Searching Beyond the Paid

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Biggest Search Geek Contest - Top Scorers

A while back, Marin Software put on their Biggest Search Geek contest, which I blogged about. The winner was chosen a while ago, but now Marin has released the list of those who scored in the top 10% of all participants.

How do I know this? I made the top 10%! From the looks of things, so did a boatload of other people. Still, it's nice to be recognized. I only wish the list included full names. While I understand why it doesn't, I'd like to know just how good the company is at the top.

Either way, the contest was a fun idea and I'm sure Marin is getting good mileage out of it.


Friday, February 13, 2009

5 Ways To Be A Good PPC Client

These are crazy economic times, and businesses are rightly watching every penny of expenses. In a recession, advertising and marketing are often the first expenses to be cut - often at their own peril. When times are tough, you need advertising all the more - you can't afford to let even one potential customer slip away to the competition.

If you're using an SEM agency to manage your PPC, here are 5 suggestions based on my experience managing client accounts.

1. Take the time to educate your account manager on your business. Before you launch a campaign, spend 30 minutes on the phone talking about current and past marketing efforts, product / service lines, customer profiles, competitors, and anything else that's important to you. (If you've been working with an agency for a while and haven't done this, that's ok - spend 30 minutes this week and do it now.) This overview will be very helpful to your account manager in choosing what keywords to bid on, what type of targeting (demographic, geographic, etc.) to use, and what ad copy to test.

2. Speaking of ad testing: Work with your account manager to develop an aggressive ad testing plan. This could include simple copy testing, offer testing, and/or landing page testing, among other things. Get creative with special offers - the beauty of PPC is that you can run a test for a very short period of time and get a lot of great data. You may find that lowering your price by 25% leads to a 100% increase in conversions - meaning more total revenue for you.

3. Make sure your account manager sets aside a portion of your PPC budget to bid on branded terms. At least once a week I read an article or hear a comment saying that it's a waste of money to bid on your own name: you most likely rank #1 organically, and people searching on branded terms are looking for you anyway and will be motivated to find you, so you shouldn't pay for them to come to your site. While it's true that you should rank #1 and that a branded searcher is a motivated searcher, you should still bid on your brand. Why? (1) Your competition is probably bidding on your brand. If your ad isn't on the page, you risk losing that click to them. (2) You can't control the verbiage in your organic listing. OK, you can write a great meta description and on-page copy, but can you test offers and landing pages in organic? No. With PPC, you have total control over your ad message and your landing page - meaning you can not only outrank the competition in PPC, but you can put a compelling marketing message in your ad and send the visitor to a dedicated landing page that's optimized for maximum conversion - and that boils down to great ROI. (3) Having both a PPC and organic presence greatly increases clicks to your website. We recently had a client whose PPC campaigns consisted primarily of branded terms. Due to temporary budget constraints, they paused their PPC for a month. Well, not only did they lose all the conversions from PPC, but their organic and direct-referral conversions also dropped by 30%. For this client, PPC only represents about 15% of their traffic. So, by stopping PPC, conversions from 85% of their traffic fell by 30% - including conversions from branded phrases. The end result? A net loss of far more conversions than just PPC. Needless to say, they didn't hesitate to restart their branded campaigns.

4. Take the time to read your monthly reports. If your agency is any good, your account manager has spent a lot of time and brain power creating your reports. Not only do the reports contain campaign performance data, but they (should) contain recommendations for improvement. Read them. And engage your account manager in a conversation to discuss them. Clients who don't implement their agency's recommendations often see less-than-stellar results - and then blame the agency. But whose fault is that, really?

5. Tell your account manager when you make changes to your website. Yes, your account rep should keep tabs on your site anyway. But they can't watch it every second. If you're running an offer in PPC and you remove it from your landing page, you've created a disconnect between your ad and your offer. Would you run a newspaper ad promoting a product that's nowhere to be found in your store? Of course you wouldn't - so don't do that with your PPC ads.

This list really boils down to communication. Don't worry about "bothering" your account rep with too much information. Much of this communication can be done via email - a few minutes sending an email can save hours of aggravation (and sub-optimal performance) down the road. Taking the time to keep your PPC account manager in the loop will pay big dividends in ROI from your campaigns.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Google Adwords No Longer Allowing Multiple Display URLs Per Ad Group

This has been out in the news for a while, but on Monday I received an email from our Google rep confirming that ads with different display URLs within a single ad group are going to be disapproved.

Here is the email from my rep:

"In an effort to provide more relevant results and a higher quality experience for our users, we have made the decision to no longer allow multiple domains within a single ad group. Starting in mid-February, all display URLs within an ad group must be for the same top-level domain. Please note that this amendment to our policy applies to all advertisers, regardless of previous exceptions or acceptability of any campaigns. While we understand there are legitimate use-cases for multiple domains within one ad group, we ask that separate ad groups be created for any given domain.

In order for your ad(s) to be approved, please edit your display URLs within your ad group(s) so that the top-level domains are consistent. For instructions on editing your display URL, please see"

I don't have a problem with this policy - I'm sure it's intended to stop unscrupulous advertisers from gaming the system. I'm just honestly not sure which of my ad groups have different display URLs! This is not a common practice for me, and now I have to comb through my client accounts to figure out which ones I have to edit....