Google Profits Rise Driven By Increasing Ad Revenues

Google posted profits of $3.59 billion for the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year, a slight increase on the $3.4 billion profit in the same period last year. The bulk of the company’s revenue came from advertising at $15.5 billion, an increase of 11 percent since the previous comparable year. 

The search juggernaut posted $17.3 billion in overall revenues, up 12 percent year on year. This would have been higher at 17 percent were it not for the adverse effects of a strong U.S. dollar.

Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette was upbeat on the numbers. “We continue to see great momentum in our mobile advertising business and opportunities with brand advertisers,” he said.

Pichette noted that Google’s video site YouTube has been growing steadily, but for now isn’t as profitable as the company’s highly targeted search ads. “As you know, video ads generally reach people earlier in the purchase funnel, and so across the industry they tend to have a different pricing profile” than that of search ads, he said. 

The company also revealed that the amount generated from paid clicks on its websites rose 25 percent, although the aggregate cost-per-click across Google and network member sites decreased by 12 percent.

Google did not make any mention of the antitrust probe in Europe during the call, although this could affect business operations in the future, and could even lead to a sizeable fine.

It also looks like Google will face increasing competition in the mobile and video advertising space, after Facebook’s financials this week showed huge growth in this area.

Facebook "Hello" Brings Local Search to Calls

Facebook is taking a further step into the world of local search, with the testing of its latest app “Hello.” 

Hello will allow mobile users to search for people on Facebook, as well as businesses using either their specific company name or category. Once found, users can call with one tap – presumably similar to Google’s tap-to-call feature – as well as get directions to the location.

“So if a friend tells you about a new restaurant in your neighborhood, you can use Hello to find their hours, make a reservation, and get directions, all without leaving the app,” explains Facebook in a blog post. 

Hello will also be able to use Facebook profiles to provide relevant information about callers that will pop up with incoming calls, including a Facebook picture, name and number of contacts in common.

facebook-hello-business-image 

The Hello app includes a privacy feature that gives an option for blocking commonly blocked numbers and also specific numbers. Blocked calls go straight to voicemail but still show up in the call log. 

Android users can download the test version of Hello in the Play Store. 

Bing Follows Google’s Lead and Launches Shopping Campaigns

Surprise, surprise – Bing rolled out Shopping Campaigns for a select number of its advertising customers yesterday.

Similar to Google Shopping, which replaced Product Listing Ads last summer, Shopping Campaigns streamline Bing’s product ad process, making it easier for advertisers to manage their listings. Two notable enhancements include the ability to manage campaigns at scale using APIs and import Google Shopping campaigns.

Easier management, including an intuitive hierarchal structure to organize products to bid on, allows marketers to view their catalog data within the campaign’s user interface and use settings to prioritize across campaigns. Bing Shopping Campaigns also offer more performance insights, including competitive intelligence that uses benchmark data to drive better optimization.

Bing Ads customers are welcome to reach out to their respective account managers if they’re interested in beta testing. The search engine anticipates its Shopping Campaigns will be available for all U.S. customers this summer.

You Can Now DM Anyone on Twitter: Consider These Rules First

Earlier this week, Twitter has announced that the last walls on direct messages are coming down: you can now opt to send and receive messages from any Twitter user, regardless of your following status. Latest updates to Twitter DMs also allow users to reply to any message they receive, even if the sender doesn’t follow them. New direct-messaging capabilities, along with a new button indicating whether or not you can DM the user on Twitter’s mobile app, will be rolled out to all users over the next few weeks.

These changes complement another modification to Twitter DMs earlier this year: launch of Group DMs, which give Twitter users the ability to privately converse with several other users simultaneously. According to Twitter’s official blog, there are many more updates in the works—all motivated by the goal of making “the private side of Twitter is just as fulfilling as the public side.”

New rules around Twitter’s direct messages offer many new opportunities to users and brands on the network. Job seekers can reach out to prominent figures in the field for advice; reporters can direct-message users to get more information on a developing story; and customers can take a sensitive query to a business out of the public sphere. And just as with any other transition between the public and private communication, there are social media etiquette rules worth revisiting. Here are just a few best practices around sending direct messages on Twitter.

