Without marketing strategy, the LUMAscape is one hand clapping

It’s difficult not to be awed by the LUMAscape, both in its growth rate and in the level of innovation that it represents. Consider this: in 2011, there were only 150 unique companies on the LUMAscape, in 2018 there are 7,000. And it’s not merely a matter of vendors throwing their hats into the ring to take advantage of a flush industry; these are enterprises on the cutting edge of Big Data, AI, machine-learning and programmatic technologies.

Click to enlarge

Clearly, this innovation has been a boon to marketers and publishers, and yet, to a large extent, it represents just one hand clapping, with the entire LUMAscape ecosystem focusing on marketing operations and execution. The people who are responsible for buying media have a great deal of technology and data at their disposal, but what about the marketing strategists, who are responsible for generating personas, campaign ideation and targeting? They have nothing like the level of tools enjoyed by the marketing orchestration team.

Marketing strategy is still created using old (in our field, it’s fair to consider them ancient) methodologies. Back in the 1950s, strategists relied on demographic data to build personas because it was both widely available and reliable. If women, aged 25 to 50, purchased this product from this brand, then other women with similar demographics are likely to exhibit the same behavior. The personas were beefed up with psycho-demographics, developed through consumer surveys.

And to be fair, these personas delivered good results, because there were few channels to reach consumers back then. If a family-friendly vacation brand wanted to reach every American family, it could reliably do so by purchasing a 30-second spot on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday evenings. Reach used to trump relevance.

The world looks nothing like that today. We now live in a world where there are infinite ways to reach a consumer, thanks to the explosion of digital and social, and the myriad ways for people to consume content. Yet the strategy is still dominantly based on demographics and psycho-demographics.

With both sides of marketing operating in vastly different worlds, a gap between strategy and execution is inevitable. When the media-buying team receives a marketing brief the first thing they need to do is interpret the marketing goals. With just segments based on generic demographic and behavioral data, they must translate the personas into actual segments they can target in the complex execution ecosystem. Not too long ago, I spoke with the head of marketing for a large brand. He told me his team received a 150-page report on their ideal “buyer personas” that didn’t match any syndicated audience segments, so they had to try to “translate” these personals into targetable segments based on their media buying platforms.

Is it any surprise that digital campaigns — designed to reach and engage consumers with ads that are groundbreaking in their creativity – fall short of expectations? The process is broken, and it is neither the strategy team’s nor the execution team’s fault. The problem is that the machine learning and artificial intelligence is being applied to marketing execution but doesn’t address the needs of the marketing strategist. Marketing strategists need the same level of audience segmentation and insights that are available to the marketing execution team.

Until the strategy side catches up, the inherent power of the execution ecosystem, represented by the LUMAscape, will be under-utilized. It will remain the equivalent of one hand clapping.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Tim Burke is CEO of Affinio, the marketing strategy platform that leverages the interest graph to understand today’s consumers. With over 12 years of experience in building companies and developing technology that solves some of the world’s hardest problems, Tim co-founded Affinio to mine the billions of relational network connections that exist within any given social audience to shed data-driven light on who each audience segment is and what they truly care most about. Tim, along with co-founder Stephen Hankinson, previously developed and successfully commercialized tether.com, the most commercially successful application of its kind, with over 300,000 paid users worldwide. From 2007-2013, Tim founded and led 26ones Inc. (formerly Quark Engineering and Development Inc.), an IP and product development engine. From 2000-2007, Tim held engineering R&D/design positions with Skillz Systems Inc., Innovation in Design Lab (Dalhousie University), Heidelberg, and Creare. Tim holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from TUNS and a Masters of Engineering (Mechanical) from Carleton University.

Gravy’s ‘location data forensics’ seeks to identify, minimize fraud in programmatic bidstreams

Location intelligence company Gravy Analytics is introducing what it’s calling “location data forensics.” Its purpose is to filter out unreliable, inaccurate or fraudulent location data from the bidstream.

Location data often unreliable. Mobile ad exchange bid requests including location are often significantly more valuable than those without. That results in a lot of questionable location data being passed in the system. A publisher or app may pass questionable or fake location just to satisfy the bid request. According to Gravy CEO Jeff White, between 40 and 80 percent of bidstream location data it sees is either “fraudulent or suspicious.”

White added that the scale of the problem is largely unrecognized by advertisers and even the exchanges themselves. Location data is used for a widening array of marketing and analytics purposes: audience segmentation, offline attribution, proximity marketing, internal benchmarking and competitive intelligence, among still others.

