Business

Leadgen Advertisers: All Your Customers Are Belong to Google™

16 Comments Written on June 28th, 2011 by
Categories: Business, Google Adwords

When asked about future search ad growth on their Q1 2011 analyst conference call, Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product, Adwords & AdSense at Google, went to great pains to point out how “excited” Google is about “embedding movie trailers” into the search ads for the entertainment industry.

Movie trailer ads?  This is the key monetization area you’re pointing out analysts?

Movie trailers are not going to make Google their next bajillion dollars from search traffic.

Google needs to extract a higher eCPM from search traffic if it’s going to keep growing. Display ads can’t do it all.

Rest assured their plan for further search monetization involves more than what they’re telling analysts about ‘media ads’.  In fact, it involves your Adwords leads…

CPC is for Suckers

Let’s start putting the pieces together here:

One of the biggest (in fact, highest-CPC advertiser models) is lead generation.  Think insurance, financial products, enterprise software, services offerings and the like.

If you’re Google, how do you extract more revenue from these advertisers when CPCs have already seemingly hit the ceiling?  CPC just can’t do it.  You need to think bigger.  Much bigger.

Some might say “you could go to a CPA model”.  They’ve already done that, and it’s too inefficient:  CPA requires the advertiser to actually convert that traffic.  And most landing pages and conversion funnels suck.

The Thin Edge of the Wedge: “Adwords Communication Extensions”

On the surface, letting a user request a call-back right from your leadgen search ad sounds like a great idea.  So you take your Google rep’s advice and agree not to opt out.  After all, as your rep will point out, “your competitors are already in the beta, and their CTR is 1000x higher than yours – you’re losing leads as we speak!!”

Of course, most advertisers will stay in the beta (I say “stay in” because it’s an opt-out program) with eyes wide open.  They can tell from the pitch docs and FAQ that Google is arbitraging the lead to them, keeping the end user’s actual contact info hidden via Google Voice functionality and Craigslist-esque email address masking:

Pssst: The First One’s Free

Hey, what do you have to lose: the leads are FREE!  (If you believe they’ll stay that way you need to quit this business ASAP).

Google runs all kinds of betas, but this is the most important one they’ve run in a LONG time.  It could reshape the future of Adwords as a platform.

One key here is that Google needs you, Mr. Advertiser, to participate and not opt-out.  Once your sales team gets used to “hot” leads that come in almost instantaneously from Adwords search ads, they’re unlikely to recommend you pull the plug later on.

But what Google needs most of all is for ALL of the advertisers in the top lead gen head term auctions to participate in the beta and the full rollout.

Why?  Well, think about this for a second:

Even an idiot can see in advance that Google is getting into the lead arbitrage business here, and the leads will eventually have a cost.  You might even question the fact that there’s zero lead qualification going on here either.

But what’s going to get missed here ties back into the bigger picture:  How do you go from earning an eCPM of $15 on a leadgen click (or even, say, $45 eCPM from a Communications Extensions lead CPL lead fee)?

Answer: Why charge for a lead once when you can charge for it 8 times? Wow!  Now you’ve gone from $45 eCPM on a SERPs page to $200 +.

How Can Google Do This??

Easy, how about this for starters (now that everyone is running Google Communication Extension ads):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Click to enlarge the horror)

One little button and now “it’s best for the user” to “compare advertisers” with Google submitting the customer’s lead information to ALL of the advertisers on that query because, you know, the customer wants to compare:)

And even better for you as an advertiser, you don’t have to worry so much about CTR and getting as many clicks as you can off of your ads because “Google gives you ALL of the leads!”  Imagine!  With Communications Extensions you get a shot at every lead Google can drive.  Too bad they also give them all to your competitors as well…

“But, but! those leads aren’t going to back out for all of the advertisers so there’s no way they’re going to keep participating in the comparison auctions”.

Advertisers are going to go “back to good ol’ CPC bidding again, screw this.”

Oh really?  Sadly, that option is no longer available as a bidding method for lead generation campaigns.  Google discontinued it before they rolled out the “advertiser competition” button.

So now here we are:  All I have to do is set a daily lead budget and Google decides when to send me “the good leads”.  In fact, I don’t even have to pick keywords anymore, let alone manage bidding on them.

