Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, September 14, 2012

The New Beyond the Paid

Hello loyal readers! I’m really excited to announce my new blog over at!  Go check it out!
This website will eventually be going away, so please subscribe to my new blog so you won’t miss a single post.  And I appreciate every single one of you – I wouldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for all of you.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Beyond the Paid Best Of, Summer 2012 Edition

Here in the US, Labor Day weekend is upon us already - the holiday that marks the end of the summer.  It's always a bittersweet time - while we all love summer vacation, it's also nice to get a break from the heat and get back to a more "normal" routine.

As you look ahead into September, it's a good time to review your PPC strategy as well.  Here are a couple of links to posts from this blog that readers found helpful.

Using Keyword Level URLs in PPC

This post was inspired by a PPCchat conversation.  Posts like this are some of my favorite posts to write, because it's not just my opinion - the whole PPC community gets involved. Give this one a read to learn more about why you should consider using keyword level URLs in PPC.

12 Links Every PPC Pro Should Bookmark

I find it interesting to see which posts get the most pickup on Twitter and around the blogosphere - it's usually not the ones I would have guessed.  This post was one I wrote in about 10 minutes, because that's all the time I had - and it was hugely popular.  It just goes to show that you don't need to spend hours slaving over a blog post every week!

So as you head into your holiday weekend, give these popular posts another read.  Did you read any other great PPC articles over the summer?  Share them in the comments!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

4 Ways to Kill Your PPC Health

Most medical experts agree that patients should take responsibility for their own health. While it’s a doctor’s job to help the patient get well, the patient needs to cooperate. When the doctor and patient don’t work together as a team, the patient’s health can suffer.

An agency/client PPC relationship is a lot like a doctor/patient relationship. Both parties are responsible for the health of the campaign, and they need to work together. Not doing so can lead to less than optimal PPC well-being.

Here are four ways clients and agencies can kill a campaign.

Diagnosing Without an Exam

Consider this scenario: Patient walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doctor, my chest hurts. I need open heart surgery.” Doctor says “OK, let’s schedule the surgery now.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

You don’t need a medical degree to realize that the doctor in this example isn’t doing his or her job. What if the patient only has indigestion? Or what if they have bronchitis or pneumonia? Is open heart surgery going to fix either of these issues?

Yet in the PPC world, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve met with a client early in an engagement and the client says, “We need to launch a PPC campaign.” And too many PPC agencies say “OK, let’s open an AdWords account.”

The problem with this picture is that you haven’t figured out what marketing problem the client is trying to solve! What are their business goals? What are the pain points in their online marketing? What are the key performance indicators for their yet-to-be-launched PPC campaign? How will those KPIs be measured?

No reputable doctor would prescribe treatment for a patient without a thorough history and exam. Likewise, no reputable PPC company should launch a campaign without first establishing goals, KPIs, and tracking, along with a conversation about how PPC fits into the overall marketing mix.

Seeing Too Many Doctors

Most people would agree that medical specialists serve a necessary purpose. A general practitioner is probably not the best doctor to remove a tricky brain tumor, for example.

However, the doctors need to work together. They all need to understand the patient’s diseases, history, and treatment plans. When a patient runs from one doctor to the next without telling the others, it can have catastrophic results.

The same thing can happen in PPC. If too many people work on the account and don’t talk to one another, usually the campaigns don’t do very well. Or if the client makes changes to the account without telling the agency, performance can suffer.

Clear communication between all responsible parties will go a long way in ensuring that the campaign works as well as it possibly can.

Taking Medicines Because You Always Have

While there is a lot to be said for tried-and-true medications, sometimes they stop working. Either the patient gets better and doesn’t need the medication any more, or their body stops responding to it. Regular checkups are needed to make sure the current medications still make sense.

In PPC, regular meetings between the agency and client will help ensure that the campaign and marketing tactics are still working. For example:

  • Don’t bid on the same keywords for years at a time without reviewing them to make sure they still work and make sense.
  • Don’t settle for the same ad copy month after month without testing something new.
  • Work together as a team to continually question and review the current marketing plan and make sure the prescriptions are still working.
Not Telling the Doctor What Medications & Supplements You’re Taking

This is a common issue in the medical world. Patients either knowingly or unknowingly don’t tell their doctor what medications they’re taking, and this omission can have serious consequences. Medications can work together, or they can work against one another – and some combinations can be deadly!

