December 16, 2006

Not Using Analytics? Here's Why You Should.

By Li Evans

I work for one of the most knowledgeable and smartest professionals in the industry that most people don't know about, his name is Craig Danuloff and he's the founder of Commerce 360.  The one major thing I've learned from Craig is that without web analytics for websites, what's the point?  It doesn't matter what your hunch is, or your theory, if you cannot prove to the client it works - it's worthless.  Craig writes a lot about analytics (and other important things) and shares his extensive knowledge with the community quite often.

Webanalytics Without analytics, you are flying blind.  How can you measure if a landing page is doing well?  How can you know if something you did affected the conversion rate?  Which keywords are driving the most traffic?  Where is your traffic coming from?  If you don't have any form of analytics, on your website, you cannot answer any of these questions.

Even the smallest and newest sites can afford website analytics.  How?  There are packages from companies that are free to use and rather simple to install.  If your webmaster is coding your website, or you are the webmaster, most of these free packages are just a simple snippet of code that should be applied to all the pages of your website.  Here's just three (there are a few more out there) packages you can try:

As your site grows, or if you have a much bigger site than a smaller retailer would, you need to move into the higher level analytics.  There is an investment involved, however, it will return data to you that will be many times worth the initial investment.  Here's just a few (off the top of my head):

Some of these packages also have bid management built into their systems, so if you are a retailer with a wide bucket of keywords that are being managed, an all in one package might be for you.

With all the fuss about Google's click fraud rate in recent days, I think it makes the point more than ever why you should be tracking and analyzing all of the traffic coming into to your site.  If those articles aren't enough - here's one from the folks at Pepperjam, who had issues with Yahoo! Search Marketing and apparent click fraud

Because they had analytics in place for their clients, they were able to track down issues with keywords that normally were pretty "quiet", that overnight experienced a tremendous amount of inbound traffic from the Yahoo! content network.  Although never admitting to click fraud being the problem - without the analytics to back them up, Pepperjam would have never received the courtesy credit from Yahoo! for their clients.

Flying_blind There are so many reason for having analytics, that I can't really find a reason, NOT to have it on any website.  Especially if you can get a small package for free.  Some webmasters fear the Google analytics package, since they feel Google could use the data against them.  I say, if that's what you are concerned with just use the analytics, don't integrate your Adwords with it, or use a different package all together.  The point is, by not having an analytics package applied to your site, your company is the only one loosing out.

November 30, 2006

Paid Search - The Margin Perspective

By Account Deleted

Search Engine Marketing finally has arrived and is putting a major dent into the online marketing budgets of many businesses both large and small. In fact, a study done by SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) in December 2005, states that in North America“SEM was a $5.75 billion industry in 2005, and will grow to $11.1 billion in 2010.

Now, after we digest these astounding numbers, we then need to consider, that with all of the best practices and techniques out there that are being applied to SEM campaigns, are we focusing enough attention on: (1) How much are we willing to spend to get a customer? (2) How much money are we willing to spend to sell a specific product/service? Let’s expand this a little further.
 
Paid Search Marketing has evolved into a multi-faceted business channel where complexity, relevancy and structure is considered a best practice. During its infancy stage, we were measuring success based simply on clicks/increased traffic and CTR%. Then as the paid search engines matured, they started to supply its users with the all kinds of nifty “bells & whistles” that allowed us to try and get the most out of our budgets. But with all of the tastes and scents that the engines have been throwing at us, isn’t it time to take it even deeper to find that “right mix” that really makes sense from a business perspective.
 
Once we have a good understanding of what the businesses’ achievable profitable ROI% is, we can then turn our attention to Analytics programs such as Omniture’s Search Center, where we track the ROI% performance not only by search engine, but at the campaign and even keyword levels of each engine. However, quite possibly, a super-optimized campaign filled with high CTR% & ROI% could in retrospect, be affecting your businesses profitability if there is not a predetermined and defined (CPA) Cost-per-acquisition and Cost/Margin for each and every product or service.

In many instances, online businesses have been so consumed with real-time performance based analytics and metrics, that we tend to get “blind-sided” by identifying acceptable acquisition costs to decide whether the product or service is “worthy” of Paid Search. A real solution to all of this, is to know your goals, understand your CPA for each product/service, set a modest daily budget, closely monitor ROI% at keyword or campaign level, and begin to understand the ever-changing mechanics of your SEM campaign as well as the behaviors of your potential customers.
 

Here are some common perceptions: One would think that driving high volumes of online traffic makes up a successful SEM Strategy. Another would classify success by not only driving a high volume of qualified traffic, but also achieving high CTR% and tracking ROI % performance at the campaign and keyword levels for each engine. But even then, it is enough?
 
Well, it’s not a matter of performance as much as it is online marketers getting into the habit of thinking and looking at Cost/Margins and CPA for each and every specific product or service. Based on these factors and these factors alone, we can then decide whether it even deserves to spend money on driving qualified traffic, regardless of the traditional success factors such as CTR% and ROI%.
In the scheme of things, as paid search budgets and competition continues to increase year after year, the idea of looking at the fundamental “offline” business practices definitely deserves deep consideration, especially as other search marketing tactics such as SEO become more difficult to win.

