How Do You Find New Customers? 3 Critical Search Marketing Strategies

Finding new customers is a critical objective for any business. No matter what kind of marketing a business uses to meet that objective, from business cards to web sites, success requires understanding a couple of marketing fundamentals for building an effective Search Marketing strategy.

Where are your customers?

Where do your customers look for information to help them make a purchase? If it’s a simple purchase, one with no big perceived risk, a phone book might be the only place a customer looks. If those are your customers, then your business needs a phone and a listed number. If you focus your marketing attention on giving your customers the best possible service by phone, you are on your way to successfully meeting their needs and winning their business.

For a more complex sale, there can be many touch points along the way from early consideration to final sale. Not only that, but each individual marketing medium can offer several different touch points during the course of a sale, with messaging tailored for different stages of the buying process, as well as the different people within the buying audience.

Do your customers read newspapers? Do they watch TV? Do they spend time on social networking sites, and which ones? In other words, where do they congregate and how can you be there with them?

The important thing to remember as a marketer is that you need to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time. To do that, you have to understand who your customers are, where they go for information, and what they do next.

How do they decide to buy?

Buyers commonly do research online to learn more about solutions, products and vendors, as well as find information on pricing, reviews from customers, instructional videos and more. Business-to-business purchases also routinely involve several people. You might think of them as categorized into three main types: doers, buyers, and bosses.

The “doers” are the people on the frontline, and they are often where the need for a purchase is first recognized. They are the people who will likely be working with your product or service on a regular basis, and as such their influence can be keenly felt at the beginning of a purchase cycle.

The “buyers” typically enter the purchase cycle a little later on. They have different needs than the “doers” who will be using the product. The buyer wants to know about pricing, guarantees, support, and the vendor’s credibility. In other words, their job is to mitigate the risk associated with a purchase and protect the company from making a costly error.

The third type of person that can be involved in a complex sale is the “boss”. The Boss can enter the picture at any stage, and they will look at a transaction from a different perspective again.  Their considerations might include stockholders, company directors, and longer term information that other company members don’t have access to. Combine all three types of people into a purchase decision and it’s easy to see how complex a complex sale can really be.

Search is a common denominator

With all the different variable behaviors that your customers may engage in, one thing that’s clear is that online search has become a mainstream source of information for everyone. Need a part number for a piece of machinery? Google it. Want to see what people are saying about a product? Look at Twitter. Do you want to see a product demonstration? Look it up on YouTube. Need to see pictures of a product in use? Search images on Bing. The list goes on and on.

The key point for marketing is that when customers are searching online, they’ve got to be able to find you there. Depending on the nature of your business and clientele, here are three basic steps to consider in building your online search strategy:

  1. Optimize your company web site to be search engine friendly.
  2. Start (and maintain) a company blog. Search engines will reward your site, and new and existing customers can find a good blog a valuable source of information that will help establish your company’s reputation as a leader.
  3. If your company web site is not showing up in the search engines for important search terms that are relevant to your business, consider a paid search campaign to increase your online visibility.

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Karl Hourigan is a Digital Marketing Strategist with Mediative. Mediative is one of North America’s largest integrated digital marketing companies. Their results-oriented marketing network is supported by industry thought leaders and a data-driven platform.

Posted by admin in Customer Conversions, Facebook, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Twitter, b2b marketing, keyword research, social media on November 4,2010

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Are You Making These Massive SEO Mistakes? How to Recover Site Ranking

Have you ever had the sinking feeling of checking your favorite search term one day to see if your site has climbed a spot or two, only to find a complete disaster has occurred? I think the reasons sites suddenly plummet within organic search results fit into three classifications—the “Oops,” the “Duh,” and the “Dang, Got Caught.”

Most mistakes can be completely avoided by paying more attention to two things: SEO technical best practices and the search engine “rules.” The search engines do a great job of providing most of the tools needed to resubmit an adversely affected site, sub-domain or directory level.

1. Typically the quickest fixes are as a result of “Oops” mistakes.
2. “Duh” mistakes can be a little more severe, and take additional time to fix both internally and in terms of regaining trust within the algorithms.
3.      “Dang, Got Caught” mistakes can take a long time to recover from — to the point where the domain should perhaps be written off as a business loss.

Oops And Duh

Accidents can happen with redesigning a site, and may have a negative effect on search engine results. For example, redirects may be improperly mapped, resulting in negative user and search engine experience, including a large increase in 404 error responses. Many developers like to employ a temporary redirect to an error page and serve a 302 to a 200. In English (LOL), this tells a search engine that the page is only temporarily moved, and then serves an error page which claims it is OK. I have seen Sitelinks (the extra links below a branded search result) lead to 404 pages for weeks and longer in some engines.

