Posts by PeterD:

Concepts That Underpin PPC Strategy

3 Comments Written on April 3rd, 2011 by
Categories: Marketing

To get the most out of PPC, we not only need to know the best techniques to use, we need to understand why those techniques were devised. The techniques often discussed in this blog, and in our training program, are based on a theory of how the PPC environment hangs together.

Let’s take a look under the hood.

The Search

Search engines are about the specific.

A searcher forms a keyword phrase, based on a concept they have in their head. This is the function of language, words being a specific representation of concepts. The searcher then types words into a search engine, hoping their concept matches with the search results they expect to see.

Contrast this considered action with social media, such as Facebook. Facebook is mostly passive. Facebook data streams down the page, like a river. The user has little preconceived idea about what to expect, other than seeing what their friends are up to. The user clicks on something that looks interesting that they probably didn’t know they were looking for. They then might interact with their friends.

The search environment, on the other hand, is an active, solitary and considered one. The searcher is involved in a hunt.

Concept To Keyword

There are many different ways to say something.

A woman wants to go on holiday. That’s her concept. She turns to Google. She needs to reduce her concept to a search phrase. She may type in “vacation ideas”. Or, she may already know where she wants to go. She types in “hotels in Venice Italy”. She rephrases. “boutique hotels Venice Italy”.

Her friend, who wants to come on holiday with her, is also searching using Google. She types “where can I find great places to stay in Italy?”.

From the same concept to keyboard, the number of keyword phrases are virtually endless. Even if people share the exact same concept, they’ll find many different ways to express it. Some people may be very specific. Some people may be general. Almost everyone will refine their search query in an effort to force the search results match the concepts in their head.

Is the searcher looking for information? Looking to buy something? Is the searcher a do-it-yourself type? Does the user want things done for them?

This is the reason why we need to vary the copy of ads and landing pages. For PPC to work well, everything must match the concept the search user holds in their head at the time of the search. The ad text, the landing page, and the offer.

That’s a big ask. It is hard to read people’s minds. At best, we look to align our offer with their concept. But enough theory.

Let’s translate this into usable technique.

1. Mirror The Concept

Repeat the keyword term in the ad copy and on the landing page. Make it prominent. You’re likely doing this already.

The reason we do it is that it serves as an affirmation i.e. the searcher has found the right place.

2. Bring The User In On The Most Relevant Page

The most relevant page is often not your home page. It is a page that relates directly to the keyword query. It is likely you will use many different landing pages, aimed at people who express their concept differently, and have different needs.

For example, the travel searcher may be undertaking research. They aren’t ready to buy. So ad copy aimed at a searcher making purchase won’t work, and neither will the landing page. A travel merchant may offer this type of searcher a free guide book, or detailed information, which the searcher is encouraged to bookmark. The travel merchant then has an opportunity to sell to the searcher at a later date.

The alternative is a click-back, as the travel merchant has provided this searcher with nothing useful.

We’re aligning our offer with the concept the user holds in their head.

3. Assume Nothing

The searcher may know nothing about you company. They searcher has probably never seen your site. They need to be able to grasp what you’re about immediately.

So the navigation, if it is there at all, needs to be obvious. Personally, I strip all navigation out, leaving only the options that relate directly to the query.

A searcher needs to understand your page at a glance. Don’t assume they’ll read. They’ll likely scan.

4. Think Visual

Because a searcher is likely to scan, think visually. What is the point their eye is scanning to?

A lot of landing page advice is based on old, direct-marketing copy-writing styles.

The problem with applying these dense copywriting styles to the web is that web users demand the “quick hit”. The searcher isn’t in a relaxed, considered reading mode. If they’ve come from search, they’re in a hunting mode. They’re in the active process separating the wheat from the chaff.

Unlike a magazine, the searcher doesn’t have to read from one page through to the end page, linear fashion, considering each page as they go. They can be on any one of millions of other pages within a click.

The quick hit they demand in order to pay attention to you is likely to be visual. Use images. Use big headings. Use a layout that “scans” well. Avoid dense text, unless you’ve hooked people in with a big heading first.

5. Double Use Landing Page

Often, it will be very difficult to pin down what the user wants. Do they want more information? Do they want to buy now?

