Ahhh, holidays. I’m guessing that about 50% of the country is hung over this chilly Monday morning due to either romantic champagne & wine with a loved one, or contrary tequila shots & beer with friends or the TV.
As you try to shake off the after-effects this holiday, remember to shake off any after-effects that various holidays may have left on your PPC campaigns. A lot of PPC campaigns are probably hung over from Valentine’s campaigns today, and many are still hung over from Christmas!
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Valentine’s is over
And Christmas is too
A couple of weeks before valentine’s day I was searching for gourmet chocolates – probably a competitive keyword this time of year. Ad #4 was a an ad talking about Christmas Chocoaltes [sic] and chocolate santas.
Time and again I come across outdated holiday promotions in PPC ads. And yes, I’ve had slip-ups myself over the years, but let this valentine’s day remind you to show your PPC ads some love.
Scan through your ads for references to Christmases past (or any other holiday that’s not around the corner)
Do a search for terms like Christmas, holiday, valentine, etc. & edit anything that comes up
While you’re at it, go ahead and spell-check & grammar-check your ads too
Oscar Pico, a Senior Natural Search Specialist at Apogee Search, recently took time to get me acquainted with Google’s SearchWiki. He discussed what Google’s SearchWiki is and how it can affect search engine marketing campaigns.
Launched in November 2008, the Google SearchWiki allows searchers to personalize Google search results by ranking, removing/adding web pages and sharing comments related to the search results.
In terms of managing a search marketing campaign, the SearchWiki presents some potential challenges in tracking data. Rankings play a large role in tracking search traffic data, so now that rankings can vary from user to user, it will be much more difficult to attribute traffic to one specific element of a campaign.
Google’s SearchWiki does offer some benefit to search engine marketing though, as a result of the SearchWiki there will be increased competitiveness in search results. Combining on page and off page optimization while appealing to your target audience will be key in reaching top rankings on Google.
The SearchWiki will also increase the importance of online reputation management. If negative comments are posted about your brand online, it will be necessary for your organization to have positive reviews and search results to push the negative comments out of the top rankings.
Additionally, since Google’s SearchWiki gives the searcher more control with personalized search results, there are increased opportunities for newer websites to compete with older, more established websites that natural search may favor.
Will Google’s SearchWiki affect rankings?
When this question came up at SMX West 2009, a Google engineer stated that as of today, Google’s SearchWiki does not affect natural search rankings. However, he did not rule out the possibility of SearchWiki affecting natural search rankings in the future.
Will the SearchWiKi affect paid search?
Google has recently begun testing the integration of a SearchWiki into paid search. Nothing definitive has been announced, but it will be interesting to see how advertisers react.
Tanya Green, a Paid Search Analyst at Apogee Search, took a few minutes to tell me about paid searchcontent campaigns. She shared insights on how content campaigns differ from traditional pay-per-click campaigns, how to implement a content campaign, and optimization tips.
A content campaign is a type of paid search campaign that enables your ads to appear on different websites throughout the Internet via a content network, like Google AdSense. These paid ads can show up on a multitude of relevant websites by matching themes of ad groups to themes of sites that have opted in to the content network.
Tanya highlighted distinctions between traditional paid search campaigns and content campaigns:
Content campaigns contain tightly themed ad groups with around 5-15 broadkeywords, versus ad groups with many specific keywords in a traditional paid search campaign on the search network. Although it is possible to run a campaign with ads appearing on both the search and the content networks, Tanya recommends keeping the two campaigns separate because you want your content campaign to be much more broad than search network campaigns.
Content campaigns also have two pay models, CPM and CPC, while traditional search network campaigns are always CPC.
A variety of ad formats can be chosen for a content campaign, including text, static image ads, Flash, and even videos. Ads on the search network can only be displayed in text format.
Research shows that content campaigns can improve overall traffic driven to your website, so if you’re not seeing the kind of traffic you would like from your search campaign, adding on a campaign in the content networks can definitely help boost your search traffic.
Once the decision to implement a content campaign has been made, begin by considering your target audience. When seeking customers who are not actively searching for your product or service, consider the types of websites they may frequent. Match the themes of your ad groups to the types of websites your potential customers already visit. To ensure that your ads achieve top positions, avoid the pitfall of bidding less on a content network campaign than you would on a search network campaign.
Campaign optimization ensures the greatest ROI. Placement reports in Google AdWordsis the most effective way to optimize a content campaign. Placement reports list every domain and web page that your ads have been displayed on. The option to block specific domains or entire categories allows you to ensure that your ads are appearing on sites that fit with your brand while saving money by curbing irrelevant traffic.
