Landing Pages

Here’s How to Do Adwords-to-Adsense Arbitrage

11 Comments Written on September 13th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords, Landing Pages, Marketing

Eight months ago I wrote a post highlighting how Google was effectively telling Adwords advertisers they were now approving of the use of Adsense ads on Adwords landing pages.

Some readers pointed out that the example they highlighted in that Inside Adwords blog post was only using Adsense blocks below the fold, and in some cases only in their footer area.  This meant that they were actually in compliance with Google’s advertiser guidelines on the practice of Adwords-t0-Adsense arbitrage.

Since then, Google has further clarified their Adwords guidelines on what’s now ‘acceptable’ and ‘not acceptable’ use of Adsense ads on your landing pages.

The New Rules of the Game

The new guidelines make clear that your “intent” as an advertiser is what really matters when they’re determining if you’re an arbitrager or not (bolding added by moi):

As of today, those guidelines state:

Google AdWords doesn’t allow the promotion of websites that are designed for the sole or primary purpose of showing ads. This practice of promoting sites where the main purpose is to get users to click on ads is called arbitrage.

OK, so as long as I really, super-duper promise that the purpose of my landing page is NOT to have a user click Adsense ads, it’s game on…

To illustrate how Google decides whether a site’s “sole or primary purpose” is to show other ads, they’ve provided some handy examples of ‘what’s acceptable':

Here’s the example they show of an “OK” use of Adsense on an Adwords lander:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here’s the example they give of a page where “the primary purpose of the page is to show ads”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, so it seems the biggest determining factor here is the placement of the GIANT Adsense block, here it’s in the highest-CTR area, the Top-Left.  Got it.

Work That Adsense Feed

This is why today my interest was piqued by an Adwords search ad from a site that is typically a ‘publisher’ site, not an advertiser per se.

Perhaps after Panda, the folks at “unnamed-answersite.com” have determined that arbitraging their Premium Adsense Feed (the one that REALLY makes Google’s ads look like your own site content) is a better business model than chasing the SEO Dragon.  After all, if Panda left you with no profitable free traffic, but a highly-coveted Premium Ad Feed from Google, you might as well put that feed to good use.

Here’s the ad in question:

 

 

 

Which goes to this jewel of a landing page (click to enlarge the awesomeness):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, they have managed to artfully insert their Adsense ads not only in the top-left money spot, but shove their own offering to the sidebar where Google feels their Adsense ads could acceptably go.  Well played.

Guidelines Are Changing, Time to Get Over It

In the past I‘ve railed against the crap Google has looked the other way on, but lately I’m becoming a lot more pragmatic.  As Aaron has pointed out time and time again, Google has different rules for different players, and Adwords is no different.  The double standards are what they are, so if you have the ability (via brand recognition or relationships) to push the envelope on the advertiser guidelines you might as well do it.

The above is a great example of how to do arbitrage effectively in today’s guideline environment, and the risk that imitating them if you’re big enough and getting whacked is pretty low judging  by the current state of Adwords policy suspensions (or lack thereof for big accounts).  Google is currently much more likely to “work with you” to remove things they may have an issue with in the future than they have been in the past, so you might as well shoot for the stars.

Of course, this model isn’t going to sustainably work for smaller, independent players without brands or businesses that suddenly launch out of nowhere on a mission to arbitrage as many Adwords clicks as they can:  They’ll see you coming a mile away if you go from ‘zero to hero’ with a brand new site, but established brands who have Adwords account teams and a long-standing Adwords track record can leverage whatever ROI-maximizing opportunities Google drops in their lap.

It’s good to be the King…

 

 

 

The Display Network Spy Tool of the Future: What Runs Where

I’ve long felt that the market is ripe for a competitive spy tool that does what SpyFu and SEMrush do for search, but this time for the Google Display Network.

To be effective, such a tool should gather both image, flash, and text ads to give you an idea of who and what you’re up against when it comes to display network campaigns.

