3 Ways Quality Data Can Help You Achieve SEM Success by @cchaitanya

Quality vs. quantity. Nowhere are the tradeoffs more important than in the world of search engine marketing.

We use data to measure performance, set goals, and drive the decision-making for our paid search programs.

As a fellow SEM professional, you know that data is everything. It:

  • Measures our value.
  • Allows us to define strategies and boost our performance.
  • Is the driving force behind our work.

But data on its own isn’t an automatic key to higher value and better performance. The operative piece is actually quality data.

Consider this:

An athlete depends on quality food to help create energy and build strength. If that athlete indulges too long or too much in foods that are high in sugar or contain simple carbohydrates and other additives, their performance will suffer. Chances are they’re going to be slower and weaker. Even micro-seconds of lost time will inevitably benefit their competition.

The same applies to how you make key decisions when running a large scale SEM program.

No decision is more important than defining and executing on a bidding strategy. Quality data is the key.

Advanced optimization strategies; fueling accurate forecasts; activating key insights; these all need data. It all helps to provide a more relevant and valuable customer experience and drives the optimization techniques that increase revenue and ROI.

What causes missed performance goals? Typically, it boils down to incomplete data that drives incorrect decisions.

Simply put: without good data, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the algorithms or optimization techniques you apply to your program. Your performance will fall short of its peak potential.

The big picture? The lack of a complete and unified data set is a significant challenge for most SEM programs.

However, solutions that can capture and leverage the right data can have a meaningful impact on the success of an SEM program.

Here are a few of the ways.

1. Higher Revenue & ROI

Now, more than ever, data has the ability to drive increased business performance.

By measuring, tracking, and analyzing data on past performance, you can make smarter decisions. These deliver improved results.

In fact, certain core categories of data that most businesses already have can be directly applied to increase SEM ROI.

Search teams can empower smarter and more profitable bidding decisions by tying:

  • Analytics data from web and mobile tracking solutions.
  • Offline data from call centers or CRM platforms.
  • Inventory and/or capacity systems that track real-time supply constraints.
  • Contextual data back to SEM data.

Large SEM programs can’t achieve peak performance without leveraging this type of data.

A unified data set will also offer insights into how deep your prospects are in the funnel. Plus, it can illustrate the valuable milestones of the customer journey.

Many clicks don’t see conversions for at least 30 days. But a unified data set can provide insight into other buyer stages that predict value.

Conversely, SEM programs missing peak performance should check SEM data mechanics for opportunities.

First ask if your current solution is capturing and leveraging all the data that measures and influences your funnel.

A typical problem: you can’t integrate data from third-party, offline, or deeper funnel locations.

The outcome: You’re forced to use a suboptimal strategy of optimizing bids. You’ll bid to metrics that don’t actually measure your business performance.

Here are some other questions you should ask to evaluate your data mechanics:

  • Newly purchased bid management platform. Does it immediately integrate and apply enough historical data to make smart decisions?
  • Long click to conversion funnels. Does your bidding solution address the lag? Does it make informed and proactive decisions based on predicted performance?
  • Is every reported metric eligible to be a performance goal? Often tools present a relevant business metric in a report. Few make that same critical metric available as an optimization goal.

Achieving peak performance is hard. But the foundation to get there requires investing in a platform that does two things:

  • It collects the right quality data.
  • It then allows you to apply that data to sophisticated algorithms to automate bidding optimization at scale.

2. Historical Context for Better Decision-Making

What if you’ve just deployed a new bidding platform?

Minimize the all-too-common and expensive “bidding learning period”. The quality of data you feed into the new platform is of paramount importance.

If you don’t integrate historical data, your team may struggle to see patterns that drive profitable strategic decisions. So when it comes time to set budgets and give forecasts for next Q2, they will be more difficult to prepare and less informed.

Why else might historical data matter?

In the world of SEM, almost every business experiences some sort of seasonality. Promotional events, holiday periods, or monthly trends.

Ideally, your future promotions and seasonal strategy learned from past successes and failures. Likewise, your bidding strategy should leverage data from past seasonal periods to guide future bids.

Strong historical data can provide the context required for the best results. But you’ll need the right platform.

It’s not only important to capture your historical data, but also to be confident that the data set is feeding decisions. If your platform only uses 30-60 days of historical data for bidding, for example, how can it account for a once-a-year event like Black Friday?

Paid search professionals are often forced to override their bidding platform to control the bids themselves. Real trust comes from good data put to use.

While a lofty goal to achieve “full automation,” today’s paid search marketers need a solution that provides robust data integrations and the capacity to use that data in a proactive way to win in a competitive ecosystem and achieve peak performance.

3. Differentiate Yourself From Competition

We established quality food drives performance athletes. Quality data operates the same way. It powers advanced techniques and capabilities in your bidding solution. These features enable advertisers to achieve peak performance and beat competition.

Take forecasting and scenario modeling. While predicting the future isn’t new to the industry, it’s far more accurate when fueled by reliable and comprehensive data.

Algorithmic output is empowered (or limited) directly by the depth of data. Capturing all available data points will provide a richer understanding of a click at any given point in the process.

This enables modeling about that click’s future. (Even when accounting for a delay of days or weeks to mature into a deeper funnel sale.)

Similarly, automating audience bid adjustments is another example of an advanced bidding technique. Status quo means relying on humans to define segments, collate, and analyze the data. Then they have to try to apply the right audience bid adjustments.

On the other hand, automatically tracking all the audience attributes of each click and understanding how those attributes impact conversion rate and monetization, a bidding platform consumes with the raw fuel to be able to drive an automated approach.

Proper data science methodologies should be used to model this data. Thus, it is possible to unlock higher performance and drive the greatest value from customer audience data. That’s a key requirement to achieving peak performance.

Summary

Humans versus machines. It’s an age-old question.

Historically, SEM teams have been responsible for both performance and tactics.

Today, technology now offers the ability to go well beyond what humans can accomplish on their own.

This means the best of all worlds: humans plus machines.

What’s the alternative?

At scale, there aren’t enough humans to review all the relevant data and execute all of the necessary decisions to manage a large SEM program. You simply can’t scale your team to accommodate hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of keywords or products. If you try, you certainly won’t achieve peak performance.

Enter technology, which can do so much today. It can execute the “blocking and tackling” of keyword-level bidding. It can deploy more advanced strategies like device, location, ad schedule, or audience bid adjustments.

But that automation can only begin with strong, reliable quality data.

High-powered SEM platforms have the ability to provide a critical link. They create understanding about where your business derives its value, then use that to directly increase ROI.

The right platform also provide historical context that helps you and your team identify patterns. This can inform strategic decisions quarterly, weekly, hourly, and even minute to minute.

But, like the fuel that drives a sports car or the food that fuels a professional athlete, performance doesn’t come without the right inputs.

In SEM, you can’t achieve peak performance without reliable, quality data.

More Resources:

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics by @Jammer_Volts

Performance is money. We’ve all had it drilled into our heads: 7s page load means 26 percent session loss.

We’re learning more about the real-life human impact of our heft pages. ($0.11 to load a single page? What’s going on there, Canada!)

SEO professionals everywhere are collectively sighing over their personal and collective battles all with a unified blocker.

Yes, we want to make it faster, but how?

So Google gave us Lighthouse. Since its announcement at I/O 2016, the tool has grown from dev-centric to the recommended testing tool for the mobile-first index.

While the tool is convenient and easy to use, its scoring can be esoteric at best. The big color-coded overall performance metric is good for senior-level stakeholders and presentations.

To make real change, we need to look at what the metric’s composition. We need to understand how to act on the numbers.

We’re going to look at:

  • How to test performance using Lighthouse.
  • What metrics comprise Lighthouse’s Performance score.
  • What those metrics mean.
  • The “Explain Like I’m Five” (ELI5) version of metric definitions.
  • Resources for improving your score.

How to Test Performance Using Lighthouse

Methodology Matters

Out of the box, Lighthouse audits a single page at a time. A single page score doesn’t represent your site. A fast homepage doesn’t mean a fast site.

Test multiple page types within your site. Identify your major page types, templates, and goal conversion points (signup, subscribe, and checkout pages).

Example Page Testing Inventory

URL Page Type
/ Homepage
/tools Category Template
/tools/screwdrivers Product Listing Page Template
/acme/deluxe-anvil Product Detail Page Template
/cart Cart
/checkout Checkout
/order-confirmation Order confirmation
/blog Blog Root
/blog/roadrunners-101 Blog Template

Before you begin optimizing, run Lighthouse each of your sample pages and save the report data. Record your scores and the to-do list of improvements.

Prevent data loss by downloading the JSON results and utilizing Lighthouse Viewer when detailed result information is needed.

Get Your Backlog to Bite Back Using ROI

Getting development resources to action SEO recommendations is hard.

An in-house SEO could destroy their pancreas by having a birthday cake for every backlogged ticket’s birthday. Or at least learn to hate cake.

In my experience as an in-house enterprise SEO, the trick to getting performance initiatives prioritized is having the numbers to back the investment. This starting data will become dollars signs that serve to justify and reward development efforts.

