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How to Promote Word-of-Mouth Referrals Through Paid Ads

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most valuable forms of advertising. After all, why wouldn’t you want customers to rave about your business to friends and family?

Word-of-mouth referrals are great advertising for your brand and an enormous confidence booster for would-be buyers. From a potential buyer’s perspective, if your existing customers are happy enough with your company to recommend it, that speaks volumes about your business.

It’s not just about getting customers, though. When you secure buyers through word-of-mouth referrals, they are likely to spend more, it helps consumers make the buying decision, and above all, shoppers trust their friends when it comes to recommendations.

Ninety-two percent of customers say they’d buy based on the recommendations of their friends and family. Not only that, but more people are reading online reviews than ever before, according to BrightLocal.

word of mouth BrightLocal survey chart image

That’s why you want to encourage your satisfied customers to promote your business by sharing their positive experiences.

However, getting those word-of-mouth referrals isn’t so easy. Here’s how to encourage customers to spread the word.

How to Convince Your Customers to Give You Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Ideally, word-of-mouth marketing achieves two goals: encourage your customers to make word-of-mouth referrals to friends and (ideally) pass on their friends and family member’s details so you can market to them directly.

The following tips help you with both these goals.

Provide the Best Experience Possible

You won’t gain word-of-mouth referrals if you provide a poor experience. Today, the customer experience is one of the most crucial parts of the sales process, especially when it comes to word-of-mouth recommendations and social sharing.

When you’re seeking continual growth, brand advocacy, and retention, the simplest strategy is to provide a stellar customer experience.

Deliver Quality Every Time

If you’ve spent even a few minutes online, you’ve likely seen negative reviews. There’s a good chance they’ve stopped you buying from a business, too.

When you’ve got dissatisfied customers, they don’t stop at telling their friends and family: they often go online and write a bad review. Even worse, they go on social media and detail their poor experience for an even wider audience to see.

Deliver quality every time and if your products and services are falling short, own the problem and fix it.

Just keep in mind that a few bad reviews won’t tank your business, just respond politely, and you’ll still reap the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing.

Start a Referral Program

Want a tried and tested way to get your regular shoppers to recommend others? Then start a referral program. Start by creating an appealing offer for your customers. Maybe a discount for each new person they refer, prizes for referring a certain amount of people, or a small commission.

A great example of this is the Morning Brew newsletter. It gives incentives like merchandise and monthly exclusive events and makes it easy for their existing readers to spread the word.

word-of-mouth referrals morning brew newsletter image

Subscribers to the newsletter click on the blue “click to share” button, and they’re taken to a referral link, an email invitation, and social media buttons for sharing.

Promote Engagement Through User-Generated Content

Gain attention and engagement with user-generated content. Of course, UGC advertising won’t always start organically, so give your customers a nudge by launching an official campaign.

Netflix, Starbucks, and Adobe are three companies doing this well. Whether it’s launching contests, creating branding advocates, or encouraging social shares, you’ll learn a lot from these brands and the methods they use.

Get Behind a Cause

Another way to get your customers to bring in word-of-mouth referrals is to get behind a cause. This could be something close to your company’s heart, a local non-profit, or a high-profile fundraising event.

Consumers are always keen to spread the word about a good cause, which means there’s an excellent chance they’ll pass it on to friends, family, co-workers.

How to Target Word-of-Mouth Referred Customers in Paid Ads

There’s organic word-of-mouth marketing, then there are amplified word-of-mouth referrals, where you launch paid online campaigns to maximize your marketing efforts. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to target referred customers with paid ads.

1. Choose an Ad Platform

You’re looking for a platform where your typical audience hangs out. For instance, if you’re targeting a younger audience, you might choose Instagram. TikTok is another option that is popular with the under-thirties. 

For older age groups, Facebook could be ideal. If it’s business-related, then LinkedIn is your obvious choice.

2. Set a Goal and Budget

Each social media platform offers paid advertising. For example, Twitter has its promoted and follower ads and there’s no minimum budget.

Before deciding on your campaign budget, be clear on your business goals. For instance, is it gaining newsletter subscribers? Or sign-ups for a free trial? Whichever goal you choose, make it measurable and trackable.

Also, think about your ideal ROI and the percentage of your digital marketing budget you’re willing to spend.