Location accuracy matters more for some scenarios than others. For example, store-visitation attribution requires more precision than proximity marketing. And if you’re buying an audience of “auto intenders,” for example, you want the people who’ve actually been on car dealer lots in the past 30 days, and so on. The reliability of the data is critical — garbage in, garbage out.

Suppressing ‘anomalous’ location signals. There are lots of sources of location data that make their way into the bidstream: cell-tower triangulation, GPS, Wifi signals and other sources. Then there’s fraud and spoofed location. Gravy’s White says that the company is providing full transparency to its partners surrounding every location-data signal and source, which can be audited if desired. Its machine learning algorithms will separate valid signals from dubious ones. (Nearly all of Gravy’s competitors also say their proprietary technology ensures accurate location data.)

White says the system will help the company’s partners, including DSPs and DMPs, “suppress anomalous location signals.” He added that Gravy will start blacklisting publishers, apps, locations and devices that are found to be bad or inaccurate. These will be filtered automatically.

Why you should care. Location data is an increasingly critical (and controversial) component of mobile and programmatic advertising. Inaccuracy and fraud have plagued location in programmatic inventory since the beginning. Multiple companies have been seeking to educate marketers about the problem. With its new location data forensics, Gravy is trying to build more confidence in its and its programmatic partners’ location data sets.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

3 inspiring campaigns that remind brands to be human during the holidays

We’ve heard a lot lately that brands need to show empathy, that they need to make a “human connection” with consumers. While that has always been true, it’s recently become more important with consumer trust at a historic low. This development makes trust a vital trait for brands to build—more than one in three consumers rank “trust in brand” as among their top three reasons they shop at a particular retailer.

The holidays represent an unusually promising time for brands to show their human side. When it comes to branding, major American companies tend to focus a lot on the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, across the pond in the U.K., yuletide campaigns have long been valued as the best branding juncture on the calendar. During this moment in time when empathy and authenticity are seen as keys to branding success, U.S. marketers have an opportunity to reimagine their holiday season strategies as more inspirational and less transactional.

Sure, some leading U.S. brands have made a habit out of appealing to consumers’ humanity during the holidays. Take Lexus’ “December to Remember” tagline, which resonates with Americans like few other campaigns—in fact it’s the leading car name for brand awareness during the holidays. Budweiser has regularly had the Clydesdales in Christmas ads. And Coca-Cola practically made Santa Claus part of its logo for decades to tap into the holiday spirit.

There’s an opportunity for more U.S. marketers to adopt the holiday playbook. With that in mind, here are three campaigns from Europe that should inspire marketers everywhere to tell more empathetic stories during this season and in seasons to come.

The Tear-Jerker

Merkle launches bidding platform tailored for Amazon sponsored brand ads

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The brand storytelling genius of the Coca-Cola Santa

Images courtesy of Coca-Cola

Since 1995, Santa trades in his sleigh once a year for a Coca-Cola truck and tours the UK, sharing the soft drinks that have become closely associated with the winter holidays. This year, facing pressure from health advocates, Coca-Cola plans to scale back the campaign.

Controversy aside, the Christmas trucks are a prime example of brand purpose and messaging aligning. The brand, which encourages consumers to “share happiness,” enacts this same principle on tour – embodied by the festive Santa that adorns the modern sleighs.

Coca-Cola and Santa Claus have developed an effective “partnership” in a series of holiday ads that stretch through the better part of a century. The two are so close in the popular consciousness that many (falsely) attribute Santa’s modern appearance to the brand.

In truth, the Santa that we know and love didn’t spring fully-formed from a hat (or a Coke ad). Brought to the U.S. as St. Nicholas—a benefactor to the poor and sick — Santa Claus gradually took shape in our collective imagination through a decentralized evolution.

Building a snowy story world

Over the years, Santa has been depicted as a gaunt gift-giver armed with a birch rod—for disobedient children, a supporter of the Union during the Civil War, and as a George Washington-esque figure riding a broomstick. Fortunately, none of those stuck.

Writers like Washington Irving and Clement Moore helped fill in Santa’s backstory, while artists like Thomas Nast popularized the Christmas hero’s iconic red coat and white beard. Though each iteration was created independently, together they formed the Santa we know today.

By the 1920s—when he first appeared in a Coke ad—the Santa story world was already a robust collection of poems, songs, and images. Coca-Cola built their holiday advertising campaigns on this edifice, linking themselves to a story that already had a place in our hearts.

coca cola santa ad

While most brands won’t be lucky enough to tap into a ready-made story world that is so closely aligned with their brand purpose, Coca-Cola Santa can serve as a model for how such worlds are effectively built on — and where their greatest strengths lay.

