Why You Should Be Using Google Business Posts

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Introduced only in 2017, Google Business posts are fairly new to the search marketing scene. But don’t let that fool you. Google Business posts can be an incredibly valuable tool for local SEO, and they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Many businesses ignore or give up on Google Business posts due to their lackluster performance when it comes to direct views and click throughs. However, there’s a hidden benefit to sticking with it. While Posts may not be overwhelmingly successful on their own, posting somewhat regularly can improve your rank in Google’s algorithm, causing your Google Business Profile to be shown more often and generating awareness for your business. 

What Are Google Business Posts?

Google Business Posts can cover a variety of topics, with post types including “Events,” “Offers,” the open-ended “What’s New,” and more. These posts appear as part of your Google Business Profile listing, showing in both Maps and the standard Google results page.

Here’s an example of a “What’s New” and “Events” post on the general results page. 

Every post type is a little different, but each one offers a number of optional call-to-action buttons, such as “Learn more” and “Order online,” as well as the option to add an eye-catching image. 

All post types will disappear from your Google Business Profile eventually, which is why it’s so important to post regularly.

Putting Google Business Posts To The Test

Below, we’ve compiled data to help determine whether Google Business posts are worth the time and effort. 

This test was conducted across 5 boutique hotels, comparing user metrics between the 3 months before and after we started using Google Business Posts. While exact post frequency varied, each property posted at least once per month during this test, using a variety of “What’s New” and “Event” posts. 

“New Users” was pulled from Google Analytics, and only includes traffic from the Source/Medium combination of google / organic. Google Map Views was provided by Yext, a platform for managing Local SEO listings. 

While “Google Map Views” did not always increase (likely due to external factors such as seasonality and search volume), the change in performance for this metric was significantly better across all 5 properties than the change for “New Users.” These differences are not insignificant either, providing fairly convincing evidence that regular Google Business posts will increase your standings in the Google algorithm and lead to more awareness. 

Key Takeaways About Google Business Posts

If you aren’t using Google Business posts, you should start now. While they may not bring in a ton of traffic on their own, they’re an incredibly effective, and fairly easy, way to increase your business’ visibility on Google. 

GCommerce Solutions has already incorporated Google Business posts into our arsenal of standard Local SEO tactics, and we encourage you to do the same. If you’re interested in learning more about Google Business posts or other Local SEO tips, check out the rest of our digital marketing blog or contact us below.

An Overview of Google’s Helpful Content Update

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Google's big push with it’s latest algorithm update, named the helpful content update, is taking aim at pages that are solely produced for search engines and not users.  A lot of this targets pages with content auto-generated by AI writing apps or not providing original content/value on whatever the page topic is about. GCommerce’s SEO and content recommendation focus has always been with an emphasis on creation for people but making sure to use SEO best practices as outlined by Google. I think this article by Google really outlines how any website should think about Google’s helpful content update in an easy-to-understand format. 

Our suggestions remain the same as they have been. That pages should have rich, original content, and then the content provided should also integrate SEO optimization best practices based on Google's guidelines to position the page in the best way to achieve success in the SERPs (and avoid crazy performance issues when algorithm changes occur). We never attempt "black hat" tactics or tactics geared solely at search engines without first considering the value to someone coming to the site looking for the type of product or search topic we are optimizing that page for. If you have used auto-generated/AI content or simply created pages with low-value content for the sake of search engine ranking and it doesn't provide value to someone researching that topic, then we would recommend updating it or removing it from your site.

Want to understand if your site is impacted by Google’s helpful content update as it rolls out over the next couple of weeks? Since it is an update that adds the signal as one of the many signals Google uses in the algorithm. The best place to monitor overall performance continues to be within Google Search Console performance reports. You can also add another layer of reporting by monitoring your positions through a platform such as SEMRush and keeping an eye on your Analytics organic traffic. 

This update by Google was maining focused on eCommerce product sites and entertainment-related sites as you can tell by some of the language used in it’s Google update/release article, but I think it's a great reminder for all businesses across any industry that it's important to optimize their site experience and content for users while also making sure to follow SEO best practices for optimization. We’ve always viewed the two (optimizing for people and great SEO best practices) to have a ton of overlap if done correctly. 

Have questions or think your site may have been impacted? Please reach out to our search experts with any questions.

4 Facebook Ads Best Practices For Images

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Facebook advertising is currently one of the most popular ways to advertise. Why is that? Because, if you know how to create Facebook ad images that drive traffic to your primary business goal, they can be insanely effective. 