It should tell you:

  • What image and text ads your competitors are running on the Google Display Network
  • What landing pages they’re using with those ads
  • What ad networks they’re running display campaigns with, beyond just Google’s network
  • What companies your competitors are buying image ad inventory from
  • How a competitor’s ads have changed over time
  • What publisher sites your competitors ads are appearing on

And let you:

  • Export any and all ad data, in bulk, for offline review
  • Decide exactly how far back you want to look for ads that have shown on publisher’s sites
  • Specify the exact ad networks you want to scour
  • Search by niche keywords or specific competitor domain
  • Narrow your results down to the exact ad sizes and formats you’re most interested in

New Display Spy Tool: What Runs Where

Max from the new WhatRunsWhere service reached out to me last week with a demo of their new service that provides all of these features.  I realized later that I ended up spending over two straight hours researching and exporting competitor ads in a ton of different niches.  This tool is intense, the type of data you can grab out of here is invaluable.

Sidebar:  It’s a little known fact that I’ve been working with a friend to try and build a “content spy” network for a while now, but it’s a heck of a lot harder than it sounds.  We ran into server load issues, Google dodging and blocking the spider, delays between query and results and more.  Basically, we ended up with a tool that worked pretty well for one or two users at a time, but not for larger user loads.  Mike and Max at WhatRunsWhere seem to have worked around all of these issues.

Here’s a demo of how WhatRunsWhere works:  NOTE *The audio background is a bit loud, mute the sound if you want to just watch it in action, the narration is in subtitles:

Digging Deeper on a Competitor

If you want more intelligence on a particular competitor, after clicking their ad you get a menu like this:

Pretty cool stuff:)

Pricing & Competition

There are a couple of other tools out there attempting to do this, Adbeat is one, but according to a few people I’ve talked to that have used both, Adbeat doesn’t seem to have as much data and depth as WhatRunsWhere. On the flip side, WRW needs some UI polishing, but it’s easy to ignore that when you see the data you can pull.

WRW is priced at $249 for a month’s worth of usage, and that’s a one time bill: you get 30 days to dump out as much data as you like, then you’re done. For most advertisers, 30 days is enough time to get the data you’re after.

If you want to use the monitoring and change reporting features, they have a monthly deal for $229 a month.

Check it out and try it out here: WhatRunsWhere.com

Full Disclosure: The above link is an affiliate link. If you’re not ok with that, just type the URL into your browser. WRW is an awesome service and I don’t have any qualms about officially promoting it, but the choice is yours as to how you want to navigate to the site:)

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!

When Prescriptive Landing Pages Are A Bad Idea

5 Comments Written on February 28th, 2011 by
Categories: Landing Pages

I was reading comments made by a guy who said he can’t find any decent search marketing help. He is selling a cloud computing service.

The marketers he talked to wanted to create landing pages and copy that read like a Blu Blockers advertisement. Buy now! Two for one deal! Constant calls to action. Twee headlines, along the lines of “They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play!”.

They were advising a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all direct marketing approach.

He felt they were totally wrong.

Marketing approaches need to gel with the client, product and the audience. If used with the wrong product and audience – in this example, those who equate a hard sell with low quality – prescriptive direct marketing approaches can have a negative effect.

Consider Apple

Apple market to creative, hip individuals, or, more accurately, people who perceive themselves to be creative, hip individuals. Apple is not for everyone, it is “exclusive”. “Think Differently”, not the same as everyone else. Apple frequently invoke modern art and visual design reference points. There’s an elitism about Apple.

This brand positioning comes from understanding the desires of their customers. Apple know their customers aren’t buying on features (Apple’s products often have fewer features than their competitors), price (Apple are often more expensive), or flexibility (Apple tend to lock the user in).

They’re buying into something more universal: a desire to belong, and to be cool. Apple’s entire marketing approach orients around this truth.

Hard Sell = No Sell

Now, imagine a Blu Blocker, hard-sell pitch to this audience? Would it work?

Highly unlikely.

This group would respond to pitches that involve belonging. Of cool. Of indidividuality. A hard-sell “call to action” is unlikely to work on consumers who are making lifestyle choices based not on need, but desire.

Here are a few tips on how to think about landing pages in a less prescriptive way. The key is not to put the cart before the horse. Seek to understand the audience first, then work backwards.

1. Put The Audience First

First, decide who the audience is, and what they want.

The landing page is not simply a device to get someone to react, like an unthinking robot. Click here! Buy now!

A landing page is something that can be used to draw someone deeper into your world. Reflect the audience back at themselves. Reflect their values and desires. Are they urbane? Security conscious? Conservative? Anti-authority? Homely?

