An AdWords Agency – 2007 – August
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An AdWords Agency

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Archive for August, 2007

Back to Basics: The Forgotten Art of Negative Keywords

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in adwords, google, negative-keywords

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Everybody is always so concerned with what keywords do I pick to advertise on. The words you specifically do not advertise on are just as important.

When developing a keyword list, try to think of ways that your words could be related to other topics irrelevant to your business. Take the word coach… think about it for a minute. You have football coaches, baseball coaches, motor coaches, life coaches, Coach Handbags, Coach the TV show, and the list undoubtedly goes on. Well if the word coach is central to your ad campaign you better get to work on brainstorming negative keywords.

Once you’ve done your own brainstorming go online and do some actual searches. See anything that doesn’t match your query? You can use this method to generate more negative keywords. If your Adwords campaign already has some data accumulated run a Search Query Report and see how your keywords are being matched. Another good place to look if you have an analytics package attached to your site is at your organic traffic. Like the Search Query Report, Analytics will show you actual searches that resulted in a visit. Do any of them look a little bit off?

Now that you have all these possible negative words you need to make some decisions. Are they going to be implemented at the Campaign or Ad Group level? And are they the right words? Make certain that a good negative word for one keyword won’t kill the relevant traffic of another.

Once you’re satisfied that you will be decreasing bad traffic without hurting the good stuff, pull the trigger. Let your changes simmer for a couple of days and then check out the impact. Are your CTR’s up? Conversion rate improve? Or has your traffic fallen flat? Even if you’re happy, keep experimenting. Adwords doesn’t stop changing so you can’t either. Whether the results are good or bad, make sure you know why your traffic changed so that you can either fix or replicate the action.

Self Induced Content Inspiration

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in analytics, Content-development, PPC, SEO

Monday, August 27th, 2007

One of the hardest things about running a web site is keeping it fresh. If you have new interesting content on your site at a daily or near daily frequency, visitors have a reason to come back often. More visitors usually mean more money, so this is a good thing. Plus on a side note, this is great for SEO. The only problem is where do you find the inspiration to do all this writing?

Content development can be difficult and time consuming, especially if you have no idea what to write about. As it turns out, if you are running any kind of analytics program or PPC account you have a tons of possible ideas just waiting for you. The stats in these accounts will tell you what words and themes are most popular on your site and on the web. This is great inspiration because it allows you to see real searches, not just what you think would be popular.

The first place to look for content inspiration is your analytics account. If you don’t have one in place, Google Analytics is a free and easily implemented option. What you want to do in Analytics is find your traffic sources, and then search engines. You should be able to access a list of keywords used to visit your website. There will be a lot of words that make sense to you in there, some relevant surprises, and some that are completely out of left field. One of my clients that does general contracting and clean up had a number of searches on how to clean egg off of windows, cars, and driveways. It’s on the very edge of what they do, but it might be worth writing about seeing as a good number of people are interested. However if a phrase or keyword doesn’t make any sense just disregard it.

Now start really looking at this list. Are there predominant words, phrases, and ideas? And are these themes relevant to your business? If there are, you’ve just found some great possible content development ideas. Make sure you scour this list for any potential topics, you have a lot of content to create and every relevant little bit helps.

Now your other content goldmine is your PPC account. This is a collection of words and phrases you want people to use to get to your site. The best part about this is you can see the total number of searches done even if they didn’t result in a visit to your site. So say you sell fruit and you get 40 visits a day for ‘apples.’ ‘Oranges’ only gets 4. If you’re only looking at analytics ‘apples’ is clearly more popular and content development should be focused there. But before you start your research into the wild world of applesauce, check out your PPC account. There’s a chance that ‘oranges’ is searched far more often than ‘apples,’ you’re just not getting a proportional piece of the traffic. Always keep an eye on which words get the most impressions.

Now that you have a better idea of what you should write about, make a plan. As I get ideas I write them all down in the same place. Then I try to figure out what topics have priority and how to best space them out. You don’t necessarily want to ride one topic at a time. If you run 2 weeks of articles on the same topic and you have some regular readers that like your site but not the current topic you’re riding at the moment, you might break their daily reader habit.

So in short, keep it fresh, keep it interesting, keep it relevant, and don’t forget all the inspiration you need is right under your nose!

Targeting Regional & Local Customers with Adwords

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

A lot of potential advertisers are intimidated by the possible reach of Adwords. They’re trying to grow their business at a local or regional level and don’t want to spend money for traffic coming from thousands of miles away. Luckily with a few extra steps in the campaign process you can use Adwords Geographical Targeting features to make sure you’re paying for clicks in Portland, Oregon not Portland, Maine.

