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Mobile is changing the AdWords World

July 14th, 2016
by Bob Dumouchel

Burn-BobI propose that it is impossible to scale the web experience from desktop to mobile or the other way around with today’s tools. I am sure that hordes of web designers are gathering to burn me in effigy for uttering such heresy. After all, everyone knows that responsive design and CSS fixed all these problems. This is sadly, “Not True.”

I am not arguing that responsive design does not work because technically, it does. However, technically scaling the content does not cure the communication challenge. The audience expectations and needs are different on a mobile device compared to a desktop. I propose that mobile users are looking for short copy that delivers the content they want quickly. They want the phone number and address at the top with the phone number active to a click to call feature. Mobile devices are not designed as a reading device for long reflective research. Desktop users are often after all the details and while long and short copy is still a debate in the industry, there is little doubt that long copy belongs in desktop and short on mobile.

Getting your design to pass a mobile friendly test is only the first step in the process of adapting your content for the mobile world. The web experience that happens after a click on your ad, is how clicks convert into business value. So here is the second big shocker: “Size Matters!” There is a big difference between mobile and desktop audiences, and trying to use one set of content for both is going to result in a compromise somewhere. You have to rethink your audience and design the communications for them.

Google is in the throes of converting AdWords Design from Desktop First to Mobile First. We propose that both of these are important and each has its own issues. It’s not as simple as what goes first. Going mobile fixes some things and breaks others. Different audiences respond differently. I know a lot of people and I know their needs, wants, and expectations are different when they are working at their desktop compared to their phone. In many cases, the desktop user is more reflective and more likely to be in research mode looking for deep levels of information. The mobile user is often looking at much less content that is very direct and to the point so their goals are often to find a phone number, address, or other very short information. The massive amounts of data that the desktop values are a barrier to the information mobile users seek. For many audiences, especially mobile audiences, a small direct to the point website in mobile is what they want. The complexity of this goes beyond desktop and mobile because there is at least one more dimension to consider. Are they operating as a consumer or a business?

Did you know that the marketing industry has been debating this very issue for generations? It’s true, because all we did was change the words that describe the problem. In the olden days, before the internet was part of our everyday lives, marketing debated the short versus long copy and the debate continues today. What has changed, is our ability to interact and modify our behavior based on user input.

Maybe this could be as simple as asking the visitor what they want. Do you want a short and to the point answer or do you want all the details? The other alternative would be to give them the short version with a connection to the long copy on a section, by section basis. The bottom line here is that our world is changing and our methods of communication have to keep up.
I like to close all my articles with some actionable items that our readers can use today to make their account better. This topic is resistant to a short-fix actionable item so what I hope is that you will rethink your audiences and find a way to deliver the right type of copy to the right audience.

Are Audiences the new keywords?

May 12th, 2016
by Bob Dumouchel


I was inspired by the article by Christi Olson posted on Search Engine Land on this subject. While I respect her research and the quality of the article I do not agree with every detail. There is no doubt that PPC strategies need to evolve and that audiences will be a big part of that but audiences and keywords are two very different things. New thinking about the audience and keyword combinations are not a replacement for keywords but they certainly supplement each other. We propose that keywords are events that are part of the overall purchase cycle, while audiences are people who care about the message. In this article we will take a different approach to the same facts and see if that takes us to a different place.

Advertising is evolving and on that we have consensus. Christi’s article proposes that audiences should be used in replace keywords. I propose to you that the goal of advertising needs to change. As an advertiser we should seek to only deliver an ad when the person has an interest. In most research this is called the Point of Purchase or Sale but in reality it is the Point of Want. If you pitch your product at the point of want the consumer will see your advertisement as a service and welcome your content. Nobody wants to be sold but almost everyone wants to be educated at the point when they are making the purchase decision – that needs to be the new goal of all advertising.

Most people hate advertising because it is badly timed not because they object to the information. SEM starts to give us some of the tools we need to improve that situation but we have to think differently. Keyword searches are events that are clues to the interests of the consumer and using these clues in combination of audiences, placements, and keywords it is possible to engineer a delivery model that is much closer to the point of want than what we have today.

