Marketing

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…

 

 

 

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!

Concepts That Underpin PPC Strategy

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

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

Let’s take a look under the hood.

The Search

Search engines are about the specific.

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

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

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

Concept To Keyword

There are many different ways to say something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s translate this into usable technique.

1. Mirror The Concept

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

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

2. Bring The User In On The Most Relevant Page

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

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

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

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

3. Assume Nothing

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

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

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

4. Think Visual

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

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

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

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

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

5. Double Use Landing Page

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

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

6. Don’t Advertise At, Talk With

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

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

Did Google Just OK Adwords Arbitrage Again?

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

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

Using Google Adsense to Complement Your Adwords Account

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

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

What?

The post continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does Groupon Win New Markets?

No Comments » Written on December 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Marketing

Part of Groupon’s growth strategy has been through acquisitions. But even outside of that, they still push into new cities and markets. Before they can offer a unique selling proposition to small businesses they first need to build an email list.

How do they get past the chicken vs egg issue? AdWords.

Here is an example ad

And here is a landing page that consists of little more than branding and a lead generation form.

In 2007 one of the types of websites that Google claimed might merit a low landing page quality score was “Data collection sites that offer free gifts, subscription services etc., in order to collect private information.”

Perhaps asking for email address only allows Groupon to get around that issue. More likely, being a well known brand in one market gives a merchant more leeway in other markets. And since Google tried to acquire Groupon, it is not likely that they can come down on Groupon without looking like it was done because the deal didn’t go through.

What makes the above “website” so hysterical is most affiliates wouldn’t even dare try it at this point for fear of burning their AdWords accounts. Adding to the absurdity is the footer links to terms & conditions & data privacy link to pages in GERMAN even though the URL has en_ in it. Of course they are growing like a weed and will do some things sloppy as part of that, but at least they get the benefit of the doubt from Google – something most affiliates won’t be getting much of anytime soon, as Google moves in to become the affiliate channel with offerings like Boutiques.com.

When you think about it, what is Groupon but a branded affiliate play? With scale, new opportunities appear. ;)

The Effect of Brand Building on Search Traffic

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

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

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

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

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

Shake Weight

The Ab Circle Pro

P90x

Magic Jack

Slap Chop

Shamwow!


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

Snuggie

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

The Bumpit

The Perfect Pushup

Cash for Gold

The Biggest Brand Search Winner? P90x

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

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

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

Has Adwords Gotten Too Damn Complicated?

2 Comments Written on November 15th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords, Marketing

When I was speaking a couple of weeks ago at BlueGlass Florida, just out of curiosity I asked the audience of marketers and business leaders if how many used Adwords every day.  About half of the several hundred attendees put up their hands.  Then I asked how many felt that Adwords had gotten too complicated for its own good?  About 30% put up their hands…

Who Benefits From PPC Platform Complexity?

I’ve long wondered why Google keeps front-loading so many practically insignificant levels of feature complexity into the Adwords interface.  Granted, some of these are somewhat interesting to look at, but maybe one reason Google does this is to create so many comparison points as to ensure that you as an advertiser are less inclined to spend time and money on competing ad platforms that don’t have all of these features and data points.

Making competitors’ platforms (*cough*Adcenter*cough) look hopelessly behind means Google wins the ‘feature war’ by ensuring they end up with the lion’s share of advertisers’ attention and ad spend.

Another side benefit: Google’s competitors also spend more time chasing their tails to develop reports and functionality that really won’t make much difference to the lives of their clients, but will tick off a box in the feature-for-feature competition with Adwords.  While they’re spending time trying to match Adwords UI features instead of, for instance, growing their content network partnerships to increase marketshare, or something else that will actually make a difference for their advertisers, Google ‘drinks their milkshake’.

What About the Little Guy?

What about the flip side?  What about the small business that opens an Adwords account and tries to make a go of it?  They’re not professional marketers, nor do they have time to spend every waking hour servicing Adwords’ insatiable need for attention.  No matter how blogs or books they read or how many Google small business seminars they watch, they have no idea why they can’t just pay for their damn ad to show.  It’s almost as if Google is saying to them, “Hey, this is really complicated…just let us manage your bids and budgets for you.”  Oh, and remember:  If you’re having a problem getting Adwords to show your ads, the answer is always “increase your bid”.  Umhmm…

In the quest for the “beautiful” algorithms that will ensure they never have to actually talk to their customers in person, Google has created a monster.  A monster of complexity and “quality” that obfuscates the only data that really matters: “Is my damn ad being shown on to the customers I’m looking for, and am I making any money?”

Other less sophisticated ad platforms pretty much do just that:  take the money, show the ad,  kind of a refreshing idea.

Of course there are challenges with ad quality.  Of course there’s a lot of competition to manage, but quality score in particular is often unnecessarily harsh to honest advertisers who just want to show an ad to their potential customers.  They’re not running business scams, or promoting deceptive products, they just want to sell eaves troughs to people who need eaves troughs.

What’s All This Data Really Worth?

For Adwords professionals, the pertinent question is what metrics are worth poring over and which are simply distracting noise?  There’s no doubt that between Google Adwords and Google Analytics there are enough data and measurement points to keep you buried for eternity.  But there’s also the possibility that you start to lose sight of the forest for the trees…

Adwords isn’t going to get any less complex going forward.  In fact, it’s likely to get even ‘data-noisier’ as 2011 unfolds.  But it’s interesting that in the case of funnel analytics and split testing for instance, the data firehose of Google Analytics has opened up room for new companies such as KISSmetrics to differentiate their analytics offering by making things simpler.  Will the same thing happen to PPC advertising platforms in the future? Very possibly.  Facebook (Google’s biggest real competitor going forward) has shown some promise in this area conceptually, trying to help advertisers connect with actual people rather than just queries.

Times Are a’ Changin’

I think it’s ironic that while Microsoft spends their precious development resources trying to match Adwords feature for feature, Google is rushing to make their search engine look more and more like Bing.  If Microsoft can properly align Adcenter’s functionality with Bing’s future direction, they’ll have an opportunity to differentiate from Google instead of simply playing copycat.  Given Microsoft’s historical internal silo-like structure, this isn’t too likely unfortunately, but one can dream:)

The other day my eight-year-old asked me to “look up a video on Bing.com”.  I asked him why he wanted to look at ‘Bing.com’ instead of Youtube? He said he didn’t know, but he thought ‘Bing was newer’.

The next generation of searchers growing up now won’t have brand loyalty to Google alone. They’ll be using whatever’s new, neat, built into their favourite web service or social network site, or more likely, whatever is preset by their mobile device carrier.  No report in Adwords is going to show you that you should really be spending some time buying ads on other platforms.   In fact, Google will make sure you keep thinking the alternatives are simply too immature to be worthy of your ad dollars.

Smart marketers will keep their ears to the ground and ensure they’re looking at signal rather than noise, following their customers and not simply Google.

Google Siderail Ads Get the Shove

6 Comments Written on November 9th, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords, Marketing

The ‘Bing-ification’ of Google marches ever forward and the little spyglass that showed up this morning in Google’s organic SERPs has a little side effect on ad placement:

(+ click image to enlarge)

If you’re in ad position 4+, you might as well not even be there when a user hits the spyglass.

Of course, this is likely just another test that may not ultimately stick, but they’ll have to do something about the impact on the right siderail ad visibility.

One more reason for Google to herd you into the top ad positions.

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.

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…