More than milk and cookies

One of the most powerful aspects of the Santa story is its disruptive potential. While fully-formed stories do invite participation, when we are presented with an incomplete narrative we are more compelled to try and fill in the blanks — a phenomenon that drives empathic engagement.

We store Santa’s North Pole workshop, complete with Mrs. Claus, elves, and reindeer, snugly in our memories. The story is enriched by our personal experiences with the characters — and holidays past. Santa is thus never just a jolly elf; he calls us back to his world in its entirety.

Each time we see a Santa ad, we fit it into our own Santa — and Coca-Cola — story. In broad strokes, we know how the narrative begins and ends, but the colorful details (think a hungry Santa raiding the fridge) renew the story for us and draw us in again year after year.

Even Santa loves a bit of drama

Kris Kringle sits at the center of a story world that is well suited to brand messaging. The emphasis on sharing joy is not only a fortuitous partner to Coca-Cola’s brand purpose; it is at the heart of a compelling narrative structure that engages and informs.

The most effective stories are simple, clear, and dynamic; the contrast between beginning and end create a dramatic tension that encourages the reader to move from one to the other, while the middle offers a clear roadmap from a suboptimal present to a brighter future.

Christmas songs and storybooks teach children that if they behave well — if they share in the holiday spirit — they will be rewarded. As adults, we no longer think of this as a quid-pro-quo, but the essential message (really the Golden Rule) still resonates with us.

Transportation to a winter wonderland

As kids, we all participated in the Santa story as recipients (if we were good); as adults, we keep the story alive by assuming the role of gift-givers. Just as we enact the story in our own lives, we can see ourselves in the Santa that adorns Coca-Cola cans and ads every Winter.

Research has shown that this narrative immersion, which is triggered by dramatic tension, is driven by a measurable increase in the production of oxytocin, the neurotransmitter responsible for building empathic bonds and encouraging prosocial behavior.

The same neurological infrastructure that allows us to bond with our favorite characters in movies supports our struggle to enact the Santa story in our own lives. Oxytocin brings us into the story world and helps impress the values of kindness and generosity the tale imparts.

Not just nostalgia, it’s science

Every year we add to our personal Santa story, and Coke’s ubiquitous ads ensure that the brand plays at least a small role. These stories are cumulative and, adages aside, familiarity breeds fondness — the older we get, the more these stories mean to us.

Known as the mere exposure effect, even the grinchiest among us become fonder of the Santa story — and ads — over time; the same effect is what lodges that annoying pop song in our head and, after a few dozen listens, convinces us that we like it.

Though it seems obvious, it is important to note that at the heart of Coca-Cola’s strategy is their association with the story of Santa Claus. This goes beyond the symbolic linkage of purpose, or the fond memories it may call back: the relationship makes us feel better about Coke.

Known as the halo effect, the more that we associate Coca Cola with Santa (and we do), the more that our feelings about Santa (and the holidays) will inform our perception of the brand — a link Coca Cola encourages in their holiday ads (Taste the Feeling).

The Santa story sticks; yours should too

It is no surprise that the Santa story leverages so many narrative and behavioral principles. After all, it has become one of the most popular narratives among children and adults alike. It is difficult to imagine a world in which Santa isn’t ubiquitous but, even a century ago, he wasn’t.

The Santa story features a clear and compelling narrative arc; a plot that leverages the neurological infrastructure of empathy. Developed over decades with the input of countless writers, artists, and oral storytellers, the distinct pieces came together into the story we know.

Coca-Cola made excellent use of the similarity between their brand purpose and Santa’s and developed a close association between the festive figure and their products. In doing so, they were able to reflect some of the holiday cheer he elicits onto their messaging.

Both the Santa story and Coca-Cola’s ads apply behavioral and psychological principles that have been used for millennia to make stories stick. Modern research has begun to define, if not understand, these tools, which can be used to craft impactful content of all kinds.

The cynics among us may decry the appropriation of a heartwarming symbol for the sale of soft drinks, but smart marketers will see in the Coca-Cola Santa the well-executed transformation of a complex but powerful story world into a refreshingly clear branded narrative.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Peter Minnium is President of Ipsos Connect, where he leads the US team in helping companies measure and amplify how media, brands, and consumers connect through compelling content and great communications. Prior to his switch to market research, Peter was Head of Brand Initiatives at the IAB focused on addressing the under-representation of creative brand advertising online.

