Marketing

The Other Side Of PPC

2 Comments Written on March 9th, 2010 by
Categories: Marketing

One key to building a winning PPC strategy has little to do with PPC at all.

The business you’re advertising via PPC needs to work on the web.

What are some examples of businesses that work well, and those that don’t?

Items that don’t sell so well include items that are easy, and cheap, to source locally, very heavy items that can’t be shipped easily, and items that need to be seen or tried on for size and fit. Having said that, people can and do sell such items over the net, but the rule of thumb when selecting a good product for selling on the web is to look for some barrier to purchase that the web smooths out.

For example, some people order pills, like Viagra, over the internet, because the internet smooths out the embarrassment factor some people may feel if they go into a store to buy it.

People order items from other countries where the item may be cheaper. The web smooths out the price difference.

Some people order because they live far away from the shops, and want something delivered. The internet smooths out the distance problem.

People will buy something they can’t get easily at their local store, like niche items. The internet smooths out the availability problem.

Select an item or service that smooths out problems such as those mentioned above. All business is about solving problems. Real problems, as opposed to imagined ones. Ask yourself if you’re solving an actual problem people have, or an imagined problem you’d like them to have.

Connect With People

Secondly, you need to connect with people.

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers of PPC, but we must remember that each click represents a living, breathing human being. That person has needs, wants and problems to solve. That person is likely to have objections to buying that need to be overcome.

Is your landing page solving a genuine problem for people? Is it speaking their language? Is it reassuring them that you can solve their problem?

The visitors have all the power. They can back-click. They don’t have to spend any time on a page that doesn’t speak to them, using their words, and addressing their specific problem.

If your landing pages aren’t converting as well as you’d like, make sure you’re solving a real problem for someone. Picture that person in your head. Who are they? How old are they? How do they speak? Why did they click thru on your advertisement?

Of course, there is a lot of guesswork involved, but it’s a good exercise to remind ourselves that maths is only one half of PPC. The other half is about people and language.

How Do You Figure Out The Language?

Testing.

Test various web pages using different text. Phrase the solution in different ways. Do you get better results if you empathize with a persons problem? Do you get better results if you re-state the problem? Do you get better results if you weave the problem into a story? Do you get better results if you focus on benefits? Do you get better results if you focus on negating risks?

Check out keyword research tools, like Google’s related searches. As you search, Google will present you with related queries. These queries give you a unique insight into the minds of searches. Look for patterns, particularly patterns related to commercial activity.
google-related

Collecting Feedback

You can also collect information from your visitors, of course. Via web analytics and your Google AdWords data aggregate feedback can be collected without asking for permission. You can further augment this feedback…

  • many competitive research tools show you where competitors are consistently finding value
  • there are many multivariate tools to choose from
  • specialized tools like CrazyEgg & ClickTale help record how users interact with your page
  • feedback services like UserTesting and Feedback Army allow you to buy reviews from end users for next to nothing
  • Services like 4Q and Kampyle allow you to easily embed feedback forms in your web pages

Want More Visitor Information?

Sell something that requires building significant trust? These days, people are loathe to give out personal information, especially to people they don’t know, so it’s a good idea to give them an incentive to do so.

Can you give them something of value? An e-book, perhaps. A free white paper or report. Even better if you can couple it with an auto-responder which helps you gain repeat exposure and test different sales strategies.

Giving people something to read is a useful tool in the sales process. If you tell a convincing story about why your solution is best, and frame the story to lead to your solution, you get people closer to your cash register. Remember, only impulsive people, or those with a very strong, time-sensitive need, buy on the first look. Most people will consider, research, and comparison shop. Having something of yours they can take away increases the chances they’ll return.

Finally, review trust aspects of your landing page.

Why should the visitor give you their credit card number? Are you giving them enough reassurance that you can be trusted to deliver? Cover all the basics – secure payment process, contact details, a clear returns policy, and guarantees.

Also make sure your spelling is purfect 😉

Decifering Google’s Quality Score

1 Comment » Written on October 8th, 2009 by
Categories: Marketing

New To Google Adwords? One aspect that will likely have you pulling your hair out is Google’s “quality score”.

Google’s quality score is a cryptic formula Google uses to help determine your keyword bid. The quality score affects your cost per click, eligibility to appear under a keyword term, estimates the cost of appearing on the first page of results, and affects how high your keyword is ranked.

Generally speaking, if your quality score is higher than that of your competitors, then you will be paying lower PPC prices.

