Dec 17 2018 Simon Hall Blog Social Media Strategy How to Optimize Digital Advertising to Improve the Customer Experience It might seem like advertising and customer experience are two diametrically opposed concepts — and truth be told, when marketers evaluate customer experience, they rarely consider how advertising impacts their audience. Unfortunately, that’s a big and growing problem. According to a recent study, nearly 70% of consumers say they don’t trust advertising, while another 42% say they distrust brands. And they have a point — all too often digital ads fail to take into account the customer experience, often seen as self-serving and even aggressive, as opposed to relevant, timely, and helpful for consumers. Once audiences feel alienated, it’s no secret then that they increasingly ignore ads or make use of ad blockers to prevent them from appearing at all. Contrary to popular belief, the advertising experience doesn’t have to result this way — either for you or your customers. And if you’re looking to expand reach, boost ROI, and increase profits — it shouldn’t. To avoid this common mistake, businesses that want to develop a relevant, sustainable, and profitable advertising strategy need to, above all else, prioritize the customer experience. Below are some key initiatives marketers can take to fully consider and embrace the customer experience. Discover New Ways to Target Audiences First, one of the biggest mistakes an advertiser can make is targeting their ads to the wrong or irrelevant audience. To avoid this, advertisers have a plethora of available targeting tools at their fingertips, all aimed at helping them vector in on the right prospects. Location, device, and language targeting are the core standards that Google offers. That said, even advertisers who optimize for these standards are often missing numerous targeting opportunities — and as a result, 70% of marketers fail to leverage things like behavioral data to reach their target market. This, of course, is clearly a big mistake, as online consumer behavior can provide unique insights that can supercharge targeting efforts. To that end, Google’s in-market audiences can help advertisers hone in on users who have shown online interest in one of any number of areas. The ability to target ads can become even more sophisticated when leveraging third-party behavioral data from web publications that rely on data aggregation tools such as tracking cookies, IP addresses, and form fills. In addition, user intent data can also help advertisers identify new customers, while also providing insights about them at various buying cycle stages. By strategically leveraging these third-party data insights in the right way, advertisers can better personalize their marketing message, finding more ways to attract the right audiences at the right time with the right ads. Give Them What They Want All too often, advertisers spend countless hours creating and finely tuning dynamic ads that speak directly to the needs of prospects, only to direct their clicks back to generic landing pages that fail to deliver the same targeted and relevant message. Sound familiar? While it might seem obvious, landing page relevance is another factor that clearly affects the customer experience. Thus, relying on generic landing pages for your ads both impacts the customer experience, the effectiveness of your ads and ultimately, the number of conversions. So how do people react when they click on an ad and reach a landing page that isn’t what they expect? Ultimately, many of them will bounce and search for a competitor. In addition, a poor landing page user experience also impacts your PPC Quality Score, which in turn, affects your ability to rank for certain keywords. So when optimizing your digital advertising efforts, make sure you consider how closely your landing page content matches your ad copy and query intent. A good practice is to use the same words and phrases in both your ads and landing pages headlines, which maintains a sense of continuity and helps reassure visitors that they’re at the right place. To that end, dynamic search ads (DSAs) can be used to ensure your search ads, search terms, and landing pages are congruent and to determine which page performs best. Improve Site-Wide Customer Experience To truly put their consumers first, advertisers need to understand that customer experience optimization goes well beyond their ad copy and landing pages. Consider how users respond to online ads in general — while some respond by clicking on them, the vast majority end up at your website through alternative means. As such, advertisers need to focus on customer experience across their entire website to make it easy for users to find exactly what they’re looking for — whether it’s a product, service or company information. Important user experience factors include: Mobile optimization — Are your pages responsive to adapt to mobile devices? Is your content easy to consume on small screens? Site speed — Do your landing pages, sales pages and homepage load quickly? Are there any optimizations you can make to page elements to prevent them from loading slowly? Navigation —- Can users easily click through and find what they need on your site? If someone sees your ad, searches for your business, and finds your home page, can they easily navigate to the content they’re looking for? Content —- Does your site content answer questions and make it easy for people to take action? Do you use supporting visuals, calls-to-action, and other elements to help users access information and convert? While improving site-wide user