Geo Targeting

A Brilliant Use of Adwords For Branding

1 Comment » Written on April 1st, 2011 by
Categories: Behavioral Advertising, Geo Targeting

A forum member on Brad Geddes’ Certified Knowledge site shared this gem the other day, and I thought our blog readers would love it.  It’s worth taking a couple of minutes to watch it with sound enabled:

I thought this was a fantastic example of how brands can use Adwords to drive awareness and customer engagement.  The “M&M trail” (a term coined by my friend Karl at Conversion Rate Experts) they left for users to go from search-to-search is a phenomenal way to drive user behaviour.

Of course, the use of multiple domains by anyone other than big brands would be seen by Google as a collection of “bridge pages” leading back to their main site, but if you’re a decent-sized brand you can get away with things that us plebs cannot:) Ah, to be a Brand…

Have you seen similar examples of how to use Adwords to drive desired consumer behaviour? Share them in the comments!

School of PPC Hard Knocks: Localizing & Translating Adwords Campaigns

4 Comments Written on March 14th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting, Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Landing Pages

Having just recently finished the localization process of some of my English Adwords campaigns into European languages, I thought I’d share some things I learned along the way.  After considerable effort and reorganization the campaign is succeeding, but it was fraught with failure and ‘lessons learned’.  Hopefully some of my experiences will be helpful if you’re thinking of translating your campaigns to target new markets and languages…

Surveying the Competitive Landscape

Before going through the work of translating my English campaigns into the most common European languages, I took a look at the competitive landscape via Google’s much-improved Ad Preview Tool (remember to set both the country to the locale you’re after, but also the language selection).  I was looking for a few things in surveying the competition in each country:

  • Were the competitors in the various markets were English vendors using translated campaigns, or companies native to those locales?
  • If the competitors were English, was their translation properly done by native speakers, or just a quick Google Translate?
  • Again if the competitors were English, was their entire end-to-end process properly localized, from keywords to ads to landers to  e-commerce and customer support?
  • If the competitor was a local, how aggressive were their PPC ads, landers, shopping cart and the like from a conversion optimization perspective?

The basic idea here was this:  “Is this going to be like shooting fish in a barrel if I’m highly optimized, or do the competitors have strong PPC fu?”

It turns out that in most countries my competitors in this particular niche were typically other English vendors with Google-translated ads, landing pages, and completely untranslated e-commerce checkout setup.

Finding a Translator and Where to Start?

Now that I knew which countries and languages to start localizing for (in order of local search volume primarily),  I needed to decide where to begin.  I had decided to do a full end-to-end localization from keywords to e-commerce and customer support.  I also knew that I wanted my translated content to be as close to 100% accurate as possible.

To test just how good or bad Google translate was, and to help evaluate the proper translation, I put an ad on Craigslist for a fully bilingual translator who was born and raised in the first country I decided to test.  To qualify the applicants, I gave them a sizeable snippet of text from one of my existing landing pages and ask them to email me back their translation from English into the chosen language.

I have a friend who certainly qualifies to do proper translation but wasn’t looking to be a translator for this project to evaluate the control text in English, and then the submitted translation in the new language.  To make things more interesting, I translated the English snippet using Google translate and included that for review as well.

The results were interesting.  Five candidates had submitted translated snippets, plus the version made with Google Translate.  Oddly, three of the five candidates submitted results identical to the Google Translate version:)  Disregarding those, I forwarded on the remaining two real translations.  My friend sent back one saying it was the most accurate, and represented the way a local would translate the English snippet.  The other had spelling errors and other grammatical issues and was disregarded.  And the Google Translate version?  To say it had butchered the translation would be an understatement.

The point?  There’s a big difference between Google Translate’s “good enough” on-the-fly translation to help you quickly understand the odd alternate language site, but for heaven’s sake don’t use it to translate your ads and landing pages.

Translation Gotchas & Efficiency

Now that we had a translator, we set her to work (on an hourly basis, in our local offices) on translating the keywords first, then the Adwords ads, then the landing pages, then the shopping cart, then the receipts and customer support touch points.

