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What Is Amazon Advertising? Should You Use It?

What Is Amazon Advertising? Should You Use It?

Amazon Advertising was launched in 2018 and is the updated version of Amazon Marketing. Amazon Advertising is a pay per click (PPC) ad platform similar to Google’s and Facebook’s systems. In this article, I’ll explain what Amazon’s platform is like, and what kinds of businesses can use it.

Amazon Advertising, which I’ll call “AA” for short, is a new venture to build up the ecommerce giant’s revenues. Amazon is notorious for operating at a loss, either underselling the competition or investing its income on projects to grow its reach. Now that the company has built up its database of consumer habits, brands and marketers can use it in their marketing.

AA can power PPC ads anywhere from Amazon’s website, to Kindle ebooks, to follow-up emails, to display ads on other websites, and video ads on Amazon, FireTV, and other sites. Online ad marketshare is currently dominated by Google and Facebook, but experts predict a time when Amazon will be a third contender (“‘It Will Be Google, Facebook and Amazon’: The Year In Amazon Advertising.”)

Amazon Advertising For Sellers

The first obvious type of business that can use AA are product brands that sell directly on Amazon. “Sponsored Ads” are paid spots that appear in the product search results. According to Hubspot, you can set either broad, phrase, or exact keywords, and your items will appear, with priority given to the highest bidders on those keywords.

“Sponsored Brand Campaigns” are ads for multiple products by a company that are displayed together in the search results. The product limit is three, so you should pick the ones that reflect your current promotion the best. Sponsored Brand Campaigns lead to a specially designed landing page for your Amazon store.

“Product Display Ads” appear in areas of Amazon’s page other than the search results. They can also appear in emails for abandoned carts, follow-ups, and recommendations. The idea with Display Ads is to cross-promote products, using “Interest Targeting,” and reach people searching for related-but-not-the-same items.

“Amazon Stores” are your brand’s own dedicated pages, hosted by Amazon. This is a direct competitor to Shopify and WooCommerce, in that you can design your own product pages and carts. Amazon will handle the web hosting and fulfillment. It would be your job to market the goods.

“Video Ads” and “Native Ads” can appear on Amazon’s website and devices, as well as 3rd party sites like news and blogs. For many years, Amazon has been Google’s top advertising client, and Amazon sellers have used Google and Facebook’s ads to reach customers outside the site. Amazon probably hopes AA will make the company independent.

Non-Amazon Sellers

Digiday theorizes that businesses who don’t directly sell on Amazon can also use Amazon Advertising. According to its article, “How Amazon Is Readying Its Blitz On The Ad Industry”,

Amazon is increasingly trying to pitch to what the company dubs “non-endemic” advertisers — brands that don’t sell on Amazon. Asked what he considers a challenge, [director of programmatic Saurabh] Sharma mentioned that push, adding that it’s not really a challenge, but an opportunity. Non-endemic advertisers would cover, for example, brands in categories like cable, wireless, airlines or restaurants. “There are opportunities to bring that value,” said Sharma.

“How Amazon Is Readying Its Blitz On The Ad Industry”

Similar to the Product Display Ads that sell products that are indirectly related to product search terms, Video and Native Ads on outside websites can sell services like insurance or contractors. Using Amazon’s network of consumer data, a business can target web surfers based on what they’ve shopped for. For example, CNBC suggests if you’re a bathroom repairman, “You might like the information Amazon has to target people who are buying things like grout and hammers.”

Is Amazon Advertising Right For Your Business?

It’s easy to see large brands benefiting from AA as they have the war chests for large ad campaigns. What about smaller businesses and startups? As with other PPC advertising, it depends on your niche. Success in marketing requires finding the precise keywords your customers are searching with, or the right demographics and geography to match your buyer profile.

Businesses that sell products and want to utilize Amazon’s fulfillment services will get the most use from AA. If you’re a dropshipping or direct to consumer (D2C) business, you can use Amazon’s native and video ads, but Amazon will see you as a direct competitor otherwise. Your best bet would be Google, Facebook, or even Pinterest.