Remember, the most effective use of a content campaign is determined by your target audience. Be sure to consider the websites your target audience already visits, select broad keywords, test a variety of ad formats and filter out irrelevant traffic.
I recently attended a Search Marketing Now webinar that outlined the “myths and misconceptions” of Google’s Quality Score. Below is the information I found most useful for paid search analysts. While some of these points are well known in the industry, there were many other interesting bits of information throughout the presentation:
This is not just your isolated CTR though; this is CTR relative to competitors’ and the industry’s average, and this varies widely from industry to industry. The moderator, Chris McDonagh, estimates that 90-95% of Quality Score is based on CTR, a statement I cannot argue with. While you might feel this is all you need to know about Quality Score, I urge you to continue reading as there are many more controllable factors that should be taken into account. Taking into account CTR is the number one quality score factor by far, it is suggested that you aim for top positions when launching a campaign in an effort to obtain a high CTR (as ads in the top positions generally get clicked on more) and therefore a historically high Quality Score. In the long run this saves money as the higher your Quality Score the less you have to pay to be in an optimal position.
There should be relevancy from search query to keyword to ad to landing page.
While this is rather vague, Google says that relevant, original content, along with the transparency and navigability of a site are most important when assessing landing page quality.
The historical CTR of a keyword and ad combination is taken into account.
The performance/Quality Score of an account overall can affect a keyword’s Quality Score.
Account performance in the geographic region where the ad is being shown is another factor.
The content network has two Quality Score variations based on the metric being used to determine the bid: CPC campaigns focus on CTR, much like search campaigns, and also weigh in landing page quality. CPM campaigns focus on landing page quality and ad rank instead of CTR.
Google is constantly making Quality Score changes.
The CPC formula: Actual CPC = ( Ad Position to beat / Quality Score ) + $0.01.
Basically, Google’s auction says you are paying a cent above the advertiser that is in the position below you.
Landing page metrics are NOT the most important Quality Score metric as CTR wins this one.
Quality Score is NOT lost or reset once you make changes as historical data is a factor in the algorithm.
While PageRank is NOT a direct variable of Quality Score, many variables that go into organic ranking are starting to be calculated into Quality Score.
While higher ad position does mean higher CTR (as mentioned above) Google will normalize ad position in an effort to compensate.
Using flash does NOT automatically penalize landing pages.
Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) does not always increase Quality Score, but I believe that nine times out of ten it does since CTR is the biggest determinant of Quality Score and people are likely to click on ads that have their exact search query bolded and present within the ad text. Additionally, this helps with making the search query-to-keyword-to-ad relevancy more prominent.
Good to know:
Landing page variables are used to determine ad position in the content networkonly, not the search network. In search campaigns, Google calculates ad position and first page bids differently, and landing page quality is actually factored into the first page bid estimate. Therefore, the landing page affects the CPC you ultimately pay.
Quality Score only looks at the exact match variation of a keyword. Performance on broad match variations is not taken into account, but if your ad performs well on broad matched queries it is likely that your impression share will increase as Google will send more queries to that keyword/ad combination.
There are certain industries and business models that Google penalizes due to poor user experience. Examples include data collection and malware/spyware companies.
If you are the only ad on a page (i.e. no competitors), your CPC is determined solely based on the triggered keyword’s Quality Score. As a result, you may still end up paying a lot if you have a poor quality score.
Quality Score is an estimate until your account/keywords have sufficient data. This estimate is sometimes referred to as the Ad Rank Quality Score and is a market estimate. Google often underestimates performance. Due to this, low volume long-tailed keywords may have lower Quality Scores. This in return may bring down an account’s Quality Score. This is only likely if the keyword has low traffic over a long period of time. If this is the case, you may want to delete these keywords.
When launching campaigns aim for top positions in the beginning in order to get higher Quality Scores.
Delete keywords with low Quality Scores so they don’t affect the account’s overall Quality Score.
Pay close attention to ad text. Creative is very important considering CTR is the number one determinant of Quality Score.
While Quality Score is important, ROI and/or other company goals should be the main focus of optimization for a pay-per-click campaign.
As for the future of Quality Score, it is likely that more SEO variables will come into play in the future. Last year Google added landing page load time to the algorithm. In addition to this, the ambiguous measuring of landing page quality and relevancy are already in play, and it is suspected that PageRank is beginning to be infused in Quality Score as well.
Yesterday Yahoo! announced that they will now be including videos, images and custom search boxes in their paid listings to create what they are calling “Rich Ads in Search.”
