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Time and again I come across outdated holiday promotions in PPC ads.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.
At the beginning of the year, this post on the Apogee Search Marketing Blog made some predictions about search marketing in 2008. Before we try to make any predictions about 2009, let’s take a minute to review 2008’s search predictions compared to what actually occurred over the last 12 months.
Apogee’s 2008 search predictions were as follows:
Management tools become the cost of having a seat at the paid search table, rather than a competitive advantage. PPC management tools were certainly abundant in 2008. And, yes, they were almost necessary to a campaign’s success. Whether these tools were internal or external, focused on automated bid management, analyzing data or testing campaign variables, management tools freed up paid search managers’ time so they could focus on new opportunities, expansion and overall strategy.
Business/marketing acumen becomes more important to paid search management than technical prowess. While tools are great, tools just do what we tell them to do. Ultimately paid search managers have to set appropriate goals for marketers and outline the necessary steps to reach those goals. This year ad copy and landing page testing have gained popularity as marketers focus on increasing conversion rates. With new tools such as Google Website Optimizer (GWO), these tests are becoming easier to implement.
Search engines continue to provide better bid management functionality. Most tools vendors don’t react. Search engines have made many improvements in an effort to provide better bid management functionality in 2008, but despite all of the changes made this year, there is still a long way to go in providing reliable bid management functionality.
Google announced a new quality score method this year that determines CPC in “real-time,” as opposed to its tried and true static quality scores. It also allows for marketers to see first page bids rather than minimum bids.
AdWords Editor now allows users to download performance statistics so that analysis and adjustments can easily be made in the same interface. In addition, the newest 7.0 version, allows users to see quality scores and first page bid estimates for keywords.
Yahoo! now allows marketers to view average rankings when in the bid editing page.
MSN Live Search released a desktop beta tool that is essentially an AdWords Editor for Microsoft.
Bid management tools are also still a bit behind the curve. While their automation saves paid search managers time by adjusting bids, they are slow to react to changes made by search engines. Adjusting bids manually within the search engine’s interface is often more complicated than just using the free tools offered by search engines. As for full blown campaign management, we’re still not seeing many tools with the ability to handle that functionality yet.
Google extends its lead in the paid search market, either a little or a lot, depending upon how you measure the industry. Without a doubt, Google continues to be the leader in the paid search realm. ComScore recently released that in October 2008 Google Sites held 63.1% of all searches, as compared to58.5% in October of 2007. Google’s revenue also increased 31% from third quarter 2007 to third quarter 2008, raking in $5.54 billion in Q3 2008.As for service offerings, Google rolled out tool after tool after tool aimed at helping paid search marketers in 2008. All of these tools successfully assist marketers in optimizing and expanding their paid search campaigns, allowing for Google to maintain and grow its steady cash flow.
Local search continues to grow, but still has a difficult time providing substantive traffic in most markets. This year businesses flocked to Google Local Business Center. It has become “the” thing to do. As Universal Search rolled out throughout the year, local search optimization became even more visible and critical. In most industries and major cities, a business with a service that is location-specific and not on Google Local, will basically be behind by the end of this year.Furthermore, Google’s Local Business Ads (LBAs), a version of paid ads that appear mostly on Google Maps, contributed heavily to local search’s growth in 2008.
Google rolls Click-To-Call in with its local search service, and still no one cares.Not much word about Click-to-Call this year; still no one cares. What has gained recognition in 2008 is phone call tracking for paid search campaigns. Companies such as ClickPath, provide the ability to track calls to the keyword level.
Google Pay Per Action gains traction with B2C advertisers, struggles with B2B advertisers. Google launched Pay Per Action beta globally in June 2007, but phased it out in 2008, citingthe DoubleClick/Performics acquisition as the reasoning.
Google Product Search (previously Froogle) celebrates its sixth birthday, remains in beta. Yes, Google Product Search is still in Beta. During 2008, this product caught up with other comparison shopping engines by showing groups of similar products when a search is performed. This change caughtsome bloggers’eyes when it first rolled out, but ironically, later in the year Google Product Search made it on the list of search engines you’ve never heard of. An option that many companies have not yet tapped into is submitting services just as you would submit products.
Google continues to rail against paid links. The paid linking industry adjusts and continues to provide SEO benefit to its clients. SocialSpark was launched byPayPerPost in mid-2008, and the head of Google’s webspam team Matt Cuttssays he actually likes IZEA’s new service. SocialSpark provides advertisers an opportunity to pay bloggers for a review but requires a nofollow link to the advertiser.Another paid link vendor, Text Link Ads (TLA) launched InLinks publicly in November. Throughout 2008, Google has commented and posted extensivelythat paid links are in violation of the FTC’s Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. SEO bloggers have been debating about the impact of these changes as recently as the last few weeks.For whatever reason, Yahoo! and MSN haven’t been quite as vocal against paid linking in 2008. Yahoo! isn’t worried about the payment as much as the likelihood that a paid link usually doesn’t give as much value as a non-paid link.
SEO becomes more metrics driven as companies learn to measure their SEO performance. Absolutely. Tracking SEO leads and sales provides ROI that is critical to include in a company’s overall marketing expenditure analysis. The tricky part here is if the company knows what the value of a lead is to them or if they can track natural search visitors all the way through to a sale. During 2008, fewer companies were concerned about rankings as they were forced to look more at the bottom line.
Rumors swirl about an imminent merger between Yahoo! and Microsoft triggering a deluge of blog posts and nothing else. Yes, definitely. Talks between Yahoo! and Microsoft surfaced again early in the year but have fizzled quickly. Mid-2008 Google stole Yahoo! from Microsoft and became the attention of all, but that too died out by the end of the year. Although Google and Yahoo! gave it a shot with a trial period during the spring, antitrust scrutiny and regulatory concerns ultimatelycaused Google to call it quits with Yahoo.
The line between Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing blurs further, except among those that actually know how to perform SEO and/or SMM. SEO and SMM definitely continue to be blurred in some circles (i.e. many marketers think creating a Facebook page will greatly help their search engine efforts). While creation of the company’s profile in these outlets is a fairly straightforward process, actually promoting them becomes much trickier and requires a completely different set of goals and strategies. Tracking offline inquiries becomes an important consideration but is not yet mastered in most campaigns.