Online shopping revenues will reach $126 billion by December 31, says Adobe

The Saturday before Christmas is known as either “Super Saturday” or “Panic Saturday,” depending on your perspective, and it should see higher retail foot traffic than Black Friday, according to location intelligence firm, Cuebiq. By the same token, online revenues are soaring and will continue to set records this year according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers

Super Saturday outpaces Black Friday in store visits. Cuebiq analyzed 2017 holiday visitation patterns for major U.S. retail chains, including Target, Walmart, JC Penney, Macy’s, Kohl’s and others. The company found that these retailers actually saw more store visits the Saturday before Christmas than on Black Friday, which is popularly seen as the high water mark for in-store holiday shopping. In 2017, Black Friday actually had about 83 percent of Super Saturday store visits.

Now is also the time when many people shift their focus back to stores because of online-shipping times. For that reason, many people will take advantage of Buy Online Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) where it exists. Adobe said that BOPIS shopping is up 47 percent year-over-year.

At least $126 billion. Adobe also reported that as of December 19, U.S. consumers had spent almost $111 billion online, during the holiday period, which beat 2017 online sales to that point by nearly $17 billion. And when the wrapping paper finally settles, the period from November 1 to December 31 will emerge as the “biggest online shopping period of all time” — coming in at least $126 billion according to Adobe’s forecast.

Mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) have so far been responsible for roughly 58 percent of site visits and about 39 percent of purchases. Just over $33 billion in sales have been generated by smartphones alone, which represents a 57 percent year-over-year increase.

Direct navigation the top channel. The following are the top channels for online revenue according to Adobe:

  • Direct site traffic — 27 percent
  • Paid search — 25 percent
  • Organic search — 21 percent
  • Email — 20 percent
  • Social media — less than 2 percent

Why should you care. Even as online shopping has surged to new levels, gone are the days of “online vs. offline” as consumer shopping patters and the customer journey have become more complex and multifaceted. More than ever online and offline shopping are interconnected.

As the data above also make clear, there are relatively distinct phases to holiday shopping, likely connected to customer personas. Retailers need to clearly understand their customers and these patterns, and manage the timing of their marketing spend, messaging and channels accordingly.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

Marketing Day: Ad agency CEO calls out Facebook, in-app advertising, first party data

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Initiative CEO calls out Facebook, says he’s advising clients to pull ads

Mat Baxter, CEO of the ad agency Initiative, used his LinkedIn profile on Wednesday to criticize Facebook over its latest user data scandal. Baxter called Facebook’s behavior “egregious” and said he was advising clients to stay off the platform. In all of Facebook’s user data privacy and security issues this year, the CEO is one of the first major ad executives to say his agency would advise clients not to advertise on the platform.

What prompted the comment? Baxter’s LinkedIn post was in response to the New York Times report on Tuesday that Facebook had shared more user data than previously disclosed with the likes of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft’s Bing, Netflix, Spotify and more. Baxter’s LinkedIn post drew 262 likes and more than 60 comments. Some commenters cheered on Baxter for taking a stand, while other industry professionals pushed back. One social media account director commented that it would be, “… absolutely detrimental to a brand to not advertise with Facebook.”

The Wall Street Journal called more attention to Baxter’s LinkedIn post the following day when it ran a feature in its CMO Today section highlighting the CEO’s call for more marketer’s to take a stand against Facebook.

A spokesperson for IPG, the parent company of Initiative, told the Wall Street Journal that Baxter’s comments were not an official statement from IPG’s network or company, and gave the following statement from IPG CEO Michael Roth: “We look to all media platforms to be transparent about their usage of consumer data and will continue to work closely with our media partners, including Facebook, to ensure we have the best information when advising our clients on a case-by-case basis as to how best to invest their media budgets.”

Responses from marketers. Following the New York Times report, media buyers told Marketing Land Facebook’s data deals would not impact advertising investments on the platform. In Marketing Land’s report on Wednesday, Aimclear founder Marty Weintraub said his digital agency clients cared more about performance marketing results than Facebook’s legal kerfuffles.

“Decisions as to our media spend mix and Facebook have only to do with likely marketing results,” Weintraub told Marketing Land. In response to our report, Marketing Land did hear some consternation from marketers, but no one admitted they were they were pulling ad dollars from Facebook or advising clients to do so.

