Analysing examples of PPC

Today is 14th September 2016 and I’m writing this blog in what feels like the hottest day of the year in UK. Luckily it is now late night and the cool breeze from my window will occasionally cool me down.

Anyway, today I felt like adding some content related to marketing, as my previous posts have been about video games.

I’m going to try my hand at giving my own analysis on a few different examples of PPC adverts displayed in Google by searching for random keywords that people might search. All of this may not be 100% correct, however I feel that my previous 3 years of experience working in digital marketing will somewhat aid in my analysis. Here goes.

  • The first PPC ad I’ve chosen to give a quick analysis is from searching “Groceries”, which at the time I searched came up with 2 results. The first being Tesco’s, followed by Asda. In hindsight, most people would probably search a combination of “groceries” plus “online” or “shopping”. Firstly, which PPC ad stands out more? I’d have to say that Asda’s use of rating system catches my eye, mainly because it is a different colour. However, given a second read through, Tesco has the stronger CTA with the “1 month free delivery trial”, whereas Asda only displays their website name. In my search I typed “Groceries”, which you can see is highlighted in Tesco’s ad within the url, however for Asda’s url, it shows me the delivery url which is not too relevant for me at this point. I would have to read the description below to actually spot the relevant keyword.  Both ads use sitelinks, as well as nearest stores based on my location plus opening hours, which is quality information for consumers to know. Overall, Tesco’s PPC ad seems more effective to me with a clear CTA & more relevant content. ppc-ad1
  • The next PPC ad comparison is for searching the word “Hotels London”, which I feel would be searched fairly often, hence the number of results & popularity in Google trends. We have 3 different competitors that offer online services to book hotels in London: Booking.com, Trivago & Expedia. I notice first that all three of these are third party sites and not actual hotels. This could mean that hotels aren’t buying their own PPC ads and instead relying on popularity of these sites to drive traffic. Using a ratings system, is a nice way to show people the quality of the site, especially for when people are searching for hotels. Therefore, I feel it’s a bit strange that Trivago are not using this. Next to the description, which is best to keep short and clear, so potential customers can quickly understand if that content is relevant. All three use fairly short sentences in their description, with Expedia’s description slightly longer than the rest. Always being at the top, doesn’t mean they are the best site. It could mean they spent more to acquire that position, however sometimes even 2nd or 3rd could generate greater results. I feel that Trivago does this better, if their customer is wanting to keep costs down. Their ad clearly focuses on the price point with mentions of the price in the CTA & description. In my personal experience, I’ve always used booking.com, as I find their website efficient & simple to navigate. However, if I were to be a new consumer with not much knowledge about each of the site, I would probably click on either Trivago or Expedia. This being the focus on pricing & clear cta used by Expedia.ppc-ad-hotels
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Google trends for “Hotels London” popularity in UK

  • The last PPC ad comparison is for when searching the term “Cheap holidays”. This search brings up the most number of ads thus far with 4 different websites. Again, Expedia appear since they offer holiday services as well as hotels. Only the top ad uses the rating system, which I feel the others could include as well, for an indiciator of the customer feedback of their site. All have pretty strong CTA with relevancy to cheap holidays, however I feel that loveholidays.com and Expedia’s call to action uses their copy more effectively. They both don’t repeat the website in their CTA and have strong actions on saving money. With the description, onthebeach.co.uk uses for too many words and it would be nice to see them try a shorter description. It’s good to know all that they fly to a lot of different destinations, however they could maybe try phrasing it better to shorten the length. I’m not sure what loveholidays.com means when they use the term ATOL/ABTA and for some holiday buyers they might not be looking for this term also. “0% monthly payments” sounds more like a bank or insurance ad, than a holiday ad. I would maybe try a different set of copy with more terms that customers would tend to search for. I feel that if the 2nd ad is the most effective as they have a strong CTA, however I feel they should tweak their description to include more common terms like “low prices” or “0% cancellation fees” and could see a better response.

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Taken from Google Trends – Cheap holidays is searched throughout the year

My early thoughts: The Final Station

I have just purchased The Final Station, which is a game about a lonely train engineer, waking up to realise all hell has broken loose. As the train engineer, you’re the only person engineer remaining with a working train and have been tasked with the job of transporting essential equipment to help fight the zombies.

Across my journey, I’ve encountered different strangers with their own destinations, who take refuge on your train. As part of the game, you have to manage the passengers and treat them with food or medicine, depending on their status. You won’t always be able to keep some of them alive, as you have to make the lesser of two evils. Every station that you arrive at, will require you to search for a code in order to refuel your train and move to the next station. As your search for this code, you might find useful items such as food, medicine or ammo. You use the ammo to defend yourself from the zombie-like creatures which look like walking shadows. You will encounter different types of zombies and each will require a specific strategy to dispose off, as ammo and the material to make it can be sparse. On the train, you have to look pay attention to the status of the equipment, as it overheats during your travel. this can be quickly averted by manipulating the levels.