Other “Oops” and “Duh” mistakes include (among dozens) improper use of the robots.txt file and setting up long server downtimes without properly informing the search engines. A friend once told me that the robots.txt file is like a ninja sword, and thus must be handled very carefully. Long server downtime can cause the site to be removed from the index. If you have accidentally blocked your entire site or even some major directories from being indexed, this can be a relatively painless fix (measured in days to weeks) by resubmission within search-engine-provided toolsets such as Google Webmaster Tools. Without being set up and verified in these toolsets at Google and Bing, you take great risk in your ability to mitigate.

Dang, Got Caught

Unscrupulous SEO practitioners and high-risk-taking marketers are the most likely to be victim to the sometime severe backhand of the algorithms. There is not much to say in this area other than a number of clichés having to do with playing with fire. If you participate in tactics such as same color text as background or buying thousands of links at a time from unrelated domains, you will be caught. Large brands may be able to win their way back relatively quickly, but for others, it can take months or years of reinclusion requests. Search engine toolsets can help with this too. Rules, like laws, are open to interpretation. One last thing to always keep in mind is that search engine crawlers can’t see, but rather rely on what they can understand from the code as being presented on the page. If automated text readers can clearly understand your content, and it doesn’t differ from what is on the page, you are probably safe.

There are many free toolsets available on the Internet to see how search engines see your site, and the redirects and response codes they are given. Being prepared and knowing your site’s performance is the only way to keep yourself truly safe from disaster.

What are your experiences in seo mistakes and how have you overcome them? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Chris Boggs of Rosetta is a specialist in search engine optimization and paid search advertising. Chris joined Brulant in 2007 as the Manager of the SEO team, and Rosetta acquired Brulant in 2008.  He is a frequent contributor to Search Marketing Standard magazine.

Posted by admin in Bing, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization on November 4,2010

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How to Save $100,000 a Year on AdWords in Ten Minutes or Less

Google makes it really easy to start running PPC campaigns on AdWords. Running a well-optimized campaign, however, is another story altogether. Without knowledge of the nuances of AdWords, a novice can end up losing a ton of money very quickly on their SEM campaigns.

Here are five things you can do immediately to your AdWords account to save you a lot of money in just a few minutes.

  1. Don’t Heed Google’s “recommended settings”. Google wants to run your ads as broadly as possible. They want you to run on Google, Google’s search partners, Google Display Network, and on mobile phones. When you launch a campaign, you are opted-in to all these areas. While there is value to running on all of these different areas of the Google AdWords system, you don’t want to run them all from the same campaign – doing that usually results in getting you lots of over-priced clicks from lower-quality parts of the network (usually content and mobile) and not enough right-priced clicks on AdWords. My advice is to start by targeting Google only, or at most, Google and Search Partners. Google has comprehensive help resources that explain how to properly set your campaign settings.
  2. Move away from broad match as quickly as possible. Google has four match-types – broad, broad modified, phrase, and exact. Broad match means that Google can (and often will) match your keyword to other words that are semantically similar – or that Google’s algorithm just thinks are related. For example, I have a client that bought the keyword “electronic signature” and got match on “sign language” and “e coli.” Go figure. The easiest way to avoid this sort of bad broad matching is to place all of your keywords on one of the other match types. Again, if you search Google’s help guide you’ll find detailed explanations of the various match types.
  3. Add lots of negative keywords. Negative keywords are the opposite of a normal keyword. For example, if you added the negative keyword “complaint” if someone typed in “Nikon camera” and you purchased this word on broad match, your ad would show up, but if they typed in “Nikon camera complaint” you would not. The point here is to exclude words or phrases that indicate that a user does not have “purchase intent” for whatever you are selling. You can discover negative keywords by looking at your “search query” report in Google, or by just brainstorming words that are unlikely to result in conversions.
  4. Set up tracking. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Google offers very easy and useful conversion tracking – anyone with basic knowledge of HTML should be able to install this on your site. Tracking will help you determine which keywords, ad text, and landing pages work for you, and which you should either bid down or exclude. Don’t bid on keywords because intuition tells you they ‘should’ work or because the boss wants to show up #1 so he can brag to his friends. Bidding should be done scientifically – gather the data from the conversion tracking and adjust bids based on actual performance.
  5. Check your geographic targeting. Do you sell your product or service across the entire world, or perhaps just the U.S., or perhaps just within a five mile radius of your office? Google will default you to the U.S. and Canada (if you are based in the U.S. at any rate) when your campaign begins. If you are a local business such as a law firm or a dentist, you are unlikely to be able to fulfill requests from clients across the continent. Similarly, if you primarily sell overseas, you don’t want your ads showing up in the U.S. Adjust your geographic settings to attract the right customers. Read the help guide to learn about all the different targeting options you have in AdWords.