Your landing page should look like what your audience expects to see. It should use language that sounds like how your audience talks.

2. Integrate Direct Marketing Tactics Carefully

Take a look at this Apple page.

The Apple aesthetic is strong, as is the sense of community and desirability. They’ve also worked in the price point. The hand grabbing the iPad implies you should purchase one. The pitch is not far removed from a hard sell pitch in terms of what it achieves, but it does so in a rather subtle way.

It doesn’t push too hard.

3. Design Is Important

Your visual design is important.

We’re a visual culture, and react to visual ques. Make sure, like Apple, that your design reflects the values of your audience, and the values of your product, else some of those click backs will come from people – rightly or wrongly – judging a book by it’s cover.

This is not to say all landing pages must have high-end, glossy design.

On the contrary. High-end, glossy design may alienate, say, academic audiences. An academic audience may associate glossy design with the frivolous. A design that is likely to appeal to an academic audience is probably more Wikipedia, less Coca Cola. More depth, less flashy teen culture.

The design, like your pitch, and like your writing, should reflect the values of your audience. Once you understand your audience, take your ideas to a designer, phrased like I did with the Apple description above:

Apple market to creative, hip individuals, or, more accurately, people who perceive themselves to be creative, hip individuals. Apple is not for everyone, it is “exclusive”. “Think Differently”, not the same as everyone else. Apple frequently invoke modern art and visual design reference points. There’s an elitism about Apple

….and see what they come up with.

Simply changing the “cover” might get you higher click-thrus and conversions.

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 Facebook.com 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.

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.

MicroHoo Adcenter About to Drop Big Changes for Affiliates

1 Comment » Written on July 16th, 2010 by
Categories: Landing Pages, Marketing, Microsoft Adcenter, Yahoo

If 2009 was the year of Google’s Great Affiliate Massacre, Q3 2010 is about to go down MicroHoo’s kick at the can.

Microsoft Adcenter sent a nice little reminder email out yesterday suggesting that the transition to Adcenter for Yahoo search ads is progressing quite quickly, and you may want to pay attention to impending changes if you’re an Adcenter advertiser.

Then they slipped in this little nugget:

Updates in editorial guidelines
Microsoft and Yahoo! have created joint editorial guidelines that will begin taking effect for search advertisers in early August. The guidelines can make your ads more effective, while helping to create a safer search marketplace. We encourage you to review these now, so that you understand any potential impact to your ads or keywords.

Yahoo’s Trademark Policies Have Won Out

Here’s some of the parts that deserve special attention:

You may not bid on as a keyword, or use in the content of your ads:

  • Any term whose use would infringe the trademark of any third party or otherwise be unlawful or in violation of the rights of any third party.
  • Use of a third-party trademark may be allowed if its use is truthful and lawful, for example, if:

    • Your website provides information—product reviews, for example—about goods or services that are represented by the trademark, and your principal offering is not any product or service that competes with the goods or services represented by the trademark.

    So basically, MicroHoo doesn’t have the resources that Google has to handle trademark bidding or with the same level of sophistication, so they’re going to adopt the old-school approach used by Yahoo for years.

    Given that the transition for ads has been scheduled for early August, it’s reasonable to expect the automated trademark sweeps and manual review flagging to start in Adcenter accounts soon, with the new guidelines generating mass disapprovals for advertisers that bid on trademarks the most: affiliates.

    The Other Side of the Coin

    No doubt, Microsoft’s goal here is to make their ad network a comfortable place for large brands to dump their spend, and the “we don’t allow your competitors to bid on your trademark” bullet point in the pitch deck is going to be helpful to this end.

    If you’re a paid search manager constantly fighting with PPC engines to prevent your competitors from appearing when users search for you, then this is a big win, and it seems Microsoft has your back.

    The Rest of the “Relevance Guidelines”

    It turns out Microsoft is also taking a page from Google in some ways as well by creating new terms in their Relevance Guidelines that give them a fair amount of latitude in deciding whether or not they think a particular ad or landing page is “relevant”.

    Wiggle room here makes it easier on their reviewers to apply their judgement, however only time will tell how they get applied.  But the smart money is having a look at these new guidelines yourself now and seeing what may or may not apply to your account.

