October 18, 2010

Letting Go of Traditional Marketing concepts for Better PPC Management

By Karl Ribas

With many companies struggling in this unsettling economy of ours, the thought of saving a buck has become more appetizing to small-business owners than the idea of actually making one.

With that, one way small-businesses choose to control costs is by bringing the management of their online marketing campaigns, otherwise managed by 3rd party professionals, in-house. More times than not, when such an occurrence happens, these new marketing responsibilities fall into the laps of the traditional marketing team - those individuals responsible for the Company's offline marketing strategies.

Some of you may ask, what's the big deal? A marketing professional is a marketing professional, are they not? Wrong! While the idea of bringing online marketing initiatives in-house is acceptable, especially if it means saving money, the idea that a traditional marketing specialist is the same as an Internet marketing specialist is dead wrong.

First and foremost, a traditional marketer and an Internet marketer are accustomed to very different marketing channels, and thus they are equipped with a unique set of skills and tools for helping them to accomplish their objectives. Very rarely will the skill-sets transfer from offline-to-online, and vise verse. In fact, Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) happens to be one of those occasions where traditional marketers, without proper training, seem to always struggle.

Following are three examples that outline just how different Pay Per Click is compared to traditional marketing channels, and why letting go of traditional marketing concepts will lead to better PPC management.

Click-Costs and Positioning are NOT Set in Stone
Without a doubt, the most difficult concept for a traditional marketer to grasp when managing Pay Per Click advertising is the auction.

Traditional marketers, when purchasing ad-space within newspapers and magazines or 30-second commercials on television and radio stations, deal with people, and those people set the pricing and positioning for their ad buys. With regards to Pay Per Click, no such people or fixed pricing/positioning models exist. Instead, Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and all other PPC networks support an auction based system.

For example, Google uses an ad auction in accordance with a proprietary algorithm to determine the appropriate click-fee and position for each advertiser. Their algorithm considers a long-list of variables including, but not limited to, account and campaign settings, keyword selection and match-types, maximum bid, and quality score - a metric used to calculate a relevancy value by reviewing keyword selection, ad-copy, landing page, and other unknown variables.

Google uses a complicated algorithm along with its supporting technology and their ad-auction. Therefore it has a constant pulse on its ad-marketplace and can charge and position advertisers accordingly throughout every second of every day. Click fees and positioning can and will fluctuate from second-to-second, search-to-search. Traditional marketers seem to struggle with PPC marketing because costs and positions are not metrics that they can control.

An Increase in Spend Does NOT Guarantee an Increase in Ad-Placement
Traditional marketing is all about marketing to the masses and hoping that the target audience not only receives the message, but becomes so inspired that they step forward and take action - learn, buy, participate, etc.

Campaign managers understand that in order to increase revenue they must first increase their ad's exposure. This results in an increase in advertising spend. Such examples include advertising on the front half of a magazine as opposed to the back, or airing a TV commercial during prime-time hours as opposed to during the mid-afternoon. The model is simplified in that the better an ad's placement, the more exposure it receives, and therefore the better chance of success it has.

On the other hand, Pay Per Click works quite a bit differently. It is true that advertisers can gain more exposure (impressions and clicks) by simply being the top sponsored listing for their chosen keywords. However, advertisers can't simply buy better ad-placement like they can with traditional marketing channels, and this is a concept that troubles traditional marketers.

Google, as an example, removes the idea of bidding for position altogether. They promote a system that allows advertisers, big and small, to compete on the basis of relevancy and not their wallets. Therefore, in order to increase revenue PPC marketers must first increase their campaign's relevancy. By doing so, it may or may not result in an increase in advertising spend. Such examples for increasing a campaign's relevancy include fine tuning ad-copy, promotions, landing pages, and keyword selection.

Relevance Exists on a Much Grander Level
Marketing without relevancy is a waste of time, money, and effort... something both traditional and Internet marketers understand very well. However, one of the biggest differences between traditional marketing channels and Pay Per Click marketing is the level of relevancy that each is capable of achieving. For traditional marketers, relevancy means running Ford Truck and Papa Johns pizza commercials every Sunday during the football season. For PPC marketers, relevancy means so much more than that.

The very core of search marketing promises relevancy - the idea of listing relevant websites in accordance with what is being searched. The PPC model supports this. PPC allows advertisers to participate in a one-one-one marketing channel where it is the end-user that solicits advertising, and not the other way around. This often becomes an issue for traditional marketers that are new to managing PPC campaigns. Proper Pay Per Click management means displaying ads that target only those individuals interested in learning more about a company's products and services, and not the masses.

October 12, 2010

WordStream Releases PPC Quality Score Management Software

By Simon Heseltine

It's been a while since I've actively worked with PPC, but any tool that claims to make life easier for search marketers is worth looking at.  Today, WordStream released a new suite of Quality Score management tools for AdWords advertisers, which are directly incorporated into the company's PPC product  These tools are designed to help advertisers boost Quality Scores which, in turn, should lower overall PPC costs.