Tony Verre, VP of eCommerce at The Integer Group in Dallas, said Baxter’s stance on advising clients not to advertise on Facebook was a commendable gesture, and he would like to see other global media agencies would follow suit. But he also said but believes agencies have a responsibility to do what best for their clients.

“As true a moral and ethical a stance as it is, Baxter and Initiative have a fiduciary responsibility, in my opinion, to provide agency for their clients to maximize ad dollars and revenue,” said Verre, “Until users begin to move off of Facebook, until users reject the platform’s misbehavior, mismanagement, and malfeasance, other media agencies will continue to feed it because, as the saying goes, that’s where the money is.” (As a partner in the Omnicom network, The Integer Group is 100 percent engaged in Facebook campaigns said Verre. And while he is not directly involved any any Facebook ad campaigns currently, he has managed a Facebook campaign as recently as September.)

Verre points out Baxter didn’t mention how Initiative is the global media agency for Amazon — a company that, according to the New York Times report, was one of the Facebook partners given access to user data that benefited from Facebook data sharing policies.

“Will Baxter also be dropping Amazon as a client and not spending ad dollars there? While Facebook is the easy target — the big, bad monster — Baxter and Initiative dropping Amazon as a client would really show his commitment, no?” asked Verre.

Facebook’s response. In response to Baxter’s LinkedIn post, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson told the Wall Street Journal Facebook was focused on educating users about privacy options. She gave a comment on the company’s relationship with Initiative parent-company IPG: “Every day we work hand in hand with our advertising partners to help them grow their businesses and better serve their customers. We have a strong partnership with IPG agencies around the world and look forward to that continuing for years to come.”

Facebook was quick to respond to the New York Times report when it broke on Tuesday, claiming it had done nothing wrong.

“To be clear: none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC,” wrote Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, on the company’s news blog.

Why you should care. Baxter’s comments are getting attention because he is one of the few top ad executives to speak out directly against Facebook for its continued mismanagement of user data. It’s rare that you find an ad agency CEO — especially one that represents the likes of LEGO, Unilever, Victoria’s Secret and Revlon — willing to go as far as Baxter has by advising clients not to advertise on Facebook.

It’s difficult to determine what will “sway the masses” in terms of industry leaders speaking out against Facebook, a company that has long been a crucial revenue driver for thousands of ad agencies. In 2017, brands were ready to leave YouTube over brand safety measures, and many spoke up — including Unilever CMO Keith Weed. But that was a different situation as YouTube was placing brands front and center of extremist content.

Facebook data privacy issues are not posing a direct threat to brands. In fact, it’s the opposite — Facebook’s management of user information benefits brands and agencies alike because it allows for the highly targeted ad practices that deliver unparalleled results for advertisers. But, if more and more industry leads push back, and actually do pull advertising dollars, then there potentially could be a reckoning on the ad side of Facebook’s business. The catch-22 here is whether or not advertisers will go against their business objectives to take a moral stand against Facebook’s user data policies.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

The Marketer’s Go-To Guide for Annual Reporting

The Marketer’s Go-To Guide for Annual Reporting

Annual reporting is typically a dreaded task. No one likes sorting through analytics programs, digging for abstract data to try to come to concrete conclusions, especially if there is a lot on the line depending on what those reports say.

At SEMrush, we found that each individual annual report takes an average of five hours to complete, and the reports may vary in accuracy depending on what they’re trying to assess. This can be stressful, and it’s time spent doing repetitive work that could be used to tackle other, more productive projects.

With the right tools and processes in place, however, you can make this dreaded task a lot more pain-free and much more efficient. In this post, we’re going to look at how to quickly create accurate annual reports that will wow your team, your boss, and your clients.

Why you need annual reporting

Annual reporting will give you a big-picture look at what happened throughout the year on your marketing campaigns, but it will be able to do so accurately thanks to all the details and carefully-tracked metrics. They’ll help you see where you stand in the progress towards your goals.

These reports will give you insight so that you can go into the new year refreshed, with some new strategies, and sure that you’re on the best path possible based on all the information at hand.

For team members or agencies who are showing their boss or clients what they accomplished, this will give you something you can hold up to show them what they’re paying you for, making your value more clear. That being said, annual reports are important even just for internal teams, as it keeps all team members on the same page.

How to create accurate annual marketing reports quickly

All marketing teams understand the importance of annual reporting, and now we’re going to show you step by step how to create accurate reports quickly for your marketing team.

Create distinct reports for each marketing segment

Most businesses – even really small ones – will have multiple marketing sectors, engaging in strategies in fields like SEO, PPC campaigns, social media marketing, and content marketing.