DON’T send automatic DMs

When direct messages first became available, their release was followed by a slew of multiple auto-DM clients that allowed users to send pre-drafted messages. Common examples included thank-you messages to new followers and promotional messaging calling new followers to check out the user’s website/blog/podcast, etc. Widespread use of such clients didn’t last long—soon, users grew tired of receiving dozens of DMs containing nothing but automated thank-yous. This practice hurt both parties: the sender appeared spammy and disingenuous, and the recipient was at risk of missing more relevant DMs—or worse, stop using the DM tool altogether.

So how do you communicate with your followers without auto-responses? In our social media etiquette post a few weeks ago, I mentioned a Twitter DM survey one tech columnist performed with his own followers, where most people responded by saying they found automatic messaging to be spammy. Feedback from most surveyed users said that, if you want to connect, an @mention feels a lot more sincere. After all, Twitter DMs are designed to facilitate private discussions; so if you want to celebrate your new followers, why not do it on a public feed?

DO use DMs for sensitive customer service matters

New Twitter DM features offer new opportunities for conversations between brands and customers on the network. Customers can use direct messages to reach out to a business help desk account with sensitive issues that can’t be described in a Tweet. With the new opt-in feature, there’ll be no need to go through the mutual follow process before addressing the issue at hand; the customer can simply message the brand’s account and go from there. This method of communication will also help keep the conversation in one place.

DON’T treat Twitter DMs as ads

While the new DM functionalities open up another line of communication from customers to brands, this channel should be treated with care by businesses. Experts weighed in on the implications the new features have for brands on Twitter in an Adweek article, saying that despite expanded permissions, the best practice for DMing customers on Twitter remain the same: only do so in the context of an ongoing conversation. Open Twitter DM permissions are not an invitation to start targeting customers with free DMs instead of paid social advertising such as Promoted Tweets. It may save you some ad budget, but can cost your business customers in the long run.

DO use DMs to get the Tweets to the right person

Another helpful feature launched in the last quarter of 2014 lets Twitter users privately embed Tweets in direct messages. With expanded direct-messaging permissions, you can use Twitter DMs to reach out to users when Tweets with @mentions don’t do the job. Say it’s a user that gets dozens of interaction notifications on a daily basis. It’s very likely these users may miss your Tweet—not on purpose, but due to sheer volume of Tweets they receive every day. Now, if the user has opted to allow people outside of their Follower/Following lists to direct-message them, the person reaching out can embed their Tweet in the DM, for context, and attempt to start a conversation that way. The sender can get the desired response, and the recipient won’t miss out on this opportunity to engage, and perhaps even gain another follower.

Have we covered all the best practices with direct-messaging on Twitter? Share your own Twitter DM etiquette tips with us in the comments below!

Why We Sent a Single Tweet 44 Times

In the past three months, Hootsuite’s main Twitter handle (@hootsuite) has Tweeted a single piece of content 44 times. Soon our social media team will probably do it again, making an even 45. We’re not afraid to repeat our content, and we don’t think you should be either.

I would be the first to lament the fact that social media has become less social and more automated. But how people use social media, particularly Twitter, has changed. It has developed into a discovery channel where audiences come to find content. As a result, organizations with strong content marketing presences have altered how they operate within the unwritten rules of this ecosystem.

In the early days, repeating Tweets would have been a cardinal sin. There were unwritten rules that grew from the behaviours and assumptions of Twitter’s early community, and ‘no repeats’ was one of them—if your whole audience sees every Tweet you send, duplicated content will bore and annoy people. However, times have changed. At Hootsuite, we have adopted the practice of sending multiple Tweets to the same piece of content. And we are not alone in this approach.

