Searching Beyond the Paid

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Google's New Display URL Policy Is BS

The PPC community has been abuzz over the latest Adwords policy change: advertisers can no longer use capitalization in the root domain of display URLs. Subfolders can still have capital letters, but the root domain can't. I haven't seen one person say they like this change - and I've seen plenty who think it's BS (myself included).

I wrote about this for Search Engine Watch yesterday, and there's a good conversation going on in the comments there. What do you think about this change: boon, bust, or BS? Go to SEW and post your thoughts!

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Using Dayparting Effectively in PPC: The Basics

PPC conversions happen around the clock, right? I mean, that's the beauty of PPC and the internet in general - people can shop at any time of day or night, right from the comfort of their own home (or office), without worrying about whether a business is "open" or not. Internet sites are open 24/7, right?

Right. Sort of. Like everything else in PPC, it's critical to take a look at your performance on a granular level. While conversions can theoretically happen at any time, it's pretty common for certain days and/or times to work better than others - sometimes dramatically so.

Take a B to B organization, for example. Most of our B to B clients get the bulk of their traffic, and nearly all their conversions, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. And when I worked in in-house e-commerce PPC, fraudulent orders skyrocketed during the wee hours of the morning.

This is where PPC dayparting comes in. Using ad scheduling as it's called in PPC, you can set your PPC ads to only show at certain times of day. As usual, Adwords is more robust than Microsoft adCenter when it comes to dayparting: in Adwords, you can select by the exact hour, whereas in adCenter, it's blocks of hours (like 10 a.m.-2 p.m.).

Great, are we done yet? Not yet. This is yet another place where you don't want to make decisions based on assumptions alone. Review your analytics data before changing anything!

Google doesn't make this easy. While it's simple to run reports (in the Dimensions tab,) by hour of the day, Google only shows impression and click data - not conversion data. Even if you have Adwords conversion tracking enabled, you won't get it broken down by the hour. You'll need to go to your web analytics program to get conversion data. You'll be able to easily get data from your analytics package on conversions by the hour. ("But I don't have web analytics!" you cry. Stop reading right now and go sign up for Google Analytics - it's free, so there's no excuse not to use it. Get your web team to implement it on your website NOW and make sure it's linked to your Adwords account. Then come back and finish reading this.)

This is a critical step, so don't skip it! Even if you're a B to B advertiser, you may find that you're getting lots of leads in the evenings. Maybe your customers are too busy during the work day to do much searching, and they're doing it from home after hours. Or maybe not. Point is, make decisions based on data, not assumptions!

Not only can you daypart by hour of day, but you can also daypart by day of week. Google makes this a lot easier, since they do share conversions by day of week. Go to Segment in Adwords, and choose "Day of week."

Make sure you're looking at a big enough data set - each day of the week should have 100 clicks at a bare minimum. Again, you may find that the weekends aren't converting, or maybe Wednesday is a bad day. Whatever the info, you can use Settings to turn ads off on days that don't perform.

An important caveat: Use these techniques to eliminate hours of the day or days of the week that aren't converting at all, or are converting so poorly that you can't justify spending any of your budget on them. This technique is especially effective if you have a limited PPC budget: it enables you to focus spend on the times & days that are converting best, and not waste precious dollars on times & days that aren't. But be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater! If you're getting conversions (even if it's only a few), and you have the budget, don't shut off your PPC! In Part 2 of this 2-part series, I'll show you how to use bid adjustments to hone in your PPC spend and get those conversions at an acceptable cost.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

PPC Predictions - A Look Back

Yep, it's cliche - everyone is blogging about their predictions for 2011. It happens every year. Last year, I had the privilege of sharing my predictions on David Szetela's PPC Rockstars podcast, along with several other PPC luminaries.

To be honest, I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions or predictions (I know, that goes contrary to me participating in a podcast on just that topic, but whatever). So this year, rather than postulate on what will happen, let's look at whether I was right last year.

On the podcast, I predicted that the rate of growth in PPC would slow in 2010 vs. previous years, due to social media and other factors such as increasing CPC in search. I also predicted that the Microsoft/Yahoo merger would happen, but it would make no dent in Google's market share. On the show, David politely disagreed with me. (David's always polite!)

Well, guess what. I was wrong on the first one. According to Efficient Frontier, year-over-year growth from 2008 to 2009 was 6%, and Y/Y growth from 2009 to 2010 was 10-15%. I attribute this to the economy, which rebounded in 2010. It's actually a good thing for PPC that I was wrong on this - it indicates that advertisers still see a high value in this channel.

On the second prediction, about Microsoft & Yahoo, I was right!!!!! (Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, David!) According to Efficient Frontier yet again, Google's click share in Q3 2009 was 72.0%. In Q3 2010, it was 78.3%. So, despite all the ballyhoo surrounding Microhoo, Google continues to win the search click wars - at least for the time being.

So, I'm batting .500 for 2010. Not too shabby, I'd say!

As I like to say, to thine own self be true - I won't be making any predictions for 2011. If you'd like to see some good ones, though, check out the Search Engine Watch article from John Lee - who, not coincidentally, works for David over at Clix Marketing. Here's to success in 2011!

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