“At first, the ROI was horrid and the leads were coming in completely unfiltered, but we couldnt’ go back as CPC bidding disappeared.  Lately though, their algorithms have been better at knowing when a lead is more likely to convert and so we’re scraping by, but nothing like the old days when we were better at optimizing our funnel in-house than our competitors.  Now when we complain to Google about lead quality and pricing though they just tell us we should sharpen our pencils a bit more because, hey, “the users much prefer this new model”. – Longtime Adwords Leadgen Advertiser X

 

“But if Advertisers Aren’t Making Money Google Won’t Get Advertisers…”

Something similar was said when advertisers saw their avg CPCs go up to $30 in competitive lead generation verticals.  Google’s job is to push the pricing envelope right to the edge of advertiser bailout, “then back it off just little bit” (Remember the “Creepy Line”?).  That’s how all product pricing works: find out what the market will bear at any given time and charge it.

Further to that point, who is it exactly that can’t pay what Google is now charging for leads?  Other aggregators and comparison engine sites perhaps?

Sounds like they need to get cut out of the lead chain as they’re not providing ‘added value’! In fact, sending leads to other aggregators would effectively be a “bad user experience”, so time to shut their Adwords accounts down, don’t you think?

So: now we’re just down to the raw providers, and all the middlemen but Google have been cut out.  Now we’re getting to the real meat on the bone: deep pocketed corporate spenders, not ‘glorified affiliates’ (as lead aggregators come to be known internally).

And you know what? This model has worked so well on search, Google announces it’s rolling out to the Display Network as well: Your display ads will now have a little extenstion on them that will allow the user to ask for a call-back. (This may already be happening BTW.)

Google’s Wearing the Daddy Pants Now

Whoever has the user’s attention has all the leverage.  Advertisers are plainly being told this right now via the Communications Extensions beta.  This is no longer your customer.  This is Google’s customer.We will protect our customers’ contact data, and you will not see it.”

Interestingly, but surely unrelated, right around the time this beta was being floated, Google took away the ability for advertisers to put phone numbers in their ad headlines or sitelinks because users would apparently be confused, expecting a phone number to act like Skype right off of the Google SERPs rather than a phone number you would dial with a telephone?

Google has have enough ads to run against enough of head queries that organic results are less and less necessary.  Now they can funnel the customer directly through to Google properties and capture their actions, simply reselling them multiple times to advertisers who have no  choice but to ‘pay to play.’  This is all without even considering the ramifications of Google Advisor.

The Spoiler

Of course, we can only speculate as to how far Google will go to monetize their search results.  If recent history is any guide however, the envelope will get pushed right to the edge.  How many of us would have predicted this five years ago:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spoiler in all of this for Google however is governmental regulation.  Even as recently as last week US and European government agencies have made it clear that they have a problem with competition getting shoved off the end of the envelope.

Final Thoughts

If Google has done the work of earning the user, and if the user trusts Google to handle negotiations for them in selecting vendors for products and services, then good on Google.  Lead-reliant advertisers just need to carefully think ahead about where this marketing channel is heading and what their plan will be when it finally gets there.

 

PPC Consulting Q&A with Mona Elesseily

1 Comment » Written on April 19th, 2011 by
Categories: Business, Google Adwords

PPC consultant Mona Elesseily is VP of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media, a PPC and marketing management firm.  She was kind of enough to answer some of my burning questions about PPC consulting, and how they manage client engagements.  Enjoy!

Can you tell us a little about your marketing background? How long have you been focused on PPC consulting?

I’ve been in the industry since 2001. In my career, I’ve done SEO, online media buying, online PR, PPC advertising, copywriting, conversion optimization, analytics (implementation & data analysis) & website usability. For the last 8 years, I’ve focused exclusively on PPC, conversion optimization and analytics (implementation & analysis).

In my career, I’ve worked with companies like Capital One, Cathay Pacific, Yahoo!, Careerbuilder, Knowledge Adventure Inc., Apollo Health Inc. (acquired by Phillips Inc.) & Epoch Integration Inc. (acquired by Research In Motion) to name a few.

I have spoken at over 100 North American and international marketing conferences. I’ve written two books on online marketing and I write a column for SearchEngineLand.com. I will likely start writing another book related to online marketing in the next few months.

Do you typically work directly with client advertisers, or do you find that clients want you to work with their ad/media agencies?

We work with both clients and client agencies. When working with agencies, the best scenario is when we have directly access to the client. It’s important for us to get answers quickly and to proactive and efficient with marketing initiatives. With PPC advertising, things can change quickly and it’s beneficial to be able to react in a timely manner.

In your mind, who is the “ideal” client (or how would you describe the ‘ideal’ client) for search consultants with less than, say, 5 staff?

I’ve outlined a few questions I ask myself when I’m considering a new client:

  • Are clients willing to listen to ideas?
  • Do they have internal resources to implement suggestions?
  • Are there internal company barriers like poor reporting?
  • Are key contacts easy to get along with?
  • Are clients forthcoming with internal communications and information?
  • Do clients have clear PPC goals like CPA targets or volume targets?