I admit that I wrote the headline of this article as an attempt at “link bait” – i.e., to pique peoples’ interest and hopefully get some good links/tweets from the blogosphere – but the truth is that simple optimizations like those I described above can really save you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars based on the size of your AdWords account! The difference between success and failure on Google is often one of little tweaks here and there, so start tweaking today!

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David Rodnitzky is Founder of PPC Associates, a leading SEM agency in San Francisco. To learn more about full service AdWords management from PPC Associates, contact David at david@ppcassociates.com.

Posted by admin in Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, keyword research on October 28,2010

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Closing the Attribution Gap with AdWords Search Funnels

Google AdWords recently fully launched a reporting feature called Search Funnels. For advertisers that utilize AdWords Conversion Tracking, Search Funnels reports are now available to provide critical insights in to the search ‘funnel’ that searchers travel down before ultimately performing a conversion action. This is a huge win for marketers, who will now have more insight in to the attribution of their paid search campaigns.

The Issue of Attribution

Attribution is the measurement of the marketing touch-points which have influenced or resulted in an end action. Marketers can use this measure to then attribute value from that end action across touch points. To illustrate, a consumer might see a TV commercial for a product, be reminded of that product by an online banner ad, and then finally perform a search on Google clicking on an AdWords ad before buying the product that is being marketed. So should the last touch – the click on the AdWords ad – get all of the credit? No, in a perfect world some of that credit is also due to the TV commercial and banner ad. Unfortunately for marketers, attribution is famously difficult to accurately track.

Paid Search measurement comes with its own host of attribution dilemmas – users typically perform multiple searches in the process of researching and narrowing down to an end purchase. For example, Betty knows she wants a new washing machine – she searches “washing machine”. After researching based on those results, she narrows her search down to “front-loading washing machine”. Then after researching even further narrows it down to a “red Kenmore Elite front-loading washing machine” – Betty searches, finds the best price, and buys online (home delivery? Yes please.). Betty’s last click was on “red Kenmore Elite front-loading washing machine”. As in the first example, just because the last click immediately preceded the sale, it doesn’t mean that there’s no value in the previous searches Betty performed.

This is an important concept for AdWords advertisers because in many industries, the very general terms related to our industries (“washing machine”) are relatively expensive and we don’t see them convert well enough to justify the cost of bidding on them. But we’re not seeing the whole picture – if we’re generating awareness for our brand and products via those general terms, this can result in a sale via a longer-tail or branded query. With Search Funnels, we can now see this via the keyword funnel that the searcher traveled down before ultimately converting. And, AdWords factors both impressions and clicks in to Search Funnel reporting! Meaning, if Betty searched on “washing machine” and your ad showed, but Betty didn’t click on it, it would still appear in the Search Funnel report if she later clicked on your ad for “red Kenmore Elite front-loading washing machine” and made a purchase. Such information can help us to lend more value to terms that would have otherwise gone un-credited, allowing us to justify spending on that visibility because we know it is driving sales.

The Basics of Search Funnel Reporting

Search Funnels can be found in your AdWords account if you are currently using AdWords Conversion Tracking. In the Reporting & Tools tab, navigate to Conversions and then Search Funnels.

The new Search Funnels reporting interface consists of seven reports including Assisted Conversions, First and Last Click Analysis, Time Lag, and Path Length. The Assisted Conversions report is one report which shows the keyword funnel, but also allows segmentation by campaign or ad group

For companies with stronger brands, note the potential impact for your branded keyword campaigns versus non-branded in the Assisted Conversion report– frequently the last search is on a branded term, which is why ROI on branded typically looks so phenomenal. This, as you’ll see, can often mean that a user knows about your brand because they found out it via a more general non-branded search first.

Path Length and Time Lag provide insights in to how many searches and how long it takes from first search to ultimately drive a conversion. One way to leverage the Time Lag information would be to understand the cycle of budgets, spend and sales. For example, if you double your spend in October to drive more sales, and know that there is typically a 30 day lag in conversion, you would know not to start judging the merits of that increased spend on day 2 of the campaign, but instead waiting until the time lag has closed.

For any AdWords advertiser, Search Funnels can become a new integral element in your campaign performance reporting. Start sifting through the data now to become comfortable with the meaning it has for your business. Then use it all you can! By applying learnings from Search Funnels, we can begin to close the gap on the challenge that is attribution and even increase the success of our AdWords campaigns along the way.