Ways to Run Lighthouse

  1. Use the built-in functionality in Chrome Developer Tools.
  2. Download the Chrome extension (Not recommended. You can accomplish the same thing without installation using dev tools).
  3. Install and run the Node command line tool (Added bonus: Level up your automation by programmatically running Lighthouse tests using Node).

If you’re using options 1 or 2, open a new incognito mode window with all extensions disabled. Active extensions will skew your results. You want to measure performance against a new user experience without any cached assets.

Lighthouse Performance Metrics Explained

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

In version 3, Lighthouse’s performance score made of 5 weighted metrics. The most important is like your course final. Here they are in order, sorted by their impact on the overall score.

  • Time to Interactive (weight: 5)
  • Speed Index (weight: 4)
  • First Contentful Paint (weight: 3)
  • First CPU Idle (weight: 2)
  • First Meaningful Paint (weight: 1)

Honorable mention: Estimated Input Latency data is available in the performance section but does not contribute to your score.

1. Time to Interactive (TTI)

TTI is the final exam of our performance score. The calculated metric was previously called Consistently Interactive. TTI measures the time it takes for three requirements to be first met.

Official Definition

The Time to Interactive (TTI) metric measures how long it takes a page to become interactive. “Interactive” is defined as the point where:

  • The page has displayed useful content
  • Event handlers are registered for most visible page elements.
  • The page responds to user interactions within 50 milliseconds.

ELI5 TTI

I can see the content I want and complete an action without lag.

Seeing the content you want but not being able to do the thing you came to a site for is frustrating. This metric tries to quantify that experience.

The reality of TTI as a standardized metric: it doesn’t yet

The real Time to Interactive is a bit cerebral in documentation and IRL difficult to track from real users. Google hopes to create a standardized TTI metric in the future.

A Google doc linked from Lighthouse’s developer documentation states, “On a variability study of 100 popular sites, the recommended definition was stable 82% of the time.”

How to Get a Better TTI Score

This section could also be called “How to train unicorns for dressage”. While we can’t see TTI in the wild very well, we there are certain traits that highly correlate to unicorns TFI.

Three requirements that have to be met:

  • First Meaningful paint: We have a whole section on this later.
  • Actionable elements on the page are ready with the JavaScript that powers them (event handlers) ready.
  • All the important scripts are done and won’t cause a delay in responding to user interaction.

JavaScript is a factor for all three of these conditions and is usually the culprit behind slow TTFI.

If a page is focused on downloading and executing JavaScript to render or make components on the page work, a user can’t interact yet.

If long tasks in queue are taking their time, the browser won’t be able to respond to user interactions in less than 50ms.

For a better score, deliver less script. Ideally, only what’s needed for the specific page being viewed.

Don’t deliver the same script more than once. Compress the scripts to send less information from your servers to the browser.

It’s time to work with your dev team. Start assessing JavaScript’s impact on your site with Chrome DevTools’ Timeline and JavaScript Profiler.

Resources for Improving TTI

Lighthouse Scores by TTI times

Wondering how fast TTI needs to be to get the coveted green? The endgame here is to create an interactive experience < 5s.

Lighthouse Score TTI (s)
100 1.36
99 1.51
95 2.01
90 2.34
80 2.81
75 3.01
50 4.00
0 12.16

Improve Real User Measurement (RUM) TTI Tracking

Real user measurement (RUM) is important. As much hype as we hear about Lighthouse, the emulated data it provides might not capture real-world bottlenecks and can’t correlate against real-world page KPIs.

This code snippet uses Polyfill to detect TTI. Unfortunately, it’s currently a working draft with limited capability.

You’ll be able to track TTFI in the wild on devices using Chrome, Android Webview, or Chrome for Android. Alternatively, you can either track on First Input Delay for all users on JavaScript compatible browsers.

Tracking Time to First Interactive in Google Analytics

import ttiPolyfill from './path/to/tti-polyfill.js';

ttiPolyfill.getFirstConsistentlyInteractive().then((tti) => {
ga('send', 'event', {
eventCategory: 'Performance Metrics',
eventAction: 'TTI',
eventValue: tti,
nonInteraction: true,
});
});

If your audience is dominated by Chrome users, see full documentation here.

For everyone else, First Input Delay can be tracked in any JavaScript compatible browser. You’ll need to add a similar Google Analytics snippet.

2. Speed Index (SI)

Speed index is your performance midterm. Like Time to First Interactive, Speed Index is made of multiple data points.

Official Definition

Speed Index is a page load performance metric that shows you how quickly the contents of a page are visibly populated. The lower the score, the better.

Oof – that was vague.

ELI5 SI

No one cares about whether content they can’t see has loaded.

This score represents how much is visible at a time during load. The Speed Index is the average time at which visible parts of the page are displayed.

Lighthouse’s Speed Index measurement comes from a node module called Speedline.

Speedline scores vary by the size of the viewport (read as device screen) and has an algorithm for calculating the completeness of each frame.

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

Lighthouse Scores by Speed Index Times

Our goal is to deliver a visual page (the above the fold content) in < 3s.

Lighthouse Score Speed Index (s)
100 1.97
99 2.19
95 2.91
90 3.39
80 4.07
75 4.37
50 5.80
0 17.63

How to Get a Better Speed Index Score

Speed score reflects your site’s Critical Rendering Path.

A “critical” resource means that the resource is required for first paint or is crucial to the page’s core functionality.

The longer and denser the path, the slower your site will be to provide a visual page. If your path is optimized, you’ll give users content faster and score higher on Speed Index.

How the Critical Path Affects Rendering

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

Lighthouse recommendations commonly associated with a slow Critical Rendering Path include:

  • Minimize main-thread work.
  • Reduce JavaScript execution time.
  • Minimize Critical Requests Depth.
  • Eliminate Render-Blocking Resources.
  • Defer offscreen images.

ELI5 Fix: Again, JavaScript. Also, make third-party scripts asynchronous and cut the bot bait. Yes, every third-party tool thinks they should be loaded synchronously in the head for optimal performance.

Developer documentation for optimizing the critical rendering path is bountiful. If you don’t have developers available and will have to be more hands-on, Google and Udacity have teamed up to offer a free course.

3. First Contentful Paint (FCP)

Finally, an easily observable metric!

Official Definition

First Contentful Paint (FCP) measures the time from navigation to the time when the browser renders the first bit of content from the DOM. This is an important milestone for users because it provides feedback that the page is actually loading.

ELI5 FCP

I can see the page I requested is responding. My thumb can stop hovering over the back button.

First Contentful Paint (FCP) vs. First Meaningful Paint (FMP)

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A user has a visual cue, such as a background and basic layout, that their request is receiving a response.

The metric reports the time when the browser first renders any text, image (including background images), non-white canvas or SVG.

Content generated via iFrames is excluded but text waiting on webfonts counts.

How Is First Contentful Paint Different Than First Meaningful Paint?

  • First Meaningful Paint: Something happened.
  • First Contentful Paint: The thing I came here for happened.

Lighthouse Scores by First Contentful Paint Times

Looking for the FCP needed to get a good score?

Lighthouse Score FCP (s)
100 1.36
99 1.51
95 2.01
90 2.34
80 2.81
75 3.01
50 4.00
0 12.16

How to Get a Better FCP Score

In order for content to be displayed to the user, the browser must first download, parse, and process all external stylesheets it encounters before it can display or render any content to a user’s screen.

The fastest way to bypass the delay of external resources is to use in-line styles for above the fold content.

To keep your site sustainably scalable, use an automated tool like penthouse and Apache’s mod_pagespeed. These solutions will come with some restrictions to functionalities, require testing, and may not be for everyone.

Universally, we can all improve our sites time to First Contentful Pain by reducing the scope and complexity of style calculations.

If a style isn’t being used, remove it. You can identify unused CSS with Chrome Dev Tool’s built-in Code Coverage functionality.

Use better data to make better decisions. Similar to TTI, you can capture real user metrics for FCP using Google Analytics to correlate improvements with KPIs.

4. First CPU Idle

First CPU Idle was previously called Time to First Interactive (TTFI). In Lighthouse 3.0, they updated the name to more accurately describe how it works.

Official Definition

The First CPU Idle metric measures when a page is minimally interactive:

  • Most, but maybe not all, UI elements on the screen are interactive.
  • The page responds, on average, to most user input in a reasonable amount of time.

ELI5 First CPU Idle

I can interact with most of the loaded content. It might be a little laggy, but it works.

Simple, this metric is based on requirements like TTI. First CPU Idle and TTI both look for the JavaScript event handlers behind page functionality to be ready.

The difference is that First CPU Idle doesn’t require the browser to respond to user input in less than 50 milliseconds.

The far more interesting and complicated answer: First CPU Idle is calculated by combining lonely tasks and proportional leniency.

What Is a Lonely Task?

First, we need to understand what a long task is. Long tasks are those which take longer than 50ms. (Remember the TTI requirement?)

When a browser loads your site, there is essentially a single line queue of scripts waiting to be executing. Any input from the user has to go into that same queue.

When the browser can’t respond to user input because other tasks are executing, the user perceives this as lag.