Until Amazon’s Native and Video ads appear on more 3rd party websites, a service-based business should stick to Google Ads. Google My Business is a great free service that will get you seen in your local area. Also, customers who are looking for a particular service are more likely to start their search on Google, meaning they’ll be more motivated to use you. The one advantage Amazon has right now is it’s not as competitive or expensive. However, there are other marketing strategies such as search engine optimization and social media citations.

Looking Ahead

The previously mentioned CNBC article says Amazon is expected to have 8.8% of the digital ad market share by the end of 2019. The Motley Fool says Amazon’s total revenue should be about $275 billion, with advertising making $9.8 billion of that, or less than 4 percent. Still, it’s advertising division is growing faster than that of any other company.

You should also consider the growing use of ad blocker apps, and the growing use of influencer and affiliate marketing. In previous posts I discuss running a business outside of the major tech giants, and web traffic without Google and Facebook. I’m not entirely against Big Tech- I run Google Ads on my website, and I just published my ebook on Amazon Kindle. My hope is that we’re not so dependent on these companies and we have real choices in our marketing.

Value Proposition: The Edge Of Your Sword- 6 Factors For Success

Value Proposition: The Edge Of Your Sword- 6 Factors For Success

The following is from my upcoming ebook, Be True Cut Through: 2020 Edition.

If you’re going to make a living, let alone a fortune, you need to determine your value proposition. This pertains to your business, but also you as a person if you’re looking for an employer or clients. There are several terms connected to your value proposition including “elevator pitch,” “brand,” “slogan,” and “benefit.” These terms are distinct from each other, but your value is the root of them all.

Whatever business you’re in, your success depends on bringing your value to the people who will pay for it. Marketing is the work of communicating that value. In this chapter, I’ll discuss how to determine it based on either your skills or your product.

What Is Your Value As An Entrepreneur?

Do you know what your job should be? What kind of business you should be in? You need to start by taking stock of yourself and what drives you. Very few young people know what they want to do in life when they start college. The lucky ones pick a relevant course of study, and find jobs right after graduation. A lot of people, like me, major in whatever is interesting and muddle through.

To figure out your vocation, there are personality tests, strengths finders, and more all around the Internet. However, I suggest searching your memory, way back to early childhood. Theologians believe we’re closer to understanding God’s will when we’re small children. Later in life, about age 8 or 9, or around adolescence, is when we start losing our innocence. This is when peer pressure begins and we’re less true to ourselves. 

What interested you when you were 5 or 6 years old? What games did you play? Did you play cops and robbers? Did you like building things, or taking care of your dolls? Speaking for myself, I was fascinated with storybooks. My parents tell me I was reading simple words when I was four years old. When I was 5, I remember trying to make my own book, drawing an illustration of a boy fishing and writing the sentence, “Ha ha a boy.” I was reading lots of children’s books when I was 6, and had my favorite authors and illustrators.

After struggling as a freelance web designer for 5 years, I remembered that blogging was what brought me to making websites in the first place. After writing the first edition of this book, a business coach reviewed it and suggested I’d be better as an author, public speaker, or consultant. Therefore, I’m pivoting from freelance services to coaching, publishing articles, and selling information products.

It may take a few attempts for you to find the right business model, or the right position in a company. Skills can be learned, clues to your purpose are there when you’re a little child, before the world corrupts you. Think about a problem in the world that bothers you intensely. Your business should either solve that problem, or provide you an income while you solve it in your spare time. That’s your value as an entrepreneur.

Value Proposition: 6 Factors

Now let’s define the value proposition of your business (or product.) The YouTube channel MatShoreInnovation gives us a framework in the video, “How to write a value proposition? Defining 6 core elements of Value Propositions” This is the foundation of your marketing message, and it determines other things like your elevator pitch, slogan, and brand.

Definition of the Target Market:

These are the people you want to serve or sell to. They can be consumers or other businesses. They might be on a tight budget, or they might want to show off. They might be young, middle-aged, or retirees. They should share your moral principles. You’ll need to create a buyer persona, which is a profile of your ideal customers.

Definition of the Problem to Solve:

This is your target market’s biggest unmet need. You can address other needs down the road, but you’ll want to start with the biggest problem early in your career. This can be learned by interviewing people in your community, making surveys, visiting online forums or social networks, etc.

