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Online brand protection: trusted automated monitoring is key

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Online brand protection: trusted automated monitoring is key

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Even though consumers enjoy having the world at their fingertips, they have become all too aware of how much their personal data is abused. According to the Nielsen 2021 Trust in Advertising Survey, 36 percent of respondents distrust ads on social networks, while 36 percent distrust ads served in search engine results.

“As people more frequently shop online, they’ve realized the top ads are not necessarily the best option,” says Josh Stephens, director of Digital Marketing at CWT, one of the biggest travel companies worldwide. “If consumers do not recognize the company name, they will not pay attention, so the ads are becoming a sort of screen blind spot.”

Daniel Creed, head of marketing, planning and effectiveness at Santander UK adds: “As media (particularly online and social channels) attracts increasing public scrutiny and politicization, brands increasingly risk becoming embroiled in controversy seemingly by their mere presence on a given platform at the wrong time.”

Fraudulent behaviour

It is therefore critical all businesses ensure their branding, advertising, and marketing practice integrity, whilst also protecting themselves against the maleficence of advertising fraud.

The unauthorised use of a company’s intellectual property by a third party can create confusion with the customer base, and prospects in terms of business offering, financial model, and a company’s values.

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Advertising fraud has become an unintended by-product of the digital era, and left unchecked, can become increasingly rampant. Take affiliate marketing for example – a successful strategy used by digitally-savvy companies but has its own risks.

Affiliate marketing

Even for well-known companies, working with affiliates helps them to tap into audiences outside their traditional channels. Affiliates provide brands and marketers with the opportunity to reach and engage their target audience, creating not only an opportunity for acquisition, but also the opportunity to develop long term relationships with their audiences because of a trusted introduction and recommendation.

However, where traditional channels and affiliates often collide is in paid search, necessitating monitoring to prevent cross-channel cannibalization. “Brands today have become very adept at using paid search as a source of high intent traffic – particularly branded search,” says explains Van Chappell, general manager at BrandVerity, a US-headquartered company which provides paid search and affiliate monitoring tools.

He notes that when affiliates also appear on a search engine’s results page, they “compete” with the brands paid search team, driving up the cost of that traffic.  “It is also unlikely that traffic from branded search is incremental to traffic the brand would get anyway,” Chappell says.

Chappell also says  that “ad hijacks” sometimes occur. “We see affiliates which copy the ads already utilized by brands,” he says. “The consumer types in a search term, they see a search result and it looks like the brand they were looking for – they click on the ad, and it will take them to the site, and so to the user, everything’s fine.”

Behind the scenes

Everything, however, is not fine. Even though the brand will ultimately win the sale, this detour on the consumer journey bears a greater cost for the company. This is because the commission paid to an affiliate is considerably more than the CPC a paid search team pays to a search engine.

There is also an underlying cost to a company’s reputation among affiliates and, ultimately, their brand. “The affiliate channel is very important for brands; it’s a great marketing channel because it is performance based,” Chappell says.

“Affiliate managers, agencies and OPMs spend a lot of time cultivating these relationships and making these connections between publishers that come up with really interesting ways to reach consumers and the brands where those consumers then make purchases.”

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Chappell adds a poor reputation “drives quality publishers away”. “It’s damaging for the channel and makes it much harder to have a successful affiliate programme,” he says.

When a brand has a clean and well run affiliate channel in place, it attracts the best partners, which promotes the brand and enables it to reach new audiences.

Chappell expands on the benefits further: “In many ways, some of these techniques [in affiliate fraud] can lead to distraction and lead you to places that you didn’t intend to go. If a brand can keep the search engine clean of all these distractions, the consumer clearly knows where they can go to do what they wanted. It’s a better experience for consumers.”

Keep it clean

Santander’s Creed believes it is not the customers’ responsibility to make the distinction between a platform getting it wrong and brands not taking precautions.

“The onus is on brands to ensure they are making informed decisions and are taking the necessary steps to mitigate and minimise these risks,” he says. “Brands need to understand the risks attendant to each media channel and develop a comprehensive policy for the protection of their brand and evolve the right tactics to protect themselves.”

To maintain a clean affiliate model, companies must monitor their affiliates. There are two ways to do this: manual monitoring and automated monitoring.

The former, for example, involves an affiliate manager typing branded or non-branded keywords into a search engine and monitoring the adverts which appear.

There are numerous challenges to this approach, however. Not only is it time-consuming, but it is also arguably ineffective given fraudulent adverts often look identical to their genuine counterparts.      It is also impossible to capture varying search engine results from just one location using manual monitoring.

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Automated monitoring, on the other hand, means all associated affiliates are monitored from one place around the clock. If a false advert appears, brands can crackdown on unsavoury partners quickly, while protecting the customer journey and keeping their marketing budget intact.

In doing so, the brand reputation remains intact which helps them to attract the most successful affiliates. This in turn further promotes the brand in a virtuous cycle that continues to feed upon itself.

Marketing in the digital era promises boundless opportunities, but brand protection is more complex than ever. Fortunately, with the right tools in place, the results become clear.

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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