This article contains four best practices for creating and selecting Facebook ads images that will be creative and effective. In running large amounts of Facebook ads each year for our clients here at GCommerce Solutions, we took a look at the top performing Facebook ad images from the previous year to determine not only which types are performing well, but also the actual data that proves these best practices to be true.

Official Ad Best Practices From Facebook

  1. Opt into Facebook Campaign Budget Optimization

Campaign budget optimization (CBO) automatically manages your budget to allow for the best results. Daily budgets or lifetime budgets can be set for Facebook Ads campaigns, depending on your needs and how much you want to specify in your budget.

  1. Opt into Detailed Targeting Expansion

Detailed targeting expansion provides access for Facebook to reach a broader group of people than what you define in your targeting selections. Facebook is then able to make updates that reflect any findings for better performance outside of the defined targeting selections. 

  1. Opt into Automatic Placements for Facebook Ads

Automatic placements through Facebook increase ad exposure to best utilize the campaign’s budget. Depending on the settings of your campaign, automatic placements allow Facebook to expand the different channels your ads can be seen on. 

  1. Manage Your Facebook Ads’ Creative Fatigue

Creative fatigue is the result of your audience seeing the same images or videos too many times across your ads. This can lead to negative impacts such as lower engagement.

It is important to note some of Facebook’s general ad best practices to keep in mind before choosing your images. However, it may not always be enough to simply follow the ad best practices provided by Facebook. For example, utilizing budget optimization and automatic placements does not always lead to better results without also optimizing your ad images.

4 Facebook Ad Image Best Practices

1. Highlight Your Hotel’s Amenities In Facebook Ads

Does your property have a unique pool? Easy access to the beach? Beautiful surrounding scenery? Highlight it! It’s not always the rooms that drive guests to a specific hotel. In our research, ads with images of pools received a 30% higher CTR and 134% more clicks than non-pool ads running side by side.

2. Show Off Your Hotel’s Activities

Potential guests like to see what they will be able to do in the area while they are staying at your property. By highlighting things to do in your hotel’s Facebook ad images, these future guests can get a glimpse of activities that happen around the area. Based on our research, ad images that focus on activities have 154% higher engagement than ads with other images running within the same campaign.

3. Eat With Your Eyes

Whether a breakfast deal or various types of on-site dining, food sells. Posts that are about various restaurants where the focus of the ad is on the food itself drive guests to want to visit the restaurant. Outside shots of the restaurants are nice to add, but those focused on the food itself perform better. These food focused ad images have a 50% higher reach than those that aren’t food focused when run at the same time, side-by-side.

4. Don’t Keep the Property a Mystery

Having Facebook ads images that focus on the outside of the property can be eye catching and intriguing for potential guests. By seeing these types of images, guests are driven to the property’s website to learn more about where it is located, which can then result in them wanting to visit and stay at that property. These ads that focus on the outside images of the property have an 88% higher amount of clicks and a 35% higher CTR than ads with other images that are running within the same Facebook Ads campaign.

Hopefully this has provided a better understanding of what types of images perform well for Facebook ads for your hotel. Remember that not all best practices are the same across the board, so it is important to test and analyze what does well for you and among your audiences. And don’t be afraid to test new images for new campaigns – you never know what may perform well for you! Contact us today to get started on your Facebook advertising strategy!

Your Guide To Facebook Ad’s "Learning Limited" & How To Beat It

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It seems like each week Facebook is releasing new updates to their ads platform, stronger guidelines to protect user privacy, and more optimization capabilities than ever before. If you are a fellow advertiser on Facebook, you are no stranger to A/B testing and the never-ending journey of finding the optimal targeting, ad copy, imagery, and headline combinations. 

However, the quest for continuous improvement could also be leading to the demise of your Facebook ad performance. Enter: the Facebook Learning Phase.

What is the Learning Phase In Facebook Ads?

The Facebook Learning Phase is the time period where Facebook is using its machine learning capabilities to optimize your results. This is achieved by Facebook showing your ads to different audiences, at different times of day, and within different ad placements to determine the optimal delivery system. 

Facebook has a lot to learn about new ads, and during this Learning Phase Facebook performance is not considered stable. It’s recommended that Facebook advertisers spend no more than 20% of their budget in the learning phase, as those ads usually encounter a higher CPA.

When Does the Facebook Learning Phase Occur and How Can You Exit?

The Facebook Learning Phase occurs whenever a new adset is created or a significant edit has been made. Edits that will force your ad sets into the Learning Phase are listed below.

Campaign

  • New campaign
  • Budget
  • Bid amount
  • Bid strategy

Ad sets

  • Targeting
  • Placement
  • Optimization event
  • Adding new creative
  • Bid strategy
  • Bid amount
  • Budget
  • Pausing for over 7 days

Ads

  • Any change (imagery, copy, URL, etc.)