You can offer them both options on the one landing page. There is a lot of cross-over in the search types, as people’s intentions can be fluid.

6. Don’t Advertise At, Talk With

This is not an intrusion medium, like radio and television. It’s about alignment. It’s about aligning what you have with what they need.

Failure to do so results in a click back, or no click at all.

PPC Pain Points

2 Comments Written on February 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting

Pain Point
Nothing motivates a person quite like pain.

If you’ve got a toothache, you probably can’t wait to use a dentist’s services. The money, so long as you can afford the fee, becomes a non-issue compared to the thought of enduring the pain for one day longer.

You want your customers to be in a similar painful position – not in the sense that you wish pain upon them, but you do want them to have a burning need. This need might be to travel immediately (“last minute flight bookings online”), wanting to have the latest technology (“iPad 2.0, avoid the wait”), or a suit cleaned before an important meeting (“express dry cleaning service, while you wait”).

The customers that are most likely to convert have a pain they need to alleviate. Now.

The commonality in the examples above is that the customer doesn’t just want something. They have a burning need for something, so much so that is causing them a degree of pain. They alleviate this pain by buying what you have to offer. These highly motivated customers are certainly the type of customer you want to select when you’re paying by the click!

In terms of PPC, we have three tools to work with – the pitch, the landing page and the ad text.

1. The Pitch

Everyone says “understand the customer”, but what does that really mean?

Try to understand your customer in terms of the pain they are experiencing. In the example of the dentist I used above, the pain point is self-evident: a sore tooth!

However, most consumer situations are more subtle. Having a suit cleaned before an important meeting is an organisational pain. Time creates a constraint i.e. the suit must be cleaned before the meeting. The need to have the suit cleaned is linked to a strong desire to make a good impression.

There is pain involved in not completing this task. The time constraint creates a sense of urgency – itself a form of pain – as does the mere thought of showing up to an important meeting wearing a shabby suit – i.e we try to avoid the pain of embarrassment.

Look at your good or service in terms of the “medicinal” quality it offers. Identify the point of pain, or points, of pain in the customer, and make a list. Also make a list of general pain points. For example, time pressure, social pressure, work pressure, family pressure, etc, that will be common to many people, and may only be indirectly related to your offer.

2. The Landing Page

Take your list of pain points, and turn it into copy.

Identify and acknowledge the pain points in your audience. A cheesy way to do this involves asking ridiculous questions “You Have A Hot Date In Two Hours, But Your Suit Needs Cleaning Now! Who Will You Call?”.

That works, but it comes across a bit like a 1950’s used car salesman. A more modern technique is to refer to the problem more obliquely. “Immediate Dry Cleaning, While You Wait”. The suggestion is that other services don’t offer immediate dry cleaning. The customer connects the dots in their head. Note that this phrase “Immediate Dry Cleaning, While You Wait”, as is a result of me noting, following step one, that time, and shortage thereof, is a common pain point.

Your “medicinal” qualities become features. For example, “guaranteed service”, “we’re a phone call away”, “we pick up and deliver”, and “there is no garment we can’t clean within an hour”.

3. The Text Ad

The text ad is the same as the landing page step, except you must focus on the most “painful” point your customer is experiencing.

You haven’t got a lot of words to play with, and there are many words on the search results page fighting for the customers attention. The text ad is, of course, related to the search phrase, an analysis of which can also be used to isolate pain points.

Your text ad may focus on time and location: “One Hour Dry Cleaning”. The pain doesn’t need to be stated, just the solution, but you must first have identified the pain point in order to focus on time constraint as being the most important aspect.

Best Practice For PPC, Isn’t

No Comments » Written on February 4th, 2011 by
Categories: Habits & Work Environment

No doubt you’ve heard the term “we follow best practice”, many times.

What does it mean?

The implication is that there is an objective methodology that is “best”, agreed upon by a group of operators, who all follow the same methodology, which is, of course, “the best”. After all, there is little point claiming to “follow worst practice”.

The Problem With Best Practice

The big problem with the term “best practice” is that it is a nonsense. How do you differentiate your marketing if your process, method, strategy & techniques are backwards looking?

If everyone follows an agreed standard of “best”, then everyone becomes just like everyone else, which makes them average, not best. Best Practice is a recipe for mediocrity.

