Google’s Shopping Actions Might Level the eCommerce Playing Field

Move over Amazon, Google is now letting retailers list their products on Google Search. This new program called Shopping Actions will allow the likes of retailers such as Target, Home Depot, Costco, 1-800- Flowers, and more to get noticed on a bigger platform by indexing product catalogs for easier searchability. In exchange for a small cut of the transaction revenue, this initiative will charge retailers on a cost-per- sale model, earning revenue from sales generated from these placements. Meanwhile, customers will gain a user-friendly, personalized shopping experience that truly rivals Amazon. As rumors fly about the new program, Google insists that none of the organic rankings will be changed or impacted by Shopping Actions. But there is still speculation that favored rankings will be given to merchants in the program ahead of Amazon. After all, this is just one of Google’s efforts to position themselves ahead of Amazon when it comes to consumer product searches.

Retailers Like the Idea

So far, Google’s existing retailers are excited about the new program with many of them ramping up their efforts to take advantage of it. Of course, one of Amazon’s biggest competitors, Walmart, is eager to be seen on even more platforms like Google Express and ready to take advantage of voice recognition technology through Google Assistant’s voice shopping. Both of these newer platforms allow users to add items to a universal shopping cart for seamless shopping through all of Google platforms. As previously mentioned, the listings will always appear under “Sponsored Shopping’ results and therefore won’t be affected by organic search results.

Consumers Like the Idea, Too

Unlike shopping on Amazon for products, customers can use their retailer credit cards to get discounts and deals. For example, the Target Redcard can be used when shopping through Google for 5% off a purchase and free shipping. Customers will be able to link all their accounts into Google accounts. While most users begin their search on Amazon, Shopping Actions is changing that. The program raises the profile of participating retailers by making them stand out. With sponsored shopping results, better deals, giving consumers personalized recommendations, and allowing users to shop at multiple stores with one universal cart, Google seeks to dominate the online shopping experience. This is great for consumers because they will always find the best deal available anywhere on the web.

Voice Technology is Everything

One of the biggest differences between say, Walmart and Amazon, is that Amazon allows shoppers to use voice recognition technology when doing their shopping. Up until now, most brands like Costco, Ulta, Target, and Walmart do not yet offer voice recognition technology for their customers. Shopping Actions is changing all of this and enabling voice recognition technology enhanced by order history, and instant checkout using saved payment credentials. In essence, it’s revolutionizing the way users shop and levels the playing field against Amazon.

Insight

Google Reports show that early results show that Shopping Actions is quite promising for retailers. Those who participated in beta testing saw an average 30% increase in a customer’s shopping basket. Ulta Beauty saw an average increase by 35%, Target saw a jump of 20%. These kinds of results are truly impactful particularly for those brick-and- mortar stores who are struggling to keep up with Amazon. Now these retailers are able to stand out and shoppers can shop directly from them instead of always going to Amazon.

Google’s Goal

Google’s aim is simple and extremely clear. They want to do whatever they can to keep shoppers away from the #1 ecommerce giant by making shopping easier than ever. There’s no doubt that Shopping Actions will disrupt the marketplace, with many retailers believing this to be a very good thing.

How Google SERP Features Can Grow Your Business

It’s no secret that the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) of today is different from the Google SERP page of 10 years ago. When we used Google to search for pizza restaurants in Chicago back in 2008, Google would give us a long list of organic results to click on to find the pizza of your dreams.

If you use Google to search for that perfect pizza nowadays, it’s commonplace for a map of pizza restaurants in Chicago to show up before the organic search results. That map–your gateway to pizza–is a SERP feature, and it could be a key driver for growing your business and establishing authority in your industry.

SERP Features Create a Better Customer Experience for your Brand

There are over 16 different kinds of SERP features you can use when you want to help your business stand out from the crowd in a Google search. Unlike organic results, SERP features make it easier for people to find helpful results or gather more information about a business without having to click on a blue link or navigate to another one of the tabs at the top.

When you provide potential customers with several different types of relevant micro-information they can access quickly, you’re taking that first step toward increasing your business visibility, customer trust, and future sales. This is especially critical for small businesses that are working to drive traffic to their websites and build brand awareness. For established brands, this is a chance to cement your reputation as industry leaders. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common SERP features and discuss their value and what they can do for your business.

What SERP Features can I use for my Business?

With over 16 options to choose from, you might be wondering if you should be using all of the SERP features or just a few of them. For all intents and purposes, the specific SERP features you use varies from industry to industry, but there are 3 key SERP features that businesses from all industries can use to enhance their search presence and drive traffic to their sites.

The Local 3 Pack

The local 3 pack shows location-based results based on your potential customer’s geographic location and the terms they used in their Google search query. The local 3 pack includes the names, addresses, opening hours, and phone numbers of local businesses. This SERP Feature works best for local food, retail and service-based businesses with one or multiple locations. The local pack is part of Local SEO, so in order to be featured in a search result, you need to optimize your website’s content for local search, get your business listed in local directories like Yelp, and create a Google My Business page.

