March 2015 -
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Archive for March, 2015

Things That Do Not Work the Way You Might Think

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords expert

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Shell Game

Most things in AdWords work as advertised or as you would expect and in this article we will discuss a few of these that don’t. The real purpose of this is to stress the need to test features that are important to your business because not everything in AdWords is as it appears.

Impression Capping is one of those sort-of-works features. I recently set up a campaign where the client wanted to cycle over an inventory of 15 ads with each of them getting just a few impressions each day. We set up the campaign with the impression limit set to 1 impression per ad group per day and in theory this would cycle through the ad inventory and then stop for the day. The reality is very different because we had some ads get as many as 40 impressions while others got zero. There is little doubt that the setting impacts the volume of the advertising but the rules expressed are not the ones used. Now in fairness to Google this setting works sometimes and sort of.

Keyword Matching is a really sore point with many because of a rule change made by Google back in August of 2014. Google announced that Exact and Phrase matches were now going to include close variants and this effectively makes Exact and Phrase matches something other than Exact and Phrase. Google has decided that if accuracy gets in the way of their revenue they will simply change the rules. We have noticed since that time that Google is reasonably well behaved when it comes to this change, but still, if I wanted it to be a modified broad I would have coded it like that.

Budgets are a funny thing in Google and I have always equated it to the Vegas expression of “The House Always Wins.” People talk about the budget being set daily and documentation reads like that but the reality is that if you reduce a budget it will continue to hold the higher value until the next business day. If you increase a budget that happens immediately because the house always win. The budget can over run by 20% a day if the account is behind on the monthly budget. So if you skip weekends it will to some degree try to catch up during the week. To be fair, if you dig deep enough into the details you will find these rules but they almost never get mentioned. The vast majority of the time when budgets are referenced they are talked about like they literally apply and they do not.

Billing is an area that makes our clients crazy and I certainly understand and appreciate their frustration. In the basic rules it sounds like you get a credit limit and when it reaches that level your card is charged and that is kind of accurate. Reality is that billing from Google has some sort of special rules that nobody seems to understand and the impact to small businesses is especially frustrating. What happens is that when you reach something above your credit limit and Google feels like it your card is charged. The nightmare starts with a business with a budget of say, $1,200 a month. The account will get 2 months with $1,000 (two charges) followed by a third month with $1,500. This is because the remaining $200 accumulates and eventually it has to catch up. Since small businesses are very sensitive to cash flow this can be a real problem.

Exclusions from the Display Network are a frustrating feature of AdWords and some might even call them bugs but what bugs me is they always seem to benefit Google. One great example of this is the mobile app traffic in Display and for most clients I am not a fan of this traffic. One would think that excluding categories like GMob mobile app non-interstitial and In-game under the site exclusions would get rid of this but that is not how it works. To get rid of most of this you have to include an exclusion for but wait because you are still not done. Google is rather famous for sloppy data involving the Display Network and the source of this is a great debate. I personally think that when they run into something that requires judgment rather than an algorithm they do not do a great job because it’s hard work rather than smart work.

There are lots of other things that are not intuitive or where the general rule has some really big modifiers but that goes to the art of AdWords. The important thing is to remember that everything has to be tested and you should assume nothing.

Keeping Up With AdWords Changes

Posted by Ryan in adwords expert

Friday, March 20th, 2015

First Line of Defense

Good news for everyone that works within the Google AdWords system is that the pace of change is slowing. This last year Google had only 200 changes to the system compared to 365 the year before. So we have gone from one change every day to every 1.8 days. Who knows maybe next year we can get to two days between changes!!!

Google seems to have discovered that this pace of change can be a problem for some – for example, mere mortals. Everyone knows that this pace of change is crazy but it is the world we live in and Google is trying to be better by organizing these changes. They have created a new page that consolidates changes and so here it is:

Now Google has had efforts in these areas before and they are normally well intentioned. Google’s track record of keeping up on maintenance is not the greatest but they try. I have followed the latest releases at Inside AdWords for years and this seems to be a recap of that. The challenge is not everything they change gets to these publications and we routinely find changes that have no documentation. Sometimes it even appears to be on accident but often they are changes that Google probably does not want to make a point of. Not sure if I will be a fan of this new resource since it seems to be a subset of a publication I already follow carefully.

Launching a New Product

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords expert, marketing

Friday, March 20th, 2015

NASA Rocket Launch

Photo Credit: NASA

If you are starting out on the journey of a new product launch we would like you to know that it is only slightly more complicated than the federal tax regulations and perfecting cold fusion? So it can be done!!! Over the years we have been involved in hundreds of new product launches and it is very different than promoting an established company, product or service. Large businesses launch new products by throwing large stacks of cash at the problem and that works. For a smaller business, that is not an option and that is typically the types of projects we have been involved with. Over the years we have seen success, failure, and the walking dead and there is a pattern to these results. This article is about the small business way of launching a product.

This article assumes that the reader is a small, medium, or startup business and that the product already exists. To put this into my terms you are “All-in” and have “Already drank the Kool-Aid.” You are committed and ready to pull the trigger going to market. Before this point you already wrestled with the issues of product features and benefits as well as the ideal customer. It is now time for the market to speak and for you to listen.

