Interview with Elise Richardson from

The following is an interview Pat East, President of Hanapin Marketing conducted with Elise Richardson, who manages search for  The two of them met at the recent SMX summit.  Elise has some very interesting insights into how she manages her PPC account.

Pat: Can you tell us your name, title, organization, what mywebgrocer does, what you do on a daily basis, and how did you get into Internet marketing?

Name: Elise Richardson

Title: Search Marketing

Organization: MyWebGrocer


What we do: MyWebGrocer provides eCommerce applications and services for retail grocers such as online shopping, shoppable interactive circulars, shopping lists and recipes. In addition to online grocery shopping, MyWebGrocer has the largest grocery advertising network covering over 80% of the US.

What I do: I manage the Customer Acquisition Program by combining paid search methods (PPC) with SEO. My goal is to optimize our paid search campaigns by refining and optimizing text ads through constant testing, monitoring and tweaking of copy points and headlines. I also work with a team in India (NetElixir) who work to refine keyword lists and geo-targeting.

How did I get into Internet Marketing: I’m pretty sure that internet marketing found me. When I started with MyWebGrocer I was focused on traditional marketing, collateral and graphic design. I had maintained the company websites (still do) but did not do much in the way of SEO.  When the Acquisition program was implemented I learned about AdWords and search engine marketing and optimization. Once I started to play with the ad campaigns and saw what a difference one small text or keyword alteration can have on CTRs and conversions I was totally hooked. There’s so much that factors into the way people search for information, it’s fascinating.

Pat: What’s your biggest daily challenge with your PPC accounts?

Elise: Weeding out keywords is hard for me. There are always those few that you think are going to do great and convert but then flop. I have a hard time killing them off because they’re not costing me any money, so I’ll usually let them stay a bit longer and see if altering the match parameter helps. Sometimes certain keywords just don’t work; even if they’re logical to you they may not be search terms the consumer would think of. It’s important to get a fresh perspective and ask a real customer how they would search for your product. That will definitely give you some great insight into how your consumer is thinking, which is what it’s all about right?

Pat: I think you’ve beautifully described why search marketing can be so difficult at times.  Keywords that are logical to SEM’ers simply may not be the keywords that resonate with customers.  Finding them and constantly improving them is such a crucial, but often times, frustrating part of our work.

Let’s talk a little bit about customers, since you mentioned them.  How do you get inside your customer’s head?  Or, are you able to talk with them directly to find out how they would search?  (And, if you are, what are some of the things you ask them?)

Elise: The first question I usually ask myself is “how would my mother use this? Or more importantly, what would she call it?” When it comes to keywords it’s about finding the way people view/use your product. Finding someone outside of the company is good place to start. Go to the store and shop for your product/service, become a customer. Observe and talk to them, there is always great conversations going on in the store. I guarantee there are questions that will come to you which you had never thought of before. If you can’t get out in the “field” I find that blogs help tremendously. I have several Google alerts throughout the day and the information you can get from bloggers is fantastic! They LOVE to talk about their experiences, good and bad which will give you insight into how they perceive the brand and their overall experience with it.  Most importantly, search for the product yourself. Enter your search terms and see what comes up, you may be surprised to see who else is bidding on your keywords. Try several until you’ve exhausted your list and have a good understanding of the SERPs for your keywords – even if the results are what you expected you will have a better understanding than you did before.

Pat: What’s the biggest insight you’ve gained by talking with customers or doing market research (that you would have never found out otherwise)?

Elise: The importance of vernacular. Since most of the ads I run are geo-targeted it is imperative that I appeal to the locals. Speak their language. For example, I was working on these text ads for a grocery store that offering online shopping to NYC. From what I knew of the New Yorkers that I had met they had all referred to grocery shopping as “food shopping”. So I started to run some text ads with the “food shopping” phrase and it didn’t convert. No one clicked on it, but everyone clicked on the ads with the grocery store keywords. It turns out that “food shopping” is a phrase that many upstate New Yorkers use while those living in the city stick to the phrase “grocery shopping”.  Once I changed the phrase my ads did much better.

