Should you use a hamburger icon on your mobile menu?

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The three-line ‘hamburger’ menu icon receives a lot of vitriol. It is variously described as “controversial”, “notorious” etc. but it is rapidly becoming the de facto symbol to open a navigational menu on a mobile website.

So perhaps it is time to learn to live with it and make it better.

The hamburger was created in 1980 by Norm Cox, for the Xerox “Star” personal workstation, the world’s first graphical user interface.

Norm Cox, principal of interaction/experience design consultancy, Cox&Hall, tells ClickZ:

“Since someone “discovered”, a few years ago, that I had designed the hamburger menu, I’ve had countless questions, speaking invitations, interviews and inquiries… and read numerous articles and blogs regarding the (somewhat fabricated) controversy over its use.

In a way, I find it amusing that a simple widget like this has gotten so much attention, generated so much discussion, and gotten so many “experts” bloviating about the reasoning for its good/bad or right/wrong attributes.

I will simply say this about the hamburger widget. It is merely another widget in a designer’s arsenal of tools that s/he can use… well… or poorly. It has no inherent goodness/badness, or rightness/wrongness, except in the context of how it’s applied by the designer.”

This column will look at mobile menu best practice, including:

  • How to make the hamburger icon more recognizable, e.g. by adding or substituting the word MENU.
  • Supplementing, or replacing the hamburger menu, with visible navigational tabs and buttons.
  • Research that suggests what works better.
  • Importance of doing your own user testing and A/B testing.

The subsequent column will look more closely at the design and user experience (UX) aspects, including:

  • Making the menu and navigational buttons standout. Type, size, color and placement of buttons.
  • Navigational discipline; taking a logical approach to size, number and names of menu items.
  • Different types of mobile menu, such as off-canvas and overlay.

The image below shows the mobile sites for top six search results for “hamburger icon” on the world’s most popular search engine. Five out of six of these headlines appear on sites that use a site-wide hamburger icon.

Three stories are negative. Two of negative stories: the BBC’s “Three lines mystify most people” and TechCrunch’s “Kill the hamburger button” sit, somewhat embarrassingly, below a hamburger.

Not only have the TechCrunch/AOL developers ignored the recommendations of its writers on the “devil” hamburger on mobile web (and app) they have also introduced a second unlabeled icon – a rocket – to denote a hidden menu of ‘most popular’ stories.

Menu/hamburger on mobile web, iOS apps and Android apps is different.

Critics of the hamburger icon report (and re-report) a number of internal studies by companies that noticed a deterioration in use of the menu when they switched the menu style used by their apps or website to a hamburger icon and vice versa when switching away.

Only one of these studies is mobile web:

  • James Foster (2014) discovered through A/B testing on found that 20% more mobile visitors to Caffeineinformer.com would click the “MENU”, over “hamburger icon”.
  • However, on closer inspection, the menu click-through rates on Caffeineinformer seem unusually low (see Moovweb stats below for benchmarks). The click-through rates of 1.2% for “MENU” and 1% for the “hamburger icon”. This suggests that the test should be hidden menu v visible navigational links, e.g. search database, rather than the nomenclature of the menu button itself.
  • Today, Caffeineinformer.com doesn’t use MENU or Hamburger on the homepage, just search and the call to action: Explore Caffeine Database. On all other pages it uses MENU and a search icon.

The other studies commonly cited are for native apps (maybe just iOS): Zeebox (2014); Polar (2015), and Redbooth (2015). These studies suggested that menus hidden behind a hamburger icon received less engagement than visible navigational tabs.

Notably, Redbooth was an iOS app study; Zeebox and Polar may also have been, but neither app exists anymore.

So while these native app studies appear to be compelling, it does not follow that the behavior of iOS app users is applicable to mobile web. Nor does it follow that it applies to Android apps either.

As Redbooth notes: “Apple discourages [the hamburger’s] use”, and Zeebox notes: “The side menu has become fashionable on Android but not yet taken off on iPhone”.

The importance of doing your own tests

However compelling other people’s findings about their own sites/apps appear, they should not dictate how you design/redesign you website.

As demonstrated below in the Moovweb research, engagement levels of the hamburger/menu vary massively by industry.

The key lesson to learn is not that the hamburger is good or bad, or that hidden menus are good or bad, but that it is important to run your own tests.

  • Conduct user tests: onsite and remote.
  • Use A/B testing – show two different groups of web visitors different versions of your menu e.g. hamburger v MENU. (The beauty of web over apps, is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to test and modify).
  • Use heatmaps – to study how people interact with menus and navigation.

Learn more about mobile user testing.

The truth about Facebook and the hamburger icon.

Critics of the hamburger also like to cite Facebook’s 2013 decision to drop the hamburger icon in favor of a bottom tab bar as vindication.

Reality:

  • This change only happened on the iOS app.
  • The hamburger is still present on the iOS app on the bottom tab bar, albeit embellished with a MORE label.
  • Three years later the m.facebook.com and the Facebook Android app still proudly sport the unlabeled hamburger icon.
  • What does that tell you? a) Native iOS is different to mobile web and native Android; or b) The results of the changes on iOS didn’t encourage Facebook to follow up with either mobile web or Android.

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Proper research

Despite the immense importance of navigation on the mobile/responsive web, lack of conformity and the bitter debate that the hamburger encourages among design/UX professionals, it is amazing that there haven’t been more studies of menu use across multiple sites.

While not massive, there are two studies that are essential reading:

  • Moovweb (April 2015) – studied interaction with the hamburger-based menu.
  • Nielsen Norman Group/WhatUsersDo (June 2016) – studied user the different interaction rates between part-visible and hidden menus on web and mobile web.

Good burger/bad burger

Moovweb studied 50 sites that used its mobile/responsive commerce platform and made two interesting findings:

  • 20% of mobile site users interact with the hamburger menu, making it the fourth most tapped button on site, behind select product (30%); homepage navigational menu (30%); and search (27%).
  • Hamburger menu engagement varied massively by vertical: apparel and accessories (26%); jewelry (21%); home & garden (21%); auto & construction (7%); content (2%).
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    Then working with one unnamed mobile travel site, Moovweb ran a test to compare engagement rate with an unlabeled hamburger icon and one that was labeled.