SEO Local Pack

Knowledge Panels

Knowledge panels are the cards that typically show up on the right side of a SERP and provides small bits of structured information for users looking for facts data about an organization, person, product, or topic.

So, if we were to use Google to search for Nike, the knowledge panel on the righthand side of the SERP would give us a quick overview of the company’s history, tell us who founded the company, tell us where we can find their headquarters, display their subsidiaries, and provide us with links to their social media profiles.  It would also provide links to websites where we can get more detailed information on our query.

SEO Knowledge Panel

While the knowledge panel is great for providing quick tidbits of information, it can also impact your company website’s link clickthroughs at the same time if you provide your users with all the information they need in the knowledge panel. The best way to simultaneously maintain organic clickthroughs and leverage the knowledge panel is to leverage your knowledge panel for branded keywords (e.g., Nike) and providing quick bytes of information so customers can get key facts about your company and then click through to your website.

To leverage this SERP Feature, you need to optimize your website content to provide answers for potential informational searches related to your company website’s key focus. You also need to make sure your website ranks at the top of SERPs or at least on the first page if you want to get featured in a Knowledge Graph. Creating a Wikipedia page about your company can also help your company website get featured in a Knowledge Graph.

Local Sitelinks

Local sitelinks may be one of the handiest SERP features you can use to help users navigate to your website. A “sitelink” is an extra link that shows up under a search result, and they make it easy for people to retrieve the exact information they need from you, spread traffic throughout your website, and lower your website’s bounce rates.

Sitelinks only appear when someone searches for your brand or domain name, when a customer is looking for a navigational item, or uses your brand keywords in a search. When you have sitelinks, your result has more visibility on the page and a higher chance at gaining more of the visitor traffic than the other page results.

SEO Sitelinks

Optimizing for sitelinks can be a bit tricky in the way that you can’t force Google to display sitelinks for your company’s website once you’ve taken all the steps, but you can take certain measures to influence Google’s decision to feature your sitelinks:

   ● Make sure the navigation of your site is well-planned and easy to follow

   ● Offer a site map

   ● Ensure there are no broken links on your site

   ● Use Schema.org vocabularies

SoMe Highlighted on Agency List 2018

SoMe is honored to be included on the list of best Chicago digital marketing firms by Agency List. 

Agency List is a professional resource to help businesses, students and industry professionals find the top advertising agencies in over 60 markets in every state across the country.

 

Does Voice Recognition Technology Pose a Threat to Advertisers?

“Alexa, what’s the latest threat to advertisers?” Ironically, the answer is voice recognition technology. Now that home speaker hubs, televisions, and of course, smartphones are equipped with applications that handle voice commands, it is becoming quite routine for people to dictate messages and conduct online searches via voice. That means voice is not only the new user interface, but it is also the latest source of revenue for brands and businesses. Beyond asking for directions and cuing the lights, people are using voice commands to make purchases. In fact, according to recent data from Invoca, 73% of consumers have used voice assistant to make purchases directly through their device.

The Side Effects of Voice Technology

The side effect of all this virtual assisting, is simple: the real estate available to advertisers will shrink dramatically, not to mention, according to a recent research done by Backlinko, the average voice search results in just 4.6 seconds. This is 52% faster than the average internet page load. Although a business could insert a sponsored suggestion into a voice assistant’s response, there will still never be the opportunity to offer as many ads as a Google search results page. Analysts are intrigued and want to know more about, particularly with brands like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and others competing to become the most intelligent assistant available.

Monetizing Search in a Voice World

We are still in the very early days of this type of technology, yet possibilities to monetize are still springing into light. For instance, a brand could integrate third parties into their advertising. This concept will surely evolve in the coming years. Essentially, instead of skewing and reducing commercial activity, voice search will provide an additional way for people to interact with Google. Analysts are telling advertisers not to fret and instead, get excited over the fact that voice essentially expanded the pie.

When Backlinko recently analyzed 10,000 Google Home users and investigated the role of 11 potential factors on voice assistant search, they discovered some amazing results that any brand, business, and advertiser would find fascinating including:

●   A voice search result is typically less than 30 words, meaning Google prefers the shortest, most concise answers to all voice search queries.
●    Interestingly enough, the content from voice search SEO is written at a 9th grade reading level.
●    The content in which there are higher levels of social engagement perform the best in voice search. To put it in perspective, average voice search results have 44 tweets and 1,199 Facebook shares
●   Few voice search results had the exact query in their title tag. Therefore, developing individual pages for every voice search would not appear to be an effective nor efficient voice search SEO strategy.
●   Voice search result pages have an average word count of 2,312 words. SEO can play a big role here since it appears as though Google tends to source long form content for the answers to voice search inquiries.
●   HTTPS websites top Google’s voice search results with 70.4% of Google Home results being secured HTTPS pages.
●   Content ranking high in desktop search is more likely to appear as a voice search result with the top 3 ranking for that inquiry approximately 75% of voice search answers.