We ask ourselves as an agency:

  • Can we make a difference for the client in their specific industry?
  • Is the client’s budget appropriate for their industry category? For example, we could run into problems if competitors spend $40,000 per month in PPC advertising, and the client only has a $10,000 per month budget.
  • Is it an account we’re really passionate about?

One of the laments I hear from PPC consultants sometimes is that they go in, build out and optimize the client’s account, then it starts running well and all of a sudden they don’t understand why they should keep you on. Any thoughts on how PPC consultants can ensure they don’t “work themselves out of a contract” through success?

There are initiatives I implement for new accounts (or accounts where PPC fundamentals have not been covered) and mature PPC accounts. Some of the new account initiatives include keyword research, choosing appropriate tracking metrics (preferably tied to ROI), match type testing, geotargeting strategies, ad copy creation and testing, PPC landing pages creation and testing, etc.

Some mature account initiatives include additional keyword research related to converting terms/areas in PPC accounts, day parting strategies (i.e. time of day and day of week), multivariate testing and additional conversion optimization efforts. In terms of conversion optimization, we’d say try to increase conversions rates from 8% to 10%. As you know, optimization is a continual process. In general, advertisers should see conversion rate increases if they’re analyzing appropriate data and are focusing on optimizing the right areas in an account.

If a PPC pro lands a new client account, what would be the best way to price his or her services?  Is a setup fee standard followed by percentage of spend? Or are flat monthly fees more desirable?

We use a monthly flat fee and/or a pay for performance model. In my experience, clients don’t tend to like the percentage of ad spend model because agency goals (i.e. higher ad spend) and client goals like better CPAs, additional sales, additional leads, etc. are not aligned.

When you start with a new client, and their account is breaking even but not performing particularly well, do you typically gut it and start over?  Or use a lighter touch and rework things separately, gradually cutting over to new campaigns?

It depends. If Quality Scores are terrible in an account, we may decide to start from scratch. If they aren’t so bad, we may opt to rework existing campaigns.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen PPC consultants make?

I’ve seen many of them. Some of them include:

  • Not understanding match types and, in particular, the implications of broad match.
  • Not understanding that default settings in Google are set to Google’s advantage. A couple of examples are: 1) default opt-in to mobile advertising and 2) default opt in to the content (display network).
  • Not understanding that advertisers have to dig deep into Google AdWords accounts for beneficial Google features like negative match types, ad rotation features, geographic targeting, etc.
  • Buying into PPC myths. Check out some common myths in my last Search Engine Land article.

Do you specify a minimum term engagement with your clients? What would you recommend in this regard for smaller search consultancies?

I like to go with a 6-month term so I can test & implement various PPC initiatives (like many tactics mentioned in question #4) and assess the overall impact of PPC marketing campaigns. This makes more sense when clients have long sales cycles or when accounts have less volume as it takes time to achieve statistical significance.

 

 

 

Finding Your PPC Niche

No Comments » Written on February 10th, 2011 by
Categories: Business

Many people use PPC to promote existing businesses.

However, PPC is also well suited to the process of deciding on what business you should start. You can pick a lucrative niche using PPC data and a little self-inquiry.

If you start an internet business using the following method, you will avoid two of the biggest pitfalls common to many business start-ups – selling something no-one wants, or selling something everyone wants, but the market is already saturated.

Let’s look, specifically, how to do choose an internet business, and how to avoid these pitfalls.

1. What Are You Passionate About?

A friend of mine studied to be a lawyer.

He was well into his third year of study, when he woke up one day, and something was bothering him. Deep down, he realized that he didn’t really want to be a lawyer. He knew studying law would lead to a well-paid career, but the reality was that the work bored him.

What he really liked to do was create things.

He dropped out of law school, reasoning that if his heart wasn’t in it, he was only every going to be a mediocre lawyer. He would go through the motions, and would be unlikely to stand out from the crowd.

Instead, he followed his passion. He became a graphic designer.

What are you really passionate about? Forget the money for a minute – pretend all jobs are paid the same. What would you really like to do?

Problem: some people stop their analysis here.

Many people follow their passion, and fail to make a living. Passion is important, as it will get you through the tough times, but the reality is that it is not enough just to follow your passion if your aim is to make money doing what you love.

You need to take two more steps.

2. Is There Demand For What You’re Passionate About?

You can find out if there is existing demand using various keyword tools – Google’s Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, SEOBook, etc. More on keyword research here.