One thing I learned very quickly is that English does not always have a one-for-one equivalent in other languages.  In fact, you have to watch out for tenses of words as well, as often the past/present can be tricky and change the meaning of keywords and ads if you’re not careful. Same goes for plurals.

Though overall the process of finding someone locally to do the translation, vetting them, and then working with them at your offices worked really well.  When you realize the amount of back and forth and questions the translator may have to clarify the meaning of what you’re promoting (particularly with technical terms and the like) I highly recommend not trying to do the entire process over email.  There’s just too much interaction required in my experience to make the email back-and-forth route efficient.

Adwords Campaign ‘Cloning Fail’

I had decided not to start a net-new campaign with entirely new keywords and ads for this project, rather I thought I’d just clone the English campaign and have it translated, then switch the language and geographic settings in Adwords Editor and reload it.

Seems logical no?  Well as it turned out, it wasn’t quite so simple.

Of course copying, pasting, and translating the campaign in Adwords Editor was a snap, as was quickly adjusting the languages and country settings.  What I didn’t factor in though was that even with a seasoned translator doing the heavy lifting, people just do not always search for things the same way they do in English.

It wasn’t just that they use slightly different suffix’s or word order:  keywords that were the ‘high volume’ winners in both search traffic and conversion rates in English BOMBED in some of these other languages.

The best part?  The clicks were still there in large volume, but they just weren’t converting. The challenge in a lot of situations was, you have this keyword, it’s getting a ton of traffic, but you can’t figure out what’s gone wrong until you first see the Search Terms report in Adwords which can take days to fully an properly populate.  At first you’re looking to see if you’ve stumbled on to a term that has dual meanings, something that can easily happen in English, let alone languages you’re not familiar with.

So the keywords weren’t working the way they did in English, how about the CPCs?  Turns out that simply using the (typically high) CPCs you’re used to using in your English campaigns is a BAD idea too.  How bad?  By the time I had things fully optimized bid-wise, I had cranked the bids down by up to 80%!

So not only are you bleeding money on keywords that aren’t working, you’re also paying 80% too much for said keywords.  Not good.

Save Some Money: Learn Your Market

My advice from all of this?  Do some serious research into how users in different languages and countries look for stuff online.  Ask anyone and everyone you can who is from these locations originally to answer a few ‘quiz’ questions like “if you needed to find a solution for problem “X”, what would you type into Google?”

In fact, put together a Survey Monkey questionnaire and post it on Craigslist paying people a small amount from those markets (either originally or ex-pats) to fill it out and tell you they would search for refer to your product natively.  This can save you HUGE dollars.  In my case I blew through over $10k in ad spend before I realized I should have done this first. The same goes for just dumping a load of keywords out of a PPC spy tool and thinking that’ll cover it, you’ll end up with exactly the same problem: context.

When the dust settled and Google Analytics + the Adwords Search Terms report populated, I could see a few land mines that I had fallen onto via double-meanings etc, and also a number of negatives that were missed (to be clear, the negatives list was also translated one-for-one, but again, the correct negatives for the campaign used entirely different terms, terms I didn’t even have).

You might wonder: If the translator ‘was so good’ why didn’t she catch these things?  Bottom line?  That’s not really what she does.  And the “what” is context.  In retrospect, I needed to know the questions to ask her (see comments above under how people search for things in other countries), and I didn’t know to ask her what I didn’t know.  Sounds convoluted, but basically it was my fault not hers.  It’s my job to know the big picture context in my business, not hers.  Lesson learned: Learn what you need to ask.

Finding the ‘Missing Piece’

Even after fixing the ‘keywords and negatives’ problems by cutting and adding new negs, the campaign still wasn’t profitable, and the keywords that were profitable were far too low in search volume to move the needle.

Why not?  There was still ONE BIG problem to find and conquer before this campaign started rocking…

What was it?  How did we fix it?  What’s happened with the campaign since?