    How To Plan Your Landing Pages

    No Comments » Written on April 20th, 2010 by
    Categories: Landing Pages

    Whole books have been written about the ins-and-outs of landing page design.

    Each element on the page, each word, graphic, block of text and link, contributes to conversion, or lack thereof. However, this complexity can be boiled down to six essentials.

    If you’re designing a land page, or revamping those pages you have, make sure you cover these six points:

    1. State Your Value Proposition

    What is it? What value are you providing the customer? What is in it for them?

    Your value proposition should be part of the ad text, and it definitely needs to appear on your landing pages. Whilst there are always exceptions, the value proposition generally comes first.

    People will judge the overall look of your page to determine credibility and relevance, and next they will try to determine what’s in it for them. Craft a succinct value statement that conveys your value to customers, and if possible, let people know the positive, compelling attributes that separate you from the competition.

    2. Use Appropriate Logo And Design

    People judge by appearances.

    This is not to say that complex graphic design is desirable, however landing page design needs to be of sufficient quality that it doesn’t put people off. Design is obviously highly subjective, so take a look at the designs your competitors are using, particularly those competitors who rank highly over time. Does your design standard mirror theirs?

    3. Use Crystal Clear Calls To Action

    Is it immediately obvious what action the visitor needs to take? Make your action buttons large and surround them with white space. Make text links bold, in that they stand out, visually, from surrounding text. Surround the calls-to-action with benefit statements that signal to a visitor what to expect after they click the link/button i.e. Click here to order [product/service] now! If you are asking a visitor for information, then keep your requirements brief. Deliver the visitor significant value over the time it takes for them to provide you with this information, and the risk in doing so.

    4. Trust Elements

    Cover the basics, such as contact information, security assurances, and privacy. However, trust elements need to be part of everything you do. Correct spelling and grammar, ensure fast load times, offer guarantees, state and answer objections, ensure terminology is aligned with your industry/visitor level, and your overall design quality is high.

    Your aim is assure, and reassure.

    5. Test The Steps Beyond Your Landing Page

    After the visitor takes the desired action, what happens next?

    Is the end-to-end experience a good one? Beyond the shopping cart process, are you providing a seamless back-end experience? For example, are phones always answered in a timely manner? Are shipping times met? Do you get back to customers when you say you will? Can you handle the load if you receive more orders than you were expecting? Have you planned for this (pleasant) eventuality?

    6. Communicate

    You may understand what your landing page offers, but do your visitors?

    Do the “mom test” i.e ask “will my Mom understand this page/site”? Nothing against Moms, of course :) Even if your audience is savvy, people don’t like to be faced with something they find cryptic. Everyone appreciates efficiency and clarity.

    The way to ensure this happens is to test. Show the page to people and ask them about the five points mentioned above. Can they recite the value proposition? Can they order easily? What do they think of the design? Do they trust it? It’s important to ask people who will be honest with you. Even asking such questions can be leading, so keep this in mind.

    The ultimate test, of course, is in the live environment. If you’re having problems with conversions, evaluate your pages and site against these six points.

    Being Remarkable With PPC

    2 Comments Written on March 31st, 2010 by
    Categories: Landing Pages

    A lot of PPC advice is focused around direct marketing strategy i.e. you identify an audience and deliver them what they want. You convert at rate X. Repeat.

    For the most part, this works well. However, you may be missing an opportunity to spread your message to a wider audience, and this benefit could come free.

    Try to make your offer truly remarkable. Is your offer worth remarking upon? If not, could it be twisted so it could be, or put in a form that makes it easy to repeat?

    Become A Purple Cow

    Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable is a book by Seth Godin. The central theme is that offering me-too products and services is boring. Such goods and services won’t be remarked upon. Since we live in a world of saturated media, to be unremarkable is to go un-noticed. To not be noticed is the death of a business. If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do – it’s a great read, and it’s short and to the the point.

    The lesson of being remarkable translates well online. Online marketers have picked up on it, using remarkable qualities of a message, or format of that message, to help ensure a message gets spread.

    The same tactic can be used in PPC.

    Landing Page Competition

    Take a look at your competitors landing pages. Do any of them stand out? Do they stand out in the sense that the message would be worth you repeating to someone else?

    That quality of being remarkable, or being repeatable, is a valuable marketing tool. Sometimes, all it takes to become remarkable is to twist your existing message into something unexpected. Like turning a typical cow into a purple-colored cow. It’s still a cow, but the way it appears makes it stand out.

