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Solve Attribution Woes: Adjust Your Settings & Expectations for a More Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

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Very rarely in my PPC life do I bring up the subject of attribution with clients, colleagues, or industry friends without seeing a look of pain cross a face that may have been perfectly congenial a moment ago. Much teeth-sucking and drink sipping ensues when the difficult topic of attribution enters the discussion.

We all fear we aren’t properly attributing our conversions to each platform, be it paid or organic. Namely, this frustration stems from 3 main factors:

  1. The customer journey is more complex than ever before. Customer journeys are not linear, between multiple devices, long sales cycles, and mere impressions (view-throughs) that may or may not have encouraged the user to convert. Facebook and YouTube now have brand-lift studies to close some of the gap, but the cost for these kinds of prove-the-brand-is-improving tests is often beyond the financial reach of smaller brands.
  2. There are more attribution platforms, both free and paid, offered in the digital marketing space. And we have no idea which one has the true data. We are at full saturation and everyone has a solution, including the new Amazon Attribution Beta, and Facebook Attribution, which became available to all advertisers in October 2018 after testing for a year in beta. Third-party attribution vendors crowd the market too, and marketers have decision fatigue.
  3. Getting any attribution source to play nice and line up with another seems like an impossible task, in a world of walled gardens. In the /r/PPC subreddit, it’s common to see cries for help every week regarding two reporting sources misaligning – most commonly, Google Ads and Google Analytics failing to align.

So what can we do to make more educated attribution choices? There are a few main things every marketer must take into account.

1: Pick Your Windows Wisely

Aligning your attribution with the truth starts with the windows you choose in each ad platform. A conversion window is a defined period of time in which a publisher can claim that a click or impression led to a conversion (be it a lead, app install, purchase, or otherwise.) You can set your conversion windows in every single ad platform except Google Analytics, which has reports specifically built for comparing windows.

The Google Analytics Time Lag report is a good place to start if you want to understand how long it takes a user to move from consideration to conversion:

The Google Analytics Time Lag report counts number of days between first touch and conversion

You can use the Path Length report in Google Analytics and segment by specific goals:

The Google Analytics Path Length report counts the number of interactions a user takes before converting

Which window do you choose? 30-day impression, 7-day click? 7-day impression, 1-day click? There are several ways to find out! Your window will depend on:

  1. The Nature of your Business
    • You’ll want to pick longer windows for your conversion settings when your products are more expensive, high-consideration products such as software as a service, home remodeling, etc. Comparison shoppers take their time. This is where tracking different movements of users from trial to paid subscription, email signup to quote request are vital so you can track the entire journey of the user. Each movement – from a potential customer learning about your brand to putting money in your pocket, must be tracked in all the platforms you can, from Facebook Analytics Event Source Groups to training salesmen to properly label leads in your CRM software.
    • You’ll want to set your windows to a short period of time if most of your customers are buying with their gut. This is true for those random products you buy from Instagram without much thought. Pony-Os Instagram ads, I’m looking at you! (I swear, it felt like a good purchase in the 7 minutes it took for me to consider it, toss it in my cart, and purchase it!) If your windows are short, you’ll want to align them with the settings of each and every platform you use, as well as your reporting software.
  2. You’ll want to consider the purpose of the advertising channel. Are you advertising for a conversion result, or a lift in brand awareness? For example:
    • Search tends to be a low-funnel channel and results in more direct conversions due to search intent.
    • Social channels tend to suffer from misguided budget cuts, due to marketers not recognizing that these channels are often first-touch or awareness-based. For example, we have a B2B client who runs LinkedIn campaigns to grow brand awareness among a highly specific, professional audience. Just having these high-quality audiences visit their site is improving the quality of their retargeting audiences and will be worth the investment in the long run. But by no means do we treat these campaigns as a conversion-producing, direct channel.
Pony-O low consideration productPony-Os are the fastest I’ve ever gone from watching an Instagram video ad to tossing my money at an advertiser. If you have a product with a short window like this, consider changing your attribution windows to more accurately reflect your buyers!

2: Learn How Different Platforms Attribute Conversions Differently

For Google Ads, the Attribution Playbook is a good place to start. Google also is helpful enough to provide an attribution tool that allows you to compare different search attribution models before taking the plunge and adjusting your conversion attribution settings:

If you haven’t picked through the Google Attribution modeling tool in a while, you’re missing out. You can model cross-device activity, paths and time-lags (similar to what you’ll find in Google Analytics), and first and last click analysis, among other handy tools to slice and dice your data.

Most marketers agree that “Last click” or “Final click” attribution does not even begin to tell the truth and it is no longer recommended. Industry leaders agree, and this Invoca blog on how Google last-click attribution leads marketers astray clearly lays out the reasons why.

It’s easy to look up how each platform uses attribution modeling. A quick search turns up these resources:

3: Appreciate Lag & LTV when Testing a New Channel or Campaign

One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make is deciding a strategy isn’t working too soon. When testing, make sure you have a specific statistical significance you’re shooting for or even a time period in which you’re willing to stick it out and test. If you need a refresher, this post on calculating statistical significance from our own Carrie Albright is a great place to start! Once you have concrete goals, it will make your analysis a lot easier, although patience is always needed when testing any new channel or initiative.

4: The Source of Truth is Beyond the Platforms: It’s in Your Sales Data

This should go without saying. But I’m going to say it anyway! Your salespeople are sure to know more about lead quality than your marketing team. Train your team to gauge lead quality in their CRM. If you’re an e-commerce company, use internal resources to understand revenue and lifetime value. It is vital to have complete clarity between each marketing dollar spent and trendlines of success in your company.