This new ad format, which has been in testing for the past year, is aimed at increasing not only brand exposure, but click-through rates and conversion rates. Advertisers in the pilot test have experimented with adding logos and videos in an effort to increase brand messaging, placing deep links to more targeted pages to increase conversion rates, utilizing zip code search boxes to give accurate price quotes, and more. Adding to the credibility of this initiative, test clients are major brands from multiple industries including Pepsi, Home Depot, Pedigree, Esurance, and ad agency Razorfish.
These ads are like bringing Google’s Universal Search concept to paid search listings, and due to the control factor of paid search, the possibilities are endless. However, it must be noted that both Google and Microsoft have experimented with a similar concept in the past. Will Yahoo! excel where Google has yet to? Only time will tell. Currently, this program is invite only, but plans to have this opportunity more widely available to advertisers seem to be on the way.
Google SearchWiki was launched in November of 2008 with the purpose of personalizing searches and providing an opportunity to share comments among Google users regarding websites and search results. Since then, many SEM experts have been asking themselves, “where is Google going with this?” As with any new innovation, this new feature comes with pros and cons.
Danny Sullivan moderated a session with Corey Anderson, a Google engineer, on Wiki Search at the 2009 SMX West conference. The two of them managed to evoke many interesting points of discussion. According to Google’s representative, the personalized rankings (Wiki Search) are not currently being taken into consideration for Google’s primary search results. So, for all of you who started asking your friends and family to move your website into the number 1 position in their wiki searches, according to Google, this currently has no influence on the rankings. However, the possibility of these personalized rankings having an effect on search results has not been ruled out for the future.
One apparent negative impact Google’s SearchWiki will have on SEM professionals is the difficulty that will come with gathering ranking data and drawing identifiable comparisons from analytics data based on those rankings, as an individual’s personalized rankings will play a part in this traffic. Ultimately, search rankings will become of much less importance if this does become a reality.
On the other hand, Google will open up the competition with personalized rankings, asdomain age will be an unlikely factor in how an individual searcher ranks sites in their personal listings. This will present the opportunity for new ecommerce and informational sites with high relevancy to a search topic to appear in the top rankings, as searchers will have the ability to judge what is the most relevant, regardless of the age of the domain.
This last point could ultimately be a plus for all web users. In order to gain rankings, website owners will be forced to include content relevant to the user rather than building sites primarily for the search engines. Users will now be choosing the websites they want to visit repeatedly, and this will inform Google which sites are meeting the needs of what a user is searching for. Google will be giving more control to the visitors and therefore, websites must be created with the primary goal of appealing to their target audience.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “but what about spamming with negative or positive comments to remove your competitors?” Google made it clear that they will be reviewing the comments very carefully to avoid any red flag or black hat motives. This will hopefully ensure that this type of spamming will not be a problem to your website’s rankings.
Whether you like it or not, Google is constantly gathering information from everything you are searching for, regardless if you are logged in or not. Currently, Google alerts you when a search result has been customized according to previous searches and your location. However, many people may not realize that even when Google doesn’t inform you that the results have been customized, they may have been, most likely in a less obvious way. In certain instances, it is better to avoid user confusion rather than alert the user to these results.
Currently, Google is testing this Wiki functionality for their PPC ad space as well. While this is currently an issue that SEO folks are working to solve, PPC should also be paying close attention, as this will most likely effect how quality scores and bid prices will be determined in the future.
The World Wide Web is becoming more personal on a daily basis, and if websites are not prepared to handle this, they will no longer be able to effectively compete in the same search space that they may have previously dominated in the past.
Google Hot Trends is one of the most useful tools Google offers. It shows a list of keywords that have seen a spike in search traffic recently.
Unlike most search marketing tools, whose data is at least a day (if not months) old, Google Hot Trends generally shows data from the previous hour. That is about as close as it gets to “real time” in this industry.
This can be a powerful support tool for search campaigns that can monetize such traffic spikes (such as news sites or blogs).
More generally, Google Hot Trends provides a wonderful insight into what memes are bubbling up in the Internet soup. It usually includes current news, events, and the name of Hollywood’s “It Girl” plus the word [pictures]. And there are invariably pop culture references that go right over my head.
Imagine my surprise at yesterday’s list of keywords (click on the thumbnail for a larger version):
Did you catch that? Perhaps you should take a closer look at the fifth keyword:
Really? Didn’t that happen five years ago?
Oh yeah, it’s Super Bowl week.
As my buddy Jon Higby said, “Most people couldn’t tell you who was playing that year – but everyone remembers half time!”
Clearly, people are Feelin’ Kinda Sunday.
So, when coming up with keywords, be sure to consider the older keywords that might come back into vogue.