When Will Your Ad Set Exit the Learning Phase In Facebook Ads?

Once your Facebook ad set performance is considered stable, you will exit the Learning Phase. Stable performance generally means that your ad set has received around 50 optimization events within a 7-day period. Your optimization event will depend on what you have set at the ad set level. This could be 50 purchases, 50 leads, 50 landing page views, 50 add-to-carts, etc. Whichever one you choose, your optimization event should be congruent with your performance goals.

If your Facebook ad sets don’t generate enough optimization events within that 7-day period they will be launched into the dreaded Learning Limited phase.

What Does it Mean to be Stuck in Facebook Ads’ Learning Limited?

When your Facebook ad sets are stuck in Learning Limited, it means you haven’t generated enough optimization events to exit the Learning Phase and become Active. For many advertisers, the Learning Limited Phase is a limbo that should be heavily avoided. Not only will your Facebook ads have a higher CPA, but they won’t be fully optimized toward the best-performing audiences and placements. When Facebook doesn’t have enough data, it can’t accurately predict the best ad placements and positioning which could make your performance suffer.

How To Fix Learning Limited in Facebook Ads

While the Learning Limited phase can be hard to exit, it’s not impossible. Facebook has outlined a few tips that could help catapult your ad sets into the active phase.

Tip 1 - Avoid Excessive Edits In Your Facebook Ads Campaigns

Making constant changes and edits to your Facebook Ads campaigns is easily the No. 1 mistake most advertisers make when it comes to being stuck in Learning Limited. Every time you make an edit, the system essentially has to start over. So while you think you are improving your campaigns by making optimizations, you are actually further delaying your exit from the Learning Phase and wasting valuable ad dollars.

However, this is not to say you should never optimize your Facebook campaigns and make edits. On the contrary, testing new creatives, ad copy, and targeting is how Facebook learns about your ad performance. Testing is essential to performance success. The key is to simply find the balance between making changes and letting your campaigns simmer. 

At GCommerce, we are constantly optimizing our ads and running A/B tests, but last year we found that we were stuck in Learning Limited a lot. We discovered that the main cause was excessive editing. At this discovery we implemented new procedures to only edit campaigns once per week (in most cases) and with this change we quickly saw that we were able to exit the learning phase quicker. 

Tip 2 - Combine Facebook Ad Sets

Are you running multiple ad sets within your Facebook Ads campaigns? This could be keeping you in Facebook’s Learning Limited. When too many ad sets are run at once they begin to take away from each other. This results in less deliveries for each ad set, longer time spent in the learning phase, and more budget spent on unstable ad sets.

Instead, if you are running multiple ad sets with similar targeting or audiences, Facebook recommends combining these into one ad set with a larger budget and audience to deliver to. Larger audiences will give Facebook more options for delivery which can help you exit the learning phase and Learning Limited much quicker.

If you are unable to combine ad sets, try increasing your current audience size by adding in more interests, geographical locations, or other targeting capabilities or taking away harsh parameters that might be restricting your deliverability.

Tip 3 - Increase Facebook Ad Campaign Budget

While this option is certainly not always an option, the number one recommendation to remove your ad sets from the Learning Limited phase is to increase your Facebook budgets by at least 25%. Most advertisers don’t have the ability to increase budgets at whim, but if you are able to this can help with exiting the Learning Limited phase.

Tip 4 - Change The Facebook Ads Campaign Optimization Event

If you’ve tried all the tips above, you could consider changing the event you are optimizing for altogether. If you are optimizing for purchases, but can’t get 50 purchases in a 7-day period, try changing that event to something higher up in the funnel like initiates check-out or add-to-cart. The further down the booking funnel you go, the lower your conversion events will be. Changing to a higher-funnel event will allow you to generate enough events to exit the Learning Limited phase. Note that you cannot change the optimization event on a published Facebook ad set, you will need to duplicate your existing ad set for this.

Final Takeaways on Facebook’s Learning Phase & Learning Limited

We’ve covered a lot in this blog post, and managing the Facebook Learning Phase and Learning Limited can be overwhelming for a lot of advertisers. There is no right way to create success with your Facebook campaigns. Ultimately you need to evaluate your own campaign performance and define what success means to you. It’s important to also take these Facebook phases with a grain of salt; you might be stuck in  Learning Limited, but maybe your performance is the best it’s ever been and you are showing a high ROAS. It’s very possible to maintain successful campaigns without being fully optimized and stable. 

Let the experts at GCommerce help get your Facebook advertising to where it needs to be. Connect with us today for more information!