The ideal number is 15-25 percent of the business’s overall digital marketing budget, according to Web Strategies. To make this part easier, Web Strategies provides a free digital marketing budget calculator.

word-of-mouth digital marketing calculator image

3. Offer an Incentive

Offer your prospects an incentive—and make sure to put some thought into it. You’re looking for something your prospect finds useful and helps you reach your business aims. For example, if you want newsletter subscribers, consider an e-book with hot tips or a cheat sheet related to your business or industry.

Cheat sheets and e-books work well because you can create them once and then automate their delivery. Another example is discount vouchers for sharing their thoughts. Be sure to make your discount time-sensitive to create a sense of urgency.

4. Write Your Ad

Next, write your ad. Your first step is ensuring you’re using the language that resonates with your audience. However, there are other factors to consider in your ads, such as:

  • clearly communicating your offer
  • keeping your social media copy consistent with your overall tone/brand voice
  • using complementary imagery and graphics
  • including targeted keywords
  • using targeted ads to personalize them to your ideal audience

Don’t be afraid to get creative. As you’ll see in the word-of-mouth advertising examples below, creativity is a great way to get customers talking.

5. Track, Test, and Try Again

Finally, test and track your campaigns and evaluate the results. Specific areas to test include:

  • CTAs (Call to Actions)
  • colors
  • content
  • visuals

Remember evaluating and A/B testing are ongoing processes, so keep tracking and testing over time. If your ads aren’t delivering your desired results, then tweak as needed and try again.

Examples of Ad Campaigns for Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Media-savvy companies know what it takes to get people talking about their adverts and sharing them. Although the following ads are offline commercials, they use the same approach in their digital marketing and social media efforts.

Let’s look at a few of the best examples of word-of-mouth advertising.


Coca-Cola has done more than its fair share of word-of-mouth advertising campaigns, from personalized bottles to broader issues like social isolation. However, the brand took its advertising to a new level with its Coca-Cola bears reacting to a Super Bowl in real-time.

The result? Everyone loved it. They felt like they were part of the Superbowl and part of the conversation. Apart from drawing viewers in, what made the advert so effective was those happy viewers were quick to share it with their friends and keep the word-of-mouth referrals going.

The advert worked so well because it engaged viewers from the first look, and the novelty value made consumers keen to pass it on.


The UK-based company BrewDog isn’t just great at developing craft beers. They’re also pretty good at creating share-worthy campaigns. You know, the kind of ads that get customers talking—and sharing.

A while ago, BrewDog put together “the most honest advert you’re ever going to see.”

BrewDog went with the bare basics rather than spending a small fortune on glitzy campaigns, including an image of their product, loud music, and not much else. BrewDog then teamed its adverts with an equally bland billboard and bus campaign.

Examples of Ad Campaigns for Word-of-Mouth Referrals - BrewDog

As BrewDog itself put it:

Other brands spend big here investing in massive narratives, intricate Game of Thrones-themed visuals and slick films.

So we didn’t.

Crucially though, BrewDog’s advert was shown in the ad breaks of TV shows or events that get vast audiences, like Game of Thrones and the FA Cup Football Tournament.

By defying convention BrewDog, got itself noticed, even without spending vast amounts of money on its advertising.

In addition, the company isn’t scared of mixing it up or of courting controversy. And as everyone knows, controversy gets us talking, especially in the days of social media.

Despite its varying approaches, one thing that remains consistent with BrewDog is its dedication to revolutionizing the craft beer industry. In other words, whichever angle BrewDog takes, it stays true to its values.


It’s no secret that word-of-mouth saved Cadbury from an uncertain future. After a salmonella outbreak left the company reeling, it came back with a strong marketing campaign.

It wasn’t your typical Cadbury’s advert, which may be why it worked so well in turning Cadbury’s reputation around.

The advert, which featured a chimpanzee playing drums along with Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” got everyone talking.

Then there was the big question people are still asking today: is it really Phil Collins in the chimpanzee outfit? (The answer’s “no,” by the way.)

Aside from making Coca-Cola, BrewDog, and Cadbury all have something else in common. They all use the same level of creativity in their social media campaigns, engaging users and inspiring them to share content.

What can you learn from these brands? Daring to be different, changing styles, and being novel enough to get people talking gets customers sharing is something every business can do.

How to Track the Success of Word-of-Mouth Paid Ad Campaigns

How do you track the metrics for your word-of-mouth campaigns? Although you might have a bit less data than you do for your website, there are plenty of ways to track your success.