Best practice implies “co-ordination”, “acceptance”, and “having stood the test of time”. It’s a secure-sounding phrase.

However, it can also be problematic, because the world – particularly the online marketing world – is uncertain and always changing.Restrictive practices can limit adaptation, which can turn practices from “best” to “worst”. Conventional wisdom repeatedly gets thrown under the bus. Experimentation and keeping your wits about you, especially in PPC, can mean the difference between success and failure. You can’t just be as good as your competition, you need to be better. Whatever their best is, you have to be better in order to win.

This is not to say there is no such thing as best practice or process. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time we do something.

For example, it could be considered best practice to use tight, keyword focused groups, as this is an effective way to keep quality scores high, and campaigns focused.

In the field of medicine, you want a surgeon who follows “best” practice, rather than deciding to randomly experiment on your left eyeball. You want best practices in medicine, accounting, and insurance. But in marketing it all comes down to testing.

Risk Is Good

In terms of PPC, you can afford to experiment and take risks. No one will die if you push a few boundaries.

Whenever you feel you’re getting into a rule-based mode of operation, ask the question:


Why do we create ad groups this way? Why do we research keywords in the way we do? Is this ad copy really the best it can be, or could we try a different approach altogether?

Adopt the attitude “ok, this might be the “best practice”, the accepted way of doing things, but how can I push the edge out? Is there a way I can make it better?

A Few Ideas…..

Don’t Bid To The First Position On PPC

Instead, find a site ranked highly and advertise on it. After all, the point is to get traffic/attention, and the top web site might be selling that traffic a lot cheaper than Adwords does.

Break All The Copywriting Rules

What if you write Adword copy that sounds mad? Does this get more clicks than something than copy that sounds sensible?

Don’t Use A Keyword Research Tool To Research Keywords

The problem with keyword research tools is you get the same lists as everyone else.

What are other ways to find out what people are interested in? How about identifying your customers and hanging out with them on forums, or Facebook, or wherever. What phrases do they use in normal conversation? Make a list of them. Are you seeing the same phrases over and over again?

Take Your Rules And Break Every Single One

Do you use small keyword groups? Make large ones. Do you bid during a certain time-period? Change all the hours. Do you bid cautiously? Go crazy. One caution – probably not a great idea to do this with a performing campaign, but try it with a new one. Breaking old habits can lead to fresh insights.

Challenge Accepted Wisdom

Every blog and forum you read – ask “why?”. Many people repeat what they think sounds good, but may have no basis in reality. By definition, those who do very well at something are doing something that everyone else isn’t. They aren’t following the exact same path.

Gates, Page, Brin, Zuckerberg – they all did something different.

Write your own “best practice”.

Prosper By Asking Questions

1 Comment » Written on January 20th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting

Whether we do PPC, SEO, or social media, we all have something in common:

We’re in the communication game

In order to play the communicate game well, we need to understand people.

You’ve heard the maxim “it’s not about you, it’s about them”, meaning that people aren’t interested in hearing about you or your product, they are interested in themselves and how your product can benefit them.

People are like this because our society centers around the wants and needs of the individual, as opposed to the needs of the group, or the producer. When we understand this simple fact, we can better craft marketing messages people can relate to.

Yeah, but so what, you may be saying. “What’s in it you me”?

In search marketing, communicating well leads to more activity on your site. It can lead to more money. It can lead to more money because visitors will engage, where they wouldn’t if the message didn’t appeal to them.

Here are two techniques to help you improve communication. The most important thing you can do in order to communicate well is to ask questions.

1. Ask Questions Of Others

If you don’t understand your audience, how can you sell them anything?

If you ask your customers “what is the single thing they care about most” – i.e the reason they are engaging with you – what would their answer be?

I often receive surveys from PayPal. The surveys come in the form of multi-choice answers.

I could tell PayPal how to make their service better, but they never ask. They don’t send a message saying “what is the one thing we could do to make you happier?”. Instead, I get the same old multi-choice surveys, forcing their narrow frame of reference on me. That’s not asking the customer what they want. It’s as if some manager somewhere is going through the motions. Needless to say, I don’t answer them.

Never has there been an easier time for two-way communication between vendor and customer. Comments forms. Forums. Email. Social media. So many opportunities to engage with your customers, and ask them the simple question “what do you want”?