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Leisa Hall is an Account Director at Anvil Media, Inc., a search engine marketing agency located in sunny Portland, Oregon. Leisa directs paid media strategy for the agency and works with primarily B2C/ecommerce clients ranging in size from start-up to Fortune 500.

Posted by admin in Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Pay Per Click Tools, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, keyword research on October 28,2010

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The Importance of Goals and Metrics in Social Media Marketing

Internet marketers already familiar with search engine optimization and pay per click marketing know the importance of analytics, metrics, key performance indicators, and so on.  Analytics can (and should) play an important role in your social media marketing strategy.  If you’re not setting goals, tracking metrics, and analyzing performance, how can you tell if you’re succeeding?

 Setting Social Media Goals

I find it useful to break down social media goals into discrete components.  First, identify your bottom line goal, whether that is sales, cost savings, brand awareness, or some other goal.

Then, work backwards from your end goal to identify intermediate steps to achieving that goal, such as increasing web site traffic, newsletter sign ups, quote requests, or qualified leads.  Repeat as many steps as you find logical or necessary.  The step preceding increased traffic, sign ups, and leads could be achieving a certain level of social media engagement: views, posts, feedback, RTs, mentions, replies, and so on.

From Goals to Metrics

Once you’ve established your goals, you can identify corresponding metrics to track.  In the scenario explored above, your goal / metric pairings could look something like this:

Social Media Presence:  Number of Facebook “Likes”, Twitter Followers, LinkedIn group members, etc.

Social Media Engagement: Number of views, feedback, comments, posts, RTs, @ mentions, @ replies

Qualified Leads: Number of new leads from social media and web channels

Sales / Revenue: Dollar increase in sales, revenue, and profit

Analytics Tools for Social Media

While there are all sorts of tools for tracking your social media accounts, it can be difficult to get an overall picture of the effectiveness of your social media strategy without combining information from multiple tools and sources.  Remember, although your bottom line goal may be sales, revenue, or profit, there are many milestones along the path to that goal.

Following are some tools to help you track progress and trends as part of your social media strategy.

Klout

Klout is one of the top tools for measuring social media influence.  With the recent addition of analyzing Facebook as well as Twitter data, Klout lets you look at a variety of data about your social network presence in one spot, including trend data.  The free version allows you to refresh your information every six days.

Twitalyzer

A Twitter-specific tool, Twitalyzer analyzes your Twitter presence and network to present you with a wealth of information, including your impact, engagement, influence, retweet and mention ratios, and much more.  Twitalyzer also provides trend data, and comparisons and contexts, so you can see how you fit in in the Twitterverse.

Facebook Insights

Insights is Facebook’s basic analytics tool that accompanies pages.  Data includes information on monthly active users, activity, media consumption, and interaction.

Google URL Builder and Analytics

Hopefully, your website already has Google Analytics on it.  Analytics lets you track where your web visitors are coming from, how long they are staying on your site, and what they’re looking at.  Combining Analytics with the URL Builder tool (link: http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55578&hl=en) and referrer data, you can determine how many visitors to your site are coming from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks.  See how long these visitors stay on your site vs. other sources and how well they convert.

Constantly Monitor and Adapt Your Social Media Strategy

Social media is not a “set it and forget it” platform.  Your user base, their habits, and their preferences are constantly changing.  What works for you today may not work tomorrow.  That’s why you need to continuously monitor your social media profiles and the traffic they refer to your website.  If your current strategy isn’t effective or stops being effective, then it’s time to try new techniques.

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Jason Mikula works as a freelance search engine marketing and social media marketing consultant.  Jason has experience working with pay per click, search engine optimization, and email and web marketing.

Posted by admin in Bing, Customer Conversions, Facebook, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Twitter, keyword research, social media on October 28,2010

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Landing Page Optimization Tools Improve Conversion Rates

Landing page optimization can potentially be far more powerful than an increase in traffic when it comes to generating more conversions.  In order to optimize your landing page successfully, the key is to use a scientific, data-driven approach.  While you may have gut instincts about what will and won’t work, the only way to tell for sure is by carefully collecting and analyzing the data.  Following are some of the most important tools to take a look at in order to optimize your landing pages and increase conversions.

Google Analytics: The Standard in Analytics

Google’s analytics software has become a de facto standard in the web world.  It is available for free and is relatively easy to install, although, some instances, like cross-domain tracking, are a bit more complicated.  Google Analytics gives you insights into where your visitors are coming from, what pages they’re looking at, how long they’re staying on your site, and so on.