AdWords Quality Score is a "grade" assigned by Google, based on demonstrated relevancy (that of the landing page to the keywords targeted) and click-through rates, that has a big impact on how successful your campaigns are. WordStream's new Quality Score tools help marketers strengthen their campaign structures according to proven best practices that raise both CTR and Quality Score, which equates to:

  • More exposure in the search results for lower costs
  • More traffic, better qualified leads, and higher sales

The new Quality Score tools have been added to WordStream's existing keyword management technology, along with tighter AdWords integration.

  WS1

The new features include:

  • AdWords Campaign Organization Tools – These grouping tools are useful for quickly creating tightly related ad groups and strategically organized campaign structures.
  • Negative Keyword Tools – WordStream already had some tools to help identify and set negative keywords, but these are now easier to use and have been improved to further reduce irrelevant impressions and wasteful ad spend.

  WS2 

  • Long-Tail Keyword Expansion Tools – Again, keywords are WordStream's specialty. The new keyword expansion tools provide thousands of highly targeted long-tail keyword suggestions tailored to your product or service niche.

If you want to learn more, you can sign up to try WordStream's new Quality Score tools free

October 08, 2010

Facebook Ad Tactics for Search Marketers

By Li Evans

Reporting from Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East

DSC_8727 The "Facebook At Tactics for Search Marketers" panel at SMX East was a pretty insightful panel, from looking at how to manage your advertising in Facebook more easily to how to use it as a research tool, this panel was also full of great tips fromt he presenters.

First up was Matt Lawson from Marin Software who pointed out that Facebook just has a sheer amount of traffic, it's now crested and eclipsed google in page views.  They pages visisted are also more per session, 12+ in Facebook is an oustanding number to figure into your strategies.

Understanding that people are visiting more pages during their sessions in Facebook, you will naturally get more impressions than you can in paid search in the search engines (Google, Bing).  That only makes sense.  More impressions however, does mean lower click through rates, but this is o.k. when you also factor in you will have lower CPC rates that range anywhere from 12 to 15%.

Conversion rates are really all over the map for Facebook ads.  It really depends on how you are targeting your ads and your creatives.  Images are much more important with Facebook Ads.  Marketers need to be careful of having their ads "blending in" so choose colors that draw out.  If you also tailor your images to your audience it will increase their relevance as well.  You also need to keep the ads fresh because users on Facebook become ad blind

Matt also pointed out that maintaining the Facebook experience is important, especially for conversions.  Most succeful campaigns tend to be those who built their ads and campaigns into the Facebook tabs.

Matt rounded out his presentation by pointing out for marketers to remember that (according to: "The Influecened:  Social media, search and the interplay of consideration and consumption"  by Group M) social influences search.  Consumers who are exposed to a brand's social meda ads are:

  • 2.8 times as likely to search on brand terms
  • 50% more likely to click on paid search ads
  • 1.7 times morelikely to purchase from search


DSC_8723 Kevin Ryan from Motivity Marketing was up next at the podium and started off with pointing out how Facebook ads are really easy to set up, in just 5 minutes you can set them up.  He also pointed out that Facebook can become bigger in 5 yrs than Google is today (he pointed out a good piece on TechCrunch that speaks to this).

When marketers are working with Facebook ads, they need to look beyond just the keywords to things like tidal changes, early stage - creative shelf life, transitions, and just because you can doesn't mean you should (especially when it comes to bidding against your competition).  Marketers need to be more geographically relevant with Facebook and understand the collective interest.

Merry Morud from AimClear was up after Kevin Ryan and focused on how she runs campaigns in Facebook.  When you start a new account either start it from an admin account or create a new destination account on Facebook.  If you start a new account Facebook will at first limit you to $50, put in a request to buy more and they will work to get that removed.

When it comes to Facebook ads they are still a lot like PPC ads in the search engines in that you still need to create Landing Pages, whether they are landing pages that are on your site or a Facebook tab, you should still perform small audits on there.  Marketers should also be testing the verbiage in their copy, but an easy way to start is to grab your Search PPC copy that is working.  Also understanding how much freedom you have is important because in Facebook langauge that appeals to a certain segment (slang) can make your ads more successful.

Merry also pointed out how important images are to Facebook ads.  You need to get pictures - you need them, lots of them -  and you also need to make the images pop.  Merry uses IrfranView and cranks up both the contrast & saturation to make normal images stand out more.

Some best practices to keep in mind for creating your Facebook ads are: no symbols, full healdine, full sentice in body, no excessive punctuation, no eccesive capitlaize, real urls, bid daily budget must start at least $1.  She also suggested using some alternative tools:  Word's Thesaurus, Wikipedia, VisuWords, WordStream, OneLook Reverse Dictionary and your own noggin'.

Merry really had a ton more of great stuff in her presentation so if you were at SMX and didn't get to see this panel, download her presentation when they put them up and you can get the full information.  She really did have a lot of awesome tips and insights.