Essentially long tasks are like that person at your favorite coffee shop who takes far too long to order a drink. Like someone ordering a 2 percent venti four pump vanilla five pump mocha whole fat froth, long tasks are a major source of bad experiences.

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

Lonely tasks are outlying long tasks created by isolated scripts that finish execution more than 5 seconds after FMP.

Think of them as someone who knew their complex coffee order was going to take a moment and decided to wait for a break in the rush.

A lonely task is padded with quiet windows. Lonely tasks are a marker that critical content and scripts have finished providing the user with an interactive experience.

“When the page is doing the most critical loading related tasks, the long tasks are usually densely packed. The isolated tasks are usually some third party ads or analytics script (and sometimes V8 GC tasks), and these should not block First Interactive – calling out the effect of these is the job of Consistently Interactive*.”

*Time to Consistently Interactive is called Time to Interactive (TTI). The doc still uses the old names.

What Is Proportional Leniency?

Ideally the later a task is executed, the less impact it has to the meaningful content of a page.

Proportional leniency measures the time the “initial flurry of loading activity to get a page minimally interactive” and the first 3-second “quiet window” in script execution.

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance Metrics

A Technical SEO Guide to Lighthouse Performance MetricsTime to First Interactive Visualized

Think of it like coming into a restaurant after the lunch rush. Proportional leniency is looking for the first person to come in and get a table without having to wait in the lobby.

Lighthouse Scores by First CPU Idle Times

Lighthouse Score FCP (s)
100 1.95
99 2.19
95 3.01
90 3.57
80 4.39
75 4.74
50 6.50
0 22.40

How to Improve Your First CPU Idle Score

Two strategies address the lion’s share of poor First CPU scores. Warning: you will need development resources to understand how these apply to your site.

5. First Meaningful Paint (FMP)

Official Definition

First Meaningful Paint is the time when page’s primary content appeared on the screen. This is going to be our primary metric for user-perceived loading experience.

Definitions of primary content differ depending on pages. For blog articles, it would be the headline + above-the-fold text (and text must be visible — not waiting for fonts). For search engines, it would be search results. If an image is critical to the page (e.g., ecommerce product page), then first meaningful paint requires it to be visible. Paints with only the page header, navigation bar, or loading indicator such as spinner icon don’t qualify.

ELI5 FMP

I can see what I came here for!

FMP measures the first time users could start consuming page content. The lower your score, the faster user feels that the primary content of the page is visible.

The “most important parts” are sometimes called “hero elements”. Don’t read that as hero images (no one came to your page to see a stock photo).

Think of them as the reason the user came to your page. Like Time to First Interact, the hero elements necessary to track FMP aren’t standardized.

“First meaningful paint (FMP) is the metric that answers the question: “is it useful?”. While the concept of “useful” is very hard to spec in a way that applies generically to all web pages (and thus no spec exists, yet), it’s quite easy for web developers themselves to know what parts of their pages are going to be most useful to their users.”

Lighthouse Scores by FMP times

Lighthouse Score FMP (s)
100 1.36
99 1.51
95 2.01
90 2.34
80 2.81
75 3.01
50 4.00
0 12.16

How to Get a Better FMP Score

The key to FMP is prioritizing the elements of your layout reflect why your users came. The more elements your page loads, the slower it loads.

Load the resources needed for your above-the-fold content before you load scripts necessary for offscreen elements.

Ditch the fancy fonts or include a fallback font. The faster your text is available, the quicker you’ll achieve First Meaningful Paint.

A more basic (but highly effective) strategy is to remove excess scripts where you can. Ask for fewer fancy features or customized elements.

Take a look at your external resources. Plenty of widgets and plugins add content to your site “to improve SEO.”

The longevity of our field and personal careers demands we focus on what humans care about and think about feature enhancements. Is it bot bait? Kill it.

You can directly tie improvements to a dollar value in Google Analytics with FMP tracking.

Conclusion

The complexity of performance metrics reflects the challenges facing all sites. We use performance metrics as a proxy for user experience – that means factoring in some unicorns.

Tools like Google’s Test My Site and What Does My Site Cost? can help you make the conversion and customer-focused arguments for why performance matters.

Hopefully, once your project has traction, these definitions will help you translate Lighthouse’s single performance metric into action tickets for a skilled and collaborative dev team (shout to Snowmass!).

Track your data and shout it from the rooftops. As much as Google struggles to quantify qualitative experiences, SEO professionals and devs must decode with how to translate a concept into code.

Test, iterate, and share what you learn! I look forward to seeing what you’re capable of, you beautiful unicorn.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

3 Tips for Taking Action from Your Website Data by @LWilson1980

For digital marketing and website teams, the inability to take data-driven marketing action soon enough is a frequent barrier toward online success.

Today, we face a variety of challenges, such as:

  • An overwhelming volume of data.
  • A tendency to over analyze data.
  • Stagnating websites.
  • Content creation that fails to deliver any results.

Businesses should maximize the untapped potential within their data on a monthly basis.

To achieve this, prioritizing data and building a culture of action-taking and experimentation is essential.

Here are some of my favorite data-driven actions and company culture changes that support search marketing success.

1. Have Processes in Place for Fast Recombining of Data Sets

As marketing experts, people want to spend time on the creative aspects of search marketing delivery.

Yet, for many, the initial roadblock preventing them from taking action stems from all of the dispersed data points they are expected to digest.

A typical marketing expert or manager is exposed to 20 or more different data tools and analytics packages.

Enabling easy distillation of all this data and bringing all the related data into a reduced set of several reference points will help ensure expertise time is being used on expert tasks.

At this stage, it is about considering all the data sources that matter most to the business.

You also need to make impactful decisions on:

  • How to pull out (via APIs, for example) all of the key data into deeper data platforms.
  • More data friendly visualization packages (such as PowerBI).

Both of which can expedite the journey from data, to information and insights.

Recent examples of companies helping facilitate this include the latest Google Search Console aggregation of search properties to track everything under a single domain view.

The gains made from this process update include:

  • Faster action taking.
  • Reduced time wastage on basic data collection and refinement work.
  • Increased time to vary actions and experiment.
  • Improved staff sentiment as they are doing less manual and laborious tasks.
  • More frequent website updates.
  • Increased content and page refinements generating greater gains.

Deep data platforms have come to the fore over the past five-plus years predominantly due to this volume of data handling, combined with the need to make faster, and more meaningful business decisions repeatedly out of the ever-changing data sets.

An example of this in action can be seen with Apollo (the deep data marketing system I work with, created by the company I work for).

Apollo Marketing Platform

Apollo Marketing Platform

Using this type of deep data marketing platform for quicker website and marketing action-taking (above the fundamental data gathering, recombining, and integrity work) has its advantages. Here are just a few:

  • Prioritized insights
  • Predictive analytics
  • Diagnostic analytics
  • Natural language processing
  • Forecasting
  • Interactive dashboards and reporting
  • Filterable grids

2. Timebox Actions into Shorter 15-30 Minute Chunks

Marketing experts often have the dreaded mentality of needing to follow the rabbit hole.

This means that once experts begin looking into the data with a goal in mind, they quickly become waylaid. They follow the data path into new and interesting areas, yet ultimately fail to take any impactful form of direct action from it.

Evidence of this in action include:

  • Lack of output or outcomes from time invested.
  • Limited results derived.
  • Failure to deliver actions to deadlines.

To solve this, you need to be stricter in timeboxing actions and then break down projects and larger implementation items into shorter delivery timeframes.

A huge amount can be achieved in a 15-30 minute timeframe when a skilled marketing expert is focused on the task in hand and has a clearly defined purpose.

A relevant time to get immersed in the data is during start-of-month ideation sessions where you establish:

  • The goals, objectives, and key performance areas for the month (and likely the wider quarter).
  • The agreed actions.
  • The people to implement them (with the deadline).

But there is a need to balance this ideation approach and protect dedicated times when taking action must be prioritized over everything else.

Otherwise, you have a huge backlog of missed opportunity and overlooked actions which were time-sensitive and never delivered on.

Building into reporting a specific section for next actions and what actions were completed in the previous month will help delivery teams think about:

  • What was achieved.
  • What the next data-led actions will be using the latest data sets.

Simple approach revisions like the above will help build consistency of approach spanning teams and staff. This ensures that there is a mindset that things are happening and your data is leveraged.

Examples of implementing 15-30 minute website marketing actions from the latest data sets include:

  • Updating metadata to reflect the latest search trends, user behavior, and highest opportunity Google Search Console terms.
  • Revising content to include new questions and answers that people have used to discover it as well as to help target new search terms from the terminology used by the audience.
  • Re-pitching content created to focus on inclusion in Google Rich Results such as Google Answers, using the data to inform updates made.
  • Updating the content using heatmaps and screen recordings, basing updates on data generated so that you can position calls to action, short forms, and other engagement items on the elements of the screen which users are attracted to the most.
  • Seeding core terms into the content based on boosting the ranking terms which the page is appearing for, increasing the topical relevancy and direct term association with the queries driving the highest impressions and traffic.

You can even complete a technical SEO audit in 15 minutes when you have everything in place and take a structured approach to complete it.