    However, this isn’t just a cosmetic concept. Not only should you have a remarkable angle, but it’s best if you also need a remarkable, unique product or service.

    If this sounds familiar, it is – it’s a riff on the old concept of a unique selling point.

    The unique selling point has three specific components:

    • Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.
    • The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique—either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
    • The proposition must be so strong that it can pull over new customers to your product.

    The modern twist is that your message should also be repeatable. People should want to spread your message, and be able to do so easily. The benefit is that your message reaches a wider audience than it otherwise would.

    Obviously, this will not suit every product or service. For example, it’s hard to imagine toilet paper ever being truly remarkable, and being unremarkable has hardly affected toilet paper sales!

    However, it’s an interesting way to think about what you do. Is there some aspect to your service that you can twist in order to make remarkable and memorable? Could you promote it in such a way that people will be “forced” to remark upon it? For example, you could use a quirky YouTube video on your landing page and encourage people to embed it in their site.

    What does this have to do with PPC?

    There’s no reason your landing pages can’t have a viral component to them that encourage people to remark on your product of service.

    You have people’s attention – you paid for the click – and you still need to convert people to a desired action. One of those desired actions could be to have people run with your message and repeat it in other channels. You could embed social media components, like video and Facebook groups, that facilitate people repeating or remarking upon your message.

    The pay off is that you create attention in other channels, and if the message does go viral, then you get a whole lot of extra marketing value for free.

    Adwords & Affiliates in 2010: The Way Forward

    23 Comments Written on February 1st, 2010 by
    Categories: Google Adwords, Landing Pages

    Warning:  This post is a long one, but it’s worth the read:)

    The Great Adwords Affiliate Massacre of 2009 will be forever remembered as a dark and confusing time for advertisers with affiliate relationships as the heart of their business model.

    Educated estimates indicate Google culled over 30,000 advertisers during Q4 of ’09.

    “Google’s Gonna Miss My Money!”

    Asked about this seemingly unprofitable move during Google’s Q4 analyst Q&A session, Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s VP of Product Management indicated just how little banning this many advertisers effectively mattered to Google’s financials:

    Aaron Kessler – (Kaufman Bros):

    I think there were some reports that you may have filtered out some of your advertisers this quarter on the ad sense side. Can you provide any more details about that?  - ED. Note:  Obviously the analyst is referring to Adwords not Adsense

    Nikesh Arora (Google):

    Obviously we are constantly looking at our advertisers to see whether there is an extraordinary [expand] that is happening. We have thrown in those advertisers who repeatedly attempt to scam users. So we went through one of our regular processes of looking at advertisers and seeing which ones of those we though weren’t adding quality or adding sort of value to our users. In those cases we chose to suspend them permanently.

    Jonathan Rosenberg (Google):

    This was happening this quarter with the approach we took to suspend the repeated scam users as opposed to before where all we were doing was disabling certain bad ads.

    Aaron Kessler – (Kaufman Bros.)

    Does this have any material impact on the quarter numbers? It sounds like it could have had a slight impact from what I was reading.

    Jonathan Rosenberg (Google):

    No the impact is slight. It is a relatively small number.

    In short, the 30,000 banned advertisers didn’t make much of an impact on the Adwords cash machine at all. So the screams of affiliates bitterly pointing that they ‘spend millions on Adwords’, fell on deaf ears.  By all accounts, so did affiliates’ appeal requests to Google for reconsideration.

    Who Was Cut & Why?

    It’s pretty fair to say that aggressive affiliate marketers pushing fraudulent re-bill offers could likely have seen this coming.  However, the wide net that was cast “disabling” the accounts of affiliates who hadn’t promoted “get-rich-quick-with-Google” or re-bill diet offers crushed a lot of affiliates’ primary revenue channel, while they begged for an exceptions to their bans.

    Subsequent forensic analysis on what metrics Google could have used to algorithmically cull the herd points to a couple of primary factors:

    • Repeated “slaps” of across-the-board ‘poor’ landing page quality scores against one or more domains used in affiliate campaigns.  In retrospect, it looks like if you’d been “slapped” in the past more than once and just reloaded your campaign to a new domain, you were permanently disabled instead of bring ‘slapped’ again.
    • If you had ever promoted any products associated with using Google’s brand to sell information products or business schemes, you were toast.