Finally Tyler Calder from Search Engine People rounded out this panel.  Tyler focuse on how marketers can use Facebook ads for market research.  Facebook is a researchers dream, so much data to get into about your customers can be found on Facebook.  If you want to  know how a certain groups people respond to a message an image or a question - Facebook can help with that.

Marketers can take these findings and apply to other offline and online intiatives such as TV, Radio and Print. If you start to use Facebook Advertising as a starting point for your marketing research, follow the Scientific Method.  Tyler outlined what marketers can test with Facebook ads:

  • Blog Titles
  • Email Subject Lines
  • Existing Message in New Market
  • Value Propositions
  • Proof Points

Benefits of using Facebook as a marketing research tool are huge: cost effective, fast, targeting, data collection, and flexibitilty.

Tyler presented two case studies in how they effectively used Facebook ads to research and test for their clients.  The first involved TV ads for a medical client that specialized in lap band procedures.  The client had a clearly defined geographic area and demographic but has a very high cost per conversion and they needed insights into how to produce a commercial that would be relevant.  They question they needed to answer for the client was what type of TV does their audience watch.  By using Facebook ads they were able to effectively answer that question and help the client with the campaign and making it much more affective and the results were 6% increase in calls, 11% increase in online consultation bookings.

The second case study Tyler highlighted was for a company who had a mobile application.  The app itself had strong reviews and a high retention rate however it could not break into the top 25.  The problem was that their app icon was seriously ugly and sucked.  Tylers team used Facebook ads to test the new icon images, the one that performed the best in the ads was what was chosen for the new application icon. The results - app downloads steady rate/sustained of downloads, with first ugly app icon, it was 69% drop off after the initial release.

Just like the Facebook (SEO) Optimization panel before this one, this session was really full of a lot of great tips, insights and information.  If you attended SMX East and missed this panel make sure to download the presentations.  If you didn't attend SMX East, make sure you put SMX West on your agenda!

 

October 05, 2010

Retargeting: The New Behavioral Ads

By Li Evans

Reporting from Search Marketing Expo (SMX)

Behavorial-ad-re-targeting One of the first sessions yesterday at SMX was the Retargeting:  The New Behavioral Ads.  This session focused around understanding how minute in details and data driven serving up display ads across content networks can be.  Chris Sherman was the moderator for this panel and he brought up the fact that the FCC is taking a closer look at the process of using cookies and their data to retarget ads to users and the privacy concerns around this process.  There could be legislation coming in the future that prohibits companies from using data in this way.

First up on this panel to present was Kevin Lee from DidIt.  Kevin's been around this space for quite a while and is one of the people who have a truly deep knowledge of exactly how these networks work with capturing data and then serving up the right ads to the viewer.  Kevin focused on the basics of ad retargeting and told the audience that this form of advertising is much greater than thinking of it as just "display ads".

When it comes down to it, marketers have to think about who's cookie pool do they want to use, if  you want to be successful because all behavioral search is not the same.  Since you want to remarket to your customers and existing site visitors you are going to need a larger cookie pool of visitors to be successful.  So are you going to use organic traffic, paid placement traffic, media traffic, direct navigation, affiliate marketing traffic (this can get tricky because you'll have to pay the affiliate when the remarketing works)?

What is the window of opportunity for the buy funnel? The longer your prospects are in market the more opportunity you have to remarket to them, so you need to plan accordingly with your budgets and strategy.  But keeping that in mind you also have to look at the "creepy factor" of retargeting along with the "spouse factor" meaning that most computers are shared by a family.  Just because we have all this Personally Identifiable Information (PII) does it mean we should use it?

Kevin wrapped up his presentation by pointing out a beginners mistake: be careful with performance deals.  Sometimes you are paying for the same lead/order multiple times and data collection systems can kill your affiliate networks.  Look for performance marketing agencies who have performance marketing deals that work around attribution modeling and even better, media mix modeling that offer marginal elasticity of ever media option.


Joshua Dreller presented next and posed the question to the audience "What is the main reason why search marketing works so well?" his answer was "Intent."  Search marketing is considered by advertisers to be the most effect media channel for reaching consumers who exhibit "intent."

There are challenge though:  high ppc prices, scalability issues, maxed out budgets, only being limited to text ads - nothing beats sound and images. This is where ad retargeting can really shine especially when marketers realize that billions of adspace goes unsold every day, and that "cookies" can help you evaluate the ad bids much more effectively.

Nancy Marzouk from Net Mining rounded out this panel on ad retargeting by pointing out some myths:

1. each potential customer that interacts with your brand should be treated equally

2. because someone has been to your site previously they will automatically convert

Qualifying remarketing impressions starts with your site data & standard marketing (based on page views).  Page visits are equal to possible interest. Smarter marketing by using advanced audience profiles, look at pages visited,  time spent on pages, recency of visits, sequence of products purchased, and search referrals.  All equal true interest, according to Nancy, so marketers need to expand their targeting pool based on site data.

Nancy finished up her presentation by pointing out that marketers can't solely focus on ad retargeting, neglecting the other channels (PPC, SEO, Brand Display, and Social Media for example) can be costly.  Marketers need to stop siloing their efforts and create more "blended" portfolios.