Social Media thought leader Guy Kawasaki told the audience at LeWeb 2013: “You will piss some people off from this, I grant you that. But on social media, if you’re not pissing people off, you’re probably not using it hard enough.”

guykawasaki-Twitter-Card

With more than 6.7 million followers on our main Twitter account, we will Tweet to the same piece of content up to four times in one day. If the content is performing well, we may drive to it 20 or more times over the course of a week. When you start to do the math, that sounds like an excessive number of Tweets to the same piece of content. But is it?

When you have a large audience, you need to make sure everyone can hear you. No doubt, our regular followers may see the same Tweet multiple times, but we feel that the risks don’t outweigh the rewards.

Look at this garbage. If you can’t create content that resonates, just repost I guess? @hootsuite @unmarketing pic.twitter.com/52GwinkdSI

— Matthew Litwin (@mattlitwin) April 19, 2015

Risk and reward

Based on our statistics, each Tweet we send can reach a potential audience of 6.7 million followers. In actuality, only 70,000 people on average see any single Tweet we send. If you do the math, we would have to send a Tweet a minimum of 96 times before we could be sure all 6.7 million followers were to see it at least once.

This doesn’t mean that every piece of content we share with our community will be Tweeted out this often. In fact, it is our community that dictates which content we send out on a more frequent basis.

Our mission is to deliver content that supports and empowers social media practitioners. It is their actions that determine what is useful content and what has ‘jumped the shark’.

We have sent thousands of Tweets that our audience has deemed not interesting. As a result, we only Tweeted to these pieces of content a few times. Once our audience shows that it is no longer interested in a piece of content, we rotate it out of our content calendar.

What makes a successful Tweet?

We view the success of a Tweet based on a variety of factors: link clicks back to our blog; Twitter Engagement Rate; and Retweets or shares.

For us, performance is a measure of interest—even on the 150th Tweet of the same piece of outstanding content, we have found that users are still clicking the link to read the post and sharing it with friends.

Take for example this Tweet, which recorded the most link clicks for us out of any Tweet we sent in February, March or April:

7 movies that every social media lover needs to watch: http://t.co/7c9CIooyDn pic.twitter.com/Zk7ZfqGopC

— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) March 1, 2015

This particular Tweet was sent on February 28th – 73 days after the blog post was initially published. It had already been shared from @hootsuite 39 times prior, yet people were still interested in clicking on the link to read the blog post.

So does it make sense to keep providing our audience something that they want to read? We think so. And the data backs up our decision.

Variety, the spice of life

Clearly, posting the same exact Tweet with the same exact image over and over again isn’t necessarily the right approach to take, either. That’s why our team has developed some internal best practices when it comes to reposting content:

  1. Vary the copy in the Tweet to find the sweetspot for what works with your audience
  2. Make changes to the image attached to the Tweet until you find one that works
  3. Alter the hashtags associated with the Tweet to reach new audiences
  4. Mix up the time and day that you post so you are connecting with your global audience

We continue to circulate through these steps. If a Tweet continues to perform above our benchmarks, we continue to keep it in rotation in our content calendar. However, over time, the content in some Tweets may become dated or stale and at that point, we retire them from our content mix.

Final Thoughts

Rules are meant to be broken! Don’t be afraid to alter your mental model on how to approach Twitter. Ultimately, a social media manager’s job is to understand his or her audience. That means delivering the content that the audience wants when they want or need it. Listening to your audience is the art of understanding your data while balancing the qualitative feedback you receive. From there, you can create the recipe that works best for you or your brand.

How Fairfax County Uses Social to Better Serve Constituents

The government in Fairfax County in Virginia, US, provides public services for 1.1 million county locals every day—from police, fire and rescue, animal shelter, public transportation, health department, libraries, and recreation centers, to disposal facilities.

For decades, Fairfax County relayed important emergency and service updates via press releases, conferences, and media advisories. Today, social media allows the public to play a more active role in finding information and sharing it. To support this shift and better serve constituents, Fairfax County developed a comprehensive social media strategy with the help of Hootsuite Enterprise.