The next big thing would be to build audiences based on keyword impressions rather than script execution. The tools for management of the audiences will also need to improve, especially in the area of time frame of the audience event.

Mobile Impressions

March 14th, 2016
by Diego

Smart PhoneEver since the rollout of the Call-Only Campaign type, mobile traffic has been odd and we are seeing some strange results in a few of our accounts. One client who is a local service provider believes, as we do, that mobile traffic is extremely important. This client’s account  is large and well established. That being said, the data from the account is normally predictable but we were concerned about the volume of the mobile traffic. To address this concern, we ran a test that we would like to share.

We started our test with a Search Campaign with no override on mobile traffic as our Control. The mobile traffic volume for this Campaign came in at 20k impressions in the first month. Once this control was in place, we created a Call Only Campaign and put a -100% override on the Control Search Campaign to effectively turn off the mobile traffic and force it into the Call-Only Campaign. After 30 days the Call Only Campaign (mobile) traffic volume came in at 80k impressions, effectively pulling in 4 times more mobile traffic than the Search Campaign.  

To our surprise when we returned the mobile device override back to “no override” in our Control, we experienced even more impressions! Collectively this configuration (having the Search and Call Only Campaigns both running) got 100k impressions, not the 80k we expected. Because we were surprised by this we ran the test again in another region and that yielded the same results.

While the logic behind this is still unclear to us, what is clear is that running both campaign types gets us a higher impression share in a very competitive market. Mobile traffic continues to follow the approximate 80/20 share split between the Call Only and Search Campaigns with the Call Only bringing in 80% of the mobile traffic and Search bringing in 20%. This test was conducted with a CPA bid Search Campaign. We are currently looking at a CPC test; So far the results seem to be the same however the data is still incomplete.

If mobile traffic is important to you, we recommend that you test your account to see if you get the same results.



Search Underway for Side Ads

March 14th, 2016
by Ryan

Missing-side-ads2As we all know, the first 24 hours are the most critical in a missing advertising investigation and so it is with the Google Side Ads case. One day they were there, hanging out doing their thing and then bang they were gone. On Monday February 22nd, 2016 SEO and PPC experts alike were quickly on the web looking for the suspects in this case and.all fingers pointed to Google. There was no leap to judgement here as Google was the only possible suspect.

Over two weeks have passed and our culprit, Google, has yet to post an article on the Inside AdWords blog explaining this critical change and their erratic behavior. Not to worry, we are sure that the explanation is coming. More importantly we must ask ourselves, with this drastic change in place what is a modest position advertiser to do?  

First let’s explore the issue at hand and why Google would do what they did. The issue is that Google robbed us of our side ad space and replaced these side positions with one more top position and three bottom positions. In other words, they got rid of seven ad positions and added a maximum of four (one on the top and three on the bottom of the search results page) leading to a reduction in total ad copy, right? True but I suspect that Google has accountants who are really good at math, so why would they want a reduction in ads? The answer is that a reduction in ads is not a reduction in revenue.  When an ad went from the top to the side the CTR commonly drops by a factor of 10x. A top position that gets a 5% click will only get 0.5% on the side. That being said it is likely that replacing seven side ads with one top ad  (assuming this new top ad will perform as well as the existing top three positions) will actually increase Google revenue. See, I told you they had accountants at Google and they are really good at math.  

Now let’s explore who really got hurt here? While the data is still building it would appear that advertisers with a modest budget and position strategy and those who depend on organic traffic are the most affected. The modest position advertisers now must decide if they want to compete for the fourth position to appear on the top of the search results page or if they want to compete for positions 5-7 to appear in the uncharted bottom ad space. We are unsure how these bottom ads will perform, only time and data will tell. Until enough information exists, the bottom ad space is certainly a gamble.

In addition, the organic strategist got slapped because the first organic result now appears deeper in the search results page than ever before. For clients with a top of page strategy this change has very little impact other than the fact that all the side position advertisers are now reviewing their bidding strategies to see if they want to make a run at the top of the page.

Here are a few samples of how the SERP changed:


Shopping ads in-line, followed by 2 top positions, and then organic. This was a rare format that only came up on this search for a book title.