Tip: Define Your Goals and Sales Funnel in Google Analytics

While Google Analytics is already a powerful platform, the real key to using it to optimize your landing pages and maximize conversions is by defining goals.  In your Analytics profile, you can define a goal based on a specific URL visited, the amount of time spent on site, or the number of pages in a visit.  For landing page optimization, you’ll probably be using a URL visit.  You can also define a goal value in dollars, which can be helpful in calculating ROI for your website conversions.

Another optional but important step is to define a sales funnel.  This allows you to list multiple pages leading up to a conversion – for example, if you have a multipage shopping cart check out process.  This can help you determine when visitors are leaving your site and highlight pages you may need to change or simplify.

Google Website Optimizer: Scientific Testing of Landing Pages

Another Google Tool on this list? Yes – Google’s Website Optimizer is that important.  A tool that exists outside of Analytics or AdWords (though accessible through the AdWords interface), many users overlook this valuable tool.  Website Optimizer allows you to perform A/B or multivariate tests on your landing pages to determine how different configurations of text, images, headlines, and so forth impact your conversion rate.

Relatively easy to install, you just need to prepare your different page versions or configurations and drop in snippets of Javascript code.  When it has collected enough data, Website Optimizer shows which page, statistically, is most effective at generating conversions.

Click & Scroll Heatmaps: Understanding User Behavior

The overall data provided by Analytics and Website Optimizer is great, however, it leaves you wondering what is actually happening when a visitor is looking at your page.  A service like ClickTale, which ranges from about $900 to nearly $9,000 a year, is capable of recording users mouse movements, clicks, keystrokes, and scrolling behavior.  You can even play back movies of an individual user’s browser session. Data is also aggregated to show mouse and click heatmaps based on a large number of users.

Similar services include Mouse Eye Tracking, Crazy Egg, clickdensity, and Codynamix (open source).  Most provided a no cost option with limited functionality and a professional or enterprise solution.

Form Analytics: Why Aren’t People Filling Out My Forms?

Have you ever started signing up for a product or download, but abandoned the site, because the form was too demanding or complicated?  Form analytics gives you insight into how users are interacting with your forms and can help you improve or streamline form questions to improve your conversion rate.  Form analytic software can help identify why users are abandoning forms, browser compatibility issues, and even reveal detailed information about form abandoners.  Examples of form analytics software include ClickTale (mentioned above), Revenue Expect, and Form Alive.

Get the Most Out of the Traffic You Already Have

Why focus only on increasing traffic with advertising or SEO, when you could be getting more conversions from your existing traffic?  Landing page and conversion optimization tools allow you to carefully and scientifically analyze what is happening on your landing pages and take steps to improve them to increase the number of visitors who convert.

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Jason Mikula works as a freelance search engine marketing and social media marketing consultant.  He has experience working with pay per click, search engine optimization, and email and web marketing.

Posted by admin in Customer Conversions, Facebook, Google AdWords, Landing Page Optimization, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, keyword research, social media on October 21,2010

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7 Tips for Designing Paid Search for Sustainability

Although paid search is typically associated with quick wins and guaranteed conversions there is still an element of doing things right (the first time) from a long term sustainability approach that needs to be followed. Designing paid search programs for sustainability takes time and patience but it is well worth the effort. In doing so you are building efficiency into your program, setting yourself up to pay a lower average cost per click, and helping grow your business. Otherwise, not designing paid search for sustainability affects all paid search programs, frustrates parties involved, and fails to move the industry forward.

And finding the right instructions for designing paid search for sustainability is not hard to come by. Google makes it painfully clear how to design and manage paid search programs to ensure that you are paying the lowest possible amount for a click. And I would say that 95% of Google’s advice and policies are valid. I know that Google and the other platforms are in this business to make money, but I also know that Google and the others will reward you, over time, for doing the right things when it comes to well planned and designed paid search programs.

Paid Search Design for Sustainability

So how does one go about designing a paid search program for sustainability? First, I want to clarify that we are discussing mostly pre-click and traffic related tactics of a paid search program. Obviously, there are post-click analytics that influence pre-click actions. Also, from a systems thinking perspective, there is a broader scope of how a paid search program fits into the mix with other online marketing channels, but for now let us just focus on the task at hand - paid search design for sustainability.

1. Plan. And plan again. Based on the problem solving process P-D-C-A (plan-do-check-act) made popular by W. Edwards Deming, planning is the most important and critical step. If starting from scratch, map out your campaign structure by using something as simple as your website navigation or site-map. For more advanced planning, use mental model or affinity diagram methods. While mapping out your campaign structure,  think about what you have to offer and how it provides a solution for your customers.