    The results were striking. The engagement rate for the unlabeled menu icon was 10.8%; while labeled one received 17.3%; which is a 61% improvement.

    Hamburger + MENU or MENU – hamburger?

    While adding a MENU is the most common label to enhance the hamburger, there are variations, as seen above the BBC uses a SECTIONS label, while Facebook (only on the iOS app) uses MORE.

    The question is: if you are going to add MENU to your hamburger icon, then why bother with the hamburger at all?

    Jason Grigsby, co-founder, of Portland, Oregon-based mobile web development agency, Cloud Four, tells ClickZ.

    “When people criticize the hamburger, e.g.Luke Wroblewski, they’re referring to the fact that the icon itself doesn’t convey enough meaning. People get confused by it.

    So the argument is to avoid using the hamburger icon and instead use the word ‘menu’ or similar so people know what the hell you’re going on about.”

    The new design of the Cloud Four site uses a MENU button, with a menu that slides down from the top.

    The navigation menu, as Grigsby points out, is a whole different matter… and one we will be dealing with in detail in the next column.

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    Hidden menus: nice clean design or “out of sight, out of mind”?

    To hamburger or not to hamburger… is only part of the question.

    The other side of this debate concerns the whole nature of the menu, the fact that all the options are invisible unless the user taps the hamburger icon/menu button.

    The clever thing that Luke Wroblewski pointed out is “out of sight, out of mind. This has become a rallying cry again the hidden menu and the poor old hamburger icon that has come to symbolize the hidden menu.

    To date evidence to prove this theory is largely anecdotal, and based on apps such as Zeebox, Redbooth and Polar, (Wroblewski being one of these developers).

    That’s what makes the recent Nielsen Norman Group/WhatUsersDo research so welcome: it’s web based, spread over six sites, with real users (179 of them), and its real research conducted by expert UX testers.

    The research asked people to complete a task on the various responsive sites on desktop and mobile and studied whether people engaged better with/found it easy with:

    • Hidden navigation – where they had to tap a hamburger or equivalent)
    • Combo navigation – combination of hidden menu a visible navigational buttons, when required to.
    • Visible navigation – only desktop sites; no mobile sites with visible navigation (only) were tested, which is a shame.

    The key findings for mobile users were:

    • People used menus considerably more on mobile than desktops
    • People were 1.5 times more likely to use combo navigation (86%) than hidden (57%).
    • More found it easier to discover content that interested them with combo (85%) than hidden (64%)
    • Task took longer with hidden (70 seconds), than combo (61 seconds).

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    Nielsen Norman makes the following recommendations for mobile sites:

    • If your site has four or fewer top-level navigation links, display them as visible links.
    • If your site has more than four top-level navigation links, the only reasonable solution is to hide some of these [behind a menu button].
    • Support the hamburger with methods such as in-page links to important information on your site.

    Combo approach

    Returning to the image above of the top six top ranking sites for “hamburger icon”. Three out of five that use a hamburger, use the unlabeled icon alone for navigation and one (TechCrunch) even uses an additional unlabeled rocket.

    The BBC is the only one that adopts a combo approach to navigation. It has visible tabs for NEWS, SPORT and MORE (which is a menu) in addition to the Hamburger/Sections button.

    Interestingly on older/smaller smartphone these three options are reduced to one MENU button.

    A great example of the combo is Summit Metro Parks, which uses a labelled hamburger menu and four labelled buttons for key activities.

    Mike D’Agruma, lead front-end developer, Evolve Creative Group, a web design agency in Akron, OH, USA, explains why he likes the Summit Metro Parks site.

    “The hamburger/menu icon is at the top of the home screen. It has clear visual separation via color, size and treatment from surrounding content. Not only does it use of iconography, but includes a text descriptions. There is no assumption about that the user will recognize and know how to use the icon.

    There are additional types of navigation competing for attention on the page. As well as the hamburger/MENU, there is a rotator/carousel with a clear call-to-action on each slide to help funnel users where the site wants them to go. Then there is a second-tier page navigation of highly visible and labelled buttons.”

    The science of navigation

    A really useful way to think about menus and navigation is to stop worrying about them and start thinking about what users actually want to do and make it really easy for people to do it.

    If people are on a certain page there is a strong probability that they will want to do a finite number of things next. If these are not on the page, put them on visible call-to-action buttons, image links, text links etc.

    Things that people might want to do, but are lower down the hierarchy of probable tasks can be placed in the menu.

    The expert on this is Steven Hoober, president of 4ourth Mobile, who is recognized for his work on mobile touch-screen interfaces. He explains:

    “The important thing is to stop thinking about navigation and site structure and think about what the user wants to do. They have priorities, which I call primary, secondary and tertiary actions:

    • The primary actions should be addressed by the content in the center section of the page.
    • The secondary actions are the thing that the user is most likely to want to do next. These should be addressed by visible and easily reached call-to-action buttons on the periphery of the page on the top navigation or adjacent to the primary content.
    • The tertiary actions are the other things that users might want, but are less likely to be priorities. This is where your hamburger menu comes in.”

    Hoober’s article on Why it’s totally okay to use a hamburger icon is essential reading.

    The hamburger and the hamburger debate is here to stay.

    Some people will continue to hate it. This from Nick Babich, editor of UX planet: https://uxplanet.org/

    “To my mind, Hamburger is a bad option both for mobile and for desktop.”

    And some will defend it. Phil Reay, head of insights, SessionCam, a tool for monitoring web customer behavior:

    “Until a better solution to the hamburger menu is designed, our experience suggests that this catch all approach provides the best user experience for customers.”

    The next column will look more closely at the design and user experience (UX) aspects of menus and navigation.

    Read the report here: DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning

    Are you paying enough attention to reviews in your local SEO?

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    The logo for reputation management company ReviewJump: the word "review" in purple sans serif font with a star over the I, next to the word "jump" in grey cursive font with a purple speech bubble outline behind it.

    Sponsored content in collaboration with ReviewJump. Views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect SEW’s opinions.

