Recently I had the chance to interview SEM expert Josh Dreller. Josh has earned platform certification from Google Adwords, AdGooroo, Google Analytics, and Microsoft adCenter. Currently, Josh serves as director of marketing research for Kenshoo, the leading provider of bid management software. Josh also contributes regularly for iMedia Connection and SearchEngineLand.com and routinely attends and speaks at industry conferences such as OMMA, iMedia, SES, SMX, and ad: tech.
Thanks to Josh for taking the time to answer my questions!
Question: Can you explain the purpose of the Standards Committee for the Digital Analytics Association?
Answer from Josh Dreller: The goal of the Standards Committee is to help the web analytics field grow and mature by developing standards and best practices to support and educate practitioners, vendors, and the public.
By recommending standards, definitions and terminology, we enable common ways of looking at data measurement and methodologies—resulting in:
1. More meaningful industry benchmarking
2. Comparability of results among different tools
3. Better understanding of the metrics terms we all use
Question: Any vocabulary in particular that you feel is being misused in the marketing world?
Answer from Josh Dreller: When I hear “this channel drove X conversions” I still cringe. If you’re not using an advanced, multi-touch attribution solution, then your conversion reports are using Last Ad tracking – meaning no matter how many other channels consumers touch, whatever ad they clicked (or sometimes just saw) last receives 100% of the conversion credit. So, in reality, to say “this channel drove X conversions” is semantically wrong. The more accurate way would be “in X number of conversions, the last channel converters were exposed to was _____.” Some marketers may feel this is just a very subtle change in wording, but it’s absolutely one of the most important shifts in thinking we need in the industry right now.
The other misused term I hear often is “consumers/users/customers” used interchangeably and incorrectly with “browsers”. If you know for sure (from reading sales reports, for example) that there were 100,000 unique customers, then that’s fine. But, when someone says “we’re targeting 100,000 consumers who visited our site”, it usually really means there were 100,000 browsers tracked. On the surface, this could also just seem like a semantic argument but in reality it’s important that marketers understand the difference.
I won’t get into the technical issues here, but if you understand that it is truly browsers, and not actual customers, when it comes to tracking, your level of comprehension on the inner-workings of this industry’s infrastructure will become more advanced and you will avoid other potential faux pas when the difference between tracked browsers and tracked customers needs to be clarified. That being said, I think it’s still okay to say “100,000 consumers” but only if we all understand and agree that we actually mean browsers.
Question: You’ve written several posts about Bing Webmaster Tools. Can a site owner learn anything there they can’t from Google?
Answer from Josh Dreller: I can’t see why not. Google is obviously an important source of traffic so marketers should definitely focus a lot of their search marketing strategy (both paid and organic) on winning with Google. However, based on recent market share reports for search queries, if your keywords are being searched 66 million times annually on Google, there’s going to be 17 million searches on your terms with Bing. Those aren’t trivial numbers so why not see where Bing Webmaster Tools can help you there?
Also, as you’ll see when you read those posts, the Bing Webmaster Team is focused on differentiation so there will probably continue to be some functionality you’ll find there that won’t be offered by Google’s platform. Your search teams should use the best tools in the toolbox whenever they can.
Question: What are some of your favorite analytics and tracking tools?
Answer from Josh Dreller: Honestly, the introduction of Google Analytics several years ago was one of the biggest game changers for digital marketing. Tremendously potent and free, that suite has helped to drive up the level of conversation around measurement and analytics for tens of thousands of marketers. Most marketers would have never seen something as basic and powerful as a site visitation report if Google Analytics hadn’t come along. Yes, there’s always some healthy discussion around what Google gets in free data in return for this product, but there isn’t a better deal for online advertisers out there.
Question: Most marketing professionals wouldn’t consider themselves “math people,” yet understanding analytics data requires at least a little bit of math! What’s the best way for someone to ease into analytics so they don’t get lost in the numbers?
Answer from Josh Dreller: My biggest recommendation for marketers looking to get stronger in analytics is to really understand the methodology behind the metrics — how they’re calculated, how the tracking works, etc. Numbers are just numbers – they’re either big or small or somewhere in the middle. It’s the thinking behind them and trusting what they’re telling you which can help non-analytics folks become confident in how they read (and thus take action) on performance reports.
The other tip I would say is important is to focus more on trend reports rather than the numbers themselves. It’s more important to understand if your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are going up or down and how that affects your business goals rather than if you had a million visitors last month. Trend reports help to simplify the discussion and put individual numbers into context when they are compared to the months, quarters, and years leading up to them.
