The True Cost Per Conversion of Additional Conversions

12 Comments Written on June 26th, 2013 by
Categories: Analytics, Conversion

PPC managers have different targets for their clients. One of the most common targets is to manage the campaigns based on an average maximum cost per conversion (CPA).

What many clients –and PPC managers- don’t know or don’t realize is what the true cost of the extra conversions is. Even if the average CPA is below the maximum allowed CPA, the last conversions might be too expensive and maybe even leading to a loss for the client.


Lets have a look at an example.

Example – the calculator shop

Assume you are managing the account of an e-commerce store that sells calculators. They sell for $25. The profit on a sale is $15, with just the ad spend to subtract from the profit.

You are currently managing the campaign and you get 100 conversions for a total cost of $1,000. This leads to a CPA of $10. The profit for the client is $500.

The client however told you the CPA could be $11 if he gets more conversions as the $11 is still well within his profit margin of $15. As a good PPC manager you started pushing the best keywords and magically knew to push 20% extra conversions until you reached an average CPA of $11. So you now have 120 conversions for a total cost of $1,320.

You are happy, the client is happy and you live long and happily ever after. But should the client be that happy?

If we have a closer look at the details of the additional conversions:

  • 20 extra conversions
  • $320 extra budget

This leads to a CPA of $16 of the additional conversion! He actually lost money on the additional conversions. The profit is now $480.


A visual representation of the CPA’s and profit margin

So are those additional conversions bad?

Not per definition as it depends on the goal of the client and other factors that we sometimes don’t know as PPC manager (profit margins, life time value of a client, branding value, increase of the market share etc). It’s important that both you and the client are aware of the price of the additional conversions.

About the author
Rick Vugts is the co-founder of Visible Online Marketing. Intrigued by both the psychological and marketing and the statistical side of PPC marketing.

Disclosure Doesn’t Have to Kill Conversions

2 Comments Written on May 18th, 2011 by
Categories: Conversion, Google Adwords

Starting yesterday, Google is requiring additional clarity and disclosure from Adwords advertisers who handle end user personal and payment information.  Some of the changes are dead-obvious like using SSL on credit card processing, but the others point to something you might want to consider in a bigger context.

The Larger Picture: Google’s Under Siege

The first thing to realize is that as much as the US FTC is applying pressure to affiliate marketers and the like they’re also putting Google through the wringer.  Add to that the US Department of Justice and various European authorities.  Late last week it came to light that Google has set aside $500 million to cover settlement costs with the US government over the use of Adwords undisclosed “rogue advertisers”, who are suspected to be unlicensed pharmacies, but perhaps other advertisers in other niches as well.

The salient point from the linked Wall Street Journal report above is this:

Search engines can be liable if they are found to be profiting from illegal activity. In December 2007, the three largest Internet companies, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. agreed to pay a combined $31.5 million fine to settle civil allegations brought by the Justice Department that they had accepted ads from illegal gambling sites.

Obviously Google is going to be working overtime right now to legally distance themselves from allowing Adwords to be used with anything “illegal”, which observers might think only applies to things like gambling and rogue prescription drugs, but that’s an overly narrow view.

Violations by Adwords advertisers of FTC or global regulatory body policies and directives could also fall into the liability sphere for Google, not just in the US, but in other countries as well as you can easily see by looking at the ever evolving country-specific changes to Adwords TOS.

Discerning the Writing on the Wall

When you look at the heat turning on Google from all regulatory angles it becomes clear that they’re going to start erring on the side of caution, pushing all Adwords advertisers to be more transparent with their Adwords-promoted offers, ads, and policies.

There’s a certain point in many large companies when the lawyers start driving the bus, dictating to the rest of the company how they’re going to roll when it comes to, in particular, how they go to market.  Microsoft is notorious for having to run any and all marketing communications through ‘legal’ before they put anything live.  It’s not hard to understand why given the decade of lawsuits they’ve pushed through, lawsuits and arguments Google is now facing.

Given their past tolerance, it’s unlikely that Google suddenly has a deep, altruistic interest in the handling of their users’ personal information, what people are buying via Adwords, or what customer expectations are.  A large part of their policy decision making in the past has admittedly been driven by customer complaints rather than a proactive effort to police their advertisers.  At the core, Google likes to let the market decide via click through and conversion data what should ads should run or die on the vine.  That’s how they run their entire ‘data-driven’ business.