Look for areas where there are good levels of search volume. What is a good level? It depends. We’ll talk more about this in step three, however look for existing traffic streams at least in the hundreds, and preferably thousands and tens of thousands. Avoid areas where there is very little consumer demand as indicated by low traffic levels as this may be an indicator of low demand.

3. Can What You’re Passionate About Make You Money?

This is the critical bit.

You have identified your passion. You have identified existing demand. But many people still fail at this point. They fail because they don’t consider the likelihood of turning passion and demand into money.

For example, let’s say someone has identified their passion – web design – and they have found there is considerable keyword demand in the hundreds of thousands.

Trouble is, there are also hundreds of thousands of web designers all chasing the same work. The question then becomes “can I differentiate myself in order to stand out?”. This is the hardest question to answer. Whatever niche you choose, you are going to face competition.

Some people may choose to compete on price. Some people may choose to offer higher skill or service levels. All good, however consider that your existing competitors have probably already thought of those angles.

Carve Your Own Niche

Another way to approach competition is to carve the niche even finer.

Let’s say someone is a web designer. They may choose to focus exclusively on travel web design, as they have a passion for travel, too. They have worked in the travel industry and can leverage existing contacts.

Think about your background and how you can combine your passion with who and what you already know in order to come up with a unique advantage.

As mentioned in stage two, you need to be careful with the search volume numbers. Ensure you have enough volume in your niche. If your margins are high, you don’t need high volumes. If your margins are low, you’ll need to be putting considerable volume through in order to make a living.

Tip – if you’re a one-man band, it can pay to stay away from high volume, low margin businesses, as you need scale to make these work. If you’ve got a plan to scale-up, great, but if not, try to find areas where there are high profit margins.

For example, someone selling expensive, custom-made pianos may be able to make good money on a low volume of searches, whereas someone selling cheap art prints may not, even though there are many more searches for art prints than there are for expensive pianos. The market for cheap art prints is crowded, and if differentiating on price alone, the highest volume operators will win, as they can buy their stock cheaper from the manufacturers than a new entrant can.

There is no magic formula for this, other than applying some common sense. Figure out what the clicks would cost you, estimate a conversion rate (likely somewhere between 3-10%), determine the profit margin you need in order to cover your overheads and make a profit, and consider how many X you can deliver. X being a product or number of hours of a service.

Pulling It All Together

  • 1. Find your passion
  • 2. Determine if there is existing search volume for what you’re passionate about
  • 3. Determine if this passion is able to be monetarised. Evaluate competition levels. If high, try to cut the niche finer in order to arrive at a unique selling point in order to reduce competition. Estimate possible returns for that niche.

Did Google Just OK Adwords Arbitrage Again?

I feel like I’m in some kind of dream.

I don’t know how I missed it, but this was posted on the Google Adwords blog just last week:

Using Google Adsense to Complement Your Adwords Account

The post asks how, “since not every visit leads to a sale, wouldn’t it be great to have other ways of making money from those visits?”

Their suggested answer to this conundrum? Put Adsense on your site.

What?

The post continues:

“DesignerApparel.com is an AdWords and AdSense client that has had great success using these two products together. DesignerApparel.com offers premium designer clothes at affordable prices. They implemented AdSense for Content and AdSense for Search and specifically targeted certain pages within their site.”

The “CEO”/Webmaster guy then says, (get this):

“We have come to think of AdSense revenue as a partial but instant rebate on our AdWords investment,” said Dominic Ang, President of MyPerfectSale.com, the owner of DesignerApparel.com. “While we were initially concerned about potential cannibalization, we have found out that using certain spots for AdSense such as the end of a page or in exit pages can drive significant additional revenue with no loss in our core e-commerce revenue.”

You view it as what? “A rebate on your Adwords” clicks?”

But wait – It gets even better…  What kind of site is “DesignerApparel.com”?

It’s a…wait for it….thin affiliate feed site. At least “DecorMyEyes.com” actually sold the products they promoted…

Go to this page on DesignerApparel.com and check out what happens when you click on a product in their “store”.

The entire site is an affiliate ‘doorway’ page to other shops.  A year ago you would have been banished for life from Adwords for promoting a site like this via Google Ads.

Now, not only can you run ads to a door way like this, you can even run Adsense on it and arbitrage your “rebate” on Adwords clicks – And Google is SUGGESTING THAT YOU GO OUT AND DO IT!

In fairness, it doesn’t say they run Adsense ads on their individual Adwords landing pages however it doesn’t say they don’t. Again, I feel like I’m dreaming.  After several years of painfully culling the accounts of arbitragers, affiliates, and price/review aggregators, we have this?  Really?