  1. Track your UTMs

    Urchin Tracking Modules show you how visitors interact with your website. Use tracking tools like Heap Analytics to monitor website visits and add UTMs to your ads and social media posts.

  2. Monitor impressions

    How often are paid ads viewed, and what do the impressions tell you regarding your campaign’s reach?

  3. Measure referral traffic

    If you’re running an affiliate or referral scheme, how many impressions, click-throughs, and sign-ups are you attracting? Use affiliate tracking software to do this.

  4. Conduct a competitive analysis

    What keywords are your competitors targeting? Use a free or paid keyword research tool to find out, like Ubersuggest or the Ubersuggest Chrome extension.

Word-of-Mouth Referrals FAQs

How do I know my word-of-mouth referrals are effective?

By tracking metrics like UTMs, impressions, and through competitive analysis.

What are the best ways to get organic word-of-mouth referrals?

Apart from directly asking customers, you can offer rewards, encourage UGC and online reviews, and consider fundraising for a good cause. Paid ads can also be highly effective, when used carefully.

Why is word-of-mouth marketing so important?

Word-of-mouth referrals are vital because potential buyers trust the opinions of friends and family. Word-of-mouth customers also tend to spend more money.

What’s the difference between organic and amplified word-of-mouth referrals?

Organic word-of-mouth referrals are free, and you get them through reviews, links, USG, social media, etc. With amplified word-of-mouth advertising, you’re paying for targeted ads.

Word-of-Mouth Referrals Conclusion

Word-of-mouth referrals are an effective method for attracting and retaining customers. When people are spreading the word about your business, whether through reviews, referrals, or UGC, they’re doing your marketing and getting the word out to a wider audience.

Consumers trust their friends’ judgments more than anything else. That’s why word-of-mouth referrals are crucial to grow your brand.

While you could take the organic approach, you can also use accelerated word-of-mouth campaigns to gain customers’ attention and target them directly.

Whichever approach you take, remember tracking your metrics is vital for measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Do you use word-of-mouth marketing? Which tactics do you use?

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Clicks, shares, subscriptions, downloads – no matter what call to action you’re aiming for, there are plenty of ways to optimize your website and get those conversions rolling in. Read on for our tips and advice to increase conversion and ensure your website delivers every time.

What Does It Mean to Increase Website Conversions?

  • A conversion takes place when a user carries out a desired action from a website, like ordering a product, downloading a white paper, or signing up for a newsletter.
  • Your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that take these actions. For your total conversion rate, you take the number of unique visitors divided by the number of visitors with any type of conversion, i.e. a ratio of 1 conversion to every 10 sessions would be a conversion rate of 10%.
  • Increasing your conversion rate is when you increase the number of visitors carrying out your desired actions.

What Is a Good Website Conversion Rate?

This differs according to industries. A Growcode eCommerce 2021 market data report compared eCommerce conversions according to the sector, with Arts and Crafts right at the top reaching 3.79%, followed by Health and Wellbeing at 3.62% and Pet Care at 3.28%.

WordStream - Search conversion Rate distribution

Although a solid conversion rate tends to stand between around 2% and 5%, research from WordStream also found that the top 10% of Google Ads advertisers have much higher account conversion rates of 11.45%.

The research also discovered around 25% of accounts have less than 1% conversion rates, the median was 2.35% and the top 25% of accounts have twice that, i.e 5.31% or higher.

How Do You Design a Website for Conversions?

When designing a website, you need to consider what type of conversion you’re aiming for. For example, if you’re specifically looking for eCommerce conversions (i.e. online sales), putting your products and/or services front and center will help. If you’re looking for newsletter sign-ups, ensuring your sign-up form is simple and easy to access will also be key. Keep your messaging clear and focus on your desired conversion rather than trying to do everything at once.

If you’re looking to increase conversion, here are 10 action points to remember and why they matter.

1. Make your Value Proposition Clear Through Design, Content, and Messaging.

Good design converts. Forrester's research found that having a well-designed user interface could raise a site’s conversion rate by up to 200%, and better UX design could yield conversion rates up to 400%.

Define your goals

What action(s) do you want your visitors to take? Design your website with this in mind, i.e. if you want your visitors to buy a new product, don’t make them spend ages searching for it.

