SMX West Recap: Natural Language, Mobile & More

SMX West 2017

This year’s SMX West might have been held on the only 3 days of the year that San Jose saw no sun, but there was plenty to keep our minds active indoors. The conference was packed with engaging speakers, cutting edge ideas and hands-on workshops. While several areas of search advertising were discussed in depth, here are some of the broader themes and ideas that the Point It team took away.

Use Natural Language to Answer Searchers’ Questions

As technology becomes more intertwined into every part of our lives, natural language is becoming the rule, not the exception. Products like Google Home and Amazon Echo are transforming the way we find information. Consumers now expect technology to integrate into their life, instead of alternating their way of searching. With an additional 47%-character limit in the ETA (extended text ads), PPC experts should be using this additional space to write ad copy with natural language. However, we continue to use antiquated keyword heavy ad copy.

In Mark Irvine’s presentation entitled “ETAs: Tricks for Writing New Ads for the Next Age of Search” he reveals the way in which search marketers are not maximizing additional space in ad copy.

Although long tailed searches have evolved to be the majority of search queries, paid search marketers are structuring ad copy for keyword relevance and formal calls to action. Mark argues that when users search, they are searching for answers to questions, not keywords. Utilize more casual, everyday ways of speaking in ads to better appeal to searchers while positioning your product as the answer to their question.

Additionally, Mark suggests that the most common words used in the English language are pronouns (you, I), prepositions (to, of), definitive articles (the, a) and transitive verbs (have, be). Despite searchers using this language in everyday life, our ads are full of keywords which are nearly all nouns. Using natural language phrases corrects this mismatch.

Mark recommends utilizing the 3 most powerful pronouns – him/her, you, and we, in ad copy to connect with users. By doing so you are connecting with the searcher by using natural language that is familiar and comfortable.



Mobile – The Frontier for SMB:

‘The Age of Mobile’ shows no signs of slowing down, with mobile phones accounting for over 50% of all searches and climbing. Point It’s own Maddie Cary emphasized the fact that consumers don’t just respond well to mobile search ads through calls and visits, but have come to expect it in several countries where desktops are less common than ever before. The glaringly obvious statistics are undermined by sometimes half-hearted efforts by big businesses to up their mobile PPC game, which presents an opportunity for small business to create hyper local and targeted strategies to be able to successfully compete with larger companies.

Caleb Donogan’s take on advertising in Maps followed a similar thread, highlighting the fact that you don’t have to cast too wide a net to attract consumers to small businesses. Local is taking over, and if the goal is to get customers with purchase intent through your door, Maps is the way to go. Again, this tool is under-utilized by big businesses and is a great way for SMB to get their messages out. Setting up and constantly updating Google My Business accounts is key here if you want to be listed on ‘Near Me’ searches which are exploding. Also growing is the need to use specific keywords to help users find you.

While mobile tracking, targeting and attribution are far from perfect, they are constantly developing, but in the interim there’s really no reason not to tailor your ad messages to smartphone users.

Fine Tuning your Audience Targeting

Another theme that was present across the presentations at SMX was Audience Targeting – how and who to target, who to exclude, and how to make sure you make the most of these targeting techniques.

First, we heard about demographic targeting, where we learned about the importance of personalizing ads once you target your desired demographic. Mark Irvine discussed a campaign he had run for a product that used two ads, one targeting men and one targeting women. All that was changed in these two ads was the pronoun him/her. This made the ad feel more personalized and they saw 30-60% increases in CTR and doubled conversion rates in each of the ads.

Julia Vyse discussed location targeting during her presentation and brought up a good point – your target audience may not always be where you think they are. One method she has for checking this is by reviewing SQR’s regularly to check for queries like “I want X service in my city.” By testing new markets outside of where one of her client’s products was they discovered that there was a huge opportunity to capture audiences looking to use a service when visiting a city, not just living in it.

In addition to gaining insight on who and where to target, we also learned a lot about how to get rid of unwanted targets such as already known leads and visitors with poor engagement.

  • Already Known Lead – Use both conversion rules and customer lists. After a certain amount of time, customers can start to show up again due to rules on the amount of time cookies can be stored. If you keep an up to date customer list this will eliminate that issue.
  • Poor Engagement – Some examples to help get rid of visitors who likely don’t have intent to purchase are the following groups of people: <5 seconds on site, careers visits, fell off conversion action.

It’s hard to convey the depth of the conference in a single blog post, and we’ve had to leave out several speakers and topics we found fascinating. However, there is little doubt that the future of our industry is in natural language, personal assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo, mobile, and hyper-targeting and we look forward to learning even more about these topics in the future.

What's Next?

We’d love to meet you! Check out our Events Calendar and make sure to say hello at the next digital marketing conference you’re at! In the meantime, check out our great resources on Natural Language & reaching consumers on Mobile.

Anita Gray About the author
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