Ideally, each of these sectors should have their own reports or their own distinct, separate sections within the report. Each specialty, after all, will have their own goals, their own KPIs, and their own initiatives. This separation makes it easier to assess what’s working in each so you can evaluate progress and decide if something needs to be changed.

Choose KPIs up front

Your key performance indicators (KPIs) should be specific and tied to your goals. They’ll tell you what you’re measuring and why ensuring that you compile the data that you need the first time in addition to hopefully optimizing for those KPIs throughout the year.

Make sure that you’re measuring concrete numbers. Trying to evaluate social ROI or brand awareness, for example, is complicated and inaccurate; looking at the number of mentions and clicks to your site, however, are exact and much more helpful.

While KPIs can vary from business to business and what your specific goals are, there are a few KPIs that you should be looking for in each key marketing sector.

SEO reports should be measuring:

  • Position tracking
  • Organic keyword ranking
  • Site traffic
  • Website issues, including technical errors that can be found through a site audit
  • Number of backlinks
  • Keywords targeted

Annual reporting image 1

SEMrush Site Audit

PPC campaign reports should focus on:

  • Cost-per-click (CPC)
  • Conversion rate
  • Click-through-rate
  • Total ad spend
  • Number of conversions
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Keywords that yield the best results
  • Position tracking for search ads

Social media marketing reports should be measuring:

  • Actions like clicks to a site, or calls or messages to a brand
  • Purchases made on-app
  • Content saved by users
  • Follower growth
  • Engagement rate
  • Impressions (but mostly to ensure that your content is on target)
  • Audience overview and demographic information

Annual reporting image 2

SEMrush Social Media Tool

Content marketing annual reports need to look at:

  • Keyword ranking
  • Keywords that bring the most traffic to the site
  • Source traffic
  • Bounce rate
  • Average time spent on the page
  • Number of backlinks and sources they’re coming from

Use software to track the data

Ideally, you’ll be using software throughout the year to track your marketing progress. Many businesses, for example, often use Google Analytics to track site traffic and performance, and native tools like Facebook’s Insights to track social growth.

There are tools that you can use, however, that can give you more detail quickly, and can look at multiple areas of marketing all at once. SEMrush is one of those tools, and can quickly compile reports on everything from your social growth to your keyword position tracking overtime to your backlink profile.

Annual reporting image 3

Use tools like SEMrush My Reports to quickly create and download reports in every area of your marketing. These reports will even come with some visuals generated for you automatically, which you can use in your annual report. Read the full guide here.

Compile the data

You’ve got the data, and now it’s time to compile it. This is often the part of the process that most people dread, trying to assess how to break down the masses of numbers into something coherent.

Start by breaking the data down into sections. Then, once you do this, look for patterns in how the metrics are interacting. Look for overall trends in growth to assess impact.

At this stage, look for indications of success in each marketing sector and try to answer the question “why.” If your traffic to your blog increased, that’s good, but it’s not all you need to know. Is the source of the traffic from only a few select keywords, meaning that 90% of your posts aren’t doing you any favors? Or is the surge of traffic coming from a PPC campaign? The devil is in the details here, so look for correlations.

Once you do this, then you can start to piece it together; maybe that active social feed really did help your content marketing, after all.

Once you’ve compiled the data, create an overview that summarizes what you’ve learned, taking all those tiny details and listing them clearly and then adding a general summary to the front of the report so people know what to expect going in.

Make plans for 2019

After assessing the current year’s progress, most annual reports will benefit from some problem-solving and strategic planning.

Propose a plan for the following year for each individual sector. Even if this is just a quick one-page proposal discussing how you’ll take the information from the report and adjust the following year’s strategies accordingly, this can go a long way.

Note whether you’re suggesting to switch up the strategy, stay the course, or toss it out altogether. Explain why, and back it up by referring back to your data. Hard numbers and stats can’t be ignored.

Annual reporting image 4

SEMrush My Reports

Annual report creation best practices

As you’re moving through the steps above, keep in mind that there are certain things you can do that will significantly improve your ability to create accurate reports that will appeal to everyone on your team while making your life a little easier.