Remember the top left

The upper left corner gets the attention first when a visitor land on your site.
The upper left corner gets the attention first when a visitor land on your site.

Eye-tracking studies have found that users mimic the way they’d read a book when they scan websites. Couple that with the fact it takes just 2.6 seconds for a user to settle on a particular section, and you can see how important it is to define your key area for conversions and ensure it’s easy for visitors to find.

2. Use Attractive Web Design

Web design should never be an afterthought. Design alone forms 75% of the judgment towards a company’s credibility.

Consider trends

Dark Mode trend took the web by storm. The trend embrace by large brands such as Apple and Hublot.
Dark Mode trend took the web by storm. The trend embrace by large brands such as Apple and Hublot.

Being aware of web design trends and incorporating those that work within your industry can also help. Current web design trends include the dark mode, collage, anti-design, minimalism, and organic design.

3. Keep It Simple

This one is so important. Take just this example, the freight quote start-up Open Mile. The company wanted to increase homepage leads so redesigned its homepage masthead, removing clutter and making the call to action clear and easy to spot. It saw a 232% increase in leads.

Be strict on which elements to include

It may be tempting to tell your entire business’ story on the homepage, but it pays to be selective. Research from Google found that as the number of elements, i.e. text, titles, and images, on a page jumps from 400 to 6,000, the probability of conversion drops by 95%.

4. Choose High-Quality Images

Selecting high-quality images is crucial if you want to increase website conversion. They can help to decrease bounce rate and increase user engagement—and by increasing the time users spend on your site,
you can increase your chances of conversion.

Pick relevant images

Quality and meaningful images can make an impact on your website conversion.
Quality and relevant images can make an impact on your website conversion.

Customers need to see products before they decide whether to invest. If you’re selling clothing for example, show different angles so your user can see whether the product is right for them.

Find out more about high-quality yet cheap stock photos.

5. Optimize Across Devices

By the end of this year, global mobile eCommerce sales are expected to hit $3.56 trillion, with 54% of total eCommerce sales from mobile. Shopping habits have changed, it’s no longer good enough to produce a beautiful desktop website with mobile and tablet little more than an afterthought.

Learn from the data

Once your website has been live for a few months, check to see how and where users are interacting with your content. If only 2% are viewing on mobile, for example, consider amending the design or even developing a dedicated mobile website to increase users, and therefore conversions.

The number of those who access the internet exclusively on a mobile device will grow by 10.6% in 2019, reaching 55.1 million users. Tools like Mobile-Friendly Test are useful to check if your website design and features are suitable for mobile.

6. Remember Functionality, Inclusivity and Accessibility

71% of individuals with disabilities will leave a website that’s difficult to use. According to Forbes, this results in an estimated loss of £11.75 billion each year in the United Kingdom alone. To ensure you’re inclusive, you should follow website accessibility guidelines.

Consider sizing

Website accessibility guidelines also state that all features should be usable when the text size is increased by 200% and that content reflows to a single column when it’s increased by 400%.

Remember colors

According to a survey by Scott Design, Blue and Green appear to be the two favorite colors.

It’s essential that you design your website so it’s as simple to use as possible. Website accessibility guidelines include not using color as the only way to distinguish something and making sure to use text colors that show up clearly against the background color.

Learn more – Website color schemes you can use.

7. Focus on Site Speed

According to new research from Forrester Consulting, two seconds is the new threshold for an average online shopper to wait for a site to load, with 40% of shoppers waiting no longer than three seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site. A one-second delay in page response can also result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

Check your site

WebPageTest - An alternative tool to Google's Pagespeed Insights that provides results of your web page information such as speed and element sizes in detail.
WebPageTest – An alternative tool to Google's Pagespeed Insights that provides results of your web page information such as speed and element sizes in detail.

Tools like Google’s Pagespeed Insights can help you see how quickly your site is performing, with information about how to improve.

Learn more – Tips to speed up your website.

Be aware of image and video size

Visual content is key if you want to increase website conversion, but don’t be a victim of your own success. If your content is too large it’ll slow your site down, if too small, it’ll look pixelated and impact your site’s design. Testing will be a great help here.

8. Incorporate Testimonials and Social Proof

Research from Hammacher Schlemmer found that expensive items with customer reviews saw a 380% increase in conversion rate, while lower-priced items saw a 190% increase.