This is a non-localized result with 4 top positions and no side and this was a common result on searches that are not local. First organic is still on the 1st page but down a few lines from where it was.


This is a localized search with shopping ads on the side. This was a common format and the organic is no longer on the first page.


This was a common result for a localized search. Top 4 positions, the map, followed by the 3 pack and the organic is well off the first page results.

So what is an advertiser to do? First and foremost take a deep breath and see what your data says. If you had a side position strategy tune your bids to position 4 based on impression levels to see if the bottom-of-the-top or the top-of-the-bottom of the page is a better fit for your business. If you are a local business, then pay close attention to your map listing. Maps are organic results that are driven largely, but not exclusively, by reviews. The eligibility is set by finding address verification listings but after it is eligible then rank becomes the issue. Rank is driven by reviews and all the other organic signals. The key here is to get as many real customer reviews as possible.

If you are a local provider with an SEO only strategy you need to hold your breath and watch your traffic levels very carefully. It is likely you have been sent further down the search results page or even, dare I say it, to the second page.

Getting Started with AdWords Scripts

February 11th, 2016
by Nikki Duffy

AdWords Scripts allow you to programmatically control and customize what is done to and how you receive AdWords data. Scripting, in general, is a type of programming in which you control the behavior of existing complex objects. Though you can set up your own internal scripting structure you ultimately rely on another program for the low-level structure. That being said, AdWords scripts do a great job at simplifying complex objects and turning them into objects that AdWords users are already familiar with. This gives almost any motivated AdWords user the power of scripting as long as you understand AdWords objects (CPA, CPC, etc) and entry-level JavaScript.  If you are serious about your AdWords , this is an area that you need to explore.

I am the lead in this area working with Diego León as my backup. So far, our agency has built an automation process that allows us to monitor budgets on a daily basis, an automated mobile bid modifier that  turns mobile campaigns on and off based on client specific schedules and I am currently working on automating our Executive Dashboards and in the near future bid automation’s.

If you want to get started with AdWords Scripts your first step in that process should be to find some basic training in JavaScript. Once you have a handle on the language syntax adding the AdWords objects should be easy to deal with. There are some finer points to learn in this process such as data types and values which we have discovered can be represented differently on the Adwords interface and the scripting database. Take for example the device override for mobile which is expressed as 0% in the interface but as 1 in the object. Don’t let this intimidate you, this ‘random’ knowledge only comes from trial and error.

An image from the Google Developers page that explains how to “get going with AdWords scripts in under a minute!”

AdWords Scripts are great for so many reasons, a big one being that they integrate the Google Drive which allows users to post and/or retrieve data from cloud services like Google Spreadsheets. When combined with the ability to send email you can quickly see how this can be a powerful tool for the AdWords Experts that are willing to devote the time needed to learn it.  Scripts can be written within an account or across accounts in a Client Center. The limitations of this are simply the imagination of the AdWords Expert doing the programming.

Be on the lookout for future articles as our team learns and shares more about this!

Things we find in SQR’s

January 14th, 2016
by Diego

In the AdWords world there is an expression that helps explain the SQR (Search Query Report).

“Never under estimate the creativity of a user with a blank search box”

The SQR is where all that creativity goes and it is probably the most important data that you can extract from the AdWords System.

Many people go through their AdWords experience thinking that the traffic they are buying is simply the keywords they put into the system. This is just wrong. You are buying the search queries that match to your keywords and the accuracy of that is based on the match type. Unfortunately, Google changed the matching rules for phrases and exact keywords some time ago.

Match Type – The House Always Wins

Before we jump into the SQR we need to discuss the types of matching in the system. They are:

  1. [Exact]
  2. “Phrase”
  3. +Modified+Broad
  4. Broad

In the olden days (before May 2012) [exact] meant exact but that is no longer true because in a classic money grab by Google they changed the rules to include close variants. While this often helps most accounts there are times where you really do want exact match and the bottom line is, you no longer have it. Up until August of 2014, a user was able to opt out of close variants. Close variants include plurals, acronyms, stems, abbreviations, and accents.

The modified broad is an interesting match type in that it is about 35% of the volume of most broad matches. From our experience the big “filter” here is that modified broad keywords will not drop a word like broad will. If it is included in the keyword (keywords can be more than one word) it must be included in the search. For that reason, we find that this is a much better fishing keyword match type than broad.

