Monthly Archives: March 2007

Find Your Targeted, Specific Keywords & You’ll Find Cheaper Clicks

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The more general your keywords are, the more they will cost you per click, because there is more competition. It is in your best interest to ditch those general keywords, or at least move them into their own ad groups, and focus on your targeted keywords that are more specific to your product, service, or brand.

Recently, I was bidding on general, non-specific keywords, and there was no competition for them whatsoever. Mine were the only sponsored ads being shown, and my quality score was rated either “okay” or “great.” However, I was being asked to pay up to $0.50 per keyword bid in order to show ads for these general keywords. If I tried to lower the bids, they became inactive. I e-mailed Google for a solution that would lower my bids, and this is what they came up with:

“Effective keywords are relevant to your products and accurately reflect the content of your website. You might consider deleting general keywords, or moving them to a different ad group, as it’s important that an ad text and landing page are closely tied to the keyword list.

There is also a chance that your keywords that are well targeted may be too specific. Although specific keywords are usually better than general ones, keywords that are too specific can limit your ad exposure. For example, few people will likely search for the phrase “minocycline rifampin impregnated catheter.”

This worked for me to an extent. I did break out my keywords and put them into their own ad groups. About a week later I did notice that I was able to lower bids on some of my keywords, but not others. I’m still working on the issue, however.

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Google Apps Invitation Distributed to AdWords Users

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I’m a huge fan of Google and their new Apps software package. It’s truly fascinating to me to watch them take the idea of a web-application to new heights. This week, in an effort to continue growing in this new market space, Google began distributing emails to AdWords advertisers. The email boasts the new programs (email, calendar, spreadsheet, etc) and offers examples of how they can be easily used in any office environment.

Considering the massive email list Google has from its AdWords advertisers, this campaign will surely bring in a solid number of new users. Admittedly, I don’t know how well Google Apps would work for a medium to large sized company. But for those small businesses out there, the basic price tag (free) is really hard to beat! As an added incentive, Google is offering free live webinars for new users of the Apps suite. I suppose this is why Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer thinks Google is insane!

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5 Ideas for A/B Testing Your PPC Ad Text

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With the new algorithm changes from Google and Yahoo!, having a good quality score is an added challenge in the PPC world; and your ad text is a big part of having a great quality score. Here are five tips I have used personally that helped me gain control of my accounts through ad text testing.

1. Call to action: Speaking with Google and Yahoo! frequently, they suggest that when leading customers to a page where they need to fill out a form or download a whitepaper, tell the customers they also will do this in your ad text. For example, “Download our whitepaper on e-mail marketing today.” That way, users know what they’re getting into before they click. I think it’s a great idea if you’re working for conversions; if you’re just driving clicks, it may turn someone away. Use your “calls to action” wisely. This test seems to be working on some of my accounts. Nothing dramatic yet, though.

2. Keyword smothering: Yahoo! has been adamant about having your keywords smothered in your ad text title, short description, long description, and URL in order to get a great quality score. These guidelines make it harder to get creative and pull people in. I tested Yahoo!’s theory on keyword smothering. In one instance, I cleared stats for all three of my ad texts for one ad group. The first one had my keyword in every line of my text, including my URL. The second had just one instance of my keyword. Number three had the keyword in only the title and URL. The results? Strangely enough, the third ad text had a click-through rate (CTR) of 1.19%. The first ad text, with the keyword smothered, had a CTR of .93%. The second, with only one instance of my keyword, had a CTR of 0.55%. Since this seemed to prove Google and Yahoo! wrong for the time being, I will be testing this theory more in the future. But it’s something to try for yourself.

3. Dynamic ad text: Make sure you learn how to use dynamic ad text correctly before putting it into place or your ads could look strange to the user. If you have a lot of different types of keywords within one ad group, this is the best time to use dynamic ad text testing—although if you have many different keywords in one ad group, they should really be broken out into separate ad groups, but that’s another discussion. In four out of five cases in which I have tested dynamic ad text, it proved to work better than non-dynamic ad text—although I don’t usually use dynamic ad text in the descriptions, only in the title. I feel the user may catch on to our logic, and then be turned off.

4. Get creative: Take a look at your competitors’ ads. Are they just like yours? If you’re testing, you shouldn’t be afraid to get creative. You want to find the ad that works best, right? Use punctuation if you can, such as question marks or exclamation points. But most of all, get into your customers head and think of some words that might catch their attention. Marketing studies show that men tend to follow high-tech buzz words, while women are looking for deals.

5. Numbers: I’ve heard this has worked for some people but not others. Putting phone numbers in your ad text just might help your click-through rates. Some people may be looking online just to find a phone number. This might catch their attention and they may possibly click through. Or the number might just catch someone’s attention more than another ad does. You can also put in percentages or money values. I have an ad that consistently performs better and the text goes something like this: Over 40% of e-mails don’t reach the in-box. If something is on sale, put the sale price in the text. For example: Personalized Vases on Sale, $24.99. You get the point.