    By and large, direct-to-merchant affiliates or ‘direct-linkers’ were pretty much untouched.  There were a number of merchant-of-record Adwords accounts that were disabled as well, likely false-positives in the automated sweep.

    Google’s New Affiliate Guidelines

    Google denies the charge that they don’t want affiliates to use the Adwords system, and have updated various sections of their Adwords’ TOS in several places to supposedly clarify what exactly it is that Google wants from affiliates.

    Google has added a definition of an “affiliate” that looks like this:

    An affiliate is an individual advertiser or website owner who has a business relationship with a merchant to promote the merchant’s product or service. The affiliate earns a small commission from the merchant for each referral that results in a sale; the merchant handles payment and fulfillment.

    Their updated Site Quality Guidelines add additional details on one of the main sticking points affiliates have constantly been chastised for by Google: “unique” or “value-add” content:

    Non-unique Landing Page: Google won’t show multiple ads leading to identical or similar landing pages at the same time, even if the pages have different domains. This means that if another advertiser’s ad leads to a landing page that’s similar to yours, and his keyword has a higher Ad Rank, his ad will show instead of yours.

    What the guidelines don’t point out is that if your site is repeatedly determined to be “low quality” as a result of insufficient amounts of “unique” content, it’s possible that you’ll likely to get swept out of the system altogether, or “disabled” as an advertiser, as you’re clearly (according to Google) egregiously violating their landing page -and by extension- affiliate guidelines on a repeated basis.

    Google even warns merchants who have affiliate programs of the danger that their affiliates can place them under as a result of this unique content enforcement policy.

    So What Exactly Does Google Want from Affiliates?

    There’s been a lot of speculation on this point, particularly since the Adwords ban hammer cleared the decks in Q4.

    For instance, some feel that direct-linking to a merchant’s site is all “Google really wants” to allow as far as affiliates on Adwords are concerned.

    Other PPC marketers feel that white-labeling products or somehow ‘rolling your own’ version of products or services you’ve previously promoted as an affiliate is the answer.

    What’s the real answer?  No one knows, and there’s likely plenty of internal debate at Google as well as to what is acceptable and what isn’t.

    That said, in 2010, it’s safe to say that the key to long-term affiliate marketing on Adwords lies in the “unique content” itself…

    Show Me, Don’t Tell Me!

    NFL coach Mike Singletary made that phrase famous, and most affiliate marketers just wish Google would “just show us what is OK” instead of subjective guidelines that make affiliates guess at exactly what kind of “unique content” they need to somehow generate in order to stick around on Adwords long-term.

    It’s obvious at this point that slapping together a bunch of ‘how-to’ articles or unremarkable wiki-style content about the topic you’re advertising on isn’t going to cut it, and Google isn’t about to cough up a list of their ‘favorite affiliate sites’ that you can run off and replicate.

    So we figured we’d put forward three examples of sites in different affiliate verticals that ‘get’ the unique, value-added content proposition in general.

    Hopefully they’ll provide some clear clear quality markers that even Google couldn’t possibly argue with.  Not all of these sites use Adwords, but the principles apply nonetheless.

    Mint.com:  Lead-Gen Affiliate Marketing Done Right

    Mint is a personal finance and savings site, basically an online version of Intuit’s Quicken.  The biggest portion of their revenue model is credit card, insurance, and financial products lead generation paid out on an affiliate CPA basis.

    Their calculators, configurators, and search filters add tremendous unique, value to the end-user:

    mintscreenshot

    Of course, Mint has a lot more going for it than just calculators and the like, they also have reams of in-house generated, useful content covering a huge range of topics from personal finance and budgeting to investments and more.

    They also have a detailed section on user privacy, including videos from the founder on how they handle user data in a vertical where users are clearly sensitive to privacy.

    Ask yourself: Even if Mint had no corporate brand, when you look at this site, would it look like a “thin affiliate”?  If Mint was using Adwords to promote credit card or auto insurance leads, would you consider them as providing a “value-added” affiliate experience?

    Trip Advisor: Affiliate Travel Referrals on Steroids

    At its core, TripAdvisor.com makes money on affiliate booking referrals for hotels, flights, car rentals, and the like. How do they add value in such crowded space?