Let’s be honest about a broad match, it is basically a license to steal in that Google can jump from your intended keyword to things that are barely related. We have seen these jump languages and go from things like auto to keywords like BMW. In full disclosure, a broad match is sometimes very liberal in the matching rules and they are the source of some of the more “interesting” searches we have seen in the SQR.

The SQR itself is misleading; in most cases it will account for only a small percentage of the actual searches made. The size of this problem is very easy to see. Go to the bottom of the report and look at the “Other Search Terms” line and compare the impressions to the total impressions. This missing data ranges but can reach up to 95% of the total traffic!


We still use the term SQR because in the past it was a report that you ran but today it is one of two buttons.

SQR graph

After clicking on the keyword tab, the SQR is accessed by clicking the “search terms” tab indicated by the blue arrow above. The other “search term” tab, pointed to by the black arrow, appears only if you have selected specific keywords by checking the box in the first column next to them.

At this stage you should be able to get your SQR out of the system and the question becomes what do you do with it? From a high level we are hoping that this data does two things for an account: It should refine keyword matching by improving either the positive or negative keywords; Positive if we like the search reported and Negative if we did not.

Reviewing the SQR

There are a couple of methods in reviewing an SQR. Some people prefer downloading the data into a spreadsheet while others prefer doing it directly in the AdWords interface. The choice is yours.

Excel Spreadsheet: Start by downloading the data into Excel and then remove the words with an “added” status since these are already in the keyword list. Next remove the data that is too small to make decisions from. For example, if there are 30 days of data and the search query has one impression then this is not meaningful data. The impression minimum is dependent on the volume of the account but in many cases 10 impressions is the minimum in a 30-day report. Create a column to flag the word if I want to add the keyword or create a negative for it. This will narrow down the new keywords and negatives you want to add or block.

AdWords Interface: : To limit the data you are looking at there is a filtering option much like you have at the keyword level. Using the interface you simply scroll down and start checking off the keywords you like to add to the account. Something to be aware of, make sure that the search term doesn’t already exist somewhere in the account as a keyword. This is actually good practice regardless of the method you decide to use. Once you have checked off all of the keywords you want to add, hit the Add as keyword button. When adding keywords the default is broad match so adjust the match type accordingly. The process to adding negatives is the same but the objective is to get rid of searches that aren’t relevant to the business. Once you have checked off all the search terms that you want to eliminate, you click on the Add as negative keyword button. The default match type is exact and sometimes you want to reduce the search into a more basic term and add it as either a phrase or broad match to get rid of similar searches.

Specifics about Adding Positive/Negative Keywords

For positive keywords, the more precise the better (ex: phrase or exact match as opposed to broad). We prefer to go with phrase match because there is more traffic volume than exact. Generally speaking, the more specific the keyword the higher the quality score will be and the more accurate the data will become. This has to be balanced with the cost of maintaining the account so we normally only add keywords that show some reasonable level of traffic. If you drive traffic too far down with exact matches, you run into the problem of not having enough information to be able to see patterns in the data.

The really complicated work begins when looking at adding negatives. We have to decide how to engineer the negative to exclude the searches we do not want without getting rid of searches we do want. Here is a simple example of a local plumber in Los Angeles. We want to keep Plumbing searches but not ones related to employment. So a search comes along like LA Plumbing Job and our knee jerk reaction is to put job in as a negative because this is probably someone looking for employment. What if the search is estimate for a Plumbing Job? The term job as a negative would block this. The challenge with negatives it that once they are in place you never see the searches that got excluded so be weary.

The bottom line here is the SQR should be reviewed every marketing cycle and you should use this data to continue to refine your keyword model on a regular basis.

Don’t Blame Adwords for Sales Volume Losses

December 3rd, 2015
by Ryan

pointing-cartoonWhen things decline many want to find a cause and blame it. Often they point to AdWords because it has a simple to understand cost. Sorry to burst your bubble but marketing is complex and it’s never that simple. All forms of PPC (Pay Per Click) face this issue and we have to examine the role PPC plays in overall marketing before we take a hatchet to the budget.