August 18, 2009

Don’t Gamble with Your PPC Campaigns! Save It For The Casinos.

By Account Deleted

Gamble-ppc In the lyrics of one of my favorite songs by Kenny Roger’s “the Gambler” which states that “you gotta know when to hold em…., Know when to fold em… No when to walk away…… Know when to run….  And it is those lyrics which reminded me of how easy it is to gamble with your PPC Campaigns, when "rash" decisions can really screw-up your bottom-line. (BTW - What the hell happened to Kenny Roger's Face? It looks like he gambled and lost with his plastic surgeon - See photo below) In this post, I will discuss why it’s important to “know when hold certain keywords and also “when to fold ‘em” or pause them. Just because a keyword may be under-performing, does not mean it’s a bad keyword. It just may bring attention to other areas of the PPC optimization experience (Landing Page, website usability or even the Text Ad). Let’s discuss

Not all keywords are the same for everyone. In my experience, I have seen other PPC Marketers and even myself at times, be guilty of not giving keyword a 2nd chance at life it deserves and it's very much like gambling with real money where the only difference is that your not bidding with Chips, your gambling with your business.

Kenny-roger-face In my humble opinion, the best approach to managing keywords in the PPC Campaigns is to create  a small group of 10-20 “tightly” relevant Head Terms and Long Tail Phrases about that specific product or service. Depending on your analytics package, it is sometimes a good idea to identify a few head terms and leave them in either Broad or Phrase Match and let the user find the long-tail work for you. Once you have that setup, I would then monitor them closely a few times a day for a week at a time just to see the behavior.

A Few Behaviors would be:

  • Click Thru Rate (CTR%)
  • Avg Position Fluctuation
  • Competitive saturation
  • Eventually CPL/CPA.

Once you have a good idea of the winners and “non winners” – (Notice I did not say “LOSERS” because the under-performers may just have the wrong “intent” factor which is perfectly ok), segment them and start working on the ones that need a little more attention. The beauty of Paid Search is the ability for the search marketer to try all types of "last resorts" and test new things. Moreover, finding the ultimate “gold-mine” keywords are not always instant. It could take months to truly get a handle on how to continue the ROAS Success. So in comparing PPC to Gambling at the Casino, you are in effect,

  1. Looking at your cards
  2. Looking at the others players
  3. Looking at the dealer’s cards
  4. Deciding to FOLD'em or HOLD'em

The benefit of PPC is that you do not have to fold right away, you can try different tactics to truly determine if it’s a lost cause and/or stop the bleeding before the credit card company knocks on your door.

So what are some examples of Rehabilitation Tactics?
Certainly, there are many tools to utilize when you are forced to give these keywords a second and third chance at life in your campaigns.

  1. Step #1: Look at all of the RAW search queries (through analytics) and see if there is a gap in the long tail searches. An example maybe adding a FEW MORE negative keywords to filter out unqualified visitors to keep the cost down and improve CTR to get your ROAS at the level it needs to be.
  2. Step #2: Look at the keywords position. Perhaps the “quality score” effect is just not there, so you may want to drop a few cents of the maximum CPC.
  3. Step #3: Look at your Landing Page and Website and looking for problems in your Conversion process. This could also be an issue with price, lack of information, shipping costs (if applicable) as well as anything else which may be affecting your ROAS.
  4. Step #4: If on the Content or Site Placement Networks, run a referring sites report and add those sites that are driving up add spend and not converting to the Site Exclusion section within Google Adwords.

In Conclusion:
The bottom-line of this post is to highlight on the fact that PPC does not have to be a game of High Stakes BlackJack. The PPC Marketer has many options on the table and just needs to be conscious of the surroundings of the user experience to make a better decision. Many great PPC experts in the industry  have also been evangelizing on these similar tactics, techniques and strategies mentioned in this post. However, this SemGeek’s thought process is using all of these best practices and simply relating them to other types of behavior, whether you are gambling at the Casinos, or Fishing (That’s another analogy to write about) it’s all relative.

Rocky-vs-clubber-lang PPC marketing is dynamic in that sometimes you can “win by Knockout" in the first 30 seconds, but if you get knocked down more that 3 times in the same round, as a PPC Marketer you can still continue to analyze your opponent (client) and fight your way back to a successful campaign.

March 27, 2009

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark: Black Hat PPC Tactics in SES NY

By Brian Cosgrove

The "Black Hat" PPC session contained quite a bit of overlap in content. There was a certain risk/reward scenario that followed and for the most part, the panelists agree that it's a good idea to push the boundaries far enough to get push-back, but not so far that you banned. At SMG, we suggest that you use your own best judgment on whether to use these tactics, but also that you keep your eyes open to see whether they are being used against you.