Maybe now that Google has an affiliate network and their own in-house thin affiliate feed sites (shamelessly ripping off ShoeDazzle’s innovative style configurator), they’re ready to ease up a bit on their guidelines.

It looks like it’s ‘game-on’ again for arbitrage, they just blessed it.

10 Killer Adwords Strategies for Startups

Acquisitions aside, a big part of the reason Groupon is growing as fast as it is is because of their massive Adwords push, particularly on the Google display network.

Skillfully executed Adwords display and search campaigns can help your startup:

  • Maximize launch buzz and get people coming back to their new beta accounts
  • Help tweak and test new feature ideas
  • Tip you off when you need to pivot
  • Grab investors’ attention

Here are ten quick tips in three main areas detailing how startups can use PPC to boost their success rate pre-launch, during launch, and post-launch:

- Pre-Launch -

Capturing Investor Attention

Looking to catch some eyeballs on Sand Hill Road? Carpet-bomb your display ads across specific parts of the Silicon Valley (or anywhere you like really) using tight campaign geo-targeting.

Build custom banners specifically designed to speak directly to VCs as they browse their favourite blogs, many of which participate in the Adsense (or Doubleclick) content network.

Sites will often backfill inventory at pennies on the dollar via various ad exchanges like Doubleclick’s, giving you the chance to slip sideways into premium placements as other monthly direct-buy ad campaigns reach their caps. (See the below ideas on retargeting to make sure your ads ‘follow’ your potential investors.)

Testing New Feature Ideas

Wondering if adding a new feature to your product or service will really make a difference to sales? Try running Adwords traffic to a split test pitting your typical landing page against a variant that highlights the potential new feature. Next, measure the difference in Call-to-Action clicks: Did it move the needle? If not, the new feature might not have the draw you’re hoping for.

Naming Your Product

Tim Ferriss has been a huge proponent of testing everything from potential book titles to business and product names using Adwords. I completely concur.

Try creating multiple ads with different product names you’re considering and compare the various ad click-through-rates (and/or beta registration rates) to vet the catchiness of your company, product or feature names.

You can use the Adwords ad text display URL field to mix up the naming variables (eg, %idea%.companyname.com, or companyname.com/%idea%), or better yet, test using the ad headline to grab the results more quickly.

Crafting Your Pitch

Searching for the perfect brand or product tagline? Trying to accurately align your messaging with the most common customer pain points? Ad split testing and CTR evaluation can help you find the most attractive taglines.

Additionally, bidding on specific sets of keywords that reflect different ‘types’ of customer pain points and evaluating the click through interest and traffic for each keyword theme can help you quickly determine what pain points are worth hammering on in your marketing and messaging.

Be aware however that you might find that the types of customers you thought your service would appeal to don’t really have much interest in your pitch or your beta. It pays to listen to the market. If the interest doesn’t seem to be there, retest and see if you end up with the same results. If so, it may be time to consider a pivot.

Beta & Pre-launch Email List Building

Groupon used the Adwords display network in launch city after launch city to drum up a huge email list before they even had offers in those markets. How much would it rock to have a massive list of beta testers and potential launch customers ready waiting the minute you’re ready to drop?

- During Launch -

Combine Launch Buzz with Site Targeting to Generate Expanded Visibility

Adwords is also a great way to extend the your awareness and reach during your launch. Often, sites that would editorially cover your launch announcements also running some form of Google/Doubleclick-powered display ads on their sites.

Look up your PR-hitlist of sites ahead of time using the Google placement targeting tool and create placement-targeted display ad campaigns you can use to blanket these top sites with your ads right at launch time.

Additionally, create a keyword-targeted version (using your brand keywords) of your campaigns to reach sites you hadn’t thought would cover that ended up picking up your launch.

Stalking Hesitant Visitors

Use Adwords Retargeting feature (also called “remarketing”) to cookie users who check out your site at launch time but don’t sign up. Your display ads will follow them around the Adsense and Doubleclick banner network for weeks afterward, giving you a chance to change up your banners until you find something that finally convinces them to buy or sign up.

Pissing Off Your Competitors

Want to put your competitors on notice? Use Adwords to bid on their brand name and URL using a clever or striking ad that diverts their potential visitors’ attention your way.

As an added bonus, your competitors are likely to check out your site when you launch, so using retargeting you can cookie them and follow them around the internet as well, taunting them daily:)

- Post-Launch & Beyond -

Price Testing & Funnel Optimization

Use Adwords to send specific traffic streams to new checkout flows, different registration path tests and more. Adwords search traffic comes in through a pretty silo’d channel so you can try new things without rocking the boat with existing customers (especially helpful when price testing or including new bonus concepts etc…)

Regaining Post-Signup Mindshare

Often, getting free trial signups for your new service isn’t the hard part, it’s getting people to come back and actually use their new accounts, hopefully leading to a paid conversion. Cookie your new users via Adwords retargeting and create banners designed to lure them back to log into their accounts and actually use your service.