My point overall is that perhaps smothering your keywords in your ad text won’t always do the trick. In my experience, when I get creative is when I see the majority of my ads performing better.

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The Long and Short of It (Ad Text Lengths within Panama)

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Within the old Yahoo! interface, users were allotted one ad text and it could contain up to 180 characters. Every keyword was assigned a title, a description, and a destination URL. In Panama’s ad groups, keyword groups are served with specified ad texts.

Each ad description is allotted one headline, two lines of ad text, a display URL, and a destination URL. Advertisers have the option of using a short ad text and a long ad text. The short description can be up 70 characters in length and the long description can be up to 180 characters in length.

The short text appears within Yahoo! search results. The long text appears within Yahoo! partner sites, via Yahoo!’s content distribution network, that can accommodate longer ad text descriptions. The content distribution network includes sites such as CNN, ESPN, USA Today, AllTheWeb, eBay, National Geographic, iVilliage, and many others.

We suggest utilizing both the long and short description options. If you’re going to use one description, though, we suggest using the short one. If you opt to use only the long text, your ad texts will be cut off at 70 characters within Yahoo! search results as well as within quite a bit of the content network. This means your entire description will not be displayed.

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We Enjoy a Good Webinar

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We are going to be dipping our toes into the MSN content distribution pool soon and I don’t know about you, but I’ll be taking this webinar announced by MSN on 3/14. To be honest, MSN has always been a low-traffic, supplemental search avenue for our clients. However, since they are #3 in the game, we are always looking for ways to get better results. Perhaps their content distribution might just help. What’s everyone else’s thoughts on the MSN content network?

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PPC News Roundup for March 16, 2007

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John Miller from Search Engine Land Upsets PPC Agencies
http://searchengineland.com/070314-085639.php

Interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has Everyone Laughing
http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2007/03/will-google-become-the-next-microsoft.html

Kevin Lee with Clickz Discusses His Trials & Tribulations with the Yahoo Relevance Score
http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3625248

Yahoo! describes how to set up roles in Project Panama
http://www.ysmblog.com/blog/2007/03/14/role-play/

Wall Street Journal profiles the impact of domain changes on search engine performance http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB117375265591935029-azt3SDR6a_bQwU1WbraemnGSXZ0_20070411.html

A solid reminder for search marketers – the end goal should be based on conversions, not necessarily rankings
http://www.mikemoran.com/biznology/archives/2007/03/whats_the_real.html

For those with great design skills and aspirations for expert link building, this tactic is a winner!
http://www.linkbuildingblog.com/2007/03/how_to_increase.html

Is Ask.com waging a propaganda war with Google?
http://searchengineland.com/070314-131821.php

The PPC Blog fires back against SELand and author Jon Miller’s article against PPC management agencies
http://www.ppcblog.co.uk/ppc/have-we-another-pasternack

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Being #1 Doesn’t Always Mean You Win

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This is the first in a series of case studies we will be publishing. These case studies will focus on the work we do for clients. In particular, we will dissect the strategies we implemented to solve certain problems within a campaign or goals we wanted to attain. We will discuss the strategy and the outcome (positive or negative).

Client: Indian Math Online (IMO) is an online tutoring system that helps students with their math skills. The theory behind their business model is that there is an art to teaching math, and teachers in India have mastered this skill. The methodology used in Indian classrooms is implemented within IMO so when students sign up they are not only getting math help, they are learning a whole new way to approach math.

Issue: We were in a heavy testing phase at the time within Google. In one ad group they had only a handful of keywords (3 to 5 keywords). An aggressive standard bid was set that placed each keyword at position #1. Within this campaign, our CPA was over three times our goal, but the client wanted to be in the top position. We were also running four different ad texts at the time (all going to same landing page).

Solution: I decided to make a few changes to the ad group because I was certain we would have just as many clicks and conversions in position #3 or 4. Also, I was certain that we could retire two of our under-performing ad texts which would then funnel more traffic to our better ads, resulting in a higher CTR and a lower CPC. Here are the changes I made:

  • Lowered our standard bid slightly
  • Used Google’s Ad Position Preference Tool and set our keywords to 3 (highest) to 5 (lowest)
  • Retired two of our ad texts

Outcome: On the 25th of January I made the two changes and my theory proved itself out. Our CTR stayed steady, our CPC dropped, our conversion rate remained steady and our CPA decreased.

Summary: The theory that being #1 is not in the client’s best interest holds true (however, there are instances when being in the first position is fine for certain clients, but not for most). Two practices that we implement frequently worked well: optimal ad placement is not position #1, and continue to test ad text because it can affect your ad group’s performance (especially CTR and CPC, which in turn effect your quality score).