  • Ensure testimonials are clear – Whether you’re using a website template or starting from scratch, testimonials are important so make sure they’re easy to find.
  • Use multiple systems – Some people may prefer to leave a starred rating, others may want to write their opinions in more detail.

9. Include Clear and Strong Calls to Actions

Calls to action (CTAs) are seriously important for securing those all-important conversions.

  • Be bold – The use of color is so important here, with SAP finding that orange CTAs boosted its conversion rate by 32.5%.
  • Design for clarity – Using words as well as design to encourage users to act is important. Helzberg Diamonds saw a 26% increase in clicks once it added an arrow icon to its CTA buttons.

10. Utilize A/B Testing Capabilities

When you create a website, the work is never really finished. Running A/B tests, or split testing, means creating two versions of your website to see which has the higher conversion rate.

Don’t stop

If you run two versions (i.e. a call to action placed in two different homepage areas) and see conversions increase, take that as a success but not as a reason to stop there! There will always be more tests you can try, so get experimenting and watch your conversion rates soar. Sites like Google Optimize can help with this.

Read more – Guide to A/B testing with examples.

Time to Increase Those Website Conversions!

You now have plenty of tips to get you started and ensure you have a high-conversion website. Work through the 10 sections and see how your website stacks up—there will always be room for improvement. Remember, even boosting your conversion rate by a single percentage could make a vast difference to your bottom line.

About the Author

Hermione Wright is a freelance writer for Envato based in Brighton, UK. She worked in creative roles at advertising agencies for many years before setting up her writing business, Hermione Writes, in 2017. When she's away from her laptop, she's often found walking her cockapoo, Maggie, on the beach.

The post How to Create a Professional Website that Converts appeared first on WHSR.

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Last week, Apple unveiled new Mail app privacy features for the upcoming iOS 15 and MacOS Monterey releases expected in September.

Having been in the email world for 23 years, I see these changes as both good and bad. Apple’s public discussion around web privacy is good, and I applaud their efforts as an extensive user of Apple products both personally and professionally. 

On the surface, the privacy angle looks great to most people. However, this move further erodes privacy on the web and puts your data squarely in the hands of a very small number of large companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook

I’m not saying this as CEO of an email company, but as an end user of the web who is also very privacy conscious (More on this below).

Apple’s release indicates they are making these changes:

In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

Apple's new "Mail Privacy Protection" settings.
Image Source: Ryan Jones via Twitter

These changes will impact email senders in multiple ways:

  • Blocking a recipient's IP address from being seen.
  • Making open rate tracking even more unreliable.

Blocking IP addresses

Your IP address is a computer address that points back to you and your activities when you browse the internet. That address might be used by just you, your family, or perhaps an entire school or business location. Apple will soon start loading images contained in emails via a proxy that hides your real IP address from the people that send you emails.

As an email sender, when someone blocks their IP address from view, it becomes more difficult to identify where someone might live in the world. This makes segmenting subscribers by geography for specific sales or sending in their local time zones less accurate. 

So, the only way to determine someone’s location then becomes either the IP address they used to sign up for your list or when they might click a link contained in one of your emails.

For context, Gmail has done this same image proxying since 2013, Yahoo since 2018, and Microsoft Outlook since ~2018. This change by Apple impacts more email recipients, but it’s really just about Apple catching up to what Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft have been doing for years already.

Unreliable open rate tracking 

Many email experts are writing about how this change destroys open rate tracking as an audience measurement metric. 

Testing thus far has been unclear on whether Apple will be entirely blocking the loading of open rate tracking images. In fact, some media is reporting that Apple is just loading all images via their proxy. I believe that they will mostly just be loading images via proxy and are unlikely to reliably block open tracking pixels. Some tests have shown Apple is preloading email images before a recipient opens the message on their email client. 

But time and further tests will tell what Apple is actually doing as they release the feature into the wild.

But let’s take a step back and talk about open rates. 

Open rate tracking as a metric has never actually measured how many people open your emails. It simply measures how many people have downloaded the images in your emails. 

Many recipients turn images off in their email programs which prevent senders from measuring an email open. If I turn off image loading in my email client, you’ll never detect me “opening” one of your emails, regardless of how many times I actually open it.

