Searching Beyond the Paid

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Using Google AdWords' "Change History" Tool

Most good PPC marketers are constantly making changes to their campaigns: tweaking keywords, ad copy, landing pages, CPCs, and other adjustments, all to improve campaign performance. And most good PPC marketers will want to know whether the changes made any difference. This can be really easy or really hard to determine, depending on what changes you make and how you track results.

Google AdWords has a neat tool that makes it easy to see what changes you've made. It's called the Change History tool. Found in the Tools menu within the AdWords interface, it lists all the changes made within an account in the past three months.

I've been using this tool more and more. I recently added a long list of keywords to one of my campaigns after review the Search Query report (see this post for more on that experience). I wanted to see how the new keywords were performing. Problem was, I couldn't remember the exact date I'd made the changes. Then I remembered the Change History tool. Bingo - with just a few clicks, I was able to see the date, and then pull results for the campaign after the changes went in.

The Change History tool is also great for AdWords accounts with multiple users. If you're in an agency setting, or even in-house with more than one person working on the account, this can create issues for even the best of communicators. I have someone helping me with product changes and updates - with large accounts, it's almost impossible for one person to handle. The Change History tool will tell me not only what change was made, but who made it. No more "when/why/how did I do THAT?" questions!

If you're not already using tThe AdWords Change History tool, give it a try. It makes it easy to track changes and the effect on your campaigns.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The ABCs of SEM

Search engine marketing (SEM), like many other fields, is full of acronyms. Those of us that are veterans assume everybody knows what we mean by "the ROI of PPC" and similar statements. If you're new to SEM, though, you're probably lost in the alphabet soup. So, I've attempted to post a list of common acronyms here.

CPC: cost per click

CPM: cost per thousand

CS: customer service

CTR: click-thru rate

DTC: Direct Traffic Center (Yahoo's old pay-per-click user interface)

G: Google

GYM: Google / Yahoo / MSN

PPA: pay per action

PPC: pay per click

QS: Quality Score

ROI: return on investment

SE: search engine

SEL: Search Engine Land

SEM: search engine marketing / search engine marketer

SEO: search engine optimization

SERP: search engine results page

SES: Search Engine Strategies

SEW: Search Engine Watch

SMX: Search Marketing Expo

T&Cs: terms and conditions

UI: user interface

Y: Yahoo

YSM: Yahoo Search Marketing


Friday, July 13, 2007

Google-Free Friday Has Me Asking For Google, Please!

Danny Sullivan and crew at Search Engine Land have come up with a way to add some spice to those Fridays in July when we'd all rather be doing something other than working. They're calling it Google Free Friday, where searchers try using search engines other than Google. Actually, today's suggested Free day has been moved to Monday, due to the launch of Sphinn, the new social networking / forum / Digg-like venture. (Which, by the way, is - well - I don't even have a word for it. Unique, fascinating, huge, maybe even crazy? But that's another post.) Since I had planned to go Google-Free today, I decided to give Ask a whirl anyway.

I was looking for some information for a friend on retirement plans and annuities. The information was relatively specific, so I went to Ask and entered a multi-word search, complete with quotes around a couple of the terms for specificity. I got back, in a word, garbage. Well, in the organic results, anyway. Actually, the ads were well targeted - if I had been looking to invest, which I wasn't. I was looking for information, which is usually best found in the organic SERPs. Ask left me asking more questions. In fact, the #2 result was some senseless splog. Ugh.

So, on this pseudo Google Free Friday, I turned to Google. Within a minute or two, I'd found exactly what I was looking for, and more. Folks, this is why Google is the #1 search engine, and why their share keeps getting bigger every month. It's called relevancy.

I'll still keep trying different search engines on Google Free Fridays, just for fun, but if this experience is any indication, I'll be running back to Google every time.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Organizing Information, Retail-Style

I just finished reading a short yet profound post on Seth Godin's blog entitled Reorganizing for profit. He asks why retail stores are organized the way they are: by brand, then type, then style, then size. Seth says this is "dumb." Why? "It's dumb because it makes it easier for the clerk, not for the customer. And dumb because it plays to the label's ego, not to ours. Does anyone say, 'okay, even though my son wears size large boxers, these striped ones are really nice, I'll buy the small instead.' Of course not."