    Customer reviews are an important contributing factor to local search rankings. But Brodie Tyler, founder of ReviewJump, believes that they aren’t given enough emphasis – by businesses or the SEO community.

    The business of reputation management has changed drastically with the advent of the internet.

    The BrightLocal Local Customer Review Survey 2015 found that 92% of customers will read online reviews to determine whether a local business is a good one, and that 80% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

    “Pre-internet, you used to ask around, ask your friends and family for recommendations, and that was basically your reputation. Now, with the internet, everything’s public. You can’t hide anything. Customers can leave you a review without your control,” says Tyler.

    “So yes, things have changed drastically over the years, and that’s why you have to invest in it and pay more attention to it. Whether you like it or not, you have an online reputation. It’s just a matter of whether or not you’re going to do something about it.”

    A direct correlation with ranking

    Tyler founded ReviewJump, a web app that makes it easy for businesses to solicit customer reviews and to deal with negative feedback before it reaches the review stage, because he saw a niche in the market for businesses to directly control their online reputation.

    “I come from the agency world, and ReviewJump was born out of my frustration at not being able to control the number of reviews our clients were obtaining,” he says. “I could control just about everything else – their link building, their on-site optimization; we can even control their content marketing. One thing I didn’t have was the right tool for helping our clients get more reviews.”

    “Reviews have a direct correlation on where you rank in the local search results,” adds Tyler. “I know that because I did the research myself, personally.”

    Tyler individually analyzed 22,000 local business listings on Google and Yelp in order to prove his own theory about the impact of reviews on local SEO rankings. “This was prior to launching ReviewJump, and I was in search of validation for reinvesting in our reputation management software; that’s why I was doing this research.”

    He found that the top three local search results on Google, also known as the ‘three-pack’ of local search, have an average of 472% more reviews than those in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions.

    The research showed that 66% of the time, the first three local search results had more reviews than the second three. And 63% of the time, the local listing with the most reviews overall would be ranked in the top three results.

    Source: ReviewJump

    The importance of online reputation

    In spite of the persuasive SEO argument in favor of reviews, Tyler believes online reputation management isn’t valued as much as it should be.

    “In my experience, a very small percentage [of companies] are actually doing anything about it,” he said. “Which I think can offer them a competitive advantage. If only a small percentage are paying attention to their reviews and online reputation, including yourself, that can give you an advantage.”

    In its local search ranking factors for 2015, Moz ranked review signals – which encompasses review quantity, velocity and diversity – seventh out of a total of eight overall ranking factors, crediting it with an 8.4% influence on local search ranking. But Tyler believes this undervalues the importance of reviews to local SEO.

    “I think that’s not accurate; I think that’s too low. I’ve done the research on that,” he says. “Maybe there needs to be more research into reviews as an overall ranking factor, or maybe it hasn’t been publicized enough.”

    overall ranking factorsSource: Moz

    ReviewJump have seen the benefits of an increased number of reviews for their own clients. “There’s a medical spa in Arizona, Vitality Med Spa. They’ve been in business for years, but they only had a dozen or so reviews before they started with us. And in the last three weeks alone, they’ve gotten 33 new reviews in one location.

    “That’s an increase of about 400%, all of them either four or five stars.” And, crucially, the spa is also ranking at number one in the three-pack of local search results.

    Another client, a chain of boutique hotels, has enjoyed an increase of 335% more reviews each month since starting with ReviewJump. And one of the company’s earliest clients, Modern Dental, was ranked tenth in the local SERPs shortly after it came on board with ReviewJump, but is now showing up in the three-pack.

    A Google search screenshot showing Modern Dental in the third position in the 'local map pack', with 68 reviews and an average rating of 4.7 stars.

    If Tyler could give one tip to companies looking to improve their online reputation management, it would be to understand that their reputation truly does affect their revenue. “You’re in business to make money. And I believe that people are missing out by not giving their online reputation the credence it deserves.

    “The more reviews you have, the higher you’re going to rank, the more traffic you’re going to get, the more phone calls you’re going to get, the more customers you’re going to sell to.”

    Sponsored content in collaboration with ReviewJump. Views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect SEW’s opinions.

    For more information on ReviewJump and to take a tour of the software, visit the ReviewJump website.

    Google brings programmatic to native ads

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    NYT flexframe ad

    Programmatic, while still the source of much confusion, is a now a huge part of the digital advertising ecosystem.

    In fact, according to eMarketer, this year, two-thirds of digital display ad spend in the United States will be programmatic.

    Because of the demand for programmatic, popular online services like Spotify are embracing programmatic ad offerings, and companies are now working to extend programmatic concepts to traditional offline channels, like direct mail.

    Last week, at its DoubleClick Leadership Summit, Google announced that DoubleClick publishers can make all or some of their web and app native ad inventory available through DoubleClick, and advertisers can purchase that inventory programmatically through DoubleClick Bid Manager.

    Several months ago, Google launched programmatic native ads for publishers and advertisers that already had a direct relationship. The New York Times was one of the publishers participating in the initial launch. Its Frame Flex offering for mobile increased click-through rates 40 to 50% over standard 300×250 ad units.

    DoubleClick native programmatic asks advertisers to supply creative components, such as headline and body text, and DoubleClick automatically formats the content for the publisher’s site and the device the viewer is using. The native ad units come in two flavors: a traditional banner slot and a responsive fluid ad slot.

    Google says that more than 200 publishers are signed up to offer programmatic native ads through DoubleClick.

    Is this really poor man’s native?

    While programmatic has the potential to help advertisers and publishers scale their use of native ads, it remains to be seen whether programmatic native will deliver the same experience and results as non-programmatic native.

    Native ads increasingly generate a sizable portion of ad revenue for numerous high-profile publishers, and to capitalize fully on the native ad opportunity, a number of them have built internal teams to help their advertisers develop campaigns centered around native ads. Because they are more tightly integrated with the user experience, the native ads typically come at a premium cost.

    As The New York Times recently detailed, “the resulting arrangements are more client-agency than advertiser-publisher.” According to the Financial Times’ Chief Commercial Officer, Jon Slade, “We have the basic building blocks of a full-service agency.”