These are the best practices you need to keep in mind when creating your annual reports:

  • Include visuals, like charts and numbers. Graphs and charts make it easy to scan the report at a glance, and those visual aids can be particularly powerful. If you want to really show the impact your campaigns have made, showing a great big jump on a graph helps you get your point across.
  • Give credit to team members and leadership. Everyone likes a pat on the back, and this is a good way to give credit where it’s due and show appreciation for your team. Take the time in the report to explain the initiatives taken by your team that led to the results you’re seeing now.
  • Get started early. Even with great reporting tools, we can’t stress this enough. You need to ensure that your software has time to collect the data and that you aren’t left scrambling at the last minute to compile and interpret it. End of year is a crazy time for everyone, so get a jump start.
  • Include year-to-year reporting. If you want to really track progress and see the effectiveness of new strategies, include a year-to-year reporting section. This will show not just how well your campaigns worked this year, but how much growth you’ve seen. Month-to-month reporting is also helpful, especially if growth is exponential.

What the experts say

We know that reporting is something that can be overwhelming and intimidating, so we reached out to experts in our network and asked for their best tips. Here’s what they had to say.

The main ingredients of good reporting

There is a lot to consider when creating annual reports, so we asked two experts – Laura Hampton from Impression and Simon Poulton from Wpromote about the main ingredients in good reporting.

Here’s what Laura had to say:

“Reporting is all about showing your clients / stakeholders the value of the work you’ve put in. So the main ingredient of good reporting is a solid understanding of KPIs and how those fit into the wider stakeholder goals. For example, you might know your aim is to increase traffic but if you also know that your stakeholder is being tasked themselves to increase revenue of a particular product range, you can ensure your gains fit in with their aspirations.

One of the first things we do when onboarding a new client – whether that’s SEO, PR, PPC or a combination – is to identify tangible, measurable goals that tie into stakeholder strategies and overall goals.

It’s then essential to ensure every KPIs is measurable and tracked correctly. Sometimes, this is as straightforward as using Google Analytics to monitor traffic. Sometimes, it’s using tools like SEMRush to monitor SERP visibility. Sometimes, it’s more difficult, such as measuring the brand awareness impact of PR activity. Whatever it is, it’s important the metric be clearly defined and agreed between all parties and that those metrics are included in every report.”

Simon’s advice was similar, focusing on those key metrics early on:

“Before we think about reporting & data visualization, we need to begin by developing a framework for metrics and understanding the scope at which they exist. All metrics exist on a macro to micro scale, and all too often we fall into simply reporting metrics directly from an analytics or ads platform without thinking about their impact. These metrics often vary dramatically in scope and you’ll frequently see things like “Sessions” combined with “Avg. Time on Page” – but this isn’t helpful as these don’t exist on the same scope plane. It’s important to ask yourself several critical questions for each metric you’re planning to report on, such as, what can I actually do with this information? And what changes will we recommend making if this metric fluctuates up or down?

“As you begin asking these critical question, start developing a framework for where metrics exist (or don’t exist) across the granularity spectrum, and ensure your visualizations follow this framework. Every report should be able to answer a specific question that can enable a decision.”

The best method of formatting

Formatting is an essential part of reporting, so Laura Hampton weighed in on her preferred method of formatting for annual reports:

“We use Google Data Studio for our reports. The platform is highly customisable which means we’ve been able to develop well branded reports that facilitate free narrative as well as templated elements that pull in from external feeds like Google Analytics, AdWords, Supermetrics and STAT.

“Of course, it’s not just about monthly reporting – regular communications with our clients and clearly documented strategies mean everyone is on the same page at all time and we are always tracking results and evolving our strategies to deliver the best results.”

The key metrics to highlight

Our other experts have weighed in on the importance of focusing on the right metrics, and Scott Langdon from Higher Visibility shared his thoughts on how to choose the right key metrics.

Here’s what he had to say:

“As an Agency, we like to focus on what the clients should truly care about at the end of the day, and that is their revenue. We put greater emphasis on highlighting lead and sales growth versus search rankings improvement. You would think that would have been the focus for clients all along, but it really hasn’t. There are still plenty of clients that care about metrics such as wanting to rank #1 for a particular keyword. When looking at the data, that keyword might not really be leading to quality sales.”


Annual reports are so important. It’s essential to take some time at the end of every year to assess what’s worked well for you, what hasn’t, and the results and growth that you’ve seen overall. It will be essential to helping you evaluate your current strategies and decide how to move forward in the next year so as to best accomplish all your marketing goals.

For maximum results, keep these last few tips in mind when creating your annual reports:

  • Remember that annual reports are all about getting a big picture view by looking at all the details that fell into place.
  • Avoid trying to just cram everything into one disorganized report, and sort everything into sections.
  • That being said, look at how different areas of marketing interact. Many businesses have integrated content marketing and social media marketing, for example; assess how the two are affecting each other.