Question: Are there any metrics you wish marketers would just stop tracking?
Answer from Josh Dreller: Nope. I always say “track it all” just in case we need it later. J
However, there are metrics that marketers rely too heavily on such as clicks, impressions, and click-through-rate without any context to their value in achieving the business goals. I prefer metrics such as Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) because there’s an immediate “apples to apples” value that you can use to compare things against. I’ll echo a previous answer here about the need for multi-touch attribution which also affects ROI and ROAS measurement if you’re still using Last Ad tracking.
The one thing I will say about metrics is the flaw of metrics chasing. Because we can’t always have insight or accurate measurement in place (take, for example, the difficulty of measuring the granular impact of advertising on candy bar sales), marketers must use substitute proxy metrics that are several steps away from the final conversion but have some sort of correlative insight value – such as coupon downloads.
I’ve seen firsthand how months or years later, the proxy metric has become so important, that strategies are put in place to (in this example) solely drive coupon downloads which could actually be counterproductive to selling candy bars. In fact, marketers new to the team may even believe that driving coupons downloads is their top priority and not realize that it was just a proxy conversion setup years ago when deep tracking was unavailable.
That’s metrics chasing at its worst.
Question: How can a business with a tight PPC budget most effectively spend their money when the cost per click is actually pretty high?
Answer from Josh Dreller: I’ve been there. One of my previous agency clients was a small university that was trying to compete in a landscape with some of the most expensive keywords you’ll find in PPC. In these situations, you earn your paycheck! You have to do more with less and really figure out what’s working and pull out every trick in the book.
Some of the tactics we used included:
– Dropping bids so that the clicks were less expensive but the ads were still above the fold (meaning that consumers didn’t have to scroll down to see the ad)
– Making the hard decision to literally bow out of certain (very important) keywords as the competition was just too high
– Allocating more budget to the best times-of-day and days-of-week when the traffic proved to be the most engaged with the website (more time spent on the site, more pages viewed, etc.)
– Using more exact match to make sure we weren’t appearing in any bid auctions that didn’t absolutely match the intent of the consumers we were looking for
– Tactically testing ad copy and negative terms as a way to make sure the types of consumers we did NOT want to click wouldn’t waste our budget
– Very tight geo-targeting windows to the areas of the state in which the highest concentration of high-converting consumers lived
That kind of challenge forces PPC marketers to make the most with the least.
Question: Do you believe that mobile technology will influence PPC as much as many suspect it will impact organic?
Answer from Josh Dreller: Absolutely. eMarketer released some research recently that almost half of all ad dollars in the U.S. will be on mobile devices by 2017. That seemed a bit aggressive to me, but even if they’re off by a lot, it still means that mobile is going to be huge and impact everything. At this point, if your marketing organization doesn’t already have a clear plan on how it’s going to market to customers for both paid and organic on desktops, mobile devices, and tablets, then I would be very worried. Don’t be left behind! It takes time to “turn the ship” so you need to start now. Especially with the Google migration to Enhanced Campaigns.
Question: Do Facebook ads (and any other form of social advertising) really work for B2C brands? Is social advertising a good investment for B2B companies?
Answer from Josh Dreller: Normally, I would preface an answer to a wide-lensed question like this with “Well, in most cases” or “Generally”, but I’m going to just go ahead and definitively answer “yes” to this question. At this point, it shouldn’t be “should we invest in social” but rather “how should we invest in social?” Social is not even a channel anymore but rather a layer. There’s social search, social display, social video, social mobile, social content — social everything. Social media can be utilized at every step of the funnel – from driving awareness at the top to impacting consumers to convert at the bottom and everywhere in between.
Social is a part of everything at this point and we’re going to start seeing silo’d social teams become integrated into the rest. Your search team is going to be trained on social, your display team is going to be trained on social, etc. Yes, there will still need to be specific social roles for content management, listening, and status updating, but advertising teams will add social as another variable to be considered versus handled with kid gloves.
Question: In your role as Director of Marketing Research at Kenshoo, what is one of the more surprising trends you’ve come across?
Answer from Josh Dreller: One of the main reasons why I came to Kenshoo was to have the opportunity to sift through over $3 billion in marketer spend across a global client base and dozens of key verticals. Thus (and I’m happy to admit), I come across things daily that surprise me! Recently, I was involved in research that showed that paid search clicks were worth more than organic search clicks after the costs for the paid clicks were taken into account. The idea that a website makes less money when a customer enters from an organic search click versus a paid one was very surprising.