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Archive for July, 2012

Does Your Business Need an Email List?

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in email newsletters

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Mr. Obvious says that the answer to this question is “Yes” 99.9% of the time. There might be some odd situation where continued communication with your market is not desirable but that is extremely rare. If you are in a business that does not need to communicate with your customer or prospects then stop reading this right now because it will be a waste of your time. All the successful email lists we have seen, have one attribute in common, they create unique and valuable content that engages their audience. Creating engaging and valuable content isn’t particularly easy, so you have to be ready to commit.

Building an Email List  

The first challenge is always to build the list. There are thousands of ways to do that, all of them hard. There are ways to cheat, like harvesting software or buying lists but those can result in branding your business as a spammer. Building an email list requires investment in both time and money. The first step is to gather up all your existing contacts and load them into an email system. Next, build subscription processes into your website so people can subscribe to your information. Then build a landing page to sell the value of your subscription. The problem here is that when you have done all these basics you will not be satisfied with your list because it will be too short. It’s not that you are unreasonable it’s just I know you will not be satisfied because nobody ever is.

Advertise Your Email List

If you have unique and valuable content then advertising should be straight forward and highly responsive. Since email subscriptions are normally a free offer, the conversion rate should be very high in Search assuming you are staying on topic with your keywords. In this area you need to make sure you consider the Display Network because free stuff can often work well in that world. One thing you need to do here is make sure that you figure out what a subscription is worth to your business so you know if this is a good investment.

Pick Up the Phone

Another tried and true method for building your email list is to use the phone to gain permission to email. To make this work you need to have a very quick offer of value that the person finds attractive. This is also a good way to start the conversation with potential customers or clients.

Why You Cannot Buy an Opt-in List

First let me get this out of the way, there is no way to buy an opt-in email list because any list you buy or harvest is spam. Even if the person opted-in to receive information they did not opt-in to receive your information. There are plenty of places to buy huge lists for some very cheap prices but just know that using that list clearly puts your business in the spam email business. Some people offer tools to gather up email addresses published in various parts of the Internet to build your list and again this is spam because you lack permission to send them email.

The world is not black and white and there is plenty of Gray in marketing

There is a gray area here where reasonable people disagree and that has to do with contacting a public email address for the purpose of obtaining permission. The purist will say this is spam but some believe that posting a public email address is an invitation to contact that email for business purposes. A public email address is an address published on the website specifically for the purpose of contacting the business. If the business took any steps to stop the gathering of the email, such as the use of a form rather than a public email address, then gathering that email is spam. Gathering any type of personal email from any source is spam.

You have an Email List – now what?

Share your knowledge and expertise with the world and build relationships. In this day and age it is nearly impossible to “Sell” the majority of the people and that is why direct sales efforts fail 98% of the time. What you can do is demonstrate your skills and expertise in your field. When they need what you do they will invite you to compete.  Today people do business with those they trust; they trust those that help them understand.

The DIY Audience

Some people have expressed concern about sharing what they do because they think the customer will just do it themselves and to some degree that is true. However those DIYers (Do It Yourselfers) are never going to engage your business either way so the business you lost you never had. The DIY audience will try to do the job and sometimes fail. When that happens, they will turn to real experts to finish the job. We have seen businesses that actually play off this dynamic with tag lines like “We Repair What Your Husband Fixed”.

What if your writing skills are challenged?

Let’s face it not everyone is a great writer but that should not stop you from talking to your audience. You can engage a ghost writer that can add the words and prose to your thinking but you need to make sure that it stays within your voice and message. When you work with a writer make it clear what your values and beliefs are and that they express those in the written product. There is nothing worse than turning this over to someone that lacks your passion for your business.