Image loading turned off in Apple macOS Big Sur (6/2021)
Image loading turned off in Apple macOS Big Sur (6/2021)

The length of your message can also cause Gmail clipping that impacts whether some of your images are displayed at the end of a long email. 

As a professional email marketer, I view open rate metrics as a useful tool for:

  • Subject line testing.
    • Did “subject A” generally get more people to open than “subject B”?
  • Engagement tracking.
    • Not as an indicator of total audience engagement, but as an indicator of how engaged my audience is for this email vs. one I sent last week or a month or so ago. Comparing an open rate from today against one from several years ago is pretty useless as changes to how images are rendered in different email clients can have significant impacts on audience measurement. 
  • Reputation measurement.
    • Taken as a signal in a larger look at other email metrics, low open rates could be an indicator of spam folder issues, audience/content match issues or permission issues.

Does this hurt the email ecosystem?

Simple answer... No, it just changes it.

The benchmarks you use today today will need to be recalibrated, but it’s not the end of the world. Some senders may see an increase in opens due to Apple’s image prefetching algorithms, other senders might see open rates decline. 

Absolutely none of this means that actual people receiving your emails are interacting with those emails any differently than before. These changes affect the technical measure of how opens are detected, not the real human behavior of whether or not someone opened your email. That’s an incredibly important distinction and one that every business that sends email should remember. 

At the end of the day, you need to send email that people want, find valuable, and engage with. If you don’t, they will ignore, delete or mark it as spam — and over time, that will impact your ability to deliver email to others who do actually want your emails.

Using confirmed opt-in continues to be one of the best ways to ensure a high quality subscriber base.

What you need to know about user privacy

Apple is marketing these changes as an enhancement of user privacy. I’d argue it erodes user privacy.

Currently, when I use Apple Mail on desktop or iOS mobile, Apple has zero knowledge of who I’m receiving email from, when I read it or what that content is. Today, in order to protect my privacy from external senders, I disable images by default. That gives me 100% privacy. Senders don’t see me opening the email and loading images, and Apple isn’t scanning my emails and running my email content thru their proxy servers.

If I enable Apple’s new “Protect Mail Activity,” setting Apple goes from having zero knowledge of my email activity to having a view of everything that has images in it. Apple will see your email activity...

  • They’ll know you received and opened an email from your pharmacy.
  • They’ll know you received and opened an email from your doctor.
  • They’ll see your work email images.
  • They’ll see your personal email images, even if you use Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, or a personal email server but read those emails using Apples Mail app.

All of that data will be seen and controlled by Apple. 

So what does that mean for you?

It becomes trivial for law enforcement to subpoena a single organization like Apple and get a ton of information about you. This sort of law enforcement action has been misused many times in the past worldwide and has topped news headlines in the last week with the DOJ subpoenas for all email communications from members of Congress. This exposes significantly more private information with less effort than ever before. 

This isn’t just law enforcement that could expose this data, it becomes trivial to subpoena it for civil lawsuits as well such as messy divorces, business disagreements, and so on.

Real privacy comes from user education and knowledge about what options are available to end users. I fear that many users will check the Apple “privacy” box and think that no one can see what they are doing online. 

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Apple might be working from a place of good intentions now, but by using “Protect Mail Activity,” what we're doing is trusting them to continue being responsible with your data when economic and governmental pressure arises.

Learn more about Apple’s privacy changes

There are many perspectives on this new release, and I’d encourage you to read what others have to say on the subject. I’ve gathered a few I found interesting.

The post Apple Starts Gathering Your Personal Data in the Name of “Privacy” appeared first on AWeber.

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How to Use Google Alerts for PPC Research

With over 267 million individual visitors, Google is undoubtedly America’s most popular search engine. Why does this matter?

If Google is the most popular search engine, you should be listing your PPC ads on it. What’s more, you should be tracking the most popular topics and keywords in your industry to better inform your PPC research.

How can you do this? Well, there are a few analytics tools available, including my own Ubersuggest. However, did you know you can use the well-known Google Alerts service to inform your PPC campaigns, too?

If you didn’t, don’t worry. When you think of digital marketing and Google, Google Alerts might not be the first tool that comes to mind over, say, Google Ads itself. Let me show you how Google Alerts work and how they can help you run your PPC campaigns more effectively.

What Is Google Alerts?

Google Alerts is essentially a notification tool. You can use the service to track when people use certain keywords or keyphrases online.