experience is just a good practice in general, perhaps the biggest reason to do so is that your site is the gateway to your company and brand. If potential customers encounter major challenges accessing your site and the information on it, they will probably assume they will have the same experience throughout the entire buying cycle. Appealing to Emotions Whether warranted or not, many consumers don’t see digital ads as a way to meet their own needs — in fact, it’s just the opposite. Many see digital ads as something that only serves the needs of a business aimed at getting one more sale. And in many cases, they’d be right. That said, advertisers who speak to the emotions of their audience are better poised to counteract any knee-jerk reaction that prevents them from being open to an advertising message — and might even change their perception altogether — by touching on universal emotions such as love, desire, ambition, adventure, family, community and a sense of purpose. That said, your message shouldn’t be one-dimensional because your audience is complex. For example, weight loss ads not only speak to people’s need to look and feel attractive and desirable, but to lose weight easily and with minimal effort. And while PPC advertisers have less real estate to work with in their ad copy, there are still plenty of opportunities to create an emotional appeal. Consider ad copy that asks the question: Why would people search for information about buying a new car online? The answer: because they want to both make an intelligent decision and get the most for their money — a rationale that might effectively combat any feelings of buyers’ remorse that likely will occur with a major purchase. Thus a headline like “The smart way to buy a new car” speaks directly to the audience’s emotional needs. Instead of focusing on product features and sales, marketers can and should create more emotional advertising copy by turning to their buyer personas. To really get a strong and accurate sense of your audience’s emotional needs, responsive search ads (RSAs) allow you to create adaptable ads that align with your text to show a greater range of both emotional and promotional messages, while also determining which of those best resonate with different audiences. Once it’s determined what your audience needs and wants to feel — it’s incumbent upon you, the advertiser, to accommodate these needs throughout the entirety of your campaigns. Offer Value (At the Right Time) As with almost anything else, timing is everything. You not only need to provide a valuable message, you often need to do it exactly at the right time in order to push potential customers over the line for a conversion. While leveraging automation to target in-market audiences with Google Ads is a great starting point, it often doesn’t go far enough. By the time most people start deliberately searching for a product or service, it’s likely they already have the intent to purchase and will probably buy it soon. When your ads finally reach them, they’ve already converted — with your competitor. That’s where predictive advertising comes in. With advanced data analysis and statistical algorithms, predictive technologies can help advertisers identify in-market audiences before they show any signs of purchase intent. By strategically leveraging historical data and statistical projections as part of a predictive platform, advertisers can draw critical correlations between demographics, interests, and online behavior to more acutely target the type of people interested in their products and services. A powerful predictive advertising technology, for example, could analyze first and third-party intent data and discover that women who read a certain type of travel adventure memoir are more likely to buy a specific type of hiking shoe. A shoe retailer could use these insights to create targeted ads to this demographic before they show any purchase intent. Tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used by advertisers to not only discover these insights, but act upon them by displaying ads exactly when people need them the most. Ultimately, these capabilities not only elevate customer experience, they also resolve major remarketing issues that advertisers face on a daily basis. Case in point: How do you think customers feel when they’re served a display ad for flights 10 minutes after buying airline tickets? The short answer is that they think it’s irritating, or at least are uncomfortable in light of the obvious evidence that advertisers are tracking their online behavior. But by offering that ad to the right audience well before they purchase — or even before they think about purchasing — you’re providing unique value that will put you head and shoulders above your competitors. In Summary It goes without saying that you put your customers first in almost every aspect of your sales cycle — from customer service to help desk to shipping needs. So it stands to reason that you put them first with your advertising message as well with tactics like using emotional appeal, improving website navigability, and offering relevant and consistent landing pages. But even beyond that, marketers today have a real opportunity to breathe new life into campaigns to change a largely negative perception of advertising, while boosting clicks, conversions, ROI, and revenue in the process. The tools are readily available for you to deliver even more targeted and relevant ads to the right audience at the right time, anticipating and accommodating the needs of the buyer even before they do. All you have to do is think like the customer.