The purpose of PPC/AdWords is to get qualified traffic from the search engine to the website. It is the website’s job to convert qualified traffic into sales. The tricky word in these statements is the word qualified because keywords hold influence over this attribute. Within every keyword is intent. The depth of intent is an important factor though difficult to quantify. For the purpose of this article let’s assume we are working with a well-developed keyword model that fits a particular business model.

If the volume loss is traced to AdWords and is not simply a change in response or conversion rate, then we must dig deeper. The next step is to investigate whether the volume decrease is due to a loss in impressions or a loss in clicks. If we find that the CTR (Click Through Rate) is steady then we can conclude that the problem is in the impressions and is outside the scope of what AdWords can help you with. Simply stated AdWords does not create demand, it only serves demand that is already there. While some marketing channels have the ability to create demand, AdWords is not on that list. A great example of this is a client in the snow removal business who was concerned with the lack of demand. We had to explain to him that demand was created by snow storms not keyword models. Just as expected, when the next big storm hit he was buried in work.

None of this means that AdWords should be exempt from critical review, it too can be the source of problems. If your account has been running for a while and the results start to shift in a noticeable way then, by all means, dig into AdWords as part of the review. Keep in mind that events outside of AdWords can impact performance and this is especially true of breaking news stories. For example, in recent times one of our clients who sell flags experienced a huge spike in Confederate Flag traffic right around the time of the shooting at a Church in Charleston. This radically changed the “confederate flag” keyword traffic. Anytime something related to your business or product goes viral it can impact your keyword set.

In addition, it is important to always consider the associated connections within our marketing system. A great example of this is the connection between SEO and AdWords. While Google tells us that there is no connection between the two, our experience indicates otherwise. We have seen time and time again that when an AdWords  account is shut down the volume of SEO traffic falls with it. Now I believe Google when they say that there is not a mechanical connection but SEO is sensitive to overall traffic and AdWords counts for that. People may visit a site through an ad but return with a search for your brand. If the ad goes missing so does the potential return search. Over the years we have observed that stopping AdWords can have a 10-20% negative impact on organic traffic.

There is no doubt that AdWords must be critically evaluated just like every other part of any marketing system but keep in mind that it does not exist in isolation. Changes to Adwords should be made in moderation with observation. You do not want to pull on one end of a string just to be surprised by whats on the other end.

The bottom line is that the majority of responsibility of converting traffic into sales belongs to the website. The 95 letters and spaces in an AdWords ad only displays after a person has activated the search query and is solely responsible for getting a user to the website. Once the user clicks the ad it is up to the website to keep the users interest and meet their need(S). All in all, the influence of AdWords is between the search query and click and that is only one step in a very long journey to a sale or client relationship.

Dear Saint Google,

December 3rd, 2015
by Bob Dumouchel

Santa_ListSince 2008 I have written an open blog posting (aka letter) to Saint Google and all his 20% Googlers. In this we ask for the features we would like to see stuffed into our MCC and believe it or not we get more than a few of these. So while you might not believe in Saint Google; we certainly do. We do not know if this is from the magic of 20% time or just a special Google Angel that reads our blog but it sure is nice to watch the magic of Google as it tests and pivots and iterates the AdWords System.

Negative Search Query Report

This has been on our list since 2010 and we are amazed since the big winner of this would be Google itself. We often see changes that are to Google’s benefit and most of the time we view those with a skeptical perspective. In this case we contend that this idea would create more than a billion dollars in new Google revenue and you know if you put enough billion dollar ideas together it can add up to real money, even for Google. What is a Negative SQR? Glad you asked. It is simply a search query report that shows the advertiser the search queries they lost because of their negative keywords. Today’s SQR is one of the most powerful reports in AdWords and it creates lots of negative keywords. Unfortunately with great power comes great risk and the risk is that you might underestimate the creativity of a person with a blank search box and not realize how they might use that negative word.

Keyword Position Control

Several years ago the Google Grinch took away position control and Saint Google we would like it back.  We realize that this would be re-gifting but we are okay with that. For those not familiar Grinchwith this location controls allowed us to set what locations we wanted to buy. It gave us control over the top versus side position and it did this at the keyword level! Many times we want to buy certain keywords but only if we qualify for the top positions and we did not want to waste our scarce resources on side positions.