3. Use Agile Backlogs for Next Data Actions & Insights

There will always be a wealth of ideas and opportunities for new actions to take when you start to analyze data and analytics packages. It’s important that this unrealized potential value does not get lost because of current time availability.

The main characteristics of an effective backlog include:

  • Clearly prioritized actions.
  • The inclusion of expected time to complete.
  • Peoples names assigned to tasks.
  • Tracking of completed actions for easy repeat use and action ideation.
  • Objective / goal from the action.
  • Defined actions which can easily be completed without discussion.
  • Wider team access to the backlog.
  • Easy feedback loops (the ability for anyone to comment, share results, and discuss pertinent points).

A backlog should be seen as an organic entity that collates information and insights through dedicated action allocation.

Anyone should be able to proactively take on a task unassigned, assigned to them, or assigned to somebody else, assuming they have the capability to do so.

This proactive approach to taking action and the inclusion of everyone for making changes support a richer company environment of getting things done and delivering results.

In Conclusion

For website and marketing teams to achieve results anywhere near the potential that exists within the data, they need to be able to take action sooner and more often.

For this to happen it is necessary to:

  • Effectively recombine data sets.
  • Timebox actions into shorter more purposeful timeframes.
  • Use agile and effective backlogs to capture and implement the new opportunity.

There are many ways in which you can positively impact action-taking from website data. Hopefully this post helps facilitate that sooner.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

How to Calculate the ROI of Your SEO Campaigns Using Google Analytics by @AdamHeitzman

It can be difficult to determine the exact monetary value of SEO.

A successful SEO marketing strategy typically results in more search traffic and better rankings, and those things are what lead to more money in sales.

So how do you convince a company to hire you for SEO services without being able to promise them an exact dollar amount increase in their sales?

The answer is simple: you calculate ROI, or return on investment.

But before you can calculate ROI, you need to get some conversion data from your potential clients.

Conversion Tracking for Ecommerce Sites vs. Lead-Based Businesses

It’s important to understand that tracking conversions (and ultimately ROI) will look different if you’re an ecommerce site (you sell a product) or a lead-based business (you provide a service).

Ecommerce sites have data from their online transactions that show exactly how much they make from web sales, whereas lead-based businesses have to assign a monetary value to their types of conversions.

While it’s easier and more accurate to track conversions for ecommerce, it certainly is possible for lead-based businesses.

It’s just a little more complex and the set up itself looks different. Regardless of which type of business you run, the first step in determining ROI is to set up conversion tracking.

1. Set up Conversion Tracking

Ecommerce Sites

For an ecommerce site, the first thing you want to do (if you haven’t already) is set up ecommerce tracking in Google.

Even if you aren’t planning to start an SEO campaign, you’ll need this data to determine the overall success (or failure) of your website.

After you set up tracking you’ll have access to information like your conversion rate, total number of transactions on your site, your average order value, and your total revenue.

By doing this, you can determine the exact amount of revenue generated on your website. Click here for instructions on how to set up ecommerce tracking through Google.

Lead-Based Businesses

Setting up conversion tracking for lead-based businesses is a little trickier because there aren’t actual “transactions” going on on the website that result in dollars.

BUT all you have to do to get around this is to figure out what actions your clients are taking on your site and figure out how much they’re worth.

For example, if someone lands on your site and fills out a form to request more information, you could assign that a value of $100 (how you determine this number will be explained later on).

If a potential customer signs up for your newsletter, that could be worth $50. You could assign a value based on how much time they spend on your site, or how many pages they click through. ‘

All of these actions are considered your company “goals” and should be entered into the “goals” section in Google Analytics (Admin- View- Goals in Analytics).

In the “goal details” section you’ll turn the value marker to “on” and then type in an estimated numeric value. How do you determine how much a lead is worth in dollars?

Follow these next steps:

How You Determine the Actual Worth of Your Conversions in Dollars

Let’s say for example you get 100 people each month to sign up for your company newsletter. If 25 of those customers end up hiring you to provide them with a service, then the conversion rate there is 25 percent.

If each of these 25 customers spends approximately $500 in services, then your average value of each sale is $500.

Finally, determine the value of each lead by dividing your total number of conversions by your original number of leads (people who signed up for the newsletter).

For this example, if you have 25 customers and they each spend $500, then you make $12,500. Divide that total by your original 100 leads, and you can determine that each lead (a.k.a. newsletter sign up) is worth an average of $125.

Do this for each of your “goals” and plug in the dollar value so that you have some concrete data to work with in order to calculate ROI.

How to Calculate the ROI of Your SEO Campaigns Using Google Analytics

How to Calculate the ROI of Your SEO Campaigns Using Google Analytics

2. Analyze Your Conversion Tracking

Once you’ve tracked your conversions using the above steps for approximately a month or two, you can begin to examine the data to see what kind of ROI you’re getting from SEO.

If you run a conversions report through Google Analytics, you’ll receive data on all your website traffic (i.e., how many conversions come from paid search, organic search, emails, referrals, social media, and more).

You’ll see a tab with the number of conversions listed as well as the value of these conversions. The value is essentially how much revenue has been generated from each search channel.

Compare these values with the amount of money you’ve spent on SEO during the same time period, and you can start to get a sense of your ROI.

For example, organic traffic comes from customers typing keywords into Google or another search engine, so this is directly related to SEO.

If your revenue from organic traffic is $100,000 in one month, and you paid an SEO company $20,000 to do keyword research and publish new content during that same time frame, then your ROI is $80,000.

You can do the same thing with social media channels or paid advertising – whatever area you focused your SEO efforts on (or you paid someone to focus on) is what you should be analyzing.

Not sure exactly where to start?

Which digital marketing channels produce the highest ROI for websites? Check out this article.

How to Calculate the ROI of Your SEO Campaigns Using Google Analytics

How to Calculate the ROI of Your SEO Campaigns Using Google Analytics

3. Calculate Your ROI Percentage

If you want your ROI percentage, use this formula:

(Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment.

Then, multiply the resulting number by 100 to get your ROI in terms of percentage.

For the above example, you would do:

  • 100,000 – 20,000 / 20,000
  • 80,000 / 20,000 equals 4
  • 4 x 100 = 400

Your ROI is 400 percent.

Conclusion

Once you know your percentage of ROI, you can take it back to your clients and show them what the return on their investment is.

If they invested $20,000 in your SEO services, they don’t want to know that they got a 300 percent increase in organic traffic; they want the dollar amount of that traffic.

And with conversion tracking, you can give that to them. ROI typically changes from month to month, and it’s pretty common to have a negative ROI in the beginning.

It’s important to keep clients informed of the progress and to give them detailed reports of your SEO efforts vs. ROI every quarter, if not every month.

How do you calculate your company’s ROI?

What is your experience with conversion tracking if you’re an ecommerce site or a lead-based business?

We’d love to hear from you! Comment in the section below.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: DepositPhotos.com
All screenshots taken by author, February 2019

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17 Tips & Tricks to Improve Your Content by @kristaneher

As digital marketing begins to mature, businesses are shifting their focus from implementation to optimization.

With more messages sent across more platforms content needs to stand out and earn attention – even in paid media.

Facebook calls this “thumb-stopping power” – does your content cause someone to stop scrolling and engage?

If you are ready to take your content to the next level, here are 17 tips, tricks, and tools that can improve your content even more.

1. Mix Up Your Content

While video generally gets more engagements and certain types of email headlines may generate higher open rates the reality is that different people respond best to different things.

In order to reach as many people as possible with a message that is relevant to them, mix up your content.

Some people will respond to discounts, others to emotional messaging, others to action-oriented videos. This is true for all of your marketing communications.

Mix up your approach as much as possible to reach as many people as possible and maximize your impact.

2. Start with the Benefit

We’ve seen a big change in how content is crafted for digital vs. traditional mediums.

In a traditional TV commercial, the storytelling starts slow, builds to a reveal/climax, and ends with the brand. In digital people won’t stick around.

Digital content starts with the benefit or headline.

Think about recipe videos – they start with the end result – a mouthwatering dish vs. starting with the instructions.

While some brands have good enough storytelling that they can draw you in, this isn’t the case for most content. Start with what they get to draw them in and maintain attention with quick moving content.

3. Test, Test, Test, Test, Test

Many marketers still don’t build testing into their strategy, or they do it haphazardly.

As you evaluate your content plan for the year (on any channel) consider some things that you want to test.

A good testing plan goes beyond things like button colors or headline wording – these are more optimizations on a concept.

Businesses of any size with any budget can test content easily. Maybe you want to test the benefit that people respond best to, product positioning, imagery, or pricing.

All of these can be tested easily online and can step change your marketing results across channels.

4. Get Inspired by Influencers

When looking for content strategy and inspiration we often look at other businesses, but most businesses struggle to create content that breaks through the noise.

Instead, look to influencers for inspiration. They live and die by their content and know what their audience responds to. Food videos on Facebook were revolutionized by food bloggers, not food brands.

This can give you new ideas for how to approach content. Look at channels like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter to see the concepts and executions that influencers are using.

5. Do Less Stuff Better

While we are used to content calendars and schedules, what we know in an AI algorithm-powered world is that content that performs best (both organically or in an ad) will earn more views.