Watch the on-demand webinar: Success Story: How Fairfax County Uses Social to Better Serve Constituents to discover:

  • 4 Tenets of social preparedness: Including listening to community first responders during an emergency, as exemplified during Hurricane Sandy.
  • 5 Ways to centralize social media: Including how various county departments have applied for social media accounts and, once approved, the social media training and strategy process with the help of Hootsuite Enterprise onboarding for best practices.
  • 6 Philosophies of Fairfax County’s social media strategy: Including engaging with relevant, timely, and actionable information and becoming a trusted voice during emergencies.
  • 7 Key ideas behind the updated social media strategy guide: Including developing goals for each new departmental account and sharing customer service satisfaction surveys out through social media.

Watch the webinar

Meet the speakers

Greg Licamele
Director of External Communications, Fairfax County
@fairfaxcounty

kynm2mj67oybu_zqanu9_r9k8bbkxkknl-b3bdmykq-zxolvjox7hqyoseshfi20hqg-9u7slbegqtzq6iv-fd4pnfes_82fv05wec0iumi-nbubo-m20nbf8tlknfy0aeppf0.pngGreg Licamele has served Fairfax County as a public information officer for 10 years. Among other areas, he currently leads the county’s social media presence collaborating with all county departments to advocate, educate and implement digital strategies and tools. He serves on various social media committees, including an appointment as a charter member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Virtual Social Media Working Group. He also serves as an instructor at The George Washington University teaching classes about social media. Before Fairfax County, he worked for five years at GW focused on digital communications. Licamele holds two master’s degrees from GW: one in emergency management/homeland security and another in media and public affairs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from St. Bonaventure University.

Anne Cissel
Communications Specialist, Fairfax County Health Department
@fairfaxhealth

nb7mr3dyjpuvbb3o1scsataorsksgqigk4du3udzv7q1enjkyyvvkowqmoe7m6oadzdh6-e4xquwpmq54splqu2f1uxthrjxliburrmyt6bpzg-xagnymllgjodsspsxsdo34si.pngAnne Cissel is a Communication Specialist with the Fairfax County Health Department, specializing in digital communications. She manages the department’s internal and external websites, as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts. Anne uses social media to monitor residents’ health concerns, educate about health issues, and provide accurate and timely information to the public, especially during an emergency. Before joining Fairfax County, Anne has worked as a social media/web content manager, writer, and editor for several nonprofits and media outlets, including the National Wildlife Federation and the Virginia News Group (formerly Times Community Newspapers).

Kristen Auerbach
Director of Communications and Outreach, Fairfax County Animal Shelter
@fairfaxanimals

g2knuyiharayn_p8ajjqekcwocaxcqjdeu9krvhdyd4cmrozudp_jep0nm3mcdqunbgrwovopgb3lqlrt1saozns16fvnphwuriw-nuwrhhywuohuowev0usjlk6q_dgacyrn9u.pngKristen received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Ohio State University. With a background in animal welfare, communications and social work, Kristen came to the shelter in early 2013. She started the shelter’s social media program, which today has 20,000 followers with posts reaching 200,000 people each week. The shelter’s social media success has been instrumental in doubling adoptions and helping Fairfax County reach a 95% placement rate of adoptable pets, earning the shelter regional and national recognition.

Mark Rybchuk
Government Specialist, State & Local Government, Hootsuite
@HootRybber

l_ag9r55yq5kaz2waskibvxu1glk3micwddndewdblfx7lifrgbrutqaistd17awhv-j77eleiu5k5u-iip-6jumrwzrkpvxhmr7prjjw_drvqee_j1faxh6dffzcmqfjdmy324.pngMark has been helping governments succeed using social media for increased constituent services at Hootsuite for more than 3 years. After covering government and politics in traditional media in television and radio as a reporter and host for half a decade, he shifted to the digital world initially helping to launch an online group buying start-up organization. It was an early success and after a stint managing a team in advertising sales, he came to Hootsuite where helping governments serve constituents in new and innovative ways is one of his main passions.

Watch the webinar

Are You Guilty of Committing These Mobile-Friendly Mistakes?