Competition/Alternatives:

Before you create a product, or establish your service, you should find out if other businesses are already solving the target market’s problem. If they are, it will hinder your success. You want to fill a gap in the market; do something no one else is doing, or do it better.

Promise/Benefit:

This is the solution, the actual reason to buy from you. In marketing, it’s said you should express the benefits of your business and not your features. This means avoid technical jargon about your specs or process. Talk instead about how you’ll make your customer’s life easier. 

A famous example of benefit marketing is the original iPod. Apple could have bragged about the iPod’s storage capacity or quality materials compared to other mp3 players. Instead they said, “A thousand songs in your pocket.” The result was the rebound of the struggling Apple brand.

Reason To Believe/Proof:

This is when you address the target market’s doubts and prove your business is what will help them. This is where user reviews, testimonials, recommendations, and demonstrations come into your marketing strategy.


Point of Superiority/Differentiation:

Going back to addressing the competitors/alternatives, this final factor in your value proposition is where you explain why you’re preferrable. Either your business does it better than the rest, it’s unique, or it does something no one else does.

Why You Need WordPress: Getting Started

Why You Need WordPress: Getting Started

WordPress is a free, open-source website builder available on most major hosting services. Its versatility makes it ideal for businesses of any size, and for web creators of any skill level. In this article, I’ll offer reasons to use WordPress for your business website, some resources for beginners, and recent WordPress news.

Risingsunoverport.co.za published a piece this week promoting WordPress to small businesses. Their reasons have been known to professional web designers for years, but it helps to see some outside confirmation. Rising Sun Overport says about 30% of all websites on the known Internet run on WordPress, including major business and news sites like TechCrunch and eBay.

When it comes to starting your own WordPress, you can get a basic site online in a matter of hours. You don’t need any coding expertise or even extensive computing knowledge to design a functional website with everything in the right place. With WordPress’s template system, you just select a design and go.

There’s a highly intuitive dashboard system which will allow you to manage your content, laying out your pages, formatting your copy and placing your images.

Why does WordPress win when it comes to small business websites?

A major part of WordPress’ power comes from its open market of 3rd party themes and plugins. Themes are best defined as frameworks for designing the appearance of your website, while plugins are apps that add functions to the site. There are special plugins categorized as “page builders” that work in conjunction with themes and enable drag-and-drop design of web page layouts.

On Wednesday, the makers of Elementor announced their plugin has been installed on 3 million websites. Elementor is a page builder with a robust feature set in its free version, and even more powerful tools in its paid version. It is now the fastest growing web building platform according to Yahoo News.

Also in the last month, Elegant Themes released Divi Version 4.0. Divi is a premium WordPress theme with its own proprietary page builder. In fact, it’s the most popular paid theme in the WordPress ecosystem. It’s one of my preferred themes when making sites for clients or myself. My other favorite theme is Astra, which works very well with Elementor.

Divi 4.0 includes a “theme builder,” which grants greater customization of website headers, footers, blog posts, and other areas that page builders couldn’t easily change before.

Darrel Wilson is one of the best WordPress authorities on YouTube. He has posted Tutorial videos for how to build a website with Elementor or Divi. Follow the links below to view them.

Write Naturally: Google BERT Algorithm Rolls Out

Write Naturally: Google BERT Algorithm Rolls Out

Google is in the process of releasing BERT, the biggest update to the search engine in almost 5 years. BERT furthers Google’s “natural language processing” (NLP), so Google can better understand human language.

BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.” Searchengineland.com says it “helps better understand the nuances and context of words in searches and better match those queries with more relevant results.”

“In one example, Google said, with a search for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa,” the word “to” and its relationship to the other words in query are important for understanding the meaning. Previously, Google wouldn’t understand the importance of this connection and would return results about U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. “With BERT, Search is able to grasp this nuance and know that the very common word “to” actually matters a lot here, and we can provide a much more relevant result for this query,” Google explained.”

Welcome BERT: Google’s latest search algorithm to better understand natural language

Google provided several other hypothetical examples to the press:

“Parking on a hill with no curb”: In the past, a query like this would confuse our systems–we placed too much importance on the word “curb” and ignored the word “no”, not understanding how critical that word was to appropriately responding to this query. So we’d return results for parking on a hill with a curb!”