    Native ads that are purchased programmatically might resemble the kinds of ads publishers are crafting as far as formatting is concerned, but there’s an argument to be made that they aren’t the same thing because they’re not crafted for a specific site and audience.

    If publishers and advertisers embrace programmatic native offerings like DoubleClick’s in the name of scale, publishers might introduce unwanted commoditization to the native space, and advertisers might find that they ultimately don’t get the results they expect.

    Quiz: How well do you know these 25 SEO acronyms?

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    SEO, SEM, PPC, CTR, HTML, HTTP, IP… even for the most seasoned digital marketing professionals, the world of SEO can be a daunting, jargon-filled place.

    But all you need is a little time, some practice, a small amount of revising, and before you know it you’ll be firing off terms like CSS, SSL and CPC with absolute confidence.

    To help reach that high level of brilliance, we’ve devised this multiple choice quiz filled with 25 SEO acronyms, which will truly test your digital marketing mettle.

    Good luck, and let us know your scores in the comments below!

    If you need comprehensive help and guidance in developing any of your digital skills, subscribe to ClickZ Intelligence and download one of our market-leading reports.

    Verizon acquires Yahoo’s operating business for $4.8 billion

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    Verizon has agreed to acquire Yahoo’s operating business in a $4.8 billion cash deal, sealing the fate of one of the internet’s pioneering giants.

    Under the deal Verizon will amalgamate Yahoo’s search, email, video, mobile, digital and advertising assets with it’s AOL entity. Verizon acquired AOL in a $4.4 billion deal last year to enhance its programmatic offerings.

    The current deal does not include Yahoo’s shares in the Alibaba Group Holdings, or its shares in Yahoo Japan. These assets, along with other minority investments will continue to be held by Yahoo under a new, yet to be announced name. This will become a registered, publicly traded investment company.

    “Yahoo is a company that has changed the world, and will continue to do so through this combination with Verizon and AOL,” said Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer, Yahoo.

    In an open letter to Yahoo fans, Mayer said the sale was not only an important step in Yahoo’s plan to free up shareholder value, but a great opportunity for it to build further distribution and accelerate its work in mobile, video, native advertising, and social.

    “As one of the largest wireless and cable companies in the world, Verizon opens the door to extensive distribution opportunities. With more than 100 million wireless customers, a shared view of the importance of mobile and video ad tech, a deep content focus through AOL, Verizon brings clear synergies to the table,” she said.

    Mayer added that Yahoo’s products and brand would be central to achieving Verizon’s ambitious goal of growing its global audience to 2 billion users and reaching $20 billion in revenue from its mobile-media business by 2020.

    “Joining forces with AOL and Verizon will help us achieve tremendous scale on mobile. Imagine the distribution challenges we will solve, the scale we will achieve, the products we will build, and the advertisers we will reach now with Mavens – it’s incredibly compelling,” Mayer said.

    Mavens (mobile, video, native and social) has been a core pillar of Yahoo’s revival strategy since it was launched in 2011. In 2015, Yahoo’s Mavens business was worth $1.6 billion of GAAP revenue.

    Verizon is the United States’ biggest wireless telecommunications company and its acquisition of Yahoo demonstrates its intentions to push ahead into the mobile and Internet spaces. A Verizon-AOL-Yahoo union could in theory provide a third credible player in the online ad space behind Google and Facebook, as forecast by eMarketer in the graphic below.

    *Source: eMarketer

    Yahoo claims it has a global audience of more than 1 billion monthly active users, including 600 million monthly active mobile users. Its email services globally have approximately 225 million monthly active users. AOL says its mobile advertising network also has a reach of roughly 600 million users. Combine this data with that of Verizon’s more than 100 million wireless subscribers and the company has an even stronger offering to take to advertisers.

    From a content point of view, Yahoo’s popular news, finance and sports platforms will be added to AOL’s media assets, which include The Huffington Post and TechCrunch.

    Yahoo will continue to operate independently pending regulatory approval of the deal, which is expected to be completed by early 2017. Marni Walden, EVP and president, product innovation and new businesses organization, Verizon, will lead the integration of the AOL-Yahoo business, although Mayer is expected to stay on until the transaction is finalized.

    “Our mission at AOL is to build brands people love, and we will continue to invest in and grow them. Yahoo has been a long-time investor in premium content and created some of the most beloved consumer brands in key categories like sports, news and finance,” said Tim Armstrong, chief executive officer, AOL.

    “We have enormous respect for what Yahoo has accomplished: this transaction is about unleashing Yahoo’s full potential, building upon our collective synergies, and strengthening and accelerating that growth. Combining Verizon, AOL and Yahoo will create a new powerful competitive rival in mobile media, and an open, scaled alternative offering for advertisers and publishers,” he said.

    Yahoo was founded in 1994 by Stanford University students Jerry Yang and David Filo. During the ’90s it diversified from a search directory into a web portal incorporating email, search and real-time media.

    *Featured image: Yahoo / Flickr

    17 useful search marketing stats from Merkle’s Q2 2016 report

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    mens suits serp

    This morning, Merkle released their quarterly Direct Marketing Report, ahead of Google’s own Q2 earnings announcement and it makes for a bumper stat-filled reading.