Usually I don’t do this with our public blog posts, but I’m going to save the answers to these for our PPCblog members.  If you haven’t signed up yet, I’m running a $1 one month trial deal right now so it’ll only cost you a buck to join and get the rest of the details as well as the hundreds of pages of PPCblog members-only content.

Members have access to this, and all of our case studies, join now!

Big Changes: Adcenter Trademark Policy Updated

2 Comments Written on February 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Microsoft Adcenter

Image Credit: http://www.jcatrademarkuae.com/Microsoft dropped a big piece of news last week: they’re bringing their trademark use policies closer to Google’s.  In the past Microsoft had a similar policy to Google, but when they took over PPC for Yahoo they adopted Yahoo’s archaic trademark editorial policies.

As of March 3rd, Microsoft Adcenter will once again allow bidding on trademarked terms and use of competitors’ trademarks in your ad text under certain circumstances:

Use of a competitor’s trademark in ads only may be allowed if its use is truthful and lawful, for example, if:

  • Your ad compares your own product’s attributes to those of your competitor’s product, as represented by independent, third-party research. However, you must also do the following:
    • Present the trademark in the context of the research that is cited in the ad.
    • Feature the related research clearly and prominently on the landing page that your ad links to.

When Microsoft changed to Yahoo’s old trademark policies as part of the Search Alliance rollout, they automatically disapproved most, if not all, advertiser keywords that were determined to be trademarks.  I seriously doubt that if you just left these keywords and ads in your Adcenter account  that they’ll just magically go back through and retroactively approve them all on March 3rd.

My recommendation would be to delete all of your old, disapproved ads and keywords and recreate them after March 3rd.  Of course, there’s likely to be a bit of inconsistency when that date rolls around, so it may take some adding, disapprovals, deleting and reloading if you start right away on or near that date.

This brings back to mind a tip I share in our PPC training modules: Keyword or ad disapprovals in Adcenter are often best handled by just deleting the disapproved item and reloading it.  I’ve seen scenarios where doing this as often as 4 times on the same item with get the 5th attempt through permanently.

The ‘delete and reload’ method is annoying to be sure, but at least you don’t have to do something even more annoying to resolve it:  Submit a question to Adcenter support staff (not a fun experience, trust me).

In our members’ community  I’ve posted a number of strategies for competitive trademark bidding, but here’s a couple quick points to keep in mind for Adwords in particular:

  • The trademark will almost always be auto-blocked in ad text if the TM owner has complained to Google or Microsoft directly via their online complaint process.  No complaint from the TM owner? No auto-block when uploading new ads containing the term.
  • The TM claims are country-by-country.  The TM owner must apply for and prove grounds for an automatic TM block in ad text for each country individually.  Basically, they need to have the TM registered in every country they want to block ads from showing in.  If they have a US-only TM, they can’t block ad text containing the TM in Canada et al…
  • Recognizing this, advertisers can create individual campaigns targeting one or more countries where the TM owner hasn’t registered a TM. In some cases where you have countries mixed together in a campaign that have some countries where a TM is restricted I’ve seen Google put a “limited” flag next to an approved text ad indicating they won’t show it in every country targeted in that campaign.
  • Although I’ve seen claims otherwise, it’s perfectly easy to get good Quality Scores on Adwords for a competitor’s trademark, CTR is king, and if users find your ad click-w0rthy, you’ll be fine QS-wise.

Here’s a list of the trademark registration and search sites from various prime PPC markets if you want to find out if a particular TM is registered in a given country:

If you’re interested in internal Google’s thinking on fair trademark usage with Adwords, be sure and read this fantastic interview with Terri Chen, Google’s Chief Trademark Counsel.  Josh Dreller did a great job of asking the tough questions and pinning Google down on specifics.  Josh’s post didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time.

Quickly Create & Tweak Country-Specific Adwords Campaigns

No Comments » Written on January 31st, 2011 by
Categories: Geo Targeting, Google Adwords

Not every Adwords campaign starts off with the geographic targeting perfectly dialed in.  Often, marketers start by lumping a scads of countries in together, ignoring language and currency as well as differences in conversion rates from country to country.