Final Note: Build Adwords Spend Into Your Funding Plan

All of this is wonderful if you’ve got the resources to be able to pay Google for traffic. A lot of startups recognize that SEO is an important part of their user acquisition strategy, but how many bake Pay Per Click into their plan right from the start?

How does it work in practice?  “Adwords was always part of our marketing plan from the beginning.  Bidding on tail terms worked extremely well for us in addition to using retargeting banners.  I can’t understate the importance of factoring in PPC to your launch.” – Jason Morehouse, founder of Checkfront Inc., a fast-growing online booking system.

If you’re raising funding, make sure allocate some budget for Adwords to make sure you can leverage all of these handy tactics to improve your product, snag early users, and pitch additional potential investors. SEO can seemingly take forever to move the traffic needle when you’re desperate to get traction with your launch. Adwords gives you traction right away, on-tap when you need it. Plan and budget for it, and you’ll be able to use PPC to seriously disrupt your market.

A Timely Reminder: Adwords Passwords & Security

3 Comments Written on December 13th, 2010 by
Categories: Business, Google Adwords, The World Around Me

Over the weekend Gawker Media’s site network including lifehacker, Jezebel, Gawker, Gizmodo and others was hacked, their entire site database packaged up, downloaded, and posted as a Torrent on the The Pirate Bay website.  Included in that site db were over 1.3m commentator usernames, emails and passwords…in plain text.

By far, the vast majority of the email addresses in the db were @gmail.com addresses, closely followed by @yahoo and @hotmail variations.

Wouldn’t you know it, a lot of people, and I mean A LOT of people, use the same password for nearly everything, from commenting on Gawker blogs to their Gmail accounts and beyond.  The instant this hit the web, hackers and curious programmers were writing scripts to try the hacked passwords in combination with the email addresses to gain access to users’ email and Twitter accounts and the like.  Many of them were successful, and gmail accounts were accessed.

This immediately made me think of Google Accounts, and the close tie-in between Google services like Adwords and more benign services like email.  Twitter fell face-first into a massive internal document leak when a hacker used social engineering methods to reset Twitter staff user gmail passwords, locking the staff users out of their own Google Accounts and giving the hacker access to all of Twitter’s internal documents (including strategy and HR documents) that were created using Google Docs.  (PS-If you were Twitter and Google was your competition, would you be using Google Docs?  Question for another time I guess…)

If you haven’t had a chance to read the background of how using Google Docs lead to Twitter’s hack, I highly recommend you read this backgrounder and see if you can spot any familiar points in your organization.

The same thing could happen to your Adwords account, particularly when there are a number of users with Admin-level access.

A friend of mine had his Adwords account compromised this way in 2007, with the hacker running up $160,000 in clicks in two days by bidding on “Pepsi” with a bunk ad, bidding $100 CPC.  Google was able to refund them, but the account had to be shut down completely for security reasons by Google, and he lost over four years of account history and had to start from scratch with a net-new Adwords account.

This whole Gawker fiasco is a good reminder that it’s essential to a) not use the same password over and over again on PPC platforms in particular, and b) rotate your passwords with complex variations that are less likely to be cracked using brute-force attempts.  Using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols all rolled up in the same password is the best way to prevent someone from cracking it using automated brute-force tools.  If you have a hard time remembering complex passwords, consider using 1Password (Mac & Windows) or a similar app to help via autofill.

Because Gmail is tied to nearly every Google Accounts service, the same complex password strategy should apply to your Adwords-connected Gmail or Google Apps accounts, both for yourself and anyone else who has been granted administrative access to your Adwords account.

When you consider the damage that someone could do to your credit card or agency account by running up fraudulent click charges or worse, direct-linking fake ads to sketchy, blacklisted or malware sites, it’s well worth the effort to take the time to update your Google password regimen right away.  The same goes for Facebook Ads, Adcenter or any other key platform that’s linked to your credit card.

Better safe than sorry…

The Effect of Brand Building on Search Traffic

4 Comments Written on December 7th, 2010 by
Categories: Behavioral Advertising, Business, Marketing

Every time a site gets nuked out of Google Adwords or ends up penalized in the organic SERPs killing the business entirely, there’s the inevitable side comments that “you shouldn’t base your entire business on Google”.  That’s usually followed by advice to “build a brand” that so many users will search for that Google can’t ignore your site.  The only problem with that bit of advice is no one ever says exactly how you’re supposed to do that, aside from just “building a really word-of-mouth-worthy” product.