2. Campaign naming. This is often over looked, but assuming you are running a paid search program on multiple platforms, you will want to name your campaigns and ad groups accordingly. This does not tie into Quality Score directly, but it does help when managing and reporting on the program performance. For example, if you are running a paid search program in Google, MSN, and Facebook and you have the same campaigns with the same name in each account, third party tools may roll-up all three campaigns into one view. Naming your campaigns and ad groups specific to the engine in which they live reduces the time wasted in guess work and work-arounds to solve the problem otherwise.

3. Develop highly targeted keyword sets. Once you have thoroughly mapped out your campaign structure, you should now have a foundation to bucket your keywords in a way that each ad group is unique. Beyond advanced match type tactics, each ad group should contain keywords highly relevant to each other. The number of keywords in an ad group is irrelevant. At a certain point you will know when enough is enough.

4. Create relevant and persuasive ad ad creative text. Text within an ad creative should in some way reflect the keywords being targeted. When possible make sure that at least one keyword (phrase) in your ad group is in the ad creative title and in the body of the ad. Three to four ad creatives is recommended unless you are multivariate testing.

5. Landing page relevancy. Technically, the landing page comes into play post-click, but it is a component of a paid search program that ties into Quality Score. Just as keywords and ad creatives are required to be relevant to each other, the landing page also is required to be relevant to the preceding components. Landing pages should be as relevant as possible to what the ad creative messaging is about.

6. Negative keywords. Use them and use them deliberately. At a minimum they should be used at the campaign level and when required they should be added at the ad group level.

7. Search Queries. This is really what it’s all about – matching your keywords to the search queries users are actually typing. If you are not analyzing search queries for keyword expansion and negative keyword implementation, you are missing out on conversion and cost reduction opportunities.

This is not an exhaustive list of paid search design for sustainability tactics, but it is a good starting point. Besides aligning your program with Quality Score requirements, following these steps has implications outside of the components of a paid search program. When you do this part right, you have more time to analyze the post-click data. You will also spend less time reorganizing mega lists of keywords from one ad group to multiple ad groups and spend more time ad creative testing. Following the Quality Score requirements and designing for sustainability also allows for more accurate bid testing.

Overall, if you do things right and design for sustainability there is less time being spent on the things that do not add value and your program has much better chance of out lasting the competition while continuing to maximize its return.

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Matt LeVeque is the Founder & President of SEM Science Consulting, LLC and Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Posted by admin in Customer Conversions, Facebook, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Landing Page Optimization, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, keyword research on October 21,2010

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Achieving Paid Search Efficiency with Value Added Flow Analysis

As Paid Search advertising continues to grow and the industry continues to expand, its processes are becoming overly complex and complicated. With added keyword competition, seemingly endless enhancements to Google AdWords, the merger of Yahoo! Search and MSN adCenter and other platforms like Facebook Ads and Linkedin getting into the mix, it has become increasingly difficult to effectively manage the paid search suite of products in a way that consistently produce desired results.

Producing consistent ‘up-and-to-the-right’ results takes time and when you add to the mix countless blogs, tweets, diggs and sphinns you read to keep yourself updated on paid search, affiliate marketing, SEO and other channels to your list of daily responsibilities, there is less time to focus on doing things that add value and, ultimately, that the customer really cares about.

So how can you become more time efficient and take time out of processes so your daily routine becomes more balanced with the things that add value for the customer? One proven approach is performing a value added flow analysis of your processes to understand what value is and what waste is.

But how do you know what adds value? According to Ed Hay and John Guaspari in their video “Time: The Next Dimension of Quality” there are three basic questions you can ask to validate whether or not value is being added at each step of the paid search advertising process:

1. Does the customer care? If the customer doesn’t care then there is no point in proceeding with whatever it is you are doing.

2. Does the process step physically change the thing you are working on? If the thing, in this case say your Google AdWords campaign, does not physically change then everything you do up until you add or remove new keywords, ad group or text ads to the campaign is considered a form waste.

3. Is the thing you are doing completed right the first time? If you implement a task but it requires review before launching or rework afterward, you are not adding value to the process.

By asking these questions it is possible to take as much as 75% of time out of any process. Taking time out of any process adds quality to what you are doing. Beyond that, taking time out of a process allows you the ability and flexibility to add value to your clients in ways you may not have even begun to imagine. It helps you to be more responsive, innovative, build better team collaboration and be more competitive.

Value Added Flow Analysis of Paid Search

So how do you do a value added flow analysis of a paid search process? The first thing you need to do is to get rid of the old mind set of ‘this is how it’s always been done’. Because people are busy does not mean the process is efficient. If nothing is happening to the thing in the process then you are wasting time. You need to change the way you think about a process or you’ll never perform at the level that keeps you competitive and your customer satisfied. Changing the mindset is the hard part.

