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Dear Saint Google 2017

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the net not a disk drive was spinning, not even in the cloud.

The ads were hung by the SERP with care in hopes that conversions soon would be there.

The Keywords nestled all snug in their ad groups while visions of eligibility danced in their heads.

When out on the net there arose such a clatter I sprang from my Surface to see what was the matter.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear but Saint Google and eight AdWords Engineers….

The Engineers sprang to AdWords and opened the code exposing the luster of embedded objects below.

The code flew with such fury that smoke arose from the CPU as new features flowed from alpha to beta to production release.

Saint Google sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they flew, but I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Since 2008 we have written an open letter to Saint Google and we believe that Saint Google reads our blog because we get lots of things that have been on our lists. Regardless, we find this to be a fun tradition for a company that eats, lives, and breathes AdWords.

AdWords is a very robust system with lots of functionality so coming up with new things is harder than you would think but here goes. Please feel free to add to the list by commenting on this blog.

Negative Search Query

This has been on our list for a very long time and we are stunned that it has not been done yet because the upside benefits Google financially. Maybe one of these days Ruth Porat, Google’s CFO,  will read our blog and realize that Google is leaving billions on the table. The idea is simple – as most great ideas are. When an AdWords Account drops a search because of a negative keyword it would go on to the Negative Search Query list with the query, keyword match, negative keyword, and source level (MCC, Account, Campaign, Ad Group, or List). Advertisers would then review this and find ways to pick up traffic that they now exclude by mistake. Negative keywords are a powerful feature of AdWords but with great power comes great risk. Negative keywords can be a silent killer of traffic because you never see what you are excluding. I will bet Ms. Porat, that this change could result in over a billion dollars in Google revenue and I would like just a small percent (Think Tiny Tim’s voice from A Christmas Carol – please sir may I have some more). The surprising part of this is that Google benefits and the hook is already in the code. Right where the negative keyword is applied to the eligibility test, can you see it? We can! Save that data and let the cash registers ring in the new year!

Regex Keywords

Keywords are the core power of AdWords but they can often be difficult to control. What we would like are keywords with better control. Today we have broad, modified broad, phrase, and exact but we want more. We would like to see a keyword where we can specify some parts  broad with others as phrase or exact. We would like to see coding that would allow us to extend words with plurals, stems, and full broad matching. We also want the ability to extend this with keyword lists so we can stop putting the same keyword into the keyword list multiple times. Here is an example of what we want:

*Qualifiers [Plumbers] *Locations

In the qualifier list we could put things like emergency, 24 hour, etc… and in locations we could put all the local cities and from this one keyword we would get all of these keywords. In the keyword lists as in the keywords we would have broad, modified broad, phrase, and exact controls. In the above example the * is followed by the name of the list.

Give us back Phrase and Exact Keywords

In the past ‘exact and phrase’ actually were ‘exact and phrase’ and we would like this back. There is a difference in some cases between single and plural. Since strict matching application is a minority of the cases this could  be a flag on the keyword. We will forgive Saint Google for regifting.  

Better Distribution Control over Responsive Ad Format

Responsive ads are great but did you notice that with them Google took away an important control? It was kind of sneaky so if you missed it that might have been by design. In the olden days you could create image ads and run them separate from text so you could bid differently. The reason that we liked this ability is that the text listings are much lower value to many clients, so mixing text and image has always been against our internal best practice. We would like control over which formats run so we can turn off text and run them separately.  

Full Visual Disclosure of Responsive Ads

Responsive ads get rendered into many formats but the preview tools only show a few examples. This results in us finding formats out in the market that are not up to our standards. We need the ability to turn the different formats on or off while reviewing all possible formats.  

Data Patching

Within AdWords we would like to patch data to fix known errors and to remove misleading data from the analysis. Errors come in all shapes and sizes a common one is a conversion code installed on all pages of a website resulting in a huge number of conversions. We would like to be able to fix this with a data patch. Ideally this would be applied at the most detailed level and then rolled up by the system. Ask any Data Scientist and they will tell you that patching data is one of the first things they have to do for almost any project and they spend more time doing this than any other process. Patches have to support averaging, replacing, and time removal. When viewing data in graphs it will be important to know that a patch is being applied to the data.

Data Annotation

Closely related to Data Patching, annotations should work just like they do in Google Analytics. We should be able to put a note at any level and across any time frame. When displaying data in graphs it would be great to see indicators of the notes.

Organic on Page

We would like to know that when an ad got an impression when the domain was also in the organic results. This would be a separate counter in the database and dividing this by the impressions would give you your organic support percent. It would be amazing if they also gave us the organic click but lets save that for next year. We would not want Saint Google do think we are greedy.

