Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lesson #327: All Search Engine Traffic is Not Created Equal

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/28/2020

It is really easy for a newcomer to the world of search engine marketing to assume that the search engines (e.g., Google, Microsof...

It is really easy for a newcomer to the world of search engine marketing to assume that the search engines (e.g., Google, Microsoft) are all the same and the clicks therefrom all behave in the same ways.  In the words of Lee Corso, the ESPN analyst on College Game Day . . . “not so fast my friends”!!  In this post, we are going to learn the differences between Google and Microsoft, their search engines and shopping engines, mobile vs. desktop, and much more, to help you better optimize your efforts here.  As you are going to read, there are probably of lot of things you are doing today, that you shouldn’t be.  And, vice versa, a lot of things you are not doing today, that you should be.

Google vs. Microsoft

Well, first of all, the biggest difference between Google and Microsoft is reach:  Google is materially larger than Microsoft (which includes Bing, Yahoo and AOL traffic in their network).  According to Statista, that difference is around 63% market share for Google and 25% market share for Microsoft in the United States, so Google is around 2.5x the size.  You would think that suggests you should focus your efforts on Google first, to get in front of more users, right?  Perhaps, but everyone else is also thinking that.  There actually is less competition on Microsoft, and you may be able to acquire the same amount clicks at a materially lower cost per click and improve your ROI in the process.

And, there is a material difference in demographics between the two networks.  Google tends to attract younger, more college educated, higher income, and a generally more tech savvy audience.  And Microsoft tends to attract an older, less educated, and less income audience, more likely to have kids.  Maybe that doesn’t matter for your business, depending on your product offering (e.g., either audience watches movies).  But, maybe that demographic difference could be a material issue for you (e.g., selling a product targeting older Baby Boomers may perform better on Microsoft).

There is also a material difference if you are trying to attract users from outside of the United States.  Google’s international reach is materially bigger than Microsoft’s, in case you are targeting international customers, as well as U.S. based customers.

Search vs. Shopping

Just so we are clear, search ads are the sponsored listings that appear at the top of search engine results when you enter in a keyword (mostly textual based links).  Shopping ads are the product listings that appear in the “shopping” sections of those same search engines (e.g,. mostly visual product images), typically loaded to the search engines with a direct feed of your products from your website with feed management tools like Feedonomics or DataFeedWatch.  If you are in ecommerce business selling products, the natural instinct is to be advertising in both sections:  get your link to “chairs” in the search results and get your image of specific chair SKUs you sell into the shopping results.  

That may work fine for you, or it may not, as we learned with our Restaurant Furniture Plus business.  What we learned is the shopping section was mostly attracting consumers, not commercial buyers.  So, we found there was a material difference in our average order size between the two sections, let’s say $500 from shopping and $5,000 from search.  And, based on the differences in cost of customer acquisition, let’s say $100 from shopping and $200 from search, it was materially easier for us to maximize our revenues, profitability and return on ad spend by focusing on search, and not struggle to simply break even on our shopping spend.  The right answer here for any one business, will be different depending on your focus.  Figure out what is best for your business.  

B2C vs. B2B

Related to this search vs. shopping topic, are the implications for B2C vs. B2B facing businesses.  Continuing with our Restaurant Furniture Plus example, let’s say we were advertising for “chairs”.  Yes, chairs are needed for restaurants.  But, they are also needed by consumers in their homes.  When we were simply advertising “chairs”, we were up against a lot of big consumer brands selling chairs (e.g., Pier 1, Pottery Barn, Wayfair) trying to tap into those same “chairs” keywords.  And, those big brands have a lot more marketing muscle and repeat buying potential, as those consumers will most likely buy other products for their homes over time.  Which means the big brands were willing to pay a lot more for those leads, than we were.  It wasn’t until we shut off our shopping feed, and changed all our generic “chairs” keywords to more specific “restaurant chairs”, “commercial chairs”, “foodservice chairs”, that we started to truly optimize for our B2B needs.  Somebody really needs to build the “B2B Only Search Engine”, as you typically can’t get that level of keyword targeting out of the current search engine tools.

