This week: lots of data about holiday sales, Quora has a new ad format, and Google offers some advice about seasonal content.
Here’s what happened this week in digital marketing.
More Than 165 Million People Shopped Online and in Stores on Black Friday
Let the holiday season shopping analysis officially begin!
First up: The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that 165 million people shopped online, in stores, or both on Black Friday. That compares with 174 million from last year.
RetailNext says that in-store sales were down 4-7% while foot traffic was down 5-9%.
More than half (54%) of shoppers went multi-channel. That is, they shopped both online and in stores.
Those multi-channel shoppers spent $93 more on average than their single-channel counterparts.
Only 25% shopped just online while 21% shopped just in stores.
Walmart dominated in-store visits. According to location analytics from Reveal Mobile, the company handled 3.4% of all U.S. retail store visits. Target took second place (1.8%), followed by Verizon Wireless (1.4%), Home Depot (1.4%), and Lowe’s (1.2%).
Also, it looks like the early-morning rush to get to stores open on Black Friday might be a thing of the past. According to Reveal Mobile, the most popular time for shopping on Black Friday was between 11AM and 3PM.
During Black Friday Weekend, Consumers Spent More Than $4 Billion on Mobile
Unsurprisingly, mobile dominated Black Friday weekend sales. That “weekend” includes Cyber Monday as well.
According to Salesforce, mobile platforms generated 68% of all retail site traffic.
Even more significantly though, more than half (54%) of orders were placed on smartphones. That’s a first.
Shopify reported similar results. The company said that on Black Friday weekend “66 percent of sales from Shopify merchants were made on mobile, compared to 34 percent made on desktop during this time.”
The story is different if you look just at Cyber Monday. On that day, mobile accounted for only 34% of online sales. That’s probably because people are using their desktop and laptop PCs at work to place orders.
However, even on Cyber Monday more than half (54%) of retail site visits came from mobile platforms.
Further, data from Rakuten Marketing shows that 31% of Cyber Monday shopping occurred on smartphones.
Cyber Monday Smashes Sales Records
This past Cyber Monday, consumers opened up their wallets and spent $7.9 billion online. That’s according to Adobe Analytics.
The figure represents a 20% year-over-year growth.
Adobe predicted a haul of $7.8 billion, so the number also beat expectations.
Here are the conversion rates by device:
- Desktop – 7.4%
- Smartphone – 3.9%
- Tablet – 6.6%
Adobe also pointed to an increase in Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) sales. That figure rose 65% YOY on Cyber Monday and 50% YOY on Black Friday.
Finally, here’s a watercooler stat: Americans spent a combined 11,000 years or 95 million hours shopping online during Cyber Monday.
Black Friday Also Broke Online Records
It wasn’t just Cyber Monday that set new records for online shopping. Black Friday got in on the act as well.
According to Adobe Analytics, shoppers dropped a record $6.2 billion online on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That’s a 23.6% year-over-year increase.
Adobe also found that Thanksgiving day is the fastest growing shopping day, with sales posting a 28% year-over-year gain.
That makes sense since consumers found that prices on Thanksgiving were just as low as they were on Black Friday.
According to Salesforce, people were shopping on their smartphones right after Thanksgiving dinner. Mobile usage went up after 4PM and peaked between 8PM and 10PM local time.
Adobe also said that this year’s Black Friday was the first to see more than $2 billion in sales coming from smartphones. That accounts for 33.5% of all Black Friday sales.
Consumers are literally phoning it in.
Quora Rolls out Promoted Answers Ad Unit
Quora continues to ramp up its advertising game.
This time, the company rolled out a new native ad unit called Promoted Answers. As the name implies, it gives you an opportunity to promote your own answer to a question.
Think of it as something similar to a Facebook promoted post or a promoted tweet on Twitter.
According to Quora, clients are already seeing success with the new format. The company cites an example of a DuckDuckGo promoted answer that received 200x more views than non-promoted content.
“The format provides a flexible canvas to share detailed information about your product or service that goes beyond the characters allowed in normal ad copy and helps to facilitate engagement through upvotes, comments, and follows,” says Ryan Browne, director of product management at Quora. “If Quora users are already discussing your business, Promoted Answers are a great way to join the conversation surrounding your brand.”