For example, you can ask Google to send you an alert whenever someone mentions your or your company’s name online, or you can use it to track what keywords your competitors are using most frequently.

The best part? It’s free to set up a Google Alert, and it’s easy to get going. If you’re a marketer, then it’s worth giving Google Alerts a try.

All that said, is there anything you can’t monitor through Google Alerts? Yes.

You won’t see any analytics details, like how often your brand is mentioned online or if your mentions are increasing. Meaning, you’ll still need tools like Google Analytics to help you measure KPIs and other significant metrics.

What’s more, you can’t track social media posts this way, so you’ll need an alternative tool if you want to track how often you’re mentioned on social media.

In other words, Google Alerts are handy, but they’re not the only tool you should use to track your brand presence online, track keywords, or monitor trends for PPC campaigns.

How to Set Up a Google Alert

It takes no more than a few minutes to set up a Google Alert. Let’s work through the steps together.

First, go to google.com/alerts. If you haven’t already done so, sign in with the Google account you want to receive alerts.

Next, decide what you want to be notified about and type the search term onto the top bar. Let’s use the search term “influencer marketing” as an example:

How to Set Up Google Alerts - Decide which sources you want to track

Then, decide which sources you want to track. Remember, Google Alerts can’t monitor social media posts for you, but you can choose from other sources like books, videos, and blog posts.

Next, decide how often you want to receive Google Alerts. You can opt for instant alerts, meaning you’re notified the moment a relevant post appears, or you can get updates once a day or once per week. It all depends on what works for you.

If you want to tweak your alerts even further, you can. For example, if you only want to receive Google Alerts for posts in a certain language, simply select the language you’re tracking from the drop-down menu. Or, if you only want to monitor posts relevant to a certain country, you can limit the search to this one territory.

Next, choose between receiving “all” results or just the ones Google deems most relevant to your search query. For example, if you’re using a really broad keyword, you might want to restrict alerts to the highest-ranking results only.

Here’s what the best results for “influencer marketing” look like:

How to Set Up Google Alerts - Sample Preview

Then, choose where you want to receive your alerts. You can either direct them to an email address or an RSS feed.

Once you’ve set your parameters, simply click “Create Alert” to complete the process:

How to Set Up Google Alerts - Finalizing the process

Now you’ll start receiving Google Alerts for this search term! If you want to set up any other alerts at this time, just repeat the steps. You can run up to 1,000 Google Alerts simultaneously, which is probably more than enough for you to track. However, if you need more Google Alerts, you can always set up a second account to run them through.

Want to update or delete a Google Alert? No problem. Simply go back to google.com/alerts, select the live alert you want to amend or remove, and click the relevant option from the menus available.

How to Use Google Alerts for PPC Ads

OK, so that’s what Google Alerts are, but can you use them for your PPC ads? Absolutely. Here are the five key ways you can harness the power of Google Alerts for your next PPC campaign.

1. Find Out What’s Trending in Your Industry

Sure, evergreen content matters, but trends are hugely important to every industry. Ideally, then, you want to quickly identify what these trends are and how you can incorporate them into your PPC ads.

How can Google Alerts help? Well, you can use it to monitor blogs and authoritative websites in your niche for new content. You can scan new posts to identify possible trends and capitalize on them before your competitors do.

To set up Google Alerts like these, simply set alerts for “[company name] + blog.” For example, you could track “Forbes blog,” “Shopify blog,” and so on.

Or, if you’re interested in general trends in a broader niche such as email marketing, you can use a wide search term like “email marketing trends,” ask Google to show you the most relevant results only and see what comes up.

2. Identify Topics to Target

While it’s not primarily a keyword research tool, Google Alerts can nevertheless be used to help you identify new keywords and search terms to target through your PPC ad campaigns.

An example might be helpful here.

Say you sell exercise supplements, and you’re launching a new product to help people recover after tough sessions. You can set up Google Alerts to help identify whether people are typing in search queries like “exercise recovery supplements” and “vitamin water.”

To get started, just set up an alert for these search terms. Here are some examples of how you might write out your keywords:

  • “vitamin water” exercise recovery
  • “vitamin water” supplement
  • “exercise recovery supplements” vitamin water

Using quotation marks around certain words ensures you’ll see results containing that exact phrase, plus any other words you’ve added on.