Desktop vs. Mobile

When I first started digital marketing back in 2000, there was no such thing as a smart phone.  So, all the traffic was coming from desktop PCs.  But, over the last 20 years, and thanks to the innovations of Apple, Android, Samsung and others, for many companies, searches from mobile phones has actually surpassed searches from desktop PCs.  The problem with that: most businesses have optimized their user experience for desktop, not mobile.  And, the search engine algorithms actually produce search results differently, depending on the perceived user experience and site speed of those different desktop vs. mobile channels.

For example, check out this Google tool that lets you check your site speed on desktop vs. mobile.  If Google thinks your mobile site (compared to your desktop site) is too slow and you are giving a poor mobile user experience, it will not publish your mobile advertising in the same frequency it is pushing your desktop advertising, or the same frequency of your competitors’ advertising or search engine optimization rankings who are better optimized for mobile.  You really need to be living in a “mobile first” way of thinking today, to get the lion’s share of the searches coming your way.

Text (Prospecting) vs. Display (Retargeting)

In addition to the text ads you buy in the search engines, they also let you buy display ads, which publish to those same retargeted users that are visiting other websites that are within those same advertising networks.  There are several differences here:  what you can say and show in a few lines of text, is very different from what you can say and show in a beautiful image.  Not to mention, that image is now being displayed to a user that has already seen your brand once, so they will be much more likely to engage with that second impression image ad, than they were to engage with that first impression text ad.  So, if you are going to run a search campaign, you are leaving a lot of potential success off the table if you are not concurrently running the display retargeting ads.

With Reviews vs. Without

Over the years, Google has added a lot of emphasis on social media data, in dictating how it publishes ads and how it ranks sites for organic traffic.  One of the biggest drivers of that is customer reviews data.  But, the reviews have to come from their list of trusted reviews vendors to give the review credibility, and ensure that you simply didn’t make it up.

The benefit of working with one of these trusted third party reviews vendors is, if you have over 100 reviews, Google will add those reviews (e.g., your summary five star score), next to each of your paid search ads and your organic search result links.  Which does two things: (i) it gives you higher credibility vs. other links on the page, increasing the odds the customer clicks on your links; and (ii) more importantly, it can decrease your cost of customer acquisition by as much as 15%, on average, with a higher likelihood of converting into sales.  So, make sure you have a good customer reviews strategy that will make the search engines more likely to promote you to truly optimize your ROI.

General vs. Custom Audiences

To date, you mostly had to rely on the search engines to identify the audience targeted, and hope they got it right.  In the newest iterations of search marketing, the searches engines are giving you more input on who is being targeted.  For example, if you are a “whitelisted” email marketer, you can give them your list of email targets, they will match it to their users, and target advertising only to those users.  This is great if you are targeting old customer email accounts, or a list of prospects’ emails you have created.  Or, as another example, you can give them a list of competitor or industry websites where your likely customers are looking, and they will target advertising to any users that visit those sites.  That is pretty awesome!!  This is the first thing I have seen, other than customizing keywords from “chairs” to “restaurant chairs”, that will help B2B marketers go after really targeted traffic for their business.  So, be sure to set up your custom audiences in your campaigns.

Closing Thoughts

So, as you can see, a lot has changed in the world of search marketing since I first wrote about it in 2011.  And, I am guessing there will continue to be many more changes to come in the years ahead.   So, please don’t set up your campaigns once and forget about them.  You constantly need to be relearning the new best practices and resetting your campaigns to truly have a maximum return on your search engine marketing investment.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter: @georgedeeb.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Top 5 Lessons from a Kid Entrepreneur

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/13/2020

I was recently introduced to Brendan Cox , a 19-year-old entrepreneur, that has founded 10 different successful businesses to date — sta...

I was recently introduced to Brendan Cox, a 19-year-old entrepreneur, that has founded 10 different successful businesses to date — starting at the age of nine years old. Collectively, he has grown a $900 loan from his mother into $250,000 of profits today. I have previously written about how elementary school-aged kids are capable of learning and grasping complex business skills, and Brendan is the poster child of proving that exact point. All I could think about was: what if Brendan was actually instructed on such entrepreneurial topics in school, instead of learning about rocks, state capitols and cotton gins. Maybe his successes would have been even higher! This post is going to highlight some of the key startup lessons that Brendan learned along the way.

Read the rest of this post in Entrepreneur, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Lesson #326: Kids Can Be Entrepreneurs Too!! (Pay Attention School Administrators)

Posted By: George Deeb - 5/11/2020

I have previously written about how elementary school aged kids are capable of learning and grasping complex business skills , if instr...