Graphs: Below are a few graphs that reflect the changes we made to the campaign. The monetary information has been removed, but you can see the positive trending. Click each image to enlarge the graphs.

Average ad position:

position graph

Click-through-rate

ctr-graph.png

Cost-per-click

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Cost-per-lead

cpa.png

Categorised in Advanced PPC Strategies, Bid/Budget Management, PPC Management Tips

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Display & Destination URLs Should Play Nice

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Google recently declined some of my ad groups because the display and destination URLs had different domain names. However, the two URLs lead users to the same landing page. The unfortunate side to this is that I received an e-mail from Google telling me that some of my ads had been declined one full day after I had added the ad groups. Therefore, those ad groups were turned off and I missed a full day’s worth of traffic.

The point of the story? Lesson 1: make sure your display and destination URLs are of the same root address; Lesson 2: check back frequently on any changes you make to your ad text or you could lose potential traffic.

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We’re Gonna Have Some Fundamentals!

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All of us who work in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising look at accounts and stats day in and day out. After a while, we can easily start to lose focus and lose our grip on the basics. Today, I will discuss the most fundamental yet most important aspects of managing a well-planned and great-performing PPC campaign.

Ad Testing

The most powerful tip I can give to anyone running a PPC campaign is to consistently perform ad testing. Around our office, we have a general rule of thumb that EVERY account we manage should be split testing ads at all times. This isn’t a singular event either but a perpetual, organic process. Now that Yahoo! allows split testing in Panama, there are no longer any excuses NOT to be doing this simple, effective management task.

Consider each run of an ad as a new challenge for your creative writing skills. “How can I rock-’em-sock-’em in seventy characters or less?” With this mindset, it’s an exciting experience to see how many searchers “vote” for your best work by clicking on the ad. Whichever metric you’re testing, it’s best to give each ad anywhere from thirty to forty clicks before you decide to retire it, or test it against your next creative ad.

Landing Pages

Whether you’re a novice PPCer or the consummate master, utilizing relevant landing pages is an important piece of your advertising puzzle. Relevant landing pages will dramatically increase your conversion rates. Admittedly, this is a lesson that I’m still learning today. Every time I implement a landing page that has exact relevancy to my keywords and ad texts, I am surprised at how well it performs.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to point all of your PPC ads to a generic homepage. Granted, you may get lucky and have a few searchers meander through your site until they find what it is they were looking for; but the majority of your click traffic will leave in the first few seconds because they didn’t! Picking a landing page can truly be as simple as digging through your Web site until you happen upon a deep link that has great content. However, the most effective landing pages are those solely designed for converting click traffic.

Does your landing page match your keywords and ad texts? Does your landing page easily define what the visitor should do with a clear call to action? If your answer to these questions is yes, then my work here is done.

Keyword Research

If you read as many blogs as I do, it is difficult to make it through a single day without stumbling upon someone discussing the “long tail” of keywords. Keyword research is fundamental to a well-managed PPC campaign as it is with any other form of search marketing. There are many tools and widgets available for free, so anyone and everyone can easily perform effective research.

The importance of research lies in finding those keywords that have a low CPC but are still bringing in high-converting traffic. Not too long ago I inherited a client that was merely limping along each month. The client was spending money right and left, and at the end of the day had nothing to show for it. After following my own advice and digging down into their ad texts and landing pages, I suddenly realized that my keyword lists were seriously lacking. With a modicum of keyword research–and a little luck–I was able to turn that client’s performance around in no time at all. The use of variations, misspellings, and typos allowed me to reduce cost and, in turn, increase conversions. The point is, if you aren’t doing keyword research for your PPC clients, start doing it today.

Budgets

Utilizing budgets for a PPC campaign is a delicate operation. Yahoo! (and previously Overture) allows advertisers to set an account budget. With the advent of Panama, Yahoo! has also included campaign budgets to compete with you-know-who (cough–Google–cough), who, as it stands, only allows campaign budgets. MSN just kinda does their own thing up there in Redmond, Washington. All budget controls in adCenter are simply set at the account level.

A very important lesson that I’ve learned with clients who have limited marketing dollars to spend is to tread carefully when setting account budgets (not available in AdWords). If you set an account budget, but neglect to set individual campaign budgets, you will see your heavy-traffic keywords perform really well, but nothing else will. The few keywords in your account that drive the most click traffic will shut off your account before the other long-tail keywords have had a chance to perform their magic.

Plan carefully. Like I said, if you have a client who absolutely has to stay within a set budget each month, plan ahead and set your campaign/account budgets accordingly. You will save yourself a world of hurt at the end of the month when you realize you don’t have to shut your account off to meet your client’s goals.

While managing a PPC campaign in terms of budgets can be powerful, and can affect great change, don’t let this take you away from your solid keyword bid management. Those two activities go hand and hand, and the one definitely doesn’t work without the other.

These PPC fundamentals have brought me success, so I wish you all well in putting them to work for you.

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