The panelists for this session include:

Moderator
  • Richard Zwicky: Founder & CEO, Enquisite
Speakers
  • Jamie Smith: CEO, Engine Ready
  • Kevin Lee: Co-Founder & Executive Chairman, Didit
  • David Szetela: CEO, Clix Marketing
  • Bill Leake: President and CEO, Apogee Search

Among the topics was shelf space. This means getting multiple listings on the same page by the same company. They mentioned that this can occur by working with channel providers, or creating resource portals with a few competitors. In cases where there is a decidedly different user experience; many folks may get away with the multiple listings. Nonetheless, the foot print that would tie the accounts together must be minimized. Also, there may be several situations where a user will click on multiple of your listings on the same results page driving the cost per acquisition (CPA) up. In this respect, it's better to separate the listings (1 and 4 instead of 2 and 3). Note that CPA could go over the top if users regularly click multiple listings; but the vast majority or users click on or under two for any SERP. One panelist mentioned that it may have a negative impact on your brand if low-quality flanker sites or low quality affiliates are taking up the listings. As long as your trying to avoid complaints, you're on a far better path to keep those multiple shelf-space ads alive.

Another topic covered is hiding from competition. To do this, geo-targeting can be applied to exclude your competitor's town. Further, an IP address may be blocked from you campaign and this can be obtained by sending an email to the competitor and viewing its properties to get the IP address of where it went. If the competitor uses an agency, it must be excluded as well. If the geographic region of the competitor is too important of a market, geography-based exclusion should be reconsidered. Beware that affiliates will often use this tactic against you.  This concept is important with black hat PPC because it may reduce the number of complaints you'll receive from competition about black/gray-hat tactics and it hides the successful ads from their view as well. As a best practice the top three to five competitors should be considered. In the same notion as hiding from your competition, one panelist suggested hiding from Google as well (i.e., only violate rules when Mountain View, CA is sleeping.)

Trademarks were covered in length. On the topic, they mentioned that it takes a long time to get trademark usage approved with some companies. Dynamic keyword insertion in one tool that can help to facilitate getting trademarks in the ad copy when they are used in the search. Also mentioned was using hyphens or spaces creatively. For example, if the word "company" was a trademark, someone might use "comp-any" or "c o m p a n y" in their ad. In other cases, there are still companies who haven't or can't enforce a trademark and therefore could be easily targeted. One suggestion was to align ppc spend with the competitor's market spend to capitalize on large marketing campaign pushes that will increase the volume of related queries. Monitoring and syncing with their campaigns will let you harvest the clicks from the entire "ecosystem" of words that they stimulate. Note that re-targeting may also let you connect your ads with competitors' trademarks in an indirect manner.  Finally, use of broad match on mispellings(sic) of names, pieces of names, or pieces of domain spellings can further capitalize on searches intended for competitors. 

On the PR side of things, they suggested using Adwords for promoting negative press about competitors. For example, you could promote your own marketwatch.com article by making a better quality score and higher bid or you could publicize someone else's "statement of truth."

Some tactics were simply around testing boundaries. For example, one was about using special characters and symbols such as bullet points, arrows, etc... in your ads. While trademark and copyright symbols in an ad are a best practice, (and apparently improve click-through rates), they are not only characters that can work. Some such as the # sign will probably not work but by using the Adwords editor, you can test which others will. Similarly, use of superlatives, capitalized words, or CSS-layer styled pop-ups on landing pages are things that can be quickly corrected if you're caught but probably won't result in a ban.

Other areas for gray hat include some light "cloaking" where landing content is different based on geography, time of day, cookie acceptance, ISP, HTTP referrer, or landing page personalization characteristics. In the same way that the self space approach may let you get the right copy for the user, personalization can let you further resolve persona differences and keep your various ads connected with the content on the landing page. One example showed a landing page that simply reproduced the copy of the ad to indicate to visitors that they are on the right page.

Some general best practices were discussed that weren't "black hat" at all:
  1. Take time to strategically plan and organize campaigns.
  2. Examine the visitor behavior to try to figure out what better post-click experiences will improve the conversion rates of that particular ad or keyword.
  3. Use a valid data sample before making a decision (thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks).
  4. Read organic listings and look for inspiration: those are probably proven performers.
  5. The concept of match type has evolved and exact isn't often as useful. A broad match with lots of negatives may work better for the same terms.
  6. When possible, try to figure out how that term fits into the conversion cycle before assessing its value.

In a bit more detail, they covered trying to measure assists. One panelist spoke of a study of 16,500 sales which showed that 70% included assists.  When a phone number is listed on a site, assists can be measured using unique numbers for keywords or groups. 800 numbers tend to be better than 877, 866 or 888 for the purpose of getting calls. Local area codes tend to be better for local businesses. Note: Free toll free numbers might be available in Google audio ads before they finally turn the entire program off.  Tenchu, Click Equations, Maestro, and Enquisite are some tools that let you measure assists. Some companies may be able to sort their analytics by IP addresses or cookies as well. A self developed cookie tracking system may keep tabs on prior keyword searches.

I wasn't sure what to expect from a "black hat" PPC session and I was surprised to find that among the list of questionable tactics were bits of wisdom and some warnings that anyone competing in the paid search space can use.