Reconsider your approach to content and aim at doing fewer things better.

Many businesses have reduced their blog post frequency and instead focus on fewer higher quality articles and guides.

6. Have Some Fun

When we look at content that performs well we see that emojis can increase email open rates, Stories are full of fun formats like Boomerangs and slow-motion and stickers are making their way into LinkedIn videos.

All of this shows that people want fun and engaging content. Whether your brand is serious or targeting millennials look for ways to add some fun into your content to earn attention.

7. Find a Real Consumer Insight

The best marketing content is driven by a real consumer or customer insight.

For example, the Snickers Hangry campaign hit a nerve because it went deeper than “people eat Snickers as a snack.” They asked why snacking is important and discovered people are crazy angry jerks or hangry when they don’t eat.

A lot of content focuses on the “what” – the product features.

Digging deeper to understand why those features are important and how they impact people will take your results to the next level and draw people into your content.

8. Strategic Analytics -> What -> So What -> Now What

Most businesses look at analytics or reports, but often the information isn’t deep enough to be actionable.

As you review analytics for your content ask yourself:

  • What: What is this telling me?
  • So What: What does that mean?
  • Now What: What should I do about it?

This digital marketing analytics approach focuses on making your analytics actionable. Every time you look at analytics your goal should be to have actionable items that you can implement.

9. Build Content on Relevant Connections

One of the things that makes a lot of content fall flat is that it isn’t based on a relevant connection.

For example “Happy Holidays from Business X” or “It’s Football Season – Come Buy a New Car”. The problem with these posts is that there is no real connection to the brand.

If you want your content to breakthrough it needs to be contextually relevant.

Ask yourself how is baseball season is related to buying a new car. Make the post relevant and interesting.

10. Give Your Content More Reach on New Channels

As you look at the content you are creating (beyond marketing content even) look for opportunities to repurpose your content on different channels.

For example, my company posts a lot of our digital marketing training presentations on SlideShare.

It only takes about 5-10 minutes to add a presentation. A SlideShare can gain hundreds or thousands of views over time and rank in search engines.

We aim to cross post our videos for Facebook on LinkedIn and YouTube to gain even more ROI for our content investment.

11. Get Reinspired

Sometimes it can be tricky to come up with concepts or ideas, and most businesses and content creators get into a rut or a habit of posting similar content.

Look to different sources of inspiration like Pinterest, Google Trends, Search Data, or tools like Answer The Public and BuzzSumo.

These tools will show you what content people are searching for and sharing, which can help breathe new life into your content strategy.

12. Repurpose Your Best Content

When you find something that works – capitalize on it!

Take your best-performing blog post and turn it into a video or infographic.

Take your best-performing topic and find new ways to make it relevant to your audience.

Sometimes we feel the need to reinvent the wheel, which often leaves content creators out of ideas or fatigued.

Finding ways to breath new life into great content will give you a better chance of success and also means you don’t always need totally new ideas.

13. Immediate Attention-Grabbing Creative

Your creative needs to break through the noise and grab attention right away. With more traffic moving to mobile you have even less time to earn attention.

People scroll newsfeeds faster on mobile compared to desktop (1.7 seconds vs. 2.5 seconds) which means you have even less time to draw them in.

  • A video needs to start with a quick motion and action to draw people in.
  • An image needs to be engaging.
  • A headline has to quickly capture interest.
  • A website has to load quickly and show value.

Ask yourself if your content captures attention in only a few seconds.

14. Experiment More with Formats

Think outside of your regular box when it comes to your content and try new things. Find simple, low-cost ways to test out new platforms or formats.

For example Stories or Live format content or try video on LinkedIn if you haven’t yet. What you will find is that different people respond to different things.

As we were preparing for our Stories Training Course, we started posting more stories on Instagram and Facebook, and actually generated a lead from an Instagram story that had relatively low reach.

We hadn’t really thought that Instagram stories would be a strong channel for our audience. You may be surprised at the results, so it is good to experiment vs. assume.

15. Video

Video is getting bigger in every single platform. Even LinkedIn is prioritizing video in the newsfeed and videos can earn views and shares from second and third-degree connections.

Prioritize video in your strategy.

Into “DIY” content? There are tons of great tools like Animoto, Ripl, or even Canva that make it easy to create outstanding videos.

If you use an agency talk about how you can create and test short videos.

16. Reuse Your Best Content

Many businesses create great content – maybe a video or an infographic and promote it when it launches and then they move on and continue to the next post, ad, or lead gen tactic in their content calendar.

With digital marketing, few people in your audience see everything that you post (or remember it). Make sure that your workflow includes analyzing and reusing evergreen content.

This will also help you to justify investing more time or money in better content. If you get more leverage by reusing and repromoting a great piece of content you gain a better return on your creative investment.

17. Use Content Learnings Across Channels

For example:

  • Your best blog headline could also be a great headline for PPC.
  • A video that does well on Facebook could also be a good blog post.
  • A high-traffic webpage could create good content for Facebook.

When we approach analytics we are often focused on a single channel. Look at how your content insights can apply to other channels and test them.

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What Is Dwell Time & Why Does It Matter for SEO? by @DuaneForrester

Dwell time is one of those metrics that gets referenced a lot in articles, on social media, and in conference presentations.

Sadly, though, it remains greatly misunderstood by some in the SEO community.

What is dwell time? Do search engines really use it? Is it a ranking factor? And, if so, how can you impact it?

This post will hopefully clear up any confusion.

A Brief History of Dwell Time

When I look up the definition of “dwell,” I get the following information:

dwell

VERB

  1. live in or at a specified place.
  2. (dwell on/upon)
    • think, speak, or write at length about (a particular subject, especially one that is a source of unhappiness, anxiety, or dissatisfaction).
  3. Synonyms:
    • linger over · mull over · muse on · brood about · brood over

NOUN

  1. a slight regular pause in the motion of a machine

For our purposes, we’re going to focus more on the synonyms-side of things, and we’re going to amend the concept to the phrase dwell time.

There is a good chance you’ve heard this phrase before, as I’ve been speaking about it since I was running Webmaster Tools at Bing. I referenced it for the first time in this post on building quality content:

While it may feel like you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating the content on the website, quality is in the eye of the visitor, and short page dwell times can indicate the content is not capturing the visitor’s interest. … If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave. The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.

Being inside the engine, I spent time with the search engineers and the Spam team, among others. As an SEO professional, you can imagine how interesting it was to get logical (and sometimes illogical) answers to my questions.

Dwell time was one of those concepts that made perfect sense once explained, and it was immediately obvious that such a metric could be very important in determining searcher satisfaction.

What Is Dwell Time?

Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on a SERP page, but before clicking back to the SERP results.

You’ve done this lots of times, most likely. It’s that brief moment when you evaluate the webpage you just clicked to visit. It either instantly provided you the answer you wanted, or was such an obvious failure that you hit the back button immediately.

The value of this metric to a search engine should be obvious – the more time you spend consuming the content of a page you clicked to visit, the higher the probability that page satisfied your needs.

That’s obviously a generalization, as we could poke any number of edge-case scenario holes in that theory, but in the broadest sense, it applies. And the opposite remains broadly true as well – the less time you spend on that page, the less satisfied you could be.

But if you’re asking for the weather, a quick glance at the page may be entirely satisfactory. In instances such as those, a metric built around dwell time would have to account for that: short time = satisfaction.

So you can see it’s not as easy as a broad application of a concept.

But it is a metric that’s used and would hold a value applied to rankings at some level.

How important it is as a metric is relative, and must be considered in a mix of many factors, so chasing dwell time is not a good use of your time.

Focusing on broader improvements for a website that increases user engagement, however, is worthy. Dwell time may increase as a result, but it shouldn’t be the only focus or reason you do something.

What Dwell Time Is NOT

Dwell time is not bounce rate.

A bounce happens when someone views only one page and leaves your site. So your bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions divided by all the sessions for your website (or an individual page).

Dwell time has been used somewhat interchangeably with average time on page.

But average time on page is simply that – the amount of time someone spends on one of your pages. That user may have gotten to that page from social media, a link on another webpage, an email, or some other source.

How about session duration? Also not dwell time.

The session duration metric measures how long someone spent on your site. If a user’s session didn’t begin with a search, it certainly can’t end in the same search results page.

One other thing dwell time is not: a publicly available metric you can measure with a third-party tool. Only the search engines have access to dwell time.

When Does Dwell Time Become a Visit?

Technically, every click is a visit. But let’s be frank… not all visits are created equal.

You alone will know what version of a metric matters most to your own business, but it’s safe to say that for most businesses, a visit of one second (or less) is less than ideal.

At the very least, we can safely say that every business would like people to engage for longer with them.

Now, your analytics package may vary in how they track these instances, but it’s worth viewing your visits sorted by the amount of time a visitor engaged with you.

If you’ve optimized your conversion path, you’ll have an idea of the average time a transaction takes and you can then easily map what a valuable visit tends to look like.

There are a bunch of ways to do such an exercise, but regardless of the method, it’s worth doing it.

How Can You Impact Dwell Time?

There is no one thing you can do to positively impact dwell time. However, there may be instances when doing one thing does have an impact.