Be assertive – pick up the phone, and ask them. Every email you send should have a tagline: “please get in touch if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions”. Think about the various ways you can make it easy for people to tell you what they want.

It’s true that sometimes customers don’t know what they want. If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they would have replied “a faster horse”.

But it’s our job to read between the lines of their answers to find out what they really mean e.g.. “to get places more quickly”.

Look In The Mirror, And Ask Questions Of Yourself

I’ve just read a book called “So What?” by Mark Magnacca. It’s a simple, straightforward introduction to communicating well. Whilst intended for those giving presentations, one useful tool that is directly applicable to search marketing is the “So What?” matrix

Any presentation can be transformed by asking these questions:

  • For what? What reason, and for whom, are you doing this?
  • So what? Why is it important for the audience?
  • Now what? What do you want to happen as a result of this information?

That’s the essence of a well-constructed landing page. What problem are you solving? Are you sure that is a problem the audience has? If not, rethink your offer. If it is, then what do you want people to do next? Click on an order button? If so, make it prominent. Make it easy.

Pretty simple, right. But those simple questions, when applied, will solve most landing page problems.

This also applies to SEO. If people land on your page, you need to answer those three questions, else they’ll click back. There’s no point ranking #1, or bidding into the top position, if people click back. Your efforts are wasted at that point.

Go through your copy and strike out everything that does not clarify to your audience what is in it for them. Every point about how good you are should be put in the context of how you being good helps your audience.

How To Use Google Campaign Experiments To Optimize Adwords

2 Comments Written on December 14th, 2010 by
Categories: PPC Tools

Changing adwords campaigns, particularly established campaigns that are working, can involve a lot of trial and error. We don’t want to ruin a good thing, yet all of us want to optimize for best results.

In August 2010, Google rolled out a helpful tool called Adwords Campaign Experiments, otherwise known as ACE.

ACE is a free tool that enables you to run experimental campaigns, side by side, against your existing campaigns. You can run tests on a percentage of your traffic, as opposed to all of it.

For example, say if you are currently bidding 50 cents on a keyword, what happens if you increase the bid to two dollars? It might be difficult to tell if any increased conversions are related to the increased bid, or some other quirk in the market. ACE will tell you if the changes you see are significant, as you’ll be comparing two different bids, run at – effectively – the same time.

ACE is similar to a slit-run test, but enables you to test settings across entire groups and ad campaigns.

You can find out more about Adwords Campaign Experiments here. Google have since rolled out Campaign Experiments globally. Now, you can test more variables, including the ads themselves.

To access Adwords Experiments, sign into your Google Adwords Account. Under the Settings tab, you’ll find an option labelled “Experiment”

How To Test Using ACE

  • Establish Control Group – Your existing campaign is your control group. You can set this on the status icon on your Ad group.

Create new groups and set these as experiments:

  • Change Match Types – Leave you existing campaign as a control and start an experiment to test different match types. How do different match types affect your CTR? Impressions?
  • Change Ad Groups – how does adding keywords to existing groups affect performance? How does splitting groups up into smaller, more focused themes affect performance? How does removing keyword affect performance?
  • Change Bidding – Shift bids up and down radically. How does bid level affect performance? Be careful with the percentage of traffic you allocate to your test. It needs to be high enough to be statistically significant, however if you set it too high, you might compromise your existing campaigns performance.
  • Keyword Level URLs – How does changing the URL affect performance?
  • Display Network – Change the topics you target on the display network.

Understanding The Results

As the campaign runs, you’ll see separate control and experiment rows, so you can compare data.

Probably the most important aspect of this tool is how clearly you can see if there is a statistical difference in the optimization vs chance. Whilst the numbers may change in your experiment vs control, these numbers may not mean much to your business.

Google makes this data easy to analyze by providing arrows.

  • One (up or down) arrow represents a 5% probability that the metric increased or decreased by chance rather than due to your experimental changes.
  • Two arrows represents a 1% probability
  • Three arrows represents a 0.1% probability

Further Reading:

Changing Your Offer

No Comments » Written on November 25th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting

If your competitors offer a similar, or identical product to your own, here are a few ideas on how to change your offer, without really changing anything!

This strategy also works well if you feel your offering is getting a little stale could use a kick-start.