Legacy Media Businesses are Typically the Most Vulnerable

Even though virtual assistants may have expanded opportunities for advertisers, legacy media businesses are typically slow to adapt and are often the most vulnerable when it comes to new media tech. After all, the newspaper business is still struggling to adapt to the internet. Some newspapers have shut down completely while new digital organizations have grown and flourished in an arena once solely occupied by paper products. Similarly, cable companies and television businesses have had to adapt against the fierce fight in on-demand and internet services.

Screen-Based Search in a Legacy of its Own

Whether advertisers want to accept it or not, fairly soon, screen-based search will be under the same umbrella as screen-based searches. Of course, that is exactly the kind of upset that new tech startups seek out to disrupt. So, depending on your perspective, the upset may not be such a bad thing, especially for the tech industry.

Google Already has Their Head in the Game

Before voice search was even a thought, four years ago Google was worried they might have an issue with people doing more of their searches on mobile instead of at their desktops. They stepped up to the challenge and still dominate the search engine category. So there’s no doubt they are already thinking about how to stay king while dominating voice search as well.

So while the answer to the question at hand is still being analyzed, research is showing that the threat is not as big as it may seem. It simply means change is ahead for the way businesses advertise online and the businesses that can be the most flexible will continue to stay ahead of the competition. This is nothing new, after all, in a tech-focused world, businesses should know they should never get comfortable in any given platform because opportunities in media are always expanding.

CPG Marketing and Amazon

The consumer brands market is changing, and it’s no surprise that Amazon is connecting with consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers in an effort to jump on the revolution. While brands such as Proctor & Gamble have already sought to drive sales through subscription programs like Tide Wash Club and Unilever jumping on the bandwagon as well with Dollar Shave Club, CPG brands are looking to Amazon as a window to bypass retailers and sell directly to consumers. The way Amazon sees it,
supply chains offering direct-to-consumer business can improve the overall customer experience and global efficiency.

So how does a CPG brand make Amazon work for them? The following are a few ways that companies can benefit from an Amazon strategy.

Changing the Approach in a Changing Market

While the concept may still be hard to grasp, particularly for those brands who, up to this point have seen success in brick-and-mortar retail stores, the truth is, about half of all growth in the US market will be from online sales. CPG brands should plan that in the next five years 1% -2% retail saturation will most likely expand to 5%, but could easily escalate to 10% or more depending on geography and products. The data is clear, CPG brands can no longer depend on the same tactics they’ve used for decades. Now, they need to consider what it takes to win in digital during this critical period of overall growth. An effective digital strategy includes addressing Amazon, the biggest US online store.

The Amazon Difference

Amazon is clearly different. With their ambitious business model, advertising, and interaction with companies and customers, they depart from the typical brick-and-mortar mindset that so many CPG companies are familiar. In essence, Amazon’s goal is different, it wants to be the go-to destination for consumers for everything, and in turn, growing their share of the household budget. Because of this, Amazon typically looks at their success based on the perspective of total household spending, rather than just one particular product. This is very different from what CPG companies are used to as they generally don’t look at things from that perspective nor do they operate on those terms.

The Amazon business model is different as well. Amazon is constantly trying new things, testing new models and completely unafraid to fail. Most CPG brands are not as flexible and are much more cautious in their endeavors.

So, in order for CPG brands to succeed, they need to keep in mind Amazon’s overall goal: to gain the greatest share of household spending. This means, evolving to adopt Amazon-optimized product designs, minimizing negative returns, actively managing inventory, and adapting supply chains to avoid being out of stock, and so much more. Those companies that evolve with the Amazon revolution and invest time and resources to succeed, most likely will. Those that balk at the extra work and refuse to invest in the channel will easily be left in the dust by the competition.

CPG Marketing for Amazon

Beyond adjusting their system to send a bulk of their products to the Amazon fulfillment warehouses, CPG companies need to re-think their marketing strategies for Amazon, too.

For many companies, this means creating different pack sizes or slightly different volume options, which can make it harder to make direct comparisons. Offering unique packaging, dropping prices slightly, and managing overall channel conflict – including pricing – are all part of successful marketing tactics that CPG brands can utilize for Amazon success. Additionally, brands can work to become a preferred partner, by building dedicated vendor relationship. Premium partners are at the top tier of Amazon partnerships and are typically large manufacturers marketing national or even global brands. CPG brands wishing to further gain credibility with Amazon should participate in Prime Now, AmazonFresh, and other “click and collect” options. The more ambitions the CPG brand, the more intriguing it is to Amazon.

While the CPG industry is more complicated than ever, CPG brands that are willing to keep up and be present in digital channels, will be among the most successful. Making the investment to learn how to “play the game” is essential to maintain sales and grow as a brand.