So how can you quickly segment out a country or group of countries that either need to have their bids customized (higher or lower), keywords tweaked, or daily budget settings adjusted?

The quickest way in my experience is to create a carbon-copy of your existing multi-country campaign and make a few quick changes.

Clone Your Existing Campaign

To create a carbon-copy of your Adwords campaign to customize, use Adwords Editor.

In Adwords Editor, click the “Campaigns” tab, and select the campaign you’d like to duplicate:

Do a CTRL-C to copy the campaign.

In the campaign tree on the left, select your account at the highest level of the tree.  Looking right to the campaign tab again, CTRL-V and paste in your copied campaign creating duplicate.  Change the name to something that makes sense:

In this case, we want to isolate Mexican traffic as we’ve found while it converts, the conversion rate isn’t high enough to sustain the same CPC bids as those used in the U.S., (about 50% lower in fact).

Change Your Geo Settings

Now that we have a cloned copy of our campaign to work with, we can edit the country settings and choose just Mexico:

*We could also change the language targeting to Spanish at this stage if we were going to translate all of the campaign elements.

Important: Don’t forget to go back and remove Mexico from your old original campaign!

Bulk-Change Your Bids & More

What we really need to do with this campaign however is to bulk-reduce the bids without going into each adgroup and making individual bid changes.

The easiest way to do this is to use the ad scheduling feature only available in the online Adwords UI.

(Before posting your new campaign to Adwords, you may want to set the campaign status to “Paused” until you’ve had a chance to tweak the settings online, at which point you can activate the campaign when you’re ready.)

Post your new campaign.

To lower our bids across the board in the newly uploaded campaign, go into the campaign and select the “Settings” tab, scrolling down to “Advanced Settings” and click “edit”:

On the screen that pops up select “bid adjustment” instead of “basic” and click on the box that shows “% of bid” to edit it.  You can now reduce your bids across the board and apply this reduction to all days of the week in one go:

We’ve now effectively reduced our bids by 50% for Mexican traffic only.

You can also make daily budget adjustments here to spend less budget on an ongoing basis.

Splitting out high-traffic countries into their own campaigns and localizing your settings can also improve your quality scores, both in the campaign you’ve removed the extra countries from as well as the newly targeted campaign as quality score can often have a strong regional component.

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.

Fascinating New Adwords Placement Test

Google announced on their LatLong (Maps) blog today that they’re experimenting with placing pricing for hotels directly next to the hotel listings in Google Maps.

At first glance, it looked like another Google-internal affiliate marketing initiative, but it’s actually quite clever.

Here’s the official sample screenshot – Look closely at the price listing drop-down box in Adwords yellow:

hotelad

If nothing else, it’s an innovative way to roll in Adwords results directly into the organic SERPs.

Paid Placement With a Twist

Interestingly, Google’s post points out explicitly that these listings are not traditional paid placements:

This new feature will not change the way that hotels are ranked in Google Maps. Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors, regardless of whether there is an associated price.

So the blur between paid and organic continues it’s inevitable march forward.

It’s also of note that Google has chosen affiliate sites like Expedia and Priceline as their preferred advertiser testing partners for this experiment, not the hotels themselves…

It will be interesting to see how this progresses, and what other verticals it shows up in.

The Differences Between Countries Can Cost You

1 Comment » Written on October 30th, 2009 by
Categories: Geo Targeting, Landing Pages

Do you run your PPC ads in different countries? If so, do you change your ad copy and landing page copy when targeting those different markets?

For many years, global brands have altered their marketing campaigns to target different countries.

An advertisement for a food product running in Australia may be markedly different from an advertisement for the same food product in the USA.

Why?

Whilst we share a common language, cultural values and norms differ markedly from country to country, and even region to region.

For example, what is considered soft sell in the US is often considered hard sell in the UK due to differing acceptance of overt commercial activity in those two cultures.

