Seeing Light at the End of the Tunnel

Image Credit: Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

There has been no uplifting news coming our way over the past few weeks, and I don’t think there is any on the way soon. I’m therefore in the hunt to find some positive lights to share with SMEs as I put together this month’s article.

It has taken many of us a couple of weeks to settle into a new way of working, but after a while we start thinking how to make most of the current situation to survive and hopefully also to thrive, emerging from this crisis with confidence about the future. We’ve adapted to working from home and letting our employees do the same, we’ve embraced virtual meetings and virtual collaboration, thanks to the power and flexibility of technology.

There is no doubt that some industries such as Travel and Tourism are suffering from a decline in demand for their services as flights get cancelled and people stop travelling. But it’s also true that some others such as Retail and FMCG are still generating a healthy amount of revenue due to consumers changing behaviour across the world – 55% of Chinese and 31% of Italians said they’re using online shopping to buy products that they would normally buy in-store.

Those with business models that sell products or services online (or possess the potential to do so), have a huge opportunity here, with their audiences stuck at home, browsing the web, looking for something to engage and entertain them. You simply need to have a strong online presence, and to tailor your message and services in order to adapt to the changing market. And, digital advertising has the power to capture the demand and drive traffic to your online shop.

The potential growth is not only for big players such as the Zoom video communication platform, which has seen an increase in its market share in recent months. Any size of business can benefit from new opportunities with a willingness to adapt to the new norm. It will be unlikely for brands that assist consumers today to be forgotten in the future. A good example of this is Lola’s, a bakery based in north London, that until recently positioned itself as London’s most delicious cupcakes and cakes shop. Today, some Londoners know them as an excellent outlet for fresh food when the usual online sources are struggling to maintain their service and their website.

The list of small to medium sized businesses that have carved out new opportunities goes on and on, from private tutors generating money by offering busy parents help with kids home-schooling, to a local yoga studio that is now keeping their members active and satisfied by launching online yoga classes. After all, we must maintain those resilience muscles that were strengthened during easier times.

The Power of Paid Search

Strider Bikes began life with Ryan McFarland wanting his son to ride. Instead of waiting for him to grow up, he created a bike so his toddler could ride immediately. Today, Strider is a global brand, selling in 78 countries. Using the power of Paid Search, Google Ads puts Strider’s product in front of the right customers across the globe, even though they don’t have a big budget.


Since founding Mediatative, the paid media agency, I have come across a lot of SMEs with a great product or service seeking an effective way to promote themselves but, unlike Strider, remain reluctant to use the power of Paid Search and all the useful data and insight it offers. Their initial concern is that it requires them to invest in a media budget linked to the associated fear of losing money.

Having seen the benefit of PPC for a lot of brands during my corporate advertising career, I am keenly aware of the medium- to long-term value of investing in Paid Search. As Ryan says, ‘’running a small business is very much like running a bike. To keep it upright, you got to keep moving’’. Like anything else in life, we have to take a risk with our business, a calculated risk of course, but if we are hungry to grow, we have to try out new things. Luckily, and unlike many other services that push business owners to commit to a lengthy contract, using Google Ads service requires no long term commitment and the PPC activity can start and stop as the business owners wish, which is a fantastic way for the newbies to test the benefit of this amazing service. 

Where Is the Video Ad & Content Industry Heading?

Another great event this month organised by Video Ad News, setting the scene for what we might expect to see in the video advertising industry during the next 12 months.

In one of my blog posts last year on video ads, I went through some stats confirming how the demand to watch video content outside traditional cable TV continued to increase among internet users. It’s clear that video advertising is the way to move forward for brands and advertisers.

The video industry is growing both strongly and steadily. Extensive research by Ampere Analysis on the new TV market shows that SVOD (subscription-based video on demand) has increased its share from 2% to 10% over the last 5 years. However, the completion of video content has reduced over the last two years. Richard Broughton from Ampere Analysis suggested that, despite the growth, winning audiences will be (and, indeed, already is) very competitive as there is a cap and finite amount of time available to households to watch the content. He goes on to say that players in this saturated market should be selective in terms of their strategy in order to win the audience battle e.g. through focusing on creation of a different type of content that doesn’t already exit in the market, focusing on certain niches in the market, i.e. via good sponsorship opportunities etc.