That’s a nice thing to say, but it’s not the only way.  I’ve always thought that products marketed through TV infomercials were a great example of building up brand awareness completely out of the blue, and then seeing your brand-building directly reflected in Google keyword search.

Of course, doing late-night infomercials is not the only way to build brand awareness, there’s plenty of guerilla techniques for grabbing attention. That said, when you look at examples of brand search traffic that popped up absolutely out of nowhere, the power of generating your own buzz and traffic is impressive.

Here are examples of some of the top infomercial products from the past few years and the effect that their brand and product TV ads had on their brand keyword search traffic.  It’s noteworthy that all of these advertisers coupled their TV ad campaigns with corresponding PPC campaigns to ensure they captured the brand clicks generated by their TV ads:

Shake Weight

The Ab Circle Pro

P90x

Magic Jack

Slap Chop

Shamwow!


*Side Note: I think we’re going to hire Vince here to be our PPCblog spokesman:)

Snuggie

*Side note: “Slanket” came out roughly at the same time as the Snuggie with an identical product, but didn’t advertise anywhere near as aggressively as Snuggie, and ended up losing the corresponding brand search traffic boost as well:

The Bumpit

The Perfect Pushup

Cash for Gold

The Biggest Brand Search Winner? P90x

Which infomercial product generated the most brand traffic out of all of these entrants?  P90x. By a huge margin.  (Google trends only allows you to compare up to five brands at once, but these five represent the largest of the above total list of 10):

Concluding Thoughts

Google TV Ads have made even primetime ad slots available to advertisers with budgets as low as $500.  Professional ad spots can be developed by production companies in Google’s database for under $1000 for basic product ads.  This is in addition to Spotrunner and other remnant TV and radio marketplaces that allow you to buy old-media placement for pennies on the dollar.  This kind of offline-to-online branding exercise (even if sales aren’t directly driven by the TV ads) has never been within reach to as many advertisers as it is now.

“Yeah, but a number of those product advertisers had celebrity endorsements to drive traffic to the brand”.  That may be true (RIP Ed McMahon) but even celebrity endorsements can be licensed for under $2000 a month from innovative new companies like Brand Affinity Technologies aka. “Rent-a-Celebrity-Endorsement”.

In short, don’t overlook the offline-to-online correlation, tie your PPC campaigns into larger-scope ad or brand campaigns, and take advantage of some of the revolutionary shifts in traditional media buying that make all of this possible for a fraction of the cost of yesteryear!

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.

Subscription:

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!”.

How To Pitch PPC Services

4 Comments Written on October 10th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

If you sell your PPC services to others, or you’re planning to do so, you need to consider how you position your services in relation to other suppliers.

In a crowded market, it’s difficult to stand out, and even more so when you’re just starting out, as you can’t leverage an existing reputation.

You’ll give yourself a great headstart if you focus on the clients needs, so here’s a guide to positioning and proposal writing for the PPC market.

1. Pretend You’re The Client

It’s a cliche, but understanding the customer is critical.

Surprisingly, many web service suppliers make the mistake of thinking in terms of what suits them.

For example, a web designer may reason “I like designing, it’s very satisfying to craft websites, therefore I’ll be a web designer. People will pay for my design skills”. This is fine, but note that in this example, there is no focus on the web design customer.

Now think about what you would want from a web designer.

You may want a good job at a good price (quality and budget consideration), you want the designer to clearly identify and understand your requirements (needs consideration), you want the design completed in a specific time frame (time consideration), and you want your customers to respond well to the design (risk consideration). Whether the web designer enjoys crafting web sites is pretty much irrelevant.

Obviously, the same goes for any other service, including PPC.  So what does a typical customer want from PPC?

Here’s a common profile of PPC customers. Keep in mind that service provision is about solving problems:

  • They most likely have a traffic problem. They are short of traffic.
  • They see their competitors using PPC channels, so they feel at a competitive disadvantage.
  • They are probably short of time and/or resources, otherwise they would do it themselves, or hand the task to a suitable skilled person in house.
  • They are under pressure to show an improvement in their traffic numbers, and/or an improvement in the bottom line.
  • They may have experience of other marketing channels, and they are wondering if this channel is right for them.
  • If they are a company of any size, they will be risk adverse, especially when dealing with new suppliers, and or suppliers who are one-man operations.
  • If they are a small business, they are likely looking for someone who will work closely with them, on a personal level.
  • They want to see the campaign is working.
  • They don’t want to get locked into a contract that will come back to bite them, or embarrass them

Keeping the client profile in mind can help you position yourself, and create proposals that will land you work. You’ll certainly be ahead of the supplier who is doing PPC “because they’ve run a few ad campaigns and seen all Matt Cutts videos, and have mad skillz” :)

2. Design Backwards From The Clients Needs

In the typical PPC client profile I’ve outlined above, we can design web site copy, a pitch and proposal by “designing backwards” i.e. we start with the clients needs and objections, and address them.