There are many differences:

Viewed from commercial America, British advertising looks like something bent out of shape by a culture so consumed with embarrassment it can’t look a salesman in the eye when he’s making a pitch, particularly if that pitch is laden shoulder high with emotion – love of country, family or God. From a mainstream US perspective our quirky elliptical leave-them-guessing advertising approach is kind of charming, but kind of unworkable too in America, with its fragmented audiences and ethnicities, its raging sensitivities and, above all, its huge risks. American advertising is risk averse because there’s so much at stake with those huge clients and their mega-spends. It means everything is researched to death so all backs are covered.

If you’re running a PPC campaign in different geographic markets, then you’re running a global campaign. So, you need to think about approaching such a campaign as a global brand would do, and tailor your message accordingly.

Your competition – who may understand those local markets intimately, as they live and work in them – will be designing their pitch based on local norms, so too should you, if you want to convert.

Here are a few ideas on how to target different cultures effectively:

1. Watch What Others Do

Take a look at how your product or service is advertised in other media in your target country. What language do they use? What imagery do they use? How are they making the pitch? Is it subtle? Hard sell? Humorous?

Now evaluate the ad copy and landing pages of your PPC competitors. What similarities do they share to each other? To ads in other media? How do they differ from how you would advertise in your own local market?

2. Spelling

A PPC ad written using US spelling displayed in another country screams “not relevant to this market”, especially when surrounded by ads that use local spellings.

Use “s” instead of “z”, and watch those vowels! :) Color becomes colour, center becomes centre and check becomes cheque.

Here’s a good reference guide to common differences.

3. No, They Don’t Think “Because It’s American, It’s Great”

Every culture thinks what they do is great, and what foreigners do is suspect.

Just as you don’t assume that something from Germany is great, Germans aren’t going to assume that something from America must be great. Some may even be hostile to the US – it just comes with the territory of being the new Roman Empire :)

It’s not that you have to cave to others demands, but it does pay to be aware of them. If you’re trying to convince someone to buy something, then you need to talk the customers language, on their terms, no matter if they live in New York or, well, York.

4. There Are Regional Differences

Just to complicate matters, there are significant differences between language in different regions in many countries, and particularly in the UK.

Just like there are differences between New Yorkers and Angelenos, there are differences between those in the north of England, and those in the South.

The South tend to think of themselves as intellectually and culturally superior to Northerners, and Northerners tend to think of Southerners as soft, fake and, well, elitist. These are generalisations, of course, but be aware that they exist, as these differences may alter your pitch.

5. Test

As always, test.

Change the language of your landing pages and ads depending on the accepted norms of local markets. Align your language and style with the most successful PPC ads targeting those markets.

Run with the winners and cut the losers.

Final Thoughts

The world is get smaller. The internet, and tech in general, is being driven from America. Naturally, it comes bundled with US cultural values.

This is leading to the Americanization of other countries and making boundaries, both physical and cultural, less of a block than they have been previously.

A pitch that works in America can translate into other cultures without change, but that won’t happen as a matter of course.

Think local.

Google AdWords Testing New Flat Rate Local AdWords Ad Pricing Model

6 Comments Written on October 9th, 2009 by
Categories: Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Local Search

Local businesses tend to be easy to service (because of limited competition), but tend to be hard to service profitably (due to big demands and small budgets).

Such companies are still spending billions of dollars advertising in yellow page directories across the United States because it is easy and flat rate. Search advertising makes advertising more granular and trackable, but most small businesses could not be bothered with it. While the dead tree advertising model is in decline

Only the local interactive segment will show growth throughout the forecast period. All other local media will experience marginal to rapid declines in the next 18 to 36 months. A small number of traditional media will rebound with a revived economy beginning in 2011, though most traditional media will continue to decline, albeit at a slower pace.

…Google is looking to help transition small local business advertisers over to search by employing familiar flat rate advertising services, as highlighted in AdAge:

In a bid to get more local advertisers to buy search ads, starting this week Google is trying out a new type of search ad and pricing system in the San Francisco and San Diego markets.