And this is basically what you do. You move station to station, picking up stragglers, search derelict towns for useful items and try to survive the zombie apocalypse. I’m a fan of the atmosphere the game builds, the different locales you pass and the level of death and decay they’ve seen and although the gameplay elements are fairly simple, it does offer challenges and moments of panic when you have to face the zombies. The Final Station also reminds me of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, as they both share the same premise of travelling by train and killing zombies.

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VR spotlight: Become a lumberjack

Ever fancy yourself to be the next best lumberjack?

Thanks to DigitasLBI Nordics you can. They’ve created a VR game where you can safely wield a Husqvarna brand chainsaw and take part in a virtual reality logging competition. This has been created to help promote Husqvarna and also the World Logging Championships, happening this month. Yes, they can make VR games to promote anything now, but at least it’s not for something like virtual extreme cheese rolling.

Few brands have taken the challenge to create an experience with VR, which I think is due to a few reasons like cost and ROI. VR games that have been built for HTC Vive or Oculus, such as the Limberjack VR, will not be experienced by a large audience, as most home owners haven’t purchased a VR set, as it is a huge investment. However, VR makes sense where you can create a fun and interesting brand experience and can be experienced at events by the public.

For DigitasLBI, maybe they’ll help to inspire the next generation of lumberjacks or at least promote the World Logging Championships to those that own a HTC vive and can try it at home.

My thoughts on game dev support post launch

It’s always nice to see game developers who are passionate about their games and support it post launch. Downloadable content is often misused by game developers as a way to earn more money for content that could have been included with the retail purchase.

Not every game developer has gone about DLC with the consumer’s interest in mind. Wildcard’s ARK: Survival Evolved is still in early access, but that hasn’t stopped them from announcing a paid expansion pack. This hasn’t gone down well with most of the users however Wildcard have recently tried to explain their actions.

CD Projekt Red have probably been the most reputable game developers this year offering free DLC (mostly cosmetic), where other developers would charge users and creating 2 amazing expansion packs, after the release of the main game. We’ve also seen them release updates & fixes to game even several months after they released their final expansion pack. Another developer to note that has a consumer friendly post support plan is Colossal Order’s Cities: Skylines.

Nordic Games, developer of the action rpg Titan Quest, released an unexpected update to their game to mark the 10 year anniversary. As another treat, they rewarded owners of the original game with a free copy of the updated game. This has been a great piece of support from the developers, which has seen players up to 11,000 get back into the game.

Post launch support, is obviously pretty common and always to be expected, however it is the way that the game developers announce their plans which can affect their reputation in the long run. From a consumer perspective, it always seems more effective if they announce the plan for DLC or expansions after the final game has been released.

My thoughts on No Man’s Sky {PC}

No Man’s Sky, developed by Hello Games, a small indie team based in UK has seen its’ fair share of negative comments since launching in August.

Promising endless exploration and wondrous discoveries, many players have felt that after spending more than 100 hours, the game has failed to offer the same effect as the E3 video. Many are aware about the difference between E3 gameplay vs the final product, although with NMS the gap seems larger.

So far, I’ve spent around 47 hours flying around the universe, warping system to system, mining, upgrading, finding new ships and rinsing and repeating. At first the game was enjoyable to play, as everywhere I went, there was something new to see. However, soon after the game started to feel almost pointless to reach the end goal. Many have reached the center and felt the ending was not worth the many hours spent gathering resources and travelling. I myself, have yet to reach this goal, however I have not felt the motivation to get back into this game in order to do so.

The issue with the game, in its’ current state is the lack of depth after awhile, it feels like a early access game that requires few months in development and that after playing awhile, you could actually experience everything the game has to offer on a single planet. There could have been many reasons for this, maybe due to Sony getting them as an exclusive, forced their hands to release the game early.

With the user base averaging around 6,000 users daily, there are many players still enjoying the game, however with the launch seeing 200,000 users, this is definitely something HelloGames and Sony should address, especially if they wish to support this game for long term or release a sequel. Many have asked HelloGames to perform an AMA on reddit, which would help to shed some light on the lack of communication and truth about the missing features. We’ve seen HG communicate via their twitter, however this has only been towards bug updates & patches, rather than explaining the claim of misleading people.

There’s no excuse HG can give to please the 90% of angry players, however for those still playing, including myself, all they can do is move forward and create new content for the game.

 

 

Mario & Pokemon at the Apple event?

The world as we know has ended.

It seems that Nintendo have not given up on their quest to dominate the mobile market and establish a lead in front of Microsoft & Sony, by announcing Mario & Pokemon to the mobile scene, well, at least for Apple at the moment.