Quora has consistently rolled out updates to its ad platform since 2017.
YouTube Is Testing Back-to-Back Skippable Ads
This past week, YouTube announced a new “ad pod.” It’s a delivery format that shows two skippable ads back-to-back.
The ads can run pre-roll or mid-roll.
You’ll soon see the new ad format on connected TVs and mobile platforms.
The reason YouTube is introducing the back-to-back format is that research has shown that fewer ad breaks correlate with improved user metrics.
In other words, people want one long break for ads rather than a couple short breaks.
According to YouTube, ad pods deliver 40% fewer interruptions.
Additionally, YouTube claims that “[e]arly experiment results also show an 8 to 11 percent increase in unique reach and a 5 to 10 percent increase in frequency for advertisers with no impact to brand lift metrics.”
Google: Use One URL for All Seasonal Content
If you have rotating seasonal content, you should keep it all in one URL. That’s according to Google’s John Mueller.
During a Google Webmaster Central hangout this past week, somebody asked Mueller for guidance about how to handle holiday-themed content once the season has passed.
Mueller offered two pieces of advice.
First, publish the content for a reasonable length of time. Regularly publishing and removing content will force Google to look at it differently.
It’s also important to link to the content from the home page. That way, Googlebot will determine that the seasonal content is relevant.
The next piece of advice: use a single URL for all your seasonal content.
In other words, use the same URL for Thanksgiving-related content, Christmas-related content, Easter-related content, and so on.
Then, just update the content at the appropriate time of year.
“That’s something that would help us to understand that this is actually pretty relevant,” Mueller said. “Even if the theme of that page changes over the course of the year, as long as you’re not changing the theme of the page day-by-day, then I think in general that would work out.”
YouTube Will Remove All Annotations in January
This past week, YouTube announced that it will stop showing annotations on January 15 of next year.
It’s not a huge change. Annotations were retired in 2017. Users haven’t been able to create or edit them since that time.
But YouTube still showed old annotations. That will soon change.
The problem is that they never worked on mobile platforms. Since mobile is everything these days, it’s a smart move on YouTube’s part to eliminate annotations completely.
More recently, marketers are turning to cards and end screens to promote content on their YouTube videos.
Study: Page 1 Local Search Results Have an Average 4.4 Rating
According to a new study by BrightLocal, businesses on the first page of Google local search have an average rating of 4.42 rating stars.
The obvious conclusion here: good ratings matter in local SEO.
BrightLocal also found that businesses in the top 3 positions are more likely to have a star rating in the 4-5 range than other businesses.
In fact, more than half (59%) of businesses appearing in positions as low as 7-10 have a 4-5 star rating.
Only 20% of businesses listed in positions 1-3 had no ratings at all.
Survey: GMB Most Important Local Search Ranking Signal
When it comes to Local SEO, Google My Business (GMB) is the most important ranking factor. That’s according to the Moz 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey.
On average, respondents said GMB signals (keyword in title, categories, proximity, etc) contribute about 25% to a successful local search placement.
That’s a change of more than 30% from the previous year, when GMB signals only scored about 19%.
Link signals finished a distant second at about 16.5%. That was followed by review signals (15.44%), on-page signals (13.82%), and citation signals (10.82%).
Key takeaway from that bunch of stats is that SEO professionals are giving less weight to citation signals every year. In 2015, they earned a score of 17.14%. Now, they’re lower than 11%.
Review signals, on the other hand, are up 17% year-over-year. Check out the article just above for more info on that.
New Report Gives Insight About Instagram Best-Practices
If you use Instagram to promote your brand, you’ll want to tune in to a new report by Quintly. It’s based on an analysis of more than 40,000 Instagram profiles and almost 9 million posts.
Here’s what the folks at Quintly learned:
- Videos generate up to 21.15% more interactions than non-video posts. They also earn 18% more interactions than image carousels.
- Shorter descriptions get more engagement. Posts with 1-50 character captions saw the most engagement.
- Fewer hashtags is better. People probably get the impression that you’re spamming if you use too many hashtags.
- Emojis can give you engagement benefits. You don’t have to limit yourself to a single emoji, either.
- Weekends see high engagement. That’s unsurprising, because people tend to use Instagram more when they don’t have to work or go to school.