With Google rolling out its latest algorithm change earlier this week in regards to the mobile friendliness of websites, many business owners may be scrambling to make necessary adjustments after seeing themselves take a plunge in search results. The importance of a mobile-friendly site shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Web developers have been stressing the need for responsive Web design over the last few years, but there are still plenty of companies out there who didn’t heed the warning until now.

With such a major change taking place, it’s not only critical that, as a business owner, you put mobile website practices to use, but that you do it correctly. Though you may be in a hurry to make modifications, you must still consider what Google wants to see in your transition to a mobile-friendly site if you want to pass the test with flying colors. To help you do that, here are a few suggestions published straight from the mouth of Google Webmasters on what to avoid as you convert your design.

Pages That Are Slow to Load

It’s no secret that slow-loading pages on a desktop site are an instant headache for visitors, and it’s no different on a mobile site. If someone is trying to look up your site from a mobile device, that means they’re already on the go and probably in a hurry to find what they’re looking for, so don’t force them to search elsewhere because there are delays in getting your content to load properly. Google PageSpeed Insights will tell you what your page speed is and what issues may be bogging it down.

Flawed Redirects

Though you’ve got the right idea if you’re creating separate links for mobile and desktop versions of your site that redirect users depending on where they’re visiting from, you want to be careful not to make the mistake of accidentally redirecting desktop customers to the mobile site and vice versa. It sounds simple enough, but links often get crossed somewhere along the way and instead of mobile users being pointed in the direction of the appropriate mobile link, they end up back on the desktop homepage. To prevent this from happening, invest in a responsive design that automatically adjusts according to the device being used and modify your server settings to reflect the applicable redirects.

Using Unplayable Content

Knowing just how much website traffic originates from mobile users, it only seems right that you would want all of your content to be displayed accurately on both desktop and mobile versions to ensure a good experience for all visitors. Having unplayable content, such as videos and images, is generally the result of using Flash or other types of media that has licensing constraints associated with them. It’s easy to fix this kind of problem by using an HTML5 standard for all your animations and videos that are supported in all formats.

App Download Interstitials

If your company uses its website to promote a native app, you’ll want to pay special attention to how the pages are presented to users. While it’s OK to advertise the app download with a banner at the top of the page or within the content, Google frowns on sites that actually block the page’s context so that nothing can be seen beyond a large advertisement encouraging download of the app.

Creating Mobile 404s

Have you ever been browsing through a mobile version of a website only to be given a 404 error message for a page you know should be available? Similar to the problem mentioned above with redirecting links, this occurs when mobile users aren’t correctly redirected to a desktop version’s corresponding mobile page with a mobile-friendly URL. These error messages can be detected by using the Crawl Errors report and, again, can be cleaned up with a responsive Web design.

Blocked JavaScript, CSS, and Image Files

We all understand how important it is to index our own content so it can be found quickly and easily by Googlebot, but sometimes files are being blocked, denying access to crawl JavaScript, CSS, and image files. This means they can’t go through the process of being adequately crawled, which will most likely lead to a dip in rankings. Google should be able to see your site the way any other set of human eyes would and rank it accordingly.

It only makes sense that Google is taking mobile friendliness to another level and making it a powerful search ranking factor since so many Web users are now coming from mobile devices. Website owners will benefit from making the correct changes in the long run and are likely to not only enjoy boosted search results, but also see an influx of business deriving from the mobile marketplace.

Brand vs. Non-Brand: Measurement Is Key

As search professionals, we all know that measuring our campaigns is the first key to developing a strong and competitive presence in search. Without a consistent and planned measurement framework, we’re unable to uncover or make impactful optimizations to our search campaigns. But what if I told you that you might be incorrectly measuring your efforts in search?

Top line measurement should always tie back to your goals for the channel, like 10 percent revenue growth year-over-year (YoY), and your primary KPIs, whether that is cost per acquisition (CPA), cost per lead (CPL), return on ad spend (ROAS), etc. A great report that provides more detail, will also include secondary and diagnostic KPIs, and will help call out any issues. However, there should be a difference in how you measure top line performance for your brand vs. your non-brand search efforts. Sounds simple, I know, but most advertisers actually forget that these two campaign types serve completely different goals.

