SEO, I suspect, has to do with the greater sense of control and trackability that paid search offers. A larger percentage said they could measure ROI with paid search (52%) vs. 36% who said they could track ROI from their SEO efforts.

There is something to be said for a guaranteed return.

Almost a year ago, Google was spotted testing a Google Ads format that shows the Google Ads in a carousel format. Well, Google might be testing it again, or it might be some sort of malware causing this.

This seems like a very logical test by Google. How else can you get more ads above the fold on mobile?

Microsoft Ads Redesign Adds New Features

Multi-account users will have a sleek, redesigned multiple-account view that highlights easier usage in switching between accounts.

🗣 Social

Instagram’s Testing a New Option to Promote the Sale of Gift Cards via Your Business Profile

According to a new discovery by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, Instagram is working on a new ‘Links’ option within its business profile settings that would enable brands to add a new quick link, via a profile button or sticker, to guide visitors to purchase gift cards or make donations.

Social media interest is spiking worldwide — except for LinkedIn

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — predominantly used by adults — are seeing mild upticks of around 15% in search interest lately.

Pinterest is only seeing a slight 5% increase in search interest. With its focus on non-essential product inspiration, that might not come as a surprise either.

The only large social network that’s experiencing a significant downturn in search attention is LinkedIn, which has seen a 23% drop to be precise.

YouTube Plans ‘Shorts’ to Rival TikTok

YouTube is planning to release a rival to TikTok, the hugely popular video-sharing app, by the end of the year, according to two people familiar with the matter.

YouTube is currently planning Shorts, its answer to TikTok, as a feature inside its existing mobile app. Shorts will include a feed of brief videos posted by users inside the Google-owned app and will take advantage of the video service’s catalog of licensed music, songs from which will be available to use as soundtracks for the videos created by users, said the people.

How long must we wait to start wagering on when this will be sunset by Google? Is next week too soon?

Facebook Adds a New ‘Experiments’ Element to Ad Manager to Help Optimize Ad Performance

To help with this, Facebook has this week added a new ‘Experiments’ section to Ads Manager, which will provide a central home for all your Facebook ad tests and results, making it easier to track and measure your variables - and ultimately, improve your approach.

EMarketer: Pinterest overtakes Snapchat as No. 3 social network

Pinterest last year overtook Snapchat to become the third-most-popular social network in the U.S. behind Facebook and Instagram, eMarketer said in a report. The researcher estimated that Pinterest’s user base grew 9.1% to 82.4 million last year, surpassing Snapchat’s growth of 5.9% to 80.2 million.

📈 Reporting & Revenue

Luxury Retailers Reluctantly Slash Prices Amid Demand Plunge

While the outbreak has hurt almost all corners of the retail sector, aside from grocery stores and pharmacies, it’s “particularly bad for luxury,” according to a report from Bain & Co. This year, the personal luxury goods market could contract 15% to 35% worldwide, Bain & Co. estimates.

IAB: Mission-based marketing jumps 42% amid coronavirus

Almost two thirds (63%) of advertisers have changed their messaging because of the pandemic, leading to a 42% jump in mission-based marketing and 41% increase in cause-related marketing. More than a third (35%) of advertisers are adjusting their tactics, driving a 38% gain in audience targeting and a 35% increase in over-the-top (OTT) and connected TV (CTV) targeting, per the IAB.

Although purely antidotal, from my conversations with clients that are in mission-based apparel, the drop in retail has overpowered the jump in mission-based messages.

📦 Distribution

Amazon FBA challenges highlight broader vulnerability in e-commerce ecosystem

“This is a prime example of why you have to have a channel that you own,” said Garvin. “You can control the customer relationship and aren’t at the whim of another company.”

Abel already had diversification on her 2020 roadmap, but says this experience prioritizes those efforts. While these weeks have been trying, and more challenges lie ahead, Abel is looking at the positives.

“I suddenly have to create a new business model and processes in 48-hours. Your business model is your process, so it’s really asking small businesses to redefine themselves,” said Abel. “I will know how to do FBA and FBM [fulfillment by merchant]. Those pivots will benefit us in the long-term though.”

LinkedIn Offers Free Job Posts to Essential Services Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

LinkedIn has announced that it will provide free job listings to all essential services amid the COVID-19 pandemic as it seeks to help ease the burden on organizations facing significant stress and shortages.

These essential services include warehousing and freight delivery services. So if you are currently rebuilding your distribution, perhaps this is a good place to start in finding talent.

🦠 Coronavirus

Online Shopping in the Age of Coronavirus: 10 Strategies on Becoming “Essential”

e-com·merce es·sen·tial, noun: a product deemed worthy of purchase amidst life-threatening conditions

A thought-provoking guide on the new realities of eCommerce.

How Advertisers Are Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis

The IAB found that about three-quarters of respondents thought the current situation would be worse than the 2008-2009 financial crisis, including 44% who said it would have a “substantially more negative impact.” And, indeed, most respondents reported already having made changes to their ad spending. A quarter had even paused all the advertising they could.

Paid search was the most likely channel to be retaining budget or receiving new money, though only 24% of respondents said they were keeping money in search compared with 47% who said they were pulling it from display, for example. About two-thirds of respondents thought performance media would get more of a focus in the coming months.

eCommerce Filling Only Small Part Of ‘Retail Gap’

Overall there’s been a sharp drop in the propensity to shop in brick-and-mortar settings. As many as 75.4 percent of respondents said they shop in-person at stores less than they did before the pandemic. That makes sense, of course, as at a minimum, 47,000 chain stores across the U.S. have temporarily shut their doors, and more than 90 “non-essential” nationwide retailers have temporarily gone dark.

But only 25.4 percent of consumers surveyed said they were shopping online, and 16.3 percent were doing so on mobile more than they were before the coronavirus made its presence felt on these shores. That’s only a slight uptick from the 22.1 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively, who reported similar sentiment in the survey at the beginning of March.

Google Announces $340 Million In Ads Credits Available To All SMBs

The credit notifications will appear in the Google Ads accounts, and businesses can use them any time until the end of 2020 across Google’s advertising platforms.

To provide a quick update from last week, it doesn’t seem you’ll need to apply for these grants. They will just automagically appear in your account. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

🤷🏻‍♂️ Just For Fun

With Love, Jack

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👋 Holla!

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