Follow the Keyword Rules

Some time back the Google Grinch changed the keyword matching process making phases and exact keywords into broad keywords. We know that this was a classic money grab to enhance Google Revenue but we really do need these controls. In some cases there is a big difference between a plural and singular use of a word and it is important that the system do what it is told.

Complete Data makes me Happy

There are several places in AdWords where the data is incomplete and it makes me crazy from time to time. The one that really raises my blood pressure is the Search Query Report. The value of this report cannot be overstated and yet it is horribly inaccurate because someone somewhere decided that we could get by with just a tiny sample of the real data. Check the impression count on the “Other Search Terms” line and you will see what I mean. It is common for the Google Grinch to keep a majority of the information from us but maybe Saint Google can tone down his evil cousin and get us closer to 100% of the data we paid for. Now I can understand not getting all the searches but certainly we can agree that we are entitled to the searches we paid for.

Scripts, Scripts, and more Scripts

By far our favorite recent addition to AdWords are scripts and we would love to see more of this. Things like allowing plug-ins and creating a market place for these would be very cool. One important thing to consider here would be making sure that the quality is maintained so we can trust the marketplace. Google will need to provide the testing, certification, and claims management. The claims management could be really critical when it comes to performance in the bidding area and other such tools.

Regex Keywords

Keywords expressed as Regex statements would very cool. Keyword models could be much simpler expressed with fewer entries making the results much better in the long term. This would need a testing tool to go with the keywords so it could show words that would match the code. This could start as just the +*? Coding and grow to more in future versions.

Mixed Match Keywords

This concept is simply a mix of the current keyword types allowing more control over the keyword match. This would allow keywords with exact, phase, modified broad, and broad attributes. This gives much better control when you want certain words only in a certain order but others can be before or after the phase. For example if you want to match plumber with the city name either before or after that might look like this: “San Luis Obispo” [Plumber]. The city “San Luis Obispo” could be before or after the word plumber but it has to be in the correct word order. Plumber as an exact does not jump to plurals or stems so you do not get plumbers or plumbing from this match. If you wanted plumbers and plumbing you could use a modified broad while a broad word would have the option of dropping the word from the keyword match.

First Page Map Placements

Map placements were always competitive but the recent reduction to the 3-pack has made this even worse. It would be great if we could purchase these placements in AdWords and bypass the organic scoring that is at best marginal. We realize that maps are intended to be organic results but honestly that has never worked well. To insure the quality of the listings the listing should have to be eligible to be on the map and then it should be based on the bid.

We want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year… and to all a good night.


Bob - Cropped






New Feature: Customer Match

October 28th, 2015
by Ryan

In Google, the only constant is change and this month is no exception. Recently, Google has introduced a new way to match ads to potential customers.

The name of this feature is called Customer Match. The way that this feature works is that it allows you to create an audience based on people within your e-mail contacts list. Like everything else in life, there are a few catches. Google will not match all of the e-mail addresses, just the ones with Gmail addresses and they will only target the ads when these users are logged in to their account.

This appears to be a game changer, just not to the extent that we initially thought. The tricky thing with this feature is that even though the creation of these audiences is similar to remarketing, it does not have the same arsenal of capabilities.

To set up a Customer Match Audience, you would do the following:

-Go to Shared Library

Click on Audiences

On the Remarketing List button, select the dropdown menu and select Customer Emails and follow the directions to fill out the Audience Target.

While this option has potential in the long-term, expectations will need to be tempered for a few reasons. The biggest reason is that unlike Remarketing ads where Image ads can be used throughout the entire display network, the Customer Match ads can only be used on Google owned properties such as YouTube Ads, Gmail Ads and Standard Search Results. The early tests that we have seen indicate that Google’s system will retain about half of the email addresses within mail lists in most cases.

Warning this is an additional selection meaning that the keyword has to match and they have to be in the audience.

Another difference within Customer Match is that the maximum capacity for Membership Duration is at 180 days (compared to 540 for Remarketing).