Eventually though, and often due to affiliate marketers pushing things to the breaking point, Google is forced either by complaints, bad press or legal issues to jerk advertisers’ chains and bring things to a more transparent state.  But like anything in life, reactionary tactics often lead to over-reaction, and in the case of “disclosure” and “transparency”, that means can mean some very “non-conversion friendly” landing page adjustments.

Some advertisers think that the developing requirements are exclusively for ‘bad actors’ in the Adwords system and won’t merit adjustments on their part.  This has been historically shown to be erroneous thinking.

Don’t think for a second that any one advertiser spends enough on Google for Google to not ‘throw them under the bus’ if the  lawyers say things are posing an clear and present business danger to the Adwords collective.  Even the Apollo Group (i.e. one of Google’s largest advertisers, commonly known as “University of Phoenix”) would find themselves staring at the underside of a Greyhound if Google’s lawyers decided it was time to toss them.  No cow is too sacred.

Disclosure Doesn’t Necessarily Kill Conversions

So will adding Google/FTC-mandated background and TOS to your landing pages utterly destroy conversions?  Not necessarily.  Direct response marketers have been navigating these requirements for many years, before the Internet was even conceived.  How do they do it?

Take for example this excellent post on compliant direct marketing.  The key component in the strategies they’re recommending is effort.  Effort and some up front investment that will prove you’re serious.

Here’s another Pro Tip:  People just don’t like to read.  Anything.  Place a fully proportionate disclosure paragraph text directly next to your large, colourful call-to-action button and see how it affects clicks on that big, bright button.  In test after test that I’ve seen it doesn’t affect click through that much at all.  Why not?

Installing Clicktale on your lander will show you that users often scan the page quickly, scroll up and down a bit, and then click the big button.  Either that or they bail completely.  The odd person will stop to read, but if you’re a half-decent copywriter, your copy should be compelling enough to spur a click on the call to action button without the user simply zeroing in on the disclaimer or disclosure text alone.  In fact, such text has been known to increase the overall trust level of the page.

Extreme Examples of Disclosure Requirements Can Prove the Point

Here’s a couple examples where disclosure has been mandated by Government to an extreme degree…

Payday loans:  Individual governments have placed some fairly hefty disclosure requirements on short-term credit lenders for some time now.

Take for example the province of Alberta in Canada.  When a user selects their Canadian province here on the online application form requesting a payday loan, here’s what they see pop up in front of them:

How’d you like to deal with being legally required to pop something this clear up in front of your customers, blanking out their entire browser window?  And yet this company can still afford to compete in one of the most competitive local PPC verticals…Looks like they’re surviving just fine.

Another example: Big Pharma ads:

We’ve all sat through TV commercials for prescription drugs with 10 seconds of info about the drug’s benefits immediately followed by 20 seconds or more of FDA-mandated disclaimer and side effect information?  How awesome would it be to have to market your product in an environment where you’re required to fully disclose the most outside side effect possibility, even if that includes bleeding from the ears?

That’s not to say the disclosure requirements on Big Pharma are excessive at all, it just stands out as an example of the disclosure and disclaimer environment some marketers have to work in.  I’m sure they grieve that fact while crying themselves to sleep on a money mattress… Anyway…

Disclosure statements get even more conspicuous for Pharma when they do print ads:

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that Google is going to continue to be under pressure to make sure they reduce their legal exposure to advertiser behaviour and marketing through the Adwords system, and the sooner you get it all out on the table and start testing what will and won’t affect conversions and lifetime customer value the better.  If not, you’re going to wake up one day with Google telling you you can’t advertise with them anymore, or at the very least, what and how you’ll be disclosing material background to you customers.  Better to do the groundwork and testing now.

How to Boost Lifetime Customer Value

4 Comments Written on April 27th, 2011 by
Categories: Conversion, Marketing

As PPC gets more and more expensive in valuable markets, you may be looking at your niche and keywords and wondering “how on earth can they afford to bid this much???”.

The answer is usually one of these three reasons:

  1. They’re idiots and aren’t paying attention to their campaigns or keyword profitability
  2. They’re getting lower wholesale prices than you and have more margin to work with
  3. They’re not bidding based on a one-time sale (or lead) profit basis

Translation on #3:  They’ve figured out how to extract a higher Lifetime Customer Value from each PPC visitor or conversion than you have.

The first two are certainly possible, but, in the case of #1, that can’t continue forever before someone asks what the heck is going on, and with #2, this is happening less and less as competition drives inefficiency from any and all supply chains.