What I’m talking about here is focusing on improving the overall user experience and the delivery of useful content on your pages.

Still doing auto-roll videos when a user visits your website? Yeah, users don’t like that.

Don’t bury answers to questions down low on a page below a giant header image.

Be sure to make content easy to find and obvious, so it’s the first thing a visitor sees when they reach your page.

Did you ever wonder why Google and Bing gave guidance on “above the fold” and not having pop-ups, etc?

Part of the reason for that guidance was to improve the user’s experience.

The search engines know that if a searcher lands on a webpage listed in search results, then goes back to the search results almost immediately, there is an increased chance that the searcher will blame the search engine.

If that pattern repeats itself several times, it simply increases a searcher’s frustration with the engine, so it’s a pattern the engines would like to avoid when possible.

Don’t Dwell on Dwell Time

Essentially, dwell time is a measure you should be aware of, but you’re already taking all the correct actions to have the most positive impact on it. If you’re struggling to make your site mobile friendly, you need to fix that.

Page load speeds still slow? Fix that.

If you’re worried that customers will bounce from your site the instant they get the one piece of information they think they need, you need to fix that – work on conversion optimization.

In short, you need to work on that age-old effort of “being sticky.”

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How to Build an Executive/KPI Dashboard to Prove Your PPC Value

Marketers aren’t always sure how to prove their value and keep their job.

This post will help you figure out what your bosses care about and how you can show the value of PPC on a dashboard.

People often think that what we do in PPC is either the black arts or is as simple as picking some keywords, ad copy, and targeting. We know it’s a lot more complex than that.

We also know it can often be hard to show the value of what you do to everyone in the organization.

One thing that I have learned working on brands like ASOS, WealthBar, and Telstra is that there are only three people you really need to satisfy in an organization:

  • Yourself.
  • Your boss.
  • Your boss’s boss.

Making sure you are happy at work should be important because we spend 30 percent of our life at work.

Making sure your boss and their boss is happy is a lot more tricky, but this post will help you with that.

Here’s how to find your North Star, prove the value of your work, make sure your data is correct, and communicate with everyone in the organization.

weathervane

weathervane

What Is Your North Star?

If your boss came around to your desk tomorrow and asked you how the business was doing, what would you tell them? Could you rattle off performance numbers for the last 60 days?

Knowing your performance numbers inside and out shows you care about the business. Every business should have a North Star; that one number each department and business unit looks at to make sure they are making the company more profitable with each choice they make.

To put it another way, it’s the one number that the whole company rallies around to make sure everyone is pushing the company in the same direction.

Mel Gibson’s North Star in “Braveheart” was freedom for his people. Love or hate the movie, his character knew how to rally everyone together.

If you work in ecommerce then you care about average order value (AOV) or return on ad spend (ROAS). In software-as-a-service (SaaS), you look at cost per acquisition (CPA) or lifetime value (LTV).

If you work in another industry then your North Star could be something different. A lot of friends who work for apps care about cost per install (CPI) or average revenue per user (ARPU). The latter is focused on paying users and not anyone who has installed the app.

Once you know what your North Star is, you need to lay it out in your Excel sheet. If we stick with ecommerce as our example, we know that they really focus on return on ad spend (ROAS) for our one metric of success.

Finding All Your Data

Where does your boss and boss’s boss pull their data from?

Making sure you and your manager are looking at the same numbers is key for this being a success. There is nothing worse than you thinking you did 400 sales last month but your boss says it’s only 375 because you had some returns and refunds not taken into account.

I have seen people pull numbers from a Google Ads account, whereas a boss pulls it from Google Analytics or even a data warehouse like Domo.

If you don’t have access to the data warehouse, then you need to ask your boss to get access. Explain that you want to help make sure everyone is talking about the same numbers and we are comparing apples to apples.

Analytics Dashboard

Analytics Dashboard

Since we want to build a dashboard looking at ROAS, I would pull revenue numbers for the last two calendar years and the current year to date.

Plus, make sure you get all your ad spend from your ad platform. If you can get your revenue number broken down for each ad platform, that would be a great way to get more granular with reporting.

If you are pulling from an ad account or Google Analytics, my agency is a big fan of using Supermetrics as our data reporting tool. We find Supermetrics is great for pulling data from multiple advertising and analytic sources.

Plus Supermetrics can be set up to auto-update data each day or every hour. If you need to pull from Domo or another data warehouse, then you may need to download the data into a CSV. A CSV can be upload into Excel or Google Sheets.

Now that you have all your data, you need to put it together in a dashboard that updates. I would stick with a weekly update. Though around Black Friday or a major sale, you may want to update it daily to keep on top of performance numbers.

Setting Up Your Executive Dashboard

How to Build an Executive/KPI Dashboard to Prove Your PPC Value

How to Build an Executive/KPI Dashboard to Prove Your PPC Value

The image above is a good example of how I would lay out my data. There are two areas you want to show off to your manager and their boss:

  • How is paid doing on its own (paid advertising channel tab).
  • How is paid doing compared to the rest of the business or organic traffic (KPI Dashboard).

Access the spreadsheet here.

Paid and organic tend to be 2 of the top 3 traffic sources for an ecommerce business. They usually make sense to compare to each other. You may need to include why, if you are having a slow month or numbers are down for a month.

Paid Advertising Channel Tab

Layout your months along column A, followed by your spend, and revenue for year one. Since we want to use ROAS as our North Star, figure out what your ROAS would be for the first year for each month. Duplicate the process again for your second year.

The next 3 columns compare year over year (YOY) performance for spend, revenue and ROAS between your first and second year. For instance, how did January 2017 do compared to January 2018?

I always include a totals column at the end to help track yearly performance as well. This lets you look at how paid is doing on its own for the year.

KPI Dashboard Tab

How to Build an Executive/KPI Dashboard to Prove Your PPC Value

How to Build an Executive/KPI Dashboard to Prove Your PPC Value

How is paid doing compared to organic? No marketing channel should operate in a silo. It’s good to see how you are doing against the rest of the business.

Plus if there is a wide difference in performance, it’s a good time to check in with the person doing organic and see if there are learning opportunities between the two channels. The spend under organic would come from the SEO person’s salary and benefits.

If you had affiliate data in your dashboard, you might put spend as salary of the person managing your affiliate revenue, plus how much you had to pay out to affiliates. Basically, all the costs of running the affiliate channel.

Since the data in the paid advertising channel could overwhelming, I always make a second tab that just looks at the KPI dashboard. This tab will look at year over year performance for the current month.

This tab quickly lets your bosses see how you are doing year-over-year compared to the whole business. You could add a section underneath that adds why performance is up or down. This comes down to how detailed your bosses like to get.

Conclusion

Figuring out what your company’s North Star is important. What is the one number everyone in your company rallies behind?

Make sure you are looking at the same data as your bosses. Assemble the spreadsheet above and help make sure everyone is on the same page.

One final note, you may want to do a monthly email out to the marketing team. That could explain in more detail what is going on behind the numbers.

You can also say what your plans are for next month. Never be afraid to overshare in your job and have information freely flowing from your department to the company.

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Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, February 2019

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Which Brand (Not Which Ad) Won Super Bowl 2019? by @gregjarboe

Here’s an important question that you should ask at your next marketing meeting: “Which brand won Super Bowl 2019?”

Now, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that someone will say it was “The 100-Year Game | SBLIII.”

[embedded content]

Why?

Because USA Today Said So

The NFL’s impromptu pickup game, starring 44 of the greatest players of all-time, was the USA Today Ad Meter winner.

The annual poll has been conducted every year since 1989, so many marketers don’t question the claim that the Ad Meter is “the definitive measure of Super Bowl commercials.”

But, its methodology doesn’t use metrics that matter, like:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Message association.
  • Brand consideration.
  • Purchase intent.
  • Brand favorability.

In fact, it uses a unique set of vanity metrics that were invented 31 years ago – before the World Wide Web was created.

Did you know that USA Today lets any U.S. citizen who is at least 18-years-old become an Ad Meter panelist?

Participants are asked for basic demographic information— age, gender, income, and ZIP code. And USA Today monitors registrations and audits the voting process looking for patterns or discrepancies – like bulk voting or bots – and investigates anything that seems odd.

Thousands of panelists are then asked to rate every national ad that appears during the Big Game on a one-to-10 scale (with one to three being “poor,” four to seven being “good,” and eight to 10 being excellent).

The Problem with USA Today’s Ad Meter

However, an article by Michael Learmonth, “How USA Today’s Ad Meter Broke Super Bowl Advertising,” which was published in AdAge in 2012, revealed that in order to please their clients and bolster their own resumes, most ad directors stopped trying to create ads like “1984,” Apple’s TV commercial introducing the Macintosh directed by Ridley Scott.

Instead they “started creating ads for the panel – the media equivalent of teaching for the test. How do you get people to have an immediate, positive reaction to something they’re seeing? Certainly don’t show them a narrative. Make them laugh.”

Now, making 98.2 million TV viewers laugh is a marvelous outcome, even if that’s the smallest audience for football’s annual spectacle since 2008.