Pay-for-Performance: Winning Strategies for Advertisers and Agencies at SES NYC

By Brian Cosgrove

At the end of the first day at SES NYC came this interesting panel. Many ideas were shared about the importance of restructuring payment for search services and a few of the solutions offer considerations that should be made when considering these models. The panel featured the following speakers:

Moderator

  • Matt Van Wagner: President, Find Me Faster

Speakers

  • Richard Zwicky: Founder & CEO, Enquisite
  • Ron Belanger: SES Advisory Board, Vice President of Agency Development, Yahoo!
  • Tom Cuthbert: President & Founder, Click Forensics
  • Brian Klais: Executive Vice President, Netconcepts
  • Jonathan Scott: COO, Direct Traffic Media

Zwicky began the panel by illustrating the imbalance in compensation for paid and organic search. In his statistics, approximately 88 percent of spend goes to 12 percent of the search engine traffic (paid search) and 12 percent of spend goes to 88 percent of the traffic (organic). These numbers back up his notion that organic search is not getting the compensation it deserves. According to Zwicky, top SEO specialists can deliver top ROI so they deserve to be compensated for value delivered; and everyone should be focused on real value to the end client.

Next up is Belenger. Like Zwicky,this Yahoo! employee stresses minimizing the industry buzz-speak and getting down to business value. Unlike Zwicky, Belenger calls pay for performance problematic. It's true that for Belenger, search marketers need to minimize the sorcery by taking details of the tactics out of the price negotiations and instead get into value delivered. When it comes to pay for performance, however, there are a number of reasons that it may not be a good fit.

For example, the agency may not be able to influence all factors such as:

  • Conversion flow
  • Pricing competitiveness
  • Shipping and promotional offers
  • Brand "trust"
  • Customer service

As an alternative, percent of media spend presents its own issues:

  • It provides incentives agencies to spend more for paid search than they should.
  • In some cases, it disincentives economies of scale.
  • The first 90 days of of the engagement are bleeding red for agencies.
  • Search marketing is reduced to buying more keywords.

For Belenger, an FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) model with fair rates makes the most sense. The following were points on this subject:

  • Data is the new black: pay for it and agree on its value. Use it to derive strategy and insights.
  • Add incentives for cost savings: use technology deployment, outsourcing, and only provide in-house support where applicable.
  • Reach and stretch goals: create an upside for heroic work and a win/win business climate.

Next up, Cuthbert provided some interesting statistics. Online advertising is up 11% while print is down 19%. To explain this, he references phenomena such as CPA models, targeting, measurability, an roi focused culture, the collapse of traditional media, and enhanced tools.

Following Cuthbert is Klais. Klais works with software that is used to execute pay for performance search campaigns. Like Zwicky, he reiterates that there is an inverse relationship between spend and volume with paid and organic search. When thinking of pay per performance, there are a number of factors to consider such as the following:

  • Market opportunity
  • Click-through rate
  • Acquisition costs
  • Keyword coverage
  • Non-brand reach
  • Page placement
  • Page yield
  • Incremental traffic/revenue
  • ROAS

In general, the margin can increase based on value delivered which better aligns agency/marketer interests and should ensure positive ROI/ROAS. He did, however, express some performance model drawbacks for agencies:

  • Investment of resources ahead of revenue
  • Lack of control over execution and conversion
  • Difficulty in managing channel attribution
  • The possibility of succeeding out of a job
  • The program may contain baggage

For the customer, there are also drawbacks:

  • Costs can scale indefinitely
  • Bigger payouts tempt agencies to try risky tactics

When constructing a pay for performance arrangement, consider a revenue sharing model where you define fair commission structure. In this respect, consider rates for the percent of brand or nonbrand; or for incremental increases only. Consider affiliate levels for brand merchants and figure out how to handle channel attribution. Ultimately, try to make sure that SEO and paid search are given their fair split in credit.

Another model is cost per click. After defining a fair click cost, similar considerations should be made about branded vs. non-branded, comparing SEO cost to ppc acquisition cost, and multichannel attribution.

Scott came next and echoed the idea of performance related pay. He believes the industry should embrace performance contracts because the SEO gold rush is over, and clients are demanding accountability and governance in plans.

Scott proposes a base + performance model. That is, the performance element is the carrot, the motivator. He suggests setting up incentive targets based on true KPIs where you can approximately value them and trust them. Even still there are a number of considerations that should be accounted for when developing one of these plans.

The first consideration is seasonality. On a month to month basis, consider using Adwords trends to predict the possible changes in volume that occur. On a similar note, also consider other external factors such as the state of the market by doing a year over year comparison and utilize some basic forecasting. After that, relax and caveat a bit.

In some real life examples, Scott explained how there were bands where the % of bonus became larger and these bands were routinely adjusted to account for seasonality and market factors. It's about taking the time to reach an agreement that makes life easier and avoiding an overly complicated model. In this respect, the client should feel in control, there should be a warm-up period explained, and there should be get out clauses for both parties. It's about negotiating a sense of shared risk among both parties.