How Can You Improve Your Quality Score?

Google, being Google, don’t spell it out. That would be too easy 🙂

Instead, they provide general guidelines to follow.

In summary, Google suggest that in order to improve your quality score, you need to maintain high click-thru rates, your account history needs to have high click thru rates, the click-thru rate to a specific URL needs to be high over time, and the keywords in the ad group must be relevant. They also mention “other relevance factors”, which could mean anything.

How Do I Find Out A Keywords Quality Score?

Each keyword term has a quality score. Google will list the quality score as being “Great”, “OK” or “Poor”.

Obviously, you want to have a “Great” quality score, and not an “ok” or “poor one”. So what seperates the three?

The most significant factors are relevance of your ads, your click-thru rate – especially your recent click-thru rate – and your account quality score. “Account quality” refers to the sum total of all the keyword quality scores within your account.

So, in order to achieve a “great” score, focus ruthlessly on raising your CTR, and don’t leave a lot of low quality keywords active in your account.

What Do I Do If My Minimum Bid Price Is Still Too High?

If your minimum bid is too high, take a close look at your landing page. Do you feature the same, or similar related keywords, on your landing page as featured in your ad?

Google’s landing page guidelines are here.

Besides relevance, make sure your page is original and contains substantial content. Avoid the “affiliate trap” of using pages solely as a means to direct people to a parent site. Finally, check basics, like ensuring the user can click back, don’t use pop-ups and avoid slow page load times.

Does Page Rank Affect My Quality Score?

Strange as it may seem, and even though Google denies it, many claim the the authority of the domain hosting the landing page does affect the quality score.

While there is a lot of debate about this aspect, placing your landing page on a reputable domain certainly can’t hurt and may well help, so if you do have the option place your landing page on a quality domain. Link to that landing page internally. Link out to reputable resources from your landing page.

Did Eric Schmidt let something slip when he said Google may use brands to clean up the internet cesspool? Could this also apply to Adwords?:

According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the Internet is a “cesspool” where false information thrives…..Schmidt gave the magazine publishers hope for their future. Brands, he said, are the way to rise above the cesspool, and of course he is right.

Do we know for sure? No, we don’t. We’ve seen anecdotal evidence suggesting that the credibility of the domain can affect the quality score, although it may just be a side effect of Google trying to weed out thin affiliates.

Try testing a landing page on a new domain vs an established credible domain, and see if you notice any difference in terms of your quality scores and bid prices. Have you noticed a difference to your quality scores if you place the landing page on a reputable domain vs a new domain, or a domain that doesn’t appear in Google’s index?

Do you have strong views either way? Let’s here ’em in the comments!

Be Careful Moving Keywords

We all need to optimize our campaigns, and doing so is a great way to ensure a higher quality score.

One thing you need to be careful of is moving keywords. Because keywords have a history, take special care not to delete them. Instead, use the Adwords Editor to cut keywords, lest you delete their quality history. See Google’s detailed instructions on moving keywords.

Online Ad Exchanges – Watering Down the Water

4 Comments Written on September 19th, 2009 by
Categories: Marketing

How do ad networks that nobody has ever heard of create enough inventory to pull in premium advertisers? It’s simple: create it!

A recent MediaPost article was titled Half Of Ad Impressions, 95 Percent Of Clicks Fraudulent. From that article:

Many of the sites in these exchanges use multiple layers of I-frames, which further complicated efforts to track campaigns. Sites are able to hide fraudulent traffic behind numerous layers of nested I-frames, leaving advertisers blind to in-view data, according to the study.

Mpire believes the default trafficking behavior of many RON buys is to include fraudulent and well-known botted sites. Gluck writes in the study that not all marketplace or exchange traffic is bad, but rather simply includes nefarious inventory that ad networks could block, but for some reason do not.

If you are a legitimate advertiser using these networks, they are stealing your money. If you are a legitimate publisher your inventory is being priced down because it is being priced against, compared against, and often sold in a bundled package with pure fraud. Even if you choose not to sell ads in the ad exchanges, your media is still being compared against the garbage, and the garbage is driving down the perceived value of your inventory. Thus many of these ad exchanges are a perfect mixture of the tragedy of the commons and a market for lemons.

A few years ago I remember listening to a sleazy affiliate marketer talking about how mixing your traffic in with other traffic was a benefit. No wonder, as guys like him were working the iframes + pushing cookies + using bots to view pages and click ads and fill out lead generation forms. He was operating at a criminal level, stealing from whoever he could, but had yet to go to jail.