Google Applies New BERT Model to Search Rankings, Affecting 1-in-10 Queries

Back on Search Engine Land, SEO experts likely don’t need to change their current technical strategies. The emphasis is on writing content that makes sense to humans. Encouraging natural language has been Google’s goal for many years, and BERT is simply the latest step.

BERT is currently rolling out for English language queries, and other languages will be added later.

4 Affordable Web Traffic Sources Besides Google And Facebook

4 Affordable Web Traffic Sources Besides Google And Facebook

The Big Tech companies including Google and Facebook seemingly dominate web traffic and resulting business opportunities for entrepreneurs. But in this article, I’ll go over traffic sources and strategies to get around these giants.

One key principle in driving traffic to your business website is finding larger audiences and getting them to “trickle down” to your site. Another principle is providing valuable content to those audiences and making them want to share your site. Naturally, we’ll go over big websites and online influencers, but you can also get direct traffic from offline marketing.

Your traffic sources don’t need to be super huge. In fact, moderately sized sources can be beneficial because there’s less competition in them. Gather a diverse range of sources, and you can build your audience and brand quite well.

1. Forums

Forums related to your industry are a great source of web traffic. You can find them through Google directly or by recommendations by other blog articles. Don’t just join forums dedicated to your niche, but communities that can benefit from your business. For example, if your business is accounting, you can join small business forums where owners are looking for outside assistance.

Quicksprout has a guide to traffic from forums. Search for forums using “your keywords” in quotes + forum. Also try your keywords + “Powered by vBulletin”. vBulletin is a popular forum platform. Try it with other platforms like bbPress.

When you find a forum, see how often and how recently the members post on it. This will tell you if it’s worth your time. Join the forum by creating an account and responding to its confirmation email. Use either your real name or brand name. You also need to create a signature. This can include a link to your website, so don’t skip this.

Now you need to participate in the forum and show you’re a trustworthy community member. Don’t simply make posts linking to your site, but join conversations, answer members’ questions, ask your own questions, and so on. Quality is more important than quantity; the Quicksprout author recommends 1 or 2 posts per day. It’s more important to be relevant than it is to be a chatterbox.

2. Comment Sections

Similar to forum posts, comment sections on blogs and news websites are places where you can join conversations and offer value with your own links. Marketever.com gives us a helpful guide to writing optimal comments.

Avoid generic comments, but make them specific to the blog topic. It’s great to be interactive. Don’t make too many links to your site, though, only 1 per blog post! Any more will make you look spammy. Finally, you can share and promote the blog on your own site or social media. This is a great show of goodwill.

First, use your real name and identity. Visitors value authenticity. Second, read several articles on the blog to understand the blogger’s personality and why they write. Next, study what other commenters say and what the blog owner responds to. Always add value, like you would in a forum post. A good comment is longer than a Tweet and shorter than a 200 word blog post. You can post a link to your own site for the purpose of elaborating on your comment.

3. Influencer Marketing

When you hear the word “influencer,” do you think of Instagram models and YouTube makeup tutorials? I do, but influencers can be anyone in any industry- they just need to be trusted authorities in their fields and have audiences you can sell to.

Reaching out to influencers is similar to commenting on blog posts. In fact, popular bloggers are one type of influencer. You can also find influencers on YouTube, selling books on Amazon, or uploading podcasts. When looking for influencers to help you, check the size of their audiences. If they have too many subscribers, followers, or book customers, they’re probably swimming in requests for their time and clout by other businesses like you. Start with moderately powerful influencers, and you can build your audiences with them together!

Roundup Post

The best way to engage influencers with your website is to invite them in a “roundup post” for your blog. This is when you pose a relevant question to a number of influencers in your industry and gather their responses in a single article. Smartblogger.com lays out the strategy for roundup posts in this article: “The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Roundup Post That Gets 1000’s Of Shares.”

The 1st ingredient of a good roundup is the right question. This is something your target audience is dying to know about. You can use Google Keyword Planner to see what people are searching for. Your question also needs to be compelling to the influencers, something they haven’t come across before, and will want to answer. Study the comments on their blogs, social media, YouTube channels, etc, to see what they’ve covered before. Go back to the forums where you’re finding traffic and look at what questions are asked most often.