    Of particular note are the revelations that:

    • Google search spending growth has slowed to 22% as CPCs fall 9%
    • Desktop PLA growth rate jumps while mobile growth is strong but slowing
    • Shopping Ads traffic from Google image search and Yahoo surges
    • Google’s expanded text ads have had only a modest impact

    The report covers the latest trends in paid search, organic search, social media, display advertising, and comparison shopping engines, so let’s cherry-pick some of the highlights…

    Paid Search

    • Advertiser spending on Google paid search grew 22% Y/Y in Q2 2016, a slight deceleration from 25% growth in Q1.
    • Click growth increased slightly to 34%, but CPCs fell 9%.
    • Spending growth for Google text ads slowed to 10% Y/Y as CPC growth for brand keywords fell from 10% in Q1 to 0% in Q2.
    • Google Shopping Ad spending growth rose to 43% as an influx of partner traffic bolstered total click volume.
    • Combined spending on Bing Ads and Yahoo Gemini search ads fell 17% Y/Y as click declines continued to worsen.
    • Bing Product Ad spending fell for the first time since the format’s launch, likely the result of Yahoo moving to show more Google PLAs.
    • Phones and tablets produced 53% of all paid search clicks in Q2, the same rate as a quarter earlier, but up 12 points from a year earlier. Google’s share of clicks from mobile increased slightly to just over 57%

    Organic Search & Social

    • Organic search visits fell 7% Y/Y in Q2, down from 11% Y/Y growth a year earlier, as organic listings face increased competition from paid search ads, particularly on mobile.
    • Mobile’s share of organic search visits rose to 46%, but that still lags behind the 53% of paid search clicks that mobile produces, as well as the 47% share that mobile produced for organic search a year ago.
    • Google produced 86% of all organic search visits in the US and 90% of mobile organic search visits.
    • Google’s share of mobile organic search has increased by nearly two points in the past year.
    • Social media sites accounted for 2.8% of site visits in Q2 2016, with Facebook producing 63% of all site visits driven by social media.

    Comparison Shopping Engines

    • The eBay Commerce Network commanded a majority of advertisers’ comparison shopping engine (CSE) spending for the first time in Q2. Along with Connexity, the two dominant CSE platforms accounted for 97% of all CSE ad spending.
    • Advertiser revenue produced by eBay Commerce Network and Connexity listings grew by 33% and 23% Y/Y respectively; however, the two platforms combined for less than 10% of the revenue produced by Google Shopping Ads, among advertisers participating in all three platforms.

    Display Advertising

    • Total display advertising spending grew 62% Y/Y, driven by very strong results from Facebook, where Merkle advertisers increased their investment by 121% Y/Y.
    • Retargeting accounted for 62% of all display spending in Q2.
    • The Google Display Network (GDN) also delivered spending growth, with advertisers seeing its share of total Google ad spending increase to 12%.

    What the evolution of search can teach marketers about digital transformation

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    cortana

    For years, search engines have proved themselves as the gateway to the web, an entry point to the content of webpages people wanted to read.

    However people don’t want to just read anymore, they want to publish, play, share, watch and exchange.

    The way they search has evolved too: they have gone from asking “what” to asking “why” and “how to.”

    At Bing we have seen a three-fold growth of queries starting with “Why” compared to “What” queries, which tells us people are no longer looking for information… They are looking for answers.

    These expectations have increased with the rise of modern experiences like Cortana. This personal assistant makes sense of our search history, our personal preferences, our location, the instructions we give her vocally, to identify what is the most relevant information to action upon, right here, right now… And sometimes without having to even ask her explicitly.

    To address these new expectations, it is critical to evolve the way search is considered.

    The internet has become a connective fabric between entities such as People, Places or Things and as a result, search has developed machine learning capabilities to start making sense of the world in which we live. The final layer is artificial intelligence which has stitched together the fabric to the model, and can start taking us to new possibilities like recognising faces and even feeling, or predicting the future.

    Consumers today offer brands numerous different signals through their behaviour online.

    Historically, marketers needed to understand the variant meaning in words, for example when a consumer typed in “Chicago”, they may have been looking for the Musical, the Band or a trip to the City. Patterns were gathered but what do they actually mean in the consumer’s head?

    chicago bing search

    Through the explosion of social networks, a new set of signals have emerged, where people can express their feelings and their personality. As a result, a bunch of connections between people for a variety of reasons are now in scope. Bing was one of the first to understand those connections with its Facebook partnership, which combined both relevancy and individualisation.

    Devices have then changed the game. Through smartphone democratisation, on top of “what” and “who”, brands are now offered the context of “where”. Consumers now holding the ability to search in their back pockets adds immense potential to what someone could mean.

    The same me can search for “coffee” in the street to look for a cuppa, and use the same word at my desk to help my son with his exposé on coffee harvesting. Same me, same word, but different geospatial context and therefore intent.

    Online and offline customer experiences are producing even greater amounts of data for which we now have the computing power required to stitch, but also to analyse and interpret.

    By bringing these data sets to the cloud, unaltered or pre-filtered, pooling them in a data lake for instance, we can then plug them into the advanced machine learning capabilities we have sharpened in search to identify the true commonalities and uniqueness of the individuals without compromising on timing.

    By taking into consideration the growing amount of signals, and with the computing power behind our machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are now capable to not only understand but even anticipate what people truly want.

    What does that mean for brands? It allows them to use search experiences that are truly personal and relevant.

    Marketing transformation. At last.

    What happened to search as a service is currently transpiring across the entire digital industry. It is putting back the customer at the centre of everything.

    Great marketing starts with the customer and as modern marketers, we need to recognize that every customer is unique. They are technologically savvier than ever and are connecting with brands across a number of channels, with the expectation of a personal connection and an understanding of their distinctive needs and desires.

    Marketers can now innovate more than ever and bring marketing to its essence: people.

    Thanks to technology platforms and search at the heart of these, we can understand customers changing needs and connect with customers across different devices, at home or on the go.

    The customer experience is now at the centre of the business strategy and marketers are responsible for infusing a customer-centric culture into their organisation.

    To do this, marketers need to connect with customers along every step of the customer journey, collecting and responding to information to deliver campaigns that resonate. They need to drive the innovative digital and physical campaigns that inspire customers and turn them into loyal brand advocates.

    Unlocking the power of search will be the fuel to that fire.

    Cedric Chambaz is the Head of Marketing, Europe at Bing Ads and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

    Facebook vs Snapchat: which is the better channel for your brand?

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    facebook vs snapchat

    It’s been a great year for Snapchat and it’s no surprise that Facebook is eyeing up many of its most successful features.

    At the same time, Snapchat is moving away from ephemeral content and beginning to engage in a stronger battle against the most popular social network in the world than we first thought.

    Will there be a clear winner?

    Round 1: Audience

    We may not have all the stats to compare side by side the audience for both platforms, but Facebook is certainly winning with its 1.65 billion monthly active users. There’s no social platform yet that can beat this number, while Snapchat only informs us for now that it counts over 100 million daily users.