When Geo-Targeting you have 3 main choices: Countries & Territories, Regions & Cities, and Customized. Countries & Territories is the setting of choice for those running national and international campaigns, but for the rest who have a specific area to target the last two are the choices to explore.

Regions & Cities

Say your sales territory is the West Coast, how do you only serve ads to web surfers in your territory? With the Regions & Cities tool you can specify whole states, major cities, groups of cities, or counties. The level of detail in this area is limited by the options allowed to you by Google and it is determined mainly by population. For example my town, San Luis Obispo, is grouped with Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. Each City is demographically and geographically distinct, but we’re a little low on people so we got smooshed together.

Customized Targeting

Customized Targeting allows for a much more specific targeting of prospects. You can set a radius around an address or a point on a map, you can also draw a polygon that includes the areas you want to target.

The radius settings are pretty straight forward, pick a place and decide how far away you or your customers are willing to do business from that point.

Below I’ve included screen caps of both versions, notice how impressively similar they are.

The Polygon setting is the most interesting setting to me personally. It allows you to capture cities that fall outside of a reasonable radius, or draw around ones that are on little to no value to you. Keep in mind that with the polygon tool you should use it with city level areas, going smaller probably won’t get you the desired results. You may have a server on the side of town you didn’t want and that’s where all of your potential clients connect to the internet.

Other Benefits…

So besides saving time and money by only advertising to the areas you want to do business with, you also get a little addition to your Adwords ad that lets people know it’s locally targeted. The string of ads I posted on the right includes a mix of national, local and statewide ads. Notice the difference? Web surfers do. In our experience we’ve noticed that ads that are noticeably local get better Click Through Rates and overall response.

So What’s the Bad News?

For the most part Geo Targeting is pretty cool, but it’s not perfect. Location is determined by the location of the server not necessarily the location of the person surfing the web. Most of the time the server and the surfer are fairly close to each other, but sometimes they are really far apart which means they could be in your targeted area but not receive your ads… and sometimes Google just plain screws up. In one campaign localized to San Francisco I had one rogue click from Greece… which happens to be slightly out of my 100 mile circle. That’s the exception not the rule however.

It may be worth it, especially if you deal with tourists in your business, to consider running a national campaign that uses your keywords mixed with local city and region names to capture relevant out of town traffic and those with geographically distant servers.

Give it a Try!

So as you can see Google gives you a fair amount of control over where your ads show, and mixed with a well controlled budget you can safely test the waters and start advertising online!

Split Testing, an Exercise in Patience

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Google Adwords require patience, persistence, and perspiration. Its hard work and it needs to be part of a long-term marketing strategy. Reacting too quickly results in judgment errors and a continual thrashing of your decisions.

A great example of this is an advertising split test. I have seen rookies that set up a test and declare a victor with 100 clicks and start making decisions based on the facts they just absolutely proved with a “one click” difference. With full belief in their results they tell a client that one ad was twice as effective as the other and, of course, they predicted that outcome just two days ago. They got one conversion with one ad and two with the other.

An immutable rule of marketing states that “You cannot predict the action of an individual but you can predict the action of a group”. What does this rule actually say to us? It says that your data sample has to be big enough for it to represent a group not an individual decision. You need patience because you need a sample large enough to get to your number with some degree of confidence.

The next logical question is “How do we figure out how many need to be in the sample?” Good question although we are not ready to answer that quite yet. First we have to get some idea of the margin of error. The simplest way to do this is to set up a split test in several Adwords groups. You need to make everything absolutely the same.

  • Same keywords
  • Same traffic split (set campaign to serve evenly and turn off the content network)
  • Same ad copy
  • Same landing page
  • Same conversion objective
  • Same Start & End Date/Time

Logic would tell us that the results of this should be the exactly the same but they almost never are. The longer you run this the more the numbers move toward each other and at some point in this time line the differences settle in. Track this data weekly so you can see the patterns until your numbers slow down in their movement. I recommend doing this over several ad groups to get an understanding of how these factors interact. There are actually more accurate ways to measure this but that typically requires engaging professional market researchers.

With a sample size and margin of error you can now set up split tests where you change the ad copy, while keeping all the rest of the path the same. When you reach your sample size on all the ads examine your actual results with the margin of error. The graph below assumes our test had a 1% margin of error.