I have previously written about how elementary school aged kids are capable of learning and grasping complex business skills, if instructed on such topics, and that the core K-12 curriculum is broken—too much about rocks, state capitols and cotton gins, and not enough about entrepreneurship, technology coding and other useful skills they may need to succeed in life—especially if they can’t afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education.  In this post, I am going to bring that point to life with a case study on Brendan Cox, a 19-year-old entrepreneur I recently met, that has founded 10 different successful businesses to date, which collectively grew his $900 loan from his mother into $250,000 of profits today.

Brendan was an introverted, eager, and creative kid with a fascination for business and a drive to be successful (passed down by his mentor father). He was never interested in more typical school-age activities, like playing video games, which he found boring. Instead, at an early age, he was driven by finding creative ways to make money and “scratch” his entrepreneurial “itch”.

Inspired by his fascination with the DJ setups at a few family bat/bar-mitzvahs, his first business was a DJ company that he started at the ripe old age of nine years old. He demonstrated his desire to learn the business and figured out on his own how to mix music by conducting research on YouTube. After pitching this business idea, Brendan’s parents agreed to help with funding for his equipment as a Christmas gift. And, to get the word out there about his business, he created business cards, flyers and promotional products, which helped to acquire new customers, and in turn, happy customer references which helped propel word of mouth marketing from there.  He learned early the mantra of “under promising, and over delivering”, to wow customers and motivate them to help refer new customers.

After working his first job for the community, he was completely hooked and determined to find ways to grow his business and make it even better.  He saved all of his earnings, and once he had enough funds in place, he reinvested his profits by purchasing additional equipment and lighting, party giveaways, company gear he designed and by adding a team member.  Brendan knew his limitations and outsourced the MC’s job at the gigs, so he could focus on his growing his business skills and eliminate his shortcoming as an introverted person.  Brendan was fortunate to have supportive parents, who fostered his interests and encouraged and supported his business endeavors. And, Brendan immediately reimbursed his mother’s investment with the profits from the business.

By the time he entered middle school, Brendan lost his passion for entertainment, which he knew was critical for business success, so he shifted gears and focused instead on using his innovative skills to create a new business. At 14 years old, he took out a $900 loan from his father to start his social media management company. Although his father was skeptical at first, Brendan assured him with confidence in his abilities. His father agreed to let him borrow the $900, and within a week Brendan was able to pay his dad back. Brendan’s success in his social media management is due to his vast understanding of different ways to monetize platforms, which allowed him to grow a combined following of over a million unique users on Instagram. Understanding how to connect with brands, partnering with other agencies, and retaining your audience’s attention are three factors Brendan deems crucial to running a successful Instagram account. Unfortunately, the business side of Instagram became less profitable when Instagram began “sponsored posts” directly through Facebook advertising. So, Brendan switched gears.

Brendan’s next endeavor arose when he saw the profit available by selling phone cases. However, if he wanted to stand out from other competition, he realized his designs needed to be unique and eye-catching. Brendan went back to researching and learned how to master Adobe Photoshop. He named his business Kicks Cases and used social media as his platform to promote his products. While mastering Photoshop, Brendan developed his creative skills abilities beyond phone cases and learned to design advertisements, banners, websites, and other various products.
Brendan got his first design client in 2015 after a start-up company in Brooklyn asked him who his graphic designer was for his phone cases. From there, began outsourcing his talents to other small businesses. He eventually launched Cox Visuals, on a mission to assist small businesses with establishing and growing their brand image. Cox Visuals has since made thousands of designs for satisfied clients who continue to return with new endeavors. Brendan has worked with large startups, such as Habits 365, the next big name in streetwear, that amassed a following of over 125,000 followers on Instagram.

These businesses created a solid foundation for Brendan’s knowledge in business having learned a variety of different skills throughout his multitude of endeavors. Some of the most important skills he learned were through branding various companies. Through these companies he learned: how to create an appealing company image and corresponding content, how to grow a targeted Instagram following, and how to work with difficult clients.

However, his interest in entrepreneurship continued to grow, and his next business emerged when he found a vacant niche in the market he could fill. At age 17, Brendan created Teen Assistant, a business that matches local teenagers with odd jobs from residents that need help in his community. His goal was to provide teens with extra spending money while they learned basic skills needed when entering the workforce. Luckily, many adults don’t have time to spend accomplishing tasks around the house, and this is where the company found success. Brendan sold Teen Assistant in August 2019 as he was ready to move on to his next big idea.