In my experience, the most common reason you’re getting schooled in high-priced PPC auctions is because your competitor is measurably better at making money “on the back end” than you are.

What is “Lifetime Customer Value”?

Simply put:  Lifetime Customer Value is the statistically valid amount of net profit each visitor or customer is worth to you in totality.  That “totality” could be 24 hours if you stink at building ‘after the conversion’ revenues, or it could be many, many years if you’ve built an enduring relationship with your customers.

Geordie Learns an Expensive Lesson

Here’s how I was first introduced to the concept of Lifetime Customer Value:

In my past life I sold OEM licenses of security software (antivirus, antispyware apps etc).  I wanted to get the biggest PC manufacturer at the time to pre-install a 30-day trial icon for our security software on their PC’s as they leave the factory (also fondly referred to by PC buyers as “the crap that came preloaded on my computer”).

I was willing to give the PC manufacturer a huge percentage of any sales that came through from these pre-installs (or a ‘revshare’ agreement).

The OEM guy at the PC manufacturer’s HQ that does these deals just would not return my calls or emails.  I was young and fearless at the time, so I just kept dialing, day after day.  Finally, one day he actually picked up the phone.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Geordie:  “Hey Guy at Big PC Vendor, it’s Geordie Carswell calling, any chance you’ve had a chance to consider our proposal on pre-installs?”

Guy at Vendor:  Dude, listen:  Symantec gives us $250 per PC to install their Norton 30-day trial icon.  Can you afford to top that?

Geordie: “Um, what now?”

Guy at PC Vendor:  “You heard me, $250.  They know their average customer will renew their software annually for AT LEAST six consecutive years.”

(Doing the math that worked out to a Lifetime Customer Value of about $414.00.  $250 bounty per install was well worth it.)

Geordie:  “Thanks for your time and leveling with me, I’m going to go quit my job now. Cheers.”

It was a powerful lesson that I was thinking too linearly, I was trying to give him a high percentage of $40.  Symantec however had the data on renewal stats, the upsell and upgrade process down pat, and way more capital to invest in future business than we did.  Over time, we retooled our business model to incorporate new ways of increasing Lifetime Customer Value, but never could come close to touching Norton.

Simple Ways to Boost Lifetime Customer Value – Start with the “Thank You”

The quickest path to increasing Lifetime Customer Value is to use your confirmation or “Thank You” page for more than just thanking the customer and delivering confirmation messaging.

Your Thank You page gives you the best shot at reaching your best sales prospects:  They’ve already proven they’re willing to give you money or personal contact information, you have their rapt attention as they watch to make sure nothing went haywire with their transaction, and hopefully they have a ‘trustiness’ feeling for you in their tummies. So don’t waste this chance: Sell them something else!

One quick win is to conspicuously place an upsell offer on your Thank You page that (hopefully) allows the customer to order it without having to re-enter their payment information.  (Program your payment gateway to hold off on ‘capturing’ the transaction until they’ve decided if they want the additional item(s)).  It’s amazing how few merchants actually do this:  they’re great a ‘suggesting’ additional products prior to checkout, but after the order they drop the ball.

E-Commerce Revenue Booster: The “Bag of Crap”

If you’re in retail e-commerce, considering offering what my friend and keynote speaker Neil Patel calls “A Bag of Crap”.  (You might want to rename it something more user-friendly like “Surprise Grab-Bag”) The strategy here is that you don’t specify what’s in it, just that it’s “100% Guaranteed to be Worth Over 3x the Grab-Bag Price!”.

Next, stuff their order with whatever excess or promo items you might be wanting to unload anyway, just make sure the retail value promise is honoured (Great way to leverage clearance inventory!).  Price the “Bag of Crap” however you like while ensuring you build in some margin.  People love to dig through “Bargain Bins” in Walmart to find that under-valued, early Kurt Russell DVD for $3.99.  The principle here is the same: give them a chance to be pleasantly surprised.

LeadGen Cross-Promotion

What if you’re in the LeadGen business?  What can you do on your confirmation page to boost per-lead revenues?

The easiest one is to add an ala-cart menu of opt-in options for complimentary whitepapers, partner promotion offers, or trial downloads.  Let customers or prospects feel empowered to choose what they would like from the list, but make it worth their while by making the options genuinely sound appealing.