Since the stats make clear that winning the audience is a real issue, it makes sense that advertisers and broadcasters are searching for opportunities to find new audiences. Dave Morgan, The CEO of Simulmedia, thinks the future of video ads will be ads in digital gaming. He argues that the gamers form part of a largely untapped market segment who spend a significant amount of time fully engaged on their consoles. Data show that average gamers play between 3 and 4 sessions a week, and this provides an opportunity for brands to be in front of their audiences.

Two huge service providers in OTT (over the top) content, ITV (Lara Izlan) and Channel 4 (Sarah Rose), argued that we are in the era of increasing exclusivity for our audiences – we need to understand what our audiences want to watch and how they want to watch, and only then should customers be asked to pay for the service and content they receive.

Overall, the event was a great opportunity for advertisers and publishers to share their thoughts, views and latest trends in the industry. If you’re interested to receive the guide for this event produced by Video Ad News click here. For interviews with some of the speakers at the event click here.

Hiring a Marketing Agency vs In-housing

Last week I was at an event organised by my Mailjet, Exponea, DMA & Google. The main topic of discussion concerned the pros & cons of having marketing and media teams in-house.

The subject resonates with me at different levels having worked at global media agencies, in clients’ offices and more recently talking to a lot of smaller businesses following the founding of Mediatative.

DMA, has surveyed some brands and asked their opinions on the subject:

What Were the Thoughts of Big Brands?

  • Brands were in favour of in housing as it brings their business consistency, control and transparency and helps them to save cost.
  • Brands found outsourcing marketing work to agencies challenging because of lack of understanding and knowledge of their business.
  • Brands have limited budget to adopt new technologies.
  • They were concerned that during the transition of bringing the marketing team in-house they will see a dip in performance.

What Were the Thoughts of the Panel of Marketing Experts?

  • In-housing is currently seeing a lot interest amongst brands.
  • Finding the right talent and skill-set would be incredibly difficult for brands.
  • Talent would need the right technology to be able to deliver successfully on their job demands.
  • Brands may never have sufficient budget to facilitate this level of technology.
  • Brands would find it difficult to provide their media & marketing talent with an opportunity to grow and develop in the industry.
  • New ideas can come from a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ outside the business and having an agency would bring that potential to the table.

Concluding Thoughts

Understandably, the size of a business matters and needs differ according to the stage of business development. However, if you have an expansive vision for your business, my own experience of working on large accounts suggests that if brands want to move Everything in-house, it’s almost impossible for them to have the same level of experience, talent and quality of relationships with media and marketing partners. The technology and the skills that are needed to handle an account, providing high quality analysis, and spending sufficient time using insight to optimise performance are not only essential but vital to make sure the media spend on giant advertising platforms is utilised to its maximum potential. And after all, in order to be a successful customer-centric brand requires shaping a service or product around customer experience, and support from the experts is crucial.

How Far Has Voice Search Progressed to Date?

Looking back a few years to when the paid search landscape was maxed out, voice search seemed a good avenue to find demand and additional traffic for clients. The problem concerned the difficulty of supporting our ideas with statistics in order to drive sales off the back of running the campaign. We were digging into data that were available on the advertising platforms of the various search engines, but nothing promising was being revealed.

Recently, after spending 10+ hours a day on my computer/phone resulting in chronic neck and shoulder pains, the only way to survive was to reduce the time spent on these devices. This motivated me to seek out other ways to reduce my screen-time and keyboard use…

In the past, I had been in conferences run by Google where they demonstrated the advantages of voice-search over typed-search inquiries. Drawing upon this experience, I’ve been reflecting on the scope to integrate the power of voice search and voice typing as part of broader changes in my working habits.

So, I thought it was time to dig once more into some industry articles to find out about recent advances in voice search technologies. I was positive that there would be many people like me that found voice search an appealing possibility; after all I’m a consumer and a shift in my behaviour can be representative of a shift in consumer behaviour at a larger scale…

What is voice search?

According to Wikipedia ‘’voice search is also called voice-enabled, allow[ing] the user to use a voice command to search the Internet, a website, or an app. In a broader definition, voice search includes open-domain keyword query on any information on the Internet, for example in Google Voice Search, Cortana, Siri and Amazon Echo. Voice search is often interactive, involving several rounds of interaction that allows a system to ask for clarification. Voice search is a type of dialog system.’’

Voice search demand in the market

Source: Statista 2019

The stats above show the extent to which internet users globally used voice search in the previous 12 months on various devices, broken down by age groups – the survey was conducted from Q4 2018 to Q1 2019. As expected, Mobile devices have a higher share compared to Laptops and PCs, due to the nature of voice search and its convenience while on the move.  Although the highest use goes to Any device, which I am assuming refers to things such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices.