But, with the average cost of a 30-second spot in this year’s Super Bowl now $5.25 million (excluding production expenses), it’s worth asking your marketing team which brand benefited the most from advertising during this year’s Big Game.

That should prompt a serious discussion of which metrics matter the most to your product. And, depending on which metrics you select, there are several other ways to answer the question: “Which brand won Super Bowl 2019?”

For example, “The 100-Year Game” didn’t have the most online video views, nor the most social engagement. Those honors go to other 2019 Super Bowl commercials, as well as the awards for highest average three-day view counts (V3) and three-day engagement rates (ER3), according to an article by Bree Brouwer in Tubular Insights, “2019 Super Bowl Commercials: Who Won on YouTube?

Which Brands Were the Biggest Winners?

Amazon

The Most-Watched video was “Not Everything Makes the Cut – Amazon Super Bowl LIII Commercial,” which had 38.1 million views as of 12:25 p.m. PT, Feb. 4, 2019. It also had the highest average three-day view count (V3), with 38.1 million views.

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Marvel Studios

The Most-Engaged video was “Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame – Big Game TV Spot,” which had 410,000 engagements.

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Google

And the video with the Highest Three-Day Engagement Rate (ER3) was “Job Search for Veterans | Google Super Bowl Commercial 2019,” with 1,600 engagements out of 880,000 views for an ER3 benchmarked across all content of 1.3x, which means it was 1.3 times more engaging than average.

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Brouwer also noted that:

  • T-Mobile and Bud Light were the brands that uploaded the most Super Bowl ads at four apiece.
  • The most-represented category was food and drink with 17 total ads; media and telecom were second with seven ads each, followed by the auto industry with six ads.
  • One of the biggest trends was the focus on millennial-based nostalgia and references (probably because of that generation’s buying power). For example, musicians who were popular in the ’90s and early 2000s like Ludacris, Backstreet Boys, and Lil’ John were featured in this year’s spots. And stars from top millennial-era entertainment were also present such as Jeff Bridges’ “The Dude” from “The Big Lebowski”, Christina Applegate from “Anchorman”, Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Carrie Bradshaw” from Sex & the City, and Sarah Michelle Gellar from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

By comparison, Realeyes’ 2019 Super Bowl Effectiveness study asked consumers who represented the general U.S. population how they felt about each ad and it also used the company’s AI technology to track and interpret their facial expressions and body language as they watched via their webcam.

The responses of 1,300 viewers to 67 Super Bowl videos were then fed into an algorithm to determine which spot extracted the most engagement, attention and positive sentiment among consumers.

And the winner was…

M&M’s

“M&M’S Chocolate Bar Super Bowl Commercial 2019 (featuring Christina Applegate) – ‘Bad Passengers.’”

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This video came out on top with a total score of 9.72 out of a possible 10. M&M’s ad achieved a perfect 10 on the EmotionAll scale, 9.7 for attention, and performed better than 97 percent of the videos that Realeyes has tested to date.

“Bad Passengers is an example of a highly relatable experience and the story is told in an engaging, humorous manner. The brand is also introduced [on screen] at the exact moment of high emotion [which has resulted in a] win for M&M’s,” said Tina Gaffney, the head of customer success at Realeyes, in a Marketing Week article by Erin Lyons, “Super Bowl 2019: Who won the ad battle?

Meanwhile, Ace Metrix didn’t name just one Super Bowl winner; it named five.

In a blog post, “Super Bowl LIII: The Ads that Stood Out,” the advertising analytics company’s CEO Peter Daboll said, “Let’s remember that many of the Super Bowl ads are trying to accomplish different objectives—some purely entertaining, some tug at heartstrings, and others push specific products. So to judge them based on the same criteria doesn’t say whether they were successful in their own right.”

And, using Ace Emo, which quantifies an ad’s emotional impact compared with tens of thousands of ads, the company said different Super Bowl LIII ads stood out to viewers for different emotions: Funny, Heartfelt, Ingenious, Eerie, and WTF.

Their methodology is based on deep Natural Language Processing and machine learning analysis of hundreds of viewer reactions to every ad – in their own words. Results are generated from consumer data, where each ad is rated by more than 500 real-world viewers all across the country.

So, who were the “winners” here?

Bubly

“Michael Bublé vs bubly Super Bowl 2019 Ad” ranked #1 for both the Funniest Super Bowl LIII Ad as well as the Most Ingenious Super Bowl LIII Ad.

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Like many humorous Big Game ads, this year’s funniest benefitted from a celebrity’s star power and acting prowess.

Michael Buble was the only guy for the job in Bubly’s “Can I Have a Buble?” creative. The pairing, which seems obvious in hindsight, came off as ingenious and memorable to viewers as well as funny, as shown in the emotional profile below.

Which Brand (Not Which Ad) Won Super Bowl 2019?

Which Brand (Not Which Ad) Won Super Bowl 2019?

Verizon

Meanwhile, “Verizon | ‘The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here’ :60” ranked #1 for the Most Heartfelt Super Bowl LIII Ad.

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According to Ace Metrix, this ranking was derived from the company’s Heartfelt emotional metric, which is evoked when an ad is moving (whether it’s happy, sad, or bittersweet) as a result of the story, message, characters, visual scenes, or all combined.

While humor can be polarizing, heartfelt ads have the power to connect with all viewers. Likeability of the first responders’ message is one of the strongest components for Verizon’s “The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here.”

TurboTax

The next “winner” was “TurboTax Live 2019 Super Bowl Commercial “RoboChild” (Official :45) TV ad,” which ranked #1 in the Most Eerie Super Bowl LIII Ad category.

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According to Ace Metrix, this ranking is derived from the company’s Eerie metric. In case it isn’t painfully obvious, this ad made viewers feel uneasy or scared because of its (really) weird or scary ad content.

Now, brands may purposefully try to connect through this non-traditional emotion as a way to generate that “can’t look away even if you really want to” attention. And, it turns out that the attention score was the strongest component for this eerie ad. So, don’t judge it too quickly or too harshly.

Turkish Airlines

Finally, “Ad Meter 2019: Turkish Airlines” ranked #1 in the Most WTF Super Bowl LIII Ad category.

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According to Ace Metrix, this ranking is derived from their WTF metric, which signals when the message is confusing, or when there’s no connection between the ad and the brand advertised, leaving viewers with that “WTF did I just watch?” reaction.

Advertisers that spark WTF emotions tend to forego classic campaign metrics in order to make a statement, wow with cinematic visuals, or both.

Some brands knowingly go this route for the Super Bowl as a way to generate buzz around their ad, while others may have had no intention of ending up here.

Um, OK.

So, did Turkish Airlines intend to take this route or did it just sort of end up there?

This brings me to the most surprising winner of Super Bowl 2019:

Fiat Chrysler (or: the Brand That Wasn’t There)

An article by Dale Buss in Forbes, “Popularity Of Jeep’s Digital-Only Ad Ratifies Fiat Chrysler’s New Super Bowl Strategy,” observed that Fiat Chrysler skipped advertising during the Big Game this year for the first time in 10 years and decided to launch an all-digital blitz on Super Bowl weekend instead.

According to Buss, “Fiat Chrysler showed what can be accomplished by executing digital-only video at the same sort of high level of creativity and execution as some of its iconic Super Bowl ads on television.”

In case you missed it, check out “Jeep ‘Big Game Blitz’ | OneRepublic | ‘More Than Just Words.’” The video had 52.4 million views and 15,100 engagements, as of the time of this writing.

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And the same ad on Facebook, “Picture freedom like never before. Jeep Big Game Blitz brings you The Star-Spangled Banner in a word-by-word visual score performed by OneRepublic,” has another 52.2 million views and 478,000 engagements.

And the same ad on Twitter, “Picture freedom like never before. Jeep® Big Game Blitz brings you The National Anthem in a word-by-word visual score performed by @OneRepublic,” has an additional 1.8 million views and 7,915 engagements.

There are another five videos that are part of the campaign, which launched on Jan. 29. Together, they have 110.2 million views and 576,900 engagements.

According to Buss:

“The Company’s decision to forsake TV ads during the game for the first time since 2009 was a stunning development, given the quality and popularity of many of the commercials that it has run during the Super Bowl over the last several years. But Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois and CEO Mike Manley wanted to bring more efficiency to their expensive Super Bowl ad buy in terms of viewership metrics and costs.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) said in a press release that the Jeep brand’s “More Than Just Words” has smashed the company’s record for most online views, with over 106 million, “more than the audience size for the Super Bowl broadcast.”

In addition to breaking Company records for most views, “More Than Just Words” has been shared across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube more than 200,000 times cumulatively with over 50,000 comments combined “reflecting overwhelmingly positive sentiment from fans across social media.”

Said Francois in the release:

“This year, we adopted a new approach to launch our commercials in advance of the Big Game and our ‘gamble’ seems to be winning as we continue to track the videos through today. Together, our eight creative executions have amassed over 169 million views. What is more exciting is that engagement to date suggests that Jeep brand’s ‘More Than Just Words’ on its own has surpassed the TV audience viewership for the Big Game. Viewers have been reacting to it in a very powerful way, commenting across our digital and social platforms telling us how much they appreciate the message, and thanking us for it. Our fans are calling the video one of the best Big Game commercials ever. And while it didn’t air in the game, people will remember it as one.”