Additionally, why not run a contest or fun quiz on your lead confirmation page, perhaps inviting visitors to “See How You Stack Up!” after completing a survey or quiz that afterward shows them aggregate stats based on other responses, allowing them to compare metrics with others in their vertical or job role?  The options are really endless, have fun with it and increase the likelihood that when you call to follow up on web leads the respondent will have a warm-fuzzy feeling about your company.

Email, Email, Email!

While 98% of marketers admit that email marketing is a critical component of building longer-term customer revenues, few do it really well.  Why is this?

One of the biggest reasons is that they haven’t thought far enough ahead.  Often email marketing falls into “Blast mode”, where emails to customers are blasted en masse without any prior email-based relationship having been developed.  As a result, the user gets the email and, in the best case scenario doesn’t remember who you are and deletes the email, and in the worst case scenario hits the “Spam” button.

If a user has given you their email address during a transaction, include a strong call-to-action that will motivate the customer to double-opt in to your email marketing list.  What’s ‘a strong call-to-action’?  It’s a heck of a lot more than “Sign up for our Newsletter!” with no explanation about what they’re going to receive if they do sign up.  That’s simply not effective.  Come up with some goodies or immediate deliverables that they’ll get ‘in exchange’ for their double-opt in. Make it worth their while!

Once you’ve added them to your marketing email list, don’t just let them ‘languish’ there until you do your next “Blast”.  Set up an auto-responder series with actual, tangible value  that will build that warm-fuzzy feeling for you in anticipation of your upcoming campaign-based email drops.  Email marketing lists are like cars, they take a while to warm up:)

“Like Us on Facebook” Sucks

If Groupon has proved anything, it’s that email marketing kicks “social media” marketing all over the place when it comes to e-commerce conversions.  People tend to (at best) skim commercially-fueled social media posts, but they pay a comparatively larger amount of attention to their email.  (Yes, I know ‘Millennials’ don’t use email blah blah blah, but chances are they’re not your target market, people with money are.)  Attention and engagement are the twins that drive revenues and email simply delivers more revenue than social.

That’s why I cringe when I see “Like us or Find us on Facebook” on Thank You pages or email correspondence.  Nine times out of 10 when you “find them” on Facebook, you find a slightly branded, half-assed Facebook Fan Page with zero mechanisms baked in to drive Lifetime Customer Value.  No upsells, no engagement opportunities, no anything of value.

Some brands are skilled at continuing the conversion flow on their Facebook Fan Pages (or whatever they’re called now), but if you haven’t got a definitive answer for what Facebook (or Twitter, or social-whatever) is adding to your Lifetime Customer Values, chances are it’s not that much.

Focus on what will move the needle revenue-wise, and I’ll bet that turns out to be upsells, cross-sells and email marketing.

PS:  If you do ask a user to tweet or post about you on their Facebook news feed, make it easy for them by providing suggested text (that sounds conversational and not too ‘salesy’) and link it to something that will actually drive revenue, not just a dump to the homepage.

Ask for Referrals!

Sales 101 says:  “Ask for the sale!”  The same principle applies with building additional revenues on the back-end of a transaction or lead:  Any time you interact with a customer, be that a sale, an email, a support response — anything, ask the user for a referral.

This could be as simple as a “Email this to a Friend” option on your Thank You page or, better yet, let them send a discount offer with their own text input to a friend(s) making them look good for ‘sharing a deal.’  (Important: Make it a GOOD deal, something people would WANT to share – Don’t cheap out!)

Why not run a contest for referrals?  Or offer a discount to existing customers if they get a friend to place an order or sign up?  A big part of the reason Dropbox has grown so quickly is because of existing-user discount referrals. The bottom line is that you need to ask people to do what you want them to do. Sitting back and hoping word of mouth will happen on its own and boost your per-customer revenues just isn’t going to cut it.

These few examples are only the tip of the iceberg in ways to boost LCV: What are some of the best examples you’ve seen to date on building Lifetime Customer Value?  Share them in the comments!

Double Serve Google Ads Like a Boss

When I grow up I want to be a big brand.  You can double-serve Adwords ads to multiple domains and likely get away with techniques smaller advertisers would get insta-banned for:

Even if you eventually get caught double-serving ads, just blame it on your various agencies’ not properly communicating with each other in scheduling campaigns.

But hmmmm: they might just be onto something here if you’re a big-swinging brand: Double-dip your Adwords placements by directing traffic to your Facebook fan page as well.