So, what’s the difference? Brand searches are seen as high-intent and almost always lead to a high ROAS if managed correctly. If a searcher is looking for your brand, they are lower down the conversion funnel and closer to purchase. Non-brand searches show less intent for a searcher, but showing your ads on these terms can create awareness for your brand. Non-brand campaigns don’t typically drive a high ROAS, so I like to segment my brand and non-brand campaigns into different reports and measure them separately.

brand-terms

If non-brand efforts don’t lead to a high initial ROAS or a strong CPA – what should you measure? For me, it’s a few things:

Impression Share:

I like to show clients how many searchers are actually seeing our ad out of all the eligible impressions on those non-brand searches. If you’ve segmented out your campaigns by category or product, you can then see your impression share at high-level and make budget or bid changes based on which categories you want to grow over the long term.

For example, if you sell shoes and notice that brand searches (demand) for your brown leather pumps have gone down over the last few months, you may work to increase the impression share for your non-brand “brown leather pumps” keywords by increasing your budget. This will create more awareness for searchers who may not be familiar with your brand – letting them know that you do in fact sell fantastic brown leather pumps. By increasing awareness, you can actually increase demand on the brand side. Which leads me to the next thing I like to measure, search funnels.

Search Funnels:

Purchasing non-brand searches is pretty expensive for most advertisers. That’s why it’s important to understand which non-brand searches are leading to conversions, whether initially or further down the funnel, so that you know which terms to support in paid search. In AdWords, under Tools > Attribution, you have a number of reports that can provide you with data on how these “upper funnel” keywords help conversions beyond just the last click. These reports can also help you understand how users search for your products before converting so that you can ensure you’re supporting those conversion paths with enough budget and proper bids in your campaigns.

Non-Brand Optimizations:

Once you are successfully measuring your non-brand efforts separately from your brand efforts, and truly understand the path to conversion and impression share levels for your non-brand campaigns, it’s time to optimize for further refinement.

Dig into data in any of the following areas to ensure you’re collecting non-brand searches from the people most likely to convert.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Time of Day
  • Hour of Day
  • Day of the Week

You can reach a targeted audience by excluding some people from seeing your ads. If you do this, you can move forward knowing you are driving impressions and spending money on clicks from the subset of your audience who is most likely to convert. Another option is implementing bid adjustments to the categories above to bid higher or lower for specific audiences based on how they convert off non-brand terms.

If you have questions on how to best measure and manage your brand vs. your non-brand campaigns, or have a strategy that has worked well for your business, please comment below.

How to Build a Winning Mastermind Group (Webinar Replay) – SPI TV, Ep. 12

IAB: Search Led Ad Spend in 2014

Desktop search revenues accounted for 38 percent of 2014’s U.S. digital advertising sales that totaled $49.5 billion, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) annual revenue report.

The research also found that while mobile saw the biggest percentage increase since 2013 – a 76 percent growth to $12.5 billion, up from $7.1 billion– desktop search represented the biggest digital ad spend at $19 billon, up from $18.4 billion from the previous comparable year.

Search from desktop also accounted for 37 percent of Q4 2014 revenues, down from 41 percent in Q4 2013. Decline in its overall share is attributed to the growth in mobile and mobile search, which was bundled together in the mobile category for the purpose of this report. Non-mobile search revenues totaled $5.3 billion in Q4 2014, up 5 percent from Q4 2013, when search totaled $5 billion.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Social media advertising also saw flourishing returns, according to the research, totaling $7 billion in 2014, up by 57 percent over 2013’s total of $4.5 billion.
  • Display-related advertising revenues in 2014 totaled $13.5 billion, an uptick of 5 percent over $12.8 billion in 2013.
  • Digital video, a component of display-related advertising, totaled $3.3 billion in full year 2014, a 17 percent increase over revenues of $2.8 billion in 2013.