    Note the yellow-highlighted portions here:

    tripadvisorscreenshot

    There’s some solid quality markers here:

    • Segmented user reviews. Not just regular user comments, but ratings, and review segmentation that allows other page visitors to read reviews from people traveling for a similar purpose (business, family etc…)
    • A system-wide rating and comparison engine, enabling customers to easily compare the popularity and quality of this particular hotel to others in the same hotel vertical (in this case business hotels).
    • User-submitted photos. Customers can view and compare actual on-site photos from the hotel that other users have submitted to get an idea of what the hotel rooms really look like.

    Does this mean that your affiliate review site needs to have 247+ reviews to indicate a ‘quality’ site experience?

    Hardly.  Obviously the more reviews and ratings the better, but if you work hard to populate your site with real user feedback (not fake comments!) over a period of time, you’re going to send similar signals to Google.

    Ask yourself: Even if your site was smaller than TripAdvisor, if you provided this kind of end-user value, would you look like a “thin affiliate”?  Could Google say you’re not adding “unique content” when advertising hotel or flight bookings with Adwords?

    CrutchField.com: e-Commerce & Then Some

    Granted, CrutchField is an online reseller and not strictly an affiliate, but the differentiators they’ve implemented hold a plethora of ideas for e-commerce affiliates to move beyond the straight-up product feed.

    crutchfieldscreenshot

    Every electronics reseller is pitching basically the same thing, no doubt fed from a reseller product feed.

    Crutchfield however separates itself from the pack by incorporating a number of unique, value-adds like these:

    • The Learning Center. Crutchfield has gone to the trouble of strategically placing helpful, expert advice on the products genre being viewed, and placing a drop-down list of other “shopping guides” and “need-to-know” pointers specifcally applicable to the products listed.  The pictures and names help add a personal, trust-enhancing aspect to the additional content.
    • The Popular Questions and Helpful ideas portion of the page also helps hook the visitor on the page longer by answering common questions that shoppers have.  Note that these portions of the page aren’t hidden, buried in light-colored footer links.  They’re front and center, and can no doubt help improve conversions for the highly technical products being advertised.
    • The Shopping Tools feature in the left nav provides custom tools that Crutchfield has taken the time to develop to help set them apart from competitors and enhance conversions.

    If you’re promoting affiliate shopping feeds on your site, with Adwords or without, you have to read Rae Hoffman’s outstanding article on how to make your feed site unique.

    Ask yourself: Would Crutchfield’s e-commerce site be easily classified by Google as a “duplicate-content, affiliate feed site”?  Would it be fair to say Crutchfield has earned the right to have its ads shown right up against the Amazon’s of the world in the Adwords auction?

    But That’s Way Too Hard!

    Is it?  How many man-hours would be required to thicken out your site enough to be secure as an Adwords affiliate advertiser in 2010?

    Would you make your money back on the work involved if you were able to take advantage of the fact that thousands of competitors have recently been removed from the platform?

    Who Says This is What Google Wants?

    This question is broken.  The bottom line is that no one knows what Google wants now, tomorrow, or 3 years from now.  The answer lies in what the user wants.

    The Adwords affiliate game is now dramatically harder.  If you’re not a publicly recognized brand advertiser, auto-generating 25 pages of crap article re-writes, stripping out all site nav, and squeezing visitors too hard into a lead form or cart is just not going to work in 2010.

    As always, there will be some affiliates that continue to fly under the radar for a month or two here and there, but if you’re looking to be around on Adwords long enough to make all the additional heavy lifting cashflow-positive, you’ve got to up your game.

    In the startup world, venture capitalists look to invest in companies that have a “defensible business model”.  The same is true for affiliate sites on Adwords going forward.  Your site needs to stand on its own two feet by embodying the spirit of Mint, TripAdvisor, and Crutchfield:

    It’s not what you think is “enough for Google”.  It’s about unique site features actual users would give a crap about.  If your site was removed from the web, would anybody notice? Would anybody care?   If you didn’t own your site, would you visit it or buy anything off of it?  Why would you recommend your site to a friend?

    Some say SEO and PPC are converging into a Quality Score black hole.  Maybe if we could honestly find good answers to questions like these, Google’s quality team wouldn’t seem so scary.