There you can pitch whatever like and maybe even generate more direct sales than your generalized e-commerce ads:

The domain likely has a nice landing page quality rating, so no need to worry about using it as a bridge…

If you’re a small advertiser trying something like this, enjoy your “account disabled” email from Google.

Evaluate Display Network Category Performance

1 Comment » Written on October 7th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Conversion, Display Ads, Google Adwords

Many advertisers haven’t yet explored the performance breakdown Google provides on content network campaigns.  Most Adwords users know you can exclude sites that don’t convert based on data from your Display Network Placement Report, but Google has been slowly adding new data points to the site category exclusion options including the ability to view and/or prevent your content ads from showing on ad units below the fold, or outside of the Doubleclick Adplanner’s Top 1000 Sites list.

To view how you’re performing on different site categories, click the “Networks” tab in your content campaign (either at the campaign or the adgroup level) and scroll down to the bottom of the page to the link for “Exclusions”:

Adwords Site Category Exclusion

You’ll then see a full list of the types of sites you can view performance data on (depending on the date range you’ve selected):

Your cost-per-conversion data may signal that you need to exclude some site categories either at the campaign or adgroup level, or you might find that a particular site category performs exceptionally well for you, in which case you might want to look at placement targeting similar sites.

Either way you use the data, the option to get this kind of visibility into your content traffic is a welcome addition to Adwords platform:)

PS: Thank you so much to the PPCblog training and community members who participated in yesterday’s live Q&A call with myself, Rehan Zaidi, and Neil Patel!  The feedback has been great, and we’re going to make a live conference call a monthly feature for our members.

If you’re interested in becoming a member of our private community, you can find more details here!

Other People’s Money…

6 Comments Written on September 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion, Google Adwords, Habits & Work Environment, Marketing

I had an interesting discussion earlier in the week with a colleague about the difference between running your own Adwords campaigns and having a PPC consultant or agency manage your campaigns.

His comments were pretty pointed:

“Basically, the people managing other people’s money don’t care much about sweating the little “tweaks” Google keeps making, even if they’ll raise prices.  If anything, it makes it better for them because the system is getting more and more complex, increasing the need for an expert to manage an Adwords account vs. the actual business owner.”

It reminded me of this tweet from Wil Reynolds, disappointed with mopping up the mess of neglected client accounts:

The Consultant’s Challenge

For those that ‘manage other people’s money’, running client campaigns it’s an interesting thing to ponder:  Do I put as much attention to detail into my clients’ accounts as I would put into my own, spending my own hard-earned capital?

I read an interesting quote from a prominent PPC consultant on how optimizing to improve ‘Quality Score isn’t really worth worrying about’, just keep upping your bids and grab as many conversions as you can, profit is just icing on the cake or ‘an incremental win’.  Easy to say when it’s not your money in play.

Google’s solution of course is to just let them look after everything: “Hey guys the system’s gotten pretty complex, just toss us the keys and we’ll take care of it”.  If their systems worked as advertised 100% of the time in terms of meeting all of an advertisers goals, maybe that would work. Until then, having an engaged human ‘keep an eye on the till’ probably isn’t a bad idea.

Mo’ Money, Less Attention

Many PPC consultants have found, as I have, there’s a direct relationship between how small the client is and how much time they spend looking over what you’re doing, how much you’re spending, and how things are performing.  The bigger the client, the less likely they are to keep pushing their consultant or PPC manager for an increasing ROI.

Therein lies the challenge:  keeping the same level of diligence and dollar-stretching as the spends get larger…

Really Google? Silent Change Forces Content Campaigns into Automatic Bidding

17 Comments Written on September 21st, 2010 by
Categories: Contextual Advertising, Conversion, Display Ads, Google Adwords

I had to rub my eyes for a minute and check with some contacts to make sure this actually happened:

I believe it USED to be when you created a content-only campaign and left the “Content Bid” field blank, that Adwords would just use the “Default Bid” for the adgroup in lieu of there being a specified content bid.

I looked today and this is what I see:

Google Adwords Forced Auto bids

What Just Happened Here?

Is it just me, or did they just FORCIBLY move everyone who left that Content Bid field blank into “auto” bidding? Good thing that in the case of this campaign, the “average of all the adgroup’s CPC bids” generally only varies by a cent or two.  Imagine what would happen if some top-performing adgroups in a campaign had vastly higher bids than lower performing adgroups: suddenly your “auto” CPCs are way larger than you want or need.