Why do I love this post? Well, unlike many women, I hate to shop in department stores. I haven't the time nor the money to just browse for hours, so when I do go to a store, it's because I need a particular item (or type of item, at a minimum). Nine times out of ten, I walk away empty-handed and frustrated, because either I couldn't find what I wanted at all; or I found it, but not in my size (like Seth's striped boxer example).

However, I love to shop for clothes online. Lands' End is my favorite, but there are lots of great online clothing stores out there. In a few minutes' time, it's easy to find what I want, check to see if they have it in my size, and click "buy." It's quick and easy because any good e-commerce site has navigation that makes it easy for you to find what you're looking for. Really good sites even have a "shop by size" function. If you still can't find it, you can use site search.

But there's a down side, of course: You can't try things on online. You have to order and hope for the best, and if the item doesn't fit or doesn't look good, you have to pay to send it back. And if you need something quickly, you're out of luck; or you pay through the nose for overnight delivery.

This is why I've developed a love affair with my local second-hand store. Yes, I admit it - I buy second-hand clothes. But I'm not talking Goodwill here (nothing against Goodwill, by the way) - this place has high-quality, in-style stuff, much of which is brand new with the original store tags still attached. But that's not why I love it. I love it because the entire store is set up by size. Yes, they have departments for women, men, and children; and they do have sections for each item (pants, tops, skirts, etc.); but within each section, everything is organized by size. So if I need a new dress for a party, I go to the dress area of the women's department, and then go right to the rack for my size. No disappointment in finding the perfect dress, only to discover they don't have my size in stock.

Granted, I've gotten huge deals at this store, but my love for it goes beyond bargain-shopping. Until today, I couldn't put my finger on why. I now realize it's because it's so quick and easy for me to shop there. The navigation is ideal. The information is organized and accessible.

How does this relate to search marketing? Well, one of the key reasons search marketing works is because, when done properly, it gives people what they're looking for. Creating good ad copy, along with targeted landing pages and site navigation, makes it quick and easy for the online shopper. Google has formed an entire business with the mission of "organizing the world's information, and making it easily accessible and useful." Some can argue that they've strayed from this mission recently, but the fact remains that Google's success is due to their making it easy for people to find what they want.

Traditional retailers can (and should) take a lesson from this.


Friday, July 06, 2007

LinkedIn Leaving Some Users Tapped-Out

Andrew Goodman has a thought-provoking post on his Traffick blog today about the "dark side" of LinkedIn, the social/business networking site. The timing of the article, for me, is interesting - a few of my co-workers have been building their LinkedIn networks, and I've gotten a lot of requests recently. I've also sent out a few of my own - I guess I was inspired by my colleagues to try to build my network a little bit. (I hadn't gotten around to inviting Andrew to join my network yet - guess I'll have to rethink that one, huh Andrew?)

Andrew's first point is "You give people a "permission" channel, and they'll find a way to spam it." While I haven't personally gotten any LinkedIn spam, I'm sure it happens all the time - especially to people like Andrew who are well-known in their field. I suppose if I wrote the seminal book on Google Adwords, I'd get plenty of LinkedIn spam :)

Anyway, the point about spam got me thinking about a bigger issue: If you give people something online for free, they'll find a way to spam it. Take Blogger, for instance, or any blog platform. Do a Google Blog search on just about anything, and you'll find hundreds of splogs full of affiliate links and scraped content. If sploggers will scrape my little blog (which they do), they'll scrape anything.

Free email is another spam vehicle, as anyone with a Gmail or Hotmail account can attest to. Online discussion groups are another culprit: put up a Yahoo or Google Group, and watch the spam fly in. Same thing with online forums. To keep the spam away, most forums and groups have to resort to recruiting volunteer moderators, who spend considerable time deleting the spam (or interring them in the Forum Spammer's Graveyard). It's unfortunate, because groups and forums can be some of the best communities on the web, for both work-related and non-work-related pursuits.

What's the solution to all the spam? Andrew suggests "declaring email bankruptcy" and culling your LinkedIn contact list. Good ideas, to be sure. What other options are there? Or should we all just accept the fact that there really is no such thing as a free lunch?


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Playing The Stock Market With Search

Interesting thread over at Search Engine Watch forums. This is probably not a bad way to make some money. (And Ian McAnerin's Yahoo story is too cool.)

My only question is: who has time to do this? I can barely keep track of my 401K!