As an agency, Hanapin is always pushing to get more internal information and reporting transparency because if leads do not lead to revenue, we want to know about those failures as quickly as possible. The same for successes – Have regular meetings between all teams to make sure your marketing dollar is balanced between first-touch and bottom-funnel, brand and non-brand. The ultimate source of truth will be money in your pocket. For new clients, often the process of clarifying attribution is working hard to ensure all tracking flows smoothly from campaigns into whatever system is being used to measure success, be it Bizible, HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce, Pardot, Shopify, BigCommerce, or any number of propriety systems.

The Best Time to Fix Your Attribution was Yesterday. The Second Best Time is Today

We are having more conversations with our clients about attribution every day. This is natural. The rise of automated systems within platforms (Google’s automated bidding settings, Facebook’s mysterious way of using their algorithm to find potential customers) is going to depend on your attribution settings being correct. So if they aren’t correct, fix them today. Look at your attribution windows. Check your settings. Talk to your agency, and get your sales reports in line.

The marketing stack is more complex today than it was yesterday. But there is no time like the present to evaluate your attribution within and without your digital marketing platforms. Review often, and review thoroughly. And make use of absolutely free tools like Facebook Attribution, which uses advertisers in similar verticals and products in the same price points to inform your attribution choices, and Amazon Attribution – they’re free and comprehensive, why not use them?

I hope this blog has given you some places to start auditing your own attribution settings and systems to cut through to the truth and pave the way for a more informed marketing strategy.

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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

12 billion, 3 billion, 1 billion. That’s the number of searches made in some of the top alternative search engines monthly.

While Google still holds more than 80% of the market share, ignoring search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo can make you lose out on relevant traffic. So don’t limit yourself to Google’s algorithm as you plan the next year’s SEO strategy.

In order to grow in the digital economy, we have to diversify our efforts. What better way to do that than by making sure that you rank on all the top search engines relevant for your audience?

Generally, there’s two reasons why your audience would choose an alternative search engine over Google: geopolitical reasons and/or privacy concerns.

As such, I’ve categorized the search engines below by global market share and by data privacy.

Top alternative search engines by global market share

When analyzing the global desktop market share of search engines throughout the last decade, there are a few small but mighty search engines that stand out. These are:

1) Bing

2) Yahoo

3) Yandex

4) DuckDuckGo

5) Baidu

These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.

Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.

Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.

Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.

Let’s go through them one by one.

Bing and Yahoo

Screenshot of bing.com, November 2022

Since 2018, Yahoo is exclusively powered by Bing Search. So as long as you rank in Bing, you’ll rank in Yahoo.

Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.

Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.

Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.

If we look at the United States alone, Microsoft sites own over 18% of the market share.

This is much due to their partnership with Amazon, where all voice-activated searches on Amazon Echo and Alexa are made with Bing Search.

Microsoft also pushes Bing further by offering easy rewards for searches and more advanced image search capabilities than Google.

Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.

To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:

Infographic by AS Marketing, December 2022


1. List your business on Bing Places

Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.

2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools

While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.

3. Match keywords in your content

Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.

4. Keep your social media profiles up to date

Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.

5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content

Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.

Yandex

Screenshot of yandex.com, November 2022

Second to Bing is Yandex, having a total of 1.5% of the market share in global desktop search.

While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.

Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.

While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:

1. Focus on tags over internal site structure

According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.

2. Consider search intent to rank

Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.

3. Eliminate toxic links

Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.

Baidu

Screenshot of baidu.com, November 2022

With over 3 billion searches daily, Baidu is the Google of China. If you want to do business in China, it’s the place to be.

While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.

Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.

1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately

As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.

2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page

Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.

3. Obtain a verification level and get certified

By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.

Top alternative search engines by data privacy

While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.

On a macro scale, the European Union continues to protect data privacy with strict GDPR regulations and the California Consumer Privacy Act indicates similar trends for Americans.

From a micro perspective, documentaries such as The Great Hack shine a light on how global companies monetize on personal data. As a result, privacy-safe search engines continue to rise.

If you’re working for an innovative SaaS startup, there’s a high chance your ideal customer persona is using one of these search engines.

Let’s go through how you rank on DuckDuckGo and two alternative equivalents.

DuckDuckGo

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

DuckDuckGo aims to make your search experience as simple and true to its cause as possible, i.e. no tracking for personalized search results and filter bubbles. Instead it uses semantic search to determine search intent for your queries from over 400 sources.

Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.

Here’s how to optimize for it:

1. Sharpen Your User Experience

UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.

2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks

As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.

3. Rethink Local SEO

Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.

Startpage

Screenshot of startpage.com, November 2022

Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.

And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.

So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.

SwissCows

Screenshot of swisscows.com, November 2022

There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.

This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.

SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.

What do they all have in common?

In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.

But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.

Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.

And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.

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14 Best Screen Recorders to Use for Collaboration

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14 Best Screen Recorders to Use for Collaboration

For your team, screen recorders can be used for several reasons — from creating tutorials for your website to recording a recurring tech issue to sending your marketing team a quick note instead of an email.

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Master the CX trifecta: Data, content and tech

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Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, businesses worldwide face lots of uncertainty.

One thing will remain constant throughout this period — customers expect excellent experiences when interacting with a brand. According to Acquia’s latest CX Report, businesses plan to prioritize customer retention over the next 12 months: 56% plan to improve customer experience, and 58% will focus more on customer service.

This should be a common goal. To weather a potential storm, businesses must keep customers by meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Register today for “Master the CX Trifecta in 2023: Data, Content & Tech,” presented by Acquia,  and create the foundation for CX success this year and beyond.


Click here to view more MarTech webinars.


About the author

Cynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for CNBC.com and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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