Here are aspects the resulting pitch might contain:

  • We flood a web site with qualified traffic – starting today!
  • We track your competitors every move, and win using out proven, specialized bidding systems and competitive monitoring
  • We take care of all the hard work for you, and our specialists are certified in PPC management
  • We work with you and will custom design a campaign to deliver on your specific performance objectives
  • We’ll show you how PPC outperforms all other marketing channels
  • We’re focused on your individual needs, and we’re always only a phone/call or email away
  • Our clear, online reporting places all the figures under your finger-tips, 24/7. You’re always in control

Each phrase addresses a problem outlined in the client profile. Hyperbole aside, you can see how this approach is preferable to the mistake suppliers often make, which is talk from their own perspective.

3. Tone: The Personal Touch

The tone of a pitch is also important.

We live in a time where the faceless corporation is a dying breed. I’m not sure anyone, regardless of the size of the company they work for, wants to deal with “a company”. People want to deal with people.

This is especially important on the web, as direct personal contact may is likely to be minimal. Seek every opportunity to personalise communications and your pitch. Use photos and profiles, so people know who they are dealing with. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, or share details of what you had for lunch, but don’t hide behind the company.

Be open and approachable.

Good luck with your pitch! :)

Related Resources:

An Interesting Approach to the Advertorial Squeeze

This was discussed a couple of months ago in our PPCBlog private members forum, (membership tour available here), but we thought our blog readers, especially those doing lead generation and/or information marketing, might find it interesting.

Disclaimer: Normally we wouldn’t identify the specific advertiser using a particular technique, however in this case the company no longer appears to be advertising actively and the site has not been updated since March of this year and its community appears to be abandoned at this point.

The Content Ad Blend

A while back on Yahoo Answers I came across this ad, heavily meshed with the surrounding text-heavy content and served up by Yahoo’s display ad platform (so no, I’m not sure if this lander would make it through Adwords:)

“Advertorial”-style square display ads that look highly similar to the fonts, colors, and imagery of the site you’re targeting can net slightly above-average CTRs in some cases.  One easy way to do this is find a placement you want to target your ads to, and replicate the look and feel as much as Google’s display ad reviewers will allow.  You may have a tough time replicating site buttons, but colors, fonts and general image look-and-feel usually gets approved.

First off:  This ad has a fantastic headline, and the copy (though it has its flaws) is compelling enough to pique your curiosity:

I’m not an expert on the use of publicly-licensed celebrity images, but this one got through.  Any legal eagles who might be able to clarify feel free to leave a comment:)

On ad click, you’re taken to a straight-up email squeeze page, notice the one-liner to “Put your credit card away…”  (nice touch).

(Click Image to Enlarge)

*Note re. Adwords:  Depending on the brand strength you have, you may or may not be able to get away with squeezing visitors this hard into an email submit as Google likes to call this “info harvesting”.  That said, I’ve seen brands get away with it…

After you enter your email, here’s where you’re taken:

(Click Image to Enlarge)

On the thank you page here, it’s interesting to see how they’ve done the ‘membership login’ info…pre-populating the login data so it’s just sooooo easy to go to the next step….

Here’s the “Member’s area:

Great, But Does it Convert?

No one knows for sure how this pipeline ultimately converts, and given that the site now seems to be abandoned perhaps it was a dud, although that could be due to factors other than the conversion funnel.

They’re also not capturing the credit card in the ‘free trial’ stage, but it could be that the raw number of people coming into the funnel is large enough to offset the ‘forgetful trial subscriber’ optimization.

When we were discussing this approach in the forums, Aaron brought up a good point as to the credit-card-collection-on-trial approach:

I wonder if on the inside if they had some sort of “bonus” which cost $1 and got the credit card data maybe that would help convert a lot more people, while still allowing for the huge numbers of free people upfront to sign up free?

It’s an interesting question.  Simply because you didn’t get the credit card on the initial lead form doesn’t mean however that you couldn’t get it shortly afterward while they’re farther into the signup process…

Love it or hate it, the trend towards blurring content text and display ads with editorial will continue, and it’s interesting to see how some advertisers have started to take advantage of the opportunity.