Despite some of the limitations of Customer Match compared to Remarketing, the Customer Match feature allows you to show customized messages to people who have expressed interest in your product or service at some point in the past and gives us additional arsenal in our toolbox to help us meet the needs of our clients.


Why we do AdWords First

October 28th, 2015
by Diego

1stPlaceRibbonAs a digital agency, it is common to have a client discussion that starts with the classic “Where do we start” question. Of course, this question is posed in several ways but ultimately it is a discussion of the priority of scarce marketing resources or, as I call it, money. Many clients come to us believing that search engine optimization (SEO) and Social Media are the starting moves. When you drill into this, the basis of their logic is that SEO and Social Media are fast, free, and easy. The problem is that they are none of these.

We always start with AdWords Search and there are many reasons for this. First, customers normally come to us after their website design is finished and their pain is due to a lack of traffic coming to their site. Second, AdWords has real data and data is the foundation of all digital marketing strategies. In any marketing strategy, there is a balance between advertising and PR. Just so we are clear here; SEO is the PR of the internet. There is no doubt that PR excels in cost and effectiveness but it suffers in dependability. Advertising is dependable but it costs more and is less effective.

More Data

Since data is the primary argument for starting with AdWords, let’s see what we get for this call. When we run AdWords we get the impressions (Number of time an ad showed), impression share (Percentage of times the ad showed to total traffic), clicks, cost for a specific position, and the competitors (Insights) that target a specific keyword. We can extend this with the information in Google Analytics to see the organic opportunity. With a little math, you can use this data to help you build out a digital strategy that includes the market value and true volume of your targeted keywords.


The SEO’s in the room right now are jumping up on their soapboxes to tell us that you can get this data from other tools but the reality is that you cannot. The problem with these other sources is not only that they have very little control over the data being presented but they also lack negative keywords and good geographic targeting. These other tools can provide important data but all marketing sources have their problems and AdWords is simply more accurate than the rest.

Follow the Data

AdWords, when fully implemented, gives us more data than just keywords. For example, AdWords can tell you where your customers hang out on the internet. This allows you to target other individuals that frequent the same web locations that your customers do. Here is one of the worst kept marketing secrets – Great Prospects look, act, and respond just like your best customers do. Adwords Remarketing code can help isolate traffic that acts the way you want (like buying products) and then use the sites in your display campaign to create placements based on these actions. A placement campaign based on the sites from your remarketing can be a very powerful display campaign with a much lower cost than search traffic.

Test Messages – watch your CTR

AdWords lets us test marketing messages that can help us in the SEO plan and performance. In an organic listing, once you get on the SERP you need to get clicks and many, including myself, believe that the CTR on your organic listing is more important than anything you can do on your web page itself. The reason we believe this is because Google has told us that this is how it is. Our estimate is that as much as 65% of the SEO rank comes from the CTR of the page listing. This listing, in most cases, consists of the page title and the meta tag description (shown as the headline and the snippet in the listing).

Time is on your side

AdWords starts to work almost immediately while SEO and Social Media can take months or even years before they begin to produce dependable traffic. A typical SEO expert (if honest) will tell you that, in most cases, it takes 6-18 months to get dependable traffic and I use the word dependable here very loosely. Google makes constant changes to the system and I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had that started with “We used to be first on Google” followed by a sad story about how that went away.

In our industry, SEO and Social Media are commonly referred to as earned traffic. There is no doubt that each of these aspects are very effective however, as I said earlier, SEO is the PR of the web. Just like any PR story, SEO PR’s have life spans much shorter than you want them to be. If your SEO gets you to the front page it is highly attributable to content freshness. Consider appearing on the front page of the regional newspaper. While this is clearly great for your business (if the story is positive), another story will be there tomorrow. It may take a year or more before the network (in this case Google) feels you are newsworthy again.

If Adwords is first, what’s second?

This is a great question and that varies depending on the traffic patterns of the website. In most cases, this will be either SEO or Social Media. The performance in AdWords should be used to create performance standards for each of these channels. It is common for clients to think that SEO and Social Media generated traffic is free but unless you have a source of free professional labor to do the work related to each of them, these channels are not free; They are simply paid for differently.

For the record we do all the other digital marketing as well but we start with AdWords


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