Competitive Threat by Keyword

Part of this is already in the Insights but this would extend insights to the keyword level.  What we would like is to be able to code competitor domains with a ranking from don’t care to we hate them (think 0-5). Then have the system aggregate the competitor level in the keyword. Since it would be aggregate data it would not disclose the specific competitors but the advertiser would be able to change the weight.

Exclude Competitor Clicks

Allow exclusion of traffic known to be advertisers on the same words. We would like to be able to put in a domain and exclude any person known to be associated with that domain. AdWords accounts are associated with domains by the URL of the ads and with that association are email accounts that maintain that AdWords account. If that person searches we want to exclude our ad from showing. If it is not excluded we would want the fraud filter to pick this up and remove any clicks from that source.   

Repeat Clicks

Repeat clicks and impressions are when the same user clicks on an ad more than once. We all know that searchers perform similar searches and return to websites more than once often through ads. This would be similar to the new visitor data tracked by Google Analytics but broken down by keyword, ad group, ads, and campaigns.

Improve Quality Score History

Quality score history is a newer feature and it’s a nice start but we want more. We want quality score reported with the same history detail and dimensions as clicks or impressions. It would be great to see how Quality Score tracks as we make other changes to content and ads.

Quality Score please talk to Data Studio

Here at SMS we’ve been diving into Data Studio to better report back to our clients on the performance of their account. It’s amazing all the data we can report on in Data Studio but for some reason we cannot get Quality Score to report. Now that Google has recently launched Quality Score history, we would be able to see long term trends in that data.

Voice Search in SQR

In the last year or so, voice search has becoming much more important to marketing strategy. Starting with Siri and followed by Alexa, Google, and Cortana, voice search is everywhere and becoming more common with every new version of home assistants. We would like to see voice broken out by dimension like mobile, tablet, and desktop as well as detailed in the search query reporting.

Saint Google is REAL and we believe!

Like most omnipresent beings it takes some faith to believe in Saint Google but here at SMS we believe and we hope Saint Google is reading. Nobody knows if Saint Google is male or female or what race, creed, or color but faith gives us the ability to look beyond what is easy to prove. As a group we proclaim that “We Believe”.

Getting Started with AdWords Scripts

Posted by Nikki Duffy in adwords, AdWords Scripts, google, Uncategorized

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

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!

Stand-up Desk Experiment

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Several of my friends have been converting their offices to stand up desks and we have been talking about doing this for well over a year.  The challenge has been making the commitment and finding out if we will actually like this. My friends tell me that the first 3 days are tough and you have to just work your way through it. Knowing that not everyone who tries this likes it committing to the cost of the desks is a bit much.

So I built one from scraps in the garage so here is version 1 of my stand up desk experiment.

Standup-Desk-Version-1.0

I worked on it yesterday and so far I like the standing but the design will  have to change. I mounted the monitors into the work surface and while it is a cool idea the pictures are poor when viewed from a 15 degree angle. It turns out that you need the monitors to be much closer to 90 degrees. So far the cost for the desk is under $10. My next one will be all new material and if I go fancy it could be as much as $30.

Stay tuned for the rest of the experiment.

Well this failed in spectacular fashion and it had more than a few design problems. The big one was the monitors when viewed at a 14-20% angle were impossible. Pictures were super saturated and some screens were impossible to read. I clocked the brightness to the max for the monitor and while this improved the visibility it was still a challenge, especially on graphic work.

 

 

So here is Version 2 :

Standup-Desk-V2

The new version is more conventional with a flat surface and I made the top out of a high quality plywood so we can finish it to match the oak desks in the office. This has the extra benefit of having storage space under the desktop. Assuming this works out well for us my plan is to wrap the bottom in fabric so I will have access to storage giving me a place to put some of the extra desk things we all have.  I need to drill a 2″ hole in the desktop to route the wires through but so far I am happy with this new version. I made one for Dana as well although her’s is about 4″ shorter to get the right fit for her. The challenge with the fixed height design is that you have to measure and custom cut the legs.

The first three days were tough on my legs but as I go into my second week I am really starting to like standing up. I purchased a pad to stand on and I tend to skip wearing shoes most of the time. I purchased a two additional items for my desk and they are slant blocks and balance pad. The slant blocks provide a stretching of the lower leg but it will take time to use them for more than a few minutes. The balance pad is not in yet so look for another update.

 

 

New Logo

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Next year will be our 20th year in Internet Marketing and we decided this would be a good time to reinvent ourselves starting with our logo.  Our logo is changing from:

Monster-200--x-143

 

To:

SMS-Logo-133x77

Just like the monster logo this one has a story. In the computer industry this shape is a decision block and it represents a point in time when you make a decision. The font is made of impossible shapes and that represents the impossible challenge that is digital marketing. Our logo represents impossible decisions that have to be made  to reach high levels within your marketing challenge.