Positioning In The Sales Funnel

Where, in the sales funnel, are you currently pitching?

Try shuffling the positioning either earlier or later.

For example, a landing page might provide a lot of information, targeting people who are at an early research stage of the sales cycle.

However, what happens if the advertiser were to focus on price points and/or shipping options instead i.e. targets the end of the sales cycle? Does this result in more buyers? Or try the other way around. Provide more information, and focus less on the price, to try and woo buyers who are still researching?

The sales funnel is a continuum. The buyer could be anywhere along it. It can be a good idea to run slightly different campaigns targeting people at different points along the funnel, and not just leaving it to the path structure of your website.

You could also try presenting your product with a different image, or in a different context.

For example, a holiday package could be presented as “an escape”, or “an indulgence”, “a learning adventure”, “part of a lifestyle”, or as “something earned”. Each message requires a different approach, as each message engages with different types of buyers.


The breakout involves taking one feature of the product, and making it central.

For example, let’s say someone sells used iPads. They bundle the ipads with an attractive case, but haven’t, in the past, drawn attention to this point. They could try creating an ad that focuses attention on the case, as opposed to just the ipad, reasoning that potential customers already know what an ipad is, but they’re looking for a point of difference. Breakout items can include accessories, service contracts, and guides.


If you sell multiple parts, which you sell individually, try bundling them together.

For example, someone could sell individual BBQ implements, such as a scraper, a knife, a large fork, an apron, a burger flipper, carry case, etc, or they could bundle them together into a “BBQ Kit”. Sometimes, individual items can be rolled into an attractive concept, making them easier to sell.

A variation of this approach is often used in traditional collectible mail order. They sell individual model cars, yet show a display case full of the complete set. Buy one each week, and the target is to fill the free display case. At that point, it becomes “a collection”.


Don’t assume the customer knows everything about the product.

Again, using the iPad example, this could be pitched to a different market by describing it as “a small computer”. Think boaties, small apartment dwellers, motor-home owners, and anyone else pushed for space. The “small” feature is emphasized and dramatized in order to appeal to a sub-market within the computer buying market who are motivated by space saving.

This type of positioning also works well for the small business. A small company may not be able to provide the same benefits a large company can, but they can provide different benefits i.e. more agile, more personal, more customizable more approachable. These aspects are emphasized. The small companies prices may be higher, but again, they can spin this into a positive i.e. “we are there for people who appreciate quality, not quantity”.

Notice how the products aren’t really changed, they are just repositioned, bundled, or described differently to appeal to different markets, or to add a fresh angle.

Further Resources

Do You Have A Continuity Plan?

3 Comments Written on November 17th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

As competition increases, and the price of clicks rise, webmasters are looking at various back-end strategies in order to get the most out of their PPC spend.

Continuity programs are a great way to increase the value of each customer, giving you more margin to operate with when you bid.

A continuity program involves the establishment of an ongoing relationship with your customers that extends beyond the original transaction. If you sell one item to a customer who arrived via PPC, but never hear from them again, then that’s an expensive way to do direct marketing.

A continuity plan keeps that customer coming back. Generally speaking, you aim to create a relationship or environment to support the invitation “come again”. You craft your offer so that you receive implicit or explicit permission to do so from the customer.

Let’s look at four continuity plan ideas.

Club Membership

Give the the buyer an option to sign up to a buyers club at time of purchase. This need not involve an extra cost for the buyer, but gives you permission to contact them in future with special offers, discounts, or other club member benefits. Framed in the right way, it may be perceived by the buyer as a bonus i.e. “Membership of our discount club usually costs $x, however you get free membership with your purchase”.

It is possible to charge a fee for this, of course, however if you do so, it’s a good idea to build in benefits they can’t get anywhere else. The web makes it easy to shop elsewhere – at the click of a mouse – so buyers will be wary of being locked-in unless that lock-in enables them to get something they can’t get elsewhere.


We typically associate subscription with magazines and publications. A magazine is a form of information/entertainment, sold in installments, over a period of time.

“Pay-as-you go” is a twist on the subscription model. For example, you could sell buyers a fitness machine once, or you could sell them an “on-going fitness solution”. They are one in the same thing, but the latter notion involves learning more about the customer, and predicting that they’ll want a variety of machines over a period of time i.e. they’ll always likely have a fitness problem in need of a solution.