Speaking with customers and hearing about their experiences can bring to light issues that you may have not uncovered without a different frame of reference. For example, living in a city means that carrying bags of ice or heavy awkward items like dog food become an enormous hassle for someone who walks or takes the metro to work every day. Having to carry a bag of ice those 5 blocks home presents a new set of issues that I (someone who drives to work each day) would not have originally considered. Suddenly home delivery becomes appealing for different reasons than I had initially anticipated. It would have taken me much longer to realize these little details if I had not been exposed to a resident New Yorker.

Pat: It’s interesting that you’re targeting “food shopping” with the end goal of converting someone to delivery.  I would guess that they’re initially in the mind set of wanting to find someplace to shop, not necessarily someplace that delivers their groceries.  With that in mind, can you give us some tips on effectively advertising a product/service on keywords that people aren’t directly searching for?

Elise: Creating awareness about a service that people aren’t necessarily searching for can be tackled in a few ways. First, like you had mentioned below – bidding on keywords that are similar, like e-cards, is a good way to garner some traffic. In my case (online grocery shopping) I bid on several different types of keywords (anything from actual products to literally “online grocery shopping”) that may relate to my campaign. Because people are not aware of the product you’ll have to get as close to it as possible. My searchers may have indeed been looking for the B&M location of the grocery store, but may be pleasantly surprised to know that they can shop online because my ad popped up. The key is that your ad text and landing page be relevant and convincing, as these people were not looking for your product specifically.

I would also start the campaign off on a CPM basis rather than CPC. This way you can focus on building brand awareness and garnering more impressions. Once you’ve built up some awareness I would switch to CPC.  In addition there is also the ability to focus on the content networks that the ads are running on, ensuring that you reach the right eyeballs.

I might consider running some print ads (gasp, I know) to help create awareness as offline media does still drive online traffic. Once you can create a small buzz it’s all good and people should start searching more for your terms.

Pat:  Let’s talk about quality score a bit.  It affects nearly everyone and now Google has just announced a new change (  In sum, they’re no longer updating your keyword quality score just once a day, they’re

doing it for every search now.  What is your biggest frustration with quality score and what have you done to manage it?

Elise: I think that basing the quality score off of each search makes sense. Theoretically, this should help ensure that your ads are really only showing for qualified search terms versus your bid. However, I do think that changing the “minimum bid” to “First-page bid” has the potential to start costing us more – especially with those newer to PPC, the term “First page bid” sounds a bit misleading. I can see people bidding ridiculous amounts just because they’re afraid of not making the first SERP (even when there may not be anyone competing for the word) unintentionally forcing the minimum bid higher.

I haven’t had a ton of issues with quality score. In my experience as long as your ads and landing pages are relevant, Google plays nicely and rewards you. It’s once you’ve bid on terms that your content is not optimized for that you are penalized. As we all know, Google is about relevancy – so optimize for your keywords, read through your ads, your landing pages, meta descriptions, etc. and see how many of your keywords show up. There are several factors that determine your rankings on the SERPs, quality score, bids, and seniority as well as those factors that Google won’t let us in on.

Bottom line, optimize your content for your keywords and keep your bid a bit above average and you’ll be rewarded.

Pat: We met at LOMO…what was your biggest take-away from there that you’ve already implemented and what type of impact did it have on your business?

Elise: I think the biggest thing that I took away was how important it is to focus on local search. So often we’re focused on targeting everybody nationally instead of concentrating on breaking down our campaigns locally to reach the right people. Identifying who it is that is searching for your product isn’t always easy – and many times not who you thought. Listing your business in local directories such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN Business listings, optimizing your site and content (meta descriptions, tags, keywords, etc) can only help to further establish your business in the eyes of the search engines and increase your visibility with customers.  It’s super easy to do and a great place to start boosting your SEO efforts.