This is just the start of changes and innovations within our business and we look forward to serving our clients for another 20 years.

Tracking Phone Conversions

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Tracking Phone Calls, Uncategorized

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Waiting-for-a-Call

I believe in the old adage of “Measure and it shall improve.” We get pretty excited around here when we see new ways to improve the measurement of marketing processes. While tracking phone calls has been around for generations, the technology of phone systems and the internet are rapidly evolving. We recently installed a fully integrated system for tracking our phone conversions and we are now working with clients to help them with this process as well.

Phones in many businesses can be the majority of the value created so leaving them untracked is just wrong. As an example I have an Adwords coaching client that has very refined tracking of his phone calls. He knows that for every form that is filled out on his website 8 phone calls are made. This means his cost per lead in Adwords is overstated by almost 8 times the real cost.

History of Phone Tracking

Phone tracking has been around for a very long time. Connecting calls to marketing investments started about the time someone thought of asking “How did you hear about us?” My guess is that was probably shortly after Alexander Graham Bell said; “Watson, come here! I want to see you!” Fast forward 137 years to radically changed systems that allows us to link advertising directly to a phone call.

Today’s Technology

Today’s technology varies in implementation, but it allows us to dynamically change the phone number given to the visitor on a website based on the source of the traffic. In our implementation we separated the paid and organic traffic from all other sources. You can take this concept even farther if you wish. As the complexity increases so do the costs, but at the most basic level I think every business should track paid traffic separately from other sources. It is very possible to break inbound calls down by campaign, ad group, or keyword although I have to question the value of this. Just because you can technically do it does not mean it makes good business sense to invest the time and money to make that happen. For most small businesses simply knowing the real ROI of your marketing investment is enough for the first generation of this technology.

Implementing Phone Tracking

What happens in this process is that you insert a snippet of code into the webpage and that sets the phone number based on the source of the traffic. The phone call then routes through the service and in our set up it whispers through the phone the word “paid” or “organic” based on the source of the traffic. This allows us to know how the caller got our number and what site they were looking at. We have an industry specific site for Plumbers because they are a big segment of our business, so when a call comes from that website the whisper word is “plumber” or “plumber paid.”

Connecting Phone Calls to Analytics

The phone system also integrates with Google Analytics using virtual pages. A virtual page is one that does not physically exist but is written into Analytics based on an event happening. In this case it writes a virtual page connected to the event of dialing the phone! The Universal version has a concept of a historical path in the data and can connect to prior sessions. This would allow us to see that a person arrived via an ad, read a few pages, came back as direct traffic, then as organic traffic, and then called us. This technology has lots of ways that it can be broken, like the use of another device, but it is evolving quickly and getting better with each generation. Since Analytics can be tied back to AdWords using goals triggered by these virtual pages we can get conversions in AdWords caused by a phone call event.

Phone Call Reporting

The tracking and reporting system allows us to go back and look at the summary of calls and their sources. If we chose to record the calls we can even listen to them as part of this reporting. This can help in the creation of a phone training program. There are many values you can get from these systems.

Phone Tracking System Costs

If you consider a phone call to be an event of value to your business then measuring it should be something you consider. The basic cost of the system we implemented is $75 a month and includes 1,000 minutes. The amount of minutes included in the plan is something to watch out for. In our investigation we found other services that looked cheaper but they either had no minutes or very few so if you had even a modest flow of calls they ended up costing more. The other variable to watch is the cost per line and the number of included lines.
The main point here is that the more we know the smarter we can be in the decisions we make. Leaving a large portion of the conversions untracked can result in erroneous decisions being made by the marketing team.

Bidding Formulas

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Creating and maintaining a bidding strategy is one of the most complex areas of AdWords and there is no unifying theory.  If your goal is to find the best way to bid your keywords you are reading the wrong article because bidding formulas are not better or worse, just different. There is no one solution to bidding but there are some shared concepts. You have to find the one that you believe in the underlying concepts. So let’s explore some of the factors.

Target CPA

Deciding on your target CPA (Cost per Action or Acquisition) is probably the first step in most formula development stories. People often have problems with this. When you talk about CPA most just say they want it to be lower. That is very short sighted. CPA is a balance between the cost of the advertising and the value of the business activity it creates. The higher the target CPA the higher the volume of the leads is likely to be. We have seen many cases where people have saved themselves out of business by only paying attention to the cost per lead with little or no consideration for the volume of leads.

Going the other way with this is also dangerous because if the CPA is too high you will lose money on every sale. Trust me, you will never make it up in volume! Oftentimes we are dealing with actions that are not the final outcome so the quality of what flows into the pipeline has to be considered in this process. The value difference in the response type is a factor as well, one client I am working with gets 90% closed sales from his form responses but less than 30% for phone calls.