The easy part is actually doing a value added flow analysis. The trick to doing the value added flow analysis is that you need to it as the thing going through the process. If you do the analysis from your perspective you may have a biased view of the entire process. If you work on a team you may only truly understand your part of the process but since the thing going through the process is touched by many people it is better to do the analysis from the things point of view.

For example, say you’ve been tasked with adding a promotional campaign to your customer’s AdWords account. Think about all the steps involved to complete this one seemingly simple task. Consider everything from the initial meeting with the customer, to the internal discussions, to the layout of the campaign and its ad groups, the keyword research, the ad creative writing, the URL tagging, the bidding strategy all the way up to the launch of the campaign and ask yourself, as the thing going through the process, Does the customer care? Does the thing change? And was it done right the first time? As you do this and put time against each step in the process you may begin to see an ugly picture unfold. Typically only 10-15% of all steps in a process actually add value which translates into 1% of the time you are actually doing work that matters!

When all is said and done, all of these steps I’ve mentioned will have multiple sub-steps most of which may be necessary but do not add value to the process. The reality is, of the multiple steps there are to adding a new campaign there are only two the customer should truly care about – taking their ‘request’ for the new campaign and launching the campaign in active status. The customer cares, the account physically changes – hopefully for the better, and the launch was completed right the first time. Everything else to the customer is non-value added and takes valuable time away from doing things that matter.

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Matt LeVeque is the Founder & President of SEM Science Consulting, LLC and Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Posted by admin in Facebook, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Twitter, keyword research, social media on October 7,2010

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Whose Conversion is it Anyways?

Paid search marketers love to track everything – sales, geography, demographics, time of day – if we can measure it, we want the data! Data, however, can sometimes lead us to make wrong decisions, especially if that data is easy to misunderstand. To quote Mark Twain, “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

I’ve recently noticed an alarming trend whereby marketing partners are stretching the truth in an effort to give themselves too much credit for my conversions. The primary culprit of this “conversion land grab” is the concept of “view-through” conversions. Most people are familiar with “click-through” conversions – when someone clicks on your PPC ad and converts on your Web site, you count that user (and the keyword they rode in on) as a conversion.

A view-through, on the other hand, occurs when a user simply lands on a page where your ad was served. They never actually click on your ad, but – the theory goes – because they saw your ad, if they later convert on your site, the ad should get some credit for this conversion.

In theory, this isn’t an absolutely ridiculous metric, because we know that people respond to brand advertising on TV or billboards, and that this sort of advertising can drive sales. The problem with view-through conversions, however, is two-fold. First, most paid search advertisers don’t know the difference between a view-through and a click-through and thus don’t know how to value each. For example, did you know that your view-through conversions on Google include “views” of ads that are below the fold (require scrolling), whether a user actually scrolled below the first page or not? That’s like having a billboard facing one way on a highway but counting all the cars that go by in both directions!

Second, the reporting from many marketing partners completely muddles the distinction between a view-through and a click-through. Facebook’s reporting, for example, gives users a high level “Advertising Performance Report” but makes no mention of the fact that the conversions listed in this report are both view-through and click-through data. And Facebook’s misleading reporting pales in comparison to standard practices in the display (banner ad) space. As PPC and display ads become more and more intertwined, search marketers will need to tread cautiously into this new category.

Josh McFarland, CEO of TellApart, recently provided a scathing critique of rampant view-through counting in the display space, in particular with respect to “retargeting” (which Google AdWords calls “remarketing”):

“We all agree online advertising needs a more comprehensive metric than the click.  But the view-through (or post-impression) conversion is not it — especially for your retargeting campaigns.  In fact, if you’re being billed for view-through conversions from your current provider, you are massively overpaying for events which were going to happen anyway.”

My advice – at least for now – is simple: ignore the view-through, the multiple-conversions-per-click, and anything else that looks like an attempt by a search engine to give itself more credit. Over time, we’ll all figure out a way to give some credit to these non-click-through metrics, but until there are established standards and clearer explanations, it’s best to err on the side of caution!

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David Rodnitzky is Founder of PPC Associates, a leading SEM agency in San Francisco. To learn more about full service AdWords management from PPC Associates, contact David at david@ppcassociates.com.

Posted by admin in Customer Conversions, Facebook, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, social media on October 7,2010

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Impact of ‘Google Instant’ on Your Online Marketing Campaigns

On the 8th of September 2010, Google launched its Instant Search interface, which shows results as you type, in real time. Searchers, particularly from the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) industry, have reacted sharply to the new interface. Many users find the new interface distracting, even annoying.