How to Analyze Your Hotel Marketing Campaigns’ ROAS

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How to Analyze Your Hotel Marketing Campaigns’ ROAS “Return on Ad Spend” - The devil is in the details

Lately, a lot of hoteliers have been talking about “ROAS”. And, what great ROAS they are seeing with their hotel’s digital marketing campaigns.  Well, yes, hoteliers should be seeing a very high ROAS but what most hoteliers don’t understand is that ROAS is just a metric and a very broad one at that. 

How should you view the ROAS metric for your hotel’s digital marketing campaigns?

As most of you know, ROAS, in its basic form, is the total revenue you brought in divided by your ad spend.  The real question is what is included in that “total revenue”.  For instance, if a hotel marketing agency is focused on just a hotel's brand/name terms your ROAS will be very high because you're placing an ad in front of travelers who are searching for your hotel.  Think of this as your phone ringing and somebody wants to make a reservation at your hotel or book a group with you.  Now…throw in a couple of market terms (i.e. hotel in San Diego) and oh no, your ROAS is going to go down.  But wait, market terms, in my eyes, are like cold calling.  You are placing ads out there in front of travelers who are very high in the sales funnel and maybe just starting to look into traveling somewhere.  The question you should be asking yourself is, do my sales people sit around and just wait for the phone to ring or are they out there making cold and warm calls?  Well, now take that thought and ask yourself, is my hotel marketing agency just sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring (brand/name terms) or are they also picking up the phone and making warm and cold calls (market terms).  Then, take that thought and look at how many campaigns your agency is running with both brand/name and market terms.  I explain this as “how many hooks does your agency have in the sea”.  The more hooks in the sea the more fish you're going to catch.  As we like to say here at GCommere, ”ROAS is nice but the main problem with it is that you cannot take it to the bank!”

What does attribution models have to do with my hotel marketing campaigns’ ROAS?

Now, let’s go a little deeper with ROAS as you will see how messy this metric can be once you start peeling back the data.  With regard to ROAS on display ads the question you need to ask yourself is if the ad is being measured based on “view through” conversions or not.  Okay…what does “view through” mean?  Here is a quick scenario… you visit a hotel's website, leave without booking and a cookie is placed on your browser.  You go to another site, let’s say Cycling News.com and then you realize you did not book a room at the hotel so you go back to the site and book your room.  What you did not see at the very bottom of the Cycling News site was an ad for your hotel.  But, the agency is going to charge you a 15+% commission on that booking even though the person who booked the room did not see the ad.  Oh and here is the kicker, the person who booked the room might not have even looked at the Cycling News page at all because their kid asked them a question and you will still get charged a commission for that booking.  So, if you are using a third-party agency for your display ads or social media ads you really need to peel back the data, which is not easy, on what your ROAS actually is. 

Okay, are you ready for your mind to start spinning?  Let's now throw in attribution models.  Oh wait, are you talking about last-click attribution or data-driven attribution?  If you're not familiar with either of these I will help you out. 

Last-click attribution assigns a credit for a sale to the last ad that a user clicked. By contrast, data-driven attribution will spread credit for a sale across every hotel marketing ad campaign that the user interacted with over the span of the conversion, with fractional credit being assigned to each campaign based on Google’s algorithmic analysis of the campaigns. So, is your hotel marketing agency using attribution in the ROAS they are giving you?  It’s important to understand what attribution model your agency is using and if it’s the best way to tell the story of your full funnel campaign strategy.

How to review ROAS for your hotel’s email marketing campaigns

And finally, if anybody tells you that their hotel’s email marketing campaigns are seeing a super high ROAS please tell them…”well, shouldn’t that be the case every time?”.  Why?  Because you're sending an email to a consumer who has either stayed at your property before or is VERY interested in staying at your property.  Think of email marketing as a brand/name term campaign or the bottom of the sales funnel.  Similar to a retargeting campaign, you're placing an ad in front of someone who already has looked at your site and has an interest in staying with you.  They just forgot to book a room.  

So the next time someone highlights ROAS take a minute and ask yourself…”okay, that’s great but let’s peel back that number because the devil is behind the numbers”.  And with the case of ROAS, there is a lot behind the number. 

The Cookieless World is already here. Are you ready?

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Over the last few years, the big players like Google and Facebook have been warning that they will be moving to a cookieless world. And really, we are already living in a cookieless world when you consider the deprecation of 3rd party cookies on Mozilla and Safari as well as Apple’s iOS updates.

The way we measure performance has already changed to support the cookieless world. GCommerce has tested the difference between Google Analytics 4 and Google Analytics Universal in how it captures data, and on average Google Analytics Universal is missing about 40% of revenue data. This shows that the cookieless world is already here.

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