These results are “Too Close To Call”. The two data sets overlap from 3.25 to 4.75 so within that range either of these could be the winner. While we are talking about this lets consider that the margin of error also has a margin of error. This math might be scary to some and I do not do this math all the time because I have a life and I like to live it. I have a simple rule of thumb and that is if the winner is winning by more than the margin of error then I tend to believe the result, otherwise I keep testing.

On sample size, my rule of thumb is that I do not believe a result until it has at least 1,000 events. If I am testing ad groups then I want to see an average of 1,000 clicks on each ad before I start making decisions. In some accounts this can take several weeks or even a few months but if you truly want to make a good decision you have to wait for the experiment to finish. On top of this consider that the market is a complex place and your results can be tainted by external events. Events like holidays, items in the news, and a thousand other things can change your results.

In closing continually question and test your marketing and strive to become one with the campaign.

CTR vs. ROI, When Less Traffic Means More Money

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in adwords, CTR, ROI

Friday, August 17th, 2007

A good Adwords campaign requires balance. CTR & ROI are 2 particularly difficult items to keep in harmony with each other. In the future we intend to examine more facets of this topic, but this article focuses on trimming traffic to increase profits.

Click Through Rates (CTR) are really important to any PPC campaign, but they don’t mean anything if there is no Return On Investment (ROI). Sometimes when we take over an existing account we’ll find ads with astronomical CTR’s which is at first glance awesome, but the Cost Per Conversion is a little wonky. Seeing as companies market for the sake of making money, sometimes CTR needs to suffer to help you profit more.

When most people get started with PPC advertising it’s usually all about traffic. They get excited to see their web site grow from 15 visits a day to 100 visits, and then 200 visits, and so forth. While they’re getting all caught up in the number of visits the Return On Investment is being ignored.

So how do you tune down traffic and turn up sales?

PPC advertising is all about relevant traffic, not necessarily as much traffic as you can get. Look at your keywords, are some too broad? Are some related but too far of a stretch? Go into you analytics and check the bounce rates for some of these words, are they way above your sites average?

The first thing to consider is does the word buy you anything? If it sends you traffic of no value just pause it, you may want to revisit it sometime later but for now it’s just a hole you throw money in. If the word is an important word for you but is sending good and bad traffic start looking for ways to limit the bad stuff. Think of possible negative keywords and run a Search Query Report for inspiration.

The other hidden offender is ad text. When you look at your ads are they too effective for their own good? At first that sounds ridiculous, but is your ad attracting traffic from a broader group than you were targeting? A lot of web surfers scan and only see the headline of an ad. Could your headline be applied to other unrelated searches? If it can consider adding a qualifying word to your headline to ensure people know what they’re getting if they go to your page. For example if you sell training, use a word like “buy” so people don’t click on your ad looking for free information. The word “buy” will reduce the CTR, but the conversion rate should remain the same or even increase because the visitor knows they are going to a site that sells training.

There is no definitive silver bullet, but these steps can help keep your ROI under control.

Why Does SMS Focus So Much on Google Adwords?

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in adcenter, adwords, google, yahoo-search-marketing

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Sometimes people ask us why we focus so much on Google and Google Adwords, the short answer is volume. While we do run PPC campaigns in the Big 3 (Google, Yahoo, and MSN), we focus the most attention on Google because of its overwhelming market share.

How do you know Google is the biggest volume search engine?

Both SMS and others within the industry have studied the topic to try to figure out which search engines provide the most traffic and business. I did my own scientific testing (I deemed it scientific because I wore a lab coat and goggles) by running the exact same ad groups and ads in Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft Adcenter (btw, I didn’t use content networks, just pure search). Over about 45 days tens of thousands of impressions and a few thousand clicks I had my answers.

Google Adwords won in both clicks and impressions with Yahoo and MSN taking 2 & 3 respectively. Yahoo actually pulled pretty close in search volume, but Google outpaced them severely in actual visits delivered.

In my tests Google had 49% of the total impressions and 72% of the clicks. Yahoo Search Marketing came in with 44% of the total impressions and 21% of the clicks. And lastly MSN Adcenter despite its best efforts only mustered about 7% and about 7% of the clicks. Now although this wasn’t the most extensive study ever done on the topic, the results are pretty clear. And if you look for bigger studies the actual numbers are always different, but the rankings are always the same Google, Yahoo, and then MSN.

How do I leverage this information for PPC Success?

The way we like to do things is from the top down. Build an Adwords account in Google, get all the bugs out, perfect your message and then make a move into Yahoo. The Yahoo account will give you more perspective on search trends and patterns, and once you’re settled in if you have the budget for it give MSN a shot. At the present time I wouldn’t focus much attention on anything below MSN unless it’s an industry specific search engine that relates to your business.