Of course, some are probably thinking “just set up your campaign with content-specific bids and you won’t have to worry about it”, but why should this be necessary if you take the time to properly configure your campaigns by not mixing search and content in the first place?

The Fox Guarding the Henhouse…

New Adwords advertisers often question why they need to truly understand PPC when Google is telling them they can just run everything on autopilot using algorithms that primarily serves Google’s best interests while  being pitched back to advertisers as “what’s best for you”.

This really, really looks like a an effort to slip this past unsuspecting advertisers and turn the dials to more revenue for Google, and it shows why educating yourself on PPC tactics is essential.

This is effectively letting Google write their own paychecks with all of this ‘improve your life’ automation…No thanks.


Brad Geddes posted this morning on his blog that nothing has really changed here, that ‘auto’ does not mean “automatic CPC bidding“, and the hierarchy of bids has always been (with the exception of new options like Audiences):

  1. Placements
  2. Audience
  3. Ad group placement bid (only older accts might see this)
  4. Campaign placement bid (only older accts might see this)
  5. Ad group display network bid
  6. Campaign content bid (only older accts might see this)
  7. Auto
  8. Default bid

The point being that the “Auto” in step 7 is simply a carry-over from search campaign settings where there are keyword-level individual bids that could be averaged for an “auto” bid in that particular adgroup.

The help text in the yellow box that pops up next to where Google labels the display network bid field, appears to be cut and paste from point number four in this Adwords help article:

“You can enter your Display Network bids in the “Display Network Max. CPC” column on the Ad groups page. If you don’t set a specific bid, your bid is set to Auto by default. Auto Display Network bids are based on an average of all keyword bids for the ad group (including the default ad group bid and individual keyword bids).”

It’s confusing language here as it says “Auto Display Network bids” are based on an average of all keyword bids in the adgroup (which of course isn’t possible with Content-only adgroups).

Couple that with what an advertiser sees when he actually does intentionally select automatic CPC bidding in a content-only campaign:

Additionally, Google’s labeling of the display network bid option when Display is turned off at the campaign level shows that they have the capability to make the field labeling context-specific in new UI:

It’s easy to see how this all starts to get confusing… When is ‘auto’ not ‘auto’??

Final Thoughts

It may ultimately be that there’s no functional change in the way the bid hierarchy works here, but few dispute the language change in labeling here.  After digging into this heavily over the past couple of days and talking with other advertisers it’s really tough to tell, and I’m not even 100% sure other than the fact that wording is eerily similar to what they say when you ARE indeed having Google set your bids.

Why change the language to an old nomenclature that applies to search campaigns only when they clearly have the ability to get granular in the labeling when display is on or off?

Thanks to everyone for your feedback and thoughts, it’s tough to trace these things back when the UI changes every time you hit F5:)

Brad’s takeaway point in his post I 100% agree with:

“The real takeaway: Set bids at the most granular level. Placements or audiences if you have them; and then always place a display network bid at the ad group level.”

Good reminder all around…

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.

Keyword Tasting: The Key to Successful Campaign Expansion

3 Comments Written on September 7th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion, Google Adwords, Keyword Research

Domainers have long sampled domains by “tasting” them for traffic after they drop to see if they have any revenue potential before committing to a purchase. (EDIT:  My friend John Andrews pointed out that domain tasting has been over for a while, but I’m sticking with the analogy:) )

The same principle applies to PPC and can represent one of the fastest and most profitable ways to scale out your campaigns.

The “Keyword Tasting” technique is one of my favorites.  You grab a fairly broad type of keyword and toss it against the wall in a new adgroup to see:

a) is there any traffic there


b) can the keyword net ANY conversions.

We’re not worried about ROI at this point, we just want to see if there’s any juice there.

I typically let the tasting go on for a few days or enough time to capture enough data to get a look at the “actual search terms” in the Adwords Keywords tab.  For most of my campaigns this ends up being a few days and 300-500 clicks.

If a few conversions roll in the broad term, have a look at the specific search terms that netted the conversions and add them as an exact or phrase match to the adgroup (or add them to a net-new adgroup if you like).

If the broadish keyword doesn’t result in any conversions after a decent amount of data, cut it.  You’ve just saved yourself a ton of time going “deeper” on a keyword that most likely doesn’t have any conversion juice.