When the pay-as-you go period ends, be sure to have another offer ready to go.

Automatic Shipment

The customer is asked to participate in an on-going sales plan. Examples included encyclopedias, record clubs, etc. Less common these days, as customers like to be in control, however if you sell an item that wears out in a given time period, then your customer may appreciate being sent a new one at regular intervals, so they don’t need to bother with re-ordering.

Auto-renewing subscriptions are a twist on this form.

Customized Service

Offer a one-off, custom service, linked into ongoing consumption of your product offering.

For example, a weight loss supplement manufacturer offered a service whereby the customer sent in a current photo, and details of their weight loss objectives. The company did some digital manipulation and provided an “after” photo. The customer was then offered a custom plan, consisting of automatic shipment of the company’s weight loss products.

Competitive Advantage

Once you arrive at a lifetime value of a repeat customer, you can not only bid higher to land them in the first place – perhaps running loss-leaders – but you can also reframe your offer against those of your competitors.

For example, your competitors may be advertising the total cost of the fitness machines, whereas you could take a more enticing angle, such as “new fitness machines, for life, for only $1 a day!”.

Does Google Instant Affect Your PPC Campaigns?

1 Comment » Written on November 8th, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Google rolled out Google Instant on September 8th, 2010.

Google Instant is a major change in the way Google presents search results. Google now attempts to predict what term searchers are searching for, then shows updated search results, in real time, as the searcher types their query.

Here’s a video of Google Instant in action:

Google reasons that Google Instant reduces the time it takes to search, and will particularly appeal to the mobile search market, as there is less need to scroll.

However, eyebrows were raised, particularly amongst the PPC community.

If Google matches on partial type-in keywords, does this mean fewer long-tail targeted keyword would be seen? Will targeting broad terms, and short terms, become more viable as the searcher is more likely to see them? Marketers were also concerned about potential tracking problems, such as a change in the way impressions will be counted.

However, a new study reveals some very interesting data.

Study Results

Marin Software, a paid search management platform provider, released the results of a study that analyzed the effects of Instant Search on paid campaigns. The study was undertaken over two separate fortnightly periods, and across millions of keyword terms.

The report looks at three main issues.

  • How searchers behavior might change, particularly in relation to a visitors interaction with Adwords.
  • How Google Instant impacts search query length
  • Does Google Instant affect match type. For example, if searchers are presented with results immediately, does this make broad matching a more viable strategy?

Here’s what they found:

  • Google Instant has had a noticeable effect on PPC campaign performance.
  • Impressions and clicks increased significantly – by 9.3% – whilst cost per click decreased. Overall campaign costs increased slightly.
  • Google users preferred exact and phrase match terms, as opposed to broad match.

It was curious that Google Instant did not skew user behavior towards broad-match clicks, as first feared. The reverse happened. Exact and phrase-match clicks gained in popularity.

In our analysis, we found that while broad-match terms still command about 70% of all impressions and about 47% of all clicks, exact-match and phrase-match terms gained ground after Instant was launched. Accordingly, our chart shows that impressions and clicks for phrase and exact-match terms had higher percentage increases when compared to broad-match terms. “

Why the change?

“The implication here is that users are probably responding to interim ads while they’re still typing or refining search queries. In other words, our analysis suggests that users are now more engaged with the search page and search results. This change in user behavior is a direct consequence of how Google Instant has changed a user’s search experience.”

Google Instant may also be making it easier for the searcher to phrase a search query, especially if they didn’t quite know which terms to search on in order to get the results they were seeking.

As the searcher rephrases the query, they may be pausing to click on ads. This raises the question of impression reporting.

Counting impressions with Google Instant happens in three different ways.

  • Click – If the user starts typing, then clicks anywhere on the page, an impression is counted.
  • Keyword selection – An impression is counted when the search button is clicked, or a user selects a query.
  • Three second delay – If the user stops typing and does nothing for three seconds, this is counted as an impression

On the flip-side, searchers do have something in mind already. Just because Instant suggests a keyword doesn’t necessarily mean the searcher will opt for what Google suggests. In this sense, it is not surprising the broad match doesn’t trump exact match and long tail queries.