Conversion Rate

Conversion Rate is the next factor in the formula since it connects the CPA to the click. For example let’s say we have a target CPA target of $50. If we have a conversion rate of 12% then we know that we need 8.33 clicks on average to get one conversion. This means that our target CPC (Cost Per Click) is $6 ($50/8.33 clicks = $6 CPC).  The challenge here is that conversion rate is not a constant since it is impacted by ad position, work intent, competitive environment, and many other factors.  You need enough data that the peaks and valleys average out to what is likely to recur.

Auction Discount

What you bid is not what you pay and the auction discount is the factor that gets from the Target CPC to the actual bid. You can figure out this discount by taking your traffic for some period of time and extending the clicks by the Average CPC and the Maximum CPC (This is what Google calls your bid). Down total these two and divide them and you have your Auction Discount. For our example here let’s say that the Auction Discount is 20%. You bid $1 you pay .80.

So here is the simple formula

Target CPA/(100/Conversion Rate)*Auction Discount = Target Bid

50/(100/12)/.8 =7.50

AdWords is not this simple!!!

If a bidding formula were really this simple I would be unemployed and every business using AdWords would be making money hand over fist. The problem is this formula does not consider the variables and there are many of them. Target CPA, Conversion Rate, and Auction Discounts are all variables that change based many factors. Market demand, Competitive Landscape, Product Presentation and many other factors come into play here and they vary by the time of day, geography, and circumstances. Statisticians have long understood that the way to lie with numbers is to average them. That is what’s happening here. We have the average CPA, the average Conversion Rate, the average Auction Discount.  So we have a lie multiplied by a lie multiplied by another lie and we wonder why it does not work perfectly.

Common Sense

The last variable in the formula is common sense applied by a person who understands the audience and the market. You can want to bid a certain level but this is a competitive world and your competitors may not let you get away with what you want. Sometimes you need to modify the formula because your gut tells you something different than the math.

Volume Counts

For all its problems, developing a bidding formula can get you closer to maximum leverage. The challenge here is that low volume conversions act like random events and it takes a long time to get enough data to make good decisions. Most businesses lack the patience to let their data build but to some degree you just have to find the strength to do so. What we have found over the years is that keywords should be separated into dependable converters and all the others. The dependable converters should be managed by the formula at a word level but the others have to be treated as a group.

When you have a word with a single conversion and another with no conversions you have the same result. In low volume words the next conversion is just as likely to come from the zero as the one. As the volume of events (conversions) increases this statement becomes less and less true. Depending on the volume of conversions we generally start to treat a word different after is has 4 conversions because at that point it’s starting to build statistical validity.

In Closing

Formulas are great things and they help you think through the impact of your bid on the process but formulas are not as smart as you are. Words and what they mean are far above the ability of current software development so you need to keep people in the formula to bring the common sense factor to the end of the calculation.

Why we do what we do

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords, Quality Score, Uncategorized

Friday, June 17th, 2011

“In service to the searcher”

The first priority of AdWords is to create the best quality SERP (Search Engine Results Page) to serve the searcher. AdWords controls 50% of the most valuable Internet real estate on the planet and our job is to pursue SERP perfection. We are not fools so we are very aware of the fact that obtaining perfection is impossible, but it is the pursuit that is important.

You might think something like “I am paying for AdWords and I want it to serve my needs first.” This is a nice thought, but a failed concept. The value you get is from the interaction with the searcher. You can only get there if you serve their informational need first. The value of traffic is created by the engagement of the searcher with the value statement of your business.  We must serve the searcher before that value can be created.

We get calls from people all the time that are trying to control the market and the reality is that the market is a thousand times more powerful than the business. Control is an unlikely outcome in a mismatch like this. The strategy needs to be in service to the market, not in an attempt to control the market. You cannot win if you try it the other way around.

There are lots of system manipulations, some of them work once in a while, but none of them work long term. You can trick a person into clicking on an ad with deceptive copy, but it is unlikely you will hold the upper hand all the way to the finish line because they hold all the power. I will be the first to admit that there are businesses that work on a one-sale model, but our clients need the recurring business and the long term relationship to build a good business. For that reason they need to get the right traffic to their site and that means serving the searcher first.

To be in service to the searcher we need to make sure that the ads on the SERP are the highest quality match to the searcher’s query. The magic of AdWords is the keyword model of both positive and negative words to connect directly to the searcher’s need. Since 1994, when I started working in web marketing, I have yet to meet a person that did not know their keywords. It is a rare person however that knows their negatives. To serve the searcher the ad needs to appear when it serves their informational need but no other time. You might think that there is no cost to the extra impression of your ad, unfortunately that is not true. That impression goes into the quality score which is multiplied by your bid to calculate your rank so it really does cost you in the long run.

