Searching Beyond the Paid

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Searching For Black Friday Deals

This Friday, millions of Americans will get up at the crack of dawn, preparing to find big deals and shop till they drop. It's a long-standing tradition, and in the past few years has been dubbed "Black Friday." I've never been a big fan of shopping the day after Thanksgiving - in my experience, it's crowded and frustrating. That said, I know plenty of people who live for this.

This year, I've noticed an interesting trend - Black Friday ads leaking out early online. In previous years, I remember a couple ads leaking out, but this year it's rampant. Deals are all over Twitter, Facebook, and the SERPs, as well as in PPC ads.

I'm glad to see PPC marketers on top of the trend. Here are some examples of great ads:

Also interesting is the fact that the second and third advertisers are both using "Black Friday 2009" in their display URL. It's brilliant - it adds relevance and urgency to the ads.

JCPenney has another PPC ad that I love. They're offering a free wake-up call on Black Friday:

I love it! If I were a really die-hard marketer, I'd sign up for the call just to see what type of promotions they may be working into the message. It's creative, and super-smart - I'd bet there will be a bigger-than-usual line at Penney's on Friday.

Despite the great PPC marketing, I will be sleeping blissfully on Friday morning. There will be plenty more deals to be had before the holidays.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Popular PPC Pitfalls

A while back, I outlined some of the most popular PPC pitfalls in a Search Engine Watch article. I pointed out two things advertisers do that they shouldn't do, and one they don't do that they should.

Here are some more PPC advertiser "don'ts":

Don't optimize for click-through rate alone. Click-through rate is important - it's the most leveraged facet of Quality Score, after all. However, if you're optimizing for click-through rate alone, you may be paying for a lot of non-converting clicks. Instead, focus on both click-through and conversion rate. Make sure you're getting as many converting clicks as possible from your PPC campaigns.

Don't bid on broad, general keywords. While it's possible to successfully bid on broad terms like "dvd players," it's difficult to do - especially for PPC beginners. It's also a huge budget drain, as broad terms are usually super-competitive. Don't fall into that trap. Choose more specific keywords at first, like "buy dvd players," "dvd player reviews," "discount dvd players," or whatever makes sense for your business. Develop a successful campaign with these terms, and then decide whether you want to take the leap into broader phrases.

Don't set your maximum cost per click too low. Many people erroneously believe that the max CPC is the amount you'll have to pay for each click. Not true. The max cpc is actually one component of the Quality Score algorithm. In fact, in the "old days" of PPC, ad position in Google was determined by click-through rate multiplied by max CPC. It's more complicated than that nowadays, but max CPC is still important. If you set your maximum at $0.12, I can almost guarantee that you'll see few impressions and even fewer clicks on your ads. Granted, you won't ever pay more than 12 cents per click, but you won't get enough clicks to make it worth your while.

Instead, use the Google Traffic Estimator to find out what the estimated max CPC is for your keywords - and set your bids there. Once you've built up a good Quality Score, you can ease your bids down to a more comfortable level. But don't start out too low, or you'll see little to no traffic.

If you're just getting started in PPC, make sure to avoid these pitfalls. If you're a PPC veteran, it never hurts to review your campaigns to see if you've fallen into any of these traps. It's never too late to take care of these issues and increase your conversions as a result.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

PPC And The Advertising Revolution

20 years ago this month, I started working for the Lansing State Journal in the Classified Department. Back then, ads were placed by phone. I was one of 10-15 reps manning the phones at any given time. Our job was to help people write an ad that would be seen by the right people, with a call to action that would get those readers to do what the advertiser wanted them to do. Oh, and we had limited space in which to do it - we charged by the line, so advertisers wanted as brief an ad as possible.

Fast forward to 2002. I had been doing offline marketing for MagazineLine when Google Adwords launched their self-serve program. I was tasked with testing the program to see if we could get any sales from it. They chose me for the project because of - you guessed it - my background in classified ads.

Believe it or not, my point here isn't to walk down memory lane, fun as that is. :) The point is to remind all you PPC advertisers that PPC is a lot like the classifieds.

When I was composing classifieds for the paper, I had to make sure the ad was published under the right classification. I couldn't put an ad for a 1999 Pontiac Montana in the Help Wanted section. While doing that might get attention, especially during a recession when lots of people were looking at the job ads, it was a poor user experience for the reader, and the ad likely wouldn't be seen by the right people. We actually had a policy that prohibited us from placing an ad in the wrong classification.

So it goes with choosing the right keywords. Sure, you can bid on "britney spears naked" even if you're selling cars - but your Quality Score would be very low (if the ad was approved at all). Make sure you're putting your ad under the right classification by choosing relevant keywords.

I also had to help classified advertisers describe their product or service succinctly, and make sure to include a call to action. In the newspaper, the call to action was almost always a phone number or an address (to visit or to send a resume). Every once in a while, someone would give me lots of great information for their ad, and forget the phone number. It didn't happen very often, and they'd laugh ashamedly when I politely pointed out the omission.

That's why I'm continually surprised at how many PPC advertisers forget the call to action. You wouldn't pay for a classified ad to sell your car and leave out your phone number, would you? Don't do it in your PPC ads! Tell people what you want them to do.

Sometimes, we'd hear from a classified advertiser who was unhappy with their ad because they "didn't get any calls." Upon questioning, we'd find out they were never home to answer the phone, and they didn't have an answering machine. (Remember, this was 1989!) The promise of the ad wasn't fulfilled on the back end - even if I wanted to buy their car, I couldn't get a hold of them to test drive it.

Yet again, I'm frequently surprised by how many people do just that on their landing pages. They have a great PPC ad with a strong call to action - and then they send PPC traffic to their home page, with the advertised product or service nowhere to be found. It's just as frustrating as calling a phone number and getting no answer.

I'm really lucky to have had the experience at the newspaper. While I had no idea at the time, it prepared me to be a successful PPC marketer. With a little forethought, you can be too!

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Speaking at SES Chicago

SES Chicago is happening in the Windy City December 7-11. I've been attending SES since 2003, and it's always a fun and worthwhile conference.

This year, I'll be speaking for the first time, and in two sessions to boot! Both are on Wednesday. The first is "Facebook Rockstars RoundTable: Marketing For the Other Internet," with my good friend Marty Weintraub from aimClear. We'll be discussing Facebook success stories, which should be a lot of fun.

The other session is the Pay-Per-Click Congruency Clinic, where we'll take volunteers from the audience and make suggestions for aligning their keywords, ad copy, and landing pages. I've learned a lot from the SES Clinics, having "taken one for the team" more than once. I'm honored to be able to offer my expertise to others.

If you haven't already done so, you can register and get the Early Bird rate before Nov. 20. There are also discount codes floating around out there, so be on the lookout for those to save even more.

Be sure to stop by and say hi - I love meeting my fellow SEMs! See you in Chicago!

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