Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, April 27, 2012

Two PPC Wins and a Fail

This week brought a flurry of PPC announcements from Google.  Of course, this isn’t unusual – PPC is known for being fast-moving and constantly innovating, with Google leading the way.  Like many of the PPC advances of the past, this week’s list brings both good and bad to the industry.

Win #1:  Adwords Account Labels

On Tuesday, Google rolled out a neat feature called Account Labels.  With Labels, you can organize account elements into custom groupings to facilitating the slicing and dicing of data.

This is basically pivot tables on steroids.  The example Google gives in their blog post is grouping products across geo-targeted campaigns.  Say you sell Nike sneakers, and you replicate campaigns across geographies.  Labels will enable you to group and summarize stats on Nike sneakers across your account so you can evaluate results on a larger set of data.

Labels are a pretty neat feature, and I’m already planning to implement them in one of our international client’s campaigns.

Win #2:  Quality Score Transparency

Ever since it was introduced in 2007, PPC managers have lived and died by quality score.  Countless hours and thousands of blog posts have been devoted to optimizing quality score.

And yet, quality score has been somewhat of a black box.  We all know that click-through rate is the most heavily-weighted factor in quality score, but there were also the ubiquitous “other factors” that Google didn’t specify. 

And furthermore, Google didn’t tell us a lot about what was wrong when we earned poor quality scores.  We were just told keyword relevance is “poor.”

Now, Google’s giving us more transparency into quality score factors.  They’re supplying more detail on what elements need improvement:  CTR, ad relevance, and/or landing page.

Pretty cool – more info is always better!

Fail:  Near Match

For years now, PPC’ers have complained about broad match gone wild.  Just yesterday I was reviewing some search queries for VoIP keywords, and apparently Google thinks that’s the same thing as “voice recognition apps” and “cheap prison telephone voice”. 

But, at least we have phrase and exact match to counteract the silly broad matching.  Right?


From Google’s Inside Adwords blog, “Starting in mid-May, phrase and exact match keywords will match close variants, including misspellings, singular/plural forms, stemmings, accents and abbreviations. Based on our research and testing, we believe these changes will be broadly beneficial for users and advertisers.”

Are they kidding?!?  What research are they doing?  Maybe they’re looking at their own search query reports and deciding the matches are close enough?

This move hasn’t exactly been popular with PPC pros.  An informal and unscientific poll of the PPC Chat group on LinkedIn reveals that 68% of PPC’ers are against the change (registration required).

While I do see the benefit of this change in certain situations, to me it’s yet another money grab by Google.  Like many other default settings in Adwords, this one will slip by the novice PPC managers and mom & pop folks trying to manage their own accounts, and they’ll wonder why they’re not getting the ROI they expected.

The good news is, there’s still time to opt out.  You’ll find the option under campaign settings in the Adwords UI.  The bad news is, there’s no bulk edit, so each campaign has to be opted out manually, one by one.  And there’s no option for this in Adwords Editor yet either.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

What do you think of the recent Adwords announcements?

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Friday, April 20, 2012

HeroConf – The Class Reunion of PPC

On Monday, about 100 PPC pros converged in Indianapolis for the first annual HeroConf, put on by the great folks at PPC Hero. Being the first conference, none of us knew exactly what to expect, but there was a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air in the PPC community during the days leading up to the show. Everyone was looking forward to a conference focused solely on PPC.

HeroConf didn’t disappoint. It was a day jam-packed with PPC goodness, covering everything from account structure to mobile to remarketing and tons more. The sessions were insightful, and the speakers were a who’s who of paid search.

Yes, I spoke 3 times and moderated a lunchtime roundtable, but this isn’t meant to be a brag. I am humbled to have been included in such stellar company. As I sat on the Q&A panel at the end of the day, I honestly couldn’t believe I was up there with 2 of the people from whom I learned PPC back in 2002 – Brad Geddes and Andrew Goodman. The days of me harassing them with questions on the search forums are behind me, and they’ve both become good friends. Still, it was an awe-inspiring experience.

Because of the small size, the best part of the conference for me was the networking. I think I got to personally speak with nearly everyone in attendance, which is unheard of at the major shows. At the meet and greet Sunday night, I met old friends for the first time – people I’ve hung out with every Tuesday at noon EST for PPC Chat. It was a total blast, and I stayed up too late both Sunday and Monday, but it was worth every second of lost sleep!

After last year’s SMX Advanced, I wrote a post saying the show was like homecoming. Well, if SMX Advanced is homecoming, HeroConf was a class reunion – the group you were always closest with and knew the best. The camaraderie and knowledge-sharing was unmatched – I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed at a show, especially one where I was speaking so many times! Usually that’s a recipe for all-day nerves, but I felt totally comfortable because I knew I was among friends.

It would take me all day to list all the amazing PPC people I met at HeroConf, but I do want to give a special shout-out to a few who made the conference especially meaningful to me.

To Melissa Ferrigan, who was a friend before I was even doing PPC, I’m so glad you were there to share it with me.

To Matt Umbro, it was totally awesome to share the stage with you at the Account Structure and Q&A panels, and to geek out on PPC over drinks.

To James Svoboda, I really enjoyed hanging out at IND. Thank you for turning the usually-mind-numbing time waiting for my flight into a fun chat!

And finally, to Michelle Morgan, my PPC little sis, I had an absolute blast swapping stories and rants with you. I knew we’d hit it off, because we already had on Twitter, but I felt like we became true BFFs at the show.

And to everyone else I met, know that I feel blessed to have chatted with you. I can’t wait for next year’s show!

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Friday, April 06, 2012

My Top 3 PPC Posts of 2012

The first quarter of 2012 is in the books (already?!?!?), and a lot has happened already in the PPC world. Here are the top 3 posts on this blog for the year to date.

3 Unfulfilled PPC Wishes from 2007

This was a fun post to write, and it got the attention of PPC pros on Twitter and beyond. What's funny about this post is that I wasn't even going to write it because when I had the idea, I didn't think there were any unfulfilled wishes from 5 years ago. I was wrong.

A 12-Step Program to Improve Your CTR

This SEW rerun accomplishes something that not every blog post can: timeless tips that can help all PPC'ers. Just when I think "oh, everyone already knows that," a post like this reminds me that we can all use a refresher course from time to time.

The top post for 2012 so far, by a landslide, was this one:

PPC Is Alive and Well, Thank You

There's nothing like a good controversy to get the attention of the entire PPC community. This post was spurred by an idiotic post from a so-called social media expert who claimed that PPC was dead. Judging by the reaction I got to my post, she was, well, kinda wrong.

And there you have it - the top 3 posts of 2012 so far. What are some of your favorite PPC posts from around the web?