We like to think about the search process as the start of a conversation. The searcher enters a few words as a clue of their interests and we match that to the keywords related to the ad copy which is our response to their query. You say hello and I say Good Morning, it really is that simple. The really tough part here is when they click on your ad you need to continue that conversation on your landing page or the only thing that will happen is a charge to your credit card.

Sex, Lies, and SEO

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Over the years we have noticed that clients either swear by or swear at their SEO Expert and there is no middle of the road on this one. With over a decade working on the SEO side of web sites I understand and deeply appreciate the value of SEO and I am a strong advocate of competing on both sides of the search engine.

SEO and PPC advocates often do not play well with each other because they have very different fundamental beliefs. These conflicting inputs from the business manager’s advisers cause great confusion in the manager’s strategic decision process. This is because the conversation is framed as one being better than the other. SEO and PPC are not better or worse, they are simply different. The secret to success is to use the right tool for the right job at the right time. Sometimes that is SEO and sometimes it’s not.

Google’s top priority is the best possible SERP

SEO is what Google thinks, and to understand how Google thinks you have to consider Google’s personality and the source of their success. Google’s number one unquestioned top priority is to produce the best Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the query posed by the searcher. Google knows that if they produce the best SERP the searcher will have a positive experience and they will return to use Google again and again. It is their dedication to the searcher’s experience and the Quality of the SERP that is the essence of their success. Here is a flash of the short term thinkers in the world – Google values the quality of the search above money!

Lie #1: We can get your site to the top of Google Guaranteed.

One thing that makes me crazy about the SEO industry is that there are a fair number of people representing themselves as SEOs that have little or no understanding of what is really going on. Like the amateur magician they have learned a few simple tricks and they go from client to client selling the fast, simple, and “guaranteed” way to the top of Google. This is not to say that there are no good SEOs, there certainly are, but for every good one that we run into there seems to be ten that are less than honorable.  They falsely represent what SEO is and they propose that they have some magical skill which will instantly get you free traffic to your web site.  The rule here is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and anyone who guarantees anything specific in search is lying.

Lie #2: We will optimize your page to get to the top of Google

One sure clue that the SEO is lying is when they say that they will optimize your web site or page. This statement can be a partial truth but it is never fully truthful. The majority of the organic page score is not in the page source so you cannot optimize it by changing the page. Nobody outside of a small circle inside Google knows the exact formula and in reality no one person knows the whole thing. Our guess is that 80% of the organic score comes from items not on the page.  A top position in Google is earned by being an expert resource on the search query. An expert is defined not by what they say about themselves, but by what others say about them and this is the fundamental concept of the Google Search Model. This does not mean doing the basics on your page isn’t important, a good foundation is vital to the search-ability of your site. However on page search factors won’t get it done by themselves.

Lie #3: We will get you to the top of Google easily, simply, and quickly

Another clue that your SEO is lying is the statement that they will get you to the top of Google easily, simply, and quickly. There are a thousand ways to get to the top of Google and all of them are hard work conducted over a long period of time by very smart people. One trick is to create a page and show the client that it is in fact first on Google. Unfortunately this is not difficult to do but the page will not stay there. The trick works because Google values fresh content so when it finds fresh content it moves it up in the ranking to test it. However this freshness factor wears out quickly and if people do not click on your listing and get engaged by your content you will very quickly find yourself in position 5,000. The challenge here is that the highly optimized page is often horrible copy that nobody would read.

Lie #4: You just need more back links no matter where they are from.

We recently had a client that engaged an SEO to work on their site. The SEO set out to generate lots of inbound links, which normally would be a good thing except they were not concerned with the quality just the quantity.  The final termination to the relationship happened when they told the client that the quality of what was on the page was not important. The client intuitively knew that poor content pointed at his site would end up hurting his professional reputation and he was absolutely correct.  Like most things in life more is not better, better is better. Poor quality content will never get picked up by highly reputable sites and one link from a highly authoritative site is worth much more to your reputation online than links from poor quality sites. The risk here is that this approach might actually backfire on you.  Google has a whole department headed by Matt Cutts dedicated to finding these tricks and fixing them. Often the way that Google “Fixes” these tricks is by removing the pages from the index. The advice we give to clients all the time is that you should only try to trick Google if believe that your SEO is smarter than Google.  Google hires the best engineers on the planet who fanatically dedicated to the mission of creating the best possible SERP. So you have to ask yourself, do you really want to take that on?