For Pokemon Go aficionados, maybe the announcement of an accompanying app for the Apple watch will increase sales of the device. And it does seem to have most of the features included, except for the ability to catch the Pokemon via your smartwatch but I think that Nintendo have just moved too slowly on this announcement especially since smartwatches have been around for some time; they should have made this announcement a few weeks after launching the game. With even the Pokemon GO accessory device not yet released, it does feel like they didn’t follow any structured release schedule, or if they had then they might have another surprise to attract people to buy the accessory, once it’s released.

As for Mario, the plucky red plumber will make his move onto Apple in the form of an endless run, currently named Super Mario Run. At first glance, many would think that this would be another endless runner from behind the perspective of the character. Well, it is an endless runner and it seems all you actually do is tap  to jump, however it keeps the 2d perspective of Mario, that we’ve all grown and enjoyed playing – albeit using the latest 3d character for the newer generations. Those who still love the classic Super Mario with the 2d sprites may not be interested by the current 3d appearance.

You can catch short glimpse of the gameplay uploaded by Nintendo.

 

Playstation Live Meeting 2016

It was rumoured that the launch of the PS4 slim and PS4.5 would be announced in early September and it was done during today’s Playstation Meeting, at Playstation Theater in Times Square, New York City.

Firstly, the PS4 slim has been announced as the slimmer brother of the original PS4 with the same amount of graphical power & lower power output. Price was announced at £259 and release date is expected on September 15th, 2016. Playstation VR’s release date is scheduled in October, this year.

Moving on to the PS4.5, which we now know as PS4 PRO, will be released on November 10th, 2016 for £349. This is the more powerful version of the original PS4 console, that puts 4k gaming into console gamer’s palms for the first time, HDR graphical improvements, PS VR support & HDTV support for even greater graphical fidelity. It will also allow game developers to squeeze even more out of the console to make their game look the best. Gamer’s will obviously require to upgrade to a 4k capable TV to reap the full benefits, however it won’t require a 4k tv to be played on, so the majority of 1080p TV’s will still be able to use PS4 PRO.

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Below are screenshots of games which will support PS4 PRO. Other titles to support PS4 PRO are Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Infamous: First Light & Killing Floor 2. I expected Battlefield 1 to be shown as one of the games to support PS4 PRO, however maybe we’ll see this via an update in the future.

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It wasn’t just the difference in games that the PS4 PRO would help to improve, Sony announced that they will partner with Netflix to bring 4k shows. Narcos S2 & Luke Cage have been announced as first titles to support 4k.

Finally, Sony announced that every single PS4 that has been released since the very first console sold, will receive an update to allow for HDR capability.

I’m probably going to save up for either the slim or purchase the original once the price drops. Although the PS4 PRO would be amazing, I just don’t want to fork out an extra few thousand pounds for a 4k tv.

With rumours about Microsoft’s Project Scorpio to have even greater power, it’ll be exciting to see that announcement and how it stacks up with PS4 PRO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts on Battlefield 1 PC Open Beta

EA & DICE really hit the nail when they announced Battlefield 1 at E3, when we already knew another Call of Duty game would be released the same year – this one set in space. There were moans and groans from veteran COD players, praying for Activision to release another World War era shooter. Well, little did they know, their prayers were answered – albeit by EA & DICE with Battlefield 1. They showed the trailer. Everybody wept with tears of joy that we were going to get a new World war shooter in the new gen console. Memes were then created to mock the battle between the 2 FPS giants and how EA took Activision by the scruff of the neck and beat it senseless with a shovel.

As we entered September, EA announced the open beta for all platforms. Origin members that were part of EA Insider would be able to play the game, a few days earlier. I’m sure this marketing tactic received a lot of new subscriptions to their newsletter and probably a lot un-subscriptions afterwards.

The open beta was the first time the mass audience could try out the game and get their taste of World War 1 combat. 2 modes (Conquest, Rush) were available to play over the single map Sinai Desert – a barren sandscape with some ruined buildings scattered across the map – acting as the capture points in Conquest. Mountains ran through the map, which offered many high sniping spots. It would have been nice if we had at least another map to play with, as after a few rounds, the game started to feel a bit stale.

With Battlefield 4, the levels would deliver huge set pieces that altered the map in some state and with Sinai Desert, this was the same. I have encountered 2 different types of weather effects: sandstorm and fog. A new feature has been the inclusion of the Train, which is spawned once the opposing team has reached halfway point to victory. The train can be occupied by at least 6 people; 1 to drive and 5 to man the weapons. As with betas, there have been many bugs resulting in sometimes hilarious results. Light tanks would often feel invulnerable and easy ways to score some points. So far, the game has been fairly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to when they announce further maps.

Playing Sinai Desert, there was a feeling of similarity, as it could have seemed to a passerby that we were playing Star Wars Battlefront TM. Hopefully, other maps will have more battlefield feeling. Since both games are using the same engine, both games will often feel similar.

The open beta has been reported to end on 8th September, as well as a new update released that removes the timer from conquest mode.