That wrapped up the session.  In summary, there are many factors out of the control of search marketers which make it difficult to come to a performance based agreement but, none-the-less, organic search marketers should be paid on the value that they deliver.

January 26, 2009

Google Grants: Much More Than Free Clicks for NonProfits - Part III

By Account Deleted

Google-grant-nonprofit-gift In Part III in a Three Part Series by SemGeek on the socially responsible gift from Google called Google Grants, I focus on the importance of utilizing web analytics and some "outside the box" thinking when it comes to analysis. Too many advertisers have focused on the wrong things such as CTR% and Clicks when it comes to the Free Google Funny Money. What's important is NOT THE FREE CLICKS, but what you are learning from the Free Clicks. Let's discuss.

Another integral part of the search marketing process is the implementation of  web analytics and analysis. However, evangelizing the importance of that to Nonprofits, both large and small, is rather an uphill battle. For many search marketers who provide PPC and SEO in the “for-profit” world, they can make a much greater case for using analytics to track KPIs (key performance indicators) because most companies cannot survive unless there is a ceiling ROAS%, ROI% or CPA to measure against the investment.

As part of the standard PPC analysis, the search marketer would need to identify either at the campaign, adgroup or keyword level, and the basic conversion or non-conversion flow of the “after the click” scenario. For example,

Keyword → Ad/Creative → Landing Page  → Conversion (of any trackable sort).

Now, even though is may seem like a no-brainer strategy for future optimization, I often go beyond this method and dig deeper into other types of analysis, including Ad Messaging Testing, Indirectly related campaign testing as well as anything else that the Nonprofit could benefit from all of their “offline” and event based initiatives. 

With the generous $10k per month from Google, a search marketer could position the strategy around a Multi-channel Research, Search Behavior and Website Usability that not only generates traffic, but also provides valuable insight into future endeavors such as new website creation, newly created programs and all sorts of advocacy and messaging in other media. In essence, this methodology, here are a few areas where what is practiced in the “for profit” world can be applied to the “not for profit” world.

Each Google Grantee would be presented with a comprehensive 6-12 month paid search plan, consisting of a campaign-to-adgroup matrix, as well as reserved remnant space for any future “time sensitive” advocacy and messaging that is important to the Nonprofit. . Remember, the search marketer needs to be vigilant about the importance of seasonality of a Nonprofit, as it’s similar to any “for profit” business.

For example, a paid search plan would contain campaigns and adgroups based on Brand; Programs; Initiatives; Fundraising Events; Sponsors; Current news events, etc…  As you can see, this is very similar structure to that of mainstream PPC Account. Along with the different audiences that are being targeted, performing a level of Ad testing is another valuable area that should be considers. Wouldn’t a Nonprofit find it important to know that the CTA (call to action ) of the word Donate outperforms the word Contribute that can then be applied to all other offline initiates, which result in more donations?

To conclude, I see Google Grants from a much different perspective than just free clicks to a website. The socially responsible gift from Google has not been given the greatness it deserves and even though many top search marketers may be providing amazing results for the client, the Nonprofit has more to gain for the well-being of the organization because remember they are not paying to LEARN. For SemGeek, such as myself , the  true gift from Google is the freedom to do whatever the Nonprofit wants to do with the free advertising. It’s not about the Free Clicks, it’s what you do with the Free clicks, which makes a difference to the Nonprofit.

Greg Meyers is Partner and Co Founder of CampaignGrid, LLC and World Benefactor. He is also author of the search marketing blog Semgeek.com.

January 19, 2009

Google Grants: Much More Than Free Clicks for NonProfits - Part II

By Account Deleted

Google-grant-nonprofit-gift In Part II in a Three Part Series on the socially responsible gift from Google called Google Grants, I focus on the "cross-pollination" of appling the best practices of Quality Score. Let's discuss.

Following the best practice of Quality Score, which in essence, is better position for a lower CPC is key to any successful PPC campaign. This is especially true when it’s a Google Grants Account where advertisers are limited to the one-dollar CPC. As many of us in the industry know, the creation of very specific and tightly grouped keywords, Ad copy that is keyword-rich and a corresponding landing page which continues the keyword relevance, as well as visible SEO attributes, intelligent linking structures and most recently efficient page loading times all contribute to Quality Score.

The problem with this however, is that many of the cash-strained Nonprofits do not have the resources of a paid search marketing professional, nor do they know this best practice, which explains why many of the Google Grants that have been awarded in the past, have under-performed and been left untouched and forgotten. On the other side of the spectrum, those Nonprofits who have taken full advantage of this program, Google has been known to reward their efforts with an increase in the monthly Ad spend anywhere from $20k, to as much as $40k per month in appreciation for the success that they have achieved.

When evaluating a Google Grant, I often notice a trend in the missed opportunities that are preventing the Nonprofit to get the most out of the Grant. Many of problems go back to basic industry best practices and some lack a little of the “thinking outside the box” mentality. For example, many of the keywords that have been used are all very generic head search terms, and for most Nonprofits, the service offering and topics that they support are often the "Head Term" keywords that will most likely have a "high price tag", so the obvious solution to that problem goes into identifying the traditionally cheaper and more specific "long tail" keywords which are in essence less competitive and allow for higher position and more effective.