Lie #5: People search for this keyword

Often times we find SEOs that have optimized for keywords that nobody searches for. They target what they call long tail traffic and they get great position because nobody cares.  One of the great tricks is to optimize for these words so the client sees the results and the SEO walks away the hero. This is until someone comes along and adds analytics to your site and shows you how many visitors you have for that keyword and how engaged they become with your web site.  Analytics is the way to measure your investment in SEO and make sure that the words you optimize for are also ones that you would be willing to purchase.

The Truth

We have many clients that are wildly successful with their organic keywords and they share a common trait. They are all people who are passionate about their business and they share that passion and expertise freely with the world. They write articles, white papers, books, speak to groups, answer questions in social media sites, and many other things. They are Evangelists for their business and the second they open their mouth or touch a keyboard you know it. These people are the resources that Google is looking for because they will provide the searcher with the most positive web experience and that is how you get to the top of Google in the long term.

The secret to a great organic position in Google is:

To consistently create meaningful content that is valuable to your visitor and contributes to building the best SERP. Help Google create a great SERP and they will be your best friend.

Life was simpler in the olden days

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Google Adwords continues to grow in complexity and it is unlikely that will ever change. In the olden days you could write an ad, pick a few keywords, and your campaign was up and running. Well, the world has changed. It is not that you cannot still do this, you can, but Google has continued to release information and smart advertisers are using this to get better performance from their marketing investment. The problem is that your competitors are really smart people and they are not going to let you get away with being sloppy or cheap. Competitors are going to push the system for maximum performance and you have to do the same thing.

We can start by talking about the broad areas that have changed and what this means to your business. In the early days we had clicks, impressions, and CTR and not much else. Today we have a whole array of information and understanding what it means is not simple. Within Adwords we have quality score, impression shares, exact match, filtering, expanded search query reports, and many other newer items. Then you have Analytics and that gets into a whole new level of complexity.

Of the newer items quality score is probably the most important since it contributes to your knowledge of both paid and organic traffic. Quality Score is simple to understand but very difficult to manage. It is in fact what Google thinks of the relationship between that keyword, your ad, and your web site. It is the first quantified feedback in this area that Google has ever given us. Quality Score is what Google thinks. Google filed a patent on the Quality Score and we read it from start to finish. Our count of the attributes in this filing is about 140 so there are 140 items they are telling us about that affect the quality score. What they have not given us is the weight of each item. Given Google’s love of partial information my guess is this is about half of what is really going on inside the quality score. What is very clear is that organic score and quality score are cousins and very close cousins at that. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that an improvement in quality score will also improve your organic score. Every professionally run web site needs to be tracking and managing this number for both paid and organic purposes.

Impression share is another area that deserves some attention. This data includes the total impression share and a break down by budget and rank. The budget side of this is fairly straight forward in that if you want to improve these numbers simply give it more money. The Rank side however is about as clear as the components of the quality score. When an auction takes place Google ranks each of the ads with what they say is the sum of quality score and bid, however this is not entirely true. There is a touch of magic involved here and magic is another word for something they are not telling us. If the calculation were as simple as quality score and bid the positions would not move very much and they move all the time. We accounts that do not run out of money yet they loses large volumes of traffic to Rank. Our belief is that Google is moving ads in and out of the list that is being ranked based on factors they are not ever going to tell us. What we have learned about Rank is that it seems to improve based on the overall reputation of the account. Those accounts that have been around for a long time with a good CTR and run a clean account have the highest impression shares based on Rank. The problem with Rank is that Google does not report this information to a level where you can develop a specific strategy for improving this. The data stops at the campaign level and the problem has to be fixed at the keyword level. So you look at the warning signs at the campaign level and you try to guess what keywords are losing based on rank. Maybe Google will fix this, but for right now there is a huge leap between the level of the data and where the change has to be made at.

Filtering is new to the beta interface being rolled out in 2009. In the olden days you would run your reports into Excel and then use that to filter your data to find what is important to you. That has changed in a big way since you can now create the filter and not only see your data but change it as well. This is a massive improvement and we think this is probably the most important improvement in the Beta Interface. We have not been a huge fan of the beta interface but it is continuing to improve and data filters are one of the really bright spots in this change. Developing filters that isolate, view, and edit the data in a way that supports your overall strategy is now possible.

Search queries are one of the basic building blocks of any account and yet it is common to run into an account that has never run one of these reports. The newer reports have gotten rid of the Other Unique query problem. This is where Google would hide much of the detail that you needed to really understand what people were actually searching for. That is no long the case and we think this is a wonderful change. Beyond that they have expanded out the search queries letting us know about session matches, which we always suspected were going on but could never document before. A session match is where Google uses parts of queries within the same session to figure out what the person is really searching for. For example if you search for Grover Beach, which is the city we are located in, then followed that with a search for Real Estate. Google gives you results for Grover Beach Real Estate. This is a simple example of putting location with topic but they get much more creative than that.