The 2nd ingredient is the right experts. I already mentioned audience size and whether they consider you worth their time. Also scope out their audiences and see if you want to reach them.

The 3rd ingredient is the right promotion. This is an additional boost to the post beyond the influencers sharing it. It will incentivize them to contribute.

When crafting the right question for your roundup, check Google Keyword Planner to see if it’s widely searched. Research to ranking Google pages on the topic to see if it has been answered by other blogs. Ironically, if it has been, it’s likely yours post will be popular, too. You can also use BuzzSumo to check the topic’s popularity on social media.

To make your question compelling to influencers and audiences, put a twist on it, like taking a negative perspective. You can ask “What mistakes do people make doing so-and-so?” or “Why do people fail with such-and-such?” You can also try getting super specific, like “Which 3 tools will accomplish your goal?”

To get influencers to participate in your roundup, some helpful ideas are to invite those who have done other roundups, treat it like a numbers game, and make it easy to reply.

Send emails to the influencers specifying the reason you’re reaching out, your question, a reason they’d like to participate, and the deadline for their reply.

When they send their responses, summarize each of them in one or two paragraphs and link to their sites or social media profiles. Alert your influencers right away when your post goes live so they know to share it. The fact that multiple influencers will share it incentives each of them so they can grow their own audiences. Additionally, share it in your own channels, and make a press release on PRNewswire. Mention it on sharing websites like Viral Content Bee, Triberr, BizSugar, and Kingged.

4. Offline

The final category of alternative web traffic I’ll go over is offline marketing. This includes broadcast media, print, business networking, and branded material.

Advertising on television and radio, even locally, requires a hefty budget. Alternative ways to use them are to send press releases, as on PRNewswire, or to offer expert interviews to the news media. Local television is in steep decline, but radio is still surprisingly relevant in the Internet Age. It helps that people listen while driving.

Print news is in decline, but you can print your own promotional materials such as pamphlets, fliers, and direct mail, and distribute them. Fliers can be cheaply printed at home and posted in public places. Similarly, your business cards can be placed in coffee shops and pinned to bulletin boards.

Networking events are opportunities to share your business cards and branded materials. This is a slow process compared to the other ones mentioned, but you can start relationships and get referrals this way.

Decentralize: Business Outside The Tech Giants

Decentralize: Business Outside The Tech Giants

Big Tech companies including Google, Facebook, and Amazon, hold sway over important industries. Journalism, digital marketing, retail, and more are at their mercy. But new developments are breaking open opportunities for other players. In this article, I’ll examine how the Tech Giants affect old industries, as well as alternative outlets for digital marketing.

History shows us that breaking monopolies is good not just for competitors, but the former top dog as well. In his book The Four, Scott Galloway discusses the antitrust breakup of Microsoft around the turn of the century, and remarks that Microsoft is bigger than ever now. The book is primarily about the Big 4 tech giants Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Galloway argues at the end that these corporations must be broken up as well, since they control not only major sectors of the economy, but our politics.

CNN Business reports that 47 State Attorneys General have joined an antitrust case against Facebook. It was begun in September by Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York. The case obviously has bipartisan support. The officials are investigating Facebook’s anti-competition practices, data and privacy breaches, its acquisition of other startups, and whether Facebook’s market share of digital advertising has raised its cost.

But Facebook isn’t their only target; the article says, “The meeting shows how law enforcement officials are increasingly probing specific business behaviors that they believe could support an antitrust case, rather than discussing tech giants purely in the context of their size.”

The Federal Department Of Justice opened an antitrust investigation against Google this year. It’s not connected to the one against Facebook, but it follows similar lines of inquiry. There are conversations of Google, whether intentionally or not, swinging the outcomes of elections. The YouTuber Tim Pool carefully dissected this topic in August; watch his video and decide for yourself if this is a legitimate concern.

For years, Google and Facebook have enjoyed a duopoly in online advertising, but Amazon is breaking into the space as well. This report from Geekwire.com details how Amazon is building its ad business:

“Amazon has quietly built a multi-billion dollar advertising arm that generates revenue by charging companies to promote their products on Amazon properties.