Try to build, manage and share custom-made reports with SEMrush.

Guest author: Tanya Vasileva is a Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush — a leading digital marketing toolkit for SEO, PPC SMM and content marketing professionals worldwide. She writes about marketing, analyzes SEMrush data and interested in marketing strategy.

In-app advertising has come a long way: Here’s why you should use it

Mobile apps are the most direct conduit to consumers. Americans love their cell phones and are rarely without them by their sides. Consumers spend 90 percent of their mobile internet time in them. And, according to Google, the number one smartphone activity outside of work is in-app shopping, and that 82 percent will “consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make in a store.” As a channel, mobile apps have an inherent appeal to marketers, and yet most brand advertisers don’t allot proportional resources when considering the time spent in-app.

Where are the brand advertisers? Where are the CPG companies that count on frequent purchases? Although they’ve been eager to advertise in-app, this channel has made them nervous. They have big budgets to spend, but they want the same campaign quality they expect out of desktop campaigns: is this user a human or a bot? Does this user meet my campaign demographic, psycho-demographic and behavioral criteria? Is this ad viewable and in a brand-safe environment? Will this campaign be optimized against KPIs that are important to me?

The mobile app channel has had a bad rap among many brand advertisers. This is, in part, because many advertisers do not fully understand what is available for in-app advertising, especially with regard to targeting and brand safety. Interestingly enough, there is actually a lot of developments on this front, with the industry introducing methodologies to measure viewability, fraud, data quality and attribution in the mobile in-app environment, similar to what advertisers are used to in mobile web. Let’s see where we are as an industry.

Fraud: Just one component to brand safety

Fraud is still a pretty tough issue in all digital channels, not just mobile apps. The issue is that most of the fraud detection and prevention efforts started out measuring web traffic, and the app environment is significantly different. That said, some providers that began in attribution, such as AppsFlyer and Tune, began leveraging their technologies to monitor and detect fraud. Also, another benefit of the app environment is that apps must pass a screening process by Apple and Google before they can appear in the Apple or Google Play stores, which provides an extra level of security against fraud, that is non-existent in mobile web.

Trust but verify: Data quality measurement in-app

Once you ascertained that the user is human, the next step is to determine whether that user is who you intend to reach. Many third-party companies, such as Nielsen or comScore, measure data quality on behalf of advertisers in the app environment, and many agencies already use them. For instance, Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings service combines aggregated, anonymous demographic data from various online data providers with Nielsen cross-platform panel data to verify the in-app audience for ads, making audience targeting available in-app, similar to mobile web.

Viewability at scale: Choosing the right partner

It’s true that viewability is more difficult to measure in the app environment – today. Technically speaking, any ad-tech vendor can measure viewability, but what advertisers want is validation of the viewable count by an objective third-party measurement company. The leading viewability measurement vendors – Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Moat – started out in the web environment, but scaling in mobile apps is an issue, as it requires a separate integration with each and every app developer.

One of the ways to address the scale issue is VPAID, as its tags allow advertisers to track video ad performance directly, as well as get metrics on viewability, completion rate and click-through rate, without the app developer needing to have an integration with a viewability vendor. Similarly, the recent VAST 4.1 is designed to measure viewability, something that was not previously available on the VAST format.

Furthermore, there are interesting initiatives that will help scale viewability, and provide advertisers the assurance they need. IAB’s Open Measurement SDK allows app developers to incorporate one SDK that will support any of the third-party verification providers within their app. This allows the app developers to accommodate the advertiser’s preferred vendor, without needing to separately integrate with each.

Measurement even a brand marketer could love

Measurement is far more within reach than brand advertisers may realize. In addition to viewability, fraud and data quality, many other KPIs of interest are trackable such as clicks, conversion, purchases, sign-ups for a newsletter, and so on.

In-app has come a long way. It has already caught up to the web in terms of traffic quality and is rapidly catching up in terms of campaign measurement. But there’s one gap that may never be closed, and that is a gap where apps actually have the upper hand – consumer mindshare. In-app is where the consumers spend most of their time, which is why brand marketers interested in the mobile channel must advertise there.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Yoni leads all marketing and corporate strategy activities at Fyber. Prior to his current role, Yoni was VP Marketing and Strategy at Inneractive and held product and marketing positions at Yahoo and Amazon after completing his MBA at NYU Stern. He previously worked as a tech attorney at one of Israel’s leading law firms.