Do You Need To Change Your PPC Strategy?

Whilst analysis is ongoing, these early studies put a lot of fears to rest.

You can still target long-tail searches in your PPC campaigns, and get good results. In fact, Google Instant appears to have made them even more lucrative.

If you’re not targeting broad match and short queries now, there is little reason to change, at least as far as Google Instant is concerned. If, for some reason, you’re not phrase matching and exact matching, then you should do so.

Google Adwords: Horrific Results?

1 Comment » Written on October 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Are there times when PPC is next to useless?


There are some goods and services that are poorly suited to search marketing.

For example, take a look at what happened to Dropbox when they blew cash on Google Adwords:

Dropbox founder and chief executive Drew Houston offered some details this afternoon about how he grew the company to more than 4 million users. In its early days, the document synchronization startup did all the things that startups are “supposed” to do, like buying ads on Google’s search results through AdWords and hiring a public relations firm.

Houston said the results were “horrific”.

Poor execution? Didn’t know enough about PPC? Bidding too high?

Possible, but it is more likely due to positioning. Dropbox offers an innovative service that people don’t know they need.


In order for a customer to search on a concept, they need to already be aware of the concept. In this respect, search is a conservative channel. Contrary to what Google, and other search companies, would have you believe, PPC is not suited to ground-breaking products and services.

Well, not without some tweaking, anyway.

Under The Search Hood

Research has shown that there are three types of searches. The intent of the searcher is typically either navigational, informational, or transactional. The search engines, and advertisers, try to determine intent, and match results and advertisements accordingly.

A navigational search is where the searcher wishes to go to a specific website, or a web page on that site. For example, “Wikipedia” is a navigational search. It is estimated that over 30% of all searches are navigational.

An informational search is where the searcher is looking for specific information on a given topic. For example, “fixing cars”, “African insects” or “building houses”.

A transactional search is when someone wants to perform some web-mediated activity. For example, they want to buy something, they want to download something, or they want to access specific databases, such as the Yellow Pages.

In order for search marketing to work effectively, you need to slot easily into one of these categories. The commonality is that your brand, concept or the solution you provide must already be known to the user.

The Trick

So, you’ve got a site selling a new concept. Should you steer clear of search marketing?

There are ways around this problem.

See if you can reshape your message into becoming a destination for established navigational, informational or transactional search queries. Can you relate your product or service to a product or service that is already well known?

Let’s say someone produces a new, totally unique way of preventing mildew that defies convention. They might knock together a page all about mildew, advertise against popular “mildew prevention” terms, whilst gently introducing their new solution. The trick is to align the new concept with a concept that already exists in the mind of the searcher.

You can also do this using known brands. Brands are If you offer something that provides the same solution as offered by an existing brand, you can position alongside that brand, so long as they haven’t blocked brand related searches.

Consider the sales funnel. Whilst you might want people to click through and order your product right away, you may need to back up to a higher level first. For example, instead of leaping straight to the transaction, your PPC campaign could be focused on getting people to sign up to your blog or newsletter. This way, your focus becomes education – an essential step in marketing new products. You then hope they’ll download your product once they become comfortable with the concept.

You could also limit you search marketing to the display network and advertise on sites where your potential users hang out. For example, market research shows that people who like or own exotic cars also tend to like or own expensive watches. Therefore, it would not be a silly idea to advertise watches on exotic car sites. Some positioning spin would be needed to ensure the ad appears, of course.

The display network is also much cheaper than the search network, and more suited to brand-building campaigns, as you can use graphics. You also gain significant reach. Google has a white paper looking at performance trends across the display network , along with various case studies.

You can also retarget people visiting your website using Google remarketing.

Got any other tricks and tips for introducing new concepts on search networks? Add ’em to the comments.

Google Adwords Campaigns

5 Comments Written on October 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Never run a Google Adwords campaign before?

Here are the key high-level concepts you need to ensure you get the most valuable traffic for the least money.

1. Running Google Ads Comes Later. First….

Before you run a campaign, you need to get your site, and business strategy, in order. Ask yourself: “when I get traffic, what do I want this traffic to do”?

This is known as the “desired action” or “conversion”. The desired action you want a visitor to take when they land on your page. The desired action might be to sign up to a newsletter, bookmark the site, or make a purchase.