Where do you start to incorporate voice search in your search advertising strategy?

As Jared Belsky in his Think with Google article suggests, ‘‘If you can understand how, where, and why your customers use voice, you can find natural connections between your brand and their needs.’’ Think about what Phrases consumers may use in order to find your products or brand. For example, what would be the result for voice searching something specific or non-specific about your products or services? See examples below from a voice search on a mobile device for both types of queries (i.e. specific & non-specific).

Image Credit: Google Voice Search Result

Following on from this, you need to think about how you might then utilise the voice search to enhance the user journey (See Jared Belsky’s article).

In Sara Kleinberg’s article, also published on Think with Google, she draws from a US-based survey in order to highlight those things that owners of voice-activated speakers would like to receive from brands:

  • information from brands about sales, deals and promotions – 52%
  • personalised tips and information that make their life easier – 48%
  • information about upcoming events and activities – 42%
  • options to find business information (e.g. store locations) – 39%
  • access to customer services and support – 38%

While some of us might still think there isn’t enough demand to invest resources in voice search strategy & implementation, the market trend clearly shows a growth in the area. Like anything else, the sooner brands adapt to the landscape the more likelihood of success. This early adaptation will give advertisers sufficient time to test, learn and polish their strategy and tactics.

Is Paid Search the Right Channel for Your Brand on Black Friday?

The giant Paid Search (PPC) platforms, Google and Bing, have already started preparing advertisers for one of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday.

Microsoft advertising published new statistics earlier this month, indicating that 45% of the searches in the build-up to Black Friday are non-branded (generic) terms, showing how important it is for advertisers to use generic keywords  in order to capture those audiences interested in their products. These audience lists can then be utilised in remarketing campaigns closer to Black Friday.

The stats, based on last year’s consumer behaviour during Black Friday’s shopping peak also show that 33% of purchases online were made on mobile devices, indicating the importance for your website to be mobile friendly in order to complete the user journey to conversion. Naturally, research on products by consumers goes up during the Black Friday period/Cyber Monday, and as searchers shop for the Christmas season we expect to see even higher demand during this time.

While knowing consumer behaviour helps advertisers to plan ahead and have the right set up in place for campaign management and audience list building, don’t forget that demand for generic keywords rises too. As a result, these keywords become more expensive, requiring greater budget investment from brands. So key a question for advertisers to answer is: should they invest in their paid search channel and, if so, should they only focus on particular audience lists that are more valuable and loyal to them? That’s a crucial decision for any brand and especially for small businesses. According to Adobe Insights, based on last year Black Friday trends, 50% of revenue generated during this shopping peak was associated with marketing tactics that involved Paid Search directly in the users’ journey. In fact, this channel was the only channel among others with a YOY growth of 6%. This tells you that investment in Paid Search will be very likely to pay off.

If you made the decision to run a Paid Search campaign for the Black Friday sale, then you could work on a Shopping ads campaign to showcase your products on both Google and Bing search engines. See the iPhone Shopping ads below, sponsored by different retailers appearing on Google.

Source: Google Search Engine

In addition, Dynamic Search ads allow you to target relevant queries automatically based on the content of your web pages. The figure below helps you to understand how this type of text ad works.

Source: Microsoft Advertising Masters

In this blog post, we have only given you a few examples of the many Paid  Search products available on Google and Bing search advertising platforms. Running a small or medium size business and working on a tight budget, we strongly advise you to choose the product that is right for your brand. Always test products before you launch them across your Paid Search account. It’s best to test them outside the peak season and stick to what you know generates the best return on investment for your business during Black Friday so your marketing budget is managed effectively. Lastly, don’t forget that the audience list that you build on people who have visited your website during the Black Friday period is a valuable list for remarketing during the Christmas campaign. Good luck & happy selling!

Video Advertising is the Way to Move Forward…

According to eMarketer, 61% of American Internet users watched TV programmes via Netflix in 2019, followed by 52% via YouTube, 37% via Amazon Prime, and traditional TV viewing i.e. watching  a programme when it’s aired on TV, came in fourth at 36%, confirming that audiences increasingly watch what they want, where they want, and when they want. To advertisers, regardless of the size of their advertising budget, this sends a strong message: the era of investing heavily in TV commercials to reach the mass audience is nearly at its end, and video advertising is the way to move forward…

Within the context of global Internet traffic (see above), YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and Netflix are all among the top 20 most visited websites; some of these websites are recognised as video platforms and some as social media. Importantly, there is an overlap between video advertising and social media.