Google Analytics is another component of this conversion because it brings all the other traffic to the conversion. It is now possible to see how the multiple types of traffic interact with each other and the mixing of Adwords data with this makes some incredible things possible. In many cases you can now calculate your organic click through rate which is really exciting since organic traffic is a mystery wrapped in an enigma with little or no real information available for it. Yet as an advertiser you suddenly have information to help you tune your organic optimization. You can use Analytics to measure your branding strength based on real reactions from real people. All you have to do is accept the assumption that an increase in searches on your brand is reflective of the strength of that brand. The number of things you can learn from Analytics could fill a dozen books and I am not going to do justice to it here in a couple of paragraphs so let’s just say that it makes many things much clearer than they were in the past.

These are just a few of the really big changes so you have to add to this all the little things and you can see that the system is evolving and the pace of change is just getting faster and faster each cycle. Added to all the above the changes in the interface that include extensive graphing ability and now you have a real powerful system for advertisers to focus their investments with. The question is what are you going to do with this better information interface, and will you do it before your competitors or in reaction to them?

My Google Christmas Letter

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in Uncategorized

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Dear Google,

Every year kids from around the world write to Santa with their wish list and in keeping with that fine tradition this is my open Christmas letter for things we wish for in the Adwords system. We are not expecting all of this to roll out on Christmas Day although that would be nice. Better tools inside Adwords will create a better SERP (Search Engine Result Page) because the searcher gets ads that are more relevant to their search query. Adwords Professionals armed with the best tools will create better SERPs because it is in our best interest and it serves our clients.

Reports & the User Interface (UI)

This is, in my opinion, the most serious defect in Adwords. Some data is available only in the UI and some is only in reports. There are dozens of examples of this like average position is in the campaign report but not available on the campaign summary UI. The quality score is available on the UI but not on the keyword reports and negative keywords exist in the UI but not in the reports. Maybe the development team should stop and fix some of these before they move on to the next new feature.

User Defined Data

Almost every serious application on the planet provides UDD (user defined data) and Adwords is in serious need of this at every level. We should be able to create several different types of data to be associated with each level in the system. Data types should including numbers, text codes, and memo fields for notes. UDD should exist at the campaign, adgroup, ad, and keyword levels. UDD should be one of the options when you customize your screen. So simple examples of what this could be used for would be to put goals or targets in the display.

Move & Copy

This is probably the hardest to understand why it is not already part of the UI, especially considering that we used to have this. So to Google I say give me back my toy! The simple function of being able to move or copy information is one of the most basic functions of modern systems (iPhones excluded). We should be able to move ad groups from campaign to campaign with all the data intact. This should include all the history, search queries, ad performance, and everything else. On the copy function we should be able to copy full campaigns with all the supporting data. On a copy it is ok that it does not take the history forward since that would cause the account to be out of balance. The need for this function comes up constantly. We have clients that want to control the hours of the campaign and, of course, that does not work if you only have one campaign because a US campaign has 4 time zones to consider.

Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool but the hook up to Adwords, oh please! This interface is horrible to work with except when everything goes right the first time. This could be as simple as submitting the GA account number to be linked, then have it approved by someone with administrative authority in the account. This is exactly how the client center works so replicating this should be simple. The hook up needs to be by account number so everyone knows exactly what account is attached to what account. This relationship between Adwords and Analytics needs to be a many to many relationship. An Adwords Account should be able to have multiple Analytics as it does now and the same needs to be true of Analytics. An Analytic account should be able to belong to multiple Adwords accounts.

Client Center

Allow more than one manager in an Adwords Account! This limitation is crazy and for our large clients it makes their life and ours difficult. Many large advertisers have several Adwords accounts and they have to sign in and out of each instead of running a client center because there is a limit of one manager in the account. Client centers should have a “Look-Only” access. Advertisers often times want to have professionals look at their data but not have the ability to change it. This is common in the early stages of our relationships with clients. I am sure they would be more comfortable giving us a first access of look only.

Client Center Internal Security

We need a client center with the ability to manage multiple users. Within a single client center the need to control the access of multiple people is critical. We need the ability to attach authorized users to the client center and then grant account access as change or look only. The current client centers forces the sharing of passwords and the reuse of a single profile. A manager overseeing 100 accounts might have 4 people on staff taking care of different sets of accounts and today this situation requires sharing of passwords. Client center users with full client center authority should be able to transfer an account to another client center within the same business. In this way we can have managers overseeing accounts with the ability to transfer the account within the company.

Quit pushing off-line tools

We know that off-line tools have advantages but they also have disadvantages. Offline tools create islands of information with data security and synchronization challenges. Each Account Manager should be allowed to make this decision and the online user interface and the offline application should be kept in sync with each other. You should not have features offline that are not offered online.