Creating Your Marketing Eco-System

Launching a new product is about creating a marketing eco-system to support the product over its life. This means that you have to consider and work all the reasonable channels including rep sales, phone, email, direct mail, blogs, distributors, retailers, and e-commerce. This requires a plan that considers SEO, PPC, PR, and direct sales. If the question in your head is what is the best or right channel to work in you do not yet understand the challenge.

Marketing Is A Full Contact Blood Sport

Marketing a product is a multiple contact process and while the numbers will vary from expert to expert I suspect this is north of 20. This means that on average you will put your product in front of an audience 20 times before they buy the product. In the lexicon of the web this can at times be an impression but more likely it is a click and page visit. There is a problem here that causes clients to not understand this process and it is early success. They run some advertising or some other activity and they get an instant gratification sale and they want the market to continue to do that… they are almost always disappointed. If it takes on average 20 impressions to drive a sale, then individual sales will have everything from 1 to 40. Normally this will be a bell curve distribution with a peak at 20 or whatever that number is for your product. There is no doubt that marketing requires contact with the market and it is a brutal place that will make you stronger.

Free, Fast, and Easy

One issue that almost always comes up is the client will want to do an SEO only strategy and their reason is easy to understand. They think SEO is free, fast, and easy. The problem is that it is none of these things. SEO is the digital equivalent of PR in the physical world and it is great when you can get it, but it is highly competitive. SEO is often the most expensive channel when you consider the labor costs that go into this activity. The problem is that this cost is often hidden from the decision makers – not on purpose but by practice.

If the Idea Is New Then Nobody Is Looking For It

Many new products are innovations and as such, nobody is looking for them. By definition this means that search placements are not going to work. On the PPC side of the strategy this means moving more budget to the display network and working with image ads rather than text. While you can get some traffic from text ads you can create a lot more demand impressions from image. If a product requires substantial consumer education you have to consider the cost of educating the market. Trust me when I tell you that educating the masses is a lot of money.

Early Adopters

When launching a new product you have to accept the fact that you are first selling to early adopters and this audience thinks and acts differently. Most studies show that we are dealing with about 13% of the market when we sell to early adopters and this means that 87% of the market is not going to be interested. As product travels through its life cycle this will change and so will your messaging and targeting. In the launch get into the head of the early adopter and stay there to make sure your message fits this audience profile.

Social Media

Social Media is right up there with SEO in many conversations and for the same reasons. The problem is that many businesses get this wrong because they have their eyes on the prize rather than on the market. People do business with those that they like and they like those that help them understand – they do not like people that sell to them. Social media needs to be established well in advance and your first mission is to have something meaningful for your social group. The beginners mistake they make is they run into the network screaming at the top of their lungs about a product nobody cares about and then they wonder why it did not work. You need to engage your audience and you have to show that you have multiple and interesting facets to your profile.

It’s About Distribution

Launching a new product at scale normally means getting the product into physical or virtual shelf space and that is in direct competition with and conflict with your direct e-commerce. Businesses often want to sell the product direct because the margin is better. Then they run into resistance from the retailer with whom they are competing with. This is one of the natural conflicts that product launches have to wrestle with. Retailers like new products but they hate new competitors and they are especially hostile to competitors that they feel have an unfair cost advantage. If you are the manufacturer and you want others to distribute your product you have to be disciplined about your pricing and you need to support your retailers. This can mean losing sales that you could have done directly.

Everyone Is My Customer

If you believe this then you either hold the exclusive rights to oxygen distribution or you are crazy. To market a product you have to decide who your audience is and then speak to them. Only rookies think their product applies to everyone with one message. The more precise you can be with the audience profile the better your marketing can be targeted and the more likely you will get the result you are after.

Some People Get Lucky

Marketing is complicated because it is where people, ideas, and resources come together and sometimes people get lucky. A statement like Apple did this or Google did that does not mean that you can replicate their success. Certainly we can all learn from thought leaders like this but ultimately you have to create your own luck.

Paying for the Launch With The Profits of the Sales

I hate to be the voice of reason but this almost never works because early stage sales are rarely profitable. Let’s face the reality that marketing is legalized gambling and that new product launches are the big table. You need to go to the game prepared to fund a minimum market test, which normally is at least 3-4 months. Things are going to go wrong and you are going to need to adjust to the realities that the market delivers. You want $20 conversions but your competitors make them $40 and now you are losing money on every sale. Competitors are not going to make this easy to do.

Stay Flexible

There is one thing that you can depend on with a new product launch. It will be difficult and it will surprise you. You have to be ready to listen to the market and pivot quickly while staying true to your purpose in the market. If you engaged the audience during the product development you should be partially on-target but the reality is that you probably asked the wrong question. You asked “Do you like this?” The series of questions should be “Would you buy this?” followed immediately with “Can I have your credit card to secure your advance order?”

There Is So Much More

There is not one way to do this and what you want is to have a smart and creative team around your launch that is listening carefully and responding. This is just like a chess game in that everyone has the same tools but the game can evolve in many different ways.

A big thank you for a great photo from NASA!