Let’s have a closer look at video marketing by going through some examples on the YouTube platform. Like any other marketing campaign, your video campaign will have goals based on the results you want to achieve for your business at any given time. You might need to increase awareness or drive an action such as purchase or sign up. Focusing on actions, there are several video ad types to drive this goal and one of them is ‘Trueview for Action’. The ad format is skippable, so advertisers shouldn’t be worried about frustrating their audience by making them watch the entire video ad. This video ad should be at least 10 seconds or longer in length. As is illustrated below, because there is a Call to Action button appearing close to the ‘Skip ad’ button, it will encourage audience engagement/ click on the CTA button. More detailed instructions as to how you can set up this type of video campaign can be found here.

Image Credit:

For example, Marley Spoon, the Berlin- based meal kit (delivering pre-portioned ingredients for the recipes their customers love), ran a couple of YouTube ad campaigns to achieve an increase in brand awareness and sales. The latter was managed via a ‘Trueview for Action’ campaign and it was done by encouraging viewers to click on a ‘Try Now’ CTA button and directing them to Marley Spoon website. Read more, if you’re interested to know how their video advertising campaign performed.

Image Credit:

Don’t Miss Out on Free Exposure with Google My Business, Especially if You Own a Small Business

The free marketing tool, Google My Business, gives your business a sense of credibility when your existing or potential customers search for you on Google. This feature ensures that your business name with all its details such as location, opening hours, website, photos, customers reviews, your business social media profiles and much more appears in the right-hand side of the search engine.

Don’t worry if you’re in a business that doesn’t require customers to visit your location, you can still create your business profile on Google’s listing. Google My Business allows you to hide your exact location on the map if your business address is the same as your home address. Google does, however, need to verify your location and your ownership in order to add a business onto its listing. This means you must provide them with the exact address of your business and they will send you a code via post or email for verification. Upon receiving the code, you need to enter that to your Google My Business account to complete setting up the profile.

As noted above, your business social media profiles from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc can be added to your Google My Business. To do this, you need to add a script for each of those profiles to the back end of your website. Remember to connect your business profile to your website so that scripts can do their job. If WordPress is your website hosting platform, this step by step guide will help you integrate the two accounts – if you have already set up your Google My Business Profile before this integration, you may see different Call-to-Action buttons from what’s in the guide.

Certain business categories can benefit from specific features available on Google My Business. For example, bars and restaurants can have links for online reservations, orders and even menus added to their business profile. There are also options available for adding events information or special offers to your profile, depending on the type of business you’re in.

And finally, something exciting for those who love details and numbers. There is an Insights section on Google My Business that provides data concerning visits to your business profile. For example, you could learn how customers searched for your business, what queries they searched to find your business, what actions they took on visiting your business and much more! If you integrated your WordPress website with your Google My Business profile, all these stats would be available in your website dashboard too.

We hope you found this article helpful. If interested in setting up your business profile on Google My Business, here is where you can get started.

Running a Small Business? Let Your Potential Clients Know You’re Available for Business on LinkedIn!

Earlier this week LinkedIn, the networking provider helping professionals to socialise and find new career and business opportunities, launched a new product aiming to help freelancers and small businesses to reach potential new clients. Already launched in the US market to Premium Business subscribers, the new LinkedIn feature allows users to update their profile with the type of services they offer so when someone searches on LinkedIn to find the same service, their profile will appear in the search results. Members can then message the service provider directly to find out more.

According to Business Statistics by Chris Rhodes, published by House of Commons Library in Dec 2018, there were 5.7 million small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK in 2018, which accounted for over 99% of all businesses – SME is any business with fewer than 250 employees. Moreover, of those, 5.4 million were micro-businesses (0-9 employees), accounting for 96% of all businesses. This illustrates the significant role that SMEs play in the economy and it’s great to see LinkedIn recognising the help they need to market and put their name and services in front of the right clients at the right time.

Another great thing about the new product is that users can show a location for the service they sell and even express an interest in working remotely. Below, are some screenshots showing the form you need to fill in for the feature to appear on your profile, when the new service becomes available in the UK market.

So, if you’re a small business owner or doing freelance work, here is a great way for you to advertise your brand and shout out about your skills and expertise. You can currently show your interest in gaining access to the service on LinkedIn by signing up to be added to a waitlist here.