    Winner: Facebook

    Round 2: Youth appeal

    Snapchat got popular for its impressive appeal to the younger audience, starting as a fun and instant form of communication among teenagers. Although it has evolved since then, it is still attractive for the audience aged 13-24, as it forms 60% of its audience.

    What’s more, Snapchat announced that it reaches 41% of all 18 to 34 year olds in the United States on any given day.

    Facebook may be the most popular social network, but it seems to lose its appeal to the younger audience, and this is mostly attributed to the significant rise of the older generations.

    There has been a 46% growth of new Facebook profiles from 2012 to 2015 for the ages of 45-54, while a decline of 25% has been noted at the same period for the new Facebook profiles of people aged 13-17 in US.

    Teenagers and young adults start facing a new reality when more family members join Facebook, which means they gradually lose their interest and head to new platforms to freely express themselves.

    This doesn’t mean that it’s easy to abandon the most popular social network, but there’s a tendency of reduced shared content, especially among the younger audience, who prefers to use Instagram and Snapchat.

    Winner: Snapchat

    Round 3: Ephemerality

    This is probably the most obvious win for Snapchat, as its main focus is on the power of ephemeral content and the urgency it creates to check the platform daily, in order to catch up with the latest content, before it disappears.

    Snaps last for just 24 hours, which means that FOMO (fear of missing out) can become more intense, especially once you start adding more friends (and celebrities).

    Facebook seems to be fascinated lately with the idea of ephemeral content and that’s why it announced the launch of secret conversations on Messenger, a feature that will introduce encrypted messages with a timer to control the when they will be visible to the recipient.

    Winner: Snapchat

    Round 4: Engagement

    Snapchat has managed to create impressive engagement with ephemeral content, but it’s still not easy to beat Facebook, which has turned into a daily routine for a great number of its users.

    According to eMarketer, US adults spend an average of 22 minutes a day on Facebook, while it is projected that they will be spending 23 minutes a day by 2018. Engagement may be high and it’s certainly attributed to the mobile domination, but its growth may not be enough in the coming years.

    Facebook engagement

    Snapchat has observed that 54% of its its users engage with the app daily, while the average iOS user in US spends an average of 18 minutes on Snapchat during the day, which means that there is an indication that the battle of engagement will become even more competitive soon.

    Winner: Facebook

    Round 5: Authenticity

    You don’t have to like (or even understand) Snapchat to admit that it brought a new type of content to social media, with its explosive growth being attributed to the combination of ephemerality, creativity, simplicity and visual content.

    The idea of vertical video has proven to be successful (and effective for brands), while filters turned out to be a fresh use of branded promotion.

    It wouldn’t be fair to omit Facebook’s own authenticity back when it started, but as it’s heading to a more mature status, we’ll give this round to Snapchat and its attempt to beat the odds of success at a surprisingly fast rate.

    Winner: Snapchat

    Round 6: Fun

    I may sound like a millennial (sorry Christopher), but I personally don’t find Facebook fun anymore. It may be informative, it may be creative from time to time, it’s certainly addictive, but it’s not as fun as it used to be.

    gatorade snapchat successOn the other hand, Snapchat is trying hard to be taken seriously, as it is still known as the platform that may turn you into a dog, or swap your face with Leonardo DiCaprio. Lenses have turned out to be very popular for Snapchat and their constant update creates a habit of trying out the new ones, again, for the sake of (useless) fun.

    However, this changed when brands joined the game of sponsored lenses, which made them more interesting from a business perspective.

    For example, Gatorade created a sponsored lens during Super Bowl and it led to 60 million plays in total, 165 million views and an increase of 8 points in purchase intent.

    Winner: Snapchat

    Round 7: Branded content

    Facebook Pages have formed the idea of branded content in social media and they have been imitated by many platforms. It’s an organised way to distribute content by encouraging users to stay up-to-date with a brand’s news, while Facebook offers several tools to boost this experience.

    However, the platform’s monetisation has reduced the reach of organic posts, which means that nothing comes for free anymore and thus, Facebook Pages are not as effective as they used to be, at least not without paying for advertising.

    On the other hand, Snapchat wanted to revolutionise the idea of branded content, by encouraging a new format of visual content which focuses on the engagement with the user, ensuring that the reach is not missed through a customised feed that hides the content you’ve liked.

    This doesn’t mean that all brands are ready yet to experiment with Snapchat and this may be attributed to the lack of options regarding the distribution and the measurement of the content, which is certainly something that we’d love to see in the future.

    Both platforms have their advantages and their disadvantages when it comes to branded content, but Facebook is certainly a winner, mainly due to its established status, the flexibility and its insights.

    Winner: Facebook

    Round 8: Video

    This is probably the biggest battle between Facebook and Snapchat and it’s also the most interesting one.

    Snapchat counts 10 billion daily video views and Facebook counted 8 daily billion views in November, and both platforms try hard to succeed in this field, as this may be the battle that will crown the ultimate winner.

    Video content is on the rise and it’s not expected to stop anytime soon, and both Facebook and Snapchat have their own advantages and disadvantages on its creation and distribution.

    Facebook is favouring video content on the users’ news feeds and this has led to an increase of native video content among brands in the platform. In fact, according to Quintly, brands prefer native videos over links to other videos as they have 4 times the interaction rate compared to Youtube, Vimeo, or other sources.

    What’s more, Facebook has launched the idea of Facebook 360 videos, in an attempt to succeed with another popular trend.

    Snapchat on the other hand is definitely ambitious enough to compete with Facebook’s plans with video content, especially when taking into consideration the fact that in Q1 2015 it counted just 2 billion daily video views, reaching more than 10 billion daily views in just a year!

    This sign of explosive growth cannot stay unnoticed and that’s why there is an attempt to keep up with its fast growth by offering more features and options for brands that join the platform.

    Vertical video along with mobile power make a great combination for appealing and engaging video content, while Live videos have turned into a big deal for Snapchat, hoping to use its curation skills to maintain the engagement with users, but also to attract more brands to trust it.