Each PPC program has its own tools and quirks, and each one will teach you something about your target customers, but ultimately Google is probably going give your business the most bang for your buck and should be the initial focus of any foray into Search Engine Marketing.

Google Analytics Counter-Intel

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in analytics, google

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

One of the most overlooked advantages of using Analytics is the business intelligence that can be extracted from the program. You can track specific visitor traffic, and generally keep an eye on everybody watching you. Sometimes extracting this type of information is labor intensive, but it can be very worth it. Plus if you’re like me, it’s fun.

Before I got involved with Search Marketing I was enlisted in the Army as a Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) Analyst, oddly they go very well together. I was taught to gather, sort, and interpret data to figure out who was doing what where and why. The clever networker (the in-person type of networking) can use Google Analytics as a BIZINT tool to gauge their social effectiveness and who they should follow up with.

After going to a trade event, a Chamber of Commerce meeting, or any other type of networking meeting I come back to the office and check out the web site addresses on some of the business cards I picked up in the course of the evening. Chances are some of the people you gave your card to did the same thing. Give it a day or two and then check your analytics.

Select the day of the event up until today then on the side bar of analytics click “Visitors,” “Network Properties,” and then “Network Location.” The results will have the network location of every visit to your site. See any familiar names? Now not every business will have an identifiable result, smaller businesses will usually show up as a visit from an ISP like Charter, Comcast, RoadRunner and the like, but the midsize to big companies, schools, and government agencies will almost always be identifiable.

As you sort through this list you can see how many times they visited, how many pages they viewed and how long they visited for. If you want to investigate further click on the name of a specific network location, the next screen will be dedicated to just that location. Underneath the visit graph is a dropdown menu called “Segment” that has 20+ ways to dissect the traffic from this location. With this tool you can figure out if they came directly and used your card, or if they Googled you and what keyword they used to find you. You can even figure out if their office is running Windows, Mac, or Linux, and even their browser of choice. Experiment a little and see what data you can extract that would benefit you to know.

If you want to know what pages specific businesses were visiting Google is going to make you work just a little bit harder. Click on “Content” in the side bar and then “Content by Title” or “Top Content.” They both ultimately do the same thing. If you give your pages unique and easily identifiable titles choose “Content by Title” if your URLs are more easily identifiable use “Top Content.” From the resulting screen, click on the link for one of your pages. This will send you to a new page that gives you information on just one URL. In the “Segment” drop down choose “Network Location” to see which businesses may have visited that page. And now that you have Analytics set to show “Network Locations,” you can change the tracked URL via the “Content” dropdown menu.

If you see a person of interest lurking around your website, track their behavior. It may present a pattern that gives you a better idea of what may be important to them, and you can adjust your sales presentation accordingly. Also take the initiative and follow up with them. You’ve met them in person, they visited your web site, a follow up call or an e-mail wouldn’t be inappropriate at this point. What it is all worth is up to you, but I recommend keeping an eye on who is keeping an eye on you.

Myspace, Your Money

Posted by Rob Dumouchel in adwords, content-network, google

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Everyone knows Myspace as the biggest social networking website around for the 15-30 year old crowd, but not everyone knows that it can also be a drain on your Adwords budget.

Myspace is free, and all of the sites that offer graphics and layouts for Myspace are free as well. So to make money they all rely on advertising and Adsense is their weapon of choice. Thanks to the huge amount of traffic and loose broad matching there’s a good chance if you use the Content Network that you have graced the pages of Myspace. For some advertisers who advertise consumer products to a younger demographic this is great; for many others this is a big waste of money.

Up until just recently one had no way of knowing that social networking sites were eating up their ad budget. There was no reporting associated with where your ads were showing, it was either Search Network or Content Network. Recently Adwords finally released a report with very little fanfare to see where your Content Network traffic was coming from. A real eye opener for those that noticed.

Social media and other web site of little to no business value can swallow up hundreds to thousands of dollars from advertisers. We’ve talked to a few people running their own Adwords campaigns that had mystery spikes in spending and traffic but not sales. They had no idea where the money was going and why they weren’t getting anything back in return. For some of them we’ve taken on their accounts and trimmed a big percentage of their ad spend and maintained or improved the number of sales or leads.

Remember when you’re looking at you account not all traffic is created equal. Make sure you track your conversion so that you can make an informed decision on whether a word is worth it or not. Just because it sends you visitors, it doesn’t mean you want it!