Rather than ask businesses to set up a campaign and bid for keywords, they’re offering local advertisers (or non-advertisers) a search ad for a flat fee. The fee is set by Google and based on the average that similar businesses are paying for a given keyword in that market.

Lets go ahead and take one more look at that last sentence

The fee is set by Google and based on the average that similar businesses are paying for a given keyword in that market.

So Google is using your keywords and your bid prices to automate setting up accounts for competing businesses. You pay them for traffic and they arbitrage your efforts by using you as a free market research tool for competing businesses. And imagine if/when Google has 5 companies in your market all bidding based on the same flat fee average strategy. Some keyword prices could fluctuate wildly as the house decides to arbitrarily bid up or down a particular keyword or basket of related keywords.

In an earlier piece Mona Elesseily mentioned a recent Nick Fox keynote where he mentioned the idea of keyword-less paid search accounts, and how Google could run them:

Nick mentioned that keywords were used as a proxy for relevance. Conceptually, there is no reason an advertiser couldn’t achieve the same results without having to directly manage a keyword list. Down the road, Google wants to state outcomes and have machine-based learning and algorithms come up with the best method of achieving specific outcomes. In the case of no keyword search, an advertiser (like a retailer) would provide information on products, product descriptions, pricing, etc. and Google would use the information to find the most effective way to place ads in front of potential customers.

Those machine-based learning algorithms need input to become efficient. What happens if you share your conversion data with Google? This is one of the areas of opportunity on the web for 3rd party analytics providers. As Google continues to make advertising easier (and seemingly cheaper – at least up front) there will be added value in operating outside of their ecosystem and/or limiting how much data you hand over to the borg.

Presumably as this gets easier to automate and test it will increase the value of related services like website design and conversion testing (until those are automated and commoditized as well). But some smart business owners who enter the search game via these automated technologies will likely eventually want more granular control of their strategy, as it is hard to build a long lasting sustainable business based on market averages – especially when the fox is guarding the hen house. Over time those who evolve their model to increase lifetime customer value, increase conversion rates, and build distribution outside of search will eventually make the average price too expensive for an average business to be able to afford advertising.

Depending on how successful this test is, there are all kinds of implications for advertisers like…

  • building and maintaining sustainable profit margins in an environment where machine learning algorithms see your max bids and work against you with every search and click
  • deciding how much data to share with Google
  • deciding if it makes sense to mix together multiple regions on 1 site to make it harder for search engines to use your campaign as a seed for competitors
  • deciding if new business lines (and perhaps some longtail keywords) should be bid on for different websites that are not bidding on keywords associated with the obvious core industry keywords

And the general theme for online service providers is that if you are not thickening out your service prepared to be commoditized. Google does not need to create more value than you can, they only need to make businesses believe that you don’t add enough value to justify the additional expense, and that it is just easier for them to go with Google. Time to invest in brand building! Sometimes the SEO and PPC markets seem like mirror images. ;)

Know Your PPC Geography

5 Comments Written on June 28th, 2008 by
Categories: Conversion, Geo Targeting

Geo-Targeting AdWords

To improve tracking and save on a cost per click basis, I separated one of my campaigns into countries where English is the main language. I used Adwords editor to carbon copy each campaign from the main one and everything were kept the same except for the target area. The countries all seemed to fare well when grouped in one campaign but when separated, the numbers returned to me were disturbing. I realized that the countries expected to outperform did so-so and very poorly, ROI wise. I would have never known this if I didn’t test on a regional basis. The ratio of ROI was 4: 2.5: 1 where the best campaign did 4 times better than the worst.

Optimize Your Account For ROI, Not Clicks!

Another note is that my CTR was highest at the region that converted the lowest. I’m going to study this further and see why some countries did better than others. I had an entire week to collect data and will now dissect the Google reports. At least my quality score increased from the higher CTR.

The lesson I learned is to never assume anything with PPC advertising.