List Maintenance

Your email list requires maintenance because the more you use it the more you lose from it. Losses come from many sources with the most common being unsubscribe requests and email address change. Email lists have different attrition rates driven by the quality of the content you send, the frequency of the use, and most importantly how the receiver feels at the moment of review. In many cases with a monthly distribution to a qualified list the loss will run from .5% to 2.0%. This varies widely but once you start sending your list it will settle into a range that you can plan from. Look at your monthly loss and use this to create your plan for replacing those losses.

Email Services

There are lots of great systems for authoring and sending your email content, our favorite is Constant Contact. It is a solid system with all the services most businesses need. A good system will help maintain multiple lists, monitor errors, and help track the result from your content. Some CMS (Content Management Systems) will include a simple email system but you want to make sure you check this out before committing to it. We have seen several CMS that do a fair job of publishing the site but a lousy job of managing an email list. There are some great services out there that are fairly cheap, like Constant Contact, so there is no good reason to compromise on the quality of your email system.

Quality Counts

The purpose of the email newsletter is to create an image of your business in the minds of your prospects and the paint for doing that is your content. If the stories you tell are of value to the audience and engaging, then email is doing its job and the sales will happen. It is nearly impossible to sell someone something they do not want and you are not going to change that. What you can change is who they contact when they want your product or service and in that game 50% of the battle is showing up and being top of mind.  The newsletter gives you the opportunity to do that.

How to NOT Waste Money in AdWords

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

AdWords is quite capable of setting your credit card on fire and wasting money at epic levels, but it can also create great value. The difference in these two outcomes is driven by how the account is managed and where the energies of the account are focused. Here are some pointers on how to avoid wasting money in AdWords.

Don’t Treat all Keywords the same

In almost every account keywords break down into winners, losers, and the silent majority. Each of these needs a separate strategy.

Winners are the keywords everyone loves to buy, but they never have enough volume. The strategy in this class is to buy all the traffic you can. Make sure these words are isolated and fully funded so you buy these first and fully.

Losers are equally easy to indentify because they have no regard for your money and spend it freely with zero return. The only tough part about the losers is deciding at what point they become a loser. Pull the trigger too early and you could kill a good word; too late and you waste lots of money. Our general rule of thumb for losers is when they reach a click level that has missed 4 conversions based on the account average. For example if your normal conversion rate is 1% and the keyword has had 400 clicks with zero conversions then it’s a loser. If it has 2 or more conversions and the cost is above your maximum target CPA then it’s a loser.

The Silent Majority is what makes or breaks most accounts and it has to be managed with averages. This includes lots of low volume words that never get enough traffic independently to be either a winner or a loser. The problem here is that if the word has had one or zero conversions then the probability of getting another conversion is pretty low. Each word in the list is just as likely to get a conversion as any other and none of them have the volume needed to become either a winner or loser.

Don’t Skip the Negative Keywords

An AdWords account without a good rich set of negative keywords is a crime of the financial type. Every month the Search Query Report needs to be reviewed for new negative words and that should go on forever.  Everyone knows their primary keywords but very few know all the negatives they need to make their account really run at its highest level.

Don’t Try to Sell with Your Ad Copy

Let’s face the facts, it’s tough enough to earn a click with 95 letters and spaces (the limit of an AdWords Ad) so trying to sell something is just not going to happen. You need to focus on what is important, and what is important is getting the person to your website so you can better present your offer. About the only exception to this is the priced advertisement. If your big guns are the prices you offer then that can go into the ad. It does work, but you better be the low cost provider because your ads are going to appear price and all right next to your competitors.

Don’t Create Split Tests with More Than 2 ads

Split tests are simple to set up and complicated to analyze. The more variables in Ad Copy the worse this gets. You need to make sure that you test one thing at a time to cut the variables down to some reasonable level. You need to have a significant number of clicks to prove a click through rate and a significant number of conversions to prove performance and there is no shortcut to this. Depending on how close the results are the number required to be significant can be large so it can take time to gather that level of data.

Don’t Think that AdWords in Search Creates Demand

AdWords serves the demand of the searcher but it does not create demand. The proof of this statement is that the search query was created in the mind of the searcher before they ever saw your advertisement. To create demand you need to look at PR or advertising outside of AdWords Search.