If no one’s searching for these keywords, you should rethink which keywords you’re targeting for your PPC ads. On the other hand, if they’re popular keywords, it might be worth spending the money to have your ads show up for these search queries.

Like I said, Google Alerts isn’t a keyword research tool as such, but you can use it to support your other keyword research strategies.

3. Receive Alerts About Yourself or Your Brand

When you’re creating PPC ad campaigns, it’s crucial you understand who your target audience is. Who is talking about your brand, and what demographics are you reaching? Once you know the answers to questions like these, you can craft targeted, more effective PPC ads.

How can Google Alerts help? By allowing you to track whenever someone mentions you or your company online. Once you start tracking your mentions, you can learn more about who is engaging with your brand and what they expect from you.

Again, these are simple Google Alerts to set up. Simply set up two individual alerts: one for your business name, and one for your personal name.

Use what you discover to decide which demographics to target with your PPC ads going forward.

4. Monitor Your Competitors

It matters what people are saying about you and your brand. However, it’s just as crucial to know:

  • what your target audience is saying about your competitors; and
  • how your competitors are performing online

Why does competitor research matter when you’re building a PPC campaign? By understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can distinguish your own brand and build the most effective PPC ads possible.

You can monitor competitors’ mentions more generally, or you can search for announcements using search phrases like “competitor name + product announcement.” Use your findings to inform your product launch campaigns and PPC ads and stand out from the crowd.

5. Track and Manage Negative Reviews

No business likes getting negative reviews, but let’s face it: they’re a commercial reality. What’s important, though, is how you handle those reviews and use the feedback to improve your business. In fact, 96 percent of consumers read company responses to negative reviews, so your answers matter.

Why does this matter from a PPC perspective? Even if people click through your PPC ads, they won’t buy from you if all they’re doing is seeing multiple negative reviews and no feedback from you or the customer services team.

Can Google Alerts help you track and manage negative reviews, though? Sure. Here’s how.

First, you can just monitor for brand mentions. However, there’s a chance you’ll miss negative reviews tracked this way, especially if you’re a popular brand with multiple mentions.

Next, then, you can set up a special Google Alert for reviews only. It looks like this:

[brandname] + intitle:review

For example, if your company is called “Coffee King,” your alert looks like this:

How to Use Google Alerts for PPC Ads - Track negative reviews

Seventy-two percent of customers read reviews before taking action, like making purchases, so even if you’re running great PPC ads, reviews still matter, and it’s crucial you stay ahead of them if you want to get the most from your PPC campaigns.

Google Alerts FAQ

Let me quickly recap some of the key points we touched on.

What are Google Alerts?

Google Alerts is a notification tool. You can use the service to track who is talking about certain keywords you’re interested in and what they’re saying.

How do I set up Google Alerts?

Set up Google Alerts by going to google.com/alerts. Select your keywords, choose your notification frequency, and click “Create Alert” to go live. You can opt to receive notifications to your email address or an RSS feed, whichever you prefer.

What is the best way to use Google Alerts?

There’s no single “best” way to use Google Alerts. However, it’s ideal for checking out what people are saying about your brand and, importantly, performing crucial keyword research to better inform your PPC ad campaigns and ensure the right audiences actually see your paid ads.

Are Google Alerts free?

Yes, they’re totally free to set up and use. They’re worth trying out as part of your wider digital marketing strategy and PPC research.

Is there a limit to how many Google Alerts I can set up?

You can run up to 1,000 Google Alerts at one time. If this isn’t enough for you, then you could always set up some Google Alerts on a separate work account.

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Google Alerts for PPC Conclusion

If you plan on running a PPC campaign, you’ll know how important it is to research your target audience and choose the right keywords. As we’ve seen, Google Alerts can help, whether you’re sussing out popular keywords or researching popular trends within your industry.

Is a Google Alert the only tool you should use to track your PPC performance? Probably not. However, since it’s free to get started and it’s simple to set up an alert or two, I suggest trying them for yourself to see if they align with your company’s unique marketing strategy.

Do you need more help with your overall PPC marketing campaign? Reach out to me and discover more about how I can help you on your digital marketing journey.

Have you set up Google Alerts yet? What are you using them for?

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Adam Hendle the founder of Ballsy.

In this episode of Shopify Masters, Adam Hendle of Ballsy shares with us the process of formulating personal care products, learnings from logistical mishaps, and their ideal tech stack.


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