Every network that collects leads has buckets of different quality levels. SEO and search PPC tend to be toward the top, as search is pure as the snow. And then the volume guys tend to fill up quota with trash. On average the quality is good enough to keep selling it, but the premium quality stuff is being discounted by the people who are mixing junk into the equation.

In the comments section of the above MediaPost article Sylvie Chen added

When we designed a Behavioral Targeting Ad system, it was quite obvious that RON Ad networks always exhibited a higher click thru rate but very low click to buy rates. Our suspicion was that these sites had some mechanism that ‘simulated actions’. When we analyzed the IP addresses, the first node was always the same, clue to either bot controlled or site controlled robot clicks.

These simulated interactions make it seem like there is some value (chalk it up to brand, or some such), but unfortunately if a bot clicks your ad that does nothing for branding 😉

How big of a hit are some publishers taking from this fraud? Well Yahoo! didn’t allow advertisers to opt out of their content network when buying search traffic, and consequently some of their search traffic was priced at only ~ 1/3 of what the same click would cost from Google. It is no wonder Yahoo! had to sell off their search assets when they were being out-monetized 3:1 on core keywords (due in part to fraudulent traffic partners). And the cost to non-search publishers in these ad exchanges is likely even greater than it was to Yahoo!, since there is so much more watered down inventory (relative to legitimate inventory) in such ad exchanges. At its worse, about half of Yahoo!’ Searches ad clicks came from search, whereas some of these ad exchanges have their legitimate inventory measured in the single digits!

This leads back to why the price of a search click is often higher than what some affiliate networks or advertisers pay for leads: because the search traffic is real & targeted, unlike a lot of robotic and incentivised traffic sources. Search converts higher, and often has a higher average conversion value.

Plus who has time to sort through thousands of fake leads each month? They not only offer no value, but they also waste time that could be spent further qualifying and servicing the legitimate leads!

Want to read the Mpire’s full report? Download it hear.

PPC vs SEO

21 Comments Written on September 9th, 2009 by
Categories: Marketing

Search marketing consists of two channels: PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO (search engine optimization). Both channels have advantages and disadavatages you need to consider before committing resources to either approach.

Advantages Of Google AdWords Over SEO

Minimal Impact – Most sites won’t need to make design or layout changes in order to use PPC. SEO often requires site design changes, and these changes can be significant.

Instant – Traffic can start flowing in a matter of minutes once a campaign has been launched. With SEO, traffic can take some time to build, and there is no guarantee it will arrive at all.

Pay On Performance– You only pay when you receive traffic. If you do not receive traffic, you owe nothing. SEO requires a large upfront investment with no guarantees of campaign performance. Traffic and visibility isn’t directly controlled by the SEO.

Precise Keyword Targeting – You chose the keyword terms under which you appear. This allows you to run tightly focused campaigns. With SEO, pages can appear under a wide range of keyword terms, and sometimes these terms are unrelated to your campaign. This can make campaigns difficult to measure.

Precise Tracking And Adjustment – You get instant, precise figures, and you can adjust your campaigns in real time. SEO campaigns can be adjusted, but it is time consuming, and the results of which might not be seen for months.

Landing Page Control – You decide which page search visitors see. With SEO, visitors can arrive on any page the search engine has in its index.

Region Control – You control the regions and countries in which people see the ads. With SEO, you have no control over regions or countries.

Buy Position – want to rank #1? You can pretty much buy it with PPC. SEO is hit and miss affair when it comes to ranking, and ranking for highly competitive keywords can be virtually impossible for new sites.

Control Your Budget – You can specify how much you want to pay for any given period, and you can stop and re-start campaigns when it suits you. SEO is largely an upfront cost, and the campaign can’t easliy be switched off.

Time Control – You can control when your ads are seen. SEO has no such control.

Advantages Of SEO

Given the features and flexibility of PPC, why would people use SEO?

It comes down to two things:

cost per click and trust

SEO has zero cost per click. Of course, this doesn’t mean SEO is free. SEO is time intensive, and time costs money. It can also involve third party costs, such as link buying. However, the on-going cost of a well executed SEO campaign can come in well under that of PPC, especially if good rankings are maintained.

People tend to trust the main listings more so than they trust the paid listings. The main listings receive the lionshare of attention and clicks.

In the study “An Empirical Study Of Paid Listings In Product Search And Purchase” (PDF) the researchers found users to be suspicious of paid results:

For paid listings to yield the financial results that are
anticipated by the business community, it is critical that
consumers perceive paid listings and their descriptions
as relevant to their transactional tasks. The results of this
study support previous findings that this may not be the
case, but also provide some guidance for the
development of paid listings. Participants in the study
showed a bias against paid listings in several ways. They
reported an explicit suspicion about paid listings in their
verbal protocols. They rated the relevance of the paid
listings as lower than the organic listings despite the
content of the descriptions being controlled across listing
type

However, it should be noted that eye pattern studies show both high positioned PPC and organic listings achieve significantly more attention than lower ranking listings, organic or otherwise.

The key location on Google for visibility as determined by the eye activity in the study is a triangle that extends from the top of the results over to the top of the first result, then down to a point on the left side at the bottom of the “above the fold” visible results. This key area was looked at by 100 percent of the participants. In the study, this was referred to as the “Golden Triangle”. Generally, this area appears to include top sponsored, top organic results and Google’s alternative results, including shopping, news or local suggestions.

The Advantages Of Feeding PPC Into SEO, And Vice Versa

Some of the most powerful SEO strategies blend PPC and SEO, taking advanatge of both systems.

PPC is an ideal testing ground for SEO. Typically, the SEO guesses if a keyword term is worth the time and effort of attempting to rank for that term. Perhaps the keyword term doesn’t receive as much traffic as the estimated numbers suggest. By running a PPC campaign on the keyword terms prior to implementing an SEO campaign, the SEO can get more accurate estimate of search volumes. The SEO can also test out the wording of language on landing pages to see how altering the copy to favor search spiders makes a difference to conversions.

Similarly, SEO can feed back into PPC campaigns. Because SEO casts a wide net, traffic logs can sometiems reveal lucrative keyword combinations that the research tools do not.

An SEO strategy, built up over time, should reduce the cost-per-click price of a combined strategy. If a site ranks well for expensive terms, then you may be able to switch PPC bidding away from these terms and use the funds on covering other terms.

Search Marketing: It’s All About Language

2 Comments Written on September 4th, 2009 by
Categories: Marketing

Search is all about language.

The keyword is a goldmine of information. Not only do you know how many people search on a keyword, the way the keyword term is used helps reveal to you the intent of the visitor. What order do people use words in the keyword phrase? What qualifiers do they use, or not use?

Once you figure out the visitors intent, you need to align everything you do with that intent.

Their Words, Not Yours

Many PPC advertisers make this basic mistake.

They focus most of their attention on the language of the PPC ad, and pay little attention to the language following the click.

Let me explain.

An advertiser carefully crafts a PPC ad. The advertiser includes the keyword in the title. The advertiser creates compelling ad text, aligned with the visitors need. The advertiser delights in the fact their ad appears above the competition, and that the ad is receiving a high number of clicks.

But they neglect to follow through the conversation established by the ad onto the landing page.

There’s More To Conversion Than Call To Action

If you’re not converting to desired action on the landing page, there can be a number of reasons. The offer might not be right. The price point might not be right. The layout might not be right. You can experiment with these factors using multi-variate and split run testing.

One aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is the language itself. Are you elaborating on the conversation established by the PPC ad? Are you “talking” in the same voice? There is no point phrasing a simple, direct question in the PPC ad, only to bury the visitor in dense corporate-speak on the landing page.

The Tone Of Voice Must Match

The landing page needs to carry on the conversation in the same tone. It must expand on the conversation, enticing the visitor further into the relationship.

One of the downsides of the web is that it can be difficult to conduct customer interactions in the form of a genuine conversation, as a salesperson would, because you can’t quickly alter your content based on their response.

But you can approximate it.

Your landing page should provide multiple calls to action. They should be different. If you only provide one call to action, then you limit the customer response. The customer might not want that option, but something closely related.

So provide different options, leading to different paths of visitor interaction. Entice the visitor deeper into the sales funnel. If you don’t provide options, you risk ending the conversation. The visitor will click back.

Look at ways to keep the conversation going, and the visitor clicking.

Checklist

  • Is your language consistent? Same tone, same style.
  • Are you speaking in the customers language? Use their adjectives, their verbs, their nouns.
  • Does your landing page carry on the conversation established by the text ad?
  • Does your landing page offer multiple calls to action?
  • Are you using your most successful keywords throughout your copy?
  • Are you writing from the visitors point of view? Solve their problems.