Similarly, it’s not uncommon for PPC clients to forget to tell their agency about:

  • Sales or promotions taking place in other channels that could affect or benefit from PPC.
  • Products that are no longer available.
  • Website pages that have been changed or removed.
  • Shifts in overall marketing strategy.
Usually, the client isn’t being malicious – they really just forget to tell their PPC agency about these things. Yet these omissions can keep their PPC campaigns from achieving optimal health!

If you’re a client, be a good patient. Provide your agency “doctor” with a complete history and marketing picture. Communicate with them regularly.

If you’re an agency, be a good doctor. Ask questions so you understand the client’s marketing goals and KPIs. Communicate with them regularly.

By working as a team, you can ensure that your PPC campaigns stay healthy!

Editor's Note:  This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on February 14, 2012.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Using Call Extensions in PPC

When you think about PPC, you think about the online world:  online searches, online ads, and online websites where a conversion happens.  The offline world often doesn’t factor into the picture of PPC.

Of course, though, the offline world still exists, and business happens there on a daily basis.  Since the dawn of PPC, businesses have tried to find a way to cross the chasm between online and off.

One way to do that is by using call extensions in your PPC ads.  In a nutshell, call extensions are a Google Adwords feature that allows your phone number to appear automatically with your ad copy – without using precious space in the ad copy itself.

The cost for using call extensions depends on the device used to perform the search.  For mobile searches, call extensions appear at no extra charge, and the advertiser pays the normal CPC when the phone number is clicked to call.  On desktop and laptop computers, advertisers need to use a Google phone number, and there is a minimum charge of $1 per call.  You get a lot of cool analytics when you use the Google numbers, though – we’ll talk about that in a minute.

Wordstream has a great post covering all the basics of call extensions, so I won’t repeat all that here.  For a closer look at where call extensions might show up and what they look like, check out this post from PPC Hero.

Let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road with call extensions:  evaluating results.  As with a lot of new and shiny objects in the online world, a lot of advertisers get really excited about the fact that the feature exists, without thinking about whether the feature makes sense for their business and helps them get closer to their goals.

Obviously, if your business isn’t equipped to generate conversions over the phone, you shouldn’t use call extensions.  Even if you are equipped, it’s crucial to think about dayparting:  are you running call extensions at 2am when no one is there to answer the phone?  That’s probably not a good user experience, so daypart your campaigns accordingly.

OK, so you’ve ensured that you can convert over the phone and you’ve dayparted properly.  How do you tell if this is working or not?

Well, there are several considerations.  First off, unless you’ve purchased a system to tie phone orders into your web analytics platform, your phone conversions won’t show up there.  You’ll need another way to track them.  If you have a good phone tracking system already, and you’re using a unique phone number for PPC (which you absolutely should do), then this shouldn’t be an issue.

But not all businesses have such a fancy phone system.  While it’s a lot harder to get accurate conversion data without that, you can still tally sales manually.  This requires phone rep cooperation, but it can be done, especially if the reps are incentivized properly.

So you’ve decided to use a Google forwarding number.  What great data do you get in return?

Well, it’s pretty cool, actually.  Go to the Dimensions tab in Adwords and select “Call Details” for your view.

Then, export your report.  You’ll end up with the following fields by default:

•    Start time
•    End time
•    Status
•    Duration (seconds)
•    Caller area code
•    Phone cost
•    Call type
•    Campaign

Pretty cool, huh?  From there, you can analyze whether these calls were worthwhile, at least from a location (area code) and duration standpoint.

By converting seconds to minutes, you can chart the call length for easy analysis, like this:

So if you’re a B2B advertiser with a long sales cycle, and your goal is to generate consultative phone calls, a call duration of less than 1 minute (60 seconds in the report) is probably not good. 