September 18, 2006

What Happens When Google Removes Top Paid Ads in Blue?

By Li Evans

On Friday and over the rest of the weekend RustyBrick on SERoundtable and Search Engine Watch, and the crew over at WebMaster World were reporting about the top "Blue" paid ads, disappearing from Google's Search Results.

One of the posters on WebMaster World, called their Google Adwords Representative to question exactly why this happened.  The result? In a nutshell, Google's testing a new way of serving the ads, if a user never clicks on top blue ads, they move all the ads to the right.  Why?  Because the algorithmn assumes the person doesn't want to see them, and natural results are more relevant to that particular searcher.

Coming into 4th quarter, as a retailer, I think I'd be a bit concerned about this.  I know more than a few eyebrows will be raised at this latest development in Adwords. I've got more than a few questions running around in my head too.  Namely, if this is happening, does the price per click get lowered since you are now not getting that prime real estate of those top 1-3 blue areas above the natural listings?  Isn't that what I pay top dollar to get?

Let's take the example I came up with - and I easily found these, because I'm not one that clicks on paid ads.  I searched on Google for "Thomas the Tank Engine".  I didn't get any top blue ads.

Thomas the Tank Engine Search Engine Results

If I were a retailer running a toy promotion, especially Thomas the Tank Engine (an extremeley "hot" children's toy line - especially around Christmas), I'd be rather concerned.  I would be taking an extremely close look at my traffic coming into my site from Google Adwords, along with the analytics on the conversion. 

That now brings up another point - how does Google count the position - is that #3 or #4 since there is no Blue area.  For those big on the analytics of the ad placement -- how do you know if your ad is really doing well in the placement its at, because - is it truly at "#4" or is it the "#1" on the right hand side?  How will Google define this to advertisers?

Wow - what a can of worms this is going to open for Adwords advertisers who closely monitor their budgets on placement of ads.  I know - I was one of them, and I'd be on the phone with my Google representative right away.

This is about the time where Google should be communicating in their AdWords Blog, like the Webmaster Central Crew communicates with their audience on their blog.  The Inside Adwords Blog has numerous posts and some updates out there, but nothing referencing this "testing" or this change going on.  The latest two entries - Google Adwords Philosophy and Video ads tips and tricks (part 1 of 3) obviously aren't speaking to what's going on.  Hopefully they'll head this off before it becomes a major concern to retailers and ends up costing them repuatation wise.

Others discussing Google Removing Paid Ads from the top of the SERPs:

digg this story | searchmob | sniff it

September 01, 2006

SEO for SEM

By Greg Meyers

Well, its been over a month and frankly it was only a matter of time for Google to transform and recycle its SEO organic algorithm and apply it to the methods placed within their “Google Quality Score”. This latest tactic of analyzing landing pages which are tied to a specific campaign and/or adgroup, is just another way to mold as well as financially reward its (SEM) paid search marketers using their Google Adwords program.

To achieve the highest quality score, the marketer needs to create campaigns/adgroups with a strong focus on Relevancy Basically every step in the setup process needs to be relevant and targeted to a specific message, brand, category or service. This process begins with the initial grouping of highly targeted keywords, followed by multiple Ads/Creatives written with the same targeted message with keywords embedded in the ads and completing the process, a landing page which not only applies the same targeted message, but also uses the same basic SEO techniques which are used at the organic level to communicate that message. These characteristics use the same fundamentals of SEO such as a relevant header tags, relevant content on the page and well-defined and relevant anchor text.

Of course, this latest trend will not only motivate Search engine marketers at all levels to run back to their computers and re-evaluate all of their campaigns looking at their landing pages as well as their Ads/Creatives and keyword groups, but it will undoubtedly affect marketing budgets where improvements can be made at every aspect of the campaigns from average position down to Cost per click and Click-Thru Rate. 

I actually credit Google for pressing on with this and applaud them for continuously re-defining its best practices on relevancy. There’s no real hidden message in all of this. As SEM professionals continuously “tweak” campaigns for the best performance, Google is telling us that if we follow their guidelines of relevancy, you will not only improve average position and cost per click for that position within the adwords program, you will most likely improve CTR% and possibly conversion.

Now that I have given Google a well deserved "pat on the back" the question of landing page conversion becomes more of a "good" problem to have. Well, sort of. We have to ask the question: Do we sacrafice good converting, graphically intensive landing pages with SEO friendly, Wikipedia style pages for higher positions and less CPC? We can dig into that issue in my next post.

August 02, 2006

MSN adCenter Fixes & Improvements

By Li Evans

Just in time for SES, MSN adCenter had briefing this morning addresses several bugs and fixes they have deployed or are about to on August 5th.  This is definitely an interesting development in the paid arena, wherein the Search Engine is actually addressing the issues and giving answers or solutions to the problems, not just "yeah we know about it and we'll get to it eventually" type of poo-pooing.

Bruce Clay actually has a nice summation of the MSN adCenter community briefing.  One note I really took away from the briefing is their support for firefox.  I guess they really must be taking note to what the percentage is of Firefox users in their stats -- it's got to be an eye opener to make them actually publicly announce the Firefox 1.5 support.

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