Ranges of Data

Common to most applications but lacking in many areas of Google is the ability to select and work with a range of data. Sure I can select keywords with a checkbox but what a pain it is to select lots of words. Do you select them all and then manually deselect those you do not want or do you just pick the ones you want to work on. This change would be simple select the starting item and the ending item and it would select everything between.

Changing Bids

Once we select the 25 keywords we need to work why not let me just say add .25 to every selected bid or add 10%. Why do you force us to retype every bid?

Negative Keyword Search Query

Negative keywords improve the quality of the SERP and that should be a goal of advertisers and Google. A system without feedback will fail to evolve and it will stagnate and die. When you run a search query report it should show you the traffic you got and also what you eliminated. A Search Query Report with the negative transactions might be more valuable than just the positive. Adwords is a much better delivery because of negative keywords and how they function needs to be clearly understood. Only specific feedback of what keyword removed the ad from the SERP will help improve the SERP.

Search Query

Tell us what keyword triggered the ad because it is not always obvious especially when it comes to broad matches.

Other Unique Queries

This is actually one of my personal pet peeves and it’s frustrating to have to work with partial information because it makes one wonder what you are hiding. At one point I thought this might be caused by the other search engines in the search network but clearly that is not the case because we have clients that only advertise in Google Search and they still get “Other Unique Queries”. So tell me Google, what are you not telling me?

Rethink Ad copy Maintenance

I was trained in relational database design and the Adwords system follows many of the best practices until you get to Ads. To properly focus traffic you need to break your keywords down into smaller and smaller groups, a process we call granularization. For each ad group you end up writing the same ads over and over and for no good reason. Why not just let the ads stand by themselves and attach the ads you want to the ad group. This gets even more frustrating when it comes to image ads that we have to upload the same graphic file dozens of times and your staff has to approve dozens of times.

There is no Ad maintenance

Ads are never maintained and everyone one knows it. When you maintain an advertisement it actually deletes the old and writes a new one. There are good and bad things that happen as a result of this but in reality you should let the Adwords Manager decide when to delete and copy and when to change the data directly. In some cases we are running a split test and we discover a spelling error. We are faced with either not fixing the problem, resetting the test, or add the two results during the analysis. The default of resetting all the stats on the ad is not always the right answer.

Opt Out Advertisers

Click fraud is out of control and it endangers our entire industry. One way to control part of this is to have a cookie put on every machine that accesses the Adwords system and not count anything that machine does related to ads other than their own. If an advertiser is caught clicking on competitive ads then Google should take some sort of corrective action. One idea might be to reduce their quality score or disable their account for 72 hours. There are people that could figure out how to stop this by deleting the cookie but they would have to remember to do it every time they access the Adwords System. Advertisers should be allowed to voluntarily go to a page to create a test cookie that would put them into test mode. This mode would allow them to click on ads with no impressions or clicks being counted for their account or any other account.

Give the same result every time

Every client we have tests their ads from time to time and honestly there is no prayer of getting them to stop. Some do it once in a while and some do it several times a day. We know there is a test tool inside Adwords but honestly NOBODY BELIEVES it. They want to see it for themselves! Everyone in this industry knows that there are thousands of variables involved in rendering a SERP. The most troublesome of these are the local variables like prior searches, ad click history, other data related to the session. Advertisers should be able to go to a page and install a cookie that causes search engine to act like it is on a clean local machine. All it needs to do is turn off the local variables so the search results remain the same.

Get a better Position

It is no secret that average position is not the position of the ad. We all know that the top positions or T1, T2, T3 do not always exist but what I think we can agree on is they are different than the positions on the right side. There are many ways to solve this problem but the simplest is probably to just split the impression and click data down by the top and right positions.

Quit hiding data from me

It makes me crazy that certain things that we know exist are simply not made available to us. One example of this is the conversions by hour. Every computer system on the planet time stamps everything it touches so why can we not see the conversion time. We understand that conversions are not posted for hours after the event and fixing that problem may be more complex than we can appreciate but we do know what time the event happened when it finally gets to the data. When we are trying to control our budgets we have some control over the clock but no data to help us understand our audiences buying pattern. Another area that is hidden is who exactly is providing traffic from then search network. We know the big names because they are part of the marketing of Adwords but there is no detail of where this comes from. Just like Google did in the Content network they need to open the curtains on this data and let us control where this goes.

In closing

We know this list is long and we know that we are not going to get all of this, and hey maybe Google has a surprise gift that we did not think of. That would be cool. Like the kid writing to Santa we promise to be good and use these new tools only for the betterment of Adwords and the service to our clients.

Sincerely,

The Adwords Monster