    Facebook is currently the winner in this round, but it wasn’t as easy as it thought it would be and that’s why it should not rest upon its laurels.

    Winner: Facebook

    Round 9: Instant communication

    Snapchat started as a fun platform of instant communication between teenagers and that’s how it became popular with its ephemeral content, its simplicity and its mysterious appeal.

    Facebook started as a platform that connected people all over the world, although the concept of communication changed over the years as it focused more on content and its monetisation. However, the launch of Messenger was a great move for Facebook, as it brought the best features of all the communication apps into one platform, counting now more than 1 billion users.

    Both Snapchat and Facebook have benefited from their appealing instant communication in their own way, the first by creating a strong engagement rate which helped it grow, the second by expanding its features to interesting paths that we keep exploring.

    This battle will be a tie, as both of them have their own advantages on why we use them for our communication.

    Winner: TIE

    Round 9.5 : Chatbots

    Instant communication in terms of business opportunities is already changing on Facebook Messenger with the introduction of chatbots, the pre-programmed messages that allow users to stay informed from their favourite brands and pages regarding a new release, a sale, or an event.

    This could be the big step for Messenger in ecommerce and further business opportunities, and as there are more than 11,000 bots in Messenger, we are expecting great things from this feature.

    Thus, this battle goes to Facebook.

    chatbot facebook

    Winner: Facebook

    Round 10: Advertising

    This is an unfair battle, as Facebook is already established in advertising, offering numerous options for brands to promote their products. There has been a 50% increase in Facebook’s active advertisers in a year, counting now 3 million advertised businesses in Q1 2016.

    Mobile advertising has turned out to be extremely effective, as it accounted for 79% of the company’s revenue of Q1 2016.

    From a brand’s perspective, Facebook’s advertising tools can help an ad reach the right audience, while the introduction of Canvas led to more creative formats that may be more appealing to users.

    On the other hand, Snapchat is yet at an early stage of its advertising growth, but its ROI is still impressive.

    It has noted that its Snap Ads have a 5x higher CTR compared to other platforms, while vertical mobile video content leads to 9x bigger completion rate comparing to horizontal videos.

    Snapchat is focusing on 3Vs, video, vertical and views, to promote its advertising concept and it promises to offer more metrics soon to help brands measure the ads’ performance more effectively.

    Still, this was an easy victory for Facebook.

    Winner: Facebook

    Takeaway

    Facebook may be the winner among the two, but 2016 was Snapchat’s big year, so we’re still curious on how the future will develop for both platforms.

    The fact that Snapchat managed to become a serious competitor for Facebook in certain areas in just a couple of years is an indication that we cannot ignore its potential, as its growth is expected to continue.

    According to eMarketer, Snapchat is expected to surpass Twitter and Pinterest in US users this year, reaching 58.6 million users with a growth of 27.2%, while it will keep building its audience until 2020 to further close its gaps with Facebook.

    snapchat growth

    Even if it’s not enough to ever beat Facebook, it is still impressive to monitor its success and it is offering us many useful lessons on how a platform can take advantage of its best features to build an audience and grow with consistent engagement and creative content.

    Four key digital transformation trends you must pay attention to right now

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    Digital transformation and speed of consumer change

    Last week ClickZ Intelligence held its webinar on The What, Why and How of Digital Transformation in association with Marketo.

    If you missed it, it’s now available on demand where you can listen to the high level overview from me, and actionable information from Marketo’s VP of demand generation Heidi Bullock and HeroK12’s head of marketing Bryan Lanadburu.

    As a taster, I’ve summarised just a few of the key points from the webinar for you to read below…

    The increasing speed of technological and consumer change creates a need for companies to act differently – or suffer the consequences

    Taking a view of the long term trend over the current century and the last, it is clear that digital technologies such as smartphones are just one of a number of changes that have emerged and reached mass market adoption with an increasing speed.

    Before the internet, innovations such as the telephone, refrigerator and clothes washer came to market at an accelerating pace, as shown in this chart from HBR.

    Today, we are now in a situation where adoption of products and services by hundreds of millions of people can occur in a blindingly short time – the recent explosion of Pokemon Go being further evidence of this.

    Established companies of all sizes are being challenged by this increasingly rapid pace as fast-moving startups with more of an eye on customer centricity than internal process adherence eat into market share.

    It is this changing set of circumstances that has caused a spike in interest around the idea of digital transformation, as illustrated by this chart of search volumes from Google Trends.

    Digital transformation search volume from Google Trends

    Digital transformation has multiple definitions but common themes

    There doesn’t exist a single, accepted definition for digital transformation, however common themes do emerge.

    The first is obviously around technology. Businesses with established processes and ways of working may not be making the most of new tools that are available to grow and protect market share.

    The second is around business transformation. The reason why many businesses use legacy technology and lack innovative ways of working is because they have processes, skill sets and cultures that create barriers to moving quickly. While marketing often drives and sets an agenda for digital transformation, doing so requires the buy in and support of multiple departments.

    The third is around customer experience. As previously mentioned, it is too common an occurrence that companies look inward at the status quo rather than outward towards the needs of their customers. Customer centricity is an element that needs to be deeply embedded as part of any serious digital transformation effort.

    Technology, techniques, teams and talent will help you win

    /IMG/582/278582/marketo-logo-large-320x198In the panel discussion, Heidi Bullock from Marketo emphasised that the reason why businesses need to care about the shift to digital channels (with people now spending over eight hours per day using them) is because digital channels are where your customers are. Luckily, 93% of multinational companies are in the process of changing their business models to adapt.

    These adaptation requires aligning the three areas of techniques, teams and talent, and technology. By doing so, you can start to take steps towards improving your business processes to enable your company to adapt to the speed of digital change.

    You don’t have to be huge to be very successful

    HeroK12 and digital transformationBrian Landaburu of HeroK12 shared his lessons at a company which has been moving in a transformative direction for only three years.

    HeroK12 is a tool that is sold to schools and school districts to keep track of pupil performance and behavior. Students can be recognized in a positive way and change school culture by focusing on positives rather than just discipline.