Don’t Think You Know Something You Don’t

Let’s face it as humans we like to think we know why things do what they do, it is just our natural curiosity.  Getting from correlation to causation is at best an art form, especially in AdWords. We have run dozens of split tests with no variables but with different results, which proves that split testing is a clue not a fact. The other things we like to do here is take a very tiny piece of data and try to draw a conclusion from it. I saw the results of a split test where the person drew a conclusion and talked at length about the facts of the test – with 11 clicks over 4 ads!!! Let’s just say this is stupid to monumental level.

Don’t Go it alone

AdWords combines psychology, marketing, math, and language – it’s complicated. One person operating in isolation cannot possibly think of all the different variables with all the perspectives. The more people you engage in your AdWords strategy the better your account is likely to run. This does not mean that we advocate multiple people maintain the account but you need diversity in thought for the strategy development.

In Closing

In business you can pay for things either Cash or Creativity; it’s your choice. In our marketing we spend the creativity first and the cash last and we recommend you do the same.

Who Am I Competing with in Adwords? Check Out Auction Insights

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in Auction Insights

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Auction Insights is an interesting bit of competitive intelligence that frankly I’m very surprised was made available within Adwords. Adwords Insights is a good way to get a lot of competitive information one keyword at a time and see how you stack up against whom. I imagine a lot of advertisers are pretty displeased with this new report, assuming they know it exists and how to run it.

When using Auction Insights you only get to test out one word at a time, not horribly convenient if you want to jam through a lot of keywords or get an overall feel for how you’re doing and who you’re competing against. You’re also limited in that the keyword you’re testing needs to meet an undefined minimum volume threshold in order to generate a report. There used to be an icon that indicated which keywords were eligible but that has since gone away.

To view an Auction Insights report start by clicking the checkbox next to the ONE keyword you want to view data for.

Next click the “Keyword details” button and chose “Auction Insights” from the dropdown menu.

This will take you to the Auction Insights report itself. You can now see just who it is you’re competing with. The screen capture below shows the stats for a word taken out of our own account.


The report shows a few key metrics: Impression Share, Average Position, Overlap Rate, Position Above Rate, and Top of Page Rate. Impression Share and Average Position are old hat to most that have been managing Adwords accounts for some time, the other metrics are new just for this report.

The Overlap Rate is how often you share space with that competitor. Since our keyword in this report has 100% impression share, the impression share of our competitors and the overlap rate are the same number.

Position Above Rate shows you how often these competitors come in above you in a search result. You can see that although our ad has a higher impression share than anyone else there is one competitor that has been beating us out for the top spot regularly. Based on the extremely high cost of this particular keyword being 2nd is more of a strategic decision on our part.

Top of Page Rate shows how often your ad finds its way into the T-Positions which are above the organic search results. Oftentimes response rates are much, much stronger for ads in a T-Position so this is a great metric to be familiar with.

Now that we’ve talked about what Auction Insights will tell you, here’s what it won’t:

This report provides information on other advertisers that participated in the same auctions as you. This does not indicate that the other advertisers have the same keywords, match types, or other targeting settings as you. The other advertisers’ metrics shown are based only on instances when your ads were also estimated to be eligible to appear. These reports will not reveal the actual keywords, quality, or settings from your campaign, and it will not give you insight into the same information for others.

Basically Google will tell you who you’re sharing space with but not if they were there on purpose or are actually bidding on the same word as you are in the same geographic areas. There’s no info on competitor’s costs or quality scores, that remains a mystery.
Overall Auction Insights is a pretty good tool to understand what’s going on with an individual keyword. If you have a small handful of very important words that you put a lot of effort into managing this will be a great addition to the data you already have. If you’re looking for a bigger picture look at your account this report isn’t going to do anything for you unless you have an amazing amount of time on your hands.