Just FYI, it was Super Bowl XXXVIII in February 2004, and the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29 on a Adam Vinatieri field goal with four seconds in the game.
The ability to set monthly budgets on my Google AdWords campaigns has been a constant item on my wish list. Google’s current daily budget system started for a valid reason: set only a monthly budget and you risk running out of dollars early each month. But the reality of today’s paid search industry is that clients allocate dollars in monthly increments, while only MSN (out of the “big 3″ – Google, Yahoo! and MSN) supports the ability to set a monthly spending limit.
This existing antiquated system of campaign budgeting puts a strain on basic budget management, and especially with high variance campaigns that have significant swings between high and low spending days. In these cases, a monthly budget divided by 30 days would certainly underspend without a few higher spending days to even it out – requiring the daily budget to be set artificially high. Unfortunately, a marketer might not catch that sweet spot towards the end of the month when campaign dollars have been spent up to, but not over, the allocated budget, allowing the campaign to run longer than desired.
Search marketing blogs and forums are buzzing about a new feature currently in beta-testing in select Google AdWords campaigns that allows a daily and a monthly budget to work in tandem – currently called “Timeframe” by Google. Those participating in the beta test report the following:
A daily budget is set, mimicking a traditional monthly budget allocation (monthly budget divided by 30)
Marketers who opt into the additional monthly budget setting will have their daily budget automatically adjusted based on historical traffic in order to reach a monthly budget goal
AdWords already attempts to compensate for low traffic days by overspending in later days – but less drastically than some advertisers require. Timeframe gives Google the green light to be more aggressive when it tries to correct spending levels.
This feature has been a long time coming. I refused to believe that Google was capable of photographing every house in Austin for travel directions but not able to support a reliable monthly Adwords budget. What’s left to be seen is when this will be expanded to all campaigns, Timeframe’s accuracy, if this creates a spending limit (a hard stop) or goal (overages would be acceptable), and how Yahoo! will respond.
It is said that in every market (even down markets) there is opportunity, and nobody wants to remind advertisers of that more than Google. And for good reason – media speculation abounds with optimistic predictions of SEM being relatively insulated from economic recession. As advertisers demand more accountability from their dollars and rein in once bountiful branding campaigns in preparation for a hard winter, direct marketing efforts take a more prominent role – with dollars shifting towards performance-based search.
The site contains a virtual menu of tools to help research, plan, and optimize campaigns. In times where every penny counts, there is a noticeable emphasis on the fact that many of these resources are free. It’s an impressive roster that offers a smorgasbord of sophisticated, no cost SEM applications:
Insights for Search
The greater psychology behind the site is spot-on since people crave more control and the ability to influence the outcome of their campaigns, companies, and lives in times of uncertainty. Google is reminding marketers that with help from the right resources and strategies they have the ability to turn an otherwise dismal 2009 into a year of opportunity.
Vivian Chang, a paid search consultant at Apogee Search, took a few minutes to speak with me about event driven paid search campaigns. Vivian shared a few tips and best practices that she has learned while managing event driven paid search campaigns for Apogee’s clients.
Vivian began by explaining that event driven paid search campaigns are paid search campaigns that focus on promoting a specific event. Event driven campaigns (versus a typical paid search campaign) are time sensitive and usually have a more substantial call to action.
Event driven paid search campaigns can be successful for almost any type of event. Vivian mentioned a few examples such as fundraisers, 5K walks and runs, conferences and retail sales.
When marketers plan for this type of campaign, they need to consider the strategy and goals of the campaign. Marketers should ensure that the paid search messaging is consistent with all media and promotions surrounding the event. The landing page should include all of the logistical details and include information on registering for, or attending the event. Conveying key information within the ad copy can prevent unqualified visitors from clicking on your ad and costing you money.
Vivian offered some additional helpful tips for advertisers to consider when running an event driven paid search campaign:
Think about the timing of the ads. How far in advance will your attendees realistically need information on the event? Use this information to shape the dates that you run the ads.
Include a call to action. The goal is to convey as much relevant information as possible. This can keep unqualified traffic from clicking on your ad.
Geo-targeting your ads to specific cities or regions helps target only those who can participate in your event. You don’t want to waste money on clicks from people who support your event but are physically unable to attend it.
Use negative keywords. View Google’s search query report to determine the keywords that are sending traffic you don’t want.
Think about your keyword selection. Remember you want to generate awareness so broad keywords are beneficial.
Use higher bids than for normal campaigns because you want your ads to show up quickly for a short period of time.
Adjust bids and keywords as data becomes available. Google provides several tools to see what keywords are driving the most traffic, and what traffic is actually converting.