Next, ensure your landing pages are written in such a way as to lead people to take that desired action. Is it crystal clear what visitors need to do?

A good way of testing this is to look over the shoulder of someone who is new to your site. Watch what they actually do, as opposed to what you expect them to do. We’ll look at testing in step five, but for now, do some basic testing to make sure everything is as clear as it can possibly be. If it’s not clear what people have to do, you’ll lose a lot of money on the click-backs.

2. Keyword Research

Google include a keyword research tool in Adwords.

Sign up to Adwords, and you’ll be prompted to enter a couple of phrases, which will generate keyword lists. You then ads the keyword terms you like best to a master list.

Simple, eh.

However, this isn’t the only way to get keywords. Keep in mind that Google will often direct you towards keywords it wants you to bid on. What works well for Google may not work well for you.

So also try out alternative keyword tools that use different keyword databases. We offer a free keyword research tool powered by Wordtracker.

Also visit Facebook, forums and blogs related to your topic, and look at the keyword titles people use. What language do people use? What terminology do people use? It is likely they will use the same terminology when conducting searches. You can even use Google to help surface these concepts in real-time using their discussions filter & sorting by date.

Whilst keyword lists can become potentially huge, it’s best, when starting, to cut these down to a manageable size, as it makes it much easier to manage and test campaigns. Group closely related keywords together in individual groups, and direct traffic to an appropriate page on your web site directly related to these keyword terms. The page should include these terms in the body text and headings.

Once you see what is working, and what isn’t, you can scale up in the appropriate areas, and stop advertising on the keywords that don’t work.

3. Write Hooky Ads

If you look at a search results page, you’ll see ten listings, or more, down the center-left of the screen. Eight or more Google ads appear down the right hand side.

The searcher could click on any one of those listings, although they mainly click on the results closest to the top. Check out this heat map analysis to give you an idea of clicking patterns.

To grab attention in all this clutter, your ad needs to stand out.

Examine your competitors ads. Are they all similar? Can you twist their approach into something new and fresh? Hint: the Adwords listings that appear highest up the list, on a regular basis, tend to also have the highest click-through rates. This means they have the highest appeal to the audience. Mimick their approach – as it has likely proven more successful than those lower down – but add something new to your ad text, in order to stand out.

What is the best thing about your service? What can you do that others can’t? Perhaps you have lower prices. Perhaps you operate in a location close to prospective buyers. Perhaps you give away free samples. Whatever your edge, specify it in your ad text.

Write eye catching headlines. Try to avoid weak, descriptive terminology, such as “Parts Supplier”. Instead, try “Sale On Acme Parts”. Be specific about the benefits you offer.

There is a lot of experimentation involved, but what’s good about Adwords is that the ads are very easy to change if something isn’t quite working right.

4. Budget Your Bidding

Many people blow through a lot of money and have nothing to show for it. Only you know how much you can spend trying to acquire a customer, so make sure you know this information going in.

There are three ways you can control your budget:

Daily budget – set the maximum amount you want to spend per day on clicks.
CPC – how much you want to pay for each click.
Ad Quality – This essentially means “relevance”. Make sure your keyword, your ad text and landing page text are aligned i.e if the searcher searches for “used car parts”, your ad mentions “used car parts”, as does you landing page. If this terminology differs to a significant margin, it forces up the price of your clicks. Get the quality score right, however, and you can outrank other bidders who are bidding more than you. They may not be as relevant to the search query.

For more on the quality score, have a read of “Google Quality Score Factors“.

5. Tracking, Measurement And Adjustment

Few PPC campaigns work like a charm on first attempt.

It’s important to track your progress and make adjustments. There are three key areas the beginner needs to keep an eye on:

Are your ads running? Look out for warning messages in the Adwords control panel. Some of your ads may be disabled, for a variety of reasons. Use the inbuilt keywords diagnostics tool to help you.

How often are your ads being displayed? You may have to adjust bidding and scheduling to get your ads to show more often.

Are visitors doing what you want them to do on your site? Make sure enough people are moving through to desired action, else your money is wasted. Test different landing pages, ad text and offers to increase the conversion rate.

Also check out this free online book, Conversion For Dummies.

Have fun!

When you’re ready to learn all the advanced tricks of the trade, check out our PPC training course.