“Advertising drives a majority of revenue for Google and Facebook, which charge advertisers to have their marketing content appear on search results or news feeds.

“Amazon employs a similar strategy, but instead with its online marketplace and other platforms, giving vendors, authors, and others a way to reach potential customers. One of its main competitive advantages is the data it has on purchasing habits. It’s also replacing Google as the de-facto destination for product searches.”

More recently, the Google/Facebook/Amazon nexus has raised the costs of digital advertising. This means other apps and sites can charge lower rates and carve their own space in the market. The Motley Fool just suggested Pinterest can do this; they write that Pinterest can offer better returns on ad spend in the realm of search advertising. The article says it helps to think of Pinterest as a search engine rather than as a social network, one that lets users curate information about all manner of products and creative pursuits.

“The two digital advertising tech giants are big enough that they don’t have to worry about Pinterest stealing business, but it could have an impact on how high average ad prices climb on those platforms as marketers seek better returns on their investments. For Pinterest, it doesn’t really need to steal much from the industry leaders in order to grow revenue. Management expects to generate just $1.1 billion this year, which is just a fraction of what marketers spend on Google and Amazon.”

Advertising is the primary revenue source of news media. Much has been said about the collapse of mainstream journalism in the Digital Age, but a big factor is the chase for web traffic and t.v. ratings. With cable and broadcast television in decline, the networks are driving up sensationalism.

With Facebook and Google (and Twitter to a lesser extent) dominating web content, news websites have been dependent on them for traffic. A few years ago, they found they could get clicks and shares through stories inspiring anger. Both mainstream news sites and “content mills” followed this strategy. “Fake news” is both a genuine concern and a pretense for disregarding articles one doesn’t agree with politically. Today, most Americans actively distrust the media, or at least tune it out.

Perhaps journalism isn’t in decline so much as it’s changing. The Establishment Media (print, broadcast television, corporate news companies) are giving way to individual citizen journalists with blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels. The big media companies aren’t the gatekeepers of information anymore, although Google and Facebook definitely are. Thus, the government is investigating them.

Where can a blogger go for news leads? This brings us to another news development, the acquisition of Cision by the investment firm Platinum Equity. What is Cision? It’s the parent company of PRNewswire and Help A Reporter Out (HARO). These are two resources for news journalists and bloggers to get tips, interviews, and press releases. Platinum Equity’s investment has boosted Cision’s stock according to Motley Fool.

As an avid YouTube consumer, I watch a lot of news content by individuals commenting on mainstream news articles. If Cision and other tip clearinghouses can boost their online profiles, citizen journalists can more easily get their leads directly from the source.

If the government successfully breaks up the Big Tech monopolies, audiences will need to diversify their news sources. In a way, we can make progress by going back. I advocate joining forums, message boards, and RSS feeds. These were very popular before Facebook took over the world, and are still chugging away in their corners of the web. You can search for individual forums based on your interests, as well as join Reddit, which is a network of forums. You can sign up for Feedly.com and get article feeds from participating websites. If you have a blog, consider submitting it to Feedly for traffic.

The changes in media and antitrust cases against Big Tech have implications for other industries, mainly in how they market and advertise. With the decentralization of media into millions of blogs, a business can really drill down its targeted advertising across the web. Blogs are monetized in other ways, too, such as sponsored content and affiliate marketing. If you want to sell products online, you would do well to make your own online store and enable affiliate marketing. Let bloggers pitch your goods, and let them earn commissions so you only spend money on successful sales!

Conclusion

We shouldn’t want to do away with Google, Facebook, and Amazon. They do plenty of good and make modern life easier. But when an organization is capable of great good, it’s equally capable of great harm. We should appeal to their better angels.

In the interests of disclosure, I’m very entrenched in a couple of these companies. I run Google Adsense on my site, and Facebook is major part of my website’s traffic. Facebook and Google’s subsidiary YouTube are my main sources of entertainment, ever since I cut the cord and don’t watch television anymore. When I critique them, I’m not biting the hand that feeds- I’m encouraging them to be better so society can enjoy more freedom and prosperity.

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