Through this successful business, Brendan learned how to communicate with customers allowing him to apply this new knowledge and focus on his ultimate passion. “Communication is one thing and good communication is another,” said Cox. He explained that being clear with your customers is crucial to retaining customers and establishing a good reputation. “The best way to satisfy any customer is to give them what they want plus more, go above and beyond their expectations,” said Cox, when asked about how he became successful.

Overall, Brendan’s fascination for graphic design and social media management drives his success at Cox Visuals and its sister company Cox Social Media Management. Brendan believes the key to a successful graphic design business is patience, openness and having the ability to take criticism. If you can’t listen and take constructive criticism in business, you will never succeed. His graphic design skills teamed with his knowledge for entrepreneurship allowed him to cultivate a following of over 30,000 on an entrepreneurship account. Brendan’s advice to grow a following on social media is to stay consistent. “So many people reach out to me and don’t understand why they haven’t received 1,000 followers within the first 24 hours of starting their page. Instagram is all about providing consistent valuable content. When starting a page think to yourself if you would follow it yourself?” said Cox, when discussing how to make an account on Instagram go viral.

While focusing on Cox Visuals, Brendan is expanding his knowledge in a new way and creating a podcast called All Up in Ur Business, a way for Instagram viewers (already up to 36,000 followers) to learn about all different entrepreneurs and their businesses. Brendan understands the value of trends in businesses and realizes some endeavors will phase out; however, with constant creativity new ventures are bound to arise. All Up in Ur Business will take the same approach of educating his listeners. Over the years, Brendan has grown an extensive network of likeminded individuals through making an effort to seek out those with the same mindset.  He now wants to use his network to enable others to learn tips of success by those who are continually succeeding.

Brendan is a unique character for his age group. His knowledge and experience have accumulated from vast hours of work and determination to success. A crucial lesson Brendan has learned from his startup companies is how to budget time. Brendan explains that budgeting time is everything in business, “Budget your time wisely otherwise you will catch yourself scrolling through social media wasting time. Download a calendar app and create a strict schedule for your day – of course with time off for relaxation and other activities.” While being in high school for many of his endeavors, Brendan sought out a strict schedule to budget his time for work and school. Although he did well in school, he mentioned that work came first. “Even though I still study hard and maintain good grades, I see my businesses as a higher priority than schoolwork. Throughout my several years being involved with businesses, I have learned so much more than I will ever learn in a classroom,” said Cox.

Brendan is currently in college at the University of Scranton, because he felt he “needed to”, to fit within societal norms and expectations, not because he wanted to.  But, he knew college would help him grow his base of connections and help him mature, socially, more than any other reason.  He is supposed to graduate in 2023, but that entrepreneurial “itch” is scratching again, and he may take the coming semester off, to better focus on growing his business ventures.  The business workload has grown to 90% of his time, versus school work at 10% of his time, and he need to prioritize his efforts.  Brendan much preferred his educational time at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, as it directly ties to his business passion.

When asked where he sees himself in five years, Brendan says “5 years is tough. Things change everyday for me. My dream is to ultimately be working behind the scenes branding some of the world's largest social media influencers. Since I was young, I have been fascinated by the business side of influencers. When I watch a YouTuber I am not necessarily watching them for their content but more watching them to study them as an entrepreneur. Through my businesses, I have learned the behind the scenes of the social media world and would love to apply that knowledge with influencers and helping them monetize their followings.”

If you are interested in learning more about Brendan, check out his website, which includes links to other feature articles on him in Forbes and elsewhere.  You can also follow Brendan on Instagram @BrendanACox and reach out to him by email at brendan@

To all you young school-aged readers out there, take these lessons and apply them to your life and educational path, and you may build a small fortune for yourself.  And, to all you school administrators building curriculums for our schools, we can do a lot better for our kids, in teaching them lifelong skills they can immediately apply into success, a lot earlier in their lives, as they may not be able to afford the rising costs of college.  It’s time to step up your game, as our future generations’ collective economic success are relying on you, especially in a world where 40% of jobs today are going to be disintermediated by automation in the next decade or two.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

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