To continue the discussion on the importance of Quality Score, the writing of the Text Ad plays an important role in the “before the click” experience for the searcher. With that said, as a Google Grantee does have some technical issues to overcome with the Editorial police at Google. As with any Nonprofit organization which advertises their cause, it’s imperative for them to include the “call to action” of Please Donate. However, as many us know, the Google editorial process is rather strict and some nonprofits may have noticed some of their Text Ads keep getting denied due to the error message of "Solicitation Funds". This is due to the fact that your Ad most likely is saying something like "Help us by Donating Today!" Even though the message sounds genuine, Google sees this as a sensitive issue and can sometimes be misleading to the searcher.

If the solicitation of funds is promoted in ad text or occupies a significant portion of your site, the ad's landing page should clearly display tax-exempt status such as 501(c)(3) status in the United States, and should state whether the donations are tax-deductible in full or in part. Other countries need to have an equivalent status (must be a registered charity or not-for-profit organization).

So, the solution to help alleviate this issue is making sure the Landing Page states they  are a 501c3 status in the US and that they are tax deductible. If not, then Google sees this as false advertising and will turn the ad off, regardless if you are a registered Grantee.

In Part III of Google Grants: Much more than Free Clicks for Nonprofits, I will dive into the importance using web analytics and "outside the box" ways to analyze and monetize success that goes beyond online.

So please check back next Monday for Part III of this article.

To read Part I of Google Grants: Much more that Free Clicks for Nonprofits.

Greg Meyers is Partner and Co Founder of CampaignGrid, LLC and World Benefactor. He is also author of the search marketing blog Semgeek.com.

January 12, 2009

Google Grants: Much More Than Free Clicks for NonProfits - Part I

By Account Deleted

I have put together a Three Part Series on the socially responsible gift from Google called Google Grants. The goal of this series of posts is to highlight on the key differences and similarities of Google Grants as compared to the mainstream Google Adwords program we have come to know and love. I also provide detailed insights and some "outside the box" thinking that goes beyond the idea that Google is just giving Nonprofit free clicks to their websites. I hope you enjoy

Google-grant-nonprofit-gift PART I:
In 2003, Google launched Google Grants, a truly remarkable and unique type of advertising offering that was designed specifically for 501(c)(3) Nonprofit organizations. In a nutshell, Google is giving away $10, 000 per month in free PPC advertising. The overall goal of this program is to utilize and transform the Google Adwords system into a powerful tool to spread advocacy, awareness, volunteer-ism and provide the ability to increase donations, both online and offline, to make the world a better place.

Since it’s launch, Google has put very specific requirements in both applying for the grant as well as managing the grant. Throughout this article I will be focusing on the key differences and similarities between Google Grants and the traditional Adwords program that we are, in general, familiar with as well as discuss additional strategies that will help every participating Nonprofit get the most out of this program.

The key differences between the mainstream Google Adwords program and Google Grants program are mostly about the limitations of what can be done from a tactical perspective. For example, for many of us who are used to a multi-level strategy that includes testing with different networks, image display ads, and bidding tests, that this is NOT an Option with GG. In fact, two of the biggest restrictions facing the Grantee is placement on (1) Google.com only and (2) Maximum $1.00 CPC (cost per click).  Advertisers are forbidden to spread that free “Google Funny Money” to the other participating networks such as their search partners, Content and Site Placement Networks.

This lack of advertising freedom, as compared to the mainstream Google, does make it a little more difficult for the search marketer to allocate what campaigns and Adgroups should be given priority. Regardless of whether Google is Free or not, the end goal is to drive as much qualified traffic to the website and track the performance using analytics to decide what is working and what is not working. I would also like to note that with Nonprofits, integrating high-powered analytics filled with nifty bells and whistles is not suitable for them because of the cost and the extensive knowledge needed for them to simply understand what they are looking at.

Grantees are also stifled by inability to increase their bid for a quick jump in position, which is done almost religiously everyday in the mainstream. This is especially difficult for them, because many of the Nonprofits Topics, Issues and Causes require a specific industry related keyword(s) that are highly competitive, possess a higher worth and hence becomes an uphill battle to try and achieve a better position.

On the other hand, I have seen “actual” real life evidence where traditional account and click history along with a little help from the “magical algorithm fairies” within the Google Grant program have revealed magical positions within the search results. With that said, there is one major similarity which MUST be applied to counteract this cost vs. position issue, and that tactic is the infamous and ever changing Google Quality Score for which all search marketers have been victim of this love vs. hate relationship.

In Part II of Google Grants: Much more than Free Clicks for Nonprofits, I will dive into the tactical area of the Quality Score, Google Editorial issues as well as some additional strategic opportunities.

So please check back next Monday for Part II of this article.

Greg Meyers is Partner and Co Founder of CampaignGrid, LLC and World Benefactor. He is also author of the search marketing blog Semgeek.com.

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