Google Instant is being sold as a faster and better User Interface

Matt Cutts from Google says that the change is more about rolling out a new User Interface (UI) rather than an algorithmic change. Matt attempted to allay the fears of the SEM industry by suggesting “SEO is not dead” but may change due to instant search query feedback to users, which in turn, may change their search behaviour. He believes that the searchers will diversify their queries within the scope of the original intent.

The effect of predicted query suggestions on user behavior

While Google claims that the Search Ranking Algorithm remains unchanged, the new feature will surely change search behaviour of users due to instant feedback mechanism. A lot of users are likely to select the predictive results, which fulfil their original intent, and stop typing further. Some users may get distracted from their original intent as ‘irrelevant but interesting’ results may lead to unintended searches. For example a user may digress into “home improvement loans” after typing “home improvement” instead of following his original intent of searching for “home improvement ideas.”

As more and more search users select “predicted query” suggestions, it would increase the traffic on the “head” keyword terms and lead to keyword aggregation. In essence, they would be searching more of what “other users” are searching. This usage trend would create a loop-back effect and drive out the long-tail keywords from the popular suggestions. Consequently, over a period of time, the long-tail keywords search count may diminish significantly. Where possible, Google is pushing local results for terms having local context like weather, pizza, movies, jobs etc.

The change in usage trend will throw new challenges to SEO & PPC professionals. They will need to focus their campaigns more on lead terms, creating a fiercer battleground.

How will PPC campaigns get impacted?

As per Google the AdWords impressions are counted in the following situations -

  • The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search).
  • The user chooses a particular query by clicking the Search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries.
  • The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.

For PPC campaign managers, this is bad news. The AdWords impressions would unnecessarily increase due to ads display even during partial typing process. Ads would sometimes be displayed for irrelevant or partial keywords. For example, search intent for “Car Insurance” displays ads for “Car Rentals” just after the user has typed the word “car.” This means that the “Car Rentals” PPC campaigns will waste impressions, reducing their CTR.

Predictive query push of popular terms will diminish the long-tail keyword opportunities for PPC managers. Pressure will mount on the “head” terms of their campaigns; pushing up their CPC costs while wasted AdWords impressions will make their CTR poor. Since the CTR is likely to be affected across the board for most users, it is not clear how Google will treat the fall in the “Quality Score” of the ad campaigns.

In any case, PPC campaigns are likely to become costlier to run and the campaign managers will need to make frequent updates in their campaigns to target newer and popular keywords to keep up with the changing trends of search users. Some website owners may even consider diverting part of their PPC funds into SEO campaigns in order to get some traction of natural traffic and mitigate their long term investment risks.

How will SEO landscape change with Google Instant?

Challenges for SEO managers will not be easy. With diminishing long-tail inventory, SEO will need to focus on popular search terms, which, by no means is a mean task. Changes in SEO will also need to be made frequently, in line with the changing keyword trends. Where relevant, optimization for local search terms will help. Due to the instant display of results, fewer users will need to scroll down the page. This means that “above the fold” results will become prime property. Clients would no longer be happy with the top-10 ranking and may demand top-4 rank instead, making the SEO’s job even harder.

Gaming the Google Instant Predictive Search System

It is important to note that the predictive search suggestions of Google Instant is not about suggesting important terms, but suggesting “popular” terms. For search terms, which do not have a high search volume (or for long-tail keywords), it is easy to “game the system” by artificially inflating search terms popularity.

Several years ago, we ran a test on WordTracker keyword research tool. At the time, WordTracker used to fetch search data from only Dogpile & MetaCrawler search engines, which had a miniscule search market share. Since it was easy to game these two ‘low traffic’ search engines, we artificially inflated a ‘test query string’ search in these search engines and discovered that the test search term indeed appeared ‘high’ in WordTracker’s keyword search count, just a few weeks later. Similarly, search terms for low-volume searches can be pushed up in the Google’s predictive suggestions. This manipulation of Google Instant was successfully tried for the term “Nathan Deal Ethics” to highlight the allegations against Nathan for corruptions.

As the dust settles down, the users will get more comfortable by evolving their own techniques of narrowing down their search queries. Perhaps over a period of time, a new usage trend may emerge. How the PPC & SEO landscape will shape up over the next one year may be difficult to predict. However, one thing seems to be clear – with one masterstroke, Google has ensured higher revenues from PPC advertisers; made SEO a lot more difficult and with increased search pattern of distracted searchers, increased their page-views (read market share.)

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Atul Gupta is the Co-Founder & CEO of RedAlkemi.com, a company specializing in Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing. Atul is a thought-leader in Online Marketing industry and has been working in this field since 1996. His company has helped over a thousand clients succeed in their online businesses. Atul is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and has published several articles about SEM industry.

Posted by admin in Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, keyword research, social media on October 7,2010

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