    Leading a ‘hard pivot’, Bryan has switched marketing entirely from an old way of working involving trade shows, advertising and mass media to an entirely inbound approach, having people learn about it through lightweight interactions over time delivered by Marketo. Everything was reinvented, with business processes and the product also changing.

    The result is that a product which helps millions of students at thousands of schools (with thousands more software users interacting everyday on the platform) is served by a company of only 35 people and a marketing team of just four staff.

    This provides an example of how an effective transformation can result in a highly efficient and brilliant experience for customers, even in industries and sectors where old ways of working can be difficult to change.

    Are you dealing with the issue of digital transformation? Then make sure you come to Shift on August 30th 2016 in San Francisco. A limited number of complimentary passes are available so make sure to register your interest!

    Five ways to improve your organic reach on Facebook

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    Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-3

    Organic reach on Facebook is abysmal and getting worse, thanks to the latest announcement from the social network that’s visited by more than a billion users every day.

    Facebook will show more funny videos and baby pictures posted by family and friends instead of news and other marketing content from brands, businesses, and publishers.

    How bad is organic engagement on Facebook? On average, engagement is somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 1%. Every once in a while, one of your posts might still get tons of organic engagement. But it’s fast becoming mission impossible.

    So what’s the solution?

    Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to mitigate the loss from the latest Facebook newsfeed algorithm. You must raise your organic engagement rates.

    Let’s meet your new weapons – the five crazy hacks that will help you do what’s said to be impossible: hack the Facebook newsfeed algorithm.

    Note: Some of these hacks involve spending a little bit of money. Others are totally free. All of them are totally worth your time.

    1) Preferred audience targeting

    Listen up: Preferred audience targeting is a brand new Facebook feature that works just like ad targeting, but for your organic posts. That’s right, this new feature lets you target your organic updates as if they were ads, for free.

    Facebook lets you target your update so only the people who are most likely to be interested in your update will see it.

    Here’s where the preferred audience targeting option can be found:

    This feature is so powerful because not everyone who follows your Facebook page is going to care about every single update you publish. If you want to start raising your organic engagement, you need to stop broadcasting to all of your followers and focus on those people who are most likely to engage with specific updates.

    Facebook’s preferred audiences feature is pure genius for companies that have a variety of products and divisions, or that operate in multiple countries. You can narrow the targeting based on users’ interests and locations to reach the people you really want without bothering the rest of your followers.

    This feature also has benefits for smaller companies and publishers. Take me for example… Preferred audience targeting allows me to decide who sees my posts – or who won’t see my post, using audience restrictions:

    Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-4

    Here’s another example. Let’s say you’re a French clothing retailer with locations in France, Poland, and Germany. You could make it so that only French-speaking millennial females who live near your locations will see your post announcing your latest deals.

    Remember: everybody who likes your page isn’t your target market. Plenty of random people will like your page over time, but then never engage with your updates, visit your website, or buy from you.

    If you can only reach 1% of your audience, you should more narrowly target the people who are truly interested in what you have to offer.

    2) The unicorn detector pyramid scheme

    The Unicorn Detector Pyramid Scheme is the process you can use to separate your content unicorns from the donkeys.

    What is a content unicorn? Well, content becomes a unicorn when it is clearly among the top 1 to 2% of all of your content. These are your most rare and beautiful pieces of content that attract the most shares, engagement, and views.

    A content donkey, on the other hand, doesn’t stand out at all. At most, it’s average. 98% of your content will be donkeys that get average engagement – again, less than 1% is the average organic engagement on Facebook, which is insanely low, right?

    To raise your organic engagement rates on Facebook, you need to post fewer, but better updates. You can test out your content organically on Twitter. Here’s how it works.

    Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-7

    Post lots of stuff on Twitter – somewhere around 20 tweets per day. But imagine that every tweet has been infected with a virus, one that will ultimately kill them without the antidote within less than 24 hours.

    The only cure for these infected tweets? They need to get a significant number of retweets, clicks, likes, and replies.

    Examine your top tweets in Twitter Analytics. Those tweets with the most engagement – your top 5 or 10% – have survived!

    Your content that got the most engagement on Twitter is also highly likely to generate similar engagement on Facebook.

    3) Post engagement ads

    You can use Facebook’s Post Engagement Ads to give your posts a bit of a push. Yes, that means you’re spending a little money to “earn” some free reach in the news feed.

    Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-9

    For example, let’s say I posted the above update only on my wall. The engagement is going to be pretty low. Maybe a few hundred people will see it.

    So what happens if I spend just $20 to promote it? In this case, I paid for more than 4,400 impressions (clicks, follows, likes, etc.), but also got more than 1,000 organic engagements for free as a result.

    How? Whenever someone shares your promoted post, it results in more people seeing it organically in their newsfeeds and engaging with it.

    4) Add engaged followers

    Did you know there’s a way you can selectively invite people who have recently engaged with one of your Facebook posts to like your page? This is a valuable but little-known feature available to some (but not all) pages.

    You want people who engage with you to become part of your Facebook fan base. You know these people like you and are more likely to engage with your content because they’ve done so in the past.

    Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-11

    Here’s how you do it: Click on the names of the people who reacted to your post (liked, loved, etc.). You’ll see three types of buttons (Invite, Liked, Invited). Clicking on that Invite button will send an invitation to people who engaged with one of your Facebook posts to like your business page.

    Does it work? Yep. Between 15 to 20% of the people I invite to like my page are doing so.

    5) Use video content

    The decline of organic reach almost mirrors the rise of video on Facebook.

    Users watch more than 8 billion videos every day on the social network. And these videos are generating lots of engagement.

    Just look at this recent research from BuzzSumo, which examined the average total number of shares of Facebook videos:

    Facebook-newsfeed-algorithm-13

    Facebook is doing its best to try to kill YouTube as the top platform for video. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.

    Stop sharing vanilla posts that get little to no engagement. Add some video into your marketing mix! That should help improve your organic engagement because engagement begets engagement.

    Facebook organic reach is pretty terrible. That’s why you should start treating your organic Facebook posts more like a paid channel, where you have to pickier and optimize to maximize engagement, in the hopes of getting more earned organic engagement.

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