If the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” approach results in some conversion potential and you can see via the “See Search Terms” button which keywords and match types grabbed those conversions, you’ve got some great new adgroups to expand with the foreknowledge that they can convert.

In a future post we’ll expand on the ‘wide then deep’ approach to keyword expansion.  In the meantime, why not try this out today with a new broad keyword and see if you can find any gems!

Usability & Design Last

No Comments » Written on April 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion, Copywriting

Arrows and blocks

Usability is common sense. Good design is common sense. After all, there is no point building a site that is unusable, or a site that isn’t designed well.

Typically, talk of usability orients around function i.e. ensuring websites are easier to use by streamlining content and making navigation clearer. The problem, like with any set of functional guidelines, is that usability is about much more than functional interaction.

Both usability and design are about communication.

The Steps You Need To Take Before You Think About Form & Function

Form and function are important.

But before form and function comes purpose. The purpose of a website is to attract and retain interested visitors. The purpose of a commercial website is to sell.

No matter how well designed, or how usable a website might be, if it doesn’t address a need, then great usability and great design will not help. The web is littered with examples of beautiful form and function that serve no purpose.

Let’s say we’ve identified a market niche. We’ve found a need in the market that isn’t met elsewhere, or we can meet that need better than competitors. Let’s look at five ways to ensure we communicate our message effectively on the web, even before we start to execute.

1. Focus On The User

Do you know who your buyers are? What they want? Where they live? How old they are? If they have credit cards or not? Are they well-off, or poor? Educated?

Usability often talks about creating personas – a characterization of different types of users. This can be a useful exercise in identifying your market, as it gets you thinking from the users point of view.

However, personas they have their limits. People aren’t cartoon characters and will act differently in different situations, so what we’re really looking for is a commonality most of your users share.

What is your core message to your typical user? Write it down. In bold. Weigh every decision you make against that core message.

Almost everything you do should enhance communication with your common user. Your terminology, graphics, pitch and approach should be in sync with your typical users. Communication, and trustworthiness, is enhanced if all aspects of your site are consistent in terms of approach.

2. It’s Not About You

A visitor does not have to be on your site. A visitor is one click away from leaving your site. A visitor has made almost no time investment in getting to your site.There are plenty of other sites.

They have all the control. If you do not meet the visitors needs, they are gone.

Makes you wonder why so many sites spend so much time talking about themselves, huh? No doubt you’ve seen such sites, where the first thing you hit is a mission statement, followed by a summary of how great the company is.

No one cares.

Do you understand what your typical visitor wants to achieve on your site? Can the visitor find what they need quickly and easily? Does you page affirm to the visitor their needs are met and they are in the right place?

3. Storyboard It

Hollywood uses storyboards to graphically show what happens now, and what happens next.

A plan for a website can be laid out in similar fashion. Map out, on sheets of paper, the steps a visitor must take in order to reach conversion. Are there too many steps? Are there any steps that are unnecessary, or divert the visitors attention? Note down at each step the internal dialogue a visitor might be having. What questions do they have in their mind? Are you “answering” them?

Relegate diversions, the equivalent of sub-plots if we’re to extend the movie metaphor, to areas on the site the user can access only if they want to – about us, mission statement, contact details, etc.

You can use flow-charts as well, of course.

4. Your Copy Is Central

Even a site based entirely around a video presentation uses copy i.e. the script.

The words you use help persuade a visitor to take action. They can just as easily put a visitor off, so must be chosen with care.

Use short sentences and paragraphs. People will not start reading a lot of dense copy unless they have an existing, positive relationship with you. Pay careful attention to the hook i.e the headline and first paragraph. Talk about the visitors needs and wants. Use the active voice. Use simple sentence constructions – verb + object. Proof read very carefully.

The copy should proceed logically from one concept to another, leading a visitor towards taking an action of some kind i.e. clicking a button, filling out a form, bookmarking, or reaching for the phone. Make sure you know what the desired action is, and – conceptually – write “backwards” from there.

5. Now Read Up On Usability & Design 🙂

Only once your user-centric concept is nailed, storyboarded, and written should you build.

A great concept can be ruined by poor execution, particularly when it comes to design and usability. A lot has been written on both topics, but the 80/20 rules applies: Keep design simple and functional. Remove anything unnecessary. Be sparing with the use of graphics, navigation options and distractions from your central message. Orient around your core message. In terms of non-core pages, people need to be able to get to your contact page easily.

Here’s a set of great design and usability resources that cover the essentials: