PPCblog Closing to New Members Tonight at 6PM

No Comments » Written on April 14th, 2011 by
Categories: Uncategorized

I just wanted to give a quick heads up that PPCblog’s membership community is closing to new members starting tonight.  We’ve reached our membership goal, and I want to devote more time to providing our community with resources and advice and less time to new member acquisition efforts.

If you’ve been on the fence about joining, the $1 first-month trial is available until 6 pm PDT tonight, after which we’ll be closed to new members until further notice.

Thanks so much to everyone for your support so far, the community’s become a truly special place for PPC marketers to help each other and grow!

All the Best,


Three Essential Google Analytics PPC Hacks

13 Comments Written on April 11th, 2011 by
Categories: Analytics, Microsoft Adcenter

Note from Geordie: I asked Google Analytics expert and PPCblog member, Stephanie Brachat, if she would blog three ‘hacks’ for properly tracking PPC campaigns in Google Analytics.  The following are her favourites, Thanks Steph!

Sourcing Your adCenter Traffic as ‘CPC’ and Not ‘Organic’

Are you running PPC campaigns on both AdWords and adCenter? Ever wonder why Google Analytics shows “bing (organic)” and “yahoo (organic)” but no ‘cpc’ traffic data for anything other than Google?

While Google automatically splits out their own traffic between paid and not-paid by default, anything coming from adCenter falls under the organic umbrella. You’ll need to manually tag this traffic to track it correctly.

For anyone who hasn’t used manual tagging, it’s simply a matter of appending your destination URL with Google friendly parameters. The only difference in this case is that instead of static values, we’ll get adCenter to dynamically pass the keyword data.

So, here’s what you need to do:

Head on over to Google’s URL builder and fill out the form as below:

  • Website URL: http://www.mysite.com/product/lp1 *my landing page
  • Campaign Source: adcenter *I opt to use adcenter instead of Bing, as some traffic could be Yahoo too
  • Campaign Medium: cpc
  • Campaign Term: keyword
  • Campaign Content: *this field is optional, in my example I left it blank
  • Campaign Name: myCampaignName *pick something relevant

IMPORTANT: AFTER you generate your URL, make sure to add curly brackets around ‘keyword’, as you don’t want these brackets encrypted when you paste them into adCenter… you want your URL to look like the version below as {keyword} is the adCenter parameter that passes your keyword.

In this example, the resulting URL was:


Now all you’d need to do would be to head back to adCenter and update my destination URLs to ones with the new schema:

and bingo… soon afterward you’ll see adCenter traffic and data showing up under ‘adcenter/cpc’ and accurate info on the paid keywords driving it.

Yes, it’s true you could extrapolate the paid/unpaid traffic ratio directly from your adCenter account stats, but if you’re looking to spot deeper traffic trends and patterns, it’s really invaluable to have this data properly segmented within Google Analytics.


How many times have you been looking back at historical data, only to see a huge spike or valley and not recall what caused it?

Finally, there’s help for that… Google now allows you to annotate your data.

Here’s what it looks like:

To add an annotation, simply select a data point on your graph, then, in the data bubble that appears, select ‘Create new annotation…’


Another pane subsequently appears, allowing you to type a note and choose whether it’s a private memo for you, or shared with other profiles who access the account. Your graph’s timeline is also updated with a little note icon as shown below.

I find it especially useful to use this feature when I make significant changes to our PPC campaigns. This allows all members of our team to easily tie back traffic fluctuations to alterations we’ve made. Beyond that, it’s really a handy way to note any event that impacts your traffic… server issues, the start of a new email campaign, election day… etc.

‘Not Set’ Visitors

I often get people asking me about “not set” visitors that show in analytics, and where that traffic is really coming from. There’s a few possible reasons for this. Two of the most common are:

  1. If you’re looking at keyword or e-commerce data, you’ll often see ‘not set’ for traffic that came in from the display network as that traffic isn’t tied to keywords
  2. Redirections between the ad and your landing page can also cause your Google auto-tagging (and gclid) to be stripped. While Google Analytics still records the visit and the subsequent user activity, it doesn’t have the information necessary to properly attribute the visit to your Google ad.

So, if you suspect it’s redirections causing the issue, how do you confirm if the gclid is being stripped?

1. Grab the ad’s destination URL
2. Create a test link by appending gclid=test to the end of it…

3. When you arrive at your landing page via the test link, is the gclid=test in the address bar?

  • if yes, your redirections are okay
  • if no, you may need to make some adjustments so that the gclid id is passed, and/or try manual tagging

As a side note, the tips above were screenshot on the old UI, but are the same process for the new version of GA. If you haven’t tried the updated interface yet, I highly recommend it! On top of the dashboard enhancements, it’s so much quicker, the date selector finally has some shortcuts for relative dates like ‘yesterday’ and they’ve really beefed up the options for event tracking.

Happy data mining!

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.

A Brilliant Use of Adwords For Branding

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Premise Landing Page System for WordPress

18 Comments Written on March 28th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting

A few months ago, Brian from Copyblogger told me about a WordPress landing page system Copyblogger Media was working on called Premise. At the time, it sounded very promising: a plugin-able WordPress framework with a collection of pre-optimized templates and call-to-action graphics that you could host yourself without paying fees on a CPM basis to use it (unlike some of the landing page templating solutions currently on the market).

Now that I’ve had a bit of time to play with it, I thought I’d share a full review (something I haven’t done on PPCblog before).


I tested Premise on both WordPress 3.0 and 3.1, but I needed to upgrade my PHP install from 4 to 5 before I could successfully activate the plugin. Additionally, your wp-content/uploads folder has to be writeable via the folder permissions settings in your FTP client. Following that, you basically just dump it into wp-content/plugins and activate it like any other WordPress plugin. Pretty simple.

Pre-optimized Lander Template Styles

To start off, here’s the kind of pre-generated templates Premise has built in (Click thumbnails to see a demo of each page type):

Premise Sales Page Template Demo

Standard Sales Letter or "Sales Page"

Premise Content SEO Landing Page Demo

Content Marketer's Landing Page

Premise Email Optin Page Sample

Email Optin Lander

Premise Video Lander Demo

Video Landing Page

Premise Sideways Tab Landing Page Sample

"Sideways" Lander

Post Install – Create Your First Lander

I consider Premise would qualify as a WordPress “framework” system not really a ‘theme’ per se. It installs to your wp-content/plugins folder, and creates custom panels in your WordPress dashboard (similar to the way Copyblogger’s other framework product Genesis snaps in):

Premise Landing Page Panels in WordPress

When you go to create a new page you pick the variety of lander you want to build:

Premise Landing Page Types

Copywriting 101 Baked-In

Once you’ve selected a page type you’ll see a different-looking WordPress layout for page creation that gives you a lot more control over the various elements of the page.

The first area you notice is the new Headlines boxes, you an additional headline option that gives you the chance to put in properly sized ‘subheadline’…nice touch.

Premise Headline Entry Window

In the copy edit window, you’ll see a few new little buttons, the first one pops in sample copy Brian and the Copyblogger team have come up with to work as a ‘best practices’ guideline for you to fit your copy into rather than just leaving you staring at a blank page.

This has to be one the best parts of the framework, the sample copy can spark your imagination and help you come up with compelling copy.

In fact, if you’re having trouble coming up with copy that will actually sell, Copyblogger includes a pane right inside the edit screen in WordPress full of copywriting tips and tricks:

Premise Copywriting Advice

Promotional Graphics Included

The next button pulls up a HUGE library of free promotional graphics their team includes with Premise for free, check this out:

Included Premise Promotional Graphics

The interesting part is that the image gallery appears to be fed by Premise’s server so you don’t have to wait for hours for all of the images to upload with theme to your WordPress site. Smart.

I had a chance to go through all of the graphics, and it’s a pretty impressive collection that you have full rights to use on Premise-generated landing pages. Here’s some of my favorites:

Insert LeadGen Anywhere

The other new task buttons allow you to insert an email collection box (directly connected to your Mailchimp, Aweber or Constant Contact account) right into your lander. I connected my Aweber account to Premise via Aweber’s apps feature, and Premise pulled in my existing email collection form without my having to recode what happens when an email is collected and the rest of the existing signup flow:

Premise Email Collection Form

Finally, the small yellow button: inserts a “notice box” that puts a nicely coloured yellow ‘call out’ box into your page where you can add special text you really want to stand out.

SEO, Website Optimizers, Split Testing

After you’ve completed your copy and layout, Premise has a few options for customizing SEO settings like title tags and meta, as well as options to block googlebot from indexing your landing page if you choose.

Just below you can auto-insert your Google Website Optimizer or Visual Website Optimizer code and Premise will place the tags in the right place in the lander code to ensure your multivariate tests work properly from the beginning.

There’s also a cool option to create an identical clone of the lander you’ve just built for A/B split testing purposes:

Premise Landing Page Copy

Colors, Fonts & Design Tweaking Galore

If you’re not keen on the default fonts, colors, layouts or graphics, you can tweak pretty well everything within the Premise Design panel, no custom CSS required. The level of granularity here is impressive:

Premise Landing Page Design Options Panel


Copyblogger has priced Premise at $85 USD for unlimited use on as many domains and landers as you want, but version updates, support and new additions to the graphics library will only be available to you for 6 months. They also have a lifetime updates plan for $165. In my opinion either option would be worth it when you consider what it costs to have a single lander developed, let alone with all the copywriting templates Premise builds in.

Overall Thoughts & Impressions

Almost everyone is running WordPress these days, and too often landing pages have been built outside of the WordPress CMS and just ‘hang off’ the core site like orphans. Premise lets you bring them into your site’s CMS without screwing up your SEO, mainly because you’re given the options in Premise to control how Google views the pages (if at all) and you can align common header images and footer content across content pages as well as landers.

The default templates are tremendously well laid out, as you’d expect when they’re designed by people who market content online for a living. The technical features aside, the copywriting templates are worth their weight in gold. They help you push beyond just extolling “features” of your product and focus on detailing the benefits your customers will achieve with your product or service.

In my opinion this WordPress plugin model is better than paying ‘per impression’ for landing page templates as some services currently do. You don’t end up getting ‘punished’ for having a lot of traffic and being successful.

From a PPC perspective, the basic elements that Google looks for with Landing Page Quality Score are accommodated with Premise landers, and the professional design style should more than pass the ‘sniff-test’ for Adwords reviewers, much more so than the ‘trashy’ sales letter templates. The resulting web code is reasonably clean and shouldn’t cause any issues for Google’s adbot.

The templates are somewhat monochromatic at first, but once you add in the button and badge graphics along with your own header image, it gets a lot brighter. The selection of templates cover just about every type of lander you might want to create except for one: a “deals” lander. I’d like to see Premise build a template for a Groupon-style deal or coupon offer as these “Deal of the Day” style lander designs are becoming the standard for “specials” of all types.

All in all, I think Premise is the fastest way to build landing pages in line with conversion optimization standards. When you add in the fact that 99% of us are using WordPress backends, it’s even more attractive.

Premise is available for download now at GetPremise.com

Thoughts on Adwords’ Slaps, Bans, & Recovery

13 Comments Written on March 23rd, 2011 by
Categories: Affiliate Marketing, Google Adwords

There are reports lately of a fresh round of “Google Slaps” going around.  It seems like this happens every six months or so, usually in waves.  I’ve heard of quite a few of the latest slaps being tied to accounts that were promoting “counterfeit” goods and knock-offs of designer products and the like.

The following are some of my general thoughts and observations on Google “slaps” and “bans”.

The Difference Between a “Slap” and a Ban

When you hear the term “Google Slap” it’s usually in reference to all of your keywords being “slapped” with a 1/10 Quality Score.  You’ll notice this is a blanket penalty across all keywords that are promoted by one or more domain names within your account.  You won’t see just one or two keywords slapped with a 1/10, with other keywords staying the same at 7/10 or the like for a given domain name.  It’s all or none.

A “ban”, or as Google prefers to call it, having your account “disabled”, is different than a “slap”.  Often, a slap will happen in advance of a complete account ban, with one or more “slaps” culminating in a permanent ban.  Consider a “slap” to be a warning of sorts, and a ban effectively means you’re done with Adwords.  Bans can stretch out to encompass any and all additional Adwords accounts tied to you personally.

When the original group of account bans started going out in the fall of 2009, Google said on their quarterly earnings call that over 30,000 Adwords accounts were ‘disabled’. That was 2009.  Since then the bans have kept rolling, with reports indicating that over 50,000 Adwords accounts have been recently disabled for promoting counterfeit goods.

How does Google know what accounts are tied to you?  Believe me, they know. Everything from IP address triangulation to Google Accounts (Gmail IDs) that have touched a common set of accounts can give you up.   If one of your accounts is disabled, you can safely expect that unless you’ve been phenomenally paranoid and careful in disassociating your accounts from one another, your other accounts will soon be toast.  (If you don’t know what’s required to do this and you have multiple accounts, it’s probably too late.)

Adwords Bans:  Your Past Sins Have Come Back to Haunt You

“My site is totally compliant with the Adwords quality guidelines, and I STILL got banned!”  One of the biggest mysteries to those who have their accounts ‘disabled’ is why it’s happened to them when the site they’re currently promoting is as “white a snow” according to Google’s Adwords quality guidelines.  This might not just be their perception either, their site might indeed be 100% compliant (until Google decides to change the guidelines again of course).

So why are they being disabled?

The most common reason is not what they’re promoting now, it’s what they’ve promoted in the past.

Why would Google hold that against them?  It’s probably because of the way affiliates used to ‘churn and burn’ domains they were promoting in years gone by.  When Google slapped a domain in their account, they just grabbed a new domain, copied and pasted the old Adwords campaign into a new one (using the new domain this time), and started rolling again, with in Google’s view, zero effort to ‘fix’ what Google was objecting to on the old domain.

Google wasn’t stupid, they knew this “loophole” worked, I’m sure it didn’t help when advertisers were advising each other to ‘just grab a new domain and go’ on the Google-monitored WebmasterWorld forums, not to mention the in-house Google Adwords support forums. (Always reminds me of the “Don’t make Google look stupid” advice).

To get around this “loophole” Google now disables accounts that haven’t ‘fixed up’ the sites that were slapped in the past.  It squashes the ‘get a new domain and reload’ tactic quite effectively.  The only problem however was that it took Adwords support a while to let disabled advertisers know that it was sites they’re no longer even promoting that were at fault for their account getting whacked.

Over time however, Google has been more forthcoming with detailed ban reasons in their ‘farewell’ emails to advertisers, even letting them know what it was about that old site you’re no longer promoting that they didn’t like.  That’s little consolation however when you’re being permanently banned anyway.

You Can’t “Fix” a Site You No Longer Have

Lately, Google has been slapping old domains with 1/10’s and sending warning emails to advertisers letting them know what they’re unhappy about on ANY domain in your Adwords account (deleted, paused, or active).  If you’re lucky, you’re often given a certain number of days to update your site to comply with whatever changes they’re requesting.

BTW: Here’s a Pro Tip:  Nothing in Adwords accounts is ever really “Deleted”, it’s just in a deeper state of “Paused” essentially. So when you think you’re golden because you’ve “deleted” that old campaign on the offending domain, you’re still wrong as far as Google is concerned, the site is still very much “alive” to them.

But what if the site Google is mad about wasn’t even “yours” to begin with?  The most common example of this is affiliate campaigns where you were ‘direct-linking’ to a vendor’s site via your affiliate link, not even promoting the offer on a site or domain you control.  So far the answer from Google to this objection is “not our problem, get it fixed or you’re done”.  Good luck with that.  NOTE: If anyone has had an answer from Google about this scenario, please note it in the comments, I haven’t personally heard of one as yet.  As a result you have to be VERY careful who you direct link to via your destination URLs.

What if the site you used to promote was sold, expired, or you simply don’t have access to anymore?  Looks like the answer from Google is pretty much the same, “that’s your problem”.

You might have guessed at this point that Google may not genuinely care if you’re able to ‘fix’ an old site or not to make it compliant, they’re just telling you how things are, and whether you’re able to actually DO anything about it or not is your problem.  As a result, even with a ban warning email with specific remedial steps to carry out, you’re possibly still going to be permanently dumped.

Can’t I Just Close My Adwords Account & Start Over?

This is a pretty common question:  If an old Adwords account is “tainted” by old campaigns and sites you can’t possibly fix anyway, isn’t it better to “close” your Adwords account while it’s still breathing and open a new one?

Short answer: You can try, but go back and read the part above that explains that “nothing is ever really ‘deleted’ in Google’s systems”.  This applies to entire accounts as well. (The folks at Facebook learned this from Google and never really “delete” your Facebook account either, it just lies in wait for you to break down and open it again, ‘reactivating’ it.)

The end result is here is that ‘deleting’ your Adwords account and opening a new one will most likely lead to Google just following your Gmail ID, IP, credit card number, Google analytics ID, Google Docs ID, or some other data point to tie your new account to the old one.  The ‘curse’ follows you to the new account, which will then be a fresh candidate for a ban.  Fun Times.

So What CAN You Do?

Death sentences are rarely overturned when you’re strapped to the electric chair.  The chances of reversal are not good at all, but here’s some things that have worked in the past:


  • As QS slaps often happen without warning or explanation emails from Google, if you notice a domain in  your account (old, paused, deleted, OR active), take a close look at it through the filter of Google’s LATEST ad quality guidelines.  If you notice something obvious (no privacy policy, wouldn’t comply with the new FTC guidelines, no Terms & Conditions clearly marked etc…) fix it ASAP.  Yes it sucks to have to go back and drag old sites you’re no longer using into compliance with the latest guidelines, but it may be your only option if a ban is waiting around the corner.  The onus is on you to keep an eye on the quality score of old campaigns and domains (quickest way is via Adwords Editor).
  • Pro Tip #2: If it’s a site other than your currently-promoted site that suddenly gets a 1/10 slap, you may want to avoid reaching out to Google support to share what you’ve updated and changed on your old site to make it compliant.  New support inquiries can bring new scrutiny on your existing site that you may not really want.  Use your best judgement when deciding to contact Google for anything to do with site reviews.
  • If your currently-promoted site has been slapped with 1/10, submit a support ticket asking for “specific things that you can do to make your site compliant with Google’s current ad quality guidelines”.  DON’T bitch them out explaining why your site shouldn’t have been slapped in the first place, why you’re ‘a long time advertiser and shouldn’t be treated this way’, or argue at all. The bottom line is that they are a monopoly and Larry Page doesn’t believe in customer service. What they say goes. If they think you’re not compliant, that’s all that matters.  If you get bitchy you’re email will go straight to the trash.  It’s obvious that they think something’s not right per their current guidelines, just ask them politely what that might be.
  • Lately, they will usually get back to you with details about the issue: don’t argue about the validity of what they’re asking for.  Just fix it and move on.

Bans (“Account Disabling”):

  • Sacrifice a chicken to the Google gods and then send an email begging for a second chance to make your sites compliant.  If there’s an “appeal” request path offered in the disabling notice, use it.  If not, and Google tells you not to contact them anymore, Google’s system will usually just trash your manual appeal request.
  • If you’re told not to contact them again, you can try sending the most contrite email you’ve ever composed to ‘lpq-support at google.com’, which goes to the ads quality review team at Google.  If your chicken offering has been successful, (again requesting specifics on how you might better comply with Current ad quality guidelines) you may get a second chance.
  • Other than that, enjoy your new-found interest in advertising on Bing.

Note: There are more tips on how to handle these situations in our PPCblog member’s area.  Join now and take advantage of our New Member Promo!



How To Scale To Large Campaigns

1 Comment » Written on March 18th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Small adwords campaigns are relatively straightforward to run. But what happens when you need to scale up to large campaigns, which can be extremely cumbersome and unwieldy?

In this article, we’ll look at one way to solve this problem, using the Google Adwords Editor and spreadsheets.

What Is The Google Adwords Editor?

Google Adwords Editor

Google’s Adword Editor, available for free here, is a desktop application for managing your Adwords campaigns. The tool features all the groups, campaigns, and statistics, just like you have available in the online interface, however as it runs locally, you don’t have to wait for the screen to update. The Adwords Editor also provides a few extra features, including ad scheduling and custom location targeting.

You can make all your changes locally, without affecting your live account, until you’re ready to upload.

The Interface

The interface is self-explanatory for those accustomed to Adwords. There are tabs that represent keywords, placements, audiences, negatives, ads, ad groups, extensions and campaigns. Flipping between the various options is significantly quicker than using the online version. There are also a number of helpful keyword shortcuts.

You can do everything you can do in the Adwords interface, and more. When you want to upload the changes, hit the “Post Changes” button. Keep in mind that significant changes – tens of thousands of keyword changes – may take time, as the application has to talk with Google’s servers. If you want a fast response, it’s a good idea to post changes one campaign at a time.

Use A Spreadsheet As The Basis Of Your Adwords Campaigns

With a small campaign, we micromanage the details by hand. We organize keywords into small adgroups. We seperate out the keyword themes. We painstakingly hand-write the adcopy. But that’s an impractical approach when we switch to managing large campaigns, because there is often too much data to handle.

How do we get around this problem?

Try using a spreadsheet. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of using a spreadsheet for large campaigns, as it makes it easier to cut n’ slice the data using formulas, as opposed to having to manually adjust all your data by hand.

Start by creating a spreadsheet, using your Adwords variables:

  • Campagin Name
  • Ad Group Name
  • Keyword

….and any other variables you commonly use, such as Maximum CPC.

Once you’ve organized your data, you can copy and paste it into the Adwords Editor. Click the Keywords button, followed by the make multiple changes button, and select the “Add/Update Multiple changes” option. You then need to set up your bids, budget, and other settings.

Similarly, you can use the spreadsheet for creating ad-groups, and managing your copy. Copy can be manipulated by finding and replacing terms to make the copy relevant to each keyword group. For example, if keyword is a member of group X, adjust copy to include keyword from group X, but exclude term Y etc.

It’s the same strategy we use when we write ads by hand in that we keep the copy tightly integrated with the keyword terms and intent, however spreadsheets allow us to add a level of automation, essential for managing large data-sets. The level to which you automate is only limited by your spreadsheet skills.

Creating spreadsheet formulas is a little outside the scope of this article, however I’m sure you can think of ways to cut and slice the data in order to form and manipulate thousands of groups. The Adwords Editor allows you to import every data type you use in your online campaigns, so try using a spreadsheet as the basis for your Adwords strategy, and Adwords Editor to pull it all together.

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!

Adwords ‘Enhanced CPC’ Split Test Results

13 Comments Written on March 4th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords

After reading Mark Ballard’s post on the Rimm Kaufman blog about the possibilities with Google’s new “Enhanced CPC” feature I was intrigued.  Google claims that Enhanced CPC can be a nice bridge between manual bidding and full-blown Conversion Optimizer (a campaign setting that allows Google to show your ads when and where Google thinks you’re most likely to get a conversion).

Enhanced CPC doesn’t take into account the CPA or cost-per-conversion you’re looking to achieve like Conversion Optimizer does, rather it  automatically adjusts your Max CPC bid, auction-by-auction (+/- 30% of your Max CPC bid), depending on whether Google’s algorithm for Enhanced CPC thinks you’re most likely to get a conversion.

Free Bid Management?

At the end of the day, Enhanced CPC is supposed to lower your max bid when you’re least likely to get a conversion and jack it up when you’re most likely to convert, lowering your overall costs.  If it turns out that this system works, it makes automatic bid management with manual over rides for zero fees a reality.

To determine the likelihood that a particular auction will convert for you, Google looks at a number of factors:

These include the individual words that make up the user’s query; the user’s geographic location, web browser, and operating system; and even time of day when the user is performing a search.

As Mark rightly pointed out in his blog post, advertisers can’t typically tinker with the settings for a number of these factors like OS and web browser, though they do have control over time-of-day ad scheduling and geo-targeting.

Setting Up the Split Test & Results

I decided to run my own test with Enhanced CPC.   In order for the test to be largely accurate, I had to ensure the campaign I was testing it on had no changes in the last 30 days or so to get an accurate baseline on all of the campaign metrics and conversion rates.  Additionally, I needed to ensure I didn’t change anything but the bidding method (changing from manual bidding to Enhanced CPC) to eliminate other factors accounting for changes in campaign performance or metrics.

That said, here are the results after 6000 clicks on a year-old Search only campaign (no Search Partners) taken over several consecutive weekdays that was untouched in the preceding 30 days:

Avg CPC- Start: .18c      End: .19c

Avg Pos.- Start: 1.7        End : 1.8

Impression Share- Start: 62.84%    End: 62.66%

Cost per conversion- Start: $17.60    End: $27.41

Conversion Rate- Start: 1.01%    End: 0.69%

Conversion Counts (1 per click): Start: 43  End: 31

The test period using Enhanced CPC was measured against the same days of the week and number of days as the previous ‘control’ week (aka the “Start”).

In a Word: “Meh”

End result?  Costs and went up slightly, conversions tanked, ad position dropped and impressions didn’t budge.

The big metric to measure of course is ROI, and in this case ROI dropped like a rock.

The odd thing however is that given the above results, you’d expect to see the Avg CPC  drop overall, which didn’t happen.

For me the net-net is that it didn’t work as advertised.  I thought perhaps it needed more time to ‘calibrate’ for maximum efficiency, but according to a number of PPC experts I spoke with it doesn’t really require the same lead time as Conversion Optimizer does to optimize itself based on campaign data.

What do you think?  Just another “bell and whistle” from Google to make Adwords appear easier for the masses?   Another attempt by Google to compete with 3rd party bid management providers?  Leave a comment below!

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.