So, Which Brand Do You Think Won Super Bowl 2019?

No, this isn’t a trick question.

It’s a serious attempt to get your marketing team to determine which metrics matter before you decide which media to use to market your brand.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author, February 2019

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How to Set & Achieve Realistic SEO Goals for 2019 by @drumming

What milestones does your company need to reach in 2019?

As marketers and SEO professionals, charting the path toward our goals is one of the exercises we should be mapping out at a minimum each year.

Here’s a three-step framework for setting SEO goals and developing a plan to achieve them:

  • Measuring targets: Where do we need to be?
  • Establishing SEO benchmarks: Where are we now?
  • Developing an action plan: How are we going to get there?

1. Measuring Targets

Every marketer on your team should be able to answer, “What does success look like 3/6/12 months out?”

Are we looking at revenue growth from new customers, existing customer account expansion, retention, and/or lowering churn?

In consulting with teams over the last decade, it’s often only the most senior person on the team who knows this answer.

In order to get your entire team on board with your marketing plan, every teammate should know the answer to this question.

Revenue targets (or lead value via a specific quantity/quality of leads) are the most common type of goal that marketing departments are tasked with achieving.

Revenue figures can then be translated into the number of new customers you need to bring in monthly based on average order size. Here’s the equation:

Number of new customers you need to acquire = Revenue needed / Average order size

Once you understand the number of customers you need to acquire, you can work backward to figure out the number of opportunities, SQLs, MQLs, leads, and website visitors you need to bring in to hit your goals. This is all based on conversion rates.

Your CRM and/or marketing automation platform should be able to provide these conversion rates across lifecycle stages and channels (organic vs. paid vs. referral).

Here is a helpful calculator your team can use to figure out these metrics.

2. Establishing Benchmarks

At this point, you should have a clear understanding of the number of customers, opportunities, leads, and visitors your website needs to bring in to hit your overall marketing goal.

What percentage of this goal is SEO responsible for?

Your ability to hit your SEO goal can be measured based on this series of benchmarks, which define where your brand stands today.

SEO Share of Voice (SOV)

SOV helps us understand how well your brand ranks based on a fixed set of topics or keywords.

For what percentage of those does your brand rank on the first page of Google?

This exercise gives us the competitive benchmark from both our direct and indirect SEO competitors. It helps us understand the types of content formats that are ranking well for my target keywords and exposes new content distribution channels to reach my customer.

Here is an example of an SEO share-of-voice analysis looking at the “construction management software” vertical. This shows you that software review websites (like Capterra and SoftwareAdvice.com) “own” the largest share of voice within organic search listings.

SEO Share of Voice

SEO Share of Voice

Competitive Ranking Benchmark

Next, pull all of the keywords that you and your direct competitors are ranking for within search. SEMrush’s gap analysis tool makes this a breeze.

SEMrush Competitive Analysis

SEMrush Competitive Analysis

Traffic, Leads, Opportunities & Customers by Channel

How does organic traffic perform compared to paid, referral, and other sources? Pull this benchmark to identify overall growth from last year to this year.

This benchmark shows you the potential you have for scaling into next year, assuming you don’t change your marketing program. This can be done in your marketing analytics platform or reporting solutions like Databox, as seen here. (Full disclosure: The agency I work for is a Databox partner).)

This report pulls the benchmark for how many total keywords you rank for (that’s tracked in SEMrush’s massive index) compared to your competition.

Next, take an export of this report and categorize your keywords by general topic. This will give you a benchmark for the topics that you have “ownership” of within search. It also shows you how much work you are going to have to put in to beat out your competitors. (Full disclosure: The agency I work for is an SEMrush partner)

Databox KPI Reporting Dashboards

Databox KPI Reporting Dashboards

Conversion Rates

How well does your marketing team convert visitors into leads and leads into customers?

Pull these conversion rates by channel to identify the overall quality of your visitors and leads.

conversion rate data

conversion rate data

Rich Snippets

Google is constantly adding new features into the SERPs. There is a huge first-mover advantage for those who can most nimbly adapt.

Benchmark the percentage of rich snippets your brand ranks for against your top competition. This benchmark exposes other content formats or markup that you could be taking advantage of to gain rich/featured snippets.

Moz and SEMrush both offer this type of analysis to measure this over time.

SERP analysis

SERP analysis

Technical SEO Issues

Measure the factors that are impeding your website from being indexed or ranking higher in search. There are a number of tools to crawl your site and measure your overall on-page SEO health.

Calculate the number of critical errors versus less important SEO issues to see what kinds of low-hanging-fruit, quick changes could have a noticeable impact. This is an example from SEMrush’s site audit tool.

SEMrush Site Audit Tool

SEMrush Site Audit Tool

3. Developing Your Action Plan

There are only six levers that you can pull on to reach your SEO goal:

  • Increase traffic volume.
  • Improve traffic quality.
  • Increase lead volume.
  • Improve lead quality.
  • Increase customer volume.
  • Increase customer quality and average order size.

Yes, this is simplified, and you can break this out into many more sub-levers. However, by distilling down your action plan, you can prioritize your marketing investment and not feel like you are trying to move all six levers at once.

Your SEO plan should be based on:

  • Your benchmarks.
  • Search demand.
  • Competition.
  • Resources/budget available.
  • Seasonality for your category.

Here are some SEO action items to work into your plan:

Expanding Your SEO Footprint

By completing your benchmarks, you’ve identified new topics you don’t rank for, indirect competitors also vying for these rankings, and the formats of content that does rank.

Expand your SEO footprint through content creation or optimization focused on non-ranking topics identified in your competitive ranking analysis.

Be aware of how your traffic quality can shift based on content changes to your website. Not all traffic is created equal.

Driving more top-of-funnel traffic to your blog isn’t necessarily going to drive immediate revenue.

You can also expand your SEO footprint off your website. In the share-of-voice analysis, we identified third-party review sites that “own” the lion’s share of keywords within a vertical.

Expand your SEO footprint by building out your presence on other websites through active review building and profile completion.

Increasing CTR of Current SERPs

When’s the last time you did a search for your brand name? Are there factors why people aren’t clicking on your current SERPs?

Two of the biggest culprits of low CTR in well-ranked branded SERPs are either poorly optimized title/meta tags or poor reviews/ratings from other industry review sites.

A nearby review website SERP showing a two-out-of-five-star rating can quickly turn people away from considering your company. In this case, a big part of your SEO program should be establishing a proactive reviewing-building program.

Increasing Conversion Rate from Existing Organic Traffic

As you know, UX plays an important role in ranking. It also plays a role in getting people to convert and buy from you.

Use heat mapping software like Hotjar or Lucky Orange to watch people navigate through your website. Where are they getting stuck?

Extract more value from the traffic you are already driving to your website.

Reducing the Threat of Rank Loss

Lastly, technical issues and competitive pressures can cause SEO damage over time.

Prioritize critical errors in your yearly SEO plan. These tend to pop up more frequently during a website redesign or CMS migration. So allocate resources if that is on the docket for this year.

One the most difficult threats to account for is battling competitive pressures. Conduct your share-of-voice analysis on a quarterly basis to identify competitors that are consistently growing their organic presence.

Google Trends can also provide insight into overall consumer search trends to identify external factors that influence your organic search traffic.

Conclusion

The biggest factors that are going to weigh into goal-setting are your available resources, budget, and timeline.

You can’t be expected to quickly make significant SEO contributions to your overall marketing goal with zero budget or internal support to bring changes to life.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, January 2019

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DuckDuckGo Hits a Record 1 Billion Monthly Searches in January 2019 by @MattGSouthern

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DuckDuckGo hit a new record in January of over 1 billion searches served throughout the month.

That represents a 78% year-over-year increase from the 654 million searches served in January 2018.

Another company record was broken last month when DuckDuckGo served 36.4 million in a day on January 29th.

As an advocate for transparency, DuckDuckGo makes its data publicly available.

Here’s a snapshot of the company’s search data in the month of January.

DuckDuckGo Hits a Record 1 Billion Monthly Searches in January 2019

DuckDuckGo Hits a Record 1 Billion Monthly Searches in January 2019

The growth of DuckDuckGo keeps accelerating. In comparison, DuckDuckGo grew 56% year-over-year from January 2017 to January 2018.

This could be an indication that people are becoming more aware of the amount of personal data collected by Google.

Last December, DuckDuckGo was pushing a study in which it claimed Google personalizes search results even when users are logged out, creating a “filter bubble.”

However, Google was quick to refute the study and debunk the claims made by DuckDuckGo.

Though it’s still interesting to note that DuckDuckGo hit a new company record a month after those claims were made.

Another interesting development that occurred in December is Google transferring ownership of the domain Duck.com to DuckDuckGo.

Previously, Duck.com pointed to the Google homepage. That was a point of contention for DuckDuckGo in the past as they said it was confusing for users.

Could that have had anything to do with the increase in searches from December 2018 to January 2019?

One thing that’s certain is DuckDuckGo has momentum on its side right now. It will be interesting to see what else is in store for the niche search engine this year.

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