There are many other analyses you can perform with this data – and it gets even more powerful when you marry it with your own call center reports.  The point is, if generating phone contacts is one of your goals, you definitely should be using call extensions.

How have you used call extensions in your campaigns?

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Friday, July 27, 2012

10 Resources for New PPC Pros

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve had the pleasure of writing a series of articles for Web Marketing Today on PPC Basics.  If you haven’t been over to the WMT site lately, give it a read – there are a lot of articles and video interviews with pretty much all the thought leaders in search.

Anyway, the PPC Basics series is a culmination of 10 years in the search biz, all distilled for your reading pleasure!  So if you’re new to PPC, or are in the midst of training a new hire, take a look and let me know what you think.

How Paid Search Fits into Your Marketing Mix

Keyword Research

Account and Campaign Settings

Keyword Match Types

Ad Copy Development and Testing

Bid Management

Quality Score

Evaluating Data



Friday, July 06, 2012

PPC: Still Alive and Kicking

There seems to be a bit of a fad going around lately.  Apparently it's all the rage to go around saying that PPC is dead.

A few months ago, some fool who isn't even a PPC pro came out saying that PPC is dead, and we should all be doing social media.  I put that rumor to bed with a post of my own: PPC Is Alive and Well, Thank You.

Well, clueless marketers just can't get enough of proclaiming the demise of PPC.  Just yesterday, another idiot decided to use the "dead PPC" rallying cry as a thinly-veiled sales pitch for - get this - PPC management services.

Yes, someone actually thought it would be a good idea to announce the time of death of one of the services they're peddling.  Wow.

And this came on the heels of Google announcing billion-dollar earnings for Q2.

All this talk of death and destruction reminds me of this post, and the awesome aftermath.

We're not dead yet, folks.


Friday, June 29, 2012

12 Links Every PPC Pro Should Bookmark

Every day, there is a plethora of great PPC info shared across the web:  on blogs, in social media, and in forums.  Most of it falls into the “that’s interesting” category, but nothing more.

Periodically, though, a post or tool is so good that I bookmark it and refer back to it often.  Here is my list of the 12 links every PPC pro should bookmark.

Modified Broad Match Tool from Acquisio: This tool enables you to paste a list of keywords, tell it which ones you want to add the broad match modifier, and spits them out with a keystroke. It’s a huge time saver and I use it at least weekly.

SplitTester: A tool to quickly get statistical significance & confidence levels. Great for PPC ad testing.

WebShare’s split testing tool: This tool combines CTR and conversion rate to tell you the overall winner of an ad test.

145 PPC Must Do’s for 2012 from PPC Hero: This was a New Year’s post that was actually very useful.  I’ve been working my way through the list for the past 6 months.  Not every tip will apply to every PPC account, but if you’re looking for new optimization ideas, this is the place.

Excel Hints for PPC from SEOptimise: PPC’ers live in Excel, so we’re always hungry for more Excel tips. This is a good bunch of hints.

Excel Formatting Tips from Search Engine Journal: If your reports look like they were done by a 5th grader, this post will help you fix that.

Excel Tips & Tricks from PPC Associates: Yet more awesome Excel tips for PPC’ers.

Ion Interactive’s Landing Page Checklist: I refer to this often when advising clients on landing page best practices.

PPC Task Checklist from PPC Hero: A great list of PPC tasks that will help all PPC pros, from novice to expert.

Google Analytics Advanced Segments Shares from Jill Whalen: A neat list of advanced segments that you can copy and use in your own Google Analytics accounts.

Google Analytics URL Builder: A good way to make sure your custom URLs for Google Analytics are formatted properly.

Auditing PPC Accounts Without Account Access from Fathom: A recent blog post to help PPC’ers over a common stumbling block: auditing a PPC account when you don’t have access to the account itself.

And there you have it – 12 must-have PPC bookmarks! I know there are more out there, so share your favorites in the comments!  I’ll compile them into a future blog post.

Editor's Note:  The link to the Ion Interactive Landing Page checklist was incorrect and has now been corrected. Thanks to commenter Max Miller for pointing out the error!

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