Searching Beyond the Paid

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The 3 Biggest Takeaways from SES New York

Yesterday, I returned home after a couple of days at SES New York. It had been years since I attended the East Coast version of SES - in fact, SES was my first search conference way back in 2003 in Boston, before they moved the show to New York. While I didn't attend the whole show this year, I was there long enough to see a lot of friends and catch the buzz. So, here are my top 3 takeaways from the show.

1. The Bing announcement that wasn't. The audience was buzzing about Thursday's keynote by Yusuf Mehdi from Microsoft. Rumor had it that he was going to be making some big announcements about Bing. The room was packed, everyone waiting with baited breath. What were the big announcements? Maps. Lots of maps. Oh, and a partnership with Foursquare. Sorry, but this wasn't news to me. I know a lot of people get into Foursquare, but I just don't see the business value. In fact, I asked that question during the keynote: where is the business value in all of this? The answer? Businesses have more information about intent with these lovely features. I don't know about you, but I won't be rushing to Bing to put my clients' ads on their Foursquare map.

2. Social media is where it's at. There were entire tracks at SES New York on Social Media, and every session I attended was packed. People clearly want to learn about social media and how to make it work for them. I found, though, that most of the sessions were unfocused and didn't stay on topic. For instance, the session on Social and the Marketing Mix was billed as a session on integrating social media with your other marketing - something that, in my opinion, is key to social media success. But the only speaker who talked about integration was Beth Harte. The other speakers talked about how to start a social media program, measuring results, claiming your name on social channels (hello??), and a bunch of other random things that had nothing to do with integration. That said, it's obvious to me that social media is hot, hot, hot.

Side note: Call me old-fashioned, but I was really surprised at the number of snarky Tweets from the show. I'm sure some of them were deserved, but many just went beyond the pale - there was a series of tweets ridiculing someone for their outfit. I agree she looked, well, out of place - but this isn't high school, this is a search conference. And tweeting about someone's long nails on their laptop keyboard or the BO of the person in front of you isn't really useful, either.

3. People still want and need to know the basics of PPC and SEO. I was shocked at how many people I *didn't* know at this SES - in fact, the only people I recognized were the other speakers. (Quick detour: I remember being at SES Chicago about 5 years ago and accidentally sitting at lunch with a bunch of the speakers. I felt totally out of place and embarrassed. This time, it was the exact opposite - I ended up having lunch in the speaker room because there were no seats in the Grand Ballroom, and I didn't know anyone there anyway. I don't know if that means I've arrived, or if the audience has really changed. Anyway...) The Fundamentals sessions were very well attended. My good friend Matt Van Wagner told me that his Paid Search 101 session was packed. He started out with the real basics: what PPC is, how it works, etc. I asked him if that was too basic, and he said, "No. I told the audience to let me know if it was too basic, and they told me that it was just what they were looking for." I had a similar experience in my Paid Search Site Clinic - several of the attendees weren't even doing PPC yet - they wanted to know how to get started. Maybe this shouldn't surprise me, but it does.

Well, there you have it - my 3 top takeaways from SES New York. I actually have a fourth: food poisoning. Yes, this makes the 3rd time I've come home from the East Coast with food poisoning - not sure what that's all about.... Alas. What are your biggest takeaways from the show?

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PPC Campaigns on Mobile Devices - Good or Bad?

Yesterday afternoon, I listened to a Search Engine Watch Webcast presented by my good friend David Szetela from Clix Marketing entitled "Segmenting Your Way to PPC Success." It was Part 2 of a 2-part series on advanced PPC segmenting, and it was highly informative, which I've come to expect from David.

I have to disagree with him on one point he made, though. He advised all Google PPC advertisers to opt out of showing their ads on mobile devices with full internet browsers. I don't agree with that blanket statement. My take on this, as it usually is, is "test it."

Most of our PPC clients get poor results from mobile devices, to be sure. However, it's not true across the board. One of our clients is an apartment property management firm with properties in 10 states. This client makes extensive use of PPC to drive leads for apartment leases. And they get great results from mobile devices in Adwords.

To be specific, click-through rate for this client from mobile devices is 118% higher than click-through rate from computers. (And no, the client doesn't use Content Network advertising, so CTR isn't deflated by content impressions.) On top of that, conversion rate is 7% better on mobile devices than it is on computers, and the cost per conversion is better.

Of course, this seems logical to me, based on the client's target market. Their apartment communities appeal to a young adult demographic, and young adults are more likely to use mobile internet browsing. Also, it seems logical that someone searching for an apartment may be out driving around an area looking at apartments - and using their mobile browser to conduct searches and contact properties - thus generating a lead.

This client would have lost low-cost conversions had they opted out of placing ads on mobile devices. Like I said, this isn't true for most of our clients, but I think it's worth testing.

Have you placed your PPC ads on mobile devices? What kind of results are you getting?

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Microsoft-Yahoo Alliance - 3 Things I'll Miss

The search marketing world was buzzing last week over the Microsoft-Yahoo Alliance and what it means to PPC advertisers. Marketers lauded the Alliance, celebrating the impending demise of the aging Yahoo Panama user interface. My friends David Szetela and Joe Kershbaum discussed the Alliance during the latest episode of PPC Rockstars. (Side note: If you're a PPC advertiser or account manager, and you're not already subscribed to the PPC Rockstars podcast, do yourself a favor and go subscribe right now. You'll thank me later.)

Overall, I agree with the sentiment out there - Yahoo Panama is clunky, and outdated, and was flawed from the start. That said, there are 3 things I'll miss when the Alliance finally rolls out.

#1 - Lack of competition on MSN/Bing. It's well-known that conversion rates on Bing are far superior to conversion rates on Yahoo. In my experience, if Google's conversion rate is X, Bing converts at 3X and Yahoo converts at 0.6X. One of the reasons Bing converts better is the lack of competition.

The Alliance puts advertiser
ads on the best PPC engine AND the worst one. We don't yet know whether advertisers will have the option of creating separate campaigns for Yahoo and Bing. If that's not an option, we're all going to see lower conversion rates.

Even if this is an option, I'm betting more people will opt in to Bing when they can do so through one interface (as opposed to two currently). That'll increase competition, thereby splitting the conversion pie into fewer pieces - resulting in lower conversion rates.

#2 - The quality of Bing traffic. While this is related to competition, it's not exactly the same. PPC traffic comes not only from the search engine domain (e.g. or, but from search and content partners as well. Partners almost always dilute the quality of traffic from a PPC engine - especially in Yahoo's case, where poor performance from search partners is well-documented. We don't know whether Bing will add search partners to the mix; but if they do, we're in trouble.

#3 - Yahoo's Bid Slider application. OK, so it's a minor feature in the overall scheme of things. But I use that slider a lot when managing client PPC bids. It's a great visual that helps advertisers estimate ad position and bid quickly and easily. It beats Google's Bid Simulator by a mile, even though the Bid Simulator is 2.5 years newer. It's one of the few things Yahoo got right with Panama.

Under the Alliance, PPC management will happen in the adCenter interface, and Yahoo's Panama will go